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February 2014
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April 2014

Organic Ejecta --Clues to Violent Events in the History of the Universe

 

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Exploding stars, random impacts involving comets and meteorites, and even near misses between two bodies can create regions of great heat and high pressure. Researchers from Imperial College London have now developed a method for analysing the pressure experienced by tiny samples of organic material that may have been ejected from dying stars before making a long journey through the cosmos. The researchers have investigated a type of aromatic hydrocarbon called dimethylnaphthalene, which should enable them to identify violent events in the history of the universe.

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"Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey" (Episode 4) --"Could Our Universe Exist Within a Supermassive Black Hole?"

 

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The very first prediction of the existence of a black hole occured in the late 1790's, when John Michell of England and Pierre-Simon Laplace of France, using Newton's Laws, independently suggested the existence of an "invisible star." Michell and Laplace calculated the mass and size – which is now called the "event horizon" – that an object needs in order to have an escape velocity greater than the speed of light. In 1915, Einstein's theory of general relativity predicted the existence of black holes. In 1967 John Wheeler, an American theoretical physicist, applied the term "black hole" to these collapsed objects.

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Searching for the Origins of Water in Planetary Systems

 

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Astronomers are eager to use the newly completed Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), an array of radio telescopes in the Atacama desert of northern Chile, and similar facilities to follow the story of water when planetary systems form. This is important because ALMA can watch solar systems being born, and help trace the evolution of water in young solar systems.

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"Our Closest Star System Alpha Centauri B Could Harbor 'Superhabitable' Worlds"

 

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Researchers have concluded superhabitable worlds will tend to orbit orange dwarfs and be slightly older and two to three times more massive than Earth. This could make orange dwarf Alpha Centauri B, the member of the closest stellar system to the sun, an ideal target for searches of a superhabitable world, especially since it may host an Earth-mass planet.

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"Quantum Vacuum 'Powers' the Dark Energy Driving Our Universe"

 

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Cosmologists believe that some three quarters of the universe are made up of a mysterious dark energy which would explain its accelerated expansion. The truth is that they do not know what it could be, therefore they put forward possible solutions. One is the existence of quintessence, an invisible gravitating agent that instead of attracting, repels and accelerates the expansion of the cosmos. From the Classical World until the Middle Ages, this term has referred to the ether or fifth element of nature, together with earth, fire, water and air. Another possibility is the presence of an energy or phantom field whose density increases with time, causing an exponential cosmic acceleration. This would reach such speed that it could break the nuclear forces in the atoms and end the universe in some 20,000 million years, in what is called the Big Rip.

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"The Pale Red Dot" --Distant Oort Cloud Planet Discovered Beyond Known Edge of Our Solar System

 

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Our Solar System has a new most-distant member, bringing its outer frontier into focus. A distant dwarf planet, called 2012 VP113, was found beyond the known edge of the Solar System. This is likely one of thousands of distant objects that are thought to form the so-called inner Oort cloud. What's more, their work indicates the potential presence of an enormous planet, perhaps up to 10 times the size of Earth, not yet seen, but possibly influencing the orbit of 2012 VP113, as well as other inner Oort cloud objects.

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Surprise Discovery of Two Rings Around a Distant Asteroid

 

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Observations at many sites in South America, including ESO’s La Silla Observatory, have made the surprise discovery that the remote asteroid Chariklo is surrounded by two dense and narrow rings. This is the smallest object by far found to have rings and only the fifth body in the Solar System — after the much larger planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune — to have this feature. The origin of these rings remains a mystery, but they may be the result of a collision that created a disc of debris. The new results are published online in the journal Nature on 26 March 2014.

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"The Missing Link Between Geology and Biology" --A New Theory (Today's Most Popular)

 

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"The mystery of how living organisms sprung out of lifeless rock has long puzzled scientists, but we think that the unusual phosphorus chemicals we found could be a precursor to the batteries that now power all life on Earth. But the fact that it developed simply, in conditions similar to the early Earth, suggests this could be the missing link between geology and biology," said Terry Kee at the University of Leeds.

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Origin of Metals in the Universe --A Key Factor in the Creation and Evolution of Primitive Cells

 

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It has been known that many hot white dwarfs atmospheres, essentially of pure hydrogen or pure helium, are contaminated by other elements – like carbon, silicon and iron. What was not known, however, was the origins of these elements, known in astronomical terms as metals.

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