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Archive for July 9, 2013

The Quantum Secret To Alcohol Reactions In Space


Image credit: Digitized Sky Survey 2. Acknowledgment: Davide De Martin

Image credit: Digitized Sky Survey 2. Acknowledgment: Davide De Martin

Chemists have discovered that an ‘impossible’ reaction at cold temperatures actually occurs with vigour, which could change our understanding of how alcohols are formed and destroyed in space.

To explain the impossible, the researchers propose that a quantum mechanical phenomenon, known as ‘quantum tunnelling’, is revving up the chemical reaction. They found that the rate at which the reaction occurs is 50 times greater at minus 210 degrees Celsius than at room temperature.

It’s the harsh environment that makes space-based chemistry so difficult to understand; the extremely cold conditions should put a stop to chemical reactions, as there isn’t sufficient energy to rearrange chemical bonds. It has previously been suggested that dust grains – found in interstellar clouds, for example – could lend a hand in bringing chemical reactions about.

Full Story: http://www.leeds.ac.uk/news/article/3412/the_quantum_secret_to_alcohol_reactions_in_space

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Sun’s Loops Are Displaying An Optical Illusion


Credit: NASA/SDO

Credit: NASA/SDO

The Sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona, has posed an enduring mystery. Why is it so hot? The Sun’s visible surface is only 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, but as you move outward the temperature shoots up to millions of degrees. It’s like a campfire that feels hotter the farther away you stand.

To understand how the corona is heated, some astronomers study coronal loops. These structures are shaped like an upside-down U and show where magnetic field lines are funneling solar gases or plasma.

Our best photos of the Sun suggest that these loops are a constant width, like strands of rope. However, new work shows that this is an optical illusion; the loops are actually tapered, wider at the top and narrower at the ends. This finding has important implications for coronal heating.

“You need less energy to heat the corona if the loops have a tapered geometry, which is exactly what we found,” says lead author Henry Winter of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA).

Full Story: http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/news/2013/pr201318.html

Early Universe To Be Revealed


Solar storms, space junk and the formation of the Universe are about to be seen in an entirely new way with the start of operations today by the $51 million Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) radio telescope.

The first of three international precursors to the $2 billion Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope, the MWA is located in a remote pocket of outback Western Australia. It is the result of an international project led by Curtin University and was officially turned on this morning by Australia’s Science and Research Minister, Senator Kim Carr.

Using bleeding edge technology, the MWA will become an eye on the sky, acting as an early warning system that will potentially help to save billions of dollars as it steps up observations of the Sun to detect and monitor massive solar storms. It will also investigate a unique concept which will see stray FM radio signals used to track dangerous space debris.

Full Story: http://www.icrar.org/news/news_items/early-universe-to-be-revealed