The Antennae galaxies, shown in visible light in a Hubble image (upper image), were studied with ALMA, revealing extensive clouds of molecular gas (center right image). One cloud (bottom image) is incredibly dense and massive, yet apparently star free, suggesting it is the first example of a prenatal globular cluster ever identified.
Excerpt from huffingtonpost.com A dense cloud of gas 50 million light-years away has astronomers buzzing, and they're using all sorts of strange metaphors to get the rest of us to pay attention.
They've discovered what they think may be a globular cluster -- a big ball of up to one million stars -- on the verge of being born.
“This remarkable object looks like it was plucked straight out of the very early universe," Dr. Kelsey Johnson, an astronomer at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and lead author on a paper about the research, said in a written statement. "To discover something that has all the characteristics of a globular cluster, yet has not begun making stars, is like finding a dinosaur egg that’s about to hatch.”
ALMA image of dense cores of molecular gas in the Antennae galaxies. The round yellow object near the center may be the first prenatal example of a globular cluster ever identified. It is surrounded by a giant molecular cloud.
Johnson and her colleagues spotted the bizarre object, which they call the "Firecracker," using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in the Atacama desert in Chile. It's located inside a pair of interacting galaxies known to scientists as NGC 4038/NGC 4039, or The Antennae Galaxies.
The Firecracker has a mass that's 50 times that of our sun, and is under an enormous amount of pressure -- roughly 10,000 times greater than the average pressure in interstellar space. According to the researchers, this makes it a good candidate for collapsing into a globular cluster within the next million years.
What do other scientists make of the discovery? Dr. Alison Peck, ALMA scientist at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, who was not involved in the new research, called it "important" and said she was "really excited to hear about these results." She told The Huffington Post in an email:
"One of the things that we all yearn to understand is how our surroundings formed, how our galaxy and our solar system came to be. To do this, since we can’t actually watch things change over time, (it just takes too long), we need to find similar objects at different stages of development and compare them. What Dr. Johnson’s team have found here is an analog of an object that we look for in the very early universe, but they’ve found it so close by that we’ll be able to make extremely detailed observations and find out much more about the physical conditions in this exciting region."
The research is set to be published in the Astrophysical Journal. View Article Here Read More
Many things would be difficult about conducting a manned mission to Mars, from designing a spacecraft that could make the 34-million-mile journey, to stocking and fueling it, to keeping its astronauts from getting flabby and bored. On Friday, researchers shed light on another potential hurdle: figuring out a way to protect travelers’ brains from the damaging effects of cosmic rays in outer space. When University of California, Irvine neuroscientist Charles Limoli and colleagues exposed mice to radiation similar to that astronauts would encounter far beyond Earth, the animals experienced changes in their brains that impaired their performance on tests of learning and memory, the team reported in an article — “What happens to your brain on the way to Mars” — in the journal Science Advances. The researchers’ results suggested that astronauts could suffer cognitive impairment during an extended journey through space. “Over the course of a two- to three-year mission, the damage would accumulate,” Limoli said. “To mitigate it, we need to understand it.” To test the effects of space radiation on the brain, the researchers took mice to the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York, which attempts to simulate radiation conditions in space. They exposed the animals to oxygen and titanium ions, atoms with their electrons stripped away that are similar to the charged particles in cosmic rays. Six weeks later, back in California, they tested the mice’s learning and memory by placing them in pens with toys, letting them get used to their surroundings, and then making changes such as introducing a new toy. Mice that had been exposed to the radiation were less aware of or curious about the changes in their environment than controls that had not been irradiated — a sign that they had cognitive deficits. “A smart animal will recognize the change,” Limoli said. When the researchers later studied the animals’ brain tissue, they found that mice that performed poorly on the tests also had less dense branching in their brain cells, due to damage from the radiation. The structural changes would impede the brain’s ability to transmit signals and process information. Limoli got involved in the NASA-backed research as an outgrowth of his work on the effects of radiation on brain cancer patients. Radiation therapy forestalls brain cancer progression, he said — but it can take a tremendous toll on the central nervous system, causing depression, anxiety and mood disorders, and deficits in learning and executive function. Pediatric patients can lose 20 to 30 I.Q. points after receiving radiation treatments to the brain. “Doctors have gotten really good at curing cancer, but maintaining a good quality of life has been a problem,” Limoli said. “This is an unmet medical need.” Astronauts flying to Mars and getting hit by cosmic rays, which are the remnants of supernova explosions, wouldn’t get anything close to the high doses of radiation that cancer patients receive, but they “might be prone to mistakes,” Limoli thought. To counteract that threat during planning for a possible mission, scientists might come up with more advanced shielding options — perhaps embedded in helmets — or drug treatments that might ameliorate radiation’s impacts on the brain, similar to the ones Limoli is exploring for cancer patients.
You're probably all too aware of the major sources of stress in your life -- money, your terrible commute, the construction workers who start jackhammering at 5 a.m. But stress and anxiety don't have to just come from obvious or even negative sources. "There are plenty of chronic strains and low-grade challenges that don't necessarily overwhelm you in the moment, but almost take more of a toll in the long run," says Scott Schieman, Ph.D., professor of sociology at the University of Toronto. These are some of unexpected reasons why you might feel anxious or agitated. By recognizing them for what they are, says Schieman, you can better prepare to cope.
1. Your Significant Other Even if you have a blissfully happy relationship with your live-in partner or spouse, you're both bound to do things that get on each other's nerves. "Early in the relationship, it's usually about space and habits -- like whether you squeeze the toothpaste from the middle or the bottom of the tube," says Ken Yeager, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. "Later on, you might clash over parenting style or financial issues, and finding a unified front to face these issues together." So what's the key to surviving and thriving in your life together? Finding balance, says Yeager: spending the right amount of time together (not too much and not too little), making compromises, keeping communication open and honest, and remembering to acknowledge what you love about each other on a daily basis.
2. Everyday Annoyances We're told not to sweat the small stuff, but sometimes it's the little things that have the biggest impact on our mood: the never-ending phone calls with your insurance company, the rude cashier at the grocery store, the 20 minutes you lose looking for a parking space. "We let these things bother us because they trigger unconscious fears," says Yeager -- fears of being seen as irresponsible, of being bullied or embarrassed, or of being late all the time, for example. "Sometimes you need to take a step back and realize that you're doing the best you can given the circumstances."
3. Other People's Stress Stress is contagious, according to a 2014 German study: In a series of experiments, most participants who simply observed others completing a stressful task experienced an increase themselves in production of the stress hormone cortisol -- a phenomenon known as empathic stress. You can also experience stress when someone you know is affected by a traumatic event, like a car crash or a chronic illness. "You start to worry, 'Oh my gosh, could that happen to me?'," says Yeager. "We tend not to think about these things until they hit close to home."
4. Social Media It may seem like Facebook is the only way you keep up with the friends you don't see regularly -- which, during particularly busy times, can be just about all of them. The social network also has a downside, according to a 2015 study from the Pew Research Center: It can make you aware of stressful situations in your friends' lives, which in turn can add more stress to your life. The Pew report didn't find that social media users, overall, had higher levels of stress, but previous studies have suggested that frequent social-media use can be associated with negative body image and prolonged breakup pain.
5. Distraction A distraction can be a good thing then when it takes your mind off of a stressful situation or difficult decision, like when you take a break from work to meet a friend for lunch. But it works the other way, as well: When you're so busy thinking about something else that you can't enjoy what's going on around you, that kind of distraction can be a recipe for stress. Practicing mindfulness gives you brain the refresh it needs, says Richard Lenox, director of the Student Counseling Center at Texas Tech University. Paying full attention to your surroundings when you're walking and driving can help, he adds. "Stress and anxiety tend to melt away when our mind is focused on the present."
6. Your Childhood Traumatic events that happened when you were a kid can continue to affect your stress levels and overall health into adulthood. A 2014 University of Wisconsin-Madison study found that these childhood experiences may actually change parts of the brain responsible for processing stress and emotion. The way you were raised can also have a lasting impact on your everyday angst, suggests a 2014 Johns Hopkins University study. Researchers found that children of parents with social anxiety disorders are more likely to develop "trickle-down anxiety" -- not simply because of their genes, but because of their parents' behaviors toward them such as a lack of warmth and emotion, or high levels of criticism and doubt.
7. Tea And Chocolate You probably know to take it easy on the coffee when you're already feeling on edge. "Caffeine is always going to make stress worse," says Yeager. But you may not think as much about drinking several cups of tea at once, or chowing down on a bar of dark chocolate -- both of which can contain nearly as much caffeine as a cup of joe. "Chocolate is a huge caffeine source," says Yeager. "I know people who don't drink coffee but they'll eat six little candy bars in a two-hour period because they want the same kind of jolt." Too much caffeine, in any form, can cause problems with sleep, digestion, and irritability.
8. Your Expectations When things don't go the way you've planned, do you tend to get upset and act defensively, or do you roll with the punches and set off on a new plan? If it's the former, you could be contributing to a mindset of pessimism and victimization that will slowly wear you down, even when things may not be as bad as they seem. "Your level of serenity is inversely proportionate to your expectations," says Yeager. That doesn't mean you shouldn't set ambitious goals for yourself or settle for less than what you want, of course, but being realistic about what's truly possible is important, as well.
9. Your Reaction To Stress If you tend to deal with stressful situations by working long hours, skipping your workouts, and bingeing on junk food, we've got some bad news: You're only making it worse. "We know that physical activity and healthy foods will help your body better deal with stress, and yet we often avoid them when we need them the most," says Yeager. "People really need to think about this downward spiral we get into and work harder to counteract it."
10. Multitasking Think you're being super efficient by tackling four tasks at once? Chances are you're not -- and it's only decreasing your productivity while increasing your stress. A 2012 University of Irvine study, for example, found that people who responded to emails all day long while also trying to get their work done experienced more heart-rate variability (an indicator of mental stress) than those who waited to respond to all of their emails at one time. Focusing on one task at a time can ensure that you're doing that job to the best of your abilities and getting the most out of it, so you won't have to worry about or go back and fix it later, says Schieman. And don't worry: You'll have enough time to do it all. In fact, you may discover you have more time than you thought.
11. Your Favorite Sport Watching a tight game of college hoops can stress you out -- even if your alma mater wins. "The body doesn't distinguish between 'bad' stress from life or work and 'good' stress caused by game-day excitement," says Jody Gilchrist, a nurse practitioner at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Heart and Vascular Clinic. Watching sports can even trigger the body's sympathetic nervous system, releasing adrenaline and reducing blood flow to the heart. Those temporary consequences aren't usually anything to be concerned about, but over time, chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure and increased disease risk. And, of course, it doesn't help if you're adding alcohol and binge-eating to a situation that's already stressful on your body. You may not be able to control the outcome of the game, says Gilchrist, but you can limit its effects on your own body.
12. Digital Devices Whether you're using it for work or play, technology may play a large role in your mental health, says Yeager. Using computers or e-readers too close to bedtime could lead to sleep problems, he says, and spending too much time virtually socializing can make real-life interactions seem extra stressful. (Plus, texting doesn't trigger the same feel-good hormones as face-to-face talk does.) Then there's the dreaded "work creep," says Schieman, when smartphones allow employees to be tethered to their jobs, even during off-hours. "People say they're only going to check email for an hour while they're on vacation, but the problem with email is that they're filled with responsibilities, new tasks, and dilemmas that are going to be hard to compartmentalize and put out of your head once that hour is up."
13. Your (Good) Health While it may not be as stressful as having a chronic illness or getting bad news at the doctor's office, even people in the best shape of their lives worry about their bodies, their diets, and their fitness levels. In fact, people who take healthy living to an extreme may experience some rather unhealthy side effects. People who follow low-carb diets, for example, are more likely to report being sad or stressed out, while those on any kind of restrictive meal plan may feel more tired than usual. And it's not unheard of for someone to become obsessed with healthy eating (known as orthorexia) or working out (gymorexia). Like any form of perfectionism, these problems can be stressful at best, and extremely dangerous at worst.
14. Housework Does folding laundry help you feel calm, or does it make your blood boil? If you're in a living situation where you feel you're responsible for an unfair share of work, even chores you once enjoyed may start to feel like torture. "Dividing up housework and parenting responsibilities can be tricky, especially if both partners work outside the home," says Schieman. "And whether you define that division of labor as equal or unequal can really change your attitude toward it."
15. Uncertainty Stress can be defined as any perceived or actual threat, says Yeager, so any type of doubt that's looming over you can contribute to your anxiety levels on a daily basis. "When you know something could change at any minute, you always have your guard up and it's hard to just relax and enjoy anything." Financial uncertainty may be the most obvious stressor -- not being sure if you'll keep your job during a round of layoffs, or not knowing how you'll pay your credit card bill. Insecurities in other areas of life, like your relationship or your housing status, can eat away at you too.
16. Your Pet No matter how much you love your furry friends, there's no question that they add extra responsibility to your already full plate. Even healthy animals need to be fed, exercised, cleaned up after, and given plenty of attention on a regular basis -- and unhealthy ones can be a whole other story. "Pets can be the most positive source of unconditional love, but at the same time they require an extreme amount of energy," says Yeager. People also tend to underestimate the stress they'll experience when they lose a pet. "I've had people in my office tell me they cried more when their dog died than when their parent died. It's a very emotional connection."
17. Your Education Having a college degree boosts your odds of landing a well-paying job, so although you're less likely to suffer from money-related anxiety, your education can bring on other types of stress, according to a 2014 study by Schieman and his University of Toronto colleagues. His research found that highly educated people were more likely to be stressed out thanks to job pressures, being overworked, and conflicts between work and family. "Higher levels of authority come with a lot more interpersonal baggage, such as supervising people or deciding whether they get promotions," says Schieman. "With that type of responsibility, you start to take things like incompetency and people not doing their jobs more personally, and it bothers you more."View Article Here Read More
A mystery explosion in the night sky turns out to have been caused by colliding stars.
One of history’s mysteries revolved around a strange explosion observed in the sky in 1670, long thought to have been the first nova on record. Recent research suggests that this enigmatic event was actually a rare stellar collision.
According to a report by Astronomy Magazine, the so-called Nova Vulpeculae of 1670 was more likely the collision of two stars, which shines brighter than a nova but not as brightly as a supernova.
Observations made with various telescopes including the Submillimeter Array, the Effelsburg radio telescope and APEX have revealed the more unusual nature of the light source – a violent collision.
When the event first occurred, it would have been visible from Earth with the naked eye. Now, submillimeter telescopes are needed to detect the traces left in the aftermath of the event.
When first observed, 17th century astronomers described what they saw as a new star appearing in the head of Cygnus, the swan constellation.
“For many years, this object was thought to be a nova, but the more it was studied, the less it looked like an ordinary nova, or indeed any other kind of exploding star,” said Tomasz Kaminski of the European Southern Observatory.
Having observed the area of the supposed nova with both submillimeter and radio wavelengths, scientists “have found that the surroundings of the remnant are bathed in a cool gas rich in molecules with a very unusual chemical composition,” said Kaminski.
Researchers concluded that the amount of cool material they observed was too much to have been produced by a nova. The nature of the gas debris best fit with the rare scenario of two stars merging in an explosive collision.
The team’s report was published in the journal Nature.
Karl Menten of the Max Planck Institute called the discovery “the most fun – something that is completely unexpected.” View Article Here Read More