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Archive for July 6, 2012

Belching Black Hole Proves A Biggie


Outbursts of super-hot gas observed with a CSIRO radio telescope have clinched the identity of the first known “middleweight” black hole, Science Express reports online today.

Before it was found, astronomers had good evidence for only supermassive black holes — ones a million to a billion times the mass of the Sun — and “stellar mass” ones, three to thirty times the mass of the Sun.

CSIRO’s Dr Ron Ekers, who studies supermassive black holes in the centres of galaxies, said “We don’t know for sure how supermassive black holes form, but they might come from medium-size ones merging. So finding evidence of these intermediate-mass black holes is exciting.”

Full Story: http://www.csiro.au/en/Portals/Media/Belching-black-hole-proves-a-biggie.aspx

Life’s Molecules Could Lie Within Reach Of Mars Curiosity Rover


Stick a shovel in the ground and scoop. That’s about how deep scientists need to go in order to find evidence for ancient life on Mars, if there is any to be found, a new study suggests. That’s within reach of Curiosity, the Mars Science Laboratory rover expected to land on the Red Planet next month.

The new findings, which suggest optimal depths and locations to probe for organic molecules like those that compose living organisms as we know them, could help the newest Mars rover scout for evidence of life beneath the surface and within rocks. The results suggest that, should Mars harbor simple organic molecules, NASA’s prospects for discovering them during Curiosity’s explorations are better than previously thought, said Alexander Pavlov of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, lead author of the study.

Full Story: http://www.agu.org/news/press/pr_archives/2012/2012-32.shtml

UK Infrared Discovers ‘Impossible’ Binary Stars

July 6, 2012 3 comments

A team of astronomers have used the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) on Hawaii to discover four pairs of stars that orbit each other in less than 4 hours. Until now it was thought that such close-in binary stars could not exist. The new discoveries come from the telescope’s Wide Field Camera (WFCAM) Transit Survey, and appear in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

About half of the stars in our Milky Way galaxy are, unlike our Sun, part of a binary system in which two stars orbit each other. Most likely, the stars in these systems were formed close together and have been in orbit around each other from birth onwards. It was always thought that if binary stars form too close to each other, they would quickly merge into one single, bigger star. This was in line with many observations taken over the last three decades showing the abundant population of stellar binaries, but none with orbital periods shorter than 5 hours.

Full Story:  http://www.ras.org.uk/news-and-press/219-news-2012/2143-ukirt-discovers-impossible-binary-stars

Melas Dorsa Reveals A Complex Geological History On Mars


ESA’s Mars Express has imaged an area to the south of the famed Valles Marineris canyon on the Red Planet, showing a wide range of tectonic and impact features.

On 17 April, the orbiter pointed its high-resolution stereo camera at the Melas Dorsa region of Mars. This area sits in the volcanic highlands of Mars between Sinai and Thaumasia Plana, 250 km south of Melas Chasma. Melas Chasma itself is part of the Valles Marineris rift system.

The image captures wrinkle ridges, some unusual intersecting faults and an elliptical crater surrounded by ejecta in the shape of a butterfly and with a strange ‘fluid-like’ appearance.

Full Story: http://www.esa.int/esaSC/SEM26D2VW3H_index_0.html