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Sun's Core is Spinning Four Times Faster Than its Surface

08/02/2017 11:40AM

Sun's Core is Spinning Four Times Faster Than its Surface

The Sun's core spins nearly four times faster than the Sun's surface according to new findings by an international team of astronomers. Scientists had originally assumed that the Sun was spinning like a merry-go-round with the core rotating at about the same speed as the surface. The researchers studied surface acoustic waves in the Sun's atmosphere, some of which penetrate to the Sun's core, where they interact with gravity waves that have a sloshing motion similar to how water would move in a half-filled tanker truck driving on a curvy mountain road. After the Sun formed, the Solar wind likely slowed the rotation of the outer part of the Sun. It is hoped that eventually, a better understanding of the rotation of the Solar core may give a clue to how the Sun formed.

Countdown to the Great American Solar Eclipse -- One Month from Today

07/21/2017 09:28AM

Countdown to the Great American Solar Eclipse -- One Month from Today

So, what will you be doing during the Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017? Observing? Photographing? Throwing a Great American Eclipse party in your backyard? In past total solar eclipses, people have spent thousands of dollars on extravagant trips and cruises to remote parts of the world to cross this experience off of their "bucket lists." This year, you will be able to walk outside and see one for yourself from the comfort of your home (weather permitting). On August 21, 2017, most of the nation will only see a partial eclipse, but if you are one of the lucky millions along the path of totality, you will experience about two minutes of mid-day darkness as the black shadow of the Moon races across the nation at about 2000 mph.

NASA's Juno Completes Close Flyby of Jupiter's Great Red Spot

07/18/2017 01:39PM

NASA's Juno Completes Close Flyby of Jupiter's Great Red Spot

NASA's Juno mission completed a close flyby of Jupiter and its Great Red Spot on July 10, 2017, during its sixth science orbit. Just days after celebrating its first anniversary in Jupiter orbit, the Juno spacecraft flew directly over the planet's Great Red Spot, the gas giant's iconic, 10,000 mile wide (16,000 kilometer wide) storm. This was humanity's first up-close view of the gigantic feature -- a storm monitored by astronomers since 1830, and possibly existing for centuries before that.

Quantum Teleportation -- Not Quite Star Trek... But It is a Start

07/15/2017 11:49AM

Quantum Teleportation -- Not Quite Star Trek... But It is a Start

Quantum teleportation has become a standard operation in quantum optics labs around the world. The technique relies on the strange phenomenon of quantum entanglement. This occurs when two quantum objects, such as photons, form at the same instant in time and the in same location in space, and so share the same existence. In technical terms, they are described by the same wave function. According to a report in MIT Technology Review, researchers in China have teleported a photon from the ground to a satellite orbiting more than 500 kilometers above. It may not yet be the same as Star Trek, but it is a start.

In the Beginning, Nothing... Then God Said "Let There Be Noise" -- An Introduction to Acoustic Cosmology

07/07/2017 10:57AM

In the Beginning, Nothing... Then God Said "Let There Be Noise" -- An Introduction to Acoustic Cosmology

Is there a musical equivalent to the curvature of space-time? Gavin Starks thinks so. Yesterday he presented his findings at the Royal Astronomical Society's National Astronomy Meeting held at the University of Hull in the UK. Starks, who has a background in radio astronomy and electronic music, has been working on "Acoustic Cosmology" for more than 20 years in collaboration with Professor Andy Newsam of Liverpool John Moores University in the UK. Their aim is to test whether mathematical relationships that describe cosmology and quantum mechanics can be applied to a Sonic Universe, or "Soniverse."

Strange Bacterial Life Forms Emerged Less Than 800 Million Years After Earth's Formation

06/27/2017 10:21AM

Strange Bacterial Life Forms Emerged Less Than 800 Million Years After Earth's Formation

Remains of microorganisms at least 3.77 billion years old have been discovered by an international team led by University College London scientists, providing direct evidence of one of the oldest life forms on Earth. Tiny filaments and tubes formed by bacteria that lived on iron were found encased in quartz layers in Quebec, Canada, where some of the oldest sedimentary rocks known on Earth exist. These rocks likely formed part of an iron-rich deep sea hydro-thermal vent system that provided a habitat for Earth's first life forms between 3.77 and 4.30 billion years ago. Earth was formed 4.54 billion years ago, so it appears that life on Earth emerged rather early in its history.

Scientists Solve the Mystery of Unexplained "Bright Nights"

06/21/2017 07:42PM

Scientists Solve the Mystery of Unexplained "Bright Nights"

Dating back to the first century AD, scientists, philosophers, and other observers have noted the occasional occurrence of "Bright Nights," when an unexplained glow in the night sky lets observers see distant mountains, read newspapers, or check their watches. Few, if any, people observe Bright Nights anymore due to widespread light pollution, but new findings show that they can be detected by scientists and may still be noticeable in remote areas. The new study suggests that waves in the upper atmosphere converge over specific locations on Earth and amplify naturally occurring airglow -- a faint light in the night sky that often appears green due to the activities of atoms of oxygen in the high atmosphere. Normally, people don't notice airglow, but on Bright Nights it can become visible to the naked eye, producing the unexplained glow detailed in historical observations.

New Evidence Suggests that ALL Sun-like Stars are Born as Binaries

06/16/2017 01:39PM

New Evidence Suggests that ALL Sun-like Stars are Born as Binaries

Did our Sun have a twin when it was born 4.5 billion years ago? Almost certainly yes -- though not an identical twin... And so did every other Sun-like star in the Universe, according to a new study. Many stars have gravitationally bound companions, including our nearest neighbor, Alpha Centauri, a triplet system. Astronomers have long sought an explanation -- Are binary and triplet star systems born that way? Did one star capture the other? Do binary stars sometimes split up and become single stars? The new study, based on a radio survey of a giant molecular cloud in the constellation Perseus and a mathematical model that can explain the Perseus observations only if all Sun-like stars are born with a companion, suggest that Yes -- all Sun-like stars in the Universe start life as binaries.

If the Universe is Structured Like a Block of Swiss Cheese, Then We Live Inside One of the Holes

06/12/2017 05:28PM

If the Universe is Structured Like a Block of Swiss Cheese, Then We Live Inside One of the Holes

A University of Wisconsin analysis has shown that our galaxy resides in an enormous void -- a region of space containing far fewer galaxies, stars, and planets than expected. This idea that we exist in one of the holes of the Swiss cheese structure of the cosmos helps explain inconsistencies in the measurement of the Hubble Constant, the unit that cosmologists use to describe the rate at which the universe is expanding. No matter what technique one uses, we should get the same value for the expansion rate of the universe, but we don't. The reason is that the void has far more matter outside, which exerts a larger gravitational pull towards the inside "wall" of the void. This affects the Hubble Constant value as measured from a technique that uses supernovae, while it has no effect on the value derived from a technique that uses the Cosmic Microwave Background.

Homo Sapiens Emerged 100,000 Years Earlier Than Previously Thought

06/08/2017 06:54PM

Homo Sapiens Emerged 100,000 Years Earlier Than Previously Thought

Researchers have uncovered 300,000 year old fossil bones of Homo Sapiens in Jebel Irhoud, Morocco -- a find that represents the oldest reliably dated fossil evidence of our species. The find is 100,000 years older than any other previously discovered Homo Sapiens fossils. Amazingly, the facial shape of the skulls is almost indistinguishable from that of modern humans living today. Previously, the oldest Homo Sapiens fossils were discovered at two sites in Ethiopia, dating 195,000 and 160,000 years old. Consequently, many researchers believed that all humans living today descended from the population that lived in East Africa around 200,000 years ago. But this new find suggests that early Homo Sapiens spread across the entire African continent and long before the out-of-Africa dispersal of Homo Sapiens began, there was dispersal within the African continent.

NASA's Juno Reveals an Amazing Side of Jupiter You've Never Seen

06/03/2017 10:30AM

NASA's Juno Reveals an Amazing Side of Jupiter You've Never Seen

NASA's Juno mission to Jupiter is the second spacecraft designed under its New Frontiers Program. The first was the New Horizons mission to Pluto, which flew by the small planet in July 2015 after a nine and a half year flight. Early science results from NASA's Juno mission to Jupiter portray the largest planet in our Solar System as a complex, gigantic, turbulent world, with Earth-sized polar cyclones, plunging storm systems that travel deep into the heart of the gas giant, and a mammoth, lumpy magnetic field. With its suite of science instruments, Juno will investigate the possible existence of a solid planetary core, map Jupiter's intense magnetic field, measure the amount of water and ammonia in the deep atmosphere, and observe the planet's auroras.

Large Hadron Collider Kicks Off the 2017 Season

05/30/2017 08:03PM

Large Hadron Collider Kicks Off the 2017 Season

Physicists at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) have just kicked off the 2017 season. We left Season 2 with LHC providing collisions at the unprecedented energy of 13 TeV (Tera Electron Volts), almost double the collision energy of its Season 1 run that led to the discovery of the Higgs Boson. Operations for the new season are now re-starting with just a few proton bunches per beam, but the operators who control the most powerful collider in the world will soon increase the number of proton bunches and will also more tightly focus the size of the beams at the interaction points. In a few weeks, over a billion collisions will be produced every second at the heart of the experiments. In this new season, the LHC physicists plan to continue improving their knowledge of known phenomena while also probing the unknown.

Hypernova SN 2015L is the Brightest and Most Powerful Ever Seen

05/23/2017 05:30PM

Hypernova SN 2015L is the Brightest and Most Powerful Ever Seen

Records are made to be broken, as the expression goes, but rarely are records left so thoroughly in the dust. In 2015, stunned astronomers witnessed a cosmic explosion about 200 times more powerful than a typical Supernova event. At its peak intensity, SN 2015L exhibited 570 billion times the luminosity of the Sun. If that statistic does not impress, consider that this luminosity level is approximately 20 times the entire output of the 100 billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy. This record breaking blast is thought to be an example of a Superluminous Supernova (or Hypernova), a recently discovered and supremely rare variety of explosion unleashed by certain stars when they die. Scientists are frankly at a loss to explain what sorts of stellar scenarios might be responsible for these types of extreme events.

115th Anniversary of the Discovery of the Antikythera Mechanism

05/17/2017 04:02PM

115th Anniversary of the Discovery of the Antikythera Mechanism

In 1900, an extraordinary mechanism was found by Greek sponge divers at the bottom of the sea near the island of Antikythera, situated between Crete and mainland Greece. Two years later, on May 17, 1902, Greek archaeologist Valerios Stais, discovered that this corroded chunk of metal pulled from the water was a rather fascinating technological artifact. It turned out to be part of the Antikythera Mechanism -- an ancient analog astronomical computer. For many decades, scientific investigation failed to yield much progress. However, research over the last 50 years has begun to reveal its secrets. The machine dates from around the end of the Second Century BC, and is the most sophisticated mechanism known from the ancient world. Nothing as complex was to be created by human hands for at least the next 1000 years.

So, Is a Brown Dwarf a Star... Or a Planet?

05/10/2017 07:57PM

So, Is a Brown Dwarf a Star... Or a Planet?

Smaller than stars, but bigger than giant planets, brown dwarfs are too small to sustain the hydrogen fusion process that fuels stars and allows them to remain hot and bright for a long period of time. So after formation, brown dwarfs slowly cool down and contract over time. The contraction usually ends after a few hundred million years, although the cooling is continuous. But sometimes, what is thought to be a brown dwarf is actually a planet -- or at least planet-like. A team at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington DC has discovered that what astronomers had previously thought was one of the closest brown dwarfs to our own Sun is in reality a Planetary Mass Object.