Posts tagged universe

The Clue to the Missing Matter of the Nearby Universe

In May of 2010, Astronomers using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESA’s XMM-Newton detected a vast reservoir of gas lying along a wall-shaped structure of galaxies about 400 million light years from Earth. In the image above the spiral and elliptical galaxies are shown in the Sculptor Wall along with the newly detected intergalactic gas, part of the so-called Warm Hot Intergalactic Medium (WHIM), shown in blue. This discovery is the strongest evidence yet that the “missing matter” in the nearby Universe is located in an enormous web of hot, diffuse gas.

The Sculptor Wall, a type of galaxy filament, the largest known structures in the universe, is a wall-shaped structure of galaxies about 400 million light years from Earth. The wall is faint beyond 500 million light years because the data is incomplete beyond that distance. The nearest part of the wall (the Phoenix supercluster) lies next to a large rectangular void, the Sculptor Void -one of the largest voids in the nearby universe.

Read more at the dailygalaxy.com

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NASA: Definition of life has just expanded

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Micro-organism found in Mono Lake, California View loc8id map: loc8id.com/7zjI8E Source: Sathish J

NASA has discovered a new life form, a bacteria called GFAJ-1 that is unlike anything currently living in planet Earth. It’s capable of using arsenic to build its DNA, RNA, proteins, and cell membranes. This changes everything. Updated.

NASA is saying that this is “life as we do not know it”. The reason is that all life on Earth is made of six components: Carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur. Every being, from the smallest amoeba to the largest whale, share the same life stream. Our DNA blocks are all the same.

That was true until today. In a surprising revelation, NASA scientist Felisa Wolfe-Simon and her team have found a bacteria whose DNA is completely alien to what we know today, working differently than the rest of the organisms in the planet. Instead of using phosphorus, the newly discovered microorganism—called GFAJ-1 and found in Mono Lake, California—uses the poisonous arsenic for its building blocks. Arsenic is an element poisonous to every other living creature in the planet except for a few specialized microscopic creatures.

Continue reading at Gizmodo.com

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The Probability of Finding Aliens Is Now Three Times Higher

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The total number of stars in the Universe “is likely three times bigger than realized.” Yale University astronomer Pieter van Dokkum says there are “possibly trillions of Earths orbiting these stars,” dramatically increasing the possibility of finding alien civilizations.

According to the new study just published in Nature, new observations on the red end of the optical spectrum at the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii show an overwhelming population of red dwarfs in eight massive nearby elliptical galaxies. The team has discovered that these galaxies hold twenty times more red dwarfs than the Milky Way.

Van Dokkum says that “there are possibly trillions of Earths orbiting these stars” which are “typically more than 10 billion years old.” According to him, that’s long enough for complex life to evolve, which is “one reason why people are interested in this type of star.” In fact, astronomers discovered the first exoplanet similar to our own Earth—and therefore capable of harboring complex life—orbiting the Gliese 581 red dwarf star system, 20.3 light years from our home planet.

Continue reading at Gizmodo.com

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NASA Radar Finds Ice Deposits at Moon’s North Pole

Using data from a NASA radar that flew aboard India’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, scientists have detected ice deposits near the moon’s north pole. NASA’s Mini-SAR instrument, a lightweight, synthetic aperture radar, found more than 40 small craters with water ice. The craters range in size from 1 to 9 miles (2 to15 km) in diameter. Although the total amount of ice depends on its thickness in each crater, it’s estimated there could be at least 1.3 trillion pounds (600 million metric tons) of water ice.

The Mini-SAR has imaged many of the permanently shadowed regions that exist at both poles of the Moons. These dark areas are extremely cold and it has been hypothesized that volatile material, including water ice, could be present in quantity here. The main science object of the Mini-SAR experiment is to map and characterize any deposits that exist.

Read more at www.nasa.gov

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NASA extends life of Chandra X-ray mission, funding until 2013

After a decade of scanning the universe, NASA’s orbiting Chandra X-ray Observatory has a new lease on life – one that could extend its mission through 2013, and possibly longer.

NASA officially extended the 10-year-old Chandra mission by extending its science support contract by $172 million, which will fund the effort through 2013 and bring its total base cost up to $545 million. Options for two more life extensions for the healthy space telescope could increase its value to $913 million, NASA officials said.

“I think it’s very good news,” said astronomer Roger Brissenden, manager and flight director of the Chandra X-ray Center overseeing the space telescope’s science operations. “It shows they really do have confidence that the spacecraft is healthy and able to do good science.”

Continue reading at MSNBC

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Our Solar System May Have Millions of “Twins”

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A Jupiter-like gas giant planet orbits a young star in an artist’s conception. Credit: T. Pyle (SSC), NASA/JPL-Caltech

Of the billions of stars in our Milky Way galaxy, 15 percent may host “twins” of our solar system, a new study says.

While that might not sound like much, the find suggests that several hundred million star systems look a lot like the one we call home, the study authors say.

The research is based on surveys of stars with gas giant planets—similar to Jupiter and Saturn—that orbit far from their stars.

As in our solar system, vast distances stretch between these stars and their gas giants. This creates ample room for rocky planets to thrive in the stars’ habitable zones, the regions where liquid water can exist.

And that boosts the likelihood that other Earths, and maybe even other forms of life, abound in the Milky Way.

“For the first ten years of planet hunting, we were feeling a bit worried—other systems looked so different from our own solar system,” noted Debra Fischer, an astronomer at San Francisco State University who was not involved in the research.

“[These] results are reassuring us that there are solar systems akin to our own. This is real data that strengthens the hypothesis that there are many habitable worlds like our Earth.”

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First Earth-Like Planet Spotted Outside Solar System Likely a Volcanic Wasteland

Earth-like planet outside our solar system

How similar is exoplanet CoRoT-7b to Earth? The newly discovered extra-solar planet (depicted in the above artist’s illustration) is the closest physical match yet, with a mass about five Earths and a radius of about 1.7 Earths. Also, the home star to CoRoT-7b, although 500 light years distant, is very similar to our Sun. Unfortunately, the similarities likely end there, as CoRoT-7b orbits its home star well inside the orbit of Mercury, making its year last only 20 hours, and making its peak temperature much hotter than humans might find comfortable. Credit: ESO/L. Calcada

Rocky planets — Earth, Mercury, Venus and Mars — make up half the planets in our solar system. Rocky planets are considered better environments to support life than planets that are mainly gaseous, like the other half of the planets in our system: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

The rocky planet CoRoT-7 b was discovered circling a star some 480 light years from Earth. It is, however, a forbidding place and unlikely to harbor life. That’s because it is so close to its star that temperatures might be above 4,000 degrees F (2,200 C) on the surface lit by its star and as low as minus 350 F (minus 210 C) on its dark side.

Now scientists led by a University of Washington astronomer say that if CoRoT-7 b’s orbit is not almost perfectly circular, then the planet might also be undergoing fierce volcanic eruptions. It could be even more volcanically active than Jupiter’s moon Io, which has more than 400 volcanoes and is the most geologically active object in our solar system.

“If conditions are what we speculate, then CoRoT-7 b could have multiple volcanoes going off continuously and magma flowing all over the surface,” says Rory Barnes, a UW postdoctoral researcher of astronomy and astrobiology. Any planet where the surface is being remade at such a rate is a place nearly impossible for life to get a foothold, he says.

Read the rest of this breaking news here…

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Voyager 2 on a ‘magic mission’ into Milky Way, or Melkweg in Dutch :)

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A map of the Milky Way. Credit: NASA/JPL

Holiday tidings come from NASA’s Voyager 2 this week, offering a view of deep space beyond our sun’s solar system.

Now speeding through space at more than 34,000 miles-per-hour, the 1977 space probe resides more than 8.3. billion miles away from the sun. That is twice as far as Pluto. Two years ago, Voyager 2 passed into the region of space where the sun’s solar wind peters out as it plows into the interstellar gases of our Milky Way galaxy. And now it’s giving us some news from this region, called the “heliosheath,” by astrophysicists.

“This is a magic mission,” says space scientist Merav Opher of George Mason University. in Fairfax, Va.. “After all these years, Voyager 2 is still working and sending us first hand (on-site) data.”

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A historic full moon will occur this New Year’s Eve, a blue moon.

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The coming full moon will be the first New Year’s Eve blue moon – by one definition – since 1990. Credit: Chuck Liddy

On New Year’s Eve, when merrymakers crowd the streets, a blue moon will shine over their festive heads – bringing to the holiday both a night-sky rarity and a decades-old quibble.

Most plainly, a blue moon means seldom. Practically never. It’s shorthand for an event that happens so infrequently you might as well wait for the big white pumpkin in the sky to change color.

But the meaning and roots of the phrase are tangled up in error and dispute. Pick your own explanation and raise a glass to Earth’s lonely satellite.

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Can global warming be conquered with a stratospheric hose? Earth needs saving.

Earth as seen from Apollo 17

Earth as seen from Apollo 17 Credit: NASA Public domain

Myhrvold, is the president and founder of Intellectual Ventures and a former Microsoft Chief Technology Officer, who started his own company in 2000 to provide capital for new patents, innovative ideas, and software.

The former Microsoft engineer entered college at age 14 to study mathematics, space physics, and geophysics at UCLA, where he earned Masters and Bachelor of Science degrees. At age 23, he entered Princeton and completed his PhD in theoretical mathematics and earned a Masters in mathematical economics.

On a recent interview with CNN’s Zareed Zakaria, Myhrvold talked about how venture capital should be available, but in today’s market, it’s not.

“No one funds inventers,” Nathan said, and he wants to change that, because inventers from other countries, who used to come to the United States to get funding for their inventions innovative ideas, are no longer doing so. Without venture capital, Microsoft, Apple, and Intel would not exist today.

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