Tag Archives | Universe

California Meteor Found Packed With Alien Organics

Murchison MeteoriteVia the Daily Galaxy:

A sonic boom heard in California last week had an out-of-this world origin as ”a large meteoric event” according to NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office. Scientists now estimate the blast measured in near 5 kilotons or roughly 1/3 the power of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan during World War II. Bill Cooke of the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, estimates the object was about the size of a minivan, weighed in at around 154,300 pounds.

“Most meteors you see in the night’s sky are the size of tiny stones or even grains of sand and their trail lasts all of a second or two,” said Don Yeomans of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “Fireballs you can see relatively easily in the daytime and are many times that size — anywhere from a baseball-sized object to something as big as a minivan.”

The meteor appears to be much more valuable than scientists first thought.

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Dark Matter Collides With Your Body About Once a Minute

Dark MatterRebecca Boyle writes on Popular Science:

A dark matter particle smacks into an average person’s body about once a minute, and careens off oxygen and hydrogen nuclei in your cells, according to theoretical physicists. Dark matter is streaming through you as you read this, most of it unimpeded.

Dark matter is arguably the greatest mystery in modern physics. Observations from multiple sources across a few decades now shows that most of the universe is made of matter we can’t see — hence the name — but no one has been able to find it. One strong candidate for this dark material is called a WIMP, for weakly interacting massive particle, and there are a variety of observatories in Europe and the U.S. that are looking for these things. Some have found promising hints, but others have seen a whole lot of nothing.

Still, cosmologists generally agree there’s a halo of dark matter particles out there, and our solar system and our planet are flying through it.

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A Universe Without Purpose

Disc CloudLawrence M. Krauss writes in the LA Times:

The illusion of purpose and design is perhaps the most pervasive illusion about nature that science has to confront on a daily basis. Everywhere we look, it appears that the world was designed so that we could flourish.

The position of the Earth around the sun, the presence of organic materials and water and a warm climate — all make life on our planet possible. Yet, with perhaps 100 billion solar systems in our galaxy alone, with ubiquitous water, carbon and hydrogen, it isn’t surprising that these conditions would arise somewhere. And as to the diversity of life on Earth — as Darwin described more than 150 years ago and experiments ever since have validated — natural selection in evolving life forms can establish both diversity and order without any governing plan.

As a cosmologist, a scientist who studies the origin and evolution of the universe, I am painfully aware that our illusions nonetheless reflect a deep human need to assume that the existence of the Earth, of life and of the universe and the laws that govern it require something more profound.

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Life On Venus, So Claims Russian Scientist

VenusMaybe Jack Nicholson was right after all. Via Yahoo News:

Leonid Ksanfomaliti, an astronomer based at the Space Research Institute of Russia’s Academy of Sciences, analyzed photographs taken by a Russian landing probe during a 1982 during a mission to explore the heavily acid-clouded planet.

Venus is roughly the same size as Earth, but it has a thick atmosphere dominated by carbon dioxide. With an atmospheric pressure 92 times Earth’s, a waterless and volcano-riddled surface and a surface temperature of 894 degrees, the planet has never been considered a serious target of research into the possibility of extraterrestrial life.

But in his article, published in the magazine Solar System Research, Ksanfomaliti says the Russian photographs depict objects resembling a “disk,” a “black flap” and a “scorpion.”

“What if we forget about the current theories about the non-existence of life on Venus?” he wrote. “Let’s boldly suggest that the objects’ morphological features would allow us to say that they are living.”

Read More: Yahoo News

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Surprise Asteroid Passes Earth in Close Flyby

Discovered two days ago (likely due to its small size). Reports BBC News:
The asteroid, estimated to be about 11 m (36 ft) in diameter, was first detected on Wednesday. At its closest, the space rock — named 2012 BX34 — passed within about 60,000 km of Earth — less than a fifth of the distance to the Moon. Astronomers stressed that there had been no cause for concern. "It's one of the closest approaches recorded," said Gareth Williams, associate director of the US-based Minor Planet Center. "It makes it in to the top 20 closest approaches, but it's sufficiently far away ..." he told the BBC. The asteroid's path made it the closest space-rock to pass by the Earth since object 2011 MD in June 2011.
Here's more from Space.com:
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Our Sun Is This Small (Animation)

Canis MajorisFor those of you who hated this proposed Earth-centric view of our Solar System, check out this video below. (VY Canis Majoris RULES for now; Giordano Bruno would be proud ...):
VY Canis Majoris is a red hypergiant star located in the constellation Canis Major. At between 1800 and 2100 solar radii (8.4–9.8 astronomical units, 3.063 billion km or 1.7 billion miles in diameter), it is currently the largest known star and also one of the most luminous known ...
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There’s No Such Thing As Empty Space

sparkle03There’s always something, says a Swedish study. Phenomenica reports:

Scientists claim to have produced particles of light out of vacuum, proving that space is not empty.

An international team says that its ingenious experiment in which tiny parcels of light, or photons, are produced out of empty space has confirmed that a vacuum contains quantum fluctuations of energy, the ‘Nature’ journal reported.

In fact, the scientists have demonstrated for the first time a strange phenomenon known as the dynamical Casimir effect, or DCE for short.

The DCE involves stimulating the vacuum to shed some of the myriad “virtual” particles that fleet in and out of existence, making them real and detectable. Moreover, the real photons produced by the DCE in their experiment collectively retain a peculiar quantum signature that ordinary light lacks.

The research, led by Chris Wilson of Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, shows that a related dynamic effect can occur when such a mirror moves very fast through the vacuum.

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Our Milky Way Galaxy Devours Its Small Neighboring Galaxies

Milky WayVia PhysOrg:

A team of astronomers led by Sergey Koposov and Vasily Belokurov of Cambridge University recently discovered two streams of stars in the Southern Galactic hemisphere [of the Milky Way] that were torn off the Sagittarius dwarf galaxy. This discovery came from analysing data from the latest Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-III) and was announced in a paper released that connects these new streams with two previously known streams in the Northern Galactic hemisphere.

“We have long known that when small dwarf galaxies fall into bigger galaxies, elongated streams, or tails, of stars are pulled out of the dwarf by the enormous tidal field,” said Sergey Koposov.

The Sagittarius dwarf galaxy used to be one of the brightest of the Milky Way satellites. Its disrupted remnant now lies on the other side of the Galaxy, breaking up as it is crushed and stretched by huge tidal forces. It is so small that it has lost half of its stars and all its gas over the last billion years.

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