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Scientists Shed Light On Riddle Of Sun’s Explosive Events

September 24, 2012 Leave a comment

Four decades of active research and debate by the solar physics community have failed to bring consensus on what drives the sun’s powerful coronal mass ejections (CMEs) that can have profound “space weather” effects on Earth-based power grids and satellites in near-Earth geospace.

In a paper just published in Nature Physics, an international team of space scientists, including a researcher from the University of New Hampshire’s Space Science Center (SSC), explains the mysterious physical mechanisms underlying the origin of CMEs. Their findings, based on state-of-the-art computer simulations, show the intricate connection between motions in the sun’s interior and these eruptions and could lead to better forecasting of hazardous space weather conditions.

“By studying CMEs we learn not only about the drivers of space weather but also about the structure of the atmosphere of the sun and other sun-like stars,” says lead author Ilia Roussev of the Yunnan Astronomical Observatory, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Full Story: http://www.eos.unh.edu/news/indiv_news.shtml?NEWS_ID=1334

Mars-Like Places On Earth Give New Insights Into Rover Data And Conditions For Life

September 24, 2012 Leave a comment

Life thrives on Planet Earth. In even the most inhospitable places – the freezing Antarctic permafrost, sun-baked saltpans in Tunisia or the corrosively acidic Rio Tinto in Spain – pockets of life can be found. Some of these locations have much in common with environments found on Mars, as discovered by orbiters and rovers exploring the surface. Researchers from the Centro de Astrobiología (CAB) in Madrid have made a series of field trips to the most Mars-like places on Earth. Today, they presented some of their findings during a press conference at the European Planetary Science Congress in Madrid.

Dr Felipe Goméz, the project leader said, “The big questions are: what is life, how can we define it and what are the requirements for supporting life? To understand the results we receive back from missions like Curiosity, we need to have detailed knowledge of similar environments on Earth. Metabolic diversity on Earth is huge. In the field campaigns, we have studied ecosystems in situ and we have also brought samples back to the laboratory for further analysis. We have found a range of complex chemical processes that allow life to survive in unexpected places.”

Full Story: http://www.europlanet-eu.org/outreach/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=381&Itemid=1

Using Artificial Intelligence To Chart The Universe

September 24, 2012 Leave a comment

Supergalactic plot of the Cosmic Web Structure. Credit: Francisco Kitaura, Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics, Potsdam

Astronomers in Germany have developed an artificial intelligence algorithm to help them chart and explain the structure and dynamics of the universe around us with unprecedented accuracy. The team, led by Francisco Kitaura of the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics in Potsdam, report their results in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Scientists routinely use large telescopes to scan the sky, mapping the coordinates and estimating the distances of hundreds of thousands of galaxies and so enabling them to create a map of the large-scale structure of the Universe. But the distribution that astronomers see is intriguing and hard to explain, with galaxies forming a complex ‘cosmic web’ showing clusters, filaments connecting them, and large empty regions in between.

The driving force for such a rich structure is gravitation.

Full Story: http://www.aip.de/en/news/press/Kitaura
Also: http://www.ras.org.uk/news-and-press/219-news-2012/2171-using-artificial-intelligence-to-chart-the-universe

Discovery Of An Ancient Celestial City Undergoing Rapid Growth: A Young Protocluster Of Active Star-Forming Galaxies

September 24, 2012 Leave a comment

Using the Multi-Object Infrared Camera and Spectrograph (MOIRCS) mounted on the Subaru Telescope, a team of astronomers led by Dr. Masao Hayashi (National Astronomical Observatory of Japan or NAOJ) and Dr. Tadayuki Kodama (Subaru Telescope, NAOJ) has discovered a protocluster of galaxies in the midst of a vigorous process of formation. It is the densest and most active protocluster ever identified at so great a distance, 11 billion light years away from Earth. The star formation rate in the protocluster is intense, sometimes reaching a rate over 100 times greater than that of the Milky Way Galaxy. Although old, inactive elliptical galaxies dominate present-day galaxy clusters, the recently discovered protocluster is a site where progenitors of clusters of current elliptical galaxies were just forming and growing rapidly. It will serve as an ideal laboratory for investigating how a cluster develops and how a special, dense environment can influence the formation and evolution of galaxies.

Full Story: http://www.naoj.org/Pressrelease/2012/08/30/index.html

Dawn Mission Discovers Hydrogen On Giant Asteroid Vesta

September 24, 2012 Leave a comment

The first measurements of the elemental composition of the surface of the giant asteroid Vesta indicate that hydrogen was brought to the body by impactors, research by a team led by Planetary Science Institute Senior Scientist Thomas H. Prettyman has shown.

Using data collected by the NASA Dawn mission’s spacecraft’s gamma ray and neutron detector instrument – GRaND – as it circled the giant asteroid, researchers also confirmed the elemental composition of the surface of Vesta matches meteorites found on Earth believed to have originated from Vesta.

The highest concentrations of hydrogen were found in equatorial regions, where water ice is not stable. The lowest amounts were found within the giant, south-polar Rheasilvia impact basin.

Full Story: http://www.psi.edu/news/press-releases

Dawn Sees Hydrated Minerals On Giant Asteroid

September 24, 2012 Leave a comment

View of Cornelia crater on the giant asteroid Vesta shows an example of “pitted terrain,” Image credit: NASA/JPL Caltech /UCLA/MPS /DLR
/IDA /JHUAPL

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has revealed that the giant asteroid Vesta has its own version of ring around the collar. Two new papers based on observations from the low-altitude mapping orbit of the Dawn mission show that volatile, or easily evaporated materials, have colored Vesta’s surface in a broad swath around its equator.

Pothole-like features mark some of the asteroid’s surface where the volatiles, likely water, released from hydrated minerals boiled off. While Dawn did not find actual water ice at Vesta, there are signs of hydrated minerals delivered by meteorites and dust evident in the giant asteroid’s chemistry and geology. The findings appear today in the journal Science.

Vesta is the second most massive member of the main asteroid belt. The orbit at which these data were obtained averaged about 130 miles (210 kilometers) above the surface. Dawn left Vesta earlier this month, on Sept. 4 PDT (Sept. 5 EDT), and is now on its way to its second target, the dwarf planet Ceres.

Full Story:http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2012-297
Also: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/dawn/news/dawn20120920.html

Lowell’s NSF-Funded Large Monolithic Imager Sees First Light On The Discovery Channel Telescope

September 24, 2012 Leave a comment

 

Galaxy NGC 891 as imaged by the Large Monolithic Imager (Lowell Observatory)

The Large Monolithic Imager (LMI), a camera built at Lowell Observatory and funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), recently took a set of first-light images on Lowell’s 4.3-m Discovery Channel Telescope (DCT). At the heart of the LMI is the largest charge-coupled device (CCD) that can be built using current fabrication techniques and the first of its kind to be made by e2v. The 36-megapixel CCD’s active surface is 3.7 inches on a side. The LMI’s ability to provide much more accurate measurements of the faint light around galaxies separates it from cameras that use a mosaic of CCDs to produce images.

The attached first-light image is of NGC 891, an edge-on spiral galaxy about 30 million light-years away in the Andromeda constellation. The image was obtained by Lowell’s Phil Massey, Ted Dunham, and Mike Sweaton, and then turned into a beautiful color composite by Kathryn Neugent. The exposure consisted of 10×1 min (B), 5×1 min (V), and 6×1 min (R), all unguided.

Full Story: http://www.lowell.edu/news/2012/09/lowells-nsf-funded-large-monolithic-imager-sees-first-light-on-the-discovery-channel-telescope/