Tag: co-author (page 1 of 3)

Astrophysicists Can Now Make Weather Forecasts For Distant Planets

Exoplanet day/night cycle
Cloudy mornings and scorching hot afternoons: the Kepler space telescope has provided weather forecasts for some distant exoplanets.

Excerpt from techtimes.com

A telescope observing distant planets has found evidence of weather patterns, allowing astrophysicists to "forecast" their conditions.

Analyzing data from NASA's Kepler space telescope, a team of astrophysicists at universities in Canada and Great Britain has identified signs of daily weather variations on six exoplanets.
They observed phase variations as different parts of the planets reflected light from their host stars, in much the same way that our moon cycles though different phases.

"We determined the weather on these alien worlds by measuring changes as the planets circle their host stars, and identifying the day-night cycle," said Lisa Esteves from the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto.

"We traced each of them going through a cycle of phases in which different portions of the planet are illuminated by its star, from fully lit to completely dark," added Esteves, who the led the team on the study.

The scientists have offered up "forecasts" of cloudy mornings for four of the planets, and clear but scorching hot afternoons on two others.

They based their predictions on the planets' rotations, which produce an eastward motion of their atmospheric winds. That would blow clouds that formed over the cooler side of one of the planets around to its morning side — thus producing the "cloudy" morning forecast.

"As the winds continue to transport the clouds to the day side, they heat up and dissipate, leaving the afternoon sky cloud-free," said Esteves. "These winds also push the hot air eastward from the meridian, where it is the middle of the day, resulting in higher temperatures in the afternoon."

The Kepler telescope has proven to be the ideal instrument for studying phase variations on distant exoplanets, according to the researchers.

The massive amounts of data and the extremely precise measurements that the telescope is capable of permits them to detect even tiny, subtle signals coming from the distant world, and to separate them from the almost overwhelming light coming from their host stars.

"The detection of light from these planets hundreds to thousands of light years away is on its own remarkable," said co-author Ernst de Mooij from the Astrophysics Research Centre from the School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen's University, Belfast.
"But when we consider that phase cycle variations can be up to 100,000 times fainter than the host star, these detections become truly astonishing."

There may come a day when a weather report for a distant planet is a common and unremarkable event, the researchers added.
"Someday soon we hope to be talking about weather reports for alien worlds not much bigger than Earth, and to be making comparisons with our home planet," said Ray Jayawardhana of York University in England.

This study was published in The Astrophysical Journal.

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Astronomers find baby blue galaxy close to dawn of time

Astronomers have discovered a baby blue galaxy that is the furthest away in distance and time - 13.1 billion years - that they’ve ever seen. Photo: Pascal Oesch and Ivelina Momcheva, NASA, European Space Agency via AP

Excerpt from smh.com.au

A team of astronomers peering deep into the heavens have discovered the earliest, most distant galaxy yet, just 670 million years after the Big Bang.

Astronomers have discovered a baby blue galaxy that is the furthest away in distance and time - 13.1 billion years - that they’ve ever seen.
Close-up of the blue galaxy

The findings, described in Astrophysical Journal Letters, reveal a surprisingly active, bright galaxy near the very dawn of the cosmos that could shed light on what the universe, now 13.8 billion years old, was really like in its young, formative years.

"We're actually looking back through 95 per cent of all time to see this galaxy," said study co-author Garth Illingworth, an astronomer at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

"It's really a galaxy in its infancy ... when the universe was in its infancy."

Capturing an image from a far-off light source is like looking back in time. When we look at the sun, we're seeing a snapshot of what it looked like eight minutes ago.

The same principle applies for the light coming from the galaxy known as EGS-zs8-1. We are seeing this distant galaxy as it existed roughly 13.1 billion years ago.

EGS-zs8-1 is so far away that the light coming from it is exceedingly faint. And yet, compared with other distant galaxies, it is surprisingly active and bright, forming stars at roughly 80 times the rate the Milky Way does today.

This precocious little galaxy has built up the mass equivalent to about 8 billion suns, more than 15 per cent of the mass of the Milky Way, even though it appears to have been in existence for a mere fraction of the Milky Way's more than 13 billion years.

"If it was a galaxy near the Milky Way [today], it would be this vivid blue colour, just because it's forming so many stars," Illingworth said.

One of the many challenges with looking for such faint galaxies is that it's hard to tell if they're bright and far, or dim and near. Astronomers can usually figure out which it is by measuring how much that distant starlight gets stretched, "redshifted", from higher-energy light such as ultraviolet down to optical and then infrared wavelengths. The universe is expanding faster and faster, so the further away a galaxy is, the faster it's going, and the more stretched, or "redder", those wavelengths of light will be.

The astronomers studied the faint light from this galaxy using NASA's Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes. But EGS-zs8-1 seemed to be too bright to be coming from the vast distances that the Hubble data suggested.

To narrow in, they used the MOSFIRE infrared spectrograph at the Keck I telescope in Hawaii to search for a particularly reliable fingerprint of hydrogen in the starlight known as the Lyman-alpha line. This fingerprint lies in the ultraviolet part of the light spectrum, but has been shifted to redder, longer wavelengths over the vast distance between the galaxy and Earth.

It's a dependable line on which to base redshift (and distance) estimates, Illingworth said - and with that settled, the team could put constraints on the star mass, star formation rate and formation epoch of this galaxy.

The telltale Lyman-alpha line also reveals the process through which the universe's haze of neutral hydrogen cleared up, a period called the epoch of reionisation. As stars formed and galaxies grew, their ultraviolet radiation eventually ionised the hydrogen and ended the "dark ages" of the cosmos.

Early galaxies-such as EGS-zs8-1 - are "probably the source of ultraviolet radiation that ionised the whole universe", Illingworth said.

Scientists have looked for the Lyman-alpha line in other distant galaxies and come up empty, which might mean that their light was still being blocked by a haze of neutral hydrogen that had not been ionised yet.

But it's hard to say with just isolated examples, Illingworth pointed out. If scientists can survey many galaxies from different points in the universe's very early history, they can have a better sense of how reionisation may have progressed.

"We're trying to understand how many galaxies do have this line - and that gives us some measure of when the universe itself was reionised," Illingworth said.

"One [galaxy] is interesting, but it's when you have 50 that you can really say something about what galaxies were really like then."
As astronomers push the limits of current telescopes and await the completion of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, set for launch in 2018, scientists may soon find more of these galaxies even closer to the birth of the universe than this new record breaker.

"You don't get to be record holder very long in this business," Illingworth said, "which is good because ultimately we are trying to learn about the universe. So more is better."

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A super-hot super-Earth spotted 40 light-years away

An artist's depiction of the exoplanet 55 Cancri E with its molten surface exposed on the left, and covered in gas and ash on the right. (NASA/JPL - Caltech/R.Hurt)Excerpt from latimes.comScientists have found an extreme planet where the atmospheric ...

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Physicists: Black holes don’t erase information

Excerpt from earthsky.org
Since 1975, when Hawking showed that black holes evaporate from our universe, physicists have tried to explain what happens to a black hole’s information.

What happens to the information that goes into a black hole? Is it irretrievably lost? Does it gradually or suddenly leak out? Is it stored somehow? Physicists have puzzled for decades over what they call the information loss paradox in black holes. A new study by physicists at University at Buffalo – published in March, 2015 in the journal in Physical Review Letters – shows that information going into a black hole is not lost at all.

Instead, these researchers say, it’s possible for an observer standing outside of a black hole to recover information about what lies within.

Dejan Stojkovic, associate professor of physics at the University at Buffalo, did the research with his student Anshul Saini as co-author. Stojkovic said in a statement:
According to our work, information isn’t lost once it enters a black hole. It doesn’t just disappear.
What sort of information are we talking about? In principle, any information drawn into a black hole has an unknown future, according to modern physics. That information could include, for example, the characteristics of the object that formed the black hole to begin with, and characteristics of all matter and energy drawn inside.

Stojkovic says his research “marks a significant step” toward solving the information loss paradox, a problem that has plagued physics for almost 40 years, since Stephen Hawking first proposed that black holes could radiate energy and evaporate over time, disappearing from the universe and taking their information with them. 

Disappearing information is a problem for physicists because it’s a violation of quantum mechanics, which states that information must be conserved.
According to modern physics, any information about an astronaut entering a black hole - for example, height, weight, hair color - may be lost.  Likewise, information about he object that formed the hole, or any matter and energy entering the hole, may be lost.  This notion violates quantum mechanics, which is why it's known as the 'black hole information paradox.

According to modern physics, any information related to an astronaut entering a black hole – for example, height, weight, hair color – may be lost. This notion is known as the ‘information loss paradox’ of black holes because it violates quantum mechanics. Artist’s concept via Nature.

Stojkovic says that physicists – even those who believed information was not lost in black holes – have struggled to show mathematically how the information is preserved. He says his new paper presents explicit calculations demonstrating how it can be preserved. His statement from University at Buffalo explained:
In the 1970s, [Stephen] Hawking proposed that black holes were capable of radiating particles, and that the energy lost through this process would cause the black holes to shrink and eventually disappear. Hawking further concluded that the particles emitted by a black hole would provide no clues about what lay inside, meaning that any information held within a black hole would be completely lost once the entity evaporated.

Though Hawking later said he was wrong and that information could escape from black holes, the subject of whether and how it’s possible to recover information from a black hole has remained a topic of debate.

Stojkovic and Saini’s new paper helps to clarify the story.
Instead of looking only at the particles a black hole emits, the study also takes into account the subtle interactions between the particles. By doing so, the research finds that it is possible for an observer standing outside of a black hole to recover information about what lies within.
Interactions between particles can range from gravitational attraction to the exchange of mediators like photons between particles. Such “correlations” have long been known to exist, but many scientists discounted them as unimportant in the past.
Stojkovic added:
These correlations were often ignored in related calculations since they were thought to be small and not capable of making a significant difference.
Our explicit calculations show that though the correlations start off very small, they grow in time and become large enough to change the outcome.
Artist's impression of a black hole, via Icarus
Artist’s impression of a black hole, via Icarus

Bottom line: Since 1975, when Stephen Hawking and Jacob Bekenstein showed that black holes should slowly radiate away energy and ultimately disappear from the universe, physicists have tried to explain what happens to information inside a black hole. Dejan Stojkovic and Anshul Saini, both of University at Buffalo, just published a new study that contains specific calculations showing that information within a black hole is not lost.

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The Story of Human Evolution Now Challenged

Story of Human Evolution Challenged

Excerpt from newhistorian.com

The history of the evolution of early humans has been challenged.
Until now, one of the most dominant theories about our evolution claimed that our genus, Homo, had evolved from smaller early humans becoming taller, heavier and longer-legged. This process eventually resulted in Homo erectus, which was able to migrate out of Africa and colonise Eurasia.

Whilst we know that small-bodied H. erectus, averaging less than five feet tall and weighing under 50 kilograms, were living in southern Europe by 1.77 million years ago, the origin of the larger body size associated with modern humans has been elusive.

The paucity of knowledge about the origins of larger members of the Homo genus is primarily a result of a lack of evidence. Previous estimates of body size had been based on well-preserved specimens which were easy to assign a species to. Since these samples are rare and disparate in terms of both space and time, little is known about geographical and chronological variation in the body sizes of the early Homo.

A joint study between the Universities of Cambridge and Tübingen has shown that increases in body size occurred thousands of years after H. erectus left Africa; this growth in Homo body sizes primarily took place in the Koobi Fora region in modern Kenya.

“The evolution of larger bodies and longer legs can thus no longer be assumed to be the main driving factor behind the earliest excursions of our genus to Eurasia,” said Manuel Will, co-author of the study which has been published in the Journal of Human Evolution.

By using tiny fragments of fossil, the team were able to estimate our earliest ancestors’ height and body mass. Their findings, rather surprisingly, indicate a huge diversity in body size; this is particularly surprising as the wide variation we see in humans today was thought to be a relatively recent development.

“If someone asked you ‘are modern humans 6 foot tall and 70kg?’ you’d say ‘well some are, but many people aren’t,’ and what we’re starting to show is that this diversification happened really early in human evolution,” said Dr Jay Stock, co-author of the study.

Stock and Will are the first scientists in 20 years to compare the body size of humans from between 2.5 and 1.5 million years ago. They are also the first to use fragmentary fossils – many as small as toes, none longer than 5cm – to estimate body sizes.

By comparing measurements of fossils from sites in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and Georgia, the researchers have revealed substantial regional variation in the size of early humans. Groups who lived in South African caves, for example, were 4.8 feet tall on average. Some of the skeletons found in Kenya’s Koobi Fora region would have stood nearly 6 feet tall, a height comparable to the average height of modern British males.
“Basically every textbook on human evolution gives the perspective that one lineage of humans evolved larger bodies before spreading beyond Africa. But the evidence for this story about our origins and the dispersal out of Africa just no longer really fits,” said Stock.

It appears that Stock and Will have rewritten the history of the development of early humans; diversity has deep roots amongst the Homo genus.

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This Alien Color Catalog May Help Us Spot Life on Other Planets

Excerpt from smithsonianmag.com

In the hunt for alien life, our first glimpse of extraterrestrials may be in the rainbow of colors seen coming from the surface of an exoplanet.

That's the deceptively simple idea behind a study led by Siddharth Hegde at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany. Seen from light-years away, plants on Earth give our planet a distinctive hue in the near-infrared, a phenomenon called red edge. That's because the chlorophyll in plants absorbs most visible light waves but starts to become transparent to wavelengths on the redder end of the spectrum. An extraterrestrial looking at Earth through a telescope could match this reflected color with the presence of oxygen in our atmosphere and conclude there is life here.

exoplanets palette
Eight of the 137 microorganism samples used to measure biosignatures for the catalog of reflection signatures of Earth life forms. In each panel, the top is a regular photograph of the sample and the bottom is a micrograph, a version of the top image zoomed-in 400 times.

Plants, though, have only been around for 500 million years—a relative blip in our planet's 4.6-billion-year history. Microbes dominated the scene for some 2.5 billion years in the past, and some studies suggest they will rule the Earth again for much of its future. So Hegde and his team gathered 137 species of microorganisms that all have different pigments and that reflect light in specific ways. By building up a library of the microbes' reflectance spectra—the types of colors those microscopic critters reflect from a distance—scientists examining the light from habitable exoplanets can have a plethora of possible signals to search for, the team argues this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"No one had looked at the wide range of diverse life on Earth and asked how we could potentially spot such life on other planets, and include life from extreme environments on Earth that could be the 'norm' on other planets," Lisa Kaltenegger, a co-author on the study, says via email. "You can use it to model an Earth that is different and has different widespread biota and look how it would appear to our telescopes."

To make sure they got enough diversity, the researchers looked at temperate-dwelling microbes as well as creatures that live in extreme environments like deserts, mineral springs, hydrothermal vents or volcanically active areas.

While it might seem that alien life could take a huge variety of forms—for instance, something like the silicon-based Horta from Star Trek—it's possible to narrow things down if we restrict the search to life as we know it. First, any life-form that is carbon-based and uses water as a solvent isn't going to like the short wavelengths of light far in the ultraviolet, because this high-energy UV can damage organic molecules. At the other end of the spectrum, any molecule that alien plants (or their analogues) use to photosynthesize won't be picking up light that's too far into the infrared, because there's not enough energy at those longer wavelengths.

In addition, far-infrared light is hard to see through an Earth-like atmosphere because the gases block a lot of these waves, and whatever heat the planet emits will drown out any signal from surface life. That means the researchers restricted their library to the reflected colors we can see when looking at wavelengths in the visible part of the spectrum, the longest wavelength UV and short-wave infrared.

The library won't be much use if we can't see the planets' surfaces in the first place, and that's where the next generation of telescopes comes in, Kaltenegger says. The James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled for launch in 2018, should be able to see the spectra of relatively small exoplanet atmospheres and help scientists work out their chemical compositions, but it won't be able to see any reflected spectra from material at the surface. Luckily, there are other planned telescopes that should be able to do the job. The European Extremely Large Telescope, a 40-meter instrument in Chile, will be complete by 2022. And NASA's Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope, which is funded and in its design stages, should be up and running by the mid-2020s.

Another issue is whether natural geologic or chemical processes could look like life and create a false signal. So far the pigments from life-forms look a lot different from those reflected by minerals, but the team hasn't examined all the possibilities either, says Kaltenegger. They hope to do more testing in the future as they build up the digital library, which is now online and free for anyone to explore at biosignatures.astro.cornell.edu.

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Milky Way Galaxy May Be 50 Percent Bigger Than We Thought

 Excerpt from cbsnews.com Rings of stars thought to surround the Milky Way are actually part of it, according to new research, meaning the galaxy is bigger than previously believed.The findings extend the known width of the Milk...

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Our new neighbours: Rare dwarf galaxies found orbiting the Milky Way

The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, near which the satellites were found. Excerpt from cnet.com Researchers have found rare satellite dwarf galaxies and candidate dwarf galaxies in orbit around our Milky Way, the largest number of such...

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Warp in spacetime lets astronomers watch the same star explode four times

Excerpt from csmonitor.com

Thanks to a phenomenon known as gravitational lensing, the Hubble Space Telescope has captured four images of the same supernova explosion.

For the first time, a cosmic magnifying glass has allowed scientists to see the same star explosion four times, possibly offering a revealing glimpse into these explosive stellar deaths and the nature of the accelerating universe.

Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have captured four images of a supernova explosion in deep space thanks to a galaxy located between Earth and the massive star explosion. You can see how Hubble saw the supernova in this NASA video. The galaxy cluster warped the fabric of space and time around it — like a bowling ball placed on a bed sheet — allowing scientists to see the supernova in four images.

"It was predicted 50 years ago that a supernova could be gravitationally lensed like this, but it's taken a long time for someone to find an example," lead study author Patrick Kelly, an astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley told Space.com. "It's fun to have been able to find the first one." 

The supernova, which was discovered on Nov. 11, 2014, is located about 9.3 billion light-years away from Earth, near the edge of the observable universe. The researchers have named the distant supernova SN Refsdal in honor of the late Norwegian astrophysicist Sjur Refsdal, a pioneer of gravitational lensing studies. Due to gravitational lensing, "the supernova appears 20 times brighter than its normal brightness," study co-author Jens Hjorth, head of the Dark Cosmology Centre at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen, said in a statement.
The lensing galaxy, which is about 5 billion light-years from Earth, is part of a large cluster of galaxies known MACS J1149.6+2223. In 2009, astronomers discovered that this cluster was the source of the largest known image of a spiral galaxy ever seen through a gravitational lens.

The four images of the supernova each appeared separately over the course of a few weeks. This is because light can take various paths around and through a gravitational lens, arriving at Earth at different times.

Using gravity as a lens

Gravity is created when matter warps the fabric of reality. The greater the mass of an object, the more space-time curves around that object and the stronger its gravitational pull, the discovery enshrined in Einstein's theory of general relativity, which celebrates its centennial this year.

As a result, gravity can also bend light like a lens, meaning objects see n behind powerful gravitational fields, such as those of massive galaxies, are magnified. Gravitational lensing was first discovered in 1979, and today gravitational lenses can help astronomers see features otherwise too distant and faint to detect with even the largest telescopes.

"These gravitational lenses are like a natural magnifying glass. It's like having a much bigger telescope," Kelly said in a statement. "We can get magnifications of up to 100 times by looking through these galaxy clusters."

When light is far from a gravitationally lensing mass, or if the gravitationally lensing mass is not especially large, only "weak lensing" occurs, barely distorting the light. However, when the light comes from almost exactly behind the gravitationally lensing mass, "strong lensing" can happen. 

When a strongly lensed object occupies a large patch of space — for instance, if it's a galaxy — it can get smeared into an "Einstein ring" surrounding a gravitationally lensing mass. However, strong lensing of small, pointlike items — for instance, super-bright objects known as quasars — often produces multiple images surrounding the gravitationally lensing mass, resulting in a so-called "Einstein cross."

The observations of SN Refsdal mark the first time astronomers on Earth have witnessed strong lensing of a  supernova, with four images of an exploding star arrayed as an Einstein cross.

An expanding universe

These new findings could help scientists measure the accelerating rate at which the universe is expanding, researchers say.

A computer model of the lensing cluster suggests the scientists missed chances to see the lensed supernova 50 and 10 years ago. However, the model also suggests more images of the explosion will repeat again within the next 10 years.

The timing of when all these images of the supernova arrive depends on the gravitational pull of the matter generating the gravitational lens. So, by measuring those times, the researchers hope to map how visible normal matter and invisible dark matter is distributed in the lensing galaxy.

Dark matter is currently one of the greatest mysteries in science, a poorly understood substance thought to make up five-sixths of all matter in the universe. A better understanding of how dark matter is behaving in this gravitationally lensing cluster might help shed light on the material's nature, Kelly said.

Analyzing when the images arrive could also help scientists pinpoint the rate at which the universe is expanding. Although there are already several ways to measure the cosmic expansion rate, "there has been a lot of heated debate between different methods, so it'd be interesting to see how this new technique might affect the area," Kelly said. "It's always nice to have completely independent measurements of the same quantity."

The scientists detailed their findings in the March 6 issue of the journal Science.

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Ancient ‘Blue’ Mars Lost an Entire Ocean to Space

Artist impression of Mars ocean

Excerpt from news.discovery.com

Mars was once a small, wet and blue world, but over the past 4 billion years, Mars dried up and became the red dust bowl we know today.

But how much water did Mars possess? According to research published in the journal Science, the Martian northern hemisphere was likely covered in an ocean, covering a region of the approximate area as Earth’s Atlantic Ocean, plunging, in some places, to 1.6 kilometers (1 mile) deep.

“Our study provides a solid estimate of how much water Mars once had, by determining how much water was lost to space,” said Geronimo Villanueva, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and lead author of the new paper, in an ESO news release. “With this work, we can better understand the history of water on Mars.”

Over a 6-year period, Villanueva and his team used the ESO’s Very Large Telescope (in Chile) and instruments at the W. M. Keck Observatory and the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (both on Mauna Kea in Hawaii) to study the distribution of water molecules in the Martian atmosphere. By building a comprehensive map of water distribution and seasonal changes, they were able to arrive at this startling conclusion.

It is becoming clear that, over the aeons, Mars lost the majority of its atmosphere to space. That also goes for its water. Though large quantities of water were likely frozen below the surface as the atmosphere thinned and cooled, the water contained in an ocean of this size must have gone elsewhere — it must have also been lost to space.

This artist’s impression shows how Mars may have looked about four billion years ago. The young planet Mars would have had enough water to cover its entire surface in a liquid layer about 140 meters deep, but it is more likely that the liquid would have pooled to form an ocean occupying almost half of Mars’s northern hemisphere. 
The water in Earth’s oceans contains molecules of H2O, the familiar oxygen atom bound with 2 hydrogen atoms, and, in smaller quantities, the not-so-familiar HDO molecule. HDO is a type of water molecule that contains 1 hydrogen atom, 1 oxygen atom and 1 deuterium atom. The deuterium atom is an isotope of hydrogen; whereas hydrogen consists of 1 proton and an electron, deuterium consists of 1 proton, 1 neutron and 1 electron. Therefore, due to the extra neutron the deuterium contains, HDO molecules are slightly heavier than the regular H2O molecules.

Also known as “semi-heavy water,” HDO is less susceptible to being evaporated away and being lost to space, so logic dictates that if water is boiled (or sublimated) away on Mars, the H2O molecules will be preferentially lost to space whereas a higher proportion of HDO will be left behind.

By using powerful ground-based observatories, the researchers were able to determine the distribution of HDO molecules and the H2O molecules and compare their ratios to liquid water that is found in its natural state.

Of particular interest is Mars’ north and south poles where icecaps containing water and carbon dioxide ice persist to modern times. The water those icecaps contain is thought to document the evolution of water since the red planet’s wet Noachian period (approximately 3.7 billion years ago) to today. It turns out that the water measured in these polar regions is enriched with HDO by a factor of 7 when compared with water in Earth’s oceans. This, according to the study, indicates that Mars has lost a volume of water 6.5 times larger than the water currently contained within the modern-day icecaps.

Therefore, the volume of Mars’ early ocean must have been at least 20 million cubic kilometers, writes the news release.

Taking into account the Martian global terrain, most of the water would have been concentrated around the northern plains, a region dominated by low-lying land. An ancient ocean, with this estimate volume of water, would have covered 19 percent of the Martian globe, a significant area considering the Atlantic Ocean covers 17 percent of the Earth’s surface.

“With Mars losing that much water, the planet was very likely wet for a longer period of time than previously thought, suggesting the planet might have been habitable for longer,” said Michael Mumma, also of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

This estimate is likely on the low-side as Mars is thought to contain significant quantities of water ice below its surface — a fact that surveys such as this can be useful for pinpointing exactly where the remaining water may be hiding.

Ulli Kaeufl, of the European Southern Observatory and co-author of the paper, added: “I am again overwhelmed by how much power there is in remote sensing on other planets using astronomical telescopes: we found an ancient ocean more than 100 million kilometers away!”
Source: ESO

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What Big Bang? Universe May Have Had No Beginning at All

Excerpt from spacedaily.com What we don't know about the Universe... could fill the Universe. Two theoretical physicists have suggested nothing like the Big Bang played a role in the start of our universe 13.8 billion years ago, refuting Edwin Hubb...

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“Seedling” For Supermassive Black Holes Found

Excerpt from clapway.com

By William Large 

A recently discovered black hole may help astronomers to piece together the family tree of these enigmatic cosmic objects. While most black holes are classified as either stellar-mass or the supermassive black holes that can be found at the center of some galaxies, this new find fits into neither category.

The discovery, called the intermediate-mass black hole (IMBH), has proved to be a tricky proposition. With a mass somewhere between a few hundred to a few hundred thousand times that of our own Sun, the size of these intermediates can vary widely.

This particular black hole was found in an arm of the spiral galaxy NGC-2276, and has been sensibly named NGC-2276-3c. Lying about 100 million light-years from earth, astronomers were able to tease images through the use of NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory and the European Very Long Baseline Interferometry Network.

Although researchers have theorized about the existence of these IMBHs, locating one has proven elusive until now. A recent to-be-published paper by an international team of researchers delves into the specifics of NGC-2276-3c.

“Astronomers have been looking very hard for these medium-sized black holes,” study co-author Tim Roberts, of the University of Durham in the United Kingdom, said in a statement. “There have been hints that they exist, but the IMBHs have been acting like a long-lost relative that isn’t interested in being found.”

So what was found? It appears that the recently discovery has characteristics of both the smaller stellar-mass and the much larger supermassive black holes. It serves as an intermediary between the two, and some think that these intermediaries are the beginnings of what could very well become a supermassive.

The team of researchers also noted that the black holes is firing off super powerful blasts of radio jets. Think of these as material, traveling at nearly the speed of light and emitting radio waves, which are thrown out of dense objects. Our newly found black hole is shooting them out almost 2000 light-years into space. Within a radius of approximately 1000 light-years around NGC-2276-3c there are no new star formations, suggesting that the radio jets are pushing out all the gas necessary for star creation.

The full report on NGC-2276-3c should be appearing shortly in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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NASA and ESA telescopes trace ultra-strong winds blowing from black holes


Excerpt from thespacereporter.com

According to a NASA statement, telescopes have revealed for the first time that powerful winds emanate from black holes in all directions. These winds are so tremendous that they can actually work to hamper the formation of new stars in the host galaxy.
The two telescopes that were employed by the agency, NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) and ESA’s XMM-Newton, focused on PDS 456, a quasar, an extremely bright type of black hole, over 2 billion light-years away. The results were then analyzed by a team led by Emanuele Nardini of Keele University in the UK.
The two telescopes studied the quasar PDS 456 at five different times throughout 2013 and 2014. By combining low-energy X-ray observations from XMM-Newton with high-energy X-ray observations from NuSTAR, Nardini and team were able to trace iron dispersed by the quasar’s winds. These data demonstrated that the winds blow outwards from the black hole in a spherical front.
Having ascertained the structure of the quasar winds, the team was then able to calculate the strength of the winds. So strong are the quasar winds that they push huge quantities of matter before them, dispersing it outwards through the host galaxy and preventing it from eventually coalescing to generate new stars. In an earlier period of the universe’s history, about 10 billion years ago, supermassive black holes were more abundant and their terrible winds probably had a hand in shaping the current shapes of galaxies.
“For an astronomer, studying PDS 456 is like a paleontologist being given a living dinosaur to study,” said co-author Daniel Stern of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “We are able to investigate the physics of these important systems with a level of detail not possible for those found at more typical distances, during the ‘Age of Quasars.’”
The new findings have been published in the journal Science.

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