Mars is a microcosm -a spiritual jumping off place in our exploration of the Universe. The white spaces -the unmapped, unexplored, unknown white spaces of the map of Planet Earth no longer exist. Our 21st Century explorers look to Mars and the planets of our Solar System and beyond for the challenge of the unexplored, the unknown.
Continue reading " Image of the Day: Stunning 3-D Photo of Mars" »
An ultra-faint collection of 1,000 stars orbiting the Milky Way includes the most lightweight galaxies ever discovered, includind Segue 1 and Segue 2. The image above shows a standard prediction for the dark matter distribution within about 1 million light years of the Milky Way galaxy, which is expected to be swarming with thousands of small dark matter clumps called `halos'. The findings, made with the world’s most powerful telescopes offer tantalizing clues about how iron, carbon and other elements key to human life originally formed.
Continue reading " Tiny Fossil Galaxies of First Stars of the Universe Found Orbiting Milky Way (Weekend Feature)" »
As our technologies become ever more sophisticated and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence continues to fail, the "Great Silence" becomes louder than ever. The seemingly empty cosmos is screaming out to us that something is amiss. Or is it? In his famous lecture on Life in the Universe, Stephen Hawking asks: "What are the chances that we will encounter some alien form of life, as we explore the galaxy?" Nobel laureate Enrico Fermi, discussing this observation with colleagues over lunch in 1950, asked, logically: "Where are they?" Why, if advanced extraterrestrial civilizations exist in our Milky Way galaxy, hasn't evidence such as probes, spacecraft, or radio transmissions been found?
Continue reading "Supernova! --"Are They the Reason the Milky Isn't Crawling with Biological and Machine Intelligence" (Or Is it?)" »
This past July, astronomers announced that they found a "hotspot" beneath the Big Dipper emitting a disproportionate number of the highest-energy cosmic rays. The discovery moves physics another step toward identifying the mysterious sources of the most energetic particles in the universe. The hotspot is near the "supergalactic plane" – the rather flattened Virgo supercluster of galaxies shown above. Our Milky Way galaxy is on the outskirts of the supercluster.
Continue reading ""Cosmic Ray Hotspot Found" --Search Heats Up for Exotic Sources " »
Titan's southern polar vortex appears to be an effect of the change of season, with large amounts of air being heated by sunlight during the northern spring and flowing towards the southern hemisphere. A puzzling detail about this swirling cloud is its altitude, some 300 km above Titan's surface, where scientists thought it was too warm for clouds to form. “We really didn’t expect to see such a massive cloud so high in the atmosphere,” says Remco de Kok of Leiden Observatory and SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research, lead author of the study published in the journal Nature.
Continue reading "Cassini Spacecraft Zooms in on Titan's Swirling Polar Vortex --"A Massive Mysterious Cloud"" »
Titan is unique in our solar system because of its dense nitrogen-methane atmosphere, which is very similar to Earth's in some ways, but very different in others. For example, air temperatures are around 200 degrees colder and, in contrast to the warm salt water seas of Earth, frigid hydrocarbon lakes populate Titan's surface.
Continue reading "Winter X Games Won't Be Coming to Titan --A Massive Cloud: Swirling Vortex of Gas Blankets South Pole" »
Oceanus Procellarum, a vast dark patch visible on the western edge of the Moon's near side, has long been a source of mystery for planetary scientists. Some have suggested that the "ocean of storms" is part of a giant basin formed by an asteroid impact early in the Moon's history. But new research published today in Nature deals a pretty big blow to the impact theory.
Continue reading "Moon's Vast "Ocean of Storms" Reveals Ancient Rifts of Volcanic Activity (Not a Cosmic Impact Basin)" »
More than one hundred and fifty years ago, Charles Darwin hypothesized that species could cross oceans and other vast distances on vegetation rafts, icebergs, or in the case of plant seeds, in the plumage of birds.Though many were skeptical of Darwin's "jump dispersal" idea, a new study suggests that Darwin might have been correct.
Continue reading "Is Darwin's Long Debated Theory of Species Migration Valid? New Research Says "Yes"" »
Is it possible that our original home exists as a great collection of stars, a star cluster known as Messier 67 (shown above), a gathering of suns and stellar remnants some 2,700 light-years distant that contains more than a hundred stars that bear a striking resemblance to the Sun. Astronomers have searched for star clusters in our galaxy whose members come close to matching the Sun’s elemental composition and age. This past January, astronomers using ESO's HARPS planet hunter in Chile, along with other telescopes around the world, discovered three planets orbiting stars in the cluster Messier 67 shown above. Although more than one thousand planets outside the Solar System are now confirmed, only a handful have been found in star clusters. Remarkably one of these new exoplanets is orbiting a star that is a rare solar twin — a star that is almost identical to the Sun in all respects.
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This panorama photo, taken by ESO's Yuri Beletsky, shows the view of the starry sky from the site of ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) at Cerro Paranal in Chile during the total lunar eclipse of 21 December 2010. The reddish disc of the Moon is seen on the right of the image, while the Milky Way arches across the heavens in all its beauty. Another faint glow of light is also visible, surrounding the brilliant planet Venus in the bottom left corner of the picture. This phenomenon, known as zodiacal light, is produced by sunlight reflecting off dust in the plane of the planets. It is so faint that it’s normally obscured by moonlight or light pollution.
Continue reading "Unearthly Zodiacal Light --A Fossil Clue to the Origin of Our Solar System" »