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September 2011
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New Discovery: Cas A Supernova Explosion--Seeding the Universe with Building Blocks of Life

Casa1Heavy elements may be no more than rare cosmic pollutants, but they are exceedingly important to us. Without them, solid, rocky planets would be impossible, and the prospects for Earth-like life would be correspondingly dim.

The iron Chandra X Ray Space Telescope has recently imaged in Cas A might one day flow as hemoglobin in the blood of some future alien species. Fast moving knots of silicon from the Cas A supernova could provide the raw material for sand on otherworldly shores, where crashing waves of H2O send thunderous sound waves through a nitrogen-rich atmosphere.

A team of astronomers led by Dr. John Hughes of Rutgers University used observations from NASA's orbital Chandra X-ray Observatory to make an important new discovery that sheds light on how silicon, iron, and other elements were produced in supernova explosions. An X-ray image of Cassiopeia A (Cas A), the remnant of an exploded star, reveals gaseous clumps of silicon, sulfur, and iron expelled from deep in the interior of the star.

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Elusive Preon Stars --Do They Exist?

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A preon star is a proposed type of compact star made of preons, a group of hypothetical subatomic particles that could originate from supernova explosions or the Big Bang. Preons were originally proposed as quark constituents over three decades ago, but in 2005, Fredrik Sandin and Johan Hansson of the Luleå University of Technology in Sweden came up with the concept of preon "stars" or "nuggets" in space.

These objects, would be somewhere between the size of a pea and a football, with a mass comparable to the Moon with a density that would be in the range between a neutron star--the densest ordinary form of matter--and a black hole.

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Pulsar's Superluminal Speeds: Really Faster than Speed of Light?

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We learned in our intro to science courses that information cannot be transmitted faster than the speed of light. Yet laboratory experiments done over the last 30 years clearly show that some things appear to break this speed limit without abrogating Einstein's special theory of relativity.

Yet astrophysicists in the US have observed such superluminal speeds in space in the form of radio pulses from a pulsar.

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Image of the Day: New Spitzer Discovery--"Flat Galaxies"

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New observations from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope provide strong evidence that the slender, bulgeless galaxies can, like their heftier counterparts, harbor supermassive black holes at their cores. Previously, astronomers thought that a galaxy without a bulge could not have a supermassive black hole. In this illustration, jets shooting away from the black holes are depicted as thin streams.

The findings are reshaping theories of galaxy formation, suggesting that a galaxy’s core does not determine whether it will be harbor a supermassive black hole.

The Daily Galaxy via spitzer.caltech.edu/


From the 'X Files': ET's May Have Left Message Code in Human DNA


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There's also a chance that past visits to Earth by intelligent aliens left signs much closer to home. But probability and the length of the universe's age suggest that any such alien visit would have taken place before humans ever emerged on Earth, says Paul Davies, astrophysicist with Arizona State University.

That means any traces of an alien visitation would have had to survive for hundreds of millions or billions of years of erosion and plate tectonics for humans to still find them today.

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Weekend Feature: Planet-Killing Supermassive Black Holes the Cause of Mysterious Zodiacal Dust

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Vast clumps dust shrouds that obscure about half of supermassive black holes could be the result of high speed roller-derby crashes between planets and asteroids, according to a new theory from an international team of astronomers, led by Sergei Nayakshin of the University of Leicester. Collisions between these rocky objects would occur at colossal speeds as large as 1000 km per second, continuously shattering and fragmenting the objects, until eventually they end up as microscopic dust.

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Weekend Feature: The Early Milky Way "Death Beamed" its Smaller Satellite Galaxies


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The existence of a new signature of the birth of the first stars in our galaxy, the Milky Way was revealed by two researchers from Observatoire Astronomique de Strasbourg. More than 12 billion years ago, the intense ultraviolet light from these stars dispersed the gas of our Galaxy's nearest companions, virtually putting a halt to their ability to form stars and consigning them to a dim future.

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Weekend Feature: "Cosmic Life Engines" --Organic Building Blocks Confirmed in Intersellar Dust

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New discoveries in vast interstellar dust clouds permeating the universe and in nebula have revealed hints of organic matter that could be created naturally by stars, according to researchers at the University of Hong Kong. The discovery team  observed stars at different evolutionary phases and found that they are able to produce complex organic compounds and eject them into space, filling the voids between stars.

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Massive Dying Star Orbited by a Jupiter-Like Planet and Mystery Object --Discovered Outside Our Solar System


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Three planets -- each orbiting its own giant, dying star -- have been discovered by an international research team  The new research is expected to shed light on the evolution of planetary systems around dying stars. It also will help astronomers to understand how metal content influences the behavior of dying stars.

The three newly-discovered planetary systems are more evolved than our own solar system. "Each of the three stars is swelling and has already become a red giant -- a dying star that soon will gobble up any planet that happens to be orbiting too close to it," according to Alex Wolszczan, professor of  astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State, who, in 1992, became the first astronomer ever to discover planets outside our solar system.

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