The European Space Agency’s Herschel space telescope has discovered that previously unseen distant galaxies are responsible for a cosmic fog of infrared radiation. The galaxies are some of the faintest and furthest objects seen by Herschel, and open a new window on the birth of stars in the early Universe. Astronomers estimate that there are billions and billions of galaxies in the observable universe (as well as some seven trillion dwarf galaxies). ESA astronomers say that for every ten far galaxies observed, a hundred go undetected.
"I've long suspected that the rise of spacefaring intelligent life is so unlikely that we will never encounter another within our causal lightcone. In a universe of infinite size (as ours seems to be) the weak anthropic principle has an infinitely powerful ability to explain our existence, no matter how unlikely. As a great man once said, there are the known unknowns, and the unknown unknowns. We know that we don't yet know some basic things, such as how likely habitable planets are (to date we've only found hunks of rock in zones that might conceivably be habitable), how unlikely the eukaryotic mutations were, how unlikely intelligent tool-users are to evolve, how unlikely the development of a scientific Western Civ was (remember, most civs were still Neolithic even a few hundreds years ago), and even how likely free capitalist societies are (what if the Communists or Nazis had won out in this world?). But there are probably even more things we still don't know about the chain of coincidences that led us here. The Drake equation probably ends up with quite a few more variables than is generally appreciated."
World renowned experts from physicist Sir Martin Rees of Cambridge University to astrobiologist Paul Davis of Arizona State have asked that if we were to encounter alien technology far superior to our own, would we even realize what it was. A technology a million or more years in advance of ours would appear miraculous.
Scientists are close to demonstrating that the building blocks of DNA can form spontaneously from chemicals thought to be present on the early Earth. If they succeed, their research implies that DNA could have predated the birth of life. “The story makes more sense if DNA nucleotides were naturally present in the environment. Organisms could have taken up and used them, later developing the tools to make their own DNA once it became clear how advantageous the molecule was— and once natural supplies began to run low,” Christopher Switzer of the University of California, Riverside said.
"Pillars of Creation" --A Galactic Artifact Vaporized by a Supernova Explosion 6,000 Years Ago ('2012 Most Popular')
In early 2007, scientists using the Spitzer discovered evidence that potentially indicates the famed three Pillars of Creation photographed by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope in 1995 in the Eagle Nebula were destroyed by a nearby supernova explosion about 6,000 years ago, but the light showing the new shape of the nebula will not reach Earth for another thousand years.
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.
The Primordial Star at the Edge of the Milky Way that Shouldn't Exist --Challenges Theories of Star Formation
A primordial star at the outer edges of our Milky Way galaxy upsets current theories of star formation in the universe. The star simply shouldn't exist since it lacks the materials astronomers have long thought necessary for low-mass stars to form, scientists say. When Lorenzo Monaco of the European Southern Observatory in Chile and colleagues examined the elemental composition of the oddball star, prosaically named SDSS J102915+172927 (image below), they discovered that it has a mass smaller than that of the Sun, and is probably more than 13 billion years old.
"This star has the composition that is the nearest that has been found up to now to the big bang composition," says Piercarlo Bonifacio of the Paris Observatory, France.
The chance discovery of a 100 million year old fossil forest on an island east of New Zealand has unlocked new insights on ancient life close to the South Pole revealing large trees in their original living position, early flowering plants, seed cones and rare insects preserved in a rock formation. The ancient forest was discovered by researchers in the Chatham Islands. The find is believed to be the first records of life close to the South Pole during the Cretaceous period, a time of extreme greenhouse conditions 145-65 million years ago.
The 'Galaxy' Comment of the Day: Evolutionary Biologist Richard Dawkins: 'Life Exists Elsewhere in the Universe'
"It has been said that intelligence is of little long term use to sentient species. I believe that is wrong. Intelligence is a great way to get a species to spread to multiple worlds, furthering the survival of the species. Seeds of life spend a lot of time drifting in the wind, or floating on the sea, maybe even traveling randomly through space in a comet or other object. Intelligence is just another method of spreading the seed of life. Why do we try to learn things like quantum physics or cosmology? Nearly everything we do is rooted in the need to survive. Why do we have the instinct to explore the unknown? Because that is what intelligent life is programmed to do. Every urge, desire and need we have has a reason for being. We are a product of the universe. It makes sense that the universe made us as a way for the universe itself to be introspective."
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