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(Astronomy) Universe: Supernovas Shed Light on Dark Energy
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2007 1:37 pm    Post subject: Trickle of Planet Discoveries Becomes a Flood Reply with quote

Trickle of Planet Discoveries Becomes a Flood
By Jeanna Bryner, Staff Writer

posted: 11 June 2007 07:10 am ET

Alien worlds, once hidden from knowledge, are now being discovered in droves, stunning astronomers with their unique features and sheer numbers. The discoveries are so common that more and more don't even get reported outside scientific circles.


Take the announcement at the end of May of a massive planet, dubbed TrES-3, that zips around its star in an amazingly rapid 31 hours, giving the planet a 1.3-day year. Astronomers issued a press release, but you might not have heard about it because the discovery was so overshadowed by other planet announcements and barely received news coverage.


"It's pretty routine now," said Alan Boss, a planet formation theorist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington. "Most planets that are found are not deemed worthy of a press release because they are sort of becoming 'one more planet.'"


The total is now more than 200 extrasolar planets confirmed. And this is the tip of the iceberg in planet finds. Astronomers have more tools than ever, and technology is so advanced that planet discovery has become almost mundane.

For the full article:

http://www.livescience.com/spa.....gates.html
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2007 9:15 am    Post subject: Scientists ponder plant life on extrasolar Earthlike planets Reply with quote

Scientists ponder plant life on extrasolar Earthlike planets

By Tony Fitzpatrick


June 14, 2007 -- When we think of extrasolar Earth-like planets, the first tendency is to imagine weird creatures like Jar Jar Binks, Chewbacca, and, if those are not bizarre enough, maybe even the pointy-eared Vulcan, Spock, of Star Trek fame.

But scientists seeking clues to life on extrasolar planets are studying various biosignatures found in the light spectrum leaking out to Earth to speculate on something more basic and essential than the musical expertise of Droopy McCool. They are speculating on what kind of photosynthesis might occur on such planets and what the extrasolar plants might look like.

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http://news-info.wustl.edu/tip...../9522.html
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 02, 2007 7:10 am    Post subject: Glimpse of Time Before Big Bang Possible Reply with quote

Glimpse of Time Before Big Bang Possible
By Charles Q. Choi, Special to LiveScience

posted: 01 July 2007 01:15 pm ET

It may be possible to glimpse before the supposed beginning of time into the universe prior to the Big Bang, researchers now say.

Unfortunately, any such picture will always be fuzzy at best due to a kind of "cosmic forgetfulness."

The Big Bang is often thought as the start of everything, including time, making any questions about what happened during it or beforehand nonsensical. Recently scientists have instead suggested the Big Bang might have just been the explosive beginning of the current era of the universe, hinting at a mysterious past.

To see how far into history one might gaze, theoretical physicist Martin Bojowald at Pennsylvania State University ran calculations based on loop quantum gravity, one of a number of competing theories seeking to explain how the underlying structure of the universe works.

Past research suggested the Big Bang was preceded by infinite energies and space-time warping where existing scientific theories break down, making it impossible to peer beforehand. The new findings suggest that although the levels of energy and space-time warping before the Big Bang were both incredibly high, they were finite.

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http://www.livescience.com/spa....._bang.html
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2007 8:09 am    Post subject: Astronomers Find Farthest Known Galaxies Reply with quote

Astronomers Find Farthest Known Galaxies
By Robert Roy Britt, Senior Science Writer

posted: 10 July 2007 12:20 pm ET

Astronomers have found evidence for the most distant galaxies ever detected.

The galaxies are seen as they existed just 500 million years after the birth of the universe. Their light, traversing the cosmos for more than 13 billion years, was seen only because it was distorted in a natural "gravitational lens" created by the gravity-bending mass of a nearer cluster of galaxies.

"Gravitational lensing is the magnification of distant sources by foreground structures," explained Caltech astronomer Richard Ellis, who led the international team. "By looking through carefully selected clusters, we have located six star-forming galaxies seen at unprecedented distances, corresponding to a time when the universe was only 500 million years old, or less than 4 percent of its present age."

The universe is estimated to be 13.7 billion years old, so that puts the newfound galaxies at 13.2 billion light-years away. A light-year is the distance light travels in a year, about 6 trillion miles (10 trillion kilometers).

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http://www.livescience.com/spa.....axies.html
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 14, 2007 7:56 am    Post subject: Welcome to GalaxyZoo Reply with quote

Welcome to GalaxyZoo , the project which harnesses the power of the internet - and your brain - to classify a million galaxies. By taking part, you'll not only be contributing to scientific research, but you'll view parts of the Universe that literally no-one has ever seen before and get a sense of the glorious diversity of galaxies that pepper the sky.

Why do we need you?
The simple answer is that the human brain is much better at recognising patterns than a computer can ever be. Any computer program we write to sort our galaxies into categories would do a reasonable job, but it would also inevitably throw out the unusual, the weird and the wonderful. To rescue these interesting systems which have a story to tell, we need you.

The website:

http://www.galaxyzoo.org/

GZ is now live! Go ahead and sign up to start classifying galaxies right away.
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 18, 2007 10:46 am    Post subject: X-ray satellites discover the biggest collisions in the Univ Reply with quote

X-ray satellites discover the biggest collisions in the Universe


18 July 2007
ESA

The orbiting X-ray telescopes XXM-Newton and Chandra have caught a pair of galaxy clusters merging into a giant cluster. The discovery adds to existing evidence that galaxy clusters can collide faster than previously thought.

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http://www.esa.int/esaSC/SEMHOPNSP3F_index_0.html
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 19, 2007 8:47 am    Post subject: Biggest Cosmic Collisions Occur Faster Than Expected Reply with quote

Biggest Cosmic Collisions Occur Faster Than Expected
By Ker Than, Staff Writer

posted: 18 July 2007 11:48 am ET

Two galaxy clusters have been spotted colliding at what was previously thought to be impossibly high speeds.

Astronomers estimate that the galaxy cluster collision known as Abell 576 involves two clusters-each containing hundreds of galaxies-crashing into one another at over 7 million miles per hour (3,300 km/s).

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http://www.livescience.com/spa.....llide.html
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 24, 2007 4:04 pm    Post subject: Black Holes Devour Matter Like Piranhas Reply with quote

Black Holes Devour Matter Like Piranhas
By Ker Than, Staff Writer

posted: 24 July 2007 01:09 pm ET

Like gluttonous piranhas, supermassive black holes in young galaxy clusters gorge on bountiful gas until little fuel is left, and then they fade away, a new study suggests.

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http://www.livescience.com/spa.....s_agn.html
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 30, 2007 2:20 pm    Post subject: Japanese and NASA Satellites Unveil New Type of Active Galax Reply with quote

Japanese and NASA Satellites Unveil New Type of Active Galaxy
NASA
07.30.07


An international team of astronomers using NASA’s Swift satellite and the Japanese/U.S. Suzaku X-ray observatory has discovered a new class of active galactic nuclei (AGN).

By now, you’d think that astronomers would have found all the different classes of AGN — extraordinarily energetic cores of galaxies powered by accreting supermassive black holes. AGN such as quasars, blazars, and Seyfert galaxies are among the most luminous objects in our Universe, often pouring out the energy of billions of stars from a region no larger than our solar system.

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http://www.nasa.gov/centers/go.....alaxy.html
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 06, 2007 11:34 am    Post subject: Largest Known Exoplanet Discovered Reply with quote

Largest Known Exoplanet Discovered
By Ker Than, Staff Writer

posted: 06 August 2007 12:00 pm ET

The largest planet ever discovered is also one of the strangest and theoretically should not even exist, scientists say.

Dubbed TrES-4, the planet is about 1.7 times the size of Jupiter and belongs to a small subclass of "puffy" planets that have extremely low densities. The finding will be detailed in an upcoming issue of Astrophysical Journal.

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http://www.livescience.com/spa.....lanet.html
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2007 9:41 am    Post subject: Monster galaxy pileup sighted Reply with quote

Yale University
6 August 2007

Monster galaxy pileup sighted

New Haven, Conn. — Four galaxies are slamming into each other and kicking up billions of stars in one of the largest cosmic smash-ups ever observed.

The clashing galaxies, spotted by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and the WIYN Telescope, will eventually merge into a single, behemoth galaxy up to 10 times as massive as our own Milky Way. This rare sighting provides an unprecedented look at how the most massive galaxies in the universe form.

“Most of the galaxy mergers we already knew about are like compact cars crashing together,” said Kenneth Rines of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Mass. “What we have here is like four sand trucks smashing together, flinging sand everywhere.” Rines, who was a Mead postdoctoral fellow at Yale from 2003-6 when much of this work was done, is lead author of a paper accepted for publication in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Collisions, or mergers, between galaxies are common in the universe. Gravity causes some galaxies that are close together to tangle and ultimately unite over a period of millions of years. Though stars in merging galaxies are tossed around like sand, they have a lot of space between them and survive the ride. Our Milky Way galaxy will team up with the Andromeda galaxy in five billion years.

Mergers between one big galaxy and several small ones, called minor mergers, are well documented. For example, one of the most elaborate known minor mergers is taking place in the Spiderweb galaxy – a massive galaxy that is catching dozens of small ones in its “web” of gravity. Astronomers have also witnessed “major” mergers among pairs of galaxies that are similar in size. But no major mergers between multiple hefty galaxies – the big rigs of the galaxy world – have been seen until now.

The new quadruple merger was discovered serendipitously during a survey of a distant cluster of galaxies, called CL0958+4702, located nearly five billion light-years away. The telescopes first spotted an unusually large fan-shaped plume of light coming out of a gathering of four blob-shaped, or elliptical, galaxies. Three of the galaxies are about the size of the Milky Way, while the fourth is three times as big.

“The colors from the WIYN and Spitzer data show that the stars are old, but the higher resolution WIYN images show that the light from the disrupted galaxy does not have small-scale structure but is instead smoothly distributed telling us that the galaxies involved in the merger are elliptical rather than spiral galaxies,” said Jeffrey Kenney, professor and chair of Astronomy at Yale.

According to Kenney, WIYN (named for it’s joint ownership by the University of Wisconsin, Indiana University, Yale University, and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory) is one of the best imaging telescopes in the world. “The sharpness of the WIYN images helps show that we are in fact seeing a merger, and what type of galaxies have merged.”

“The WIYN telescope provides some of the sharpest images possible from ground-based telescopes. The WIYN images show that the four galaxies have well-defined cores that have held together during the merger, much like egg yolks stay together longer than egg whites if you "merge" them in a mixing bowl,” said Rines.

Further analysis of the plume revealed that it is made up of billions of older stars flung out and abandoned in an ongoing clash. About half of the stars in the plume will later fall back into the galaxies. “When this merger is complete, this will be one of the biggest galaxies in the universe,” said Rines.

The Spitzer observations also show that the new merger lacks gas. Theorists predict that massive galaxies grow in a variety of ways, including gas-rich and gas-poor mergers. In gas-rich mergers, the galaxies are soaked with gas that ignites to form new stars. Gas-poor mergers lack gas, so no new stars are formed. Spitzer found only old stars in the quadruple encounter.

“The Spitzer data show that these major mergers are gas-poor, unlike most mergers we know about," said Rines. "The data also represent the best evidence that the biggest galaxies in the universe formed fairly recently through major mergers.”

Some of the stars tossed out in the monstrous merger will live in isolated areas outside the borders of any galaxies. Such abandoned stars could theoretically have planets. If so, the planets' night skies would be quite different from our own, with fewer stars and more visible galaxies.

In addition to Spitzer and WIYN, Rines and his team used a telescope formerly known as the Multiple Mirror Telescope and now called MMT near Tuscon, Ariz., to confirm that the four galaxies are intertwined, and NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory to weigh the mass of the giant cluster of galaxies in which the merger was discovered. Both Spitzer and WIYN, also near Tucson, Ariz., were used to study the plume.

###
Other authors of this paper include Rose Finn of Siena College, Loudonville, N.Y.; and Alexey Vikhlinin of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology, also in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA. Spitzer's infrared array camera was built by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. The instrument's principal investigator is Giovanni Fazio of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

For the Spitzer picture of the quadruple merger, an artist concept and more information, please visit: http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu/spitzer or http://www.nasa.gov/spitzer

Citation: Astrophysical Journal Letters 665:L9-L13, (August 10, 2007) online at http://www.journals.uchicago.e.....21830.html
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2007 3:15 pm    Post subject: Astronomers Spot Most Distant Bright Galaxies Reply with quote

Astronomers Spot Most Distant Bright Galaxies
By SPACE.com Staff

posted: 09 August 2007 03:18 pm ET

Extremely bright galaxies with accelerated star-birth activity have spotted lurking in the remote, young universe and are the most luminous and massive galaxies ever seen at that distance.

The galaxies, located 12 billion light-years away, existed when the universe was less than 2 billion years old.

It's currently a mystery how such large, bright galaxies managed to form so shortly after the Big Bang. Most galaxies observed from that time are small and dim.

For the full article:

http://www.livescience.com/spa.....axies.html
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2007 10:57 am    Post subject: Greatest Mysteries: How Did the Universe Begin? Reply with quote

Greatest Mysteries: How Did the Universe Begin?
By Ker Than, LiveScience Staff Writer

posted: 13 August 2007 08:30 am ET

How did the universe come to be?

It is perhaps the greatest Great Mystery, and the root of all the others. The rest of humanity's grand questions—How did life begin? What is consciousness? What is dark matter, dark energy, gravity?—stem from it.


For the full article:

http://www.livescience.com/str.....verse.html
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2007 7:55 am    Post subject: Greatest Mysteries: Where is the Rest of the Universe? Reply with quote

Greatest Mysteries: Where is the Rest of the Universe?
By Dave Mosher, LiveScience Staff Writer

posted: 20 August 2007 07:29 am ET

Scientists trying to create a detailed inventory of all the matter and energy in the cosmos run into a curious problem—the vast majority of it is missing.

"I call it the dark side of the universe," said Michael Turner, a cosmologist at the University of Chicago, referring to the great mysteries of dark matter and dark energy.

For the full article:

http://www.livescience.com/str.....orces.html
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 24, 2007 9:52 am    Post subject: Huge Hole Found in the Universe Reply with quote

Huge Hole Found in the Universe
By Robert Roy Britt, Senior Science Writer

posted: 23 August 2007 05:21 pm ET

The universe has a huge hole in it that dwarfs anything else of its kind. The discovery caught astronomers by surprise.

The hole is nearly a billion light-years across. It is not a black hole, which is a small sphere of densely packed matter. Rather, this one is mostly devoid of stars, gas and other normal matter, and it's also strangely empty of the mysterious "dark matter" that permeates the cosmos. Other space voids have been found before, but nothing on this scale.

For the full article:

http://www.livescience.com/spa....._hole.html
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 12, 2007 1:40 pm    Post subject: Small 'Hobbit' Galaxies Made Almost Entirely of Dark Matter Reply with quote

Small 'Hobbit' Galaxies Made Almost Entirely of Dark Matter
By Ker Than, Staff Writer

posted: 12 September 2007 06:23 am ET

Small, ultrafaint "hobbit" galaxies recently found hovering around our Milky Way are comprised almost entirely of dark matter, a new study confirms.

Dark matter is a mysterious substance scientists think accounts for most of the mass in the universe but that is invisible to current instruments.

The finding, to be detailed in the Nov. 10 issue of Astrophysical Journal, could help resolve a cosmic accounting problem that has long vexed astronomers and also explain how such small galaxies form.

For the full article:

http://www.livescience.com/spa.....axies.html
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 16, 2007 1:49 pm    Post subject: Hubble Finds 'Dorian Gray' Galaxy Reply with quote

Hubble Finds 'Dorian Gray' Galaxy
16 October 2007
NASA

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has found a galaxy that is the equivalent of the painting of Dorian Gray, a portrait in an Oscar Wilde novel that appears mysteriously to age.

Like the fictional painting, the galaxy I Zwicky 18 appears to look older the more astronomers study it. What astronomers once thought was a toddler galaxy by galactic standards may now be considered an adult.

The galaxy's youthful appearance was identified some 40 years ago through observations at the Palomar Observatory. Those studies showed that the galaxy erupted with star formation billions of years after its galactic neighbors. Galaxies resembling I Zwicky 18's youthful appearance are typically found only in the early universe. Astronomers were thrilled that a newly forming galaxy like I Zwicky 18 could be studied nearby to learn about galactic evolution, which is normally only observable at great distances.

For the full article:

http://hubblesite.org/newscent.....7/35/full/
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 25, 2007 2:15 pm    Post subject: Possible cosmic defect may be a window into the early univer Reply with quote

American Association for the Advancement of Science
25 October 2007

Possible cosmic defect may be a window into the early universe


An unusual cold spot in the oldest radiation in the universe, the cosmic microwave background, may be caused by a cosmic defect created just after the Big Bang, a Spanish and U.K. research team has found.

Although these findings need confirmation with further research, the suggestion may provide cosmologists with a long-sought clue about how the infant universe evolved.

This study will be published online by the journal Science, at the Science Express website, on 25 October, 2007. Science is published by AAAS, the nonprofit science society.

“These findings open up the possibility of looking for cosmic defects, similar to crystal defects, in the fabric of the universe. Although their existence has been proposed by theorists for decades, no defects have been seen. The jury is still out on the cold spot’s origin, but this surprising finding will be testable and may lead to new views of the cosmos in its infancy in years to come,” said Joanne Baker, associate editor at Science.

“Science is honored to be publishing this important research, and it seems fitting that an international collaboration between Spanish and British scientists be presented the same week that Spain is celebrating the importance of scientific achievement, through the Prince of Asturias Awards,” she said.

The research team, led by Marcos Cruz of the Instituto de Fisica de Cantabria, in Santander, Spain, was careful to say that they have not definitively discovered a defect. Rather, they have found evidence in the cosmic microwave background -- the frozen map of the early universe from the time when the first atoms formed and became separate from photons, hundreds of thousands of years after the Big Bang -- that could be explained by the presence of a defect.

Because defects would have formed at extremely high temperatures, at particle energies far in excess of those achievable at laboratory accelerators, their properties would provide physicists with powerful clues as to the fundamental nature of elementary particles and forces.

"It will be very interesting to see whether this tentative observation firms up in coming years. If it does, the implications will be extraordinary. The properties of the defect will provide an absolutely unique window onto the unification of particles and forces," said Neil Turok of the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, United Kingdom, who is a coauthor of the Science study.

Shortly after the Big Bang, the universe began to cool and expand, undergoing a variety of phase transitions -- more exotic versions of the gas-liquid-solid transitions that matter experiences on Earth.

In both the early universe and the average kitchen freezer, when matter changes phase, it does so irregularly. In an ice cube, for example cloudy spots mark defects that formed as the water crystallized.

In the mid-1970's, particle physicists realized that different sorts of defects should also have developed as various particles separated from the infant universe's hot plasma.

One such defect, known as a texture, is “a three-dimensional object like a blob of energy. But within the blob the energy fields making up the texture are twisted up,” according to Turok.

Textures and other defects should be detectable as temperature variations in the cosmic microwave background.

“The cosmic microwave background is the most ancient image we have of the universe and therefore it’s one of the most valuable tools to understand the universe’s origins. If this spot is a texture, it would allow us to discriminate among different theories that have been proposed for how the universe evolved,” said Cruz.

When Turok and his colleagues first described cosmic texture and showed how it might be detected, the cosmic microwave background hadn’t been mapped accurately enough to detect them. But since 2001, the Microwave Anisotropy Probe, also known as WMAP, has provided a detailed survey of the temperature changes across the cosmic microwave background.

The Science study began with Cruz and his colleagues at the Instituto de Física de Cantabria puzzling over an unusual cold spot in the WMAP data and trying to figure out what could have caused it. When the problem defied all explanations other than a defect, they brought their problem to Turok.

The research team then analyzed WMAP data and determined that the cold spot had the properties that would be expected if it had been caused by a cosmic texture.

“Now, here is an example where this exotic theory trumps more mundane ones,” said Baker.

"We're not certain this is a texture by any means. The probability that it's just a random fluctuation is about 1 percent. But what makes this so interesting is that there are a number of follow-up checks which can now be done. So the texture hypothesis is actually very testable," said Turok.


###
"A Feature in the Cosmic Background Radiation Consistent with a Cosmic Texture," by M. Cruz, P. Vielva and E. Martínez-González of the Instituto de Física de Cantabria (CSIC, Univ. Cantabria) , in Santander, Spain; N. Turok of the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, UK; and M. Hobson of Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, UK. This research was supported by the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and the Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia.
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 10, 2007 7:06 am    Post subject: Ray Tracing: Energetic cosmic rays linked to giant black hol Reply with quote

Week of Nov. 10, 2007; Vol. 172, No. 19 , p. 291

Ray Tracing: Energetic cosmic rays linked to giant black holes
Ron Cowen

Imagine a single proton smashing into Earth's atmosphere with as much punch as a fast-pitch baseball. For decades, scientists have suspected that protons and other particles with such huge energies, known as ultra-high-energy cosmic rays, arise in the tumultuous surroundings of giant black holes at the centers of galaxies.

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http://sciencenews.org/articles/20071110/fob2.asp
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 12, 2007 2:22 pm    Post subject: New Measurements: The Universe Weighs Less Reply with quote

New Measurements: The Universe Weighs Less
By Ker Than, Staff Writer

posted: 12 November 2007 06:31 am ET

The universe just got a little bit slimmer.

Revised calculations indicate the universe contains less normal and dark matter than previously thought, resulting in a "weight loss" of 10 to 20 percent.

Dark matter is a mysterious substance that is invisible to current technologies and which scientists think outnumbers normal "baryonic" matter by about 5-to-1.

For the full article:

http://www.livescience.com/spa.....verse.html
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 13, 2007 1:42 pm    Post subject: Scientists See Early Universe in Grains of Sand Reply with quote

Scientists See Early Universe in Grains of Sand
By LiveScience Staff

posted: 13 November 2007 07:39 am ET

British poet William Blake once wrote that a world was contained in a grain of sand. Physicists have done one better, finding a surprising link between streams of flowing sand grains and the birth of the universe.

A new study in the latest issue of the journal Physical Review Letters finds that flowing sand grains show liquid-like behavior also witnessed in particle-collider experiments that simulate our universe's first moments.

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http://www.livescience.com/tec.....verse.html
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2007 2:21 pm    Post subject: Invisible Matter Loses Cosmic Battle Reply with quote

Invisible Matter Loses Cosmic Battle
By Jeanna Bryner, Staff Writer

posted: 03 December 2007 06:33 am ET


In a cosmic battle of sorts taking place in the centers of galaxies, stellar forces muscle up and kick out brewing invisible matter. The result, finds a new study, evens out the amount of invisible matter held in galactic cores, resolving a cosmological puzzle.


The invisible stuff, called dark matter, is thought to make up as much as 90 percent of the universe's mass. Astronomers have never directly observed this mysterious matter, as it doesn't emit or reflect visible light or other electromagnetic radiation. Instead, they infer its existence based on its gravitational effects on visible matter like stars and galaxies. (For instance, dark matter makes galaxies spin faster than otherwise expected.)

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http://www.livescience.com/spa.....axies.html
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2007 2:04 pm    Post subject: Red sky at night -- astronomers delight Reply with quote

Science and Technology Facilities Council
10 December 2007

Red sky at night -- astronomers delight

Largest digital survey of the Milky Way released
A collaboration of over 50 astronomers, The IPHAS consortium, led from the UK, with partners in Europe, USA, Australia, has released today (10th December 2007) the first comprehensive optical digital survey of our own Milky Way. Conducted by looking at light emitted by hydrogen ions, using the Isaac Newton Telescope on La Palma, the survey contains stunning red images of nebulae and stars. The data is described in a paper submitted to the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

To date, the IPHAS survey includes some 200 million unique objects in the newly released catalogue. This immense resource will foster studies that can be at once both comprehensive and subtle, of the stellar demographics of the Milky Way and of its three-dimensional structure.

Professor Janet Drew of the University of Hertfordshire said “Using the distinctive Hydrogen marker we are able to look at some of the least understood stars in the Galaxy – those at the early and very late stages of their life cycles. These represent less than one in a thousand stars, so the IPHAS data will greatly improve our picture of stellar evolution.”

IPHAS is embracing a recent change in the way astronomers share data. As well as being available through traditional web access it is also being published through a Virtual Observatory interface, where it can automatically be cross-referenced with other relevant data catalogues.

Dr Nic Walton of the University of Cambridge said “Using the standard Virtual Observatory interface is a very effective way of exploiting the IPHAS survey data. This is a substantial and significant survey, which aims to eventually contain 7-800 million objects. Access through the AstroGrid Virtual Observatory opens up a full range of analysis options and should allow astronomers to make greater use of the information. IPHAS is the largest dataset published primarily through Virtual Observatory interfaces to date, and as such heralds the future of survey data mining.”

This initial data release is of observations of the Northern Plane of the Milky Way (the star filled section) that cover 1600 sq deg, in two broadband colours, and a narrow band filter sensitive to the emission of Hydrogen in the red part of the spectrum (H-alpha emission). The image resolution is high enough to permit the detection of individual stars exhibiting H-alpha emission, in addition to the diffuse gas that makes up the often-beautiful glowing nebulae that lower spatial resolution surveys have made known to us before.

The IPHAS database is already revealing a wealth of new science. For example, IPHAS team members from the University of Southampton, have led an effort to extract and catalogue the brighter H-alpha emission line stars revealed so far by the survey. This list of nearly 5000 objects is already the longest single list of its kind. The distribution of these special objects, across the northern sky, traces 'hot spots' of recently formed stars in our Galaxy much more convincingly than has been possible hitherto.

The IPHAS survey will eventually be extended to cover the entire galactic plane of our galaxy, with a coverage approaching 4000 square degrees (for comparison, the moon on the sky as seen from Earth covers ~0.1 square degrees).


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Background Notes:


http://zuserver2.star.ucl.ac.u.....tlanes.jpg

This is an image of the centre of the Rosette Nebula, as imaged in Hydrogen alpha emission in the IPHAS survey. The centre of this HII region, where the exciting star cluster (NGC 2244) is located, lies at the middle-bottom of this image (N is to the left, and E down). The longer dimension in this image is approximately 30 arcminutes. (credits: Nick Wright, University College London) Image taken using the Isaac Newton Telescope.

The paper reference is astro-ph/0712.0384 and the direct link to the abstract will be http://arxiv.org/abs/0712.0384 (Gonzalez-Solares et al, 2007). Access is also available via the web at http://idr.iphas.org

The paper presenting the catalogue of H-alpha emission line stars is available from http://arxiv.org/abs/0712.0988 (Witham et al, 2007).

The INT/WFC Photometric H-alpha Survey of the Northern Galactic Plane (IPHAS) is an imaging survey being carried out in Halpha, Sloan r and i filters, with the Wide Field Camera (WFC) on the 2.5-metre Isaac Newton Telescope (INT) to a depth of r =20 (10 sigma). The survey is aimed at revealing large scale structure in our local galaxy, and also the properties of key early and late populations making up the Milky Way.

The Virtual Observatory is an international initiative aimed at providing standard access to the world’s global data resources. All systems conform to agreed interoperability standards defined by the International Virtual Observatory Alliance ( http://www.ivoa.net ). A leading Virtual Observatory project is the UK's AstroGrid project ( http://www.astrogrid.org ). The IPHAS data release has been made possible by utilising AstroGrid technology - this IPHAS IDR access work being one supported through an open AstroGrid Tools Call programme ( see http://www.astrogrid.org/calls ).
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adedios
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 15, 2007 1:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Week of Dec. 15, 2007; Vol. 172, No. 24 , p. 373


Stellar Opposites: Sky survey reveals new halo of stars

Sarah C. Williams

The Milky Way galaxy possesses a distinct outer halo that orbits in the opposite direction from its inner halo and the rest of the galaxy, researchers say. This second halo contains some of the most primitive stars in the universe, offering new evidence about how the galaxy formed.

Some scientists had previously suspected that a portion of the stars in the Milky Way travel in a different direction from the rest. But data on such stars were too sparse to conclude that an entire second halo existed.

For the full article:

http://sciencenews.org/articles/20071215/fob5.asp
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adedios
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 15, 2007 1:52 pm    Post subject: Average Galaxies Reply with quote

Average Galaxies
Emily Sohn

Dec. 19, 2007

Not everything in space is spectacular, dramatic, or exploding with light. For example, astronomers recently found 27 distant galaxies that are small and faint.
Although far from flashy, the newly discovered galaxies are exciting to scientists because they might represent building blocks that would eventually merge to form massive galaxies like ours. Astronomers have been looking for tiny galaxies like these for more than 30 years.

For the full article:

http://www.sciencenewsforkids....../Note3.asp
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