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 Post subject: Re: our universe is so rad
PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2008 1:56 pm 
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simple schoolboy wrote:
There was talk of sending a spacecraft to check it out. Whats the likelihood of a spacecraft made with current technology sucessfully completing that task? I presume it would have to come back as well.

it would take 160,000 years for a round trip at this point in time.

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 Post subject: Re: our universe is so rad
PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2008 1:57 pm 
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dimejinky99 wrote:
Hey corduroy_blazer,
Keep this stuff coming yeah? i love this thread. :D
dave

glad you're enjoying! this stuff is incredible.

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 Post subject: Re: our universe is so rad
PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2008 7:08 pm 
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So to give people a perspective as to how big our universe really is, think of this. Last week we detected the light from the largest quasar (which is a dying star that explodes because it's too dense to support itself -- oftentimes forming a black hole) ever detected. The quasar is 7.5 billion light years away. Our Earth is roughly 5 billion years old. That means the light that just reached us from this dying star was emitted 2.5 billion years before the creation of Earth. We also know that this star resided at roughly the half-way point in our universe. So we know that the edge of the universe is 15 billion light years away, and at 7.5 billion light years, the quasar originated roughly 42 trillion miles away. That's right, 42 trillion -- the half-way point of our universe. Ridiculous.


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 Post subject: Re: our universe is so rad
PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2008 8:36 pm 
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Chris_H_2 wrote:
So to give people a perspective as to how big our universe really is, think of this. Last week we detected the light from the largest quasar (which is a dying star that explodes because it's too dense to support itself -- oftentimes forming a black hole) ever detected. The quasar is 7.5 billion light years away. Our Earth is roughly 5 billion years old. That means the light that just reached us from this dying star was emitted 2.5 billion years before the creation of Earth. We also know that this star resided at roughly the half-way point in our universe. So we know that the edge of the universe is 15 billion light years away, and at 7.5 billion light years, the quasar originated roughly 42 trillion miles away. That's right, 42 trillion -- the half-way point of our universe. Ridiculous.

it's very, very hard for human brains to fathom numbers like this.

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 Post subject: Re: our universe is so rad
PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2008 8:38 pm 
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this is the first thread in news and debate i think i'll enjoy.

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 Post subject: Re: our universe is so rad
PostPosted: Thu Mar 27, 2008 9:00 pm 
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yeah, and with ceebs "new" avatar, it feels like good ol times and happy days in this joint, like ain't nothing changed and he's as ponderous as ever


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 Post subject: Re: our universe is so rad
PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2008 2:07 am 
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Photo Suggests Planet Under Construction

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/26/scien ... ef=science

Image

This coronographic image shows the disk surrounding the star AB Aurigae, with the middle region shaded to block out light from the star.

Is this a planet in the making?

A gap in the dust circling a young star in the constellation Auriga may mark where material is condensing into a planet, 11 astronomers led by Ben R. Oppenheimer of the American Museum of Natural History say in a paper to be published in The Astrophysical Journal.

The group used an Air Force surveillance telescope at Haleakala Observatories on the Hawaiian island of Maui and a special camera to examine a region near the star AB Aurigae, corresponding to the scale of our own solar system, that had not been observed before at high resolution. The results, they said, provided new insight into the process of planet and star formation.

The star is about 470 light years away and, being only about one million to three million years old, is still surrounded by the dusty detritus out of which it formed. In the picture, which shows the intensity of so-called polarized light scattered off dust particles, there is a gap about nine billion miles from the star, roughly three times the distance from Earth to Neptune.

Intriguingly, there is also what Dr. Oppenheimer and his colleagues call a “low significance detection” of a bright dot in the gap. If real, it could either be dust condensing on some object, Dr. Oppenheimer explained, or the object itself, which, based on its age and brightness would be 5 to 37 times the mass of Jupiter. That would put it on the dividing line between a planet and a kind of failed star called a brown dwarf.

“It does seem to be there,” Dr. Oppenheimer said in an interview.

Alan P. Boss, a planetary theorist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, urged caution, noting that the astronomers “are trying something very difficult.” He said if the gap was real and something was forming there, it was more likely to be a brown dwarf, because it would be very hard to make that big a planet so far from its star.

“Either way,” Dr. Boss said in an e-mail message, “if it is real, it is another nice step along the way to direct imaging of planets in general and planets in formation in particular.”

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 Post subject: Re: our universe is so rad
PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2008 4:05 pm 
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from the astronomy picture of the day site:

http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/astropix.html

Image

How far can you see? Even the faintest stars visible to the eye are merely hundreds or thousands of light-years distant, all well within our own Milky Way Galaxy. Of course, if you know where to look you can also spot the Andromeda Galaxy as a pale, fuzzy cloud, around 2.5 million light-years away. But staring toward the northern constellation Bootes on March 19th, even without binoculars or telescope you still could have witnessed a faint, brief, flash of light from a gamma-ray burst. The source of that burst has been discovered to lie over halfway across the Universe at a distance of about 7.5 billion light-years. Now holding the distinction of the most distant object that could be seen by the unaided eye and the intrinsically brightest object ever detected, the cosmic explosion is estimated to have been over 2.5 million times more luminous than the brightest known supernova. The monster burst was identified and located by the orbiting Swift satellite, enabling rapid distance measurements and follow-up observations by large ground-based telescopes. The fading afterglow of the gamma-ray burster, cataloged as GRB080319B, is shown in these two panels in X-rays (left) and ultraviolet light (right).

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 Post subject: Re: our universe is so rad
PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2008 4:30 pm 
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corduroy_blazer wrote:
How far can you see? Even the faintest stars visible to the eye are merely hundreds or thousands of light-years distant, all well within our own Milky Way Galaxy. Of course, if you know where to look you can also spot the Andromeda Galaxy as a pale, fuzzy cloud, around 2.5 million light-years away. But staring toward the northern constellation Bootes on March 19th, even without binoculars or telescope you still could have witnessed a faint, brief, flash of light from a gamma-ray burst. The source of that burst has been discovered to lie over halfway across the Universe at a distance of about 7.5 billion light-years. Now holding the distinction of the most distant object that could be seen by the unaided eye and the intrinsically brightest object ever detected, the cosmic explosion is estimated to have been over 2.5 million times more luminous than the brightest known supernova. The monster burst was identified and located by the orbiting Swift satellite, enabling rapid distance measurements and follow-up observations by large ground-based telescopes. The fading afterglow of the gamma-ray burster, cataloged as GRB080319B, is shown in these two panels in X-rays (left) and ultraviolet light (right).


This was the one I was talking about. That's a pretty powerful (and big) star that died.


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 Post subject: Re: our universe is so rad
PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2008 8:26 pm 
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http://i22.photobucket.com/albums/b318/ ... 908030.jpg

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 Post subject: Re: our universe is so rad
PostPosted: Sun Mar 30, 2008 12:27 am 
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half-hour special on the origin of life on earth:






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 Post subject: Re: our universe is so rad
PostPosted: Mon Mar 31, 2008 12:34 am 
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The Andromeda Galaxy is a spiral galaxy approximately 2.5 million light-years away in the constellation Andromeda. It is the nearest spiral galaxy to our own, the Milky Way, and is visible as a faint smudge on a moonless night to the naked eye.

Andromeda is the largest galaxy of the Local Group, which consists of the Andromeda Galaxy, the Milky Way Galaxy, the Triangulum Galaxy, and about 30 other smaller galaxies. Although the largest, it may not be the most massive, as recent findings suggest that the Milky Way contains more dark matter and may be the most massive in the grouping. However, recent observations by the Spitzer Space Telescope revealed that M31 contains one trillion (10^12) stars, greatly exceeding the number of stars in our own galaxy. 2006 estimates put the mass of the Milky Way to be ~80% of the mass of Andromeda, which is estimated to be 7.1×1011 solar masses.

Image

A visible light image of the Andromeda Galaxy.

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 Post subject: Re: our universe is so rad
PostPosted: Mon Mar 31, 2008 3:42 am 
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cb, not sure if you're interested but i read that there's astronomy observing in prospect park once a month (telescopes, etc).

Wednesday, April 9, 8 to 11 p.m.
Stargazing, Prospect Park (FREE) (P) (T)
Observing in Prospect Park. Enter at 9th Street and Prospect Park West.

May 7
June 11
July 9
August 6
September 10
October 8

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 Post subject: Re: our universe is so rad
PostPosted: Mon Mar 31, 2008 3:44 am 
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invention wrote:
cb, not sure if you're interested but i read that there's astronomy observing in prospect park once a month (telescopes, etc).

Wednesday, April 9, 8 to 11 p.m.
Stargazing, Prospect Park (FREE) (P) (T)
Observing in Prospect Park. Enter at 9th Street and Prospect Park West.

May 7
June 11
July 9
August 6
September 10
October 8

you are the man. it says free: does that mean you don't need to bring your own telescope? i've been itching to buy one.

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 Post subject: Re: our universe is so rad
PostPosted: Mon Mar 31, 2008 3:48 am 
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corduroy_blazer wrote:
invention wrote:
cb, not sure if you're interested but i read that there's astronomy observing in prospect park once a month (telescopes, etc).

Wednesday, April 9, 8 to 11 p.m.
Stargazing, Prospect Park (FREE) (P) (T)
Observing in Prospect Park. Enter at 9th Street and Prospect Park West.

May 7
June 11
July 9
August 6
September 10
October 8

you are the man. it says free: does that mean you don't need to bring your own telescope? i've been itching to buy one.


"bring a telescope or binoculars if you have them, or just come by to have a look; canceled if cloudy"

i'm sure people wouldn't mind letting you look.

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 Post subject: Re: our universe is so rad
PostPosted: Fri Apr 04, 2008 5:09 pm 
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Tiny Black Hole Found in Our Galaxy

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,345773,00.html

NASA scientists have identified the smallest, lightest black hole yet found.

The new lightweight record-holder weighs in at about 3.8 times the mass of our sun and is only 15 miles (24 kilometers) in diameter.

"This black hole is really pushing the limits," said study team leader Nikolai Shaposhnikov of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "For many years astronomers have wanted to know the smallest possible size of a black hole, and this little guy is a big step toward answering that question."

The low-mass black hole sits in a binary system in our galaxy known as XTE J1650-500 in the southern hemisphere constellation Ara.

NASA's Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) satellite discovered the system in 2001, and astronomers soon realized that the system harbored a relatively lightweight black hole. But the black hole's mass had never been precisely measured.

Black holes can't be seen, but they're identified by the activity around them, which also helps astronomers estimate a size of the region inside the activity, and how much mass mut be in that confined region to generate all the surrounding activity.

More specifically, astronomers weigh black holes by using a relationship between the apparent size of the black hole and the X-rays emitted by the torrent of gas that swirls in the black hole's disk before taking its fatal plunge.

As the hot gas piles up near the black hole, it radiates X-rays. The intensity of the X-rays varies in a pattern repeated over a nearly regular interval.

Astronomers have long suspected that the frequency of this signal, called the quasi-periodic oscillation, or QPO, depends on the mass of the black hole.

As the black hole gets bigger, the zone of swirling gas is pushed farther out, so the QPO ticks away slowly. But for smaller black holes, the gas sits closer in and the QPO ticks rapidly.

Shaposhnikov and his colleague Lev Titarchuk of George Mason University used this method to "weigh" XTE J1650-500 and found a mass of 3.8 suns.

This value is well below the previous record holder GRO 1655-40, which tips the scales at about 6.3 suns.

This new mass measurement could help shed light on what the smallest star that will produce a black hole is.

Astronomers know that some unknown critical threshold, possibly between 1.7 and 2.7 solar masses, marks the boundary between a star that generates a black hole upon its death and one that produces a neutron star.

Knowing this boundary would help scientists understand the behavior of matter when it is scrunched to extraordinarily high densities.

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 Post subject: Re: our universe is so rad
PostPosted: Fri Apr 04, 2008 5:12 pm 
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Study: Radiation Would Kill Astronauts Before They Got to Mars

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,344491,00.html

Dangerous levels of radiation in space could bar astronauts from a mission to Mars and limit prolonged activity on the moon, experts now caution.

However, more research could reveal ways to handle the risks that radiation poses to space missions.

The magnetic field of Earth protects humanity from radiation in space that can damage or kill cells. Once beyond this shield, people become far more vulnerable.

Astronauts have long seen white flashes while in space due to cosmic rays, or extremely high-energy particles, passing through their heads.

A return to the moon or a mission to Mars that NASA and other space agencies are planning would place astronauts at continued risk from cosmic rays or dangerous bursts of solar radiation.

Several reports in the past have outlined the potential risks. To further investigate the risks that space radiation currently pose, the National Research Council assembled experts in space and biology together.

At the present time, given current knowledge, the level of radiation astronauts would encounter "would not allow a human crew to undertake a Mars mission and might also seriously limit long-term Moon activity," this committee notes in their new report Monday.

Uncertainties remain

Still, much remains uncertain regarding the actual risks that space radiation poses for the body, explained committee member Walter Schimmerling, a scientist now retired from NASA's space radiation program.

All these uncertainties mean that safety margins have to remain high, limiting how long astronauts can stay in space.

This in turn could rule out a manned mission to Mars, as well as long-term or multiple missions to the moon.

[Exploration of both worlds might have to rely on sophisticated robots capable of making decisions on their own, such as the proposed Ares drone that would fly through Martian skies.]

"The way to deal with that problem is to reduce the margins of uncertainty," Schimmerling told SPACE.com.

To enable at the very least lunar missions with astronauts, the committee stressed that radiation biology research deserved the highest priority.

However, the experts noted that NASA's space radiation biology research has been significantly compromised by recent cuts in funding, leading to major gaps in our knowledge of the health risks of radiation, such as cancer, neurological damage and degenerative tissue disease.

NASA's entire space radiation biology research program is critically dependent on the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory, which in turn relies on the U.S. Department of Energy's heavy ion physics program.

The committee strongly recommended that NASA do as much research at this lab as it could, in case Department of Energy's priorities shift and dramatically reduce the availability of the lab.

"No one knows how long the window of opportunity is for how long this laboratory is available — 10 or 15 years seems a reasonable guess," Schimmerling said.

Possible solutions

When it comes to shielding astronauts from radiation, spacecraft designers and mission planners have to consider trading off a safe amount of protective material — say, high density plastic — with cutting weight in order to enter space practically.

Crafts that are too heavy simply can't carry enough fuel to make flight practical.

Further research could not only look into better shielding materials, but also spacecraft designs that put electronics and machinery in the periphery between astronauts and harm's way.

"Lava tubes on the moon might also be useful as habitats from a shielding point of view," Schimmerling said. "I don't know how realistic the idea is, but they would have the advantage of reduced exposure to radiation."

The sun is a major source of dangerous radiation astronauts might encounter especially during solar storms that can erupt with little notice. The committee also recommended further research into forecasting these outbursts.

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 Post subject: Re: our universe is so rad
PostPosted: Fri Apr 04, 2008 5:15 pm 
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Astronomers find new planets, including a baby

http://uk.reuters.com/article/scienceNe ... 8620080402

Astronomers using robotic cameras said on Wednesday they had found 10 new planets outside our solar system, while a second team said they had found the youngest planet yet.

The findings add to a growing list of more than 270 so-called extrasolar planets, they told a meeting of astronomers in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

The robot team is called "SuperWASP," for Wide Area Search for Planets, and the cameras look for planets transiting, or crossing in front of, their stars. The light from the sun fades just slightly when this happens, and astronomers can extrapolate the size and location of the planet.

Most planets around other stars have been found using a different method, measuring the tiny tugs that a planet makes on its sun's gravitational field.

Don Pollaco of Queen's University in Belfast and colleagues used banks of cameras in Spain's Canary Islands, South Africa, Arizona, Hawaii, Chile, France and Australia to discover the 10 new extrasolar planets.

The planets range in mass from half the size of Jupiter to more than eight times the size of Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system. One orbits its sun once a day and is so close that its daytime temperature could reach about 4,200 degrees Fahrenheit (2,300 degrees Celsius).

Jane Greaves of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and colleagues said they found a baby planet while using radio astronomy to examine a disk of gas and rocky particles around the star HL Tau.

This star is thought to be young, also -- 100,000 years old compared to our 4.6 billion-year-old Sun.

They found a clump that appears to contain rocky pebbles.

"We see a distinct orbiting ball of gas and dust, which is exactly how a very young protoplanet should look," Greaves said in a statement.

"In the future, we would expect this to condense out into a gas giant planet like a massive version of Jupiter. The protoplanet is about 14 times as massive as Jupiter and is about twice as far from HL Tau as Neptune is from our Sun."

Anita Richards of Britain's Jodrell Bank observatory in Cheshire, said the finding "gives a unique view of how planets take shape."

"The new object, designated HL Tau b, is the youngest planetary object ever seen," she added.

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 Post subject: Re: our universe is so rad
PostPosted: Fri Apr 04, 2008 7:32 pm 
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Stars shmars.


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 Post subject: Re: our universe is so rad
PostPosted: Mon Apr 07, 2008 1:36 pm 
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Solar Tsunamis Move at Astronomical Speeds

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,346688,00.html

Image

NASA's twin STEREO spacecraft captured one of the massive solar waves in action May 19, 2007, as it moved through four layers of the solar atmosphere.

These images and videos, released Friday, have helped astronomers to revise estimates of the waves' speeds.

Astronomers think that solar tsunamis, initially discovered by the SOHO spacecraft in the late 1990s, are something like the tsunamis in Earth's oceans.

Like these monster ocean waves, solar tsunamis are the result of a release of energy that creates a pressure wave that propagates through some kind of medium.

On Earth, that medium is ocean water, but on the sun, it is hot, roiling solar gases.

Tsunamis and CMEs

Early on and still today, there are many unknowns about solar tsunamis. The speed of the waves, as calculated based on the first SOHO snapshots, didn't match up with their estimated intensity.

"They seemed to be going very slowly for the amount of energy we saw in the explosion," said study leader Peter Gallagher of Trinity College Dublin.

The explosions release about two billion times the annual world's energy consumption in just a fraction of a second.

STEREO's cameras took more images per day than SOHO, so Gallagher and his colleagues were able to more accurately clock the speed of the solar tsunamis at more than 1 million kilometers (600,000 miles) per hour.

"They're actually traveling a lot faster than we previously thought," Gallagher told LiveScience. "The speeds are astronomical, literally. These things [take] blinks of an eye to traverse the Earth."

STEREO's Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUVI) instruments also allow astronomers to monitor the sun at four wavelengths which correspond to temperatures from 60,000 to 2 million degrees Celsius.

Each wavelength corresponds to a different layer of the solar atmosphere.

To the team's surprise, the tsunami seemed to move just as speedily through dense layers as it did through less dense layers, Gallagher said.

Unclear causes

What causes these giant solar waves isn't clear.

Astronomers know they are associated with coronal mass ejections (CMEs) which are like "a rope of gas and magnetic fields that gets accelerated away from the sun," Gallagher explained.

Solar tsunamis could be the shockwave that results from the CME, or they could simply be related phenomena that have a common trigger.

But whenever they see a solar tsunami, there's always an associated CME, Gallagher said. "When [a solar tsunami] goes off, it tells you that there's been an explosion on the sun."

This relationship could be important in predicting CMEs, which can launch damaging material toward Earth and the other planets.

Gallagher thinks further STEREO observations will help astronomers decide what causes what.

Gallagher and his colleagues presented their findings on April 2 at the Royal Astronomical Society National Astronomy Meeting in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

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