Centaurus A, a prominent galaxy in the constellation of Centaurus, in a colour composite of images obtained with three instruments. Discovered in 1826 by James Dunlop, Centaurus A is a highly visible starburst galaxy which is only visible from low northern latitudes and the southern hemisphere.
Photograph: ESO/WFI (Optical); MPIfR/ESO/APEX/A.Weiss et al. (Submillimetre); NASA/CXC/CfA/R.Kraft et al. (X-ray)
Martin Rees — Cosmic Origami and What We Don’t Know
Some of the biggest philosophical and ethical questions of this century may be raised on scientific frontiers — as we gain a better understanding of the deep structure of space and time and the wilder “microworld.” Astrophysicist Martin Rees paints a fascinating picture of how we might be changed by what we do not yet know:
“If science teaches me anything, it teaches me that even simple things like an atom are fairly hard to understand. And that makes me skeptical of anyone who claims to have the last word or complete understanding of any deep aspect of reality.”
The discoveries which the physicist Brian Greene spends his life pondering lead to a thrilling, mind-bending view of the cosmos, and of the human adventure of modern science. Think of the certainties many of us grew up learning in school - now overtaken by the constant reimagining of the cosmos that is modern physics.
The word “space” to describe what we now understand as a sphere teeming with mysterious energy and matter. In our lifetime the science fiction scenario of parallel universes has become a compelling mathematical possibility. Brian Greene works on this frontier, and he increasingly believes that the deepest realities are hidden from human senses and defy our best intuition.
Painted by Pat Rawlings for NASA, this image depicts the ascent stage of the Boeing-designed piloted Mars lander shown at the top of this post. Though Geoffrey Landis expected that Americans would support only two or three piloted Mars landing missions before they lost interest, this optimistic Space Exploration Initiative-era painting hints at an on-going piloted Mars program: shown on the surface are habitats, solar arrays, a tethered research balloon, and a nuclear plant.
from: “Footsteps to Mars: An Incremental Approach to Mars Exploration,” Geoffrey Landis, Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, Vol. 48, September 1995, pp. 367-372; paper presented at The Case for Mars V conference in Boulder, Colorado, 26-29 May 1993.
Strange Signal From Galactic Center Is Looking More and More Like Dark Matter
by Adam Mann
The more that scientists stare at it, the more a strange signal from the center of the Milky Way galaxy appears to be the result of dark matter annihilation. If confirmed, it would be the first direct evidence for dark matter ever seen.
Dark matter is a mysterious, invisible substance making up roughly 85 percent of all matter in the universe. It floats throughout our galaxy, but is more concentrated at its center. There, a dark matter particle can meet another dark matter particle flying through space. If they crash into one another, they will annihilate each other (dark matter is its own antiparticle) and give off gamma rays.
To search for a dark matter signal, astronomers use NASA’s Fermi Gamma-Ray Telescope to map the gamma radiation throughout the galaxy. Then, they try to account for all known sources of light within this map. They plot the location of gas and dust that could be emitting radiation and subtract that signal from their gamma-ray map. Then they determine where all the stars are and subtract out that light, and so on for every object that might be emitting radiation. Once all those sources are gone, there remains a tiny excess of gamma radiation in the data that no known process can account for…
As far as universal limits go, the speed of light gets all the glory. But did you know there is a different speed limit for particles? It’s called the GZK limit, and some people think it has already been exceeded. Which has some pretty weird implications for the laws of the universe…
Our universe is about 13 billion years old, and for roughly 3.5 billion of those years, life has been wriggling all over our planet. But what was going on in the universe before that time?
It’s possible that there was a period shortly after the Big Bang when the entire universe was teeming with life. Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb calls this period the “habitable epoch,” and he believes that its existence changes how humans should understand our place in the cosmos…
This infographic shows you the insane scale of our solar system
by Ria Misra
You may have seen graphics comparing the objects in our solar system by size, but this visualization offers a slightly different spin on the theme, by comparing objects by their total mass. Plus, it also features 460 tiny versions of former planet Pluto bouncing off of Earth like a game of interstellar marbles.
The visualization is the work of astronomer Rhys Taylor, who also previously made a similar visualization comparing the size of the gas giants in our solar system by mass.
Flashes of X-rays from crowded galaxy clusters could be the long-awaited sign that we have found particles of dark matter – the elusive substance thought to make up the bulk of all matter in the universe.
If the results stand up, dark matter would consist of ghostly particles called "sterile" neutrinos. These tantalising particles would be the first kind found beyond the standard set known to science.
Dark matter interacts with ordinary matter via gravity but otherwise scarcely makes itself known. Physicists think its mass could be tied up in an unknown particle. The leading theoretical candidate is a weakly interacting massive particle (WIMP), but our best detectors have yet to yield a confirmed sighting…
Water vapor has been detected in the atmosphere of one of the first alien planets ever identified by astronomers.
Advances in the technique used to scan the atmosphere of this “hot Jupiter” could help scientists determine how many of the billions of planets in the Milky Way contain water like Earth, researchers said.
The exoplanet Tau Boötis b was discovered in 1996, when the search for worlds outside our solar system was just kicking off. At about 51 light-years away, Tau Boötis b is one of the nearest known exoplanets to Earth. The planet is considered a “hot Jupiter” because it is a massive gas giant that orbits close to its parent star…
Sun Unleashes Monster Solar Flare, Biggest of 2014
by Miriam Kramer
The sun fired off a major solar flare late Monday (Feb. 24), making it the most powerful sun eruption of the year so far and one of the strongest in recent years.
The massive X4.9-class solar flare erupted from an active sunspot, called AR1990, at 7:49 p.m. EST (0049 Feb. 25 GMT). NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured high-definition video of the monster solar flare. The spaceecraft recording amazing views the solar flare erupting with a giant burst of plasma, called a coronal mass ejection, or CME.
Sunspot AR1990 (previously named AR1967) is located on the southeastern limb of the sun, pointed away from Earth. This is the third time this sunspot has rotated onto the Earth-facing side of the sun…
A nice neighborhood doesn’t necessarily guarantee that your house is livable. Likewise, even if a planet orbits within the so-called Goldilocks zone surrounding its parent star where conditions are neither too hot nor too cold, its atmosphere may be hostile to life, a new study suggests.
Even “super-Earths,” orbs with masses that fall between one and 10 times that of our planet (depicted at right in the artist’s concept above) and therefore offer some semblance of similarity to Earth, might be uninhabitable. Using computer simulations, researchers modeled the growth and evolution of a variety of planets as they and their sunlike parent star coalesced from a cloud of whirling gas and dust.
NASA’s Kepler Mission Announces a Planet Bonanza, 715 New Worlds
NASA news release
NASA’s Kepler mission announced Wednesday the discovery of 715 new planets. These newly-verified worlds orbit 305 stars, revealing multiple-planet systems much like our own solar system.
Nearly 95 percent of these planets are smaller than Neptune, which is almost four times the size of Earth. This discovery marks a significant increase in the number of known small-sized planets more akin to Earth than previously identified exoplanets, which are planets outside our solar system.
Since the discovery of the first planets outside our solar system roughly two decades ago, verification has been a laborious planet-by-planet process. Now, scientists have a statistical technique that can be applied to many planets at once when they are found in systems that harbor more than one planet around the same star…
"This is a fundamentally new approach to building robots," says one of its creators.
Just imagine, if there was a robot that had the brains of Curiosity but the nimbleness of a tumbleweed. That’s exactly what a group of scientists at NASA are looking to create with the Super Ball Bot, a tangle of rods and motors that could revolutionize the way robots work in space and here on Earth…