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Black hole hunters tackle a cosmic conundrum
on Mon, 20 Apr 2015 14:44:05 EDT:
Astrophysicists have not only proven that a supermassive black hole exists in a place where it isn't supposed to be, but in doing so have opened a new door to what things were like in the early universe.
Pulsing light may indicate supermassive black hole merger
on Mon, 20 Apr 2015 10:10:02 EDT:
As two galaxies enter the final stages of merging, scientists have theorized that the galaxies' supermassive black holes will form a 'binary,' or two black holes in such close orbit they are gravitationally bound to one another. In a new study, astronomers present direct evidence of a pulsing quasar, which may substantiate the existence of black hole binaries.
Scaled-up version of our solar system 130 light-years away
on Mon, 20 Apr 2015 08:51:12 EDT:
Astronomers has obtained the first results from the LEECH exoplanets survey. The findings reveal new insights into the architecture of HR8799, a 'scaled-up' version of our solar system 130 light-years from Earth.
Cold Spot suggests largest structure in Universe: A supervoid 1.3 billion light years across
on Mon, 20 Apr 2015 08:47:53 EDT:
In 2004, astronomers examining a map of the radiation left over from the Big Bang discovered the Cold Spot, a larger-than-expected unusually cold area of the sky. The physics surrounding the Big Bang theory predicts warmer and cooler spots of various sizes in the infant universe, but a spot this large and this cold was unexpected.
A blueprint for clearing the skies of space debris
on Fri, 17 Apr 2015 08:52:16 EDT:
Scientists have put forward a blueprint for a purely space-based system to solve the growing problem of space debris. The proposal will be used to detect objects, and a recently developed high-efficiency laser system will be used to track space debris and remove it from orbit.
Social shaming and the search for validation
on Thu, 16 Apr 2015 15:52:31 EDT:
A sociologist professor outlines the social conditions that breed online complaining and hashtag activism.
Dating the moon-forming impact event with meteorites
on Thu, 16 Apr 2015 14:55:43 EDT:
Through a combination of data analysis and numerical modeling work, researchers have found a record of the ancient moon-forming giant impact observable in stony meteorites. The research indicates numerous kilometer-sized fragments from the giant impact struck main belt asteroids at much higher velocities than typical main belt collisions, heating the surface and leaving behind a permanent record of the impact event.
Giant galaxies die from the inside out: Star formation shuts down in the centers of elliptical galaxies first
on Thu, 16 Apr 2015 14:11:47 EDT:
Astronomers have shown for the first time how star formation in "dead" galaxies sputtered out billions of years ago. Astronomers have revealed that three billion years after the Big Bang, these galaxies still made stars on their outskirts, but no longer in their interiors. The quenching of star formation seems to have started in the cores of the galaxies and then spread to the outer parts.
Intense magnetic field close to supermassive black hole
on Thu, 16 Apr 2015 14:10:26 EDT:
Astronomers have revealed an extremely powerful magnetic field, beyond anything previously detected in the core of a galaxy, very close to the event horizon of a supermassive black hole.
Dwarf planet Ceres color map reveals surface diversity
on Thu, 16 Apr 2015 13:56:52 EDT:
A new color map of dwarf planet Ceres, which NASA's Dawn spacecraft has been orbiting since March, reveals the diversity of the surface of this planetary body. Differences in morphology and color across the surface suggest Ceres was once an active body.
Proto-suns teeming with prebiotic molecules
on Thu, 16 Apr 2015 08:42:10 EDT:
Complex organic molecules such as formamide, from which sugars, amino acids and even nucleic acids essential for life can be made, already appear in the regions where stars similar to our Sun are born. Astrophysicists have detected this biomolecule in five protostellar clouds and propose that it forms on tiny dust grains.
NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft Nears Historic July 14 Encounter with Pluto
on Wed, 15 Apr 2015 13:19:46 EDT:
NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is three months from returning to humanity the first-ever close up images and scientific observations of distant Pluto and its system of large and small moons.
Northern lights: How 'black' auroras actually work
on Wed, 15 Apr 2015 09:09:04 EDT:
While our understanding of how the aurora's shimmering curtains of colour are formed, scientists have struggled to explain the black patches between the bright beams. Now scientists have discovered what happens at the heart of these so-called "black aurora". 
First signs of self-interacting dark matter? Dark matter may not be completely dark after all
on Tue, 14 Apr 2015 21:21:54 EDT:
For the first time dark matter may have been observed interacting with other dark matter in a way other than through the force of gravity. Observations of colliding galaxies have picked up the first intriguing hints about the nature of this mysterious component of the Universe.
Planet spotted deep within our galaxy: One of the most distant planets known
on Tue, 14 Apr 2015 16:07:22 EDT:
NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has teamed up with a telescope on the ground to find a remote gas planet about 13,000 light-years away, making it one of the most distant planets known.
Hot quark soup that existed at the dawn of the universe
on Tue, 14 Apr 2015 12:57:10 EDT:
Thousands of times a second the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory re-creates the hot quark soup that existed at the dawn of the universe. Particles composed of heavy quarks can help reveal details about the quark-gluon plasma, and by extension, the early universe and the origins of matter.
Search for advanced civilizations beyond Earth finds nothing obvious in 100,000 galaxies
on Tue, 14 Apr 2015 10:10:00 EDT:
After searching 100,000 galaxies for signs of highly advanced life, a team of scientists has found no evidence of advanced civilizations there. The idea behind the research is that, if an entire galaxy had been colonized by an advanced spacefaring civilization, the energy produced by that civilization's technologies would be detectable in mid-infrared wavelengths.
Violent methane storms on Titan may solve dune direction mystery
on Mon, 13 Apr 2015 18:37:38 EDT:
Titan, Saturn's largest moon, is among the most Earthlike places in the solar system. As the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft examines Titan, its discoveries bring new mysteries. One of these is that the seemingly wind-created sand dunes spotted near the moon's equator point one direction, but the near-surface winds point another direction. Astronomers may have solved this mystery.
Dark Energy Survey creates detailed guide to spotting dark matter in the cosmos
on Mon, 13 Apr 2015 16:13:08 EDT:
Scientists on the Dark Energy Survey have released the first in a series of dark matter maps of the cosmos. These maps, created with one of the world's most powerful digital cameras, are the largest contiguous maps created at this level of detail and will improve our understanding of dark matter's role in the formation of galaxies.
Mars might have salty liquid water
on Mon, 13 Apr 2015 13:06:11 EDT:
Researchers have long known that there is water in the form of ice on Mars. Now, new research shows that it is possible that there is liquid water close to the surface of Mars. The explanation is that the substance perchlorate has been found in the soil, which lowers the freezing point so the water does not freeze into ice, but is liquid and present in very salty water -- a brine.
Accelerating universe? Not so fast
on Sat, 11 Apr 2015 09:16:07 EDT:
Astronomers have found that the type of supernovae commonly used to measure distances in the universe fall into distinct populations not recognized before. The findings have implications for our understanding of how fast the universe has been expanding since the Big Bang.
What happens underground when a missile or meteor hits
on Fri, 10 Apr 2015 16:53:24 EDT:
Techniques that enable researchers to simulate high-speed missile and meteor impacts into soil and sand have been developed for use in the lab. The techniques allow the researchers to watch what happens underground close-up, in super slow motion. They report that materials like soil and sand actually get stronger when they are struck harder. The research may ultimately lead to better control of earth-penetrating missiles designed to destroy deeply buried targets such as enemy bunkers or weapons stockpiles.
An exoplanet with an infernal atmosphere: 1000 kph winds; 3000 degree temps
on Fri, 10 Apr 2015 09:55:47 EDT:
Astronomers have come to measure the temperature of the atmosphere of an exoplanet with unequaled precision, by crossing two approaches. The first approach is based on the HARPS spectrometer and the second consists of a new way of interpreting sodium lines. From these two additional analyses, researchers have been able to conclude that the HD189733b exoplanet is showing infernal atmospheric conditions: wind speeds of more than 1000 kilometers per hour, and the temperature being 3000 degrees. These results open up perspectives to approach the study of exoplanet atmospheres.
Stars with the chemical clock on hold
on Fri, 10 Apr 2015 08:33:02 EDT:
Astrophysicists have discovered a group of red giant stars for which the 'chemical clock' does not work: according to their chemical signature, these stars should be old. Instead, they appear to be young when their ages are inferred using asteroseismology. Their existence cannot be explained by standard chemical evolution models of the Milky Way, suggesting that the chemical enrichment history of the Galactic disc is more complex than originally assumed.
Cosmic debris: Study looks inside the universe’s most powerful explosions
on Fri, 10 Apr 2015 08:31:50 EDT:
A new study provides an inside look at the most powerful explosions in the universe: gamma-ray bursts. These rare explosions happen when extremely massive stars go supernova. The stars' strong magnetic fields channel most of the explosion's energy into two powerful plasma jets, one at each magnetic pole. The jets spray energetic particles for light-years in both directions, at close to light speed.
Small solar eruptions can have profound effects on unprotected planets
on Thu, 09 Apr 2015 18:29:57 EDT:
While no one yet knows what's needed to build a habitable planet, it's clear that the interplay between the sun and Earth is crucial for making our planet livable -- a balance between a sun that provides energy and a planet that can protect itself from the harshest solar emissions.
Synthetic muscle ready for launch
on Thu, 09 Apr 2015 16:22:34 EDT:
NASA plans to send advanced material into space on Monday, April 13. The Synthetic Muscle™ has been developed to adhere to metal, and could be used in robotics in deep space travel such as travel to Mars because of its radiation resistance, scientists say. "Based on the good results we had on planet Earth, the next step is to see how it behaves in a space environment," said an engineer who worked on the project.
When you land, can you stand? One-Year Mission video miniseries: Functional performance
on Thu, 09 Apr 2015 15:08:17 EDT:
You always want to be the last man standing, especially at NASA. Optimal functional performance, such as standing, is taken even more seriously when preparing for future missions to Mars and beyond. Learn why functional performance is important for astronauts and patients recuperating from long-term bed rest.
Dynamics of spinning black holes: Flip-flopping black holes spin to the end of the dance
on Thu, 09 Apr 2015 14:30:43 EDT:
Researchers simulated the merger of binary black holes and noticed that one black hole completely changes the orientation of its spin. Their findings have could affect how we understand galactic evolution, cosmology and gravitational physics.
Our sun came late to the Milky Way's star-birth party
on Thu, 09 Apr 2015 14:29:09 EDT:
Astronomers compiled a story of our Milky Way's growth by studying galaxies similar in mass to our galaxy, found in deep surveys of the universe. Stretching back more than 10 billion years, the census contains nearly 2,000 snapshots of Milky Way-like galaxies.
Holometer extends limit on knowable universe
on Thu, 09 Apr 2015 13:32:08 EDT:
The Holometer experiment is sensitive to gravitational waves at frequencies in the range of a million cycles per second. Thus it addresses a spectrum not covered by experiments such as the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, which searches for lower-frequency waves to detect massive cosmic events such as colliding black holes and merging neutron stars.
First real-time observation of the onset of stellar jets during the formation of a massive protostar
on Thu, 09 Apr 2015 10:20:35 EDT:
An international team of astronomers has first observed the moment in which a massive protostar begins to develop jets of matter and energy, crucial for star formation.
Violent formation of the moon: New view
on Wed, 08 Apr 2015 13:30:45 EDT:
Scientists have reconciled the accepted model of the moon's formation with the unexpectedly similar isotopic fingerprints of both bodies. The results suggest that the impact that formed the moon was so violent, the resulting debris cloud mixed thoroughly before settling down and forming the moon.
Complex organic molecules discovered in infant star system: Hints that building blocks of chemistry of life are universal
on Wed, 08 Apr 2015 13:14:22 EDT:
For the first time, astronomers have detected the presence of complex organic molecules, the building blocks of life, in a protoplanetary disc surrounding a young star. The discovery reaffirms that the conditions that spawned the Earth and Sun are not unique in the Universe.
Ice on Mars: Mars has belts of glaciers consisting of frozen water
on Wed, 08 Apr 2015 10:27:01 EDT:
Mars has distinct polar ice caps, but Mars also has belts of glaciers at its central latitudes in both the southern and northern hemispheres. A thick layer of dust covers the glaciers, so they appear as surface of the ground, but radar measurements show that underneath the dust there are glaciers composed of frozen water. New studies have now calculated the size of the glaciers and thus the amount of water in the glaciers.
Origin of Annama meteorite determined
on Wed, 08 Apr 2015 09:04:15 EDT:
Astronomers have determined the orbit of Annama, a newly characterized meteorite from a fireball which occurred on April 19, 2014, at the Kola Peninsula. Researchers highlight the importance of this finding because this is only the 23rd meteorite with a known orbit. It is important to know the orbit in order to determine the level of risk to Earth.
Asteroid Juno seen traveling through space
on Tue, 07 Apr 2015 09:53:48 EDT:
A series of images made with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) provides an unprecedented view of the surface of Juno, one of the largest members of our solar system's main asteroid belt.
Einstein Ring seen in stunning image of lensed galaxy
on Tue, 07 Apr 2015 09:53:45 EDT:
Astronomers have discovered that a distant galaxy -- seen from Earth with the aid of a gravitational lens -- appears like a cosmic ring, thanks to the highest resolution images ever taken with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA).
Sun experiences seasonal changes, new research finds
on Tue, 07 Apr 2015 08:53:00 EDT:
The sun undergoes a type of seasonal variability with its activity waxing and waning over the course of nearly two years, new research concludes. This behavior affects the peaks and valleys in the approximately 11-year solar cycle, sometimes amplifying and sometimes weakening the solar storms that can buffet Earth's atmosphere.
Theoretical study suggests huge lava tubes could exist on moon
on Sat, 04 Apr 2015 21:53:43 EDT:
Lava tubes large enough to house cities could be structurally stable on the moon, according to a theoretical study.
Supernova 'crime scene,' shows single white dwarf to blame
on Thu, 02 Apr 2015 18:35:42 EDT:
Astronomers have determined the pre-explosion mass of a white dwarf star that blew up thousands of years ago. The measurement strongly suggests the explosion involved only a single white dwarf, ruling out a well-established alternative scenario involving a pair of merging white dwarfs.
Astronomers watch unfolding saga of massive star formation
on Thu, 02 Apr 2015 16:17:43 EDT:
Astronomers are getting a unique, real-time look as a massive young star develops, with the promise of greatly improved understanding of the process.
Black holes don’t erase information, scientists say
on Thu, 02 Apr 2015 13:27:08 EDT:
Shred a document, and you can piece it back together. But send information into a black hole, and it's lost forever. A new study finds that -- contrary to what some physicists have argued for the years -- information is not lost once it has entered a black hole. The research presents explicit calculations showing how information is, in fact, preserved.
Hubble finds phantom objects near dead quasars
on Thu, 02 Apr 2015 11:46:53 EDT:
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has photographed a set of wispy, goblin-green objects that are the ephemeral ghosts of quasars that flickered to life and then faded. The eight unusual looped structures may offer insights into the puzzling behaviors of galaxies with energetic cores.
Astronomers solve decades-long mystery of the lonely old stars
on Wed, 01 Apr 2015 14:53:30 EDT:
Many, perhaps most, stars in the Universe live their lives with companions by their sides – in so-called binary systems. Until recently, however, the ancient RR Lyrae stars appeared, for mysterious reasons, to live their lives all alone. A recent study led by Chilean astronomers shows that RR Lyrae stars may not be as lonely as previously thought.
Light-powered gyroscope is world's smallest: Promises a powerful spin on navigation
on Wed, 01 Apr 2015 09:36:25 EDT:
A new detection scheme that may lead to the world's smallest gyroscope has been uncovered by scientists. More than creative learning toys, gyroscopes are indispensable components in a number of technologies, including inertial guidance systems, which monitor an object's motion and orientation. Space probes, satellites, and rockets continuously rely on these systems for accurate flight control. But like so many other essential pieces of aerospace technology, weight is a perennial problem.
ALMA disentangles complex birth of giant stars
on Tue, 31 Mar 2015 07:42:13 EDT:
Astronomers have conducted observations of the massive-star forming region IRAS 16547-4247. The observation results shows the presence of multiple, or at least two, gas outflows from a protostar, indicating the possible existence of two new-born stars in this region. Also, the radio observation results of molecular line emission of methanol revealed in vivid detail an hourglass structure created by gas outflows spreading outward while thrusting the ambient gas cloud away. It is the first time that such an hourglass structure was found in observations of methanol in high-mass star forming regions. Detailed observations of high-mass stars have been considered difficult so far because high-mass stars form in a complex environment with multiple protostars in clusters, and their forming regions are located farther away from the Earth compared to those of low-mass stars. However, high angular resolution observations with ALMA opened a new window to understand their formation environment in further details.
Mystery galaxies: Astronomers discover likely precursors of galaxy clusters we see today
on Mon, 30 Mar 2015 17:39:21 EDT:
Observations made with two space observatories, Herschel and Planck, reveal glimpses into how today's galaxies came to be. Using one-of-a-kind instrumentation, astronomers were able to study large numbers of 'mystery galaxies' that appear to be associated with clusters.
As stars form, magnetic fields influence regions big and small
on Mon, 30 Mar 2015 12:26:13 EDT:
Stars form when gravity pulls together material within giant clouds of gas and dust. But gravity isn't the only force at work. Both turbulence and magnetic fields battle gravity, either by stirring things up or by channeling and restricting gas flows, respectively. New research focusing on magnetic fields shows that they influence star formation on a variety of scales, from hundreds of light-years down to a fraction of a light-year.
Comet dust: Planet Mercury's 'invisible paint'
on Mon, 30 Mar 2015 12:24:37 EDT:
Scientists have long puzzled over the planet Mercury's excessively dark surface. New research suggests that carbon from passing comets could be the planet's mystery darkening agent.
Earthlike 'Star Wars' Tatooines may be common
on Mon, 30 Mar 2015 08:25:32 EDT:
Luke Skywalker's home in "Star Wars" is the desert planet Tatooine, with twin sunsets because it orbits two stars. So far, only uninhabitable gas-giant planets have been identified circling such binary stars, and many researchers believe rocky planets cannot form there. Now, mathematical simulations show that Earthlike, solid planets such as Tatooine likely exist and may be widespread.
More evidence for groundwater on Mars: Conditions would be conducive for microbial colonization if on Earth
on Fri, 27 Mar 2015 14:30:53 EDT:
Scientists investigated the Equatorial Layered Deposits (ELDs) of Arabia Terra in Firsoff crater area, Mars, to understand their formation and potential habitability. On the plateau, ELDs consist of rare mounds, flat-lying deposits, and cross-bedded dune fields. They interpret the mounds as smaller spring deposits, the flat-lying deposits as playa, and the cross-bedded dune fields as aeolian. They write that groundwater fluctuations appear to be the major factor controlling ELD deposition.
Dark matter even darker than once thought
on Thu, 26 Mar 2015 15:22:38 EDT:
Astronomers have studied how dark matter in clusters of galaxies behaves when the clusters collide. The results show that dark matter interacts with itself even less than previously thought, and narrows down the options for what this mysterious substance might be.
Best view yet of dusty cloud passing galactic center black hole
on Thu, 26 Mar 2015 08:59:24 EDT:
The best observations so far of the dusty gas cloud G2 confirm that it made its closest approach to the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way in May 2014 and has survived the experience. The new result shows that the object appears not to have been significantly stretched. It is most likely to be a young star with a massive core that is still accreting material.
Ancient Martian lake system records two water-related events
on Wed, 25 Mar 2015 21:07:44 EDT:
Researchers have completed a new analysis of an ancient Martian lake system in Jezero Crater, near the planet's equator. The study finds that the onslaught of water that filled the crater was one of at least two separate periods of water activity in the region surrounding Jezero.
A new spin on Saturn's peculiar rotation
on Wed, 25 Mar 2015 15:23:11 EDT:
The precise measurement of Saturn's rotation has presented a great challenge to scientists, as different parts of this sweltering ball of hydrogen and helium rotate at different speeds whereas its rotation axis and magnetic pole are aligned. A new method leads to a new determination of Saturn's rotation period and offers insight into the internal structure of the planet, its weather patterns, and the way it formed.
Supermassive black hole clears star-making gas from galaxy's core
on Wed, 25 Mar 2015 15:18:59 EDT:
A new study provides the first observational evidence that a supermassive black hole at the center of a large galaxy can power huge, wide-angled outpourings of material from deep inside the galaxy's core. These outflows remove massive quantities of star-making gas, thus influencing the size, shape and overall fate of the host galaxy.
Unexplained warm layer discovered in Venus' atmosphere
on Wed, 25 Mar 2015 13:17:14 EDT:
Scientists have found a warm layer in Venus' atmosphere, the nature of which is still unknown. The researchers made the discovery when compiling a temperature map of the upper atmosphere on the planet's night side based on the data collected by the Venus Express probe.
Explosions of Jupiter's aurora linked to extraordinary planet-moon interaction
on Wed, 25 Mar 2015 11:08:23 EDT:
New observations of the planet's extreme ultraviolet emissions show that bright explosions of Jupiter's aurora likely also get kicked off by the planet-moon interaction, not by solar activity.
Did Mars once have a nitrogen cycle? Scientists find fixed nitrogen in Martian sediments
on Wed, 25 Mar 2015 08:23:41 EDT:
Scientists have found fixed forms of nitrogen in Mars. This suggests that there may have been a nitrogen cycle sometime in Mars' past. The detection has been verified through analyses of samples taken at three different points on Mars. Analyses are made by the instrument SAM (Sample Analysis on Mars) on board the unmanned rover Curiosity located on Mars.