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February 05, 2016

NASA: Probing Enceladus's Global Ocean --The Most Habitable Spot in the Solar System?

 

 

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NASA's confirmation of the existence of a vast global ocean on Enceladus this past September casts a spotlight on Saturn's icy moon as the most potentially habitable spot beyond Earth in the Solar System for life as we know it. "It has liquid water, organic carbon, nitrogen [in the form of ammonia], and an energy source," said Chris McKay, an astrobiologist at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. Besides Earth, he says, "there is no other environment in the Solar System where we can make all those claims."

Continue reading "NASA: Probing Enceladus's Global Ocean --The Most Habitable Spot in the Solar System?" »


Pluto's 'Icebergs' Float in a Sea of Frozen Nitrogen

 

 

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Hills of water ice on Pluto ‘float’ in a sea of frozen nitrogen and move over time like icebergs in Earth’s Arctic Ocean—another example of Pluto’s fascinating geological activity. The nitrogen ice glaciers on Pluto appear as isolated hills that may be fragments of water ice from Pluto’s surrounding uplands. These hills individually measure one to several miles or kilometers across, according to images and data from NASA’s New Horizons mission.

Continue reading "Pluto's 'Icebergs' Float in a Sea of Frozen Nitrogen" »


February 04, 2016

NASA's Juno Spacecraft On Course to Jupiter --"1st Probe Beneath the Gas Giant's Obscuring Cloud Cover"

 

 

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NASA's solar-powered Juno spacecraft, launched from Earth in 2011, will arrive at Jupiter in 2016 to study the giant planet from an elliptical, polar orbit. Juno will repeatedly dive between the planet and its intense belts of charged particle radiation, coming only 5,000 kilometers (about 3,000 miles) from the cloud tops at closest approach.

Continue reading "NASA's Juno Spacecraft On Course to Jupiter --"1st Probe Beneath the Gas Giant's Obscuring Cloud Cover"" »


Starburst Galaxy With Two Supermassive Black Holes --Ripped by Largest Known Superwinds



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NGC 6240, a butterfly-shaped galaxy that is the product of the collision of two smaller galaxies, revealed that the central region of the galaxy (inset shown below) contains not one, but two active giant black holes. NGC 6240 is a prime example of a "starburst" galaxy in which stars are forming, evolving, and exploding at an exceptionally rapid rate due to a relatively recent merger (30 million years ago).

Continue reading "Starburst Galaxy With Two Supermassive Black Holes --Ripped by Largest Known Superwinds" »


February 03, 2016

Earth's Long-Term Temperatures Predictable --"Unless Affected by Human Impact" (NASA/JPL)

 

 

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New evidence may finally help put the chill on skeptics' belief that long-term global warming occurs in an unpredictable manner, independently of external drivers such as human impacts. By examining how Earth cools itself back down after a period of natural warming, a study by scientists at Duke University and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory confirms that global temperature does not rise or fall chaotically in the long run. Unless pushed by outside forces, temperature should remain stable.

Continue reading "Earth's Long-Term Temperatures Predictable --"Unless Affected by Human Impact" (NASA/JPL)" »


Jupiter and Saturn --"Delivered Components for Life to Form on Earth"

 

 

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Not only is the "Jupiter as shield" concept, implying that the planet shields Earth from comet impacts, not true, but perhaps Jupiter's most important role in fostering the development of life on Earth was just the opposite -- delivering the volatile materials from the outer Solar System needed for life to form. This new simulation study, and the previously underestimated role that Saturn may have also played in the evolution of life on Earth.

Continue reading "Jupiter and Saturn --"Delivered Components for Life to Form on Earth"" »


NASA: "Death Star" Black Hole Shooting a Massive Beam Into Intergalactic Space

 



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The Star Wars franchise has featured the fictitious “Death Star,” which can shoot powerful beams of radiation across space. The Universe, however, produces phenomena that often surpass what science fiction can conjure. The Pictor A galaxy shown above  is one such object. This galaxy, located nearly 500 million light years from Earth, contains a supermassive black hole at its center that releases a huge amount of gravitational energy as material swirls towards the event horizon, the point of no return for infalling material. This energy produces an enormous beam, or jet, of particles traveling at nearly the speed of light into intergalactic space.

Continue reading " NASA: "Death Star" Black Hole Shooting a Massive Beam Into Intergalactic Space" »


Dark Matter Nixed as Source of Massive Bursts from Milky Way's Center

 

 

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"Either we find hundreds or thousands of millisecond pulsars in the upcoming decade, shedding light on the history of the Milky Way, or we find nothing. In the latter case, a dark matter explanation for the gamma ray excess will become much more obvious," says Christoph Weniger from the University of Amsterdam.

Continue reading "Dark Matter Nixed as Source of Massive Bursts from Milky Way's Center" »


"The Flying Saucer" --New Discovery in a Spectacular Star-Forming Region

 

 

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The international team has measured the temperature of large dust grains around the young star 2MASS J16281370-2431391 in the spectacular Rho Ophiuchi star formation region, about 400 light-years from Earth, surrounded by a disc of gas and dust -- such discs are called protoplanetary discs as they are the early stages in the creation of planetary systems. This particular disc is seen nearly edge-on, and its appearance in visible light pictures has led to its being nicknamed the Flying Saucer.

Continue reading " "The Flying Saucer" --New Discovery in a Spectacular Star-Forming Region " »


February 02, 2016

The Blombos Cave --Emergence of Human Culture, Technology, and the Neocortex

 

 

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Blombos Cave in South Africa has given us vast knowledge about our early ancestors, realigning scientific notions of the origins of early modern behavior, pushing back the dates of evidence of sophisticated cognitive actions such as flint working, ritual behaviors and personal decoration some 50,000 years earlier than the cave paintings of Upper Paleolithic Europe.

Continue reading "The Blombos Cave --Emergence of Human Culture, Technology, and the Neocortex" »


"Advanced Alien Life in the Universe May be in It's 'Very Young' Stage" (Today's 'Galaxy' Insight)

 

 

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Although there may be exo planets billions of years older than Earth, Harvard astronomer Dimitar Sasselov believes that intelligent life may be in it's "very young" stage in the observable Universe. Its 200 billion galaxies show a clear potential to continue on as we see them today for hundreds of billions of years, if not much longer. Because planets and life are so young in our Universe, says Sasselov, perhaps "the human species are not late comers to the party. We may be among the early ones."

Continue reading ""Advanced Alien Life in the Universe May be in It's 'Very Young' Stage" (Today's 'Galaxy' Insight)" »


NASA's Mission to Europa's Global Ocean --"Does It Harbor Conditions for Earth-like Life?" (Today's Most Popular)

 

 

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New NASA technology "will be used to support the overarching goal of the Europa mission, which is to understand the prerequisites of life in the solar system," said Sascha Kempf of the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, principal investigator on.NASA’s next flagship mission to  explore whether Jupiter’s moon Europa could harbor conditions suitable for life. Previous missions have provided compelling evidence for such conditions on Europa: The moon most likely harbors a global ocean underneath its icy crust; the conditions within the ocean are acceptable for extant terrestrial life; and the chemical inventory of the ocean provides the range of elements essential for Earth-like organisms.

Continue reading "NASA's Mission to Europa's Global Ocean --"Does It Harbor Conditions for Earth-like Life?" (Today's Most Popular)" »


February 01, 2016

At the Edge of the Observable Universe --"The First Galaxy After the Big Bang?" (Today's Most Popular)

 

 

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Astronomers have mapped and measured the cosmos as far as the laws of physics allow to the very edge of the observable universe. Age and distance are vitally connected in any discussion of the universe. The light we see from our Sun takes just eight minutes to reach us, while the light from distant galaxies we see via today’s advanced telescopes travels for billions of years before it reaches us — so we’re seeing what those galaxies looked like billions of years ago. We cannot see beyond the distance light has traveled to Earth since its Big Bang birth. The actual universe could reach far beyond what we can currently observe.

Continue reading "At the Edge of the Observable Universe --"The First Galaxy After the Big Bang?" (Today's Most Popular)" »


January 31, 2016

NASA: Understanding the Sun's Electromagnetic Field --"Crucial for Future Space Travel"

 

 

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"We're not sure exactly where in the sun the magnetic field is created," said Dean Pesnell, a space scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "It could be close to the solar surface or deep inside the sun - or over a wide range of depths."

Continue reading "NASA: Understanding the Sun's Electromagnetic Field --"Crucial for Future Space Travel"" »


January 30, 2016

The Dark Energy Enigma --"The Entire Universe is Being Pushed by an Unknown Force No One Can Locate"

 

 

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"Dark energy is incredibly strange, but actually it makes sense to me that it went unnoticed," said Noble Prize winning physicist Adam Riess in an interview. "I have absolutely no clue what dark energy is. Dark energy appears strong enough to push the entire universe - yet its source is unknown, its location is unknown and its physics are highly speculative."

Continue reading "The Dark Energy Enigma --"The Entire Universe is Being Pushed by an Unknown Force No One Can Locate"" »


January 29, 2016

"Quantum Hell" --The Universe Before the Big Bang (A 'Galaxy' Insight)

 

 

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Martin Bojowald, a professor of phycics at Penn State University, presents his fascinating ideas about “Loop Quantum Cosmology” in Once Before Time: A Whole Story of the Universe. "Will we ever," Bojowald asks, "with a precision that meets scientific standards, see the shape of the universe before the big bang? The answer to such questions remains open. We have a multitude of indications and mathematical models for what might have happened. A diverse set of results within quantum gravity has revealed different phenomena important for revealing what happened at the big bang. But for a reliable extrapolation, parameters would be required with a precision far out of reach of current measurement accuracies.

Continue reading ""Quantum Hell" --The Universe Before the Big Bang (A 'Galaxy' Insight)" »


Apollo Mission Moon Rocks --"Evidence of a Head-On Collision 4.5 Billion Years Ago"

 

 

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The moon was formed by a violent, head-on collision between the early Earth and a "planetary embryo" called Theia approximately 100 million years after the Earth formed, UCLA geochemists and colleagues report. Scientists had already known about this high-speed crash, which occurred almost 4.5 billion years ago, but many thought the Earth collided with Theia at an angle of 45 degrees or more -- a powerful side-swipe (simulated in this 2012 YouTube video). New evidence reported Jan. 29 in the journal Science substantially strengthens the case for a head-on assault.

Continue reading "Apollo Mission Moon Rocks --"Evidence of a Head-On Collision 4.5 Billion Years Ago" " »


January 28, 2016

Colossal Cloud Ejected From Milky Way 70 Million Years Ago --Plummeting Back!

 

 


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Since astronomers discovered the Smith Cloud, a giant gas cloud plummeting toward the Milky Way, they have been unable to determine its composition, which would hold clues as to its origin. Astronomers have now determined that the cloud contains elements similar to our sun, which means the cloud originated in the Milky Way’s outer edges and not in intergalactic space as some have speculated.

Continue reading "Colossal Cloud Ejected From Milky Way 70 Million Years Ago --Plummeting Back!" »


The Quantum Asymmetry Between Space and Time --"There May be a Deeper Origin of Time"

 

 

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"If you want to know where the universe came from and where it's going, you need to know about time," says Joan Vaccaro at the Griffith University's Center for Quantum Dynamics. "Experiments on subatomic particles over the past 50 years ago show that nature doesn't treat both directions of time equally. In particular, subatomic particles called K and B mesons behave slightly differently depending on the direction of time."

Continue reading "The Quantum Asymmetry Between Space and Time --"There May be a Deeper Origin of Time"" »


Search for Life on Mars --"Organisms on the ISS Survive a Red-Planet Environment"

 

 

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"The results help to assess the survival ability and long-term stability of microorganisms and bioindicators on the surface of Mars, information which becomes fundamental and relevant for future experiments centred around the search for life on the red planet," says Rosa de la Torre Noetzel from Spain's National Institute of Aerospace Technology.

Continue reading "Search for Life on Mars --"Organisms on the ISS Survive a Red-Planet Environment"" »


"Gravity Is Altered By an Unknown Force" (Today's 'Galaxy' Insight)

 

 

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A fifth force may exist that disrupts the predictions general relativity makes outside our own galaxy, on cosmic-length scales. University of Pennsylvania astrophysicist, Bhuvnesh Jain, says the nature of gravity is the question of a lifetime. As scientists have been able to see farther and deeper into the universe, the laws of gravity have been revealed to be under the influence of an unexplained force.

Continue reading ""Gravity Is Altered By an Unknown Force" (Today's 'Galaxy' Insight)" »


January 27, 2016

The Milky Way's Odd, Shapeless Pristine Neighbor (ESO)

 

 

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IC 1613 is a dwarf galaxy in the constellation of Cetus (The Sea Monster). This VST image above shows the galaxy's unconventional beauty, all scattered stars and bright pink gas, in great detail. Astronomers have found it to be an irregular dwarf that lacks many of the features, such as a starry disc, found in some other diminutive galaxies.

Continue reading "The Milky Way's Odd, Shapeless Pristine Neighbor (ESO)" »


"Life on Earth is a Cosmic Aberration" (Today's 'Galaxy' Insight)

 

 

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Two reserachers have concluded that the idea that life has or could arise in an Earth-like environment has only a small amount of supporting evidence, most of it extrapolated from what is known about abiogenesis, or the emergence of life, on early Earth. Instead, their analysis showed that the expectations of life cropping up on exoplanets discovered by the Kepler Space Telescope are largely based on the assumption that it would or will happen under the same conditions that allowed life to flourish on this planet.

Continue reading ""Life on Earth is a Cosmic Aberration" (Today's 'Galaxy' Insight)" »


January 26, 2016

A Brief History of Ceres: "The Missing Planet" (NASA/JPL)

 

 

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New Year's Day, 1801, the dawn of the 19th century, was a historic moment for astronomy, and for a space mission called Dawn more than 200 years later. That night, Giuseppe Piazzi pointed his telescope at the sky and observed a distant object that we now know as Ceres.

Continue reading "A Brief History of Ceres: "The Missing Planet" (NASA/JPL)" »


Galaxy Cluster Links to Dark Matter Halos --"The Biggest, Most Mysterious Building Blocks of the Universe"

 

 

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Galaxy clusters are the biggest celestial objects in the sky consisting of thousands of galaxies. They form from nonuniformity in the matter distribution established by cosmic inflation in the beginning of the Universe. Their growth is a constant fight between the gathering of dark matter by gravity and the accelerated expansion of the universe due to dark energy. By studying galaxy clusters, researchers can learn more about these biggest and most mysterious building blocks of the Universe.

Continue reading "Galaxy Cluster Links to Dark Matter Halos --"The Biggest, Most Mysterious Building Blocks of the Universe"" »


Discoveries On the Evolution of the Eye --Our Window on the Universe



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Our eyes that scan the farthest reaches of the universe had their origin in water, in the simple hydra, a members ancient group of sea creatures that along with jellyfish, belong to the phylum cnidaria that first emerged 600 million years ago and are still flourishing.

Continue reading "Discoveries On the Evolution of the Eye --Our Window on the Universe" »


January 25, 2016

The Big Bang or Big Crunch? --"Revealing the Beginning of the Universe from Astrophysical Signals" (CfA)

 

 

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"Imagine you took the frames of a movie and stacked them all randomly on top of each other. If those frames aren't labeled with a time, you can't put them in order. Did the primordial universe crunch or bang? If you don't know whether the movie is running forward or in reverse, you can't tell the difference," explains Xingang Chen of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA).

Continue reading "The Big Bang or Big Crunch? --"Revealing the Beginning of the Universe from Astrophysical Signals" (CfA)" »


"The Cosmic Misfits" --25% of All Galaxies Have an Indefinable, Irregular Shape (NASA/ESA Hubble)

 

 

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Most galaxies possess a majestic spiral or elliptical structure. About a quarter of galaxies, though, defy such conventional, rounded aesthetics, instead sporting a messy, indefinable shape. Known as irregular galaxies, this group includes NGC 5408, the galaxy that has been snapped here by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Continue reading ""The Cosmic Misfits" --25% of All Galaxies Have an Indefinable, Irregular Shape (NASA/ESA Hubble)" »


Galaxy-Spanning Civilizations --"Rare or Non-Existent in the Universe" (Today's 'Galaxy' Insight)

 

 

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A week ago we reported that "a globular cluster might be the first place in which intelligent life is identified in our galaxy," according to Rosanne DiStefano of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Globular star clusters at the outer edge of the Milky Way are extraordinary in almost every way. They're densely packed, holding a million stars in a ball only about 100 light-years across on average. They're old, dating back almost to the birth of the Milky Way. And according to new research, they also could be extraordinarily good places to look for space-faring civilizations.

Continue reading "Galaxy-Spanning Civilizations --"Rare or Non-Existent in the Universe" (Today's 'Galaxy' Insight)" »


January 24, 2016

A Unique Hyper-Luminous Black Hole? --Or Are There Millions in the Universe?

 

 

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The term "black holes" was first used in the mid-20th century by theoretical physicist John Wheeler. This term denotes relativistic supermassive objects that are invisible in all electromagnetic waves, but a great number of astrophysical effects confirms their existence. There are two basic types of black holes known to scientists according to observations: supermassive black holes and stellar-mass black holes. It is generally believed that stellar-mass black holes are formed in the end of the evolution of massive stars, when stellar energy sources are exhausted, and the star collapse due to its own gravity. Theoretical calculations impose restrictions on their mass to the extent of 5-50 solar masses.

Continue reading "A Unique Hyper-Luminous Black Hole? --Or Are There Millions in the Universe?" »




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