"Nobody really understands how life got started on Earth," says Scott Sandford, a space science researcher at NASA Ames. "Our experiments suggest that once the Earth formed, many of the building blocks of life were likely present from the beginning. Since we are simulating universal astrophysical conditions, the same is likely wherever planets are formed."
Continue reading "NASA Replicates Building Blocks of Life on Early Earth" »
A handful of new stars are born each year in the Milky Way, while many more blink on across the universe. But astronomers have observed that galaxies should be churning out millions more stars, based on the amount of interstellar gas available. Now researchers from MIT and Michigan State University have pieced together a theory describing how clusters of galaxies may regulate star formation.
Continue reading ""Why Isn't the Universe as Bright as It Should Be?" MIT" »
Four hundred years ago, the astronomer Galileo's discovery of Jupiter's four large moons forever changed humanity's view of the universe, helping to bring about the understanding that Earth was not the center of all motion. Today one of these Galilean moons could again revolutionize science and our sense of place, for hidden beneath Europa's icy surface is perhaps the most promising place to look for present-day environments that are suitable for life.
Continue reading "NASA: "What's Hidden Beneath Europa's Icy Surface?"" »
The ‘Standard Model’ of particle physics successfully describes the smallest constituents of matter. But the model has its limitations – it does not explain the dark matter of the universe. Christoffer Petersson, a research scientist at Chalmers University of Technology, has found a solution. His theories are now being tested at the particle physics laboratory CERN.
Continue reading "The Higgs Particle --"It Can Disintegrate Into Dark Matter"" »
Meteorologists sometimes struggle to accurately predict the weather here on Earth, but now we can find out how cloudy it is on planets outside our solar system, thanks to researchers at MIT. Researchers in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences (EAPS) at MIT describe a technique that analyzes data from NASA’s Kepler space observatory to determine the types of clouds on planets that orbit other stars.
Continue reading "Clouds Around Alien Kepler-Mission Planets --Clues to Habitability" »
"It is the first time dust has been discovered in one of the most distant galaxies ever observed - only 700 million years after the Big Bang. It is a galaxy of modest size and yet it is already full of dust. This is very surprising and it tells us that ordinary galaxies were enriched with heavier elements far faster than expected," explains Darach Watson, an astrophysicist with the Dark Cosmology Centre at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen.
Continue reading "Cosmic Dust --"Ancient Galaxy from the Early Universe Yields an Unexpected Discovery"" »
"This experiment demonstrates that, for the first time ever, we can film quantum mechanics - and its paradoxical nature - directly," says Fabrizio Carbone of Ecole Polytechnique Federale De Lausann. In addition, the importance of this pioneering work can extend beyond fundamental science and to future technologies. As Carbone explains: "Being able to image and control quantum phenomena at the nanometer scale like this opens up a new route towards quantum computing."
Continue reading "Image of the Day: The 1st Ever Photo of Light as a Wave and Particle" »
A team of astronomers, led by Darach Watson, from the University of Copenhagen used the Very Large Telescope's X-shooter instrument along with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array to observe one of the youngest and most remote galaxies ever found. They were surprised to discover a far more evolved system than expected. It had a fraction of dust similar to a very mature galaxy, such as the Milky Way. Such dust is vital to life, because it helps form planets, complex molecules and normal stars. This galaxy was noticed earlier in the Hubble images, and suspected to be very distant, but the distance could not be confirmed at that time.
Continue reading "Youngest Most Remote Galaxy Ever Found --Cosmic Infant Far More Evolved Than Expected" »
Most people, at some point in their lives, have dreamt of being able to fly like Superman or develop superhuman strength like the Hulk. But few know that we humans have a "superpower" of our own, which almost anybody can summon simply by staring at a computer screen.
Continue reading "The Physics of a "Human Superpower"" »
The cavities shown in the image of galaxy cluster MS0735 above were created by jets of charged particles ejected at nearly light speed from a supermassive black hole weighing nearly a billion times the mass of our Sun lurking in the nucleus of the bright central galaxy. The jets displaced more than one trillion solar masses worth of gas. The power required to displace the gas exceeded the power output of the Sun by nearly ten trillion times in the past 100 million years.
Continue reading " "Biggest Known Explosion Since the Big Bang" (Today's Most Popular)" »
"This new concept is, potentially, as drastic an enlargement of our cosmic perspective as the shift from pre-Copernican ideas to the realization that the Earth is orbiting a typical star on the edge of the Milky Way." Sir Martin Rees, physicist, Cambridge University, Astronomer Royal of Great Britain.
Continue reading "Our Observed Universe is a Tiny Corner of an Enormous Cosmos --"Ruled by Dark Energy"" »
"The most exciting possibility is that the missing photons are coming from some exotic new source, not galaxies or quasars at all," said Neal Katz of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. For example, the mysterious dark matter, which holds galaxies together but has never been seen directly, could itself decay and ultimately be responsible for this extra light. You know it's a crisis when you start seriously talking about decaying dark matter!"
Continue reading "Missing Light of the Visible Universe --"Is It Coming from Some Exotic New Source?" (Weekend Feature)" »
A new type of methane-based, oxygen-free life form that can metabolize and reproduce similar to life on Earth has been modeled by a team of Cornell University researchers. Taking a simultaneously imaginative and rigidly scientific view, chemical engineers and astronomers offer a template for life that could thrive in a harsh, cold world - specifically Titan, the giant moon of Saturn. A planetary body awash with seas not of water, but of liquid methane, Titan could harbor methane-based, oxygen-free cells.
Continue reading "Saturn's Titan ---"Life Not As We Know It"" »
The Curiosity robot confirms methane in Mars' atmosphere which may hint that life may have existed. An article published in Science confirms the existence of methane fluctuations in the atmosphere of Mars, as a result of the detailed analysis of data sent during 605 SOLs or Martian days. The tunable laser spectrometer in the SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars) instrument of the Curiosity robot has unequivocally detected an episodic increase in the concentration of methane in Mars' atmosphere after an exhaustive analysis of data obtained during 605 soles or Martian days.
Continue reading "The Mars "Methane Equals Life" Debate Rolls On..." »
One of the biggest mysteries in galaxy evolution is the fate of the compact massive galaxies that roamed the early Universe. “When our Universe was young, there were lots of compact, elliptical-shaped galaxies containing trillions of stars,” says Alister Graham of Swinburne University of Technology. “Due to the time it takes for light to travel across the vastness of space, we see these distant galaxies as they were in our young Universe. However in the present-day Universe very few such spheroidal stellar systems have been observed.”
Continue reading "The Missing Massive Galaxies of the Early Universe --“They Were Hiding in Plain Sight”" »
While Einstein's theories predict the existence of gravitational waves, they have not been directly detected. But the ability to "see" gravitational waves would open up a new window to view and study the universe. New research by an astrophysicist at The University of Texas at Dallas provides revelations about the most energetic event in the universe -- the merging of two spinning, orbiting black holes into a much larger black hole.
Continue reading "Merging Black Holes --"Will Reveal the Existence of Gravity Waves"" »
The MUSE instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope has given astronomers the best ever three-dimensional view of the deep Universe. After staring at the Hubble Deep Field South region for only 27 hours, the new observations reveal the distances, motions and other properties of far more galaxies than ever before in this tiny piece of the sky. They also go beyond Hubble and reveal previously invisible objects.
Continue reading ""Beyond Hubble" --A New 3-D View of the Earliest Galaxies in the Universe" »
Astronomers have found a huge black hole which was powering the brightest object in the early universe. The black hole's mass is 12 billion solar masses, and the surrounding quasar pumped out 10^15 times the sun's energy. An international team of astronomers have found a huge and ancient black hole which was powering the brightest object early in the universe.
Continue reading "Ancient Black Hole Discovered --12 Billion Times Mass of the Sun!" »
Since the late 1990s astronomers have been convinced that something is causing the expansion of our Universe to accelerate. The simplest explanation was that empty space – the vacuum – had an energy density that was a cosmological constant. However there is growing evidence that this simple model cannot explain the full range of astronomical data researchers now have access to; in particular the growth of cosmic structure, galaxies and clusters of galaxies, seems to be slower than expected.
Continue reading " "Dark Energy May Be Slowing the Growth of the Cosmos" (Today's Most Popular)" »
“Finding objects like Kks3 is painstaking work, even with observatories like the Hubble Space Telescope," said Dimitry Makarov, of the Special Astrophysical Observatory. "But with persistence, we’re slowly building up a map of our local neighborhood, which turns out to be less empty than we thought. It may be that are a huge number of dwarf spheroidal galaxies out there, something that would have profound consequences for our ideas about the evolution of the cosmos.
Continue reading "There May Be a Huge Number of Unobserved Dwarf Spiral Galaxies --"Could Have Profound Consequences" (Today's Most Popular)" »
High-energy jets powered by supermassive black holes can blast away a galaxy’s star-forming fuel -- resulting in so-called "red and dead" galaxies: those brimming with ancient red stars yet little or no hydrogen gas available to create new ones. But astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have discovered that black holes don’t have to be nearly so powerful to shut down star formation.
Continue reading " "Red and Dead" Galaxies --A Surprising New Discovery" »
In this image, an expanding shell of debris called SNR 0519-69.0 is left behind after a massive star exploded in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy to the Milky Way. Multimillion degree gas is seen in X-rays from Chandra, in blue. The outer edge of the explosion (red) and stars in the field of view are seen in visible light from the Hubble Space Telescope.
Continue reading "Image of the Day: An Exploding Light Show in a Milky Way Satellite Galaxy" »
Astronomers have identified the closest known flyby of a star to our solar system: A dim star that passed through the Oort Cloud 70,000 years ago. A group of astronomers from the US, Europe, Chile and South Africa have determined that 70,000 years ago a recently discovered dim star is likely to have passed through the solar system's distant cloud of comets, the Oort Cloud (image above). No other star is known to have ever approached our solar system this close - five times closer than the current closest star, Proxima Centauri.
Continue reading " "Close Encounter!" --The Rogue Star That Passed Through Our Solar System" »
During a manned mission to Mars, NASA Astronaut Mark Watney, played by Matt Damon, is presumed dead after a fierce sand storm and left stranded by his crew behind by his crew. But Watney, a biology genius and mechanical engineer, has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet when the Ares 3 mission is forced to evacuate their landing site in Acidalia Planitia due to a Mars-sized dust storm with high winds.
Continue reading " Ridley Scott's "The Martian" Coming this November --His Best Ever?" »
The evolution of galaxies is connected to the growth of supermassive black holes in their centers. During the quasar phase, a huge luminosity is released as matter falls onto the black hole, and radiation-driven winds can transfer most of this energy back to the host galaxy.
Continue reading "Fate of Galaxies Linked to Their Supermassive Black Hole" »
As the sun skims through the galaxy, it flings out charged particles in a stream of plasma called the solar wind, and the solar wind creates a bubble extending far outside the solar system known as the heliosphere. For decades, scientists have visualized the heliosphere as shaped like a comet, with a very long tail extending thousands of times as far as the distance from the Earth to the sun.
Continue reading "Magnetic Field of the Sun Shapes the Massive Heliosphere Bubble" »
"There seems to be a mysterious link between the amount of dark matter a galaxy holds and the size of its central black hole, even though the two operate on vastly different scales," says Akos Bogdan of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA).
Continue reading ""Mysterious Link" --Galaxy's Dark Matter Halo and Its Supermassive Black Hole" »
"We are fortunate enough to live on a planet that is ideal for the development of complex life," says New York University Biology Professor Michael Rampino. "But the history of the Earth is punctuated by large scale extinction events, some of which we struggle to explain. It may be that dark matter - the nature of which is still unclear but which makes up around a quarter of the universe - holds the answer. As well as being important on the largest scales, dark matter may have a direct influence on life on Earth."
Continue reading ""Our Solar System's Milky-Way Orbit Through Dark Matter Impacts Life on Earth"" »
"We'll never find any direct evidence of land scum one cell thick, but this might be giving us indirect evidence that the land was inhabited," said Roger Buick, a University of Washington professor of Earth and space sciences. "Microbes could have crawled out of the ocean and lived in a slime layer on the rocks on land, even before 3.2 billion years ago."
Continue reading ""Life on Earth Could Have Existed Even Before 3.2 Billion Years Ago"" »