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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Spacecraft Flyby Anomalies Continue to Confound Scientists
Posted by Guy Pirro on 9/21/2014 9:24 AM
When space probes, such as Rosetta and Cassini, fly over certain planets and moons in order to gain momentum and travel long distances, their speed changes slightly for an unknown reason. A Spanish researcher has now analyzed whether or not a hypothetical Gravito-Magnetic field could have an influence. However, other factors such as solar radiation, tides, or even relativistic effects or dark matter could be behind this mystery. The observed difference in speeds could have serious implications on our understanding of gravity.
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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Newest Catalogue of the Visible Milky Way Details 219 Million Stars
Posted by Guy Pirro on 9/16/2014 12:32 PM
From dark sky sites on Earth, the Milky Way appears as a glowing band stretching across the sky. To astronomers, it is a disk stretching across 100,000 light years seen edge on from our vantage point. A new catalogue of the visible part of the northern part of the Milky Way galaxy has been assembled and it includes no fewer than 219 million stars. Geert Barentsen of the University of Hertfordshire in the UK led the team who assembled the catalogue in a ten year program using the Isaac Newton Telescope on La Palma in the Canary Islands.
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Thursday, September 04, 2014

Do We Live In a 3-D World... or a 2-D Hologram?
Posted by Guy Pirro on 9/4/2014 6:22 PM
Much like characters on a television screen would not know that their seemingly 3-D world exists only on a 2-D screen, we could be clueless that our 3-D space is just an illusion. The information about everything in our universe could actually be encoded in tiny packets in two dimensions. A unique experiment at the US Department of Energy's Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, near Chicago, Illinois, has started collecting data using a holographic interferometer that will help answer this mind bending question about our universe -- Do we live in a 2-D hologram?
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Friday, August 29, 2014

Interior of the Moon Has Not Yet Cooled and Hardened
Posted by Guy Pirro on 8/29/2014 9:07 AM
An international research team, led by Dr. Yuji Harada of the China University of Geosciences has found that there is an extremely soft layer deep inside the Moon and that heat is effectively being generated by the gravity of the Earth. These results were derived by comparing the deformation of the Moon as precisely measured by JAXA's Kaguya and other space probes with theoretically calculated estimates. These findings suggest that the interior of the Moon has not yet cooled and hardened, and also that it is still being warmed by the tidal effect of the Earth on the Moon. This research provides a chance to reconsider how both the Earth and the Moon have been evolving since their births through mutual influence until now.
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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Wolf-Rayet 104 Has Us Locked in its Gunsights -- Are We in Danger of an Extinction Level GRB?
Posted by Guy Pirro on 8/16/2014 11:03 AM
Global warming and climatic changes caused by man's exploitation of our natural resources are child's play compared to what Wolf-Rayet 104 (WR 104) may have in store for us. WR 104 is now in the last known stable phase for a massive star of this type and is only about 8000 light years away. The problem is that its polar orientation appears to be "face-on" to Earth's line of sight. Essentially, we are staring down a gun barrel. If WR 104 collapses into a Supernova (as expected) and releases a Gamma Ray Burst (GRB), our Solar System could be in the direct path of a highly collimated jet of destruction. Such an event could end life as we know it. But will it happen in the next thousand years or in the next 500,000 years? Nobody knows... And nobody can do anything about it because the GRB and optical photons from the Supernova would arrive here simultaneously. Our only hope is that a few degrees one way or the other in the orientation of WR 104 could make all the difference in the world.
| Read full story | 8 Comments... |

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Mysterious Molecules in Space
Posted by Guy Pirro on 8/9/2014 11:52 AM
Over the vast, empty reaches of interstellar space, countless small molecules tumble quietly though the cold vacuum. Forged in the fusion furnaces of ancient stars and ejected into space when those stars exploded, these lonely molecules account for a significant amount of all the carbon, hydrogen, silicon, and other atoms in the universe. In fact, some 20 percent of all the carbon in the universe is thought to exist as some form of interstellar molecule. Astronomers have long known that interstellar molecules absorb light from stars and other luminous bodies and believe that these interstellar molecules may be the source of the hundreds of Diffuse Interstellar Bands that show up in spectrograms of space taken from Earth -- the hundreds of seemingly random dark absorption lines. Now researchers are pointing to an unusual set of molecules -- silicon-terminated carbon chain radicals -- as a possible source of these mysterious bands.
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Sunday, August 03, 2014

Binary Star Systems May Form Planets with Weird and Wild Orbits
Posted by Guy Pirro on 8/3/2014 9:04 AM
Unlike our 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. While surveying a series of binary stars with the Atacama Large Millimeter/ submillimeter Array (ALMA), astronomers uncovered a striking pair of wildly misaligned planet forming disks in the young binary star system HK Tau. These results provide the clearest picture ever of protoplanetary disks around a double star and could reveal important details about the birth and eventual orbit of planets in a multiple star system.
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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Is Our Universe Just a Bubble in a Sea of Bubbles?
Posted by Guy Pirro on 7/26/2014 8:12 PM
In the beginning there was a vacuum. The vacuum simmered with energy. Like water in a boiling pot, this energy began to evaporate and bubbles formed and expanded. Inevitably, some bubbles bumped into each other. Maybe the bubbles were rare and far apart. Maybe they were packed close together and resembled the foam that forms when an ocean wave breaks on the beach. But here's the thing -- each of these bubbles was a universe. In this story, our universe was just one bubble in a frothy sea of bubble universes. This is the model of the universe that researchers at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Ontario, Canada are piecing together.
| Read full story | 6 Comments... |

Sunday, July 20, 2014

It Was 45 Years Ago Today -- Next Stop Mars
Posted by Guy Pirro on 7/20/2014 5:22 AM
It was 45 years ago that Neil Armstrong took the first small step onto the surface of the moon that changed the course of history. The years that followed saw an unprecedented age of scientific, technological, and human research. We stand now on a new horizon, poised to take the next giant leap deeper into the solar system. The Apollo missions blazed a path for human exploration to the moon and today we are extending that path to near-Earth asteroids, Mars, and beyond. In our lifetimes, NASA and the world will take the next giant leap to explore the Red Planet. It gives us pause to consider that according to NASA, the first human to set foot on Mars is walking the Earth today.
| Read full story | 5 Comments... |

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Most Distant Milky Way Star Detected... And It's One Third the Distance to the Andromeda Galaxy
Posted by Guy Pirro on 7/12/2014 7:11 PM
The distant outskirts of the Milky Way harbor valuable clues for understanding the formation and evolution of our galaxy. Yet, due to overwhelming distances and an extremely sparse population of stars, many objects have not been identified beyond 400,000 light years. A team of astronomers has now discovered two stars in the Milky Way's halo that are the most distant ever detected at distances of 775,000 and 900,000 light years, respectively -- five times more distant than the Large Magellanic Cloud and about one third of the distance to the Andromeda Galaxy.
| Read full story | 11 Comments... |

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Ultrahigh Energy Cosmic Rays Found Emanating From Hotspot Near Ursa Major
Posted by Guy Pirro on 7/8/2014 8:45 AM
Many astrophysicists believe that ultrahigh energy cosmic rays are generated by Active Galactic Nuclei (AGNs) in which material is sucked into a Supermassive Black Hole at the center of galaxy, while other material is spewed away in a beam-like, highly collimated jet known as a Blazar. Another popular belief is that the highest energy cosmic rays come from supernovas that emit Gamma Rays Bursts (GRBs). An observatory operated by the University of Utah has found a hotspot near Ursa Major that is emitting a disproportionate number of the highest energy cosmic rays. This discovery moves us another step closer to identifying the mysterious sources of these most energetic particles in the universe.
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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Mysterious X-ray Signal in Perseus May be the First Observed Sign of Dark Matter
Posted by Guy Pirro on 6/24/2014 9:49 AM
Astronomers think dark matter constitutes 85 percent of the matter in the Universe, but does not emit or absorb light like "normal" matter such as protons, neutrons, and electrons that make up the familiar elements observed in planets, stars, and galaxies. Because of this, scientists must use indirect methods to search for clues about dark matter. A mysterious X-ray signal has been found using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESA's XMM-Newton and one intriguing possibility is that the X-rays are produced by the decay of sterile neutrinos, a type of particle that has been proposed as a candidate for dark matter.
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Thursday, June 19, 2014

A New Bizarre Class of Hybrid Star is Discovered -- The Thorne-Zytkow Object
Posted by Guy Pirro on 6/19/2014 12:18 PM
In a discovery decades in the making, scientists have detected a new theoretical class of stars first proposed in 1975 by physicist Kip Thorne and astronomer Anna Zytkow. Thorne-Zytkow Objects (TZOs) are hybrids of red supergiant and neutron stars that in many ways resemble normal red supergiants, such as Betelgeuse. They differ, however, in the distinct chemical signatures that result from unique activity in their stellar interiors. A TZO forms when a massive red supergiant essentially swallows a neutron star, which spirals into the core of the red supergiant. While normal red supergiants derive their energy from nuclear fusion, TZOs are powered by the unusual activity of the absorbed neutron star at the core.
| Read full story | 2 Comments... |

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Dark Side of the Moon Mystery Solved After 55 Years
Posted by Guy Pirro on 6/11/2014 9:23 PM
When looking up at the full moon at night, many of us see a "man in the moon" - a face smiling down at us from the lunar surface. The "face," of course, is just an illusion shaped by the dark splotches of lunar maria, which are the smooth plains formed from the lava of ancient volcanic eruptions. But very few dark splotches exist on far side of the moon. It is basically all mountains and craters. This mystery is called the "Lunar Far Side Highlands Problem" and dates back to 1959, when the Soviet spacecraft Luna 3 transmitted the first images of the dark side of the moon back to Earth. Researchers immediately noticed that fewer "seas" or maria existed on the portion of the moon that always faces away from Earth. Now, after 55 years of head-scratching, scientists have finally figured out why.
| Read full story | 5 Comments... |

Friday, May 30, 2014

NASA Moves Forward with a Saturn V on Steroids
Posted by Guy Pirro on 5/30/2014 11:15 AM
NASA is nearing completion of two major structural restoration projects for the B-2 Engine Test Stand at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, marking critical milestones for testing the core stage of the new heavy-lift launch vehicle, the Space Launch System (SLS). Reminiscent of the Saturn V launch vehicle used in the Apollo missions of the late 1960s and early 70s, NASA's new SLS is an advanced, heavy-lift launch vehicle that will provide an entirely new capability for science and human exploration beyond Earth's orbit. SLS will carry the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, as well as important cargo, equipment, and science experiments, to deep space. The massive 130 metric ton configuration will be the most capable, powerful launch vehicle in history. Towering a staggering 384 feet tall, it will provide 9.2 million pounds of thrust at liftoff and weigh 6.5 million pounds.
| Read full story | 4 Comments... |

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

ESA's Venus Express Gets Ready to Take the Plunge
Posted by Guy Pirro on 5/27/2014 9:43 AM
After eight years in orbit, ESA's Venus Express has completed routine science observations and is preparing for a daring plunge into the planet's hostile atmosphere. Venus Express was launched on a Soyuz-Fregat from the Russian Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on November 9, 2005, and arrived at Venus on April 11, 2006. Now, the fuel supplies necessary to maintain the elliptical orbit are running low and will soon be exhausted. Thus, routine science operations have concluded, and the spacecraft is being prepared for one final mission: to make a controlled plunge deeper into the atmosphere than ever before attempted.
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Friday, May 16, 2014

Jupiter's Great Red Spot is Shrinking
Posted by Guy Pirro on 5/16/2014 9:15 PM
Jupiter's trademark Great Red Spot - a swirling storm that is larger than Earth - is shrinking. This downsizing, which is changing the shape of the spot from an oval into a circle, has been known from about the 1930s, but now these striking new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope images capture the spot at a smaller size than ever before.
| Read full story | 6 Comments... |

Friday, May 09, 2014

Are We Ready for Contact with Extraterrestrial Intelligence?
Posted by Guy Pirro on 5/9/2014 7:27 PM
The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project is an initiative that began in the 1970s with funding from NASA. It has evolved over the years with a mission to explore, understand, and explain the origin, nature, and prevalence of life in the universe. Up to now, this work has been performed in a passive, listen-only mode. Now the members of SETI want to go further and not only listen for extraterrestrial signs, but also actively send messages from Earth that could alert possible extraterrestrial civilizations of our existence and location. Astrophysicists, such as Stephen Hawking, have warned of the risk that this may imply for humanity, as it could trigger the arrival of beings with more advanced technology... and unknown intentions.
| Read full story | 14 Comments... |

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Is Spacetime Like a Very Slippery Superfluid?
Posted by Guy Pirro on 4/29/2014 9:07 AM
Quantum mechanics is able to effectively explain three of the four fundamental forces of the Universe 1) Electromagnetism - which acts between pieces of matter carrying electrical charge, 2) Weak Interactions - responsible for radioactive decay, and 3) Strong Interactions - responsible for holding the nuclei of atoms together. But it does not explain gravity. Identifying a plausible model of gravity within a quantum physics framework is one of the major challenges physics is facing today. However, despite the many models proposed to date, none has proved satisfactory or amenable to empirical investigation. Now, theoretical physicists in Italy and Germany have devised innovative ways to describe the effects that should be observed if spacetime was a very low viscosity superfluid and they are arriving at some very profound conclusions. They are also proposing the first observational tests of these phenomena.
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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Didn't See This One Coming -- New Exotic Particle Found That Does Not Fit the Traditional Model
Posted by Guy Pirro on 4/17/2014 7:37 AM
Quarks are hard, point-like objects found within the nucleus of an atom. When Quarks combine in threes, they form compound particles known as Baryons. Protons are probably the best-known of the Baryons. Sometimes, however, Quarks interact with corresponding anti-Quarks, which have the same mass but opposite charges. When this happens, they form Mesons. Mesons often turn up in cosmic rays. Mesons, Baryons, and other kinds of particles that take part in strong interactions are called Hadrons. This classification of particle physics has remained virtually unchallenged... Until now.
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