December 12, 2018

    Visualization of expanding drops of quark gluon plasmas in three geometric shapes. Image: Javier Orjuela Koop
    Early universe matter created in the laboratory - space short science news

    Scientists have created tiny droplets of extremely hot matter that are thought to have filled the early universe, i.e. the first microseconds after the Big Bang.

    The matter was in a liquid-like state called quark gluon plasma, and took the form of circles, ellipses and triangles.

    Scientists have never been closer before to answering the question of what the smallest amount of early universe matter could have been.

    Read the full story: University of Colorado – Boulder
    Scientific publication: Nature Physics

    Artist's impression of the exoplanet HAT-P-11b with its extended helium atmosphere blown away by the star, an orange dwarf star smaller, but more active, than the Sun. Image : Denis Bajram
    Helium found in the atmosphere of an exoplanet - space short science news

    An international team of researchers has detected helium in the atmosphere of exoplanet HAT-P-11b, located 124 light years away from Earth. Helium was found to escape from the planet’s atmosphere at high speed, at over 10,000 km an hour as it is blown away from the day side of the planet to its night side.

    As helium is a very light gas, it can escape easily from the attraction of the exoplanet and forms a cloud around it. That is why HAT-P-11b has an inflated shape.

    These breakthrough observations of helium in a planet’s atmosphere has become possible only through the recent development of the high-precision infrared spectrograph called Carmenes that is installed on the 4-meter telescope at Calar Alto in Spain. This study shows that the observation of extreme atmospheres of explanets is possible from the ground with the right instrumentation, and not necessarily from space.

    Read the full story: Universities of Geneva and Exeter
    Scientific publication: Science

    Map of the entire sky, with the plane of the Milky Way running along the middle, showing the location of 739 blazars used for measurements in the study. Image: NASA/DOE/Fermi LAT Collaboration
    Tracing the history of starlight across the universe - space short science news

    NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has measured all the starlight produced over 90% of the universe’s history. The telescope measures gamma-ray output from distant galaxies, especially from blazars (galaxies with a massive black hole in their center).

    When these high energy rays collide with starlight, they can transform into matter (an electron and a positron), according to Einstein’s famous E=mc2 formula.

    As starlight continues to travel through space even after stars have burned out, it is possible to assess the formation rate and evolution of stars, without observing the stars themselves.

    Read the full story: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
    Scientific publication: Science

    InSight just landed on Mars and it will be the first ever probe to study the interior of the planet
    NASA InSight lander just landed on planet Mars - space science news in short

    What’s inside planet Mars? Well, we are about to find out! InSight, a NASA Mars lander module just landed on the red planet.

    The probe will peer below the surface to gather data about the structure and composition of the red planet. To do so, it has been equipped with two main instrument packages: a seismometer and a "mole".

    Landing on Mars was not easy, but it was successfully achieved! The cost of the Insight mission was $850 million. The mission is expected to provide scientific data about how planet Mars formed.

    Read the full story: ScienceBriefss
    Scientific publication: NASA

    Huge magma oceans of Super-Earth exoplanets could produce a strong magnetic field. Credit: NASA
    Super-Earths’ magnetic fields generated by magma oceans - science news space

    Super-Earths are very common among the newly-discovered exoplanets. But, do they have magnetic fields, like Earth?

    Using computer simulations researchers concluded that they do, indeed, possess magnetic fields, however, they are generated differently. On Earth, the source is the molten-iron outer core acting as a dynamo. On Super-Earths, the field is likely produced by the planets’ magma oceans.

    The magma oceans generate a strong magnetic field and maybe the same phenomenon happened in the early days of Earth when our planet was covered by melted rock.

    Read the full story: University of California Berkeley
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications

    The binary star system Alep with a spiral-shaped dust cloud circling it. The bright dot contains the two stars, the tiny one above it is a third star that does not influence the other two. The two stars are dying massive stars observed in the Milky Way. Image: Joseph Callingham, ASTRON
    Spectacular dust cloud reveals how massive stars die - space short science news

    Astronomers have discovered a special pair of stars and a spiral dust cloud whose form is best understood by assuming that one of the stars in this binary system is spinning extremely fast.

    The existence of such star constellations has been suspected to exist before, but have never been confirmed by observations.

    The two stars, also called massive « Wolf-Rayet stars », are thought to produce the most powerful explosions in the universe, emitting gamma-ray bursts when they die and explode as supernovae. Explosion of this star system, which the astronomers have baptized « Apep » is imminent, and as it was found in the Milky Way, it provides much insight into the final phase of the life of stars in our galaxy.

    Read the full story: ASTRON – Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy
    Scientific publication: Nature Astronomy

    Jezero crater is a paleolake, the outlet canyon of which is at the upper right side of the crater. Ancient rivers carving the inlets are on the left. Image: NASA/Tim Goudge
    Ancient lakes and canyons on the surface of Mars - space short science news

    Scientists have found that lakes on Mars contained at times so much water that they overflowed and burst from the sides of their basins. This created catastrophic floods that carved canyons extremely rapidly, possibly even in the matter of weeks.

    These observations suggest that disastrous geological processes may have shaped the surface of Mars in the past, before the water became frozen and confined in ice caps.

    Read the full story: University of Texas at Austin
    Scientific publication: Geology

    This is what the sunset on the newly discovered planet Barnard's star b may look like. Image: Martin Kornmesser/ESO
    Meet Barnard’s star b, an exoplanet only six lightyears away - space short science news

    By combining old measurements with new techniques, scientists have found a planet that orbits the star Barnard, only six lightyears away. Barnard’s star is the closest single star to the Sun. Its newly discovered planet, named Barnard’s star b, has a mass of three times that of the Earth, and completes its orbit in 233 days. It is a frozen planet, as Barnard’s star, being a red dwarf, does not provide much energy to make higher temperatures, or life, possible. However, the finding of the new exoplanet in our neighborhood is encouraging, providing the impetus to look for other nearby exoplanets that may sustain life.

    Read the full story: Institut d'Estudis Espacials de Catalunya (IEEC)
    Scientific publication: Nature

    Strange metals could be responsible for the dynamo effect responsible for the magnetic field of Earth. Credit: NASA
    Unusual metals might explain how Earth’s magnetic field formed - space science news in short

    The magnetic field of Earth is created by a dynamo effect, but scientists do not fully understand how this is possible. A recent study suggests that strange metals, called Weyl metals, could generate the dynamo effect that creates the magnetic field.

    The behavior of these metals is governed by topology and their electrons move bizarrely as if they had no mass. The scientists calculated that it should be possible to create a dynamo from solid Weyl metals.

    The study is purely theoretical. However, there are plans to test the hypothesis by creating a Weyl metals dynamo in the lab to better understand the magnetic field.

    Read the full story:
    Scientific publication: Physical Review Letters

    Spaceflight could alter the brain and the fluid around it
    How spaceflight changes the brain of astronauts - daily science news headlines - space

    According to a recent international study, flying into space may change the brain of the cosmonauts. The study was conducted on ten Russian cosmonauts that had their brain scanned using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), before and after spaceflights.

    The scans showed changes in several brain regions. The volume of grey matter was decreased and the balance of the cerebrospinal fluid looked disturbed. After a few months, the changes in grey matter resolved themselves but the fluid was still changed.

    The reasons for these modifications are not completely understood and the investigations continue to understand their impact on the astronauts’ health.

    Read the full story: University of Antwerp
    Scientific publication: The New England Journal of Medicine

    Gale Crater on Mars, the place where sedimentary deposits suggest water was present in the past. Credit: NASA
    Discovery of flood deposits suggests early Mars had abundant water - science news - space

    New evidence that planet Mars used to have water is provided by a recent study that analyzed the images of sedimentary rocks taken by Curiosity Rover.

    The researchers identified four different units that represent different types of deposition in the sedimentary rocks. After analyzing the data, the scientists concluded this was the result of flooding.

    Moreover, it appears that ancient Mars appears to have been very similar to Earth during Pleistocene (2 million to 12,000 years ago). This study adds to many others that suggest that Mars was covered in water in its early history.

    Read the full story: The Geological Society of America
    Scientific publication: Geological Society of America Annual Meeting 2018

    Artistic rendering of Enceladus being devoured by a Milky Way-like galaxy. Image: René van der Woude,
    Milky Way merged with a large galaxy ten billion years ago - space short science news

    Some ten billion years ago, the still young Milky Way merged with another large galaxy that astronomers have baptized Gaia-Encladus. The stars of Gaia-Encladus make up most the Milky Way’s halo and also shaped its thick disk, giving it its inflated form. The data used for this study were provided by the second mission of the Gaia satellite, giving information about 1.7 billion stars. The researchers found that the chemical signature of many halo stars was clearly different from original Milky Way stars, and that both formed a rather homogenous group. Thus, the Milky Way was formed by the fusion of two galaxies, rather than by fusion of many small ones.

    Read the full story: University of Groningen
    Scientific publication: Nature

    Simulation of material orbiting close to a black hole. Image: ESO/Gravity Consortium/L. Calçada
    ESO: Material orbiting close to a black hole observed - space science short news

    With the aid of ESO’s GRAVITY instrument on the Very Large Telescope, scientists have observed flares of infrared radiation coming from the accretion disk (belt of gas) around Sagittarius A*, the massive object in the center of the Milky Way. The flares provide further evidence that the massive object is indeed a supermassive black hole. They originate from material orbiting in close proximity of the black hole, and thus provide the most detailed observations yet of objects in its vicinity.

    Read the full story: European Southern Observatory (ESO)
    Scientific publication: Astronomy & Astrophysics

    The first planet hunter is now retired. Credit: NASA
    Kepler Space Telescope retired  - space science news in brief - daily headlines

    Kepler Space Telescope was the NASA’s first planet-hunting mission. After nine years of collecting data in deep space, the telescope has run out of fuel and NASA decided to retire it.

    The Kepler mission provided humanity with invaluable information showing us that space is filled with billions of hidden planets, more planets that the number of stars we know. It discovered 2,600 planets outside our solar system.

    The spacecraft will be left on its current orbit, far away from Earth, which NASA estimates to be safe.

    Read the full story: ScienceBriefss
    Scientific publication: Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology

    An Illustration of a compact, multi-planet system. Researchers have found that such systems are more likely to form around stars with lower amounts of heavy elements than our own Sun.
    Some planetary systems form in the absence of high amounts of heavy metal - space science news

    Small compact planetary systems are more likely to form around stars that have lower amounts of heavy metals than our own Sun. This new insight, based on the observation of 700 stars, is very different from results of earlier research that focused on stars with higher levels of heavy metal. Low-metallicity stars are older than the ones with high heavy metal content, and the first planets have therefore likely formed around these. Thus, the formation of planets does not always follow the current model, which is based on the development of gas giant planets such as Jupiter around higher metallicity stars.

    Read the full story: Yale University
    Scientific publication: Astrophysical Journal Letters

    The Borexino instrument located deep beneath Italy's Appenine Mountains detects neutrinos as they interact with the electrons of an ultra-pure organic liquid scintillator at the center of a large sphere surrounded by 1,000 tons of water. Image: Borexino
    Shining light on how the sun shines - space science news

    Scientists have found that 99% of the solar energy emitted as neutrinos is produced through nuclear reaction sequences starting with proton-proton fusions, in which hydrogen is converted into helium. The neutrinos were detected with the Borexino instrument, which is located in the ground under the Appenine Mountains in Italy to isolate it from background radiation. Solar neutrinos travel at almost the speed of light, and as many as 420 billion of them hit each square inch of the Earth’s surface every second. As they pass through matter essentially unaffected, it has been hard to detect them, but the Borexino neutrino detector has made it possible to detect them, and increase our understanding of how the sun shines.

    Read the full story: UMassAmherst
    Scientific publication: Nature

    Scientists estimate that they could have an extremely precise measurement of the universe's rate of expansion within five to ten years. Image: Robin Dienel/The Carnegie Institution for Science
    On the way to measuring the universe’s expansion - space science news

    How big is the universe, and how fast is it expanding? Scientists believe they can answer these questions, which are at the core of today’s astronomy research, within five to ten years. They base this optimistic expectation on last year’s (2017) capture of gravitational waves radiating form a collision between neutron stars. This allows scientists to estimate mass and energy of the colliding stars, and by comparing this with the strength of the gravitational waves, they can infer how far away the stars are. This makes a precise measurement of distance possible. With optimized telescopes, astronomers think they will be able to observe more neutron star collisions to make their analysis complete in five to ten years from now.

    Read the full story: University of Chicago
    Scientific publication: Nature

    Violent outbursts of seething gas from young red dwarfs (right) may make conditions uninhabitable on orbiting planets (left). Image: NASA, ESA, and D. Player (STScI)
    Powerful blasts of radiation by young stars detected - space science news

    Astronomers have observed a red dwarf star in a violent outburst, which was more powerful than ever detected from the sun. This powerful blast would likely prevent the habitability of any planets orbiting the red dwarf. The blast is likely powered by intense magnetic fields that get tangled by the roiling motions of the stellar atmosphere. When tangling gets too intense, the fields break, reconnect and unleash a tremendous amount of energy. The observation was made as part of a Hubble Telescope observing program.

    Read the full story: Arizona State University
    Scientific publication: Astrophysical Journal

    This colossal structure in the early universe is a galaxy proto-supercluster, named Hyperion; the image is based on real data. Image: ESO/L. Calçada & Olga Cucciati et al.
    Largest galaxy proto-supercluster found - space science news

    An international team of astronomers, using the VIMOS instrument of ESO’s Very Large Telescope, has found an enormous proto-supercluster forming in the early universe, 2.3 billion after the Big Bang. Its mass has been calculated to be more than one million billion times that of the sun. Unlike other superclusters and the supercluster of which our galaxy, the Milky Way, is part, mass is evenly distributed throughout the newly found proto-supercluster, which is due its relatively young age. These observations give more insight into the formation of the universe’s superclusters.

    Read the full story: European Southern Observatory
    Scientific publication: Astronomy and Astrophysics

    In this artist's representation, an electron orbits an atom's nucleus, spinning about its axis as a cloud of other subatomic particles are constantly emitted and reabsorbed. Image: Nicolle R. Fuller, National Science Foundation
    The electron is still round - short science news

    Researchers have measured the shape of an electron’s charge with stunning precision, and found that it is perfectly spherical. This observation is in line with the so-called « Standard Model » of particle physics. However, the Standard Model is known be wrong, because it cannot explain why the universe exists. Several theories to replace the Standard Model have therefore been forwarded, that posit that there could be heavy particles in the electron’s presence. The current experiments, in which a beam of cold thorium-oxide molecules was fired into a chamber, and the emitted light from the molecules was measured, found no evidence for such heavy particles, as this would have distorted the emitted light pattern. Thus, the current alternative theories need rethinking, and the Standard Model, although not correct, is still the best we have to describe electrons and the universe’s mysteries.

    Read the full story: Northwestern University
    Scientific publication: Nature

    One day, astronauts could hoover Venus using airships flying in the atmosphere of the planet. Credit: HAVOC/NASA
    NASA wants to send manned missions to Venus - space science news

    Planet Venus is one of the most inhospitable places one could imagine, with temperatures on the surface of 460 degrees Celsius, a toxic atmosphere and crushing pressure. However, this doesn’t stop NASA from planning a manned mission to Venus.

    The plan is to use ships that are able to hover the planet in its dense atmosphere. Between 50 and 60 km from the surface, the conditions in the atmosphere are similar to the ones found on Earth’s surface. Moreover, its density can protect astronauts from radiations.

    The imagined airship would float around Venus allowing the exploration of the planet. Overall, such a mission would require less time to complete than sending people to Mars.

    Read the full story: The Conversation
    Scientific publication: HAVOC Mission, NASA

    Stellar systems could exchange the building elements of life. Credit: NASA
    Panspermia at galactic scale: could Milky Way spread life? - science news

    The Panspermia theory claims that life may be spread throughout the universe by astronomical objects, such as asteroids.

    Now, a new study tried to understand if panspermia could be possible on a galactic scale.
    The study used a theoretical model to determine how likely it is that objects are being exchanged between star systems on a galactic scale. The model predicted that, even in the worst cases scenarios, Milky Way could be exchanging biotic components across vast distances.

    Thus, the study concluded that panspermia is viable on galactic scales, and even between galaxies. In principle, life could even be transferred between galaxies, since some stars escape from the Milky Way,” said Abraham Loeb, one of the authors.

    Read the full story: Universe Today
    Scientific publication: Arxiv

    The three panels represent moments before, during, and after the faint supernova iPTF14gqr, visible in the middle panel, appeared in the outskirts of a spiral galaxy located 920 million light years away. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt
    The death of a star and the birth of a particular neutron star configuration - space science news

    Astronomers have observed the death of a massive star that exploded in a rapidly faiding supernova. This observation gives rise to think that the dying star had an undetected companion, and that the exploded star became a neutron star orbiting this companion, according to the researchers. Thus, the death of the massive star gave birth to a compact neutron binary system, a phenomenon that had never been observed before.

    Read the full story: Caltech
    Scientific publication: Science

    Model of a planet with a rocky core and a gaseous atmosphere. Image: UZH
    Planet size puts limits on its chemical composition - space science news

    A computational analysis has revealed that the chemical composition and structure of exoplanets has a so-called “threshold radius”, that sets limits as to what a planet can be made off. For instance, planets with a radius of 1.4 times that of the Earth can be earth-like, i.e. have a similar chemical composition than our planet. Planets with a radius above this will contain more silicates or other light materials, planets with a radius of more 1.6 times that of the Earth will have more hydrogen-helium gas and a rocky core. Big planets (with 2.6 times the radius of the Earth) cannot contain water, and the giant planets (with 4 or more times the radius of the Earth) would be very gaseous, much like Jupiter and Neptune in our solar system. Thus, this analysis provides an estimation of whether a planet is earth-like, is made of gas or rock, or is a water-world.

    Read the full story: University of Zürich
    Scientific publication: The Astrophysical Journal

    One of the oldest stars in our galaxy has an odd chemical composition and it allows scientists to understand more about the beginning of the universe. Credit: EPFL
    Newly discovered star allows study of early universe - space science news

    Astrophysicists discovered a rare star, very old and extremely low in metals. Called Pristine 221, it is among the 10 most metal-poor stars known to date in our Galaxy. Moreover, the star is almost carbon-free.

    The scientists believe that it belongs to the early generation of stars formed in the galaxy. The discovery will allow us to learn more about the early universe and to understand how the first stars were formed.

    The discovery questions our present understanding about the formation of the early stars. It was thought that carbon was needed as a cooling agent, however, the low carbon content of Pristine 221 suggests the current model has to be revised.

    Read the full story: EPFL
    Scientific publication: Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

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