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April 30, 2012

Spectacular Galaxy Site of Massive Black Hole Eruption



An extraordinary outburst from a black hole -- where its X-ray output increased at least 3,000 times -- has been seen with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory in the galaxy M83. Chandra observed what is called a ULX, or ultraluminous X-ray source. Nicknamed the Southern Pinwheel, M83 is undergoing more rapid star formation than our own Milky Way galaxy, especially in its nucleus. The image above shows hundreds of young star clusters, ancient swarms of globular star clusters, and hundreds of thousands of individual stars, mostly blue supergiants and red supergiants.

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Presence of Life may be Required to Maintain Habitability of a Planet over Billions of Years



Researchers from the Australian National University Planetary Science Institute have discovered that rocky, Earth-like planets are probably more abundant than stars. The institute is a joint venture of the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics and the Research School of Earth Sciences.

“Determining whether these planets are habitable has become the new holy grail of astronomy,” said planetary scientist Dr Charley Lineweaver, lead author of the study at the The Australian National University.

Continue reading "Presence of Life may be Required to Maintain Habitability of a Planet over Billions of Years" »

500-Million-Year-Old Gene May Show if Evolution Can Repeat Itself




Biologists have long wondered whether life would evolve the same way again if we could rewind Earth's tape. Eric Gaucher and Betül Arslan at Georgia Tech University in Atlanta synthesised an ancient gene --EF-Tu, a gene in Escherichia coli, that plays a crucial role in protein synthesis-- and inserted it into E. coli in place of the modern version. Gaucher had previously worked out what this gene's DNA sequence must have been 500 million years ago.

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Record Radio Waves from a Brown Dwarf --"Could Boost Odds of Finding Life"



Penn State University astronomers using the world's largest radio telescope at Arecibo, Puerto Rico, have discovered flaring radio emissions from the ultra-cool star J1047+21 33.6 light years away in the constellation Leo, known as a brown dwarf, which is not much warmer than the planet Jupiter, shattering the previous record for the lowest temperature at which radio waves had been detected from a star.  The discovery of J1047+21 could boost the odds of discovering life elsewhere in the universe.

Continue reading "Record Radio Waves from a Brown Dwarf --"Could Boost Odds of Finding Life"" »

April 28, 2012

Weekend Feature: "Humans May be One of the First Advanced Species in the Universe"



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 Harvard's Dimitar Sasselov, perhaps "the human species are not late comers to the party. We may be among the early ones."

Continue reading "Weekend Feature: "Humans May be One of the First Advanced Species in the Universe" " »

"Extraterrestrial Life May Not be Based on DNA or RNA" --New Research (Today's Most Popular)




Synthetic biologists have discovered that six other molecules  can could store genetic information and pass it on. A host of alternative nucleic acids have been made in labs over the years, but no one has made them work like DNA. Until now, everyone thought we were limited to RNA and DNA. This is the first time artificial molecules have been made to pass genes on to their descendants. The finding is a proof of principle that life needn't be based on DNA and RNA. 

Continue reading ""Extraterrestrial Life May Not be Based on DNA or RNA" --New Research (Today's Most Popular)" »

Saturday's 'Comment of the Day' --Extraterrestrial Life Common in the Universe --Wishful Thinking?



"There is absolutely no reason to believe that life wouldn't evolve exactly as it has here given the enormity of the universe. It will be carbon based and have DNA coding very similar to ours. Why? Because that is the way chemistry works and the chemicals are the same everywhere in the universe. So it really is a situation where the chemicals are everywhere and the chemistry is unified, so the only real variable is environment. I would go so far as to speculate species very similar to what we have here on Earth. We should expect to see similar adaptations (perhaps solved with different morphology) in those life forms as well. The bigger question is whether we will ever find any life we can actually "communicate" with. Even if it exists, the scale of the universe and the limiting factor of light speed will greatly hinder that ability. No discussion of intelligent life on other planets is complete without at least a mention of the Fermi Paradox."

The Tim Channel 

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April 27, 2012

The Mystery of Omega Centauri: "Why Were the Early Galaxies Dense With Stars?"



Astronomers are puzzled why it appears that some of the most distant galaxies in the universe are more dense with stars than expected. In this image of the Milky Way star cluster Omega Centauri, bright stars have been coloured blue, faint ones red. For more distant galaxies, though, faint stars are impossible to see. Now it turns out some of the most distant galaxies in the universe are more packed with stars than astronomers expected.

Continue reading "The Mystery of Omega Centauri: "Why Were the Early Galaxies Dense With Stars?"" »

Extraterrestrial Life Common in the Universe --Wishful Thinking?



When speaking about the probability of extraterrestrial life, Carl Sagan, always said that extraordinary claims required extraordinary evidence. Recent discoveries of planets similar to Earth in size and proximity to the planets' respective suns have sparked scientific and public excitement about the possibility of also finding Earth-like life on those worlds.

"Fossil evidence suggests that life began very early in Earth's history and that has led people to determine that life might be quite common in the universe because it happened so quickly here, but the knowledge about life on Earth simply doesn't reveal much about the actual probability of life on other planets," says Princeton astrophysical sciences professor Edwin Turner.

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Image of the Day: A Billion Stars of the Milky Way



British scientists have produced a colossal picture of our Milky Way Galaxy that reveals the detail of a billion stars. The iamge was built from thousands of individual images acquired by two UK-developed telescopes operating in Hawaii and in Chile, and concentrates on the dense plane of the galaxy, which means it renders as a very long, very thin strip. An online interactive tool allows you to zoom in to particular areas.

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