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July 24, 2014

NASA's Quest for Water on Alien Worlds --"The Holy Grail?"


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A team of astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have gone looking for water vapour in the atmospheres of three planets orbiting stars similar to the Sun – and have come up nearly dry. The three planets, HD 189733b, HD 209458b, and WASP-12b, are between 60 and 900 light-years away, and are all gas giants known as 'hot Jupiters.' These worlds are so hot, with temperatures between 900 to 2200 degrees Celsius, that they are ideal candidates for detecting water vapor in their atmospheres. The new discovery highlights some major challenges in the search for the exoplanet 'holy grail' – an exoplanet with a climate similar to Earth, a key characteristic of which is the presence of liquid water.

Continue reading "NASA's Quest for Water on Alien Worlds --"The Holy Grail?"" »


Image of the Day --A Massive Galaxy Cluster 160 Trillion Times Mass of the Sun

 

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Large clumps of mass in the Universe warp and distort the space-time around them. Acting like lenses, they appear to magnify and bend light that travels through them from more distant objects. This warping of space-time by large objects in the Universe was one of the predictions of Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

Continue reading "Image of the Day --A Massive Galaxy Cluster 160 Trillion Times Mass of the Sun" »


July 23, 2014

"Where None Have Gone Before" --Uncertainty Surrounds Voyager 1 Team Claims of Entering Interstellar Space

 

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In 2012, the Voyager mission team announced that the Voyager 1 spacecraft had passed into interstellar space, traveling further from Earth than any other manmade object. But, in the nearly two years since that historic announcement, and despite subsequent observations backing it up, uncertainty about whether Voyager 1 really crossed the threshold continues. There are some scientists who say that the spacecraft is still within the heliosphere – the region of space dominated by the Sun and its wind of energetic particles – and has not yet reached the space between the stars.

Continue reading ""Where None Have Gone Before" --Uncertainty Surrounds Voyager 1 Team Claims of Entering Interstellar Space " »


"The Vanishing Pulsar" -- Tracked by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope

 

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In late June 2013, an exceptional binary containing a rapidly spinning neutron star underwent a dramatic change in behavior never before observed. The pulsar's radio beacon vanished, while at the same time the system brightened fivefold in gamma rays, the most powerful form of light, according to measurements by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.

Continue reading ""The Vanishing Pulsar" -- Tracked by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope" »


"Google Street View" of the Cosmos Unveiled

 

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A new home-grown instrument based on bundles of optical fibres is giving Australian astronomers the first 'Google street view' of the cosmos — incredibly detailed views of huge numbers of galaxies. Developed by researchers at the University of Sydney and the Australian Astronomical Observatory, the optical-fibre bundles can sample the light from up to 60 parts of a galaxy, for a dozen galaxies at a time. The technological leap is the 'hexabundle', sixty or more optical fibres close-packed and fused together, developed by the University of Sydney's astrophotonics group.

Continue reading ""Google Street View" of the Cosmos Unveiled" »


Image of the Day: Black Hole "Mine Field" Lights Up a Spectacular Galaxy

 

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By using Chandra, astronomers can peer into the Whirlpool Galaxy to uncover things that can only be detected in X-rays. In this new composite image, Chandra data are shown in purple. Optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope are red, green, and blue. The galaxy is officially named Messier 51 (M51) or NGC 5194, but often goes by its nickname of the "Whirlpool Galaxy." Like the Milky Way, the Whirlpool is a spiral galaxy with spectacular arms of stars and dust. M51 is located 30 million light-years from Earth, and its face-on orientation to Earth gives us a perspective that we can never get of our own spiral galactic home.

Continue reading "Image of the Day: Black Hole "Mine Field" Lights Up a Spectacular Galaxy" »


July 22, 2014

Milky Way's "Methuselah" --The Oldest Known Star of Our Galaxy

 

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The stars of the first generation were formed out of a primordial gas which consisted only of hydrogen and helium. Their mass ranged from ten to five hundred times the mass of our Sun. Nuclear processes in the interior of these stars created heavy elements like iron, silicon, carbon, and oxygen. When the stars died during the first supernova explosions, the heavy elements were ejected and formed the stars of the second generation. There's no iron in this 13.6 billion-year-old fireball.

Continue reading "Milky Way's "Methuselah" --The Oldest Known Star of Our Galaxy" »


"Extreme Space" --The Most Remote Portion of an Elliptical Galaxy Ever Explored

 

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By utilising the unique space-based location of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and its sensitive Advanced Camera for Surveys and Wide Field Camera 3/, a team of astronomers has probed the halo surrounding the prominent giant elliptical galaxy Centaurus A, also known as NGC 5128, to unprecedented distances. They have found that its halo spreads far further into space than expected and does so in an unexpected form. This is the most remote portion of an elliptical galaxy ever to have been explored.

Continue reading ""Extreme Space" --The Most Remote Portion of an Elliptical Galaxy Ever Explored" »


New Alien Planet Detected Beyond the 'Snow Line' --The Boundary Between Rocky and Gas Planets

 

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Astronomers have discovered a transiting exoplanet with the longest known year. Kepler-421b circles its star once every 704 days. In comparison, Mars orbits our Sun once every 780 days. Most of the 1,800-plus exoplanets discovered to date are much closer to their stars and have much shorter orbital periods. The planet's orbit places it beyond the "snow line" - the dividing line between rocky and gas planets. Outside of the snow line, water condenses into ice grains that stick together to build gas giant planets.

Continue reading "New Alien Planet Detected Beyond the 'Snow Line' --The Boundary Between Rocky and Gas Planets " »


'The Youngness Paradox' --"Why SETI has Not Found Any Signals from Extraterrestrial Civilizations” (Today's Most Popular)

 

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According to MIT's  Alan Guth , originator of the inflationary universe theory, our Universe is a product of eternal inflation --eternal into the future, but not into the past. An eternally inflating Universe produces an infinite number of pocket universes , which in turn are producing more new universes.  The old, mature universes are vastly outnumbered by universes that have just barely begun to evolve. Guth called it the "Youngness Paradox."

Continue reading " 'The Youngness Paradox' --"Why SETI has Not Found Any Signals from Extraterrestrial Civilizations” (Today's Most Popular)" »


"Signs of Alien Life" --Viewing Earth from an Extraterrestrial Spacecraft

 

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An extraterrestrial spacecraft lurking in a satellite’s orbit near Earth would be able to see city lights and pollution in our atmosphere. But what if it searched for signs of life on Earth from afar? This question has great pertinence to those searching for other Earths outside of our solar system. NASA’s Kepler space telescope is among a fleet of telescopes and spacecraft searching for rocky planets similar to our own. Once the size and location of these worlds are plotted, the next step is examining the chemical composition of their atmospheres.

Continue reading ""Signs of Alien Life" --Viewing Earth from an Extraterrestrial Spacecraft" »


July 21, 2014

Dwarf Galaxies "Challenge Our Understanding of How the Universe Works"

 

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"Early in 2013 we announced our startling discovery that half of the dwarf galaxies surrounding the Andromeda Galaxy are orbiting it in an immense plane," said Geraint Lewis, of the University of Sydney's School of Physics. "This plane is more than a million light years in diameter, but is very thin, with a width of only 300 000 light years. Everywhere we looked we saw this strangely coherent coordinated motion of dwarf galaxies. From this we can extrapolate that these circular planes of dancing dwarfs are universal, seen in about 50 percent of galaxies," Lewis added. "This is a big problem that contradicts our standard cosmological models. It challenges our understanding of how the universe works including the nature of dark matter."

Continue reading "Dwarf Galaxies "Challenge Our Understanding of How the Universe Works"" »


"Oceans Capacity to Control Climate Critical for Extraterrestrial Life"

 

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Researchers have made an important step in the race to discover whether other planets could develop and sustain life. New findings published today in the journal Astrobiology shows the vital role of oceans in moderating climate on Earth-like planets. Until now, computer simulations of habitable climates on Earth-like planets have focused on their atmospheres. But the presence of oceans is vital for optimal climate stability and habitability.

Continue reading ""Oceans Capacity to Control Climate Critical for Extraterrestrial Life"" »


"The Search for Earth 2.0" --NASA's New Quests for Extraterrestrial Life

 

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"Do we believe there is life beyond Earth?"asked former astronaut and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden at a recent panel discussion at NASA headquarters with with the nation's leading space scientists. "I would venture to say that most of my colleagues here today say it is improbable that in the limitless vastness of the Universe we humans stand alone." "Just imagine the moment, when we find potential signatures of life," added Matt Mountain, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute. "Imagine the moment when the world wakes up and the human race realizes that its long loneliness in time and space may be over—the possibility that we're no longer alone in the Universe."

Continue reading ""The Search for Earth 2.0" --NASA's New Quests for Extraterrestrial Life " »


July 18, 2014

'Disk on the Sky' --The Search for an Alien Universe: "A Circular Bruise in the Cosmic Microwave Background"

 

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A collision of one universe with another would leave what Perimeter Institute's Matthew Johnson, calls “a disk on the sky” – a circular bruise in the cosmic microwave background. That the search for such a disk has so far come up empty makes certain collision-filled models less likely. The Perimeter team is at work figuring out what other kinds of evidence a collision might leave behind. It’s the first time that anyone has produced a direct quantitative set of predictions for the observable signatures of bubble universe collisions. And though none of those signatures has so far been found, some of them are possible to look for.

Continue reading "'Disk on the Sky' --The Search for an Alien Universe: "A Circular Bruise in the Cosmic Microwave Background" " »


New NASA 'Curiosity' Evidence --"Mars was Once Much Warmer and Wetter"

 

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Newly discovered soils by NASA's Curiosity rover provide more benign and habitable soil conditions than known before on Mars. Their dating to 3.7 billion years ago, he noted, puts them into a time of transition from "an early benign water cycle on Mars to the acidic and arid Mars of today." Life on Earth is believed to have emerged and began diversifying about 3.5 billion years ago, but some scientists have theorized that potential evidence that might take life on Earth farther back was destroyed by plate tectonics, which did not occur on Mars.

Continue reading "New NASA 'Curiosity' Evidence --"Mars was Once Much Warmer and Wetter"" »


Journey to the Center of Jupiter

 

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Lawrence Livermore scientists for the first time have experimentally re-created the conditions that exist deep inside giant planets, such as Jupiter, Uranus and many of the planets recently discovered outside our solar system. The data described in this work are among the first tests for predictions made in the early days of quantum mechanics, more than 80 years ago, which are routinely used to describe matter at the center of planets and stars. While agreement between these new data and theory are good, there are important differences discovered, suggesting potential hidden treasures in the properties of diamond compressed to such extremes.

Continue reading "Journey to the Center of Jupiter" »


July 17, 2014

Zap! NASA's Curiosity Lasers Mars' Rock to Assess Ancient Habitable Potential

 

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Curiosity's ChemCam's laser has zapped more than 600 rock and soil targets on Mars since Curiosity landed in the planet's Gale Crater in August 2012 to assess ancient habitable environments and major changes in Martian environmental conditions. On Saturday, July 12 by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera on the arm of NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover's Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument fired multiple laser shots to investigate a target rock's composition created the first observed plasma plume flashes. Preliminary analysis of the ChemCam spectra from this target rock, appropriately named "Nova," indicates a composition rich in silicon, aluminum and sodium, beneath a dust layer poor in those elements. This is typical of rocks that Curiosity is encountering on its way toward Mount Sharp (above).

Continue reading " Zap! NASA's Curiosity Lasers Mars' Rock to Assess Ancient Habitable Potential" »


July 16, 2014

Hunt for Missing 27% of the Universe Intensifies

 

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Dark matter, so named because it doesn’t emit or absorb light, leaves clues about its presence via gravity: it affects the orbital velocities of galaxies in clusters and distorts light emitted from background objects in a phenomenon known as gravitational lensing. But direct detection of dark matter has so far been elusive.

Continue reading "Hunt for Missing 27% of the Universe Intensifies" »


"Mapping Dark Energy's Impact on the Universe" --The Sloan Digital Sky Survey Phase 4

 

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The next phase of a global drive to map the night sky will bring the cosmos into greater focus than at any in human history. Already, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey has registered more than half a million stars in the Milky Way (a portion of which is shown in the image above) and more than two million galaxies and quasars. The new, fourth phase of the survey broadens the project’s scope and will dramatically expand its database. A major component will focus on mapping the distribution of galaxies and quasars from 3 to 8 billion years ago. During that period, dark energy began to have an impact on the universe.

Continue reading ""Mapping Dark Energy's Impact on the Universe" --The Sloan Digital Sky Survey Phase 4" »


The 'Daily Galaxy' Twitter Followers Soar Above 300,000!

 

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Join the 311,000 Daily Galaxy fans around the world who follow us via their Twitter page. Our followers include many of the planet's leading astronomers and scientists, astronauts, space observatories, news organizations, universities and governmental space organizations such as NASA, JPL, ESO, SETI, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and Royal Astronomy Society members. Follow us daily at twitter.com/dailygalaxy.


July 15, 2014

"Explosive Microbial Growth Caused Earth's Greatest Extinction Event" --The Great Dying (Today's Most Popular)

 

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The physical environment can produce sudden shocks to the life of our planet through impacting space rocks, erupting volcanoes and other events. But sometimes life itself turns the tables and strikes a swift blow back to the environment. MIT researchers have identified a different culprit — one coming from biology rather than geology. They argue that the carbon disruption and, consequently, the end-Permian extinction were set off by a particular microorganism that evolved a new way to digest organic material into methane.

Continue reading ""Explosive Microbial Growth Caused Earth's Greatest Extinction Event" --The Great Dying (Today's Most Popular)" »


Cassini Spacecraft's New Look at Saturn's Colossal Hexagon Storm

 

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The Cassini spacecraft has taken a close look at a vast storm system within the hexagonal weather pattern at the north pole of Saturn. The storm looks very like a hurricane on Earth, but it is much bigger: the clear central eye of the storm is about 2000 km across – ten times the typical size on Earth – and clouds at the outer edge of the hurricane on Saturn are moving at more than 500 kph – rather faster than on Earth! One difference from terrestrial hurricanes is that this storm is locked into the weather system at the pole, rather than sweeping round the planet as happens on Earth.

Continue reading "Cassini Spacecraft's New Look at Saturn's Colossal Hexagon Storm" »


July 14, 2014

Astronomers Detect a Cosmic Burst of Light from Long Before Origin of Life on Earth

 

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Shortly after 12:11 a.m. EDT on Sept. 25, 2013, Swift's Burst Alert Telescope triggered on a spike of gamma rays from a source in the constellation Fornax. The spacecraft automatically alerted observatories around the world that a new burst -- designated GRB 130925A, after the date -- was in progress and turned its X-ray Telescope (XRT) toward the source. Other satellites also detected the rising tide of high-energy radiation, including Fermi, the Russian Konus instrument onboard NASA's Wind spacecraft, and the European Space Agency's (ESA) INTEGRAL observatory. The burst was eventually localized to a galaxy so far away that its light had been traveling for 3.9 billion years, longer than the oldest evidence for life on Earth.

Continue reading "Astronomers Detect a Cosmic Burst of Light from Long Before Origin of Life on Earth" »


Something is Amiss with Light in the Universe --"May Be Coming from Some Exotic Unknown Source" (Today's Most Popular)

 

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The vast reaches of empty space between galaxies are bridged by tendrils of hydrogen and helium, which can be used as a precise "light meter." In a recent study published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, a team of scientists finds that the light from known populations of galaxies and quasars is not nearly enough to explain observations of intergalactic hydrogen. The difference is a stunning 400 percent.

Continue reading "Something is Amiss with Light in the Universe --"May Be Coming from Some Exotic Unknown Source" (Today's Most Popular)" »


Closing in On Gravitational Waves --"Will Be a Clear Message About How the Universe is Put Together"

 

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Many large heavenly bodies and events in the universe, such as the birth and death of stars, generate energy in different wavelengths of light, which existing telescopes can find, says Nergis Mavalvala, the Curtis and Kathleen Marble Professor of Astrophysics at MIT. But compact astrophysical objects — such as neutron stars and light-eating black holes, which are believed to produce energy in the form of gravitational wave radiation — remain concealed from human view. These waves, unlike light, she says, “flow through everything, because matter is basically transparent to them. They come to us unobstructed right from the source.” For Mavalvala, gravitational waves are “a clean messenger bearing information about how the universe is put together.”

Continue reading "Closing in On Gravitational Waves --"Will Be a Clear Message About How the Universe is Put Together"" »


July 11, 2014

Newly Detected Radio Burst Appears to Come from Far Beyond Our Galaxy

 

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The discovery of a split-second burst of radio waves by scientists using the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico provides important new evidence of mysterious pulses that appear to come from deep in outer space. Exactly what may be causing such radio bursts represents a major new enigma for astrophysicists. Possibilities include a range of exotic astrophysical objects, such as evaporating black holes, mergers of neutron stars, or flares from magnetars -- a type of neutron star with extremely powerful magnetic fields.

Continue reading "Newly Detected Radio Burst Appears to Come from Far Beyond Our Galaxy" »


Discovery of Seven "Ghost" Galaxies May Reveal a New Class of Objects in Space

 

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Yale University astronomers, using a new type of telescope made by stitching together telephoto lenses, recently discovered seven previously unseen galaxies that may yield important insights into dark matter and galaxy evolution, while possibly signaling the discovery of a new class of objects in space.

Continue reading " Discovery of Seven "Ghost" Galaxies May Reveal a New Class of Objects in Space" »


Colossal Bridge of Stars Found Linking Giant Elliptical Galaxies



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NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has photographed an unusual structure 100,000 light years long, which resembles a corkscrew-shaped string of pearls and winds around the cores of two colliding galaxies. The unique structure of the star spiral may yield new insights into the formation of stellar superclusters that result from merging galaxies and gas dynamics in this rarely seen process.

Continue reading "Colossal Bridge of Stars Found Linking Giant Elliptical Galaxies" »


July 10, 2014

Supermassive Black Hole of Nearby Galaxy 10-X's Size of Milky Way's Shapes Its Fate

 

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A galaxy about 23 million light years away is the site of a giant black hole, shock waves, and vast reservoirs of gas. This galactic fireworks display is taking place in NGC 4258 (also known as M106), a spiral galaxy like the Milky Way. This galaxy is famous, however, for something that our Galaxy doesn't have - two extra spiral arms that glow in X-ray, optical, and radio light. These features, or anomalous arms, are not aligned with the plane of the galaxy, but instead intersect with it. Because NGC 4258 is relatively close to Earth, astronomers can study how this black hole is affecting its galaxy in great detail. The supermassive black hole at the center of NGC 4258 is about ten times larger than the one in the Milky Way, and is also consuming material at a faster rate, potentially increasing its impact on the evolution of its host galaxy.

Continue reading "Supermassive Black Hole of Nearby Galaxy 10-X's Size of Milky Way's Shapes Its Fate" »




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