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Monster Elliptical Galaxy Sets Age Record --"Reveals Clues to Today's Dark-Matter Domination of the Universe"

 

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Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have unexpectedly discovered the most distant galaxy that acts as a cosmic magnifying glass. Seen here as it looked 9.6 billion years ago, this monster elliptical galaxy breaks the previous record-holder by 200 million years. The galaxy existed 9.6 billion years ago and belongs to the galaxy cluster, IRC 0218. These "lensing" galaxies are so massive that their gravity bends, magnifies, and distorts light from objects behind it, a phenomenon called gravitational lensing. Finding one in such a small area of the sky is so rare that you would normally have to survey a region hundreds of times larger to find just one.

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The Geysers of Enceladus -- Will Saturn's Moon Reveal a "Second Genesis"?

 

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“Should we ever discover that a second genesis had occurred in our solar system, independently outside the Earth,” said Carolyn Porco of the Space Science Institute in 2010 when she was director of flight operations and imaging team leader for the Cassini spacecraft during its flybys of Saturn's moon, Enceladus, “then I think at that point the spell is broken. The existence theorem has been proven, and we could safely infer from it that life was not a bug but a feature of the universe in which we live, that it’s commonplace and has occurred a staggering number of times.”

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"Beyond Astrobiology" --New Technologies in the Search for Extraterrestrial Life

 

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In their quest to understand life’s potential beyond Earth, astrobiologists study how organisms might survive in numerous environments, from the surface of Mars to the ice-covered oceans of Jupiter’s moon, Europa (above). For now, Earth is our only example of an inhabited planet, and studying the limits of habitability on Earth is a major component of astrobiology research. For this reason, scientists collect data from places on our planet where life is pushed to the absolute limits of adaptability, from the Antarctic to the Arctic, and from smoldering thermal vents to highly acidic rivers. But locations like the Antarctic Dry Valleys or deep-sea vents in the Pacific aren’t the only places in which astrobiologists study life as we know it. Low Earth orbit provides an opportunity to observe Earth-life in the harsh conditions of space.

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"Andromeda Galaxy Harbors Twice as Much Dark Matter as the Milky Way" --Royal Astronomical Society

 

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The Milky Way is smaller than astronomers previously thought, according to new research. For the first time, scientists have been able to precisely measure the mass of the galaxy that contains our solar system. Researchers have found that the Milky Way is approximately half the weight of ou neighboring galaxy – Andromeda – which has a similar structure to our own. The Milky Way and Andromeda are the two largest in a region of galaxies which astronomers call the Local Group.

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Mercury's Bizarre Magnetic Field --"Powered by Liquid Iron"

 

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Earth and Mercury are both rocky planets with iron cores, but Mercury's interior differs from Earth's in a way that explains why the planet has such a bizarre magnetic field, UCLA planetary physicists and colleagues report. Measurements from NASA's Messenger spacecraft have revealed that Mercury's magnetic field is approximately three times stronger at its northern hemisphere than its southern one. In the current research, scientists have created a model to show how the dynamics of Mercury's core contribute to this unusual phenomenon. Mercury's peculiar magnetic field provides evidence that iron turns from a liquid to a solid at the core's outer boundary, say the scientists.

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Image of the Day --Planetary Disks in Weird Orbits Around their Host Stars

 

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Unlike our solitary Sun, most stars form in binary pairs -- two stars that orbit a common center of mass. Though remarkably plentiful, binaries pose a number of questions, including how and where planets form in such complex environments. Stars and planets form out of vast clouds of dust and gas. As material in these clouds contracts under gravity, it begins to rotate until most of the dust and gas falls into a flattened protoplanetary disk swirling around a growing central protostar. Despite forming from a flat, regular disk, planets can end up in highly eccentric orbits, and may be misaligned with the star's equator. One theory for how planets can migrate to these unusual orbits is that a binary companion star can influence them — but only if its orbit is initially misaligned with the planets.

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Perseus Cluster Mystery Persists --"What We Found Could Not be Explained by Known Physics"

 

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The Universe is a big place, full of unknowns. Astronomers using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory have just catalogued a new one."I couldn't believe my eyes," says Esra Bulbul of the Harvard Center for Astrophysics. "What we found, at first glance, could not be explained by known physics." Together with a team of more than a half-dozen colleagues, Bulbul has been using Chandra to explore the Perseus Cluster, a swarm of galaxies approximately 250 million light years from Earth. Imagine a cloud of gas in which each atom is a whole galaxy—that's a bit what the Perseus cluster is like. It is one of the most massive known objects in the Universe. The cluster itself is immersed in an enormous 'atmosphere' of superheated plasma—and it is there that the mystery resides.

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ISS Destiny Module Leads to New Discovery --"Things can Happen Out There that Can’t Happen Here”

 

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The difference between earth and the space station is buoyancy. When droplets of fuel burn on earth, buoyancy limits the amount of time gases can hang around in the high temperature zone around the droplets. So there isn’t enough time for the droplets’ chemistry to support the cool flames. But in micro-gravity, there is no buoyancy, so there is enough time for the gases to stay around the droplets and for that chemistry to develop.

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"Glow in Space" --Evidence of A Hot Bubble Left by a Supernova in Our Galactic Neighborhood 10 Million Years Ago

 

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In findings that help astrophysicists understand our corner of the galaxy, an international research team has shown that the soft X-ray glow blanketing the sky comes from both inside and outside the solar system. “We now know that the emission comes from both sources, but is dominated by the local hot bubble,” said Massimiliano Galeazzi, professor and associate chair in the Department of Physics at the University of Miami and principal investigator of the study. “This is a significant discovery. Specifically, the existence or nonexistence of the local bubble affects our understanding of the galaxy in the proximity to the Sun and can be used as foundation for future models of the Galaxy structure.”

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Image of the Day: Nearby Cosmic Bubble Harbors a Star 100,000 Times More Luminous than the Sun



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The Bubble Nebula or NGC 7635 is 10 light-year diameter object a mere 11,000 light-years away toward the constellation Cassiopeia near a giant molecular cloud which contains the expansion of the bubble. Above and right of the Bubble's center is a hot, O-type star, several 100,000 times more luminous and approximately 45 times more massive than our Sun. Fierce stellar winds and intense radiation from that star has blasted out the structure of glowing gas against denser material in a surrounding molecular cloud.

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