Archive for July 4, 2012

POV’s ‘The City Dark’ Asks, ‘Do We Need The Stars?’ Thursday, July 5, 2012 On PBS

The Advance of Electric Light Has Sent Nighttime into Retreat, With Astonishing Effects On Humans and Wildlife.

“A documentary about light pollution that is entertaining and thought-provoking? It hardly seems possible, but that’s what Ian Cheney has made in The City Dark. . . . This film makes you want to go find a starry sky to camp under quickly, before it’s all gone.” — Neil Genzlinger, The New York Times

The town in rural Maine where Ian Cheney spent much of his childhood has about 4,000 residents. Waldoboro had electric lights, but on a cloudless and moonless night, it was impossible not to be struck by the incredible array of stars visible above.

But when Cheney moved to New York City, his familiar world of light and dark was upended. In this metropolis, light was everywhere —but starlight was much harder to find.

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Physicists Discover A New Particle That May Be The Higgs Boson

Physicists at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva, Switzerland, have discovered a new particle that may be the long-sought Higgs boson, the fundamental particle that is thought to endow elementary particles with mass.

“This is a momentous time in the history of particle physics and in scientific exploration—the implications are profound,” says Harvey Newman, professor of physics at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). “This is experimental science at its best.”

Regardless of the exact identity of the new particle, CERN’s scientists say, the highly anticipated discovery heralds a new era in physics.

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Higgs Hunters Declare Victory – As Significant As DNA Discovery

Professor Sir Peter Knight, President of the Institute of Physics (IOP), has asserted that the discovery of the Higgs is as significant to physics as the discovery of DNA was to biology.

He said, “This is the physics version of the discovery of DNA. It sets the course for a brand new adventure in our efforts to understand the fabric of our Universe.”

His comments follow an announcement by British researchers from the Large Hadron Collider at CERN that they have found a new particle consistent with the long-sought Higgs boson.

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NASA Astronaut Stephen K. Robinson Leaves Agency

NASA astronaut Stephen Robinson has left the space agency. Robinson ends his 36-year NASA career as a veteran of three spacewalks with more than 48 days of spaceflight experience. Robinson will become a professor at the University of California at Davis in the fall of 2012. His last day at NASA was June 30.

Robinson began work with NASA as a cooperative education student in 1975 at the agency’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. He was selected for the astronaut corps in 1995. Robinson served as a mission specialist on four spaceflights, including space shuttle missions STS-85 in 1997, STS-95 in 1998, STS-114 in 2005 and STS-130 in 2010.

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Oh, Baby! A Young Star Flaunts Its X-Ray Spots In McNeil’s Nebula

X-ray observations have revealed something curious about the young star that illuminates McNeil’s Nebula, a glowing jewel of cosmic dust in the Orion constellation: The object is a protostar rotating once a day, or 30 times faster than the sun. The stellar baby also has distinct birthmarks—two X-ray-emitting spots, where gas flows from a surrounding disk, fueling the infant star.

The young star, V1647 Orionis, first made news in early 2004, when it erupted and lit up McNeil’s Nebula, located 1,300 light years away in a region of active star formation within the constellation of Orion. The initial outburst died down in early 2006, but then V1647 Ori erupted again in 2008, and has since remained bright.

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NASA’s Hubble Views A Cosmic Skyrocket

Resembling a Fourth of July skyrocket, Herbig-Haro 110 is a geyser of hot gas from a newborn star that splashes up against and ricochets from the dense core of a cloud of molecular hydrogen.

Although Herbig–Haro (HH) objects come in a wide array of shapes, the basic configuration is usually the same. Twin jets of heated gas, ejected in opposite directions from a forming star, stream through interstellar space. These outflows are fueled by gas falling onto the young star, which is surrounded by a disc of dust and gas. If the disc is the fuel tank, the star is the gravitational engine, and the jets are the exhaust.

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Going Out Of Business: Planet-Forming DISK TURNS Off Lights, Locks Doors …

That surprise you feel when your favorite store turns off its lights, locks up its doors, and suddenly, for no apparent reason, goes out of business? That’s just how astronomers felt recently when a dusty disk of rocky debris around a nearby star abruptly shut down and by all appearances went out of business.

The star — designated TYC 8241 2652 and a young analog of our Sun — only a few years ago displayed all of the characteristics of hosting a solar system in the making. Now, it has transformed completely: very little of the warm dusty material thought to originate from collisions of rocky planets is apparent – it’s a mystery that has astronomers baffled.

The lack of an existing model for what is going on around this star is forcing astronomers to rethink what happens within young solar systems in the making.

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