On July 17, 2013, the international team which supported and built NASA's Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, or IRIS, was rewarded for its hard work when the door of the telescope opened to view the mysterious lowest layers of the sun's atmosphere in unprecedented detail. Imaging in ultraviolet light and using a spectrograph, the orbiter has already revealed a multitude of previously unseen structures.
Three years of research, led by the Univ. of Leicester in the U.K., has produced a new catalog of x-ray source observations call 3XMM. With the help of the university’s supercomputer, the scientists were able to log 531,261 detections of x-ray emitting objects and 372,728 unique x-ray sources. The catalog will provide a useful dataset for generating large, well-defined samples of celestial objects.
Researchers at Brown Univ. have shown that some Martian valleys appear to have been caused by runoff from orographic precipitation—moisture carried part of the way up a mountain and deposited on the slopes. The new findings are the most detailed evidence yet of an orographic effect on ancient Mars.
After a quarter-century of searching, scientists have nailed down how one particularly rare subatomic particle decays into something else. CERN on Friday it had measured the decay time of a particle known as a Bs (B sub s) meson into two other fundamental particles called muons, which are much heavier than but similar to electrons.
Unlike elements like carbon or iron, gold cannot be created within a star. Instead, it must be born in a more cataclysmic event—like one that occurred last month known as a short gamma-ray burst (GRB). Observations of this GRB provide evidence that it resulted from the collision of two neutron stars, and that its unique glow potentially signifies the creation of large amounts of heavy elements, including gold.
If the Earth arose from the collision of asteroids, as is widely thought, its composition should resemble that of meteoroids, which break off of asteroids. But the Earth’s mantle is missing an amount of lead found in meteorites whose composition has been analyzed following impact with the Earth. New research points to large reservoirs of material deep in the mantle that may help solve the mystery and explain Earth’s origins.
Two NASA spacecraft have provided the most comprehensive movie ever of a mysterious process at the heart of all explosions on the sun: magnetic reconnection. Magnetic reconnection happens when magnetic field lines come together, break apart and then exchange partners, snapping into new positions and releasing a jolt of magnetic energy. This process lies at the heart of giant explosions on the sun.
Astronomers have for the first time managed to determine the color of a planet outside our solar system, a blue gas giant 63 light-years away. Measuring the planet's color, which is probably created by a turbulent atmosphere of silicate particles, is a significant first. It has never been done before with a planet outside our solar system.
Soon after the Big Bang, the universe was so dense and so hot that elementary particles felt the existence of gravity strongly. For decades, physicists have attempted to model the laws of quantum gravity to describe this phase of the universe’s evolution. A new mathematical model developed by physicists in Poland surprisingly shows that different elementary particles “experience” the existence of different space-times.
A new study has provided the first conclusive proof of the existence of a space wind first proposed theoretically over 20 years ago. By analyzing data from the European Space Agency’s Cluster spacecraft, researchers have the plasmaspheric wind, so-called because it contributes to the loss of material from the plasmasphere, a donut-shaped region extending above the Earth’s atmosphere.
Gathering the most detailed observations ever into the surroundings of the supermassive black hole at the center of an active galaxy, astronomers using the Very Large Telescope Interferometer in Chile made a surprising discovery: Dust is being propelled into space in a ring-shaped disk, possibly by intense radiation released by the black hole and its hot surroundings.
Using data gathered by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission, scientists believe they have solved a mystery from one of the solar system’s coldest regions—a permanently shadowed crater on the moon. They have explained how energetic particles penetrating lunar soil can create molecular hydrogen from water ice. The finding provides insight into how radiation can change the chemistry of water ice throughout the solar system.
Astronomers using the Swiss 1.2-m Euler telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile have found a new type of variable star. The discovery was based on the detection of very tiny changes in brightness of stars in a cluster. The observations revealed previously unknown properties of these stars that defy current theories and raise questions about the origin of the variations.
Most of the matter in the universe may be made out of particles that possess an unusual, donut-shaped electromagnetic field called an anapole. This proposal, which endows dark matter particles with a rare form of electromagnetism, has been strengthened by a detailed analysis performed by a pair of theoretical physicists at Vanderbilt University.
Pebbles and sand scattered near an ancient Martian river network may present the most convincing evidence yet that the frigid deserts of the Red Planet were once a habitable environment traversed by flowing water. Scientists with NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission reported on May 30, 2013, the discovery of sand grains and small stones that bear the telltale roundness of river stones and are too heavy to have been moved by wind.
Early Earth was not very hospitable when it came to jump starting life. In fact, new research shows that life on Earth may have come from out of this world. A team of scientists found that icy comets that crashed into Earth millions of years ago could have produced life building organic compounds, including the building blocks of proteins and nucleobases pairs of DNA and RNA.
A bright dwarf galaxy relatively close to Earth’s Milky Way and trailing fireballs is the first clear example of a galaxy in the act of dying, scientists argue in new research. The work gives a known galaxy new status and offers the potential for better understanding of the mysterious origin of dwarf elliptical galaxies, a subspecies of the universe’s most common type of galaxy.
One of the densest objects in the universe, a neutron star about 10,000 light years from Earth, has been discovered suddenly putting the brakes on its spinning speed. The event is a mystery that holds important clues for understanding how matter reacts when it is squeezed more tightly than the density of an atomic nucleus—a state that no laboratory on Earth has achieved.
Researchers at the University of Southampton have taken a significant step in a project to unravel the secrets of the structure of our universe. A recently published paper by the team makes connections between negatively curved space-time and flat space-time.
When a solar flare filled with charged particles erupts from the sun, its magnetic fields sometimes break a widely accepted rule of physics. The flux-freezing theorem dictates that the magnetic lines of force should flow away in lock-step with the particles, whole and unbroken. Instead, the lines sometimes break apart and quickly reconnect in a way that has mystified astrophysicists.
Now that it looks like the hunt for the Higgs boson is over, particles of dark matter are at the top of the physics "Most Wanted" list. Dozens of experiments have been searching for them, but often come up with contradictory results. Theorists from the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology believe they've come up with an algorithm that could help narrow the search for these elusive particles.
A massive telescope buried in the Antarctic ice has detected 28 extremely high-energy neutrinos—elementary particles that likely originate outside our solar system. Two of these neutrinos had energies many thousands of times higher than the highest-energy neutrino that any man-made particle accelerator has ever produced, according to a team of IceCube Neutrino Observatory researchers. The estimate is greater than 1 peta-electron volt.
The massive ball of iron sitting at the center of Earth is not quite as "rock-solid" as has been thought, say two Stanford University mineral physicists. By conducting experiments that simulate the immense pressures deep in the planet's interior, the researchers determined that iron in Earth's inner core is only about 40% as strong as previous studies estimated.
The planets Uranus and Neptune are home to extreme winds blowing at speeds of over 1,000 km/hour, hurricane-like storms as large around as Earth, immense weather systems that last for years, and fast-flowing jet streams. Researchers using a new method for analyzing the gravitational field of these planets have determined an upper limit for the thickness of the atmospheric layer, which limits the depth of stormy weather.
Detecting alien worlds presents a significant challenge since they are small, faint, and close to their stars. The two most prolific techniques for finding exoplanets are radial velocity and transits. A team at Tel Aviv University and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has just discovered an exoplanet using a new method that relies on Einstein's special theory of relativity.