Living the 'New' American DreamIn the days and on into the years ahead, you will not be able to get through a day without being subjected to an array of media articles, television shows, and all types of advertising for tiny houses, an alleged organi...
Excerpt from dailytimes.com.pk The sun has unleashed its most powerful flare of the year causing radio blackouts throughout the Pacific region. The enormous X-class solar flare peaked at 6:11pm ET yesterday from a sunspot called Active Region 2339 (AR2339). Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation that, when intense enough, can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel - and scientists say they could get more powerful in the future. This latest flare is classified as an X2.7. X-class denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength. Despite the recent radio blackouts, scientists say the flare is unlikely to cause any further major issues here on Earth. ‘Given the impulsive nature of this event, as well as the source location on the eastern limb of the sun, we are not expecting a radiation storm at Earth,’ scientists with the U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) in Boulder, Colorado. ‘We will be on the lookout for new imagery from the Nasa Soho [Solar and Heliospheric Observatory] mission to determine if there was an associated coronal mass ejection (CME) with this event,’ they added. ‘Given the same logic above, however, we do not expect there to be one that would impact Earth.’ Yesterday Kazunari Shibata, an astrophysicist from Kyoto University in Japan, said the sun has the potential to unleash a flare of such a magnitude that it would be larger than anything humans have ever seen. At the Space Weather Workshop in Colorado, Shibata said ‘superflares,’ that contain energy 1,000 times larger than what we have seen could be on their way. He said there is evidence of this happening every 800 to 5,000 years on Earth, Scientists say such a solar ‘super-storm’ would pose a ‘catastrophic’ and ‘long-lasting’ threat to life on Earth. A superflare would induce huge surges of electrical currents in the ground and in overhead transmission lines, causing widespread power outages and severely damaging critical electrical components. The largest ever solar super-storm on record occurred in 1859 and is known as the Carrington Event, named after the English astronomer Richard Carrington who spotted the preceding solar flare. This massive CME released about 1022 kJ of energy - the equivalent to 10 billion Hiroshima bombs exploding at the same time - and hurled around a trillion kilos of charged particles towards the Earth at speeds of up to 3000 km/s. However, its impact on the human population was relatively benign as our electronic infrastructure at the time amounted to no more than about 124,000 miles (200,000 km) of telegraph lines. Nasa has also released incredible footage showing the sun unleashing a huge lick of plasma that increased the star’s visible hemisphere by almost half. The solar filament, which exploded on April 28 and 29, was suspended above the sun due to strong magnetic fields that pushed outwards. Solar astronomers around the world had their eyes on this unusually large filament and kept track as it erupted. Nasa’s animation involves images taken from the orbiting Solar and Heliospheric Observatory using its Large Angle Spectrometric Coronagraph. The diameter of the animation is about 30 million miles (45 million km) at the distance of the sun, or half of the diameter of the orbit of Mercury. The white circle in the centre of the round disk represents the size of the sun, which is being blocked by the telescope in order to see the fainter material around it.
Excerpt from cnet.comEnceladus may have a warm ocean beneath its icy surface, but it may also be shooting through that crust in big sheets, perhaps filled with sea monkeys. We already know that Saturn's ...
May 6, 2015 / Greg Giles / Comments Off on NASA student balloon captures mysterious sounds 23 miles above the Earth
NASA-launched student balloonExcerpt from chron.comFor the first time in 50 years, microphones attached to a NASA-launched student balloon have captured strange hisses, crackling sounds and faint whistling.Researchers aren't sure what the sounds are ...
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
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.
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."
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 ...
Leapfrogging backward in time to when the universe was apparently feeling its oats, a group of astronomers reported Tuesday that they had measured a bona fide distance to one of the farthest and thus earliest galaxies known.
The galaxy, more than a few billion light-years on the other side of the northern constellation Boötes, is one of the most massive and brightest in the early universe and goes by the name of EGS-zs8-1.
It flowered into stardom only 670 million years after the Big Bang.
The light from that galaxy has taken 13 billion years to reach telescopes on Earth. By now, however, since the universe has continued to expand during that time, the galaxy is about 30 billion light-years away, according to standard cosmological calculations.
The new measurements allow astronomers to see the galaxy in its infancy. Despite its relative youth, however, it is already about one-sixth as massive as the Milky Way, which is 10 billion years old. And it is getting bigger, making stars 80 times faster than the Milky Way is making them today. The discovery was reported in The Astrophysical Journal by Pascal Oesch of Yale University and his colleagues.
By the rules of the expanding universe, the farther away a galaxy is, the faster it is retreating from us, measured by the “redshift” of its light being broadened to longer wavelengths, the way an ambulance siren seems to lower its pitch as it goes by.
In the past few years, as astronomers have raced one another into the past with instruments like the Hubble Space Telescope, galaxies have been found that appear even more distant. Those measurements, however, were estimates based on the colors of the objects — so-called photometric redshifts.
The new galaxy stuck out in a survey of distant galaxies by the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes known as Candels, for Cosmic Assembly Near-infrared Deep Extragalactic Legacy Survey. Its redshift was precisely measured with a powerful spectrograph known as Mosfire — Multi-Object Spectrometer for Infrared Exploration — on Keck 1, one of a pair of 10-meter-diameter telescopes on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. That makes it the highest redshift confirmed in this way, said Garth Illingworth, of the University of California, Santa Cruz, one of the astronomers in the study.
How galaxies were able to form and grow so rapidly after the lights came on in the universe is a mystery that will be addressed by a coming generation of instruments like the James Webb Space Telescope and the Thirty Meter Telescope, a goliath planned for Mauna Kea, already home to a dozen telescopes.
Recently, however, construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope, a $1.4 billion project, has been halted by protests by Hawaii residents who feel their mountain has been abused. An echo of that controversy appears in the new paper, in which Dr. Oesch and his colleagues write: “The authors wish to recognize and acknowledge the very significant cultural role and reverence that the summit of Mauna Kea has always had within the indigenous Hawaiian community. We are most fortunate to have the opportunity to conduct observations from this mountain.”