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Astronomers put forward new theory on size of black holes

March 23, 2012 1:25 pm | News | Comments

Black holes grow by sucking in gas, which forms a disc around the hole and spirals in. But this usually happens too slowly to explain the great size of black holes at the center of many galaxies, including ours. A new theory compares these giants to a Wall of Death, in which two motorcycles—or gas discs—crash and both quickly fall into the hole.

Runaway planets zoom at a fraction of light speed

March 22, 2012 10:54 am | News | Comments

Seven years ago, astronomers boggled when they found the first runaway star flying out of our galaxy at a speed of 1.5 million mph. The discovery intrigued theorists, who wondered: If a star can get tossed outward at such an extreme velocity, could the same thing happen to planets? New research shows the answer is yes.

First geologic map of Io details otherworldly volcanic surface

March 21, 2012 10:16 am | News | Comments

Published by the U.S. Geological Survey, the first fully global geologic map of Jupiter’s moon Io technically illustrates the geologic character of some of the most unique and active volcanoes ever documented in the solar system.

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Looking at quantum gravity in a mirror

March 19, 2012 6:14 am | News | Comments

Einstein's theory of gravity and quantum physics are expected to merge at the Planck-scale of extremely high energies and on very short distances. At this scale, new phenomena could arise. However, the Planck-scale is so remote from current experimental capabilities that tests of quantum gravity are widely believed to be nearly impossible. Now, an international collaboration has proposed a new quantum experiment using Planck-mass mirrors.

Experiments may force revision of astrophysical models of the universe

March 15, 2012 10:31 am | News | Comments

In a challenge to current astrophysical models, researchers at Sandia National Laboratories and the University of Rostock in Germany have found that current calibrations of planetary interiors overstate water's compressibility by as much as 30%.

Neutron star upholds theories about its thermonuclear behavior

March 10, 2012 10:47 am | by Francis Reddy | News | Comments

In October 2010, a neutron star near the center of our galaxy erupted with hundreds of X-ray bursts that were powered by a barrage of thermonuclear explosions on the star's surface. NASA's Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer captured the month-long fusillade in high detail, identifying behavior not seen in the previous 100 neutron star observations in the past 30 years.

Nuclear clock may keep time with the universe

March 8, 2012 4:31 am | News | Comments

A proposed new time-keeping system tied to the orbiting of a neutron around an atomic nucleus could have such unprecedented accuracy that it neither gains nor loses 1/20th of a second in 14 billion years—the age of the universe.

Daya Bay unveils the last neutrino mixing angle

March 8, 2012 3:29 am | News | Comments

The Daya Bay Reactor Neutrino Experiment collaboration has announced a precise measurement of the last of the unsolved neutrino mixing angles, which determine how neutrinos oscillate among different types. The results promise new insight into why enough ordinary matter survived after the Big Bang to form everything visible in the universe.

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CERN experiment makes spectroscopic measurement of antihydrogen

March 7, 2012 8:17 am | News | Comments

The ALPHA collaboration at CERN has reported an important milestone on the way to measuring the properties of antimatter atoms. This follows news reported in June, 2011, that the collaboration had routinely trapped antihydrogen atoms for long periods of time.

Did the moon sink the Titanic?

March 6, 2012 4:15 am | by Jayme Blaschke, Texas State University | News | Comments

The sinking of the ocean liner Titanic 100 years ago is perhaps the most famous, and most studied, disaster of the 20th century. Countless books and movies have examine in great detail the actions, choices, and mistakes that led to the Titanic colliding with an iceberg the night of April 14, 1912, and sinking within hours. One question, however, has often been overlooked: Where did the killer iceberg come from, and could the moon have helped set the stage for disaster?

Oxygen detected in atmosphere of Saturn's moon Dione

March 5, 2012 3:40 am | News | Comments

Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists and an international research team have announced discovery of molecular oxygen ions in the upper-most atmosphere of Dione, one of the 62 known moons orbiting the ringed planet. The research was made possible by instruments aboard NASA's Cassini spacecraft, which was launched in 1997.

A model burster

March 2, 2012 3:30 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

For the first time, researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and elsewhere have detected all phases of thermonuclear burning in a neutron star. The star, located close to the center of the galaxy in the globular cluster Terzan 5, is a model burster, say the researchers.

Daya Bay antineutrino detectors exceed performance goals

March 1, 2012 5:57 am | News | Comments

After just three months of operation, the Daya Bay Reactor Neutrino Experiment has far surpassed expectations, recording tens of thousands of particle interactions and paving the way to a better understanding of neutrinos and why the universe is built of matter rather than antimatter.

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Antarctic soil sucks water from air: Could it happen on Mars?

February 29, 2012 7:21 am | News | Comments

The frigid McMurdo Dry Valleys in Antarctica are famously dry, yet the sandy soils there are frequently dotted with moist patches in the spring despite a lack of snowmelt and no possibility of rain. A new study has found that that the salty soils in the region actually suck moisture out of the atmosphere, raising the possibility that such a process could take place on Mars or on other planets.

Mysterious electron acceleration explained

February 27, 2012 2:48 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A mysterious phenomenon detected by space probes has finally been explained, thanks to a massive computer simulation that was able to precisely align with details of spacecraft observations. The finding could not only solve an astrophysical puzzle, but might also lead to a better ability to predict high-energy electron streams in space that could damage satellites.

Fastest wind from stellar-mass black hole discovered

February 22, 2012 11:25 am | News | Comments

The fastest wind ever discovered blowing off a disk around a stellar-mass black hole has been observed by a team of astronomers. Using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory they clocked the record-breaking super wind at about 20 million mph, or about 3% of the speed of light.

Moon images show crust pulling apart

February 21, 2012 11:48 am | News | Comments

In new images from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), researchers have found what they believe is evidence of a rift valley. Small, narrow trenches called graben have been discovered in high-resolution imagery that seems to show that despite the fact the Moon is shrinking, forces are still acting that can pull it apart as well.

Plasma study may unlock origin of solar flares

February 15, 2012 9:58 am | by Marcus Woo | News | Comments

Coronal mass ejections, also known as solar flares, erupt from the sun’s surface as the result of breaks in the star’s magnetic field. Even though the process of field lines breaking and merging with other lines—called magnetic reconnection—has such significant effects, a detailed picture of what precisely is going on has, until now, long eluded scientists.

Astronomers brace for data deluge

February 13, 2012 7:08 am | News | Comments

According to the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, the world’s most powerful telescope—the Square Kilometre Array—will produce on exabyte of data every day when it begins operation. Though still awaiting construction, scientists involved in SKA are already planning on how to deal with such a tremendous influx of information.

Putting the squeeze on planets outside our solar system

February 12, 2012 4:59 pm | by Anne M. Stark | News | Comments

In recent research using high-powered lasers, a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory-led team has discovered that just as graphite can transform into diamond under high pressure, liquid magmas may similarly undergo major transformations at the pressures and temperatures that exist deep inside Earth-like planets. The findings provide a potential blueprint for planet formation.

Astronomy team discovers nearby dwarf galaxy

February 8, 2012 9:53 am | News | Comments

A team led by University of California, Los Angeles research astronomer Michael Rich has used a unique telescope to discover a previously unknown companion to the nearby galaxy NGC 4449, which is some 12.5 million light years from Earth. The newly discovered dwarf galaxy had escaped even the prying eyes of the Hubble Space Telescope.

MoonKAM returns first video from the dark side of the moon

February 3, 2012 2:47 am | News | Comments

A camera aboard one of NASA's twin Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) lunar spacecraft has returned its first unique view of the far side of the moon. Thousands of fourth- to eighth-grade students will select target areas on the lunar surface and send requests to the GRAIL MoonKAM Mission Operations Center in San Diego. Photos of the target areas will be sent back by the satellites for students to study.

Scientists puzzled by region outside solar system

February 1, 2012 6:20 am | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

A glimpse beyond our solar system reveals the neighborhood just outside the sun's influence is different and stranger than expected, scientists reported Tuesday. One oddity is the amount of oxygen. According to observations, researchers say there are more oxygen atoms floating freely in the solar system than in the immediate interstellar space, or the vast region between stars.

Hot molecule explains cold chemistry

January 30, 2012 11:02 am | News | Comments

An outstanding mystery about cold interstellar gas clouds is that hydrogen cyanide and its far more energetic isomer, hydrogen isocyanide, are present in almost equal amounts. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Germany have figured why this is so by conducting experiments in an ion storage ring.

Space Weather Center to add world's first ‘ensemble forecasting' capability

January 30, 2012 4:15 am | by Lori Keesey | News | Comments

Coinciding with a peak in solar activity, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Space Weather Laboratory will soon simultaneously produce as many as 100 computerized forecasts by calculating multiple possible parameters, improving our ability to predict the impact of solar storms. Currently, just one set of conditions is used to anticipate solar-storm activity.

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