Archive for August 1, 2012

Thin Current Sheets In Space: Where The Action Is

Much of the exciting action is space is confined to thin boundaries. The Universe is filled with plasma, a charged gas consisting of ions and electrons. Thin sheets with currents separate large plasma regions in space. Scientists at the Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF) have now finally measured the fundamental properties of one of the waves mixing and accelerating plasmas within these sheets.

Around Earth, the processes accelerating electrons which hit the atmosphere and cause beautiful auroras are often initiated in thin current sheets. Similar processes, auroras and thin current sheets are found around other planets such as Jupiter and Saturn. Plasma regions close to the hot solar surface are separated by thin current sheets, and similar boundaries should also be common around distant stars. In man-made plasmas, thin boundaries are found in the tokamak plasma employed in nuclear fusion research and space observations may help us understand fusion plasmas.

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Planetfest 2012 – August 4th – August 5th: Sit In A Space Ship, Touch A Piece Of Mars, And Meet Bill Nye The Science Guy®, Star Trek’s Robert Picardo, NASA Scientists, Mars Experts And More

On August 4 and 5, the world’s attention will once again turn to space, as NASA prepares for the descent and landing of its newest rover Curiosity on Mars. In celebration of this historic event, The Planetary Society, the world’s largest non-profit space interest group, is hosting Planetfest 2012 – in Pasadena, Calif., and at venues around the world.

Planetfest is a rare opportunity for the public to get an insider’s look at the marvels of space and meet many of the people leading today’s most exciting space missions,” said Bill Nye, CEO of The Planetary Society, organizers of the two-day event. “There is nothing like it; the big room at Planetfest will be the most exciting place to watch, share, and celebrate, as we open the astonishing next chapter of discovery on Mars.”

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Stanford Physicist Wins $3 Million Fundamental Physics Prize

Stanford physics Professor Andrei Linde has been named an inaugural winner of the $3 million Fundamental Physics Prize. The award recognizes Linde’s work developing cosmic inflation theory, a modification on big bang theory that generates a more accurate description of the birth of the universe.

Andrei Linde freely admits that when he began developing theories of cosmic inflation in the early 1980s, the concept seemed like pure science fiction. But, as experimental data has verified his work, inflationary theory has been accepted as a cosmologic paradigm. In recognition, Stanford physics Professor Linde was named an inaugural recipient of the $3 million Fundamental Physics Prize.

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Join Universe Today’s Live Webcast Of The Curiosity Rover Landing

Want to be part of the Mars Science Laboratory landing event and join thousands of others in watching it live? Universe Today is teaming up with Google, the SETI Institute and CosmoQuest to provide unprecedented, live coverage of the historic landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars. Starting at 8 pm PDT on August 5th (03:00 UTC August 6th) a live, 4-hour webcast will highlight the landing of the car-sized robotic roving laboratory. During the webcast, via a Google+ Hangout on Air, scientists, engineers and other experts will provide unique insight into the rover and the landing, and viewers will have the chance to interact and ask questions.

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CINEMA Among Tiny CubeSats To Be Launched Aug. 2

Eleven tiny satellites called CubeSats will accompany a spy satellite into Earth orbit on Thursday, Aug. 2, inaugurating a new type of inexpensive, modular nanosatellite designed to piggyback aboard other NASA missions.

One of the 11 will be CINEMA (CubeSat for Ions, Neutrals, Electrons, & MAgnetic fields), an 8-pound, shoebox-sized package which was built over a period of three years by 45 students from the University of California, Berkeley, Kyung Hee University in Korea, Imperial College London, Inter-American University of Puerto Rico, and University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez.

CINEMA will obtain images of the “ring current,” an electrical current that encircles the Earth and which, during large magnetic “space storms,” can blow out power grids on the ground.

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Shear Layers In Solar Winds Affect Earth’s Magnetosphere

Human society is increasingly reliant on technology that can be disrupted by space weather. For instance, geomagnetic storms can cause high-latitude air flights to be rerouted, costing as much as $100,000 per flight; induce errors of up to 46 meters (151 feet) in GPS systems; and affect satellites and the International Space Station. Space weather is determined by how the solar wind, a stream of hot plasma from the Sun, interacts with Earth’s magnetic field. In studying space weather, scientists have largely neglected the fact that the solar wind contains layers of very strong velocity shear. Scientists understand very little about how these wind shears affect space weather.

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A Century Of Discoveries – Physicists Celebrate Centenary Of The Discovery Of Cosmic Rays

August 1, 2012 1 comment

A constant shower of subatomic particles rains down from space. A hundred years ago, this “cosmic radiation” was discovered by the Austrian physicist Victor Franz Hess. Among other things, the discovery laid the foundation for a whole new field of research: high energy physics – which recently gave us, for instance, the first experimental evidence for the Higgs boson. An anniversary conference looks at the past milestones of cosmic ray research and at future experiments.

When Hess landed his hydrogen balloon at Bad Saarow in the German state of Brandenburg at lunchtime on 7 August 1912, he had on board a discovery with far-reaching consequences, which he surely wasn’t fully aware of at that very time. At his seventh balloon voyage in the course of this year, equipped with three ionization measuring instruments, Hess had just identified the existence of a pervasive radiation in 5300 metres altitude above the Schwieloch Lake in the southeast of Brandenburg. Only later it became evident that this so-called cosmic radiation was comprised mostly of energetic, electrically charged atomic nuclei. The discovery of cosmic rays won Hess the Nobel Prize in Physics 24 years later.

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100 Years Of Cosmic Ray Mystery

August 1, 2012 1 comment

As physicists gather in early August to celebrate a century since the initial discovery of cosmic rays, Alan Watson, emeritus professor of physics at the University of Leeds, explains in August’s edition of Physics World how physicists have gradually revealed the nature of these mysterious objects and examines the progress being made in understanding where they come from.

It is now widely accepted that cosmic rays are the nuclei of atoms, from the entire range of naturally occurring elements, that travel at near-light-speeds for millions of years before reaching Earth. However, identifying the source of cosmic rays has proved to be a very difficult task.

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A Blue Whirlpool In The River: Tranquil Galaxy Home To Violent Events

NGC 1187 looks tranquil and unchanging, but it has hosted two supernovae explosions since 1982. A supernova is a violent stellar explosion, resulting from the death of either a massive star or a white dwarf in a binary system. Supernovae are amongst the most energetic events in the Universe and are so bright that they often briefly outshine an entire galaxy before fading from view over several weeks or months. During this short period a supernova can radiate as much energy as the Sun is expected to emit over its entire life span.

In October 1982, the first supernova seen in NGC 1187 — SN 1982R was discovered at ESO’s La Silla Observatory and more recently, in 2007, the amateur astronomer Berto Monard in South Africa spotted another supernova in this galaxy — SN 2007Y. A team of astronomers subsequently performed a detailed study and monitored SN 2007Y for about a year using many different telescopes.

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