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Friday, August 11, 2017

NASA to Chase Eclipse with a Pair of WB-57s at 50,000 Feet
Posted by Guy Pirro on 8/11/2017 4:39 PM
Total solar eclipses are unique opportunities for scientists to study the hot atmosphere above the Sun's visible surface. The faint light from the Corona is usually overpowered by intense emissions from the Sun itself. During a total eclipse, however, the Moon blocks the glare from the bright solar disk and darkens the sky, allowing the weaker coronal emissions to be observed. A team led by Southwest Research Institute will use airborne telescopes aboard NASA WB-57 research aircraft to study the solar corona and Mercury's surface during next week's total solar eclipse. The August 21 observations will provide the clearest images to date of the Sun's outer atmosphere. In addition, the scientists will attempt to take the first-ever thermal images of surface temperature variations of the planet Mercury.
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Monday, August 07, 2017

New Clues to the Universe's Structure Revealed
Posted by Guy Pirro on 8/7/2017 12:50 PM
Imagine planting a single seed and with great precision being able to predict the exact height of the tree that grows from it. Now imagine traveling to the future and snapping photographic proof that you were right. If you think of the seed as the early universe and the tree as the universe the way it looks now, you have an idea of what the Dark Energy Survey (DES) collaboration has just done. DES scientists have just unveiled the most accurate measurement ever made of the present large scale structure of the universe, and have been able to map it back to the first 400,000 years following the Big Bang.
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Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Sun's Core is Spinning Four Times Faster Than its Surface
Posted by Guy Pirro on 8/2/2017 11:40 AM
The Sun's core spins nearly four times faster than the Sun's surface according to new findings by an international team of astronomers. Scientists had originally assumed that the Sun was spinning like a merry-go-round with the core rotating at about the same speed as the surface. The researchers studied surface acoustic waves in the Sun's atmosphere, some of which penetrate to the Sun's core, where they interact with gravity waves that have a sloshing motion similar to how water would move in a half-filled tanker truck driving on a curvy mountain road. After the Sun formed, the Solar wind likely slowed the rotation of the outer part of the Sun. It is hoped that eventually, a better understanding of the rotation of the Solar core may give a clue to how the Sun formed.
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Friday, July 21, 2017

Countdown to the Great American Solar Eclipse -- One Month from Today
Posted by Guy Pirro on 7/21/2017 9:28 AM
So, what will you be doing during the Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017? Observing? Photographing? Throwing a Great American Eclipse party in your backyard? In past total solar eclipses, people have spent thousands of dollars on extravagant trips and cruises to remote parts of the world to cross this experience off of their "bucket lists." This year, you will be able to walk outside and see one for yourself from the comfort of your home (weather permitting). On August 21, 2017, most of the nation will only see a partial eclipse, but if you are one of the lucky millions along the path of totality, you will experience about two minutes of mid-day darkness as the black shadow of the Moon races across the nation at about 2000 mph.
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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

NASA's Juno Completes Close Flyby of Jupiter's Great Red Spot
Posted by Guy Pirro on 7/18/2017 1:39 PM
NASA's Juno mission completed a close flyby of Jupiter and its Great Red Spot on July 10, 2017, during its sixth science orbit. Just days after celebrating its first anniversary in Jupiter orbit, the Juno spacecraft flew directly over the planet's Great Red Spot, the gas giant's iconic, 10,000 mile wide (16,000 kilometer wide) storm. This was humanity's first up-close view of the gigantic feature -- a storm monitored by astronomers since 1830, and possibly existing for centuries before that.
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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Quantum Teleportation -- Not Quite Star Trek... But It is a Start
Posted by Guy Pirro on 7/15/2017 11:49 AM
Quantum teleportation has become a standard operation in quantum optics labs around the world. The technique relies on the strange phenomenon of quantum entanglement. This occurs when two quantum objects, such as photons, form at the same instant in time and the in same location in space, and so share the same existence. In technical terms, they are described by the same wave function. According to a report in MIT Technology Review, researchers in China have teleported a photon from the ground to a satellite orbiting more than 500 kilometers above. It may not yet be the same as Star Trek, but it is a start.
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Friday, July 07, 2017

In the Beginning, Nothing... Then God Said "Let There Be Noise" -- An Introduction to Acoustic Cosmology
Posted by Guy Pirro on 7/7/2017 10:57 AM
Is there a musical equivalent to the curvature of space-time? Gavin Starks thinks so. Yesterday he presented his findings at the Royal Astronomical Society's National Astronomy Meeting held at the University of Hull in the UK. Starks, who has a background in radio astronomy and electronic music, has been working on "Acoustic Cosmology" for more than 20 years in collaboration with Professor Andy Newsam of Liverpool John Moores University in the UK. Their aim is to test whether mathematical relationships that describe cosmology and quantum mechanics can be applied to a Sonic Universe, or "Soniverse."
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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Strange Bacterial Life Forms Emerged Less Than 800 Million Years After Earth's Formation
Posted by Guy Pirro on 6/27/2017 10:21 AM
Remains of microorganisms at least 3.77 billion years old have been discovered by an international team led by University College London scientists, providing direct evidence of one of the oldest life forms on Earth. Tiny filaments and tubes formed by bacteria that lived on iron were found encased in quartz layers in Quebec, Canada, where some of the oldest sedimentary rocks known on Earth exist. These rocks likely formed part of an iron-rich deep sea hydro-thermal vent system that provided a habitat for Earth's first life forms between 3.77 and 4.30 billion years ago. Earth was formed 4.54 billion years ago, so it appears that life on Earth emerged rather early in its history.
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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Scientists Solve the Mystery of Unexplained "Bright Nights"
Posted by Guy Pirro on 6/21/2017 7:42 PM
Dating back to the first century AD, scientists, philosophers, and other observers have noted the occasional occurrence of "Bright Nights," when an unexplained glow in the night sky lets observers see distant mountains, read newspapers, or check their watches. Few, if any, people observe Bright Nights anymore due to widespread light pollution, but new findings show that they can be detected by scientists and may still be noticeable in remote areas. The new study suggests that waves in the upper atmosphere converge over specific locations on Earth and amplify naturally occurring airglow -- a faint light in the night sky that often appears green due to the activities of atoms of oxygen in the high atmosphere. Normally, people don't notice airglow, but on Bright Nights it can become visible to the naked eye, producing the unexplained glow detailed in historical observations.
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Friday, June 16, 2017

New Evidence Suggests that ALL Sun-like Stars are Born as Binaries
Posted by Guy Pirro on 6/16/2017 1:39 PM
Did our Sun have a twin when it was born 4.5 billion years ago? Almost certainly yes -- though not an identical twin... And so did every other Sun-like star in the Universe, according to a new study. Many stars have gravitationally bound companions, including our nearest neighbor, Alpha Centauri, a triplet system. Astronomers have long sought an explanation -- Are binary and triplet star systems born that way? Did one star capture the other? Do binary stars sometimes split up and become single stars? The new study, based on a radio survey of a giant molecular cloud in the constellation Perseus and a mathematical model that can explain the Perseus observations only if all Sun-like stars are born with a companion, suggest that Yes -- all Sun-like stars in the Universe start life as binaries.
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Monday, June 12, 2017

If the Universe is Structured Like a Block of Swiss Cheese, Then We Live Inside One of the Holes
Posted by Guy Pirro on 6/12/2017 5:28 PM
A University of Wisconsin analysis has shown that our galaxy resides in an enormous void -- a region of space containing far fewer galaxies, stars, and planets than expected. This idea that we exist in one of the holes of the Swiss cheese structure of the cosmos helps explain inconsistencies in the measurement of the Hubble Constant, the unit that cosmologists use to describe the rate at which the universe is expanding. No matter what technique one uses, we should get the same value for the expansion rate of the universe, but we don't. The reason is that the void has far more matter outside, which exerts a larger gravitational pull towards the inside "wall" of the void. This affects the Hubble Constant value as measured from a technique that uses supernovae, while it has no effect on the value derived from a technique that uses the Cosmic Microwave Background.
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Thursday, June 08, 2017

Homo Sapiens Emerged 100,000 Years Earlier Than Previously Thought
Posted by Guy Pirro on 6/8/2017 6:54 PM
Researchers have uncovered 300,000 year old fossil bones of Homo Sapiens in Jebel Irhoud, Morocco -- a find that represents the oldest reliably dated fossil evidence of our species. The find is 100,000 years older than any other previously discovered Homo Sapiens fossils. Amazingly, the facial shape of the skulls is almost indistinguishable from that of modern humans living today. Previously, the oldest Homo Sapiens fossils were discovered at two sites in Ethiopia, dating 195,000 and 160,000 years old. Consequently, many researchers believed that all humans living today descended from the population that lived in East Africa around 200,000 years ago. But this new find suggests that early Homo Sapiens spread across the entire African continent and long before the out-of-Africa dispersal of Homo Sapiens began, there was dispersal within the African continent.
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Saturday, June 03, 2017

NASA's Juno Reveals an Amazing Side of Jupiter You've Never Seen
Posted by Guy Pirro on 6/3/2017 10:30 AM
NASA's Juno mission to Jupiter is the second spacecraft designed under its New Frontiers Program. The first was the New Horizons mission to Pluto, which flew by the small planet in July 2015 after a nine and a half year flight. Early science results from NASA's Juno mission to Jupiter portray the largest planet in our Solar System as a complex, gigantic, turbulent world, with Earth-sized polar cyclones, plunging storm systems that travel deep into the heart of the gas giant, and a mammoth, lumpy magnetic field. With its suite of science instruments, Juno will investigate the possible existence of a solid planetary core, map Jupiter's intense magnetic field, measure the amount of water and ammonia in the deep atmosphere, and observe the planet's auroras.
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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Large Hadron Collider Kicks Off the 2017 Season
Posted by Guy Pirro on 5/30/2017 8:03 PM
Physicists at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) have just kicked off the 2017 season. We left Season 2 with LHC providing collisions at the unprecedented energy of 13 TeV (Tera Electron Volts), almost double the collision energy of its Season 1 run that led to the discovery of the Higgs Boson. Operations for the new season are now re-starting with just a few proton bunches per beam, but the operators who control the most powerful collider in the world will soon increase the number of proton bunches and will also more tightly focus the size of the beams at the interaction points. In a few weeks, over a billion collisions will be produced every second at the heart of the experiments. In this new season, the LHC physicists plan to continue improving their knowledge of known phenomena while also probing the unknown.
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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Hypernova SN 2015L is the Brightest and Most Powerful Ever Seen
Posted by Guy Pirro on 5/23/2017 5:30 PM
Records are made to be broken, as the expression goes, but rarely are records left so thoroughly in the dust. In 2015, stunned astronomers witnessed a cosmic explosion about 200 times more powerful than a typical Supernova event. At its peak intensity, SN 2015L exhibited 570 billion times the luminosity of the Sun. If that statistic does not impress, consider that this luminosity level is approximately 20 times the entire output of the 100 billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy. This record breaking blast is thought to be an example of a Superluminous Supernova (or Hypernova), a recently discovered and supremely rare variety of explosion unleashed by certain stars when they die. Scientists are frankly at a loss to explain what sorts of stellar scenarios might be responsible for these types of extreme events.
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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

115th Anniversary of the Discovery of the Antikythera Mechanism
Posted by Guy Pirro on 5/17/2017 4:02 PM
In 1900, an extraordinary mechanism was found by Greek sponge divers at the bottom of the sea near the island of Antikythera, situated between Crete and mainland Greece. Two years later, on May 17, 1902, Greek archaeologist Valerios Stais, discovered that this corroded chunk of metal pulled from the water was a rather fascinating technological artifact. It turned out to be part of the Antikythera Mechanism -- an ancient analog astronomical computer. For many decades, scientific investigation failed to yield much progress. However, research over the last 50 years has begun to reveal its secrets. The machine dates from around the end of the Second Century BC, and is the most sophisticated mechanism known from the ancient world. Nothing as complex was to be created by human hands for at least the next 1000 years.
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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

So, Is a Brown Dwarf a Star... Or a Planet?
Posted by Guy Pirro on 5/10/2017 7:57 PM
Smaller than stars, but bigger than giant planets, brown dwarfs are too small to sustain the hydrogen fusion process that fuels stars and allows them to remain hot and bright for a long period of time. So after formation, brown dwarfs slowly cool down and contract over time. The contraction usually ends after a few hundred million years, although the cooling is continuous. But sometimes, what is thought to be a brown dwarf is actually a planet -- or at least planet-like. A team at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington DC has discovered that what astronomers had previously thought was one of the closest brown dwarfs to our own Sun is in reality a Planetary Mass Object.
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Friday, May 05, 2017

New Horizons is Already Halfway from Pluto to Its Next Flyby Target
Posted by Guy Pirro on 5/5/2017 5:08 PM
Continuing on its path through the outer regions of the Solar System, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has now traveled half the distance from Pluto, its storied first target, to 2014 MU69, the Kuiper Belt object (KBO) that it will fly past on January 1, 2019. The spacecraft reached that milestone on April 3, 2017 when it was 486.19 million miles (782.45 million kilometers) beyond Pluto -- the same distance to MU69. I suppose that when you're making history at 32,000 miles per hour, time moves faster and distances start to shrink.
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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Cassini Spacecraft Dives Between Saturn and Its Rings -- and Survives
Posted by Guy Pirro on 4/30/2017 11:58 AM
NASA's Cassini spacecraft is back in contact with Earth after its successful first-ever dive through the narrow gap between the planet Saturn and its rings on April 26, 2017. The spacecraft is in the process of beaming back science and engineering data collected during its passage. With this first dive, Cassini begins the "Grand Finale" of a remarkable mission that started in 1997. During this final chapter, Cassini will loop around Saturn approximately once per week, making a total of 22 dives between the rings and the planet. The spacecraft is now on a trajectory that will eventually plunge it into Saturn's atmosphere -- and end Cassini's mission -- on September 15, 2017.
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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Is It Time to Discard the Whole Dark Energy Contrivance?
Posted by Guy Pirro on 4/22/2017 7:18 PM
So what is Dark Energy? Well, the simple answer is that we don't know. It seems to contradict much of our understanding about the way we think the Universe works. The strangeness of Dark Energy is perplexing. It shows us that there is a gap in our knowledge that needs to be filled. But what if there is an alternative explanation for this enigmatic Dark Energy? What if it does not exist at all? That is what a Hungarian-American team of researchers is starting to conclude. They believe that they can explain the observed acceleration of the Universe without the need for Dark Energy. If their findings are upheld, it could have a significant impact on the direction of future research in physics.
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