Research of drifting stars provides insight on how planets form
A star drifting away from it's original place.The star's name is Horologii and it belongs to the Horologium ( aka. The Clock) constellation. It is also considered to be a part of the Hyades stream, a large group of stars that move together in the same direction. (Hyades is well-known because it can be seen by naked eye. The first recordings of this cluster date back to the ancient Greek civilization.) Previous studies of Horologii have shown that it has a planet, roughly 2 times the size of Jupiter, orbiting around it. None of the researchers were able to discover something about the origin of this jasminelive star, though. The first ones to examine the star were a team of astronomers, whose leader was Sylvie Vauclair from the University of Toulouse. They used an interesting method in their study. The Hyades is a naked-eye open cluster in the constellation of Taurus.
Do you know how geologists examine our planet by listening to the subtle seismic waves? Well, apparently the same method can be applied to stars. By listening to the sound waves that stars emit, scientists are able to find out more about their inner structure. This innovative method was called 'asteroseismology', and proved to be quite useful. If you're interested, here's what they found out about the star:
- average temperature 6150 degrees Kelvin (5877 Celsius).
- mass 1.25 times that of our Sun.
- age over 625 million years.
The star is thought to have formed withing the Hyades cluster, but it drifter away over time. Currently it's located around 130 light-years from it's original place. This new information can provide useful insight on how do galaxies ,and especially Milky way, have formed.
A huge cosmic explosion photograpthed by Hubble telescope
Drawing of a massive star collapsing to form a black hole. Energy released as jets along the axis of rotation forms a gamma ray burst that lasts from a few milliseconds to minutes. Such an event within several thousand light years of Earth could disrupt the biosphere by wiping out half of the ozone layer, creating nitrogen dioxide and potentially cause a mass extinction.
An extraordinary thing happened recently. On April 7, our good Jasmin live friend, the Hubble space telescope, photographed an intense light. Apparently, this light was the fading part of an extremely powerful gamma ray burst. It could be seen by naked eye. In fact, it broke and now holds the record for the brightest object that could be seen without any kind of telescope. The light and radiation were noticed on March 17 and scientists say that for a moment, the object was as bright as 10 million galaxies. They also hoped to find out what galaxy the ray originated from, but could not do this as the ray was still very bright.
However, as I said earlier, the photos were taken on April 7 and that means that the ray has been shining for 3 weeks. What could have caused such a powerful phenomenon? Scientist believe that the ray emitted from a dying star that was at least 50 times bigger than our Sun. I don't know if the ray emitted radiation, but i guess that it wouldn't be exactly healthy for astronauts hit by it. Even if we make protection against conventional cosmic rays, an occasional very strong one or something we couldn't think of could badly damage people in space. But exploring has always been a dangerous business, be that exploring the new Jasminlive world or space.
NASA plans new trip to the Moon
A space shuttle will be sent to collect surface dust samples. NASA plans on returning people back to the moon pretty soon. That's why they need to examine the potential threats that the astronauts may face on it's harsh surface. This is where the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer mission (codenamed LADEE) comes in. It's purpose is to gather information on Moon's surface dust and the impact Moon's environment has on it. With this information, scientists hope to discover potential threats that future lunar explorers may face and, hopefully, countermeasures to them.
The LADEE mission will be carried out by cooperative effort of NASA's Ames Research Center, Goddard Space Flight Center and Marshall Space Flight Center. The price of the space shuttle is thought to reach 80 million USD. Another livejasmin project, Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) is also underway. It's goal is to measure moon's gravitational force at ultra-high precision. Since both projects are concentrated towards lunar exploration, initiators want to launch them both in one Delta II rocket. The space shuttles will separate in space: GRAIL will orbit around the moon, measuring it's gravitation, while LADEE, after a 4-month trip and a 1-month checkout phase, will perform scientific operations for 100 days.
Another project, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) is also planned to launch later this year. So, NASA is again interested in sending people back to the moon, to check if aliens haven't stolen the US flag. But if they did it nearly 40 years ago, why can't they just do it now? I am aware that several Apollo projects failed miserably, so was Apollo 11 just blind luck? At any rate, reaching other planets is kind of enlightening. Even the soviet union, USA's largest nemesis congratulated them on reaching the moon back in the Cold War era. It just goes to show you, there is a higher purpose of the human race, dominating over all petty conflicts we have with each other. The only problem is that we don't quite know what it is.
Supergreenhouse effect can be caused due to a lack of clouds
Earth has experienced high temperature long ago. Hundreds of millions of years ago, to be exact, during the Cretaceous and Eocene periods. If you've heard this for the first time, the Cretaceous period started ~ 145.5 millions of years ago and lasted for 75 millions of years. Dinosaurs still walked the land, but modern animals and flowers started appearing. Carbon dioxide levels were close to the ones we see today. The Eocene period started 55.8 millions of years ago and lasted for 18 millions of years. Modern animals started replacing dinosaurs. At the end of the period, the weather started cooling. That's a brief summary, but i can not explain it as well as the wikipedia article on the Geologic time scale can, so if you're interested about the subject, read more there. So, there were no humans back then, the fauna we see today was just forming, so carbon dioxide could not have been the cause. So what was it?
Clouds! They've been with us all the time, covering us from sun's rays. Various factors have been tweaked while trying to simulate the pre-human super greenhouse effect: carbon dioxide, methane gas, ocean current changes, but nothing produced the required results on the models. Researchers Kump and David Pollard tried changing the so-called albedo (the amount of sunlight reflected back into space), by reducing Earth's cloud coverage. And guess what? The results were just as needed!
The researchers have an explanation for why the cloud coverage was lower back then. Apparently, changes in the the production of cloud condensation nucleus ( the particles around which water vapour condensates into rain drops) decreased the overall cloud coverage, reflecting less sunlight and allowing more to reach the earth, thus increasing the temperature. Normally, clouds reflect 30$ of sun's rays back to space. With less cloud coverage, the amount of sunlight reaching the earth is believed to have increased by 6-10%. Today, human-made aerosols and gasses serve as cloud condensation nuclei, but in the pre-human period, there were no such things. Natural gasses were the only one's that can serve as clouds' condensation nuclei, and they were correlated with the oceans. Algae are dependant on water upwelling, but the Cretaceous period is known to have had little of it, so less productivity of algae meant less natural gasses above the oceans. Less gasses - less cloud condensation nuclei, so it all eventually led to cloud insufficiency. Thus the warming started.
It may be a bit too much to swallow for non-paleoclimatologists (people who specialise in researching the weather conditions during various periods of Earth's history), but it's quite comprehensible if you give it more thought. Besides, now on a cloudy day you won't think "MOAR SUN", but "Thank you, Mr. Cloud, because of you, I won't get skin cancer".
NASA captures high-quality photos of Mars' moon Phobos
High-Quality pictures of Phobos show Stickney crater. On march 23, the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE)on a NASA's space shuttle took 2 high quality photos of Mars' larger moon Phobos, famous for it's Stickney crater. These are not the first pictures of Phobos, however. Previously, the Mars Global Surveyor has taken higher resolution images of the moon, because it managed to get closer to it.
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter flew at about 4,800 km/h, up to 316 kilometers above the surface of Mars. The first picture was taken when the distance between the space shuttle an Phobos was 6800 kilometers. The second picture was taken at a smaller distance - 5800 kilometers, meaning higher quality. By a series of tests and studying the pictures, scientists found out that the material around Stickney crater seems fresher than everything else on the moon. This may be caused by landslides.
To view the images in their full glory, go to NASA's website. A big thank you for all the guys working there for bringing us images of objects millions of miles away. Although traversing space hasn't been around for long, humanity certainly made astounding accomplishments.
Interesting information about Phobos
I could have ended the post there, but phobos really intrigued me, so i'll tell you more about it. Mars has two moons: Deimos and Phobos. Phobos is the inner moon, orbiting closer to Mars (9,377 km) than Deimos. The moon's surface is dotted by craters. One particular crater got my attention.
One imag reveals a huge crater in the top-left of the picture? That's the infamous Stickney crater, thought to have allmost cracked Phobos into several pieces. Just look at the proportions. The crater takes almost 1/4 of the moon. Looks like the Death Star from Star Wars. It reaches 9 kilometers in diameter, while the Arizona crater on Earth is only 1.2 kilometers.
The humongous crater is probably the only interesting thing about a dead moon that is more like an asteroid. Scientists, however, delve deeper into the newly-aquired material about the moon, hoping to learn more about it's origins. Well, that's their job, and good luck to them!
A small-scale nuclear war can have devastating after-effects
A nuclear bomb here and there can't do much harm, can it? With all the cold war nuclear weapon testings done by both superpowers (USSR and USA) we are led to believe so. I mean, the soviets developed a 100 megaton nuclear weapon, named Tsar Bomb. Due to it's extraordinary power, it was reduced to 50 megatons, and still was 10 times stronger than all of the explosives used in WW2 combined. The mushroom cloud upon detonation reached a height of 60 kilometers and the blast force could be felt all the way to Finland, even braking some windows there. You can read more about Tsar Bomb in the wikipedia article So if that beast didn't tear Earth apart, what will?
Ground zero of the explosion
There's a budding conflict between India and Pakistan. Both countries have an estimate of 50 nuclear weapons, similar in power to the Hiroshima bomb back in WW2. Researchers have chosen that scenario for testing. Michael Mills and his colleagues of the University of Colorado at Boulder, used computer models to estimate the amount of damage that would be done globally. The results suggested a world-wide cataclysm. Firstly, due to the large population of India, hundreds of millions of people would starve because of the ruined agriculture. Then, of course, there are the blast victims, those fallen ill to radiation, and those who will in the many years to come.
So what about the rest of the world? No, we won't be safe. The burning rubber, plastic and other chemical products would emit clouds of black soot up to 80 kilometers into the skies. This would greatly damage the ozone layer all around the world, especially in the polar regions. The ozone layer protects us from the many dangerous rays, particularly ultraviolet, incoming from space. With the ozone layer diminished, more rays would reach us, increasing the damage done to human DNA by 213 percent. The ozone layer would return to it's normal state only in 5-10 years.
The research showed how a small-scaled conflict can affect the whole world. We can sleep easily on that, though. If such great powers USA and the Soviet Union didn't nuke each other 40 years ago, there is almost no chance that will happen in much weaker countries. But, who knows. Time changes everything.
Can global warming be stopped?
Too late to stop the greenhouse effect? Scientists are certain that the warming climate we are experiencing globally is mainly caused by man-made carbon dioxide gases. Two other commonly known gases - methane and nitrous oxide - also play a role in the greenhouse effect, yet carbon dioxide is put above them because it's the main product of almost every man-made machine.
Several scientists performed an experiment at Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology to try and find out what would the carbon dioxide emissions have to be in order for the climate to stabilise and return to it's normal flow. A sophisticated computer program has been used to simulate the earth, taking into account the flow of heat between the atmosphere and oceans, carbon dioxide uptake by the flora and other factors.
So what results did the program produce? Well, they aren't shocking, but still quite startling to be honest. In order for the climate to return to it's former-self before the industrial age and beyond, we would have to completely get rid of carbon dioxide emissions - no gas power plants, no internal combustion engine cars, no airplanes, no nothing. And even then, the climate would stabilise only in 500 years! The scientists themselves think that we could decrease our carbon dioxide emissions considerably by, for instance, deploying wind turbines instead of gas-burning power plants. But what about the poorer countries? Ukraine still makes most of it's power in Nuclear Power Plants, which aren't exactly environmentally-friendly either.
So, it's a long shot, but with so much already thrown onto humanity, won't this be just an another obstacle in a long road?
What do birds and people have in common?
What you see above is a jackdaw, a relative of crows. Take a look at it's eyes and you'll see that, unlike other birds, it has a dark pupil surrounded by a white iris. However uncommon it is amongst birds, it is, in fact, how our eyes are made. Scientists believe that jackdaws are sensitive to human eye expressions, as they are an important means of communication between the birds themselves.
And researchers have the test results to prove it. The birds were presented with food. It took longer for the birds to get to their chow when the human was looking at it, instead of looking away. However, the birds only hesitated when the person observing them was unfamiliar, and thus a threat.
However similar they may seem, jackdaws are far from being like us. Further research proved that they do not respond to head movements and other bodily clues that we, humans, use in conversation with each other. The birds are unique, though, as even our closest relatives, chimpanzees, do not respond to eye movement as much as them.
The trip to Mars is going to be a tough one
The primitive man has wandered the forests and barrens on Earth in search of food and shelter ever since he acquired a simple stick to protect himself from bloodthirsty predators. When their lifestyle improved considerably, they started exploring not just for food, but to satisfy their curiosity, to gain more knowledge about the world that's surrounding them. After conquering Earth, man has set his sights on space.
The dangers of space
Outer space is a dangerous environment indeed. If your space suit is damaged, due to the severe pressure difference you can die in many different ways. Also, since there is nothing in space (vacuum), nothing offers any kind of ressistance. What i'm trying to say is, if you get pushed, even slightly, you can fly into the empty space for hours until your oxygen runs out or you die of cold. Of course, there are measures against simply flying away into oblivion, but still... it's kind of demoralising. Working in that kind of environment is hard. Physically too, you got to have a strong stomach.
What does this have to do with man flying to Mars? Well, here comes in the second menace. COSMIC RAYS. No, sadly, not lazers. Cosmic rays are energetic particles created during an event in space, such as a supernova. These particles travel through the emptyness of space like a knife through butter, even easier. We're all worried about the cellphone waves causing cancer and similar things. Well, we should be glad. Earth's atmosphere protects us from the infamous cosmic rays. Astronauts, however, are minimally protected. The strength of these rays depends on how much energy the event that made them created. A supernova would probably discharge more energy than two colliding meteors. These cosmic rays can cause some serious damage to the fragile human body.
So, we'll never live on other planets?
Not necessarily. Maybe man will invent better protection against the invisible menace. Inhabiting a planet with an atmosphere still remains possible. Getting to that planet is the hard part. The rays could cause some serious mutations in humans genes during the travel. Imagine a colony of deformed human monsters on mars. Fact or fiction? Hell knows.