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First Simulation to Create a Milky Way-like Galaxy

August 30, 2011 1 comment

Credit: J. Guedes and P. Madau.

After nine months of number-crunching on a powerful supercomputer, a beautiful spiral galaxy matching our own Milky Way emerged from a computer simulation of the physics involved in galaxy formation and evolution. The simulation by researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the Institute for Theoretical Physics in Zurich solves a longstanding problem that had led some to question the prevailing cosmological model of the universe.

“Previous efforts to form a massive disk galaxy like the Milky Way had failed, because the simulated galaxies ended up with huge central bulges compared to the size of the disk,” said Javiera Guedes, who recently earned her Ph.D. in astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz and is first author of a paper on the new simulation, called “Eris.” The paper has been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal.

Full Story: http://news.ucsc.edu/2011/08/eris-simulation.html

 

40-Year-Old Mariner 5 Solar-Wind Problem Finds Answer

August 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Credit: European Space Agency

Credit: European Space Agency

Research led by astrophysicists at the University of Warwick has resolved a 40 year old problem with observations of turbulence in the solar wind first made by the probe Mariner Five. The research resolves an issue with what is by far the largest and most interesting natural turbulence lab accessible to researchers today.

Our current understanding tells us that turbulence in the solar wind should not be affected by the speed and direction of travel of that solar wind. However when the first space probes attempted to measure that turbulence they found their observations didn’t quite match that physical law. The first such data to be analysed from Mariner 5 in 1971 found a small but nonetheless irritatingly clear pattern in the turbulence perpendicular to both the direction of the travel and the magnetic field the solar wind was travelling through.

Full Story: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/pressreleases/40_year_old

Interstellar Crashes Could Throw Out Habitable Planets

August 18, 2011 Leave a comment

One of the protoplanetary disks in the Orion Nebula.

One of the protoplanetary disks in the Orion Nebula. Credit: NASA / ESA and L. Ricci (ESO)

Our solar system, where planets have a range of sizes and move in near-circular paths, may be rather unusual, according to a German-British team led by Professor Pavel Kroupa of the University of Bonn. The astronomers, who publish their model in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, find that forming planetary systems may be knocked around by crashes with nearby clumps of material, leading to systems where planets have highly inclined orbits and where the smaller (and potentially habitable) worlds are thrown out completely.

Full Story: http://www.ras.org.uk/news-and-press/217-news2011/2002-interstellar-crashes-could-throw-out-habitable-planets