Tag: astrophysics (page 1 of 3)

The Great Space Conspiracy | on Gaia

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High-Energy Cosmic Neutrinos Observed At The Geographic South Pole

An team of international experts has announced a new observation of high-energy neutrino particles using an instrument funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The particles from beyond our galaxy have been detected at the geographic South Pole, using a massive instrument buried deep in ice.The scientists from the IceCube Collaboration, a research team with headquarters at the Wisconsin IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, pub [...]

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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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Water may have been abundant a short billion years after Big Bang





Excerpt from thespacereporter.com

The formation of water vapor after the Big Bang was constrained by the lack of oxygen; it and other elements heavier than hydrogen and helium were created only later on, in the death throes of the first generation of massive stars. Oxygen created by the demises of early stars was swept out in to space by the explosions of supernovae and stellar winds, eventually joining with hydrogen to form water.

This process created islands of gas replete with heavy elements, such as oxygen; these regions were more bereft of oxygen than gaseous regions in the modern Milky Way galaxy. However, a new study by Tel Aviv University and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) has determined that, in certain islands, water vapor might have been as plentiful as it is today, only a billion years after the Big Bang.

According to a CfA statement, the researchers looked at whether water could form in the primordial molecular clouds, which were deficient in oxygen. Their analysis indicated that large quantities of water could form at around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Water molecules would have been shattered by ultraviolet light emitted by stars; however, after hundreds of millions of years, an equilibrium between water creation and destruction would be reached.

“We looked at the chemistry within young molecular clouds containing a thousand times less oxygen than our Sun. To our surprise, we found we can get as much water vapor as we see in our own galaxy,” said astrophysicist Avi Loeb of CfA.

The new study has been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal and is accessible online.


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‘Hats Off’ To HATS-6b: Discovery of ‘puffy’ new planet brings scientists closer to finding new life in outer space

An artist's impression of the planet HATS-6b, orbiting the star, HATS-6. (Supplied: ANU) Excerpt from abc.net.au A "puffy" new planet orbiting a small, cool star has been discovered 500 light years away from Earth, by a team of scientists c...

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Radio bursts from space reveal strange mathematical pattern





Excerpt from foxnews.com

Eleven fast radio bursts from space seem to follow a strange mathematical pattern, according to a new study – and it has researchers scratching their heads. 

According to study co–authors Michael Hippke of the Institute of Data Analysis in Neukirchen-Vluyn,  Germany, and John Learned of the University of Hawaii in Manoa, the bursts– which were first detected in 2001 – all had dispersion measures that were integer multiples of the same number: 187.5. “The astronomers that found [the bursts] have not seen such things before and do not understand them,” Learned told FoxNews.com.

Nobody knows what causes fast radio bursts, known as FRBs. They only last a few milliseconds, and only one so far has been captured live (by the Parkes Telescope in Australia last year). Though the bursts release just as much energy in a few milliseconds as the sun does in a month, their brevity indicates that the source must be small, with estimates being several hundred miles across at most.

Researchers use dispersion measures, which records how much “space gunk” the burst has passed through, to estimate the distance an FRB has travelled. For instance, a low frequency FRB will have more gunk on it, indicating a longer trip, whereas a high frequency FRB will be cleaner, indicating it came from closer to Earth.
The fact that all of the FRBs’ dispersion measures are integer multiples of 187.5 has, according to Hippke and Learned’s team’s calculations, a 5 in 10,000 chance of being coincidental. The dispersion measures also indicate that their origin is relatively close to Earth, but unlikely from within our own galaxy.

There are numerous theories on where these bursts came from, including speculation that the messages are from extraterrestrial intelligence. To the scientific community, however, this theory doesn’t really hold water, and is seen as more of a last resort only after all other avenues have been exhausted.

“We think these are likely from some very energetic process, like a burst from a high magnetic field neutron star or energy released [when] two neutron stars merge,” Professor Maura McLaughlin of the West Virginia University Center for Astrophysics explained. “The thing that made people think they were possibly from ETs was a recent paper that showed that one fundamental property is quantized in a way that wouldn't be expected if the signals were naturally occurring. However, I imagine that correlation will totally go away once more are discovered.”

Learned himself is dubious of an alien source as well, noting that he and Hippke only noted the dispersion measures’ “peculiar” pattern, and that they may even be coming from Earth. “We are now leaning more towards a terrestrial, anthropogenic interpretation,” he said. “At this point I would place my money on some sort of governmental satellite, not a natural phenomena, but I would not bet much.  More data, which reportedly [is] being analyzed but which we have no insider information about yet, will be most interesting and refute or confirm our hypotheses.” He also noted that he’d only look to an ETI interpretation once all other possibilities have been eliminated.

As for McLaughlin, she believes there’s no way the FRBs could be messages from aliens, as the signals are very broadband and emitted over a wide range of radio frequencies. “It would take a LOT of energy for an alien civilization to produce these bursts - they'd need to harness the energy of many, many suns - and there's no real advantage for communication to send a signal over such a large bandwidth.”

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An Alien Radio Beacon? Possibly Not This Time



An Alien Radio Beacon? Possibly Not This Time.

Excerpt from postpioneer.com


For practically a decade, astronomers have puzzled over strong bursts of radio energy that appear to be hailing from billions of light years away. Recently, we received reports of a new wrinkle to this mystery: The bursts seem to comply with a mathematical...

For practically a decade, astronomers have puzzled over strong bursts of radio energy that appear to be hailing from billions of light years away. Recently, we received reports of a new wrinkle to this mystery: The bursts seem to comply with a mathematical pattern, one that does not line up with something we know about cosmic physics.

And, of course, when we hear “mathematical pattern,” “radio transmission,” and “outer space,” all strung collectively, we straight away jump to our preferred explanation—aliens! (Or, you know, a decaying pulsar star, an unmapped spy satellite, or a cell telephone tower.)

It’s also probable that the pattern doesn’t basically exist.

Because 2007, telescopes have picked up almost a dozen so-known as “fast radio bursts,” pulses that last for mere milliseconds, but erupt with as a great deal power as the sun releases in a month. Where could they be coming from? To come across out, a group of researchers took advantage of a basic principle: That higher frequency radio waves encounter less interference as they traverse space, and are detected by our telescopes earlier than reduce frequency waves. The time delay, or “dispersion measure”, in between larger and reduce frequency radio waves from the very same pulse event can be applied to figure out the distance those waves traveled.

Here’s where things got weird. When researchers calculated the dispersion distance for each and every of eleven rapid radio bursts, they identified that every distance is an integer many of a single number: 187.5. When plotted on a graph, as the researchers show us in Figure 1 of their paper, the points type a striking pattern.

A single explanation is that the bursts are coming from distinctive sources, all at on a regular basis spaced intervals from the Earth, billions of light years away. They could also be brought on by a smaller cosmic object a lot closer to residence, such as a pulsar star, behaving according to some sort of physics we don’t yet understand. And then there’s the possibility that aliens are trying to communicate, by blasting simple numeric patterns into space.

But no matter how you slice it, eleven data points is a tiny sample set to draw any meaningful conclusions from. A handful of deviant observations could bring about the complete pattern to unravel.

And that is precisely what seems to be happening. As Nadia Drake reports for National Geographic, newer observations, not integrated in the most up-to-date scientific report or other well known media articles, don’t fit:

“There are 5 quickly radio bursts to be reported,” says Michael Kramer of Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Radioastronomy. “They do not fit the pattern.”
Rather of aliens, unexpected astrophysics, or even Earthly interference, the mysterious mathematical pattern is probably an artifact produced by a little sample size, Ransom says. When working with a limited quantity of data – say, a population of 11 quickly radio bursts – it’s straightforward to draw lines that connect the dots. Usually, on the other hand, these lines disappear when much more dots are added.
“My prediction is that this pattern will be washed out quite immediately after a lot more fast radio bursts are located,” says West Virginia University’s Duncan Lorimer, who reported the very first burst in 2007. “It’s a great instance of how apparently considerable final results can be identified in sparse information sets.”

That is a bit of a bummer, but nevertheless, these radio bursts are fascinating, and what could be causing them remains as a lot of a mystery as ever. It could even nonetheless be aliens, if not an alien beacon. As SETI Institute Director Seth Shostak told me in an e mail:

“If it is a signal, nicely, it is surely NOT a message — except perhaps to say ‘here we are’. There’s not actual bandwidth to it, which suggests these speedy radio bursts can not encode several bits. But there are so many other possibilities, I feel that automatically attributing one thing in the sky that we don’t (at very first) understand to the operate of aliens is … premature!”

If there’s 1 point that is clear in this whole organization, it is that we’ve nonetheless got plenty to discover about the patterns woven into the universe around us.

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VLA photos 18 years apart show dramatic difference in young stellar system

Excerpt from bulletinstandard.com  A pair of pictures of a young star, produced 18 years apart, has revealed a dramatic distinction that is giving astronomers with a exclusive, "real-time" appear at how enormous stars create in the e...

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Discovered: A ‘Treasure Chest’ of Ancient Galaxies


full sky planck
The full visible sky as seen by the Planck space observatory. The band running through the middle corresponds to dust in our Milky Way galaxy. The black dots indicate the location of the proto-cluster candidates identified by Planck and subsequently observed by the Herschel space telescope. (Photo : ESA and the Planck Collaboration)


Excerpt from natureworldnews.com

Treasure seekers have found the haul of a lifetime, but it wasn't in some ancient temple or mysterious island. Instead, it was in the sky. Researcher using two of the European Space Agency's (ESA) impressive space telescopes have successfully identified what they are calling a "treasure chest" of ancient galaxy clusters, which could help explain how the Universe came to be the way it is today.

That's at least according to a study recently published (PDF) in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, which details how cosmologists used the ESA's Planck space observatory to identify the distant precursor galaxy clusters, and then poured over data from the Herschel telescope for a closer look.

"Finding so many intensely star-forming, dust galaxies in such concentrated groups was a huge surprise," Hervé Dole, lead author of the report from the Institut d'Astrophysique Spatiale in France, said in a statement. "We think this is a missing piece of cosmological structure formation."

So what does he mean by that? Let's turn back to the treasure chest metaphor for this one.  While Planck was the space observatory to dig up the chest, it was the Herschel data that allowed experts to look closely at each and every gold coin (galaxy cluster) inside. Now they are able to learn more about each coin's make, mint, and ultimately, its origins.

And that's a big step in better understanding the early Universe. Expects believe that it took a great deal of time after star and galaxies first sprung to life for them to assemble into large clusters. 

A summary of the 14 billion years out Universe has been in existence, as seen by the Plank space telescop. Light coming from some of the oldest parts of the Universe are just reaching the observatory now, allowing for experts to see the incredible uniformity of the early structure, compared to the chaotic beautify of star, galaxy, and cluster formation that crowd space today.
(Photo : ESA – C. Carreau) A summary of the 14 billion years out Universe has been in existence, as seen by the Plank space telescope. Light coming from some of the oldest parts of the Universe are just reaching the observatory now, allowing for experts to see the incredible uniformity of the early matter, compared to the chaotic beautify of star, galaxy, and cluster formation that crowds space today.
Once the clusters formed, their gravitational influence triggered the creation of new stars and galaxies. Dark matter - which is theorized to account for a great deal of each cluster's mass and influence - helped usher along the process of creating stars. But how these large clusters were ultimately assembled and grew is still a mystery.
That's why looking at some of the oldest 'coins' ever made - estimated to date back to up-to 11 billion light-years ago - could be exceptionally helpful.

"We still have a lot to learn about this new population," Dole said in an ESA release. "Hints of these kinds of objects had been found earlier in data from Herschel and other telescopes, but the all-sky capability of Planck revealed many more candidates for us to study."

"Even when we combined the powerful capabilities of Planck and Herschel, we were only scratching the surface of the phenomena taking place at this critical era in the history of our universe, when stars, galaxies and clusters seem to be forming simultaneously," 
added George Helou, director of the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "That's one of the reasons this finding is exciting. It shows us that there is so much more to be learned.

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Why Luke Skywalker’s binary sunset may be real after all






Excerpt from csmonitor.com

Researchers have found Jupiter-scale gas giants orbiting binary stars and estimate that Earth-like planets orbiting binary stars could be as numerous as rocky planets orbiting single-star systems.


For all the sci-fi charm of watching a pair of suns sink below a distant horizon on a planet in a galaxy far, far away, conventional wisdom has held that binary-star systems can't host Earth-scale rocky planets.

As the two stars orbit each other like square-dance partners swinging arm in arm, regular variations in their gravitational tug would disrupt planet formation at the relatively close distances where rocky planets tend to appear.

Not so fast, say two astrophysicists. They argue that only are Tatooine-like planets likely to be out there. They could be as numerous as rocky planets orbiting single-star systems – which is to say, there could be large number of them.

Building rocky planets in a binary system not only is possible, it's "not even that hard," says Scott Kenyon, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., who along with University of Utah astrophysicist Benjamin Bromley performed the calculations.
Researchers have found Jupiter-scale gas giants orbiting binary stars and have estimated that such gas giants are likely to be as common in binary systems as they are in systems with a single star.
"If that's true, then Earth-like planets around binaries are just as common as Earth-like planets around single stars," Dr. Kenyon says. "If they're not common, that tells you something about how they form or how they interact with the star over billions of years."

The modeling study grew out of work the two researchers were undertaking to figure out how the dwarf planet Pluto and its largest moon Charon manage to share space with four smaller moons that orbit the two larger objects. 

Pluto and Charon form a binary system that early in its history saw the two objects graze each other to generate a ring of dust that would become the additional moons.

The gravity the surrounding dust felt as Pluto and Charon swung about their shared center of mass would vary with clock-like precision.

Conventional wisdom held that this variable tug would trigger collisions at speeds too fast to allow the dust and larger chunks to merge into ever larger objects.

Kenyon and Dr. Bromley found that, in fact, the velocities would be smaller than people thought – no greater than the speeds would be around a single central object, where velocities are slow enough to allow the debris to bump gently and merge to build ever-larger objects.

They recognized that binary stars hosting planets are essentially scaled-up versions of the Pluto-Charon system. So they applied their calculations to a hypothetical binary star system with a circumstellar disk of dust and debris.

"The modest jostling in these orbits is the same modest jostling you'd get around a single star," Kenyon says, allowing rocky inner planets to form.

As for the Jupiter- or Neptune-scale planets found around binary stars, they would have formed farther out and migrated in over time, the researchers say, since there is too little material within the inner reaches of a circumstellar disk to build giant planets.

The duo's calculations imply that as more planets are discovered orbiting binary stars, a rising number of Tatooines will be among them. 

Tatooine "was science fiction," Kenyon says. But "it's not so far from science reality."

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Jupiter May Be Behind The Mysterious ‘Gaping Hole’ In Our Solar System

Excerpt from huffingtonpost.comWhen astronomers began studying other solar systems in the Milky Way galaxy back in the 1990s, they noticed something peculiar: most of these systems have big planets that circle their host stars in tight orbits, a fin...

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Water and Unique Lifeforms are Highly Possible in Countless Unexplored Planets Within our Galaxy





Excerpt from esbtrib.com 

Imagine the distinct possibility that among the billions of stars located in our vast Milky Way Galaxy, there might be a habitable zone where water probably exists and life as we know it as well.
Scientists have studied more than 150 exoplanetary systems with more than one planet circling the host star, thru the Kepler space telescope of NASA.
The new research, published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, revealed the thousands of planets orbiting stars in our Milky Way galaxy.  Researchers were able to compute that the stars in the Milky Way have one to three planets orbiting the habitable zone.
PhD student in the research group Astrophysics and Planetary Science at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen, Steffen Kjær Jacobsen said, “In these 31 planetary systems located near the habitable zone, our calculations showed that there was an average of two planets in the habitable zone. According to statistics and the indications we have, a good share of the planets in the habitable zone will be solid planets where there might be liquid water and where life could exist.”
He added,   “In 124 of the planetary systems, the Titius-Bode law fit with the position of the planets as good as or better than our own solar system. Using Titus-Bode’s law we tried to predict where there could be more planets further out in the planetary systems. But we only made calculations for planets where there is a good chance you can see them with the Kepler satellite,”
Researchers urged other scientist to look further  into the records from the Kepler satellite again for more signs of the planetary systems they have predicted, as a number  of them should be quite apparent.
Will this change our perception of religion? That we are not God’s only living creation?

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Exoplanet Bonanza Boosts Count by 1,200

Excerpt from news.discovery.comDozens of candidate worlds reside within the "habitable zones" of their parent stars. THE GIST - NASA's Kepler telescope has found more than 1,200 extrasolar planet candidates. - Smaller worlds, like Earth,...

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