“There might be people living out there, out in the middle of cold dark space, that don't have a Milky Way,” says Harvey Moseley, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Astronomers have spotted a faint cosmic glow, unseen until now, that may come from stars that float adrift between galaxies. The discovery suggests that as many as half of all stars in the Universe lurk outside galactic boundaries.
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The Earth’s ancient oceans held much lower concentrations of sulfate—a key biological nutrient—than previously recognized, according to research published this week in Science. The findings paint a new portrait of our planet’s early biosphere and primitive marine life. Organisms require sulfur as a nutrient, and it plays a central role in regulating atmospheric chemistry and global climate.
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One of the biggest challenges to manned space missions is the expense. The NASA rule-of-thumb is that every unit mass of payload launched requires the support of an additional 99 units of mass, with “support” encompassing everything from fuel to oxygen to food and medicine for the astronauts, etc. Most of the current technologies now deployed or under development for providing this support are abiotic, meaning non-biological. Synthetic biology may hold the key to manned space exploration. Berkeley Lab researchers have used synthetic biology to produce an inexpensive and reliable microbial-based alternative to the world’s most effective anti-malaria drug, and to develop clean, green and sustainable alternatives to gasoline, diesel and jet fuels. In the future, synthetic biology could also be used to make manned space missions more practical.
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A recently launched European satellite could reveal tens of thousands of new planets within the next few years, and provide scientists with a far better understanding of the number, variety and distribution of planets in our galaxy. Researchers from Princeton University and Lund University in Sweden calculated that the observational satellite Gaia could detect as many as 21,000 exoplanets, or planets outside of Earth's solar system, during its five-year mission. If extended to 10 years, Gaia could detect as many as 70,000 exoplanets, the researchers report.
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The image above shows IC 1101, a supergiant elliptical galaxy of approximately 6 million light-years across, which makes it the largest known galaxy discovered to date. It lies about 1.07 billion light-years away from Earth in the constellation of Virgo (the Virgin), and is made up of more than 100 trillion stars (for comparison, our Milky Way has about 300 billion stars), this galaxy is the extremely bright object at the center of Abell 2029, a massive cluster of thousands of galaxies. Being one of the most luminous galaxies ever seen, IC 1101 emits more than one quarter of the total light from this galaxy cluster.
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The physics community has spent three decades searching for and finding no evidence that dark matter is made of tiny exotic particles. Theoretical physicists suggest researchers consider looking for candidates more in the ordinary realm and, well, more massive. Dark matter is unseen matter, that, combined with normal matter, could create the gravity that, among other things, prevents spinning galaxies from flying apart.
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“Follow the water” has long been the mantra of our NASA's search for alien life in the Solar System and beyond. We continue seeking conditions where water can remain liquid either on a world’s surface or elsewhere within a planetary body. This approach makes a lot of sense. Life as we know it requires water for the complex chemistry that enables growth and reproduction. Where there is water, we believe life has a chance.
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When NASA’s Dawn spacecraft visited the asteroid Vesta in 2011, it showed that deep grooves that circle the asteroid’s equator like a cosmic belt were probably caused by a massive impact on Vesta’s south pole. Now, using a super high-speed cannon at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Brown University researchers have shed new light on the violent chain of events deep in Vesta’s interior that formed those surface grooves, some of which are wider than the Grand Canyon.
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For years, astronomers have been puzzled by a bizarre object in the center of the Milky Way that was believed to be a hydrogen gas cloud headed toward our galaxy's enormous black hole. Having studied it during its closest approach to the black hole this summer, UCLA astronomers believe that they have solved the riddle of the object widely known as G2.
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