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Friday, October 02, 2015

New "Stealth Dark Matter" Theory May Explain Universe's Missing Mass
Posted by Guy Pirro on 10/2/2015 4:41 PM
Dark matter makes up 83 percent of all matter in the universe and does not interact directly with electromagnetic or strong and weak nuclear forces. Light does not bounce off of it and ordinary matter goes through it with only the feeblest of interactions. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) scientists have now come up with a new theory that may identify why dark matter has evaded direct detection in Earth-based experiments. They believe that even though dark matter is naturally "stealthy" today, it would have been easy to see via interactions with ordinary matter in the extremely high temperature plasma conditions that pervaded the early universe.
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Monday, September 28, 2015

Percival Lowell Was Right After All -- There Is Flowing Water on Mars
Posted by Guy Pirro on 9/28/2015 10:22 AM
New findings from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) provide the strongest evidence yet that liquid water flows intermittently on present day Mars. Using an imaging spectrometer on MRO, researchers detected signatures of hydrated minerals on slopes where mysterious streaks have been seen on the Red Planet. These darkish streaks appear to ebb and flow over time. They darken and appear to flow down steep slopes during warm seasons and then fade in cooler seasons, indicating the presence of flowing water.
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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

"Supermoon" Total Lunar Eclipse to be Visible on Sunday Night
Posted by Guy Pirro on 9/22/2015 11:35 AM
For the first time in more than 30 years, we'll be able to witness a "Supermoon" in combination with a total lunar eclipse. Late on Sunday, September 27, 2015, in the USA and in much of the world, a total lunar eclipse will mask the moon's face for more than an hour. So, what makes this a "Supermoon" total eclipse? On September 27th, we're going to have a perigee full moon -- That is the moon will be at its closest point to the Earth for the year. The timing of the total eclipse will coincide with the perigee full moon and the moon will appear 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter in the night sky than during an apogee full moon. The total eclipse will last one hour and 12 minutes and will be visible in North and South America, Europe, Africa, parts of West Asia, and the eastern Pacific.
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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

One Decade After Launch, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Still Going Strong
Posted by Guy Pirro on 9/15/2015 11:48 AM
Although designed originally for a two year mission, ten years after launch, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) continues to reveal the Red Planet's diversity and activity, returning more data about Mars every week than the weekly total from all six other active Mars missions... Yet its work is far from over. The spacecraft has been orbiting Mars at an altitude of about 186 miles (300 kilometers), passing near the north and south poles about 12 times a day. The workhorse orbiter is now playing a key role in NASA's Journey to Mars planning as it searches for candidate sites where humans will first explore the Martian surface in the 2030s.
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Sunday, September 06, 2015

Farthest Galaxy Detected by CalTech Researchers
Posted by Guy Pirro on 9/6/2015 8:06 AM
CalTech Researchers have reported the detection of the farthest object yet, a galaxy called EGS8p7. At more than 13.2 billion years old, it provides a fascinating glimpse of the very early universe, just 600,000 years after the Big Bang.
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Thursday, September 03, 2015

New Horizons Team Selects Next Kuiper Belt Flyby Target
Posted by Guy Pirro on 9/3/2015 9:48 AM
NASA has selected the potential next destination for the New Horizons mission to visit after its historic July 14, 2015 flyby of the Pluto system. The destination is a small Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) known as 2014 MU69 that orbits nearly a billion miles beyond Pluto. Scientists estimate that PT1 is just under 30 miles (about 45 kilometers) across. Early target selection was important, as the team needs to direct New Horizons toward the object this year in order to perform any extended mission with healthy fuel margins.
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Friday, August 28, 2015

Historic 24 Inch Clark Telescope at Lowell Observatory to Reopen
Posted by Guy Pirro on 8/28/2015 2:28 PM
Lowell Observatory's historic Clark Telescope in Flagstaff, Arizona will return to tour operations on September 5, 2015 after a 20 month long renovation project. The 24 Inch Clark refractor had been a mainstay for visitor to Lowell for decades, but the constant heavy use resulted in parts wearing out. By 2013, the instrument was in danger of permanent damage if corrective measures weren't taken, so the Observatory undertook a fundraising campaign to support a complete renovation of the telescope and the dome that houses it.
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Friday, August 21, 2015

Supernovae in the Wrong Place, But it Must Have Been the Wrong Time
Posted by Guy Pirro on 8/21/2015 8:12 AM
What happens when you find something in the wrong place at the wrong time? That's a question astronomers have been trying to answer after finding several exploding stars outside the cozy confines of galaxies, where most stars reside. These wayward supernovae also have puzzled astronomers because they exploded billions of years before their predicted detonations. Astronomers using archived observations from several telescopes, including the Hubble Space Telescope, Lick Observatory, W. M. Keck Observatory, and the Subaru Telescope, have developed a theory for where these doomed stars come from and how they arrived at their current homes.
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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Charting the Slow Death of Our Universe
Posted by Guy Pirro on 8/11/2015 3:01 PM
The fact that our Universe is slowly fading has been known since the late 1990s. Now, an international team of astronomers studying more than 200,000 galaxies has measured the energy generated within a large portion of space more precisely than ever before, representing the most comprehensive assessment of the energy output of the nearby Universe. They confirm that the energy produced in the Universe today is only about half of what it was two billion years ago. They also find that this fading is occurring across all wavelengths from ultraviolet to the far infrared. Their conclusion -- The Universe is slowly dying.
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Wednesday, August 05, 2015

NASA's Dawn Mission Produces First High Resolution Map of Ceres
Posted by Guy Pirro on 8/5/2015 1:31 PM
2015 has certainly turned out to be the year of the Dwarf Planet. On March 6, 2015, Dawn made history as the first mission to reach Ceres. Then in mid-July 2015, New Horizons visited Pluto, truly the "Capo di tutti capi" of the Dwarf Planets. Although Ceres is about 40 percent the size of Pluto, it is beginning to show a diverse topography, with height differences from crater bottoms to mountain peaks as great as 9 miles (15 kilometers). Scientists continue to analyze the latest data from Dawn as the spacecraft makes its third mapping orbit. And now some of these craters and other surface features are being assigned official names by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the inventors of the "Dwarf Planet."
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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Move Over Arecibo -- China Assembling World's Largest Radio Telescope
Posted by Guy Pirro on 7/28/2015 7:08 PM
China is assembling the world's largest radio telescope deep in the mountains of southwest China's Guizhou Province. When it is completed in 2016, the new 500 meter radio telescope will be the world's largest, overtaking Puerto Rico's Arecibo Observatory, which is 300 meters in diameter.
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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Elusive Massless Weyl Fermion Discovered After 85 Years
Posted by Guy Pirro on 7/22/2015 8:52 PM
Princeton University scientists have discovered the elusive Weyl fermion, a massless particle that was theorized 85 years ago. Proposed by the mathematician and physicist Hermann Weyl in 1929, Weyl fermions have been long sought by scientists because they are regarded as possible building blocks of other subatomic particles and are even more basic than the ubiquitous electron. Since Weyl fermions are massless and possess a high degree of mobility, they could give rise to faster and more efficient electronics, especially in quantum computing applications.
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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Irregular Heartbeat of the Sun is Driven by a Double Dynamo
Posted by Guy Pirro on 7/18/2015 11:17 AM
It has been 172 years since a scientist first spotted that the Sun's activity varies over a cycle lasting around 10 to 12 years. But every cycle is a little different and none of the models to date have fully explained the fluctuations. A new model of the Sun's solar cycle, developed by Dr. Valentina Zharkova of Northumbria University in the UK, is producing unprecedentedly accurate predictions of irregularities within the Sun's 11 year heartbeat. The model draws on dynamo effects in two layers of the Sun -- one close to the surface and one deep within its convection zone. Predictions from the model suggest that solar activity will fall by 60 per cent during the 2030s to conditions last seen during the "mini ice age" that began in 1645.
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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Pluto Flyby Update - Houston We Now Have Mountains
Posted by Guy Pirro on 7/15/2015 8:35 PM
Icy mountains on Pluto and a new, crisp view of its largest moon, Charon, are among the several discoveries announced today by NASA's New Horizons team, just one day after the spacecraft's historic Pluto flyby. The mountains on Pluto likely formed no more than 100 million years ago -- mere youngsters in a 4.56 billion year old solar system. This suggests that Pluto may still be geologically active today.
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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Pluto Flyby Update - Houston We Have Impact Craters
Posted by Guy Pirro on 7/12/2015 10:10 AM
It began as a point of light. Then, it evolved into a fuzzy orb. Now, in the latest portrait from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, Pluto is being revealed as an intriguing new world with distinct surface features. Three billion miles from Earth and just two and a half million miles from Pluto, New Horizons has taken its best images and is beginning to reveal the first signs of discrete geologic features. At 7:49 AM EDT on Tuesday morning, July 14th, New Horizons will zip past Pluto at 30,800 miles per hour (49,600 kilometers per hour), with a suite of seven science instruments busily gathering data. The mission will complete the initial reconnaissance of the solar system's original nine planets with the first-ever look at this icy world.
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Friday, July 10, 2015

APOD Founders Win Klumpke-Roberts Award
Posted by Russ Carroll on 7/10/2015 5:44 PM
The Klumpke-Roberts Award for outstanding contributions to public understanding and appreciation of astronomy is awarded to Dr. Robert Nemiroff and Dr. Jerry Bonnell for their work on the Astronomy Picture of the Day.
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Thursday, July 09, 2015

NASA's New Horizons is on Track for Pluto Flyby on July 14th
Posted by Guy Pirro on 7/9/2015 9:11 PM
NASA's New Horizons is speeding towards the edge of our solar system for a July 14, 2015 flyby of Pluto. At its closest approach the spacecraft will be zipping by at about 7800 miles (12,500 kilometers) above the surface. It's the first mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt and it won't be making observations alone. NASA's fleet of observatories will also be busy gathering data before and after to help piece together what we know about Pluto. Sending this spacecraft on an almost 3 billion mile journey will help answer basic questions about the surface properties, atmospheres, and moons of the Pluto system.
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Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Mars Curiosity Rover Suffers Flat Tire -- But Keeps on Rolling
Posted by Guy Pirro on 7/7/2015 8:53 AM
Curiosity's international team has resumed full operations after a period of limited activity during most of June 2015. The operations moratorium happens about every 26 months, when Mars passes nearly behind the sun from Earth's perspective and the sun interferes with radio communication between the two planets. Curiosity's path has crossed areas that have numerous sharp rocks embedded in the ground. The wheels can sustain significant damage without impairing the rover's ability to drive, and dents and holes were anticipated, however the amount of wear on Curiosity's wheels appears to have accelerated. Routes to future destinations for the mission will likely be charted to lessen the amount of travel over such rough terrain. Flat tire and all, NASA's Curiosity Mars rover is now examining a valley, where at least two types of bedrock meet, for clues about changes in ancient environmental conditions recorded by the rock.
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Friday, June 26, 2015

Universe Appears to be Oscillating at Roughly One Cycle per Two Billion Years
Posted by Guy Pirro on 6/26/2015 7:20 PM
According to scientists, the universe began with a "big bang" and expanded to its current size. Physicists at the University of Southern Mississippi have now discovered that the universe may not only be expanding, but also oscillating or "ringing" at the same time. And they found that the universe appears to have slowed down and sped up not just once, but 7 times in the last 13.8 billion years. This oscillation is not a wave moving through the universe, but rather seems to be a "wave of the universe" -- The whole universe seems to be pulsating.
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Friday, June 19, 2015

Are Black Holes Simply Giant Super-Dense Fuzzballs?
Posted by Guy Pirro on 6/19/2015 7:58 PM
A black hole is a place in space where gravity pulls so strongly that even light can not get out. And because no light can get out, we can't see black holes -- To us, they are invisible. Space telescopes with special tools can help find black holes by observing how stars that are very close to the black holes move. So, are black holes the ruthless killers we've made them out to be? Samir Mathur, a professor of physics at The Ohio State University says no. He takes issue with recently proposed ideas that black holes have "firewalls" that destroy everything they touch. Mathur used principles of string theory to show that black holes are actually tangled-up balls of cosmic strings and his "Fuzzball Theory" has helped resolve certain contradictions in how physicists think of black holes.
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