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Syndicate content Universe Today
Space and astronomy news
Updated: 8 min 58 sec ago

Who Speaks for Earth? The Controversy over Interstellar Messaging

1 hour 14 min ago

War of the Worlds

The prospect of alien invasion has sent shivers down the spines of science fiction fans ever since H. G. Wells published his classic “The War of the Worlds” in 1897. Drawing on the science of his times, Wells envisioned Mars as an arid dying world, whose inhabitants coveted the lush blue Earth. Although opponents of METI seldom explicitly invoke the spectre of alien invasion, some do believe that we must take into account the possibility that extraterrestrials may mean to harm us. The illustration from Well’s novel shows a Martian fighting machine attacking the British warship HMS Thunderchild.
(credit: Henrique Alvim Correa, 1906, for the novel “The War of the Worlds”)

Should we beam messages into deep space, announcing our presence to any extraterrestrial civilizations that might be out there? Or, should we just listen? Since the beginnings of the modern Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), radio astronomers have, for the most part, followed the listening strategy.

In 1999, that consensus was shattered. Without consulting with other members of the community of scientists involved in SETI, a team of radio astronomers at the Evpatoria Radar Telescope in Crimea, led by Alexander Zaitsev, beamed an interstellar message called ‘Cosmic Call’ to four nearby sun-like stars. The project was funded by an American company called Team Encounter and used proceeds obtained by allowing members of the general public to submit text and images for the message in exchange for a fee.
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© Paul Patton for Universe Today, 2015. | Permalink | No comment |
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A Star Passed Through the Solar System Just 70,000 Years Ago

Wed, 18/02/2015 - 22:33
 Michael Osadciw/University of Rochester)

At a time when modern man was emerging from the shadows, Neandertal man was nearing extinction, a binary star system passed through the outer reaches of our Solar System. (Credit: Michael Osadciw/University of Rochester)

Astronomers have reported the discovery of a star that passed within the outer reaches of our Solar System just 70,000 years ago, when early humans were beginning to take a foothold here on Earth. The stellar flyby was likely close enough to have influenced the orbits of comets in the outer Oort Cloud, but Neandertals and Cro Magnons – our early ancestors – were not in danger. But now astronomers are ready to look for more stars like this one.

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© Tim Reyes for Universe Today, 2015. | Permalink | 21 comments |
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How do Gas and Stars Build a Galaxy?

Wed, 18/02/2015 - 21:57
 B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF); ALMA (NRAO/ESO/NAOJ); A. Leroy; STScI/NASA, ST-ECF/ESA, CADC/NRC/CSA

ALMA image of Sculptor (NGC 253), a ‘starburst’ galaxy with a diffuse envelope of carbon monoxide gas (in red) which surrounds star-forming regions (in yellow). The ALMA data are superimposed on a Hubble image that covers part of the same region. Credit: B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF); ALMA (NRAO/ESO/NAOJ); A. Leroy; STScI/NASA, ST-ECF/ESA, CADC/NRC/CSA

When we look up at the night sky outside of the bright city, we can see a dazzling array of stars and galaxies. It is more difficult to see the clouds of gas within galaxies, however, but gas is required to form new stars and allow galaxies to grow. Although gas makes up less than 1% of the matter in the universe, “it’s the gas that drives the evolution of the galaxy, not the other way around,” says Felix “Jay” Lockman of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO).
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© Ramin Skibba for Universe Today, 2015. | Permalink | One comment |
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Why Can’t We Design the Perfect Spacesuit?

Wed, 18/02/2015 - 21:26
 MIT.

The MIT BioSuit, a skintight spacesuit that offers improved mobility and reduced mass compared to modern gas-pressurized spacesuits. Credit: MIT.

So far, every spacesuit humans have utilized has been designed with a specific mission and purpose in mind. As of yet, there’s been no universal or “perfect” spacesuit that would fit every need. For example, the US ACES “pumpkin” suits and the Russian Sokol are only for launch and reentry and can’t be used for spacewalks. And the Apollo A7L suits were designed with hard soled boots for astronauts to walk on the Moon, while the current NASA EMU and the Russian Orlan are designed for use in space, but with soft soled booties so as not to damage the exterior of the space station.

What would constitute the perfect spacesuit that could be used for any mission? It would have to be lightweight while being impervious to rips, impacts and radiation, but also be flexible, fit multiple sizes, and be comfortable enough to be worn for long periods of time.

With those specifications in mind, is it possible to create the perfect spacesuit?
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© nancy for Universe Today, 2015. | Permalink | 2 comments |
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Black Moon: Why the New Moon on February 18th is Special

Wed, 18/02/2015 - 19:47
 Frank Miller.

The waxing crescent Moon and Earthshine. Credit and copyright: Frank Miller.

Did you hear the one about last month’s ‘supermoon?’

Yeah, we know. The hype was actually for an event that was less than spectacular, as it revolved around the first New Moon of 2015 on January 20th. Said suspect Moon was touted as ‘super’ (we prefer the quixotic term proxigean) as it occurred 18 hours prior to perigee.

Not that the first lunar perigee of 2015 was an especially close one in time or space at 359,642 kilometres distant. Is every New and Full Moon now destined to become branded ‘super’ in the never ending SEO quest to get eyeballs on web pages?

But wait, there’s more. We’ve noticed as of late that another popular term is creeping into the popular astronomical vernacular: that of a ‘Black Moon’.
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When Light Just Isn’t Fast Enough

Wed, 18/02/2015 - 19:37

Take a speed of light trip across the solar system starting at the Sun

We’ve heard it over and over. There’s nothing faster than the speed of light. Einstein set the speed limit at 186,000 miles per second (299,792 km/sec). No material object can theoretically travel faster. For all practical purposes, only light is lithe enough to travel at the speed of light.
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New Horizons Now Close Enough to See Pluto’s Smaller Moons

Wed, 18/02/2015 - 18:31
 NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Southwest Research Institute.)

Animation of images acquired by New Horizons on Jan. 27–Feb. 8, 2015. Hydra is in the yellow square, Nix is in the orange. (Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Southwest Research Institute.)

Now on the final leg of its journey to distant Pluto the New Horizons spacecraft has been able to spot not only the dwarf planet and its largest moon Charon, but also two of its much smaller moons, Hydra and Nix – the latter for the very first time!

The animation above comprises seven frames made of images acquired by New Horizons from Jan. 27 to Feb. 8, 2015 while the spacecraft was closing in on 115 million miles (186 million km) from Pluto. Hydra is noted by a yellow box and Nix is in the orange. (See a version of the animation with some of the background stars and noise cleared out here.)

What’s more, these images have been released on the 85th anniversary of the first spotting of Pluto by Clyde Tombaugh at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ.

“Professor Tombaugh’s discovery of Pluto was far ahead its time, heralding the discovery of the Kuiper Belt and a new class of planet. The New Horizons team salutes his historic accomplishment.”
– Alan Stern, New Horizons PI, Southwest Research Institute

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Astronomy Cast Ep. 368: Searching for the Aether Wind: the Michelson–Morley Experiment

Tue, 17/02/2015 - 20:55

Waves move through a medium, like water or air. So it seemed logical to search for a medium that light waves move through. The Michelson-Morley Experiment attempted to search for this medium, known as the “luminiferous aether”. The experiment gave a negative result, and helped set the stage for the theory of General Relativity.
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Book Review and Giveaway: Know It All: 132 Head-Scratching Questions About the Science All Around Us

Tue, 17/02/2015 - 19:09

9781615192397

“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”
Benjamin Franklin

One of the greatest qualities we possess as humans is our ability to ask questions. Our quest for knowledge and answers about the world carries us beyond our everyday borders and attitudes. Curiosity may not have been good for the cat, but it is an essential growth tool for the human mind.

Know It All: 132 Head-Scratching Questions About the Science All Around Us, is a fun and educational collection of thought provoking questions and answers. Although the collection is edited by Mick O’Hare from New Scientist magazine, the contributors are drawn from the scientific community and amateur experts found around the world. Taken directly from the “Last Word” column at New Scientist, this assemblage is a diverse assortment of Q&As ranging in scope from the microscopic to the hypothetical.

Find out how you can win a copy of this book, below.
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Nobody Knows What These Mysterious Plumes are on Mars

Tue, 17/02/2015 - 16:48
In the Journal Nature, astronomers deliver an exhaustive study of limited albeit high quality ground-based observations of Mars and come up short. A Martian mystery remains. What caused the extremely high-altitude plumes on Mars? (Credit: Nature, Sánchez-Lavega, A. et al. Feb 16, 2015, Figures 1a, 2)

In the Journal Nature, astronomers deliver an exhaustive study of limited albeit high quality ground-based observations of Mars and come up short. A Martian mystery remains. What caused the extremely high-altitude plumes on Mars? (Credit: Nature, Sánchez-Lavega, A. et al. Feb 16, 2015, Figures 1a, 2)

In March 2012, amateur astronomers began observing unusual clouds or plumes along the western limb of the red planet Mars. The plumes, in the southern hemisphere rose to over 200 kilometers altitude persisting for several days and then reappeared weeks later.

So a group of astronomers from Spain, the Netherlands, France, UK and USA have now reported their analysis of the phenomena. Their conclusions are inconclusive but they present two possible explanations.

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© Tim Reyes for Universe Today, 2015. | Permalink | 11 comments |
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