Interstellar chemical resembles building blocks of life
Newfound molecule has branched structure akin to amino acids’
by Beth Mole



A cold cloud of gas and dust near the center of the galaxy may create the molecular ingredients for life.
By searching the cloud called Sagittarius B2, researchers found the first branched organic chemical discovered in interstellar space: isopropyl cyanide. Its branched structure resembles that of many amino acids, fundamental components of life on Earth that link together to form proteins. The discovery, reported in the Sept. 26 Science, hints that compounds essential to life may arise in the mass of molecules between the stars before making their way to Earth and other planets.
(via: Science News)
photo: ESO/APEX, MSX/IPAC/NASA

Interstellar chemical resembles building blocks of life

Newfound molecule has branched structure akin to amino acids’

by Beth Mole

A cold cloud of gas and dust near the center of the galaxy may create the molecular ingredients for life.

By searching the cloud called Sagittarius B2, researchers found the first branched organic chemical discovered in interstellar space: isopropyl cyanide. Its branched structure resembles that of many amino acids, fundamental components of life on Earth that link together to form proteins. The discovery, reported in the Sept. 26 Science, hints that compounds essential to life may arise in the mass of molecules between the stars before making their way to Earth and other planets.

(via: Science News)

photo: ESO/APEX, MSX/IPAC/NASA

What Is the Universe? Real Physics Has Some Mind-Bending Answers
Science says the universe could be a hologram, a computer program, a black hole or a bubble—and there are ways to check.
by Victoria Jaggard

The questions are as big as the universe and (almost) as old as time: Where did I come from, and why am I here? That may sound like a query for a philosopher, but if you crave a more scientific response, try asking a cosmologist.
This branch of physics is hard at work trying to decode the nature of reality by matching mathematical theories with a bevy of evidence. Today most cosmologists think that the universe was created during the big bang about 13.8 billion years ago, and it is expanding at an ever-increasing rate. The cosmos is woven into a fabric we call space-time, which is embroidered with a cosmic web of brilliant galaxies and invisible dark matter.
It sounds a little strange, but piles of pictures, experimental data and models compiled over decades can back up this description. And as new information gets added to the picture, cosmologists are considering even wilder ways to describe the universe—including some outlandish proposals that are nevertheless rooted in solid science…
(read more: Smithsonian Magazine)
image: NASA, ESA, SAO, CXC, JPL-Caltech, and STScI

What Is the Universe? Real Physics Has Some Mind-Bending Answers

Science says the universe could be a hologram, a computer program, a black hole or a bubble—and there are ways to check.

by Victoria Jaggard

The questions are as big as the universe and (almost) as old as time: Where did I come from, and why am I here? That may sound like a query for a philosopher, but if you crave a more scientific response, try asking a cosmologist.

This branch of physics is hard at work trying to decode the nature of reality by matching mathematical theories with a bevy of evidence. Today most cosmologists think that the universe was created during the big bang about 13.8 billion years ago, and it is expanding at an ever-increasing rate. The cosmos is woven into a fabric we call space-time, which is embroidered with a cosmic web of brilliant galaxies and invisible dark matter.

It sounds a little strange, but piles of pictures, experimental data and models compiled over decades can back up this description. And as new information gets added to the picture, cosmologists are considering even wilder ways to describe the universe—including some outlandish proposals that are nevertheless rooted in solid science…

(read more: Smithsonian Magazine)

image: NASA, ESA, SAO, CXC, JPL-Caltech, and STScI

Strong Solar Flares This Weekend A Big Double Wammy

(AURORA BOREALIS MAY BE VISIBLE TONIGHT!!!)

by Laura Geggel

Two powerful solar storms arriving at Earth today have captured the public’s attention for their potential to spark amazing auroras, but scientists say there’s another reason to watch. The solar double whammy is actually somewhat rare.

The particles from the two flares could interact as they head toward Earth, and researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center said they are monitoring the situation.

The sun unleashed a medium-sized flare on Monday (Sept. 8) followed by a second, larger flare, called an Earth-directed X-class flare, on Wednesday (Sept. 10). Both are from the same active sunspot region (Active Region 2158) and are directed at Earth, said Thomas Berger, director of the Space Weather Prediction Center, during a news conference yesterday (Sept. 11, 2014)…

(read more: Live Science)

images: Solar Dynamics Observatory - NASA and Accuweather

NASA Helps Unravel Mysteries of Venusian Atmosphere

by Karen C. Fox
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Underscoring the vast differences between Earth and its neighbor Venus, new research shows a glimpse of giant holes in the electrically charged layer of the Venusian atmosphere, called the ionosphere. The observations point to a more complicated magnetic environment than previously thought – which in turn helps us better understand this neighboring, rocky planet.

Planet Venus, with its thick atmosphere made of carbon dioxide, its parched surface, and pressures so high that landers are crushed within a few hours, offers scientists a chance to study a planet very foreign to our own. These mysterious holes provide additional clues to understanding Venus’s atmosphere, how the planet interacts with the constant onslaught of solar wind from the sun, and perhaps even what’s lurking deep in its core…

(read more: NASA - Goddard)

Scientists Find Evidence for Tectonic Plates on Jupiter’s Moon Europa

Scientists have found evidence of plate tectonics on Jupiter’s moon Europa. This indicates the first sign of this type of surface-shifting geological activity on a world other than Earth.

Researchers have clear visual evidence of Europa’s icy crust expanding. However, they could not find areas where the old crust was destroyed to make room for the new. While examining Europa images taken by NASA’s Galileo orbiter in the early 2000s, planetary geologists Simon Kattenhorn, of the University of Idaho, Moscow, and Louise Prockter, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, discovered some unusual geological boundaries.

"We have been puzzled for years as to how all this new terrain could be formed, but we couldn’t figure out how it was accommodated," said Prockter. "We finally think we’ve found the answer."

Plate tectonics is the scientific theory that Earth’s outer layer is made up of plates or blocks that move, which accounts for why mountain and volcanoes form and earthquakes happen…

(read more: Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

Image: Noah Kroese, I.NK

The Hubble Ultra-Deep Field (HUDF) is an image of a small region of space in the constellation Fornax, composited from Hubble Space Telescope data accumulated over a period from September 24, 2003, through January 16, 2004, and released in 2004. Covering 2.4 arcminutes to an edge, the area was selected because of the low density of bright stars in the near-field, allowing much better viewing of dimmer, more distant objects. It required 400 rotations and a million seconds (11.6 days) of exposure to obtain sufficient light for producing this image, which contains an estimated 10,000 galaxies.
 Image: NASA
(via: Wikipedia)

The Hubble Ultra-Deep Field (HUDF) is an image of a small region of space in the constellation Fornax, composited from Hubble Space Telescope data accumulated over a period from September 24, 2003, through January 16, 2004, and released in 2004. Covering 2.4 arcminutes to an edge, the area was selected because of the low density of bright stars in the near-field, allowing much better viewing of dimmer, more distant objects. It required 400 rotations and a million seconds (11.6 days) of exposure to obtain sufficient light for producing this image, which contains an estimated 10,000 galaxies.

Image: NASA

(via: Wikipedia)

The Carina Nebula is a large bright nebula that has within its boundaries several related open clusters of stars. Discovered by Nicolas Louis de Lacaille in 1751–52, it is only visible from the Southern Hemisphere. Located an estimated distance between 6,500 and 10,000 light years from Earth, it is one of the largest diffuse nebulae in the planet’s skies and home to such stars as Eta Carinae and HD 93129A.
 Photo: European Southern Observatory/T. Preibisch
(via: Wikipedia)

The Carina Nebula is a large bright nebula that has within its boundaries several related open clusters of stars. Discovered by Nicolas Louis de Lacaille in 1751–52, it is only visible from the Southern Hemisphere. Located an estimated distance between 6,500 and 10,000 light years from Earth, it is one of the largest diffuse nebulae in the planet’s skies and home to such stars as Eta Carinae and HD 93129A.

Photo: European Southern Observatory/T. Preibisch

(via: Wikipedia)

A solar flare, a sudden flash of brightness observed over the Sun's surface or the solar limb which is interpreted as a large energy release, recorded on August 31, 2012. Such flares are often, but not always, followed by a colossal coronal mass ejection; in this instance, the ejection traveled at over 900 miles (1,400 km) per second.
Photo: On August 31, 2012 a long filament of solar material that had been hovering in the sun’s atmosphere, the corona, erupted out into space at 4:36 p.m. EDT. The coronal mass ejection, or CME, traveled at over 900 miles per second. The CME did not travel directly toward Earth, but did connect with Earth’s magnetic environment, or magnetosphere, causing aurora to appear on the night of Monday, September 3. Pictured here is a lighten blended version of the 304 and 171 angstrom wavelengths taken from the Solar Dynamics Observatory.
(via: Wikipedia)

A solar flare, a sudden flash of brightness observed over the Sun's surface or the solar limb which is interpreted as a large energy release, recorded on August 31, 2012. Such flares are often, but not always, followed by a colossal coronal mass ejection; in this instance, the ejection traveled at over 900 miles (1,400 km) per second.

Photo: On August 31, 2012 a long filament of solar material that had been hovering in the sun’s atmosphere, the corona, erupted out into space at 4:36 p.m. EDT. The coronal mass ejection, or CME, traveled at over 900 miles per second. The CME did not travel directly toward Earth, but did connect with Earth’s magnetic environment, or magnetosphere, causing aurora to appear on the night of Monday, September 3. Pictured here is a lighten blended version of the 304 and 171 angstrom wavelengths taken from the Solar Dynamics Observatory.

(via: Wikipedia)

Modern Research Borne on a Relic
Airships That Carry Science Into the Stratosphere
by Joshua A. Krisch
Airships are dusty relics of aviation history. Lighter-than-air vehicles conjure images of the Hindenburg, in its glory and destruction, and the Goodyear Blimp, a floating billboard that barely resembles its powerful predecessors.
But now engineers are designing sleek new airships that could streak past layers of cloud and chart a course through the thin, icy air of the stratosphere, 65,000 feet above the ground — twice the usual altitude of a jetliner. Steered by scientists below, these aerodynamic balloons might be equipped with onboard telescopes that peer into distant galaxies or gather oceanic data along a coastline…
(read more: NY Times)
image by Keck Institute for Space Studies/Eagre Institute

Modern Research Borne on a Relic

Airships That Carry Science Into the Stratosphere

by Joshua A. Krisch

Airships are dusty relics of aviation history. Lighter-than-air vehicles conjure images of the Hindenburg, in its glory and destruction, and the Goodyear Blimp, a floating billboard that barely resembles its powerful predecessors.

But now engineers are designing sleek new airships that could streak past layers of cloud and chart a course through the thin, icy air of the stratosphere, 65,000 feet above the ground — twice the usual altitude of a jetliner. Steered by scientists below, these aerodynamic balloons might be equipped with onboard telescopes that peer into distant galaxies or gather oceanic data along a coastline…

(read more: NY Times)

image by Keck Institute for Space Studies/Eagre Institute

An underground neutrino detector has found particles produced by the fusion of two protons in the sun’s core

Deep inside the sun pairs of protons fuse to form heavier atoms, releasing mysterious particles called neutrinos in the process. These reactions are thought to be the first step in the chain responsible for 99 percent of the energy the sun radiates, but scientists have never found proof until now. For the first time, physicists have captured the elusive neutrinos produced by the sun’s basic proton fusion reactions…

amnhnyc
amnhnyc:

HEY NEWYORKERS!
The Frontiers Lecture Series kicks off September 8 
with Caleb Scharf and the Copernicus Complex. 
Though the concept of “the universe” suggests the containment of everything, the latest ideas in cosmology hint that our universe may be just one of a multitude of others—a single slice of an infinity of parallel realities. Renowned astrophysicist and author Caleb Scharf takes us on a cosmic adventure like no other, from tiny microbes within the Earth to distant exoplanets and beyond, asserting that the age-old Copernican principle is in need of updating.
As Scharf argues, when Copernicus proposed that the Earth was not the fixed point at the center of the known universe (and therefore we are not unique), he set in motion a colossal scientific juggernaut, forever changing our vision of nature. But the principle has never been entirely true—we do live at a particular time, in a particular location, under particular circumstances. To solve this conundrum we must put aside our Copernican worldview and embrace the possibility that we are in a delicate balance between mediocrity and significance, order and chaos.
Scharf will sign copies of The Copernicus Complex: Our Cosmic Significance in a Universe of Planets and Probabilities after the lecture.
Get tickets today. 

amnhnyc:

HEY NEWYORKERS!

The Frontiers Lecture Series kicks off September 8

with Caleb Scharf and the Copernicus Complex

Though the concept of “the universe” suggests the containment of everything, the latest ideas in cosmology hint that our universe may be just one of a multitude of others—a single slice of an infinity of parallel realities. Renowned astrophysicist and author Caleb Scharf takes us on a cosmic adventure like no other, from tiny microbes within the Earth to distant exoplanets and beyond, asserting that the age-old Copernican principle is in need of updating.

As Scharf argues, when Copernicus proposed that the Earth was not the fixed point at the center of the known universe (and therefore we are not unique), he set in motion a colossal scientific juggernaut, forever changing our vision of nature. But the principle has never been entirely true—we do live at a particular time, in a particular location, under particular circumstances. To solve this conundrum we must put aside our Copernican worldview and embrace the possibility that we are in a delicate balance between mediocrity and significance, order and chaos.

Scharf will sign copies of The Copernicus Complex: Our Cosmic Significance in a Universe of Planets and Probabilities after the lecture.

Get tickets today. 

n-a-s-a
pennyfornasa:

New Horizons Flies By Neptune Exactly 25 Years After Voyager 2 In what NASA is calling a “cosmic coincidence” the New Horizons probe makes its flyby of Neptune on the 25th anniversary of Voyager 2’s Neptune encounter. On August 25, 1989, Voyager 2 made its closest flyby of Neptune, making it the first spacecraft to study the planet. During Voyager 2’s flyby, it discovered a massive anticyclonic storm system called the Great Dark Spot, similar to Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. Today, NASA’s New Horizons probe is embarking on an equally exciting journey to another world never before visited by a spacecraft. When the spacecraft arrives on July 14, 2015, it will provide the first detailed images of Pluto. The dwarf planet is so distant from us that even images captured by the Hubble Space Telescope appear blurry. Read more about the New Horizons mission and Voyager 2’s flyby of Neptune here: http://www.nasa.gov/press/2014/august/nasa-s-new-horizons-spacecraft-crosses-neptune-orbit-en-route-to-historic-pluto/index.htm

pennyfornasa:

New Horizons Flies By Neptune Exactly 25 Years After Voyager 2

In what NASA is calling a “cosmic coincidence” the New Horizons probe makes its flyby of Neptune on the 25th anniversary of Voyager 2’s Neptune encounter. On August 25, 1989, Voyager 2 made its closest flyby of Neptune, making it the first spacecraft to study the planet. During Voyager 2’s flyby, it discovered a massive anticyclonic storm system called the Great Dark Spot, similar to Jupiter’s Great Red Spot.

Today, NASA’s New Horizons probe is embarking on an equally exciting journey to another world never before visited by a spacecraft. When the spacecraft arrives on July 14, 2015, it will provide the first detailed images of Pluto. The dwarf planet is so distant from us that even images captured by the Hubble Space Telescope appear blurry.

Read more about the New Horizons mission and Voyager 2’s flyby of Neptune here: http://www.nasa.gov/press/2014/august/nasa-s-new-horizons-spacecraft-crosses-neptune-orbit-en-route-to-historic-pluto/index.htm

On August 24, 2014, the sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 8:16 a.m. EDT.

Here are some captured images of the flare, which erupted on the left side of the sun. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however — when intense enough — they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.

This flare is classified as an M5 flare. M-class flares are ten times less powerful than the most intense flares, called X-class flares.

Credit: NASA/Goddard/SDO

More here: NASA Little Solar Dynamics Observatory