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Researchers explain magnetic field misbehavior in solar flares

May 23, 2013 8:39 am | News | Comments

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.

Theorists weigh in on where to hunt dark matter

May 22, 2013 11:26 am | News | Comments

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.

Record-breaking high-energy particles detected by telescope buried in Antarctic

May 17, 2013 12:26 pm | News | Comments

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.

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Study: Earth's iron core is surprisingly weak

May 17, 2013 10:54 am | News | Comments

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.

Weather on the outer planets only goes so deep

May 16, 2013 12:31 pm | News | Comments

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.

New method of finding planets scores first discovery

May 13, 2013 3:06 pm | News | Comments

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.

Moon, Earth have common water source

May 10, 2013 7:59 am | by Kevin Stacey, Brown University | News | Comments

Researchers used a multicollector ion microprobe to study hydrogen-deuterium ratios in lunar rock and on Earth. Their conclusion: The moon’s water did not come from comets but was already present on Earth 4.5 billion years ago, when a giant collision sent material from Earth to form the moon.

Telling time on Saturn

May 3, 2013 12:30 pm | News | Comments

A University of Iowa undergraduate student has discovered that a process occurring in Saturn’s magnetosphere is linked to the planet's seasons and changes with them, a finding that helps clarify the length of a Saturn day and could alter our understanding of the Earth’s magnetosphere.

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Observations of massive neutron star confirm relativity theory

May 1, 2013 12:01 pm | News | Comments

An international research team led by astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy used a collection of large radio and optical telescopes to investigate in detail a pulsar that weighs twice as much as the sun. This neutron star, the most massive known to date, has provided new insights into the emission of gravitational radiation and serves as an interstellar laboratory for general relativity in extreme conditions.

Scientists find way to monitor elusive collisions in space

April 24, 2013 9:10 am | News | Comments

Many collisions occur between asteroids and other objects in our solar system, but scientists are not always able to detect or track these impacts from Earth. Space scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles have now devised a way to monitor these types of collisions in interplanetary space by using a new method to determine the mass of magnetic clouds that result from the impacts.

Rare galaxy found furiously burning fuel for stars

April 24, 2013 9:02 am | News | Comments

Astronomers have found a galaxy turning gas into stars with almost 100% efficiency, a rare phase of galaxy evolution that is the most extreme yet observed. The findings come from the IRAM Plateau de Bure interferometer in the French Alps, NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, and NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

NASA sees distant planets that seem ideal for life

April 19, 2013 12:33 pm | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

The planet-hunting Kepler telescope has discovered two planets that seem like ideal places for some sort of life to flourish. According to scientists working with the NASA telescope, they are just the right size and in just the right place near their star. The discoveries, published online Thursday, mark a milestone in the search for planets where life could exist.

Astronomers discover massive star factory in early universe

April 18, 2013 7:53 am | by Marcus Woo, California Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Smaller begets bigger. Such is often the case for galaxies, at least: The first galaxies were small, then eventually merged together to form the behemoths we see in the present universe. Now, a  team of astronomers has discovered a dust-filled, massive galaxy churning out stars when the cosmos was a mere 880 million years old—making it the earliest starburst galaxy ever observed.

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Hawaii land board approves Thirty Meter Telescope

April 15, 2013 8:39 am | by Audrey McAvoy, Associated Press | News | Comments

A plan by California and Canadian universities to build the world's largest telescope at the summit of Hawaii's Mauna Kea volcano won approval from the state Board of Land and Natural Resources on Friday, clearing the way for a land lease negotiation. The telescope, with its proposed 30-m long segmented primary mirror, should help scientists see some 13 billion light years away.

Carbon’s role in atmosphere formation

April 9, 2013 4:53 am | News | Comments

A new study from a collaboration of several universities suggests that the way carbon moves from within a planet to the surface plays a big role in the evolution of a planet's atmosphere. If Mars released much of its carbon as methane, for example, it might have been warm enough to support liquid water. This finding offers important clues about the early atmospheric evolution of Mars and other terrestrial bodies.

Supercomputer assists in crunching LHC data

April 5, 2013 9:42 am | News | Comments

Gordon, the unique supercomputer launched last year by the San Diego Supercomputer Center at the University of California, San Diego, recently completed its most data-intensive task so far: rapidly processing raw data from almost one billion particle collisions as part of a project to help define the future research agenda for the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

What is behind Einstein’s turbulence?

April 4, 2013 7:48 am | News | Comments

The American Nobel Prize Laureate for Physics Richard Feynman once described turbulence as “the most important unsolved problem of classical physics”, because a description of the phenomenon from first principles does not exist. This is still regarded as one of the six most important problems in mathematics today, but recent numerical calculations by experts in gravitational physics give an initial insight into the relativistic properties of this mysterious process

Shape from sound: New methods to probe the universe

April 3, 2013 6:11 pm | by Mor­gan Kelly, Office of Communications, Princeton University | News | Comments

As the uni­verse expands, it is con­tin­u­ally sub­jected to energy shifts, or “quan­tum fluc­tu­a­tions,” that send out lit­tle pulses of “sound” into the fab­ric of space­time. In fact, the uni­verse is thought to have sprung from just such an energy shift. A recent physics paper reports a new math­e­mat­i­cal tool that should allow one to use these sounds to help reveal the shape of the uni­verse.

NASA team investigates complex chemistry at Titan

April 3, 2013 6:06 pm | News | Comments

A laboratory experiment at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., simulating the atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan suggests complex organic chemistry that could eventually lead to the building blocks of life extends lower in the atmosphere than previously thought. The results now point out another region on the moon that could brew up prebiotic materials.

First data released from the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer

April 3, 2013 5:51 pm | News | Comments

Following up on Wednesday’s surprise announcement that a cosmic ray detector on board the International Space Station had possibly made the first instrumented detection of dark matter, an article from the U.S. Department of Energy describes the methodology behind the discovery and what lies ahead for researchers.

Scientists find hint of dark matter from cosmos

April 3, 2013 12:09 pm | News | Comments

An international team of scientists says the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer installed at the International Space Station has found the first hint of dark matter, which has never yet been directly observed. The team said Wednesday its first results from the cosmic ray detector, flown into space two years ago, show evidence of a new physics phenomena that could be the strange and unknown matter.

Puzzle of how spiral galaxies get their arms comes into focus

April 3, 2013 7:59 am | News | Comments

As the shapes of galaxies go, the spiral disk—with its characteristic pinwheel profile—is by far the most pedestrian. But despite their common morphology, how galaxies like ours get and maintain their characteristic arms has proved to be an enduring puzzle in astrophysics. How do the arms of spiral galaxies arise? Do they change or come and go over time? The answers to these and other questions are now coming into focus as researchers capitalize on powerful new computer simulations to follow the motions of as many as 100 million “stellar particles” as gravity and other astrophysical forces sculpt them into familiar galactic shapes.

Study provides evidence ancient asteroid caused global firestorm on Earth

March 28, 2013 7:48 am | News | Comments

A new look at conditions after a Manhattan-sized asteroid slammed into a region of Mexico in the dinosaur days indicates the event could have triggered a global firestorm that would have burned every twig, bush, and tree on Earth and led to the extinction of 80% of all Earth’s species, says a new University of Colorado Boulder study.

Measuring the magnetism of antimatter

March 25, 2013 3:28 pm | News | Comments

In a breakthrough that could one day yield important clues about the nature of matter itself, a team of Harvard University scientists have made a major leap in measuring the magnetic charge of single particles of matter and antimatter. By precisely measuring the oscillations of each particle, the team was able to measure the magnetism of a proton more than 1,000 times more accurately than an antiproton had been measured before.

Universe ages 80M years; Big Bang gets clearer

March 21, 2013 9:09 am | by Lori Hinnant and Seth Borenstein, Associated Press | News | Comments

The Big Bang theory says the visible portion of the universe was smaller than an atom when, in a split second, it exploded, cooled and expanded rapidly, much faster than the speed of light. The European Space Agency's Planck space probe has looked back at the afterglow of the Big Bang, and results released today have now added about 80 million years to the universe's age, putting it 13.81 billion years old.

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