There is something strange in the cosmic neighbourhood. An unknown object in the nearby galaxy M82 has started sending out radio waves, and the emission does not look like anything seen anywhere in the universe before. "We don't know what it is," says co-discoverer Tom Muxlow of Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics near Macclesfield, UK. The thing appeared in May last year, while Muxlow and his colleagues were monitoring an unrelated stellar explosion in M82 using the MERLIN network of radio telescopes in the UK. A bright spot of radio emission emerged over only a few days, quite rapidly in astronomical terms. Since then it has done very little except baffle astrophysicists. It certainly does not fit the pattern of radio emissions from supernovae: they usually get brighter...
Tag Archives | Universe
Ker Than writes on National Geographic News:
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Like part of a cosmic Russian doll, our universe may be nested inside a black hole that is itself part of a larger universe. In turn, all the black holes found so far in our universe — from the microscopic to the supermassive — may be doorways into alternate realities.
According to a mind-bending new theory, a black hole is actually a tunnel between universes — a type of wormhole. The matter the black hole attracts doesn’t collapse into a single point, as has been predicted, but rather gushes out a “white hole” at the other end of the black one, the theory goes.
In a recent paper published in the journal Physics Letters B, Indiana University physicist Nikodem Poplawski presents new mathematical models of the spiraling motion of matter falling into a black hole. His equations suggest such wormholes are viable alternatives to the “space-time singularities” that Albert Einstein predicted to be at the centers of black holes.
David Shiga writes on New Scientist:
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Neptune may have polished off a super-Earth that once roamed the outer solar system and stolen its moon to boot. The brutal deed could explain mysterious heat radiating from the icy planet and the odd orbit of its moon Triton.
Neptune’s own existence was a puzzle until recently. The dusty cloud that gave birth to the planets probably thinned out further from the sun. With building material so scarce, it is hard to understand how Uranus and Neptune, the two outermost planets, managed to get so big.
But what if they formed closer in? In 2005, a team of scientists proposed that the giant planets shifted positions in an early upheaval. In this scenario, Uranus and Neptune formed much closer to the sun and migrated outwards, possibly swapping places in the process.
That would have left behind enough material just beyond their birthplace to form a planet with twice the Earth’s mass, according to calculations published in 2008 by Steven Desch of Arizona State University in Tempe.
From Universe Today:
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Mimas has drawn a fair amount of attention with its “Death Star”-like appearance, but with new images from the Cassini spacecraft, this icy moon of Saturn has just gotten a lot more interesting. The highest-resolution-yet temperature map and images of Mimas reveal surprising patterns on the surface of the small moon, including unexpected hot regions that resemble “Pac-Man” eating the Death Star crater (officially known as Herschel Crater), as well as striking bands of light and dark in crater walls.
“After much deliberation, we have concluded: Mimas is NOT boring,” said Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team leader, in an e-mail about the new images. “Who knew?!” And best of all, Porco added, “be sure you have a pair of red/green glasses handy ’cause you won’t want to miss peering into gigantic Herschel crater in 3D!”
Cassini collected the data on Feb. 13, and Porco said the team has spent some quality time poring over the images.
There is no age restriction on the chance to make a significant contribution to our understanding of the universe. Caroline Moore, a 14-year-old from Warwick, NY, has made such a mark on astronomy with the discovery of Supernova 2008ha. Not only is she the youngest person to discover a supernova, but this particular supernova has been identified as a different type of stellar explosion.
Do Vulcans live here? Planetary temperatures range from -20 °C to 160 °C (-68 °F to 320 °F). Steve Connor writes on the Independent:
The first planet with a “temperate” climate to orbit a distant star has been discovered by astronomers, who claim that the techniques used to study it will be critical in the search for Earth-like worlds beyond our own solar system.
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Corot-9b, as the planet is called, is one of more than 400 “exoplanets” found to be orbiting other stars, but it is the first one with a near-normal temperature range that can be studied as it moves across (or “transits”) the sun it orbits. “This is a normal, temperate exoplanet just like dozens we already know, but this is the first whose properties we can study in depth,” said Claire Moutou, one of the team of astronomers at the European Southern Observatory who made the discovery.
Scientists say they have confirmed that a meteorite that crashed into earth 40 years ago contains millions of different organic compounds. It is thought the Murchison meteorite could be even older than the Sun."Having this information means you can tell what was happening during the birth of the Solar System," said lead researcher Dr Philippe Schmitt-Kopplin. The results of the meteorite study are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"We are really excited. When I first studied it and saw the complexity I was so amazed," said Dr Schmitt-Kopplin, who works at the Institute for Ecological Chemistry in Neuherberg, Germany. Meteorites are like some kind of fossil. When you try to understand them you are looking back in time," he explained. The researchers says the identification of many different chemicals shows the primordial Solar System probably had a higher molecular diversity than Earth.
The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) just announced that it is releasing all information to the public. SETIQuest.org was launched on Wednesday to facilitate the release and help coordinate an ‘army of citizen scientists’ to help search for anomalies in interstellar microwave patterns. The New Scientist reports, “SETIQuest is the product of astronomer Jill Tarter’s TED Prize wish. After being awarded the TED Prize last year, Tarter was given the opportunity to make a single wish before an auditorium full of the top names in technology and design. Tarter wished that they would “empower Earthlings everywhere to become active participants in the ultimate search for cosmic company.”
A new interactive program reveals the spectacular light show you'd see if you dared to wander close to a black hole. It demonstrates how the extreme gravity of a black hole could appear to shred background constellations of stars, spinning them around as though in a giant black washing machine. The program's creators say it could be an excellent tool to familiarise people with the weird ways that black holes warp light. "It's useful for people to play around with the parameters to study how, for instance, a black hole would distort the constellation Orion," says Thomas Müller of the University of Stuttgart in Germany.
Astronomers witnessed a supernova in progress, observing jets of material moving at relativistic speeds: up to half the speed of light. Scientist Megan Argo wanted to explain this exciting discovery to the public, so she wrote a Doctor Who story. As the highly technical press release explains, scientists were able to detect "relativistic outflow" in a supernova for the first time, thanks to unprecedented cooperation between radio telescopes using Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI). They discovered that one narrow bipolar jet of material was moving at half the speed of light. But Argo, who works at Curtin University, came up with a much cooler way to explain this discovery to the public, the story called "Doctor Who And The Silver Spiral." David Tennant's Doctor, accompanied by Martha, visit this supernova up close and personal, and get caught up in the very same shock wave that astronomers just discovered. Argo does a great job of capturing the Tennant Doctor's verbal tics.