A group of astronomers led by Remco van den Bosch from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA) have discovered a black hole that could shake the foundations of current models of galaxy evolution. The Hubble image above shows the small, flattened disk galaxy NGC 1277, which contains one of the biggest central super-massive black holes ever found in its center. With the mass of 17 billion Suns, the black hole weighs in at an extraordinary 14% of the total galaxy mass --a mass much greater than current models predict — in particular in relation to the mass of its host galaxy. This could be the most massive black hole found to date. Astronomers would have expected a black hole of this size inside blob-like (“elliptical”) galaxies ten times larger. Instead, this black hole sits inside a fairly small disk galaxy.
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New observations by the MESSENGER spacecraft provide compelling support for the long-held hypothesis that Mercury harbors abundant water ice and other frozen volatile materials in its permanently shadowed polar craters. The new observations have also raised new questions: Do the dark materials in the polar deposits consist mostly of organic compounds? What kind of chemical reactions has that material experienced? Are there any regions on or within Mercury that might have both liquid water and organic compounds? Shown in the image above in red are areas of Mercury’s north polar region that are in shadow.
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The innocuous-looking galaxy, elliptical galaxy Hercules A,also known as 3C 348, has long been known as the brightest radio-emitting object in the constellation Hercules. Emitting nearly a billion times more power in radio wavelengths than our Sun, the galaxy is one of the brightest extragalactic radio sources in the entire sky created by spectacular jets powered by the gravitational energy of a super massive black hole in the core of the galaxy.
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Could both gravity and the Big Bang be an illusion? In January 2010, Erik Verlinde, professor of Theoretical Physics and world-renowned string theorist, caused a worldwide stir with the publication of On the Origin of Gravity and the Laws of Newton, in which he challenged commonly held perceptions on gravity, going so far as to state ‘for me gravity doesn’t exist’. If he is proved correct, the consequences for our understanding of the universe and its origins in a Big Bang will be far-reaching.
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One of the most bizarre things seen in the solar system is captured in the image above, taken on 27 November by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Cassini's camera zoomed into Saturn's polar hexagon storm's eye from from a distance of about 250,000 miles (400,000 kilometers). The spacecraft observed in infrared wavelengths, which can peer through the top layer of clouds to reveal the complex texture beneath. NASA's Cassini spacecraft has been traveling the Saturnian system in a set of inclined, or tilted, orbits that give mission scientists a vertigo-inducing view of Saturn's polar regions, yielding spectacular images of roiling storm clouds and the swirling vortex at the center of Saturn's famed north polar hexagon.
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Researchers have discovered a quasar known as SDSS J1106+1939 with the most energetic outflow ever, a finding that may answer questions about how the mass of a galaxy is linked to its central black hole mass and why there are so few large galaxies in the universe. The rate that energy is carried away by the huge mass of material ejected is equivalent to two trillion times the power output of the sun. The black hole at the heart of quasar SDSS J1106-1939 is massive, estimated to be a thousand times heavier than the black hole in the Milky Way.
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New data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft links a shift in seasonal sunlight to a wholesale reversal, at unexpected altitudes, in the circulation of the atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan. At the south pole, the data show definitive evidence for sinking air where it was upwelling earlier in the mission. So the key to circulation in the atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan turned out to be a certain slant of light.
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Through most of the 20th century, scientists thought that life began with a stupendous chemical fluke, unique in the observable universe. Today, as physicist and astrobiologist Paul Davies of Arizona State University, points out it is fashionable to say that "life is written into the laws of nature - easy to get started and therefore likely to be widespread in the universe. The truth is, nobody has a clue. It could be either extreme, or somewhere in the middle."
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What are the implications of a star systems missing a massive gas giant such as our Solar Systems' Jupiter --it could imply conditions of massive bombardment from comets and asteeoids that would prevent the development of advanced life.
Continue reading ""No Jupiter, No Advanced Life? " --Evolution May be Impossible in Star Systems Without a Giant Planet" »
Collisions between protons and lead ions at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) have produced unexpected behavior in some of the particles created by the collisions, creating a new type of matter known as color-glass condensate. When beams of particles crash into each other at high speeds, the collisions yield hundreds of new particles, most of which fly away from the collision point at close to the speed of light. However, the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) team at the LHC found that in a sample of two million lead-proton collisions, some pairs of particles flew away from each other with their respective directions correlated.
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