Breaking science news and multimedia, heavy on astronomy and physics (and heavy on citing) New vids, pics, articles, and the occasional research post for ResearchBlogging.org.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Time Lapse of the Clear Night Sky

The ALMA Array Operations Site in Chile gave us this wonderful video that I MUST share!



To quote djxatlanta in his YouTube description:
"Time-lapse of a whole night at the ALMA Array Operations Site (AOS), located at 5000 meters altitude on the Chajnantor plateau, in the II Region of Chile. As the Moon sets at the beginning of the night, three of the first ALMA antennas start tests as part of the ongoing Commissioning and Science Verification process. Because they are pointing at the same target in the sky at any moment, their movements are perfectly synchronized. 


As the sky appears to rotate clockwise around the south celestial pole (roughly on the upper left edge of the video), the Milky Way goes down slowly, until it is lying almost horizontal before sunrise. The center of our galaxy becomes visible during the second half of the night as a yellowish bulge crossed by dark lanes in the center of the image, just above the antennas.


The flashes on the ground are the car lights of the guards patrolling at the AOS. ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array is the largest astronomical project in existence and is a truly global partnership between the scientific communities of East Asia, Europe and North America with Chile. ESO is the European partner in ALMA."

Found via Gizmodo


------ Sharing via these buttons will share the current article page, unless your current url is the main page of Astronasty. Click the title of the article to go to an individual article page.
Share Spread the Love

Saturday, February 19, 2011

How Our Valentines Day Solar Flare Helped Our Astronauts In Orbit

In light of the recent solar flare, here's a breakdown of the radiation we're exposed to, how we're shielded, and how solar flares can actually protect our astronauts.



Image: Photograph taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory of the solar flare mid-February, 2011

When solar activity flares up, a warning flag is raised.  The danger of a massive solar flare crippling our electronics and endangering our astronauts is a real threat, but with a low enough magnitude and if our orbit is close enough to Earth, our space crew can benefit.

In the case of our Valentine's Day Solar Flare in Mid February, 2011, counter-intuitively, our astronauts in orbit actually experienced a few days worth of decreased radiation due to the Forbush Effect.  
But first, a little bit about solar activity, cosmic radiation, and our natural shielding:

Cosmic rays are simply extraterrestrial particles that fly through space and happen to rudely elbow their way into our territory.  Taken from Macmillan Encyclopedia of Physics in 1996:
"Cosmic rays include essentially all of the elements in the periodic table; about 89% of the nuclei are hydrogen (protons), 10% helium, and about 1% heavier elements. The common heavier elements (such as carbon, oxygen, magnesium, silicon, and iron) are present in about the same relative abundances as in the solar system."

However, the elements higher on the periodic table can spike, as shown via experiment results published in June of 2009 (Cite 1 see bottom)
"We report abundances of elements from 26Fe to 34Se in the cosmic radiation measured during fifty days of exposure of the Trans-Iron Galactic Element Recorder (TIGER) balloon-borne instrument."


Shielding:

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Solar, galactic, and extra-galactic radiation is one of the biggest hurdles we will eventually face with interstellar travel, but in the present, the magnetic field, as shown above, surrounds the earth, deflecting the solar wind, and shielding us from harm fairly effectively.  If one were on the moon during this recent flare, the bombardment of protons from the sun could have had a potentially lethal effect.  This is because nuclei from the coronal mass ejection would slam into our bodies on the tiniest scale, and would seriously damage our cells and our DNA.  What happened just recently isn't so much a threat to our astronauts because the magnetic field of the earth extends far enough into their orbit.  To quote Space.com:
"The orbiting lab sits just 220 miles (354 kilometers) above Earth — still cocooned within the planet's protective magnetic field. And the station protects well against most solar storms, Cucinotta said. So as long as astronauts stay inside, they should be fine."

The actual DECREASE in radiation they benefit from is due to the phenomenon known as the Forbush Effect our flare effectively a wash of particles clearing out the more dangerous particles already there.  To quote concisely from wikipedia, this is "a rapid decrease in the observed galactic cosmic ray intensity following a coronal mass ejection (CME). It occurs due to the magnetic field of the plasma solar wind sweeping some of the galactic cosmic rays away from Earth."




Solar flares have a direct impact on our climate:


By measuring our clouds and cosmic rays, in correlation with solar activity and climate, we can see the Forbush Effect.
In Geophysical Research Letters(Cite 2 see bottom)
"Close passages of coronal mass ejections from the sun are signaled at the Earth's surface by Forbush decreases in cosmic ray counts. We find that low clouds contain less liquid water following Forbush decreases, and for the most influential events the liquid water in the oceanic atmosphere can diminish by as much as 7%. Cloud water content as gauged by the Special Sensor Microwave/Imager (SSM/I)"



Galactic Cosmic Rays may have a direct impact on our climate:

CERN' CLOUD project is producing some exciting data.


Greater or fewer galactic cosmic rays (GCR) seem to be associated with a warmer or cooler climates.
This seems to be still under debate, to my understanding due to the lack of understanding the physical mechanism occuring, but evidence is increasing and experiments are being conducted.
Climate over time and Galactic Cosmic Rays, data from CLOUD 
from a CERN slideshow:

This doesn't debunk our impact on global warming.  Don't misunderstand me, humans have had a verified effect on climate, a measurable impact, but on an extremely recent sliver of the Earth's history.




Continued close monitoring and study of extra-planetary particle bombardment will no doubt will lead to exciting new discoveries on how the rest of the universe impacts our tiny planet we call home.


Image Credit: NASA/GSFC


CITE 1:

B. F. Rauch, J. T. Link, K. Lodders, M. H. Israel, L. M. Barbier, W. R. Binns, E. R. Christian, J. R. Cummings, G. A. de Nolfo, S. Geier, R. A. Mewaldt, J. W. Mitchell, S. M. Schindler, L. M. Scott, E. C. Stone, R. E. Streitmatter, C. J. Waddington, M. E. (2009). Cosmic-ray origin in OB associations and preferential acceleration of refractory elements: Evidence from abundances of elements 26Fe through 34Se Astrophys.J.697:2083-2088,2009 : arXiv:0906.2021v1


CITE2:
Svensmark, H., Bondo, T., & Svensmark, J. (2009). Cosmic ray decreases affect atmospheric aerosols and clouds Geophysical Research Letters, 36 (15) DOI: 10.1029/2009GL038429


ResearchBlogging.org





------ Sharing via these buttons will share the current article page, unless your current url is the main page of Astronasty. Click the title of the article to go to an individual article page.
Share Spread the Love

Friday, February 18, 2011

How exactly is a composite Hubble image assembled?

HubbleSiteChannel on YouTube (to which I happily subscribe) has a new video posted, showing us behind the scenes the processing of a composite Hubble image!
"Hubble images are made, not born. Images must be woven together from the incoming data from the cameras, cleaned up and given colors that bring out features that eyes would otherwise miss. In this video from HubbleSite.org, online home of the Hubble Space Telescope, a Hubble-imaged galaxy comes together on the screen at super-fast speed"



Video Credit: NASA



------ Sharing via these buttons will share the current article page, unless your current url is the main page of Astronasty. Click the title of the article to go to an individual article page.
Share Spread the Love

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Astronomy Pics and Vids in the News: Feb 16, 2011

NASA has a truly inspiring video just posted on Universe Today.  It clearly explains the value of NASA's work, and how innovation in science, engineering, and resulting technology are vital to the continued global strength of America from the world's view.



Video Credit: NASA | Found via Universe Today's article "Fiscal Squeeze Could Freeze NASA Budget for Five Years"



A Space.com article today, "Solar System 'Nemesis': Nearby Stars Could Pose Threat" sports this beaut of a picture:
"Artist's concept of a red dwarf star named SO25300.5+165258. Though only 7.8 light-years away, the star is so dim it went undetected until 2003. Red dwarfs are thought to be the most common type of star."

Image Credit: NASA/GSFC


ESO released a BREATHTAKING photograph today of nebula Messier 78 in the article, "Reflected Glory"
"The nebula Messier 78 takes centre stage in this image taken with the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile, while the stars powering the bright display take a backseat."
Click to embiggen.  This is my current computer wallpaper.

Image Credit: ESO and Igor Chekalin



Discovery has a great new post today on black holes.  "GALAXY SMASH LEAVES BLACK HOLE RING"
"...a composite of Hubble (optical) and Chandra (x-ray) observations of the colliding galaxies that make up Arp 147"

Image Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/MIT/S.Rappaport et al, Optical: NASA/STScI
Connected with this article is a 3 minute video of scientists explaining their work on studying the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy.
Awe inspiring for sure



Video Credit: Discovery News

------ Sharing via these buttons will share the current article page, unless your current url is the main page of Astronasty. Click the title of the article to go to an individual article page.
Share Spread the Love

Sunday, February 13, 2011

CORKSCREW LIGHT: Measuring Orbital Angular Momentum Will Give Us Extra Information About Black Holes and Frame Dragging

Frame Dragging, an effect spinning black holes have on spacetime and on the light in its vicinity, is causing a measurable corkscrew effect on photons, newly discovered and published in this issue of Nature Physics.  "Twisting of light around rotating black holes"

Simplified, frame dragging occurs when massive objects such as a black hole drags spacetime around with it while moving.  Imagine gently stirring a tiny circle within a big bowl of elmers glue.  Translate that into a graph and overlay this information on top of your familiar image of curved spacetime, and you have a dynamic and realistic scenario of general relativity in motion. When you aim your telescope at a spinning black hole, the light you're receiving is distorted, and this requires scientists to dig deep into the meat of general relativity.  This effect is different than the smooth curvature of spacetime as seen in the picture below.


Image Credit: Rob's Astrophotography "A two-dimensional representation of the curvature of space-time due to a massive object. The orbiting body follows a line of least resistance (Freedman & Kaufmann 2008, 583)"


Photons are massless, but they can interact with matter by a quantitative effect measured as momentum.  The angular momentum of photons expressed as Spin has been studied at great lengths, but a new measurement of orbital angular momentum has just been discovered by Fabrizio Tamburini and his team at the University of Padua in Italy.  

In the current issue of Nature Physics, we measure photons exhibiting a corkscrew spin, a technique that Martin Bojowald of Pennsylvania State University says can be incorporated into our telescopic equipment in the future.


So what exactly is this corkscrew effect?  The orbital angular momentum is explained in Universe Today: "The authors suggest visualizing this as non-planar wavefronts of this twisted light like a cylindrical spiral staircase, centered around the light beam. The intensity pattern of twisted light transverse to the beam shows a dark spot in the middle — where no one would walk on the staircase — surrounded by concentric circles


This new information gives us another way to measure the size of black holes.  New Scientist explains, "Currently, astronomers infer the spin by measuring the distance between the black hole and the nearest matter around it, a technique that requires high-resolution observations. Using twisted light would require less spatial resolution and therefore "should make it possible to measure the spin of black holes farther away", Bojowald says."


Nature Physics requires an 18$ fee to read the entire article, but the abstract can be seen here, as posted below:

ABSTRACT: "Twisting of light around rotating black holes"
"Kerr black holes are among the most intriguing predictions of Einstein’s general relativity theory1, 2. These rotating massive astrophysical objects drag and intermix their surrounding space and time, deflecting and phase-modifying light emitted near them. We have found that this leads to a new relativistic effect that imprints orbital angular momentum on such light. Numerical experiments, based on the integration of the null geodesic equations of light from orbiting point-like sources in the Kerr black hole equatorial plane to an asymptotic observer3, indeed identify the phase change and wavefront warping and predict the associated light-beam orbital angular momentum spectra4. Setting up the best existing telescopes properly, it should be possible to detect and measure this twisted light, thus allowing a direct observational demonstration of the existence of rotating black holes. As non-rotating objects are more an exception than a rule in the Universe, our findings are of fundamental importance."

CITATION
Tamburini, F., Thidé, B., Molina-Terriza, G., & Anzolin, G. (2011). Twisting of light around rotating black holes Nature Physics DOI: 10.1038/nphys1907



------ Sharing via these buttons will share the current article page, unless your current url is the main page of Astronasty. Click the title of the article to go to an individual article page.
Share Spread the Love



ResearchBlogging.org

Friday, February 11, 2011

Platypus Looking Cells, Nebulas, BLT's, Vacuums, and Female Meta-Faces

Short Sharp Science, on New Scientist, "Cells cut ties with a twist"
"Like the twist ties that seal off bags of bread, looping fibres may help animal cells complete the very last stages of cell division."
Honestly, I think it looks like a platypus.

Image Credit: Science/AAAS


Today on NASA/JPL, "A Nebula By Any Other Name"
"Nebulae are enormous clouds of dust and gas occupying the space between the stars. Some have pretty names to match their good looks, for example the Rose nebula, while others have much more utilitarian names. Such is the case with LBN 114.55+00.22, seen here in an image from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE"
Click to embiggen, this is the large version. This is my current desktop wallpaper.  Stretching it still looks incredible for this one.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA


On Abstruse Goose: "The Tree of Life"
A hilarious mapping of the evolution of a BLT.

Image Credit: http://abstrusegoose.com/


An interesting article on New Scientist today, "Vacuum has friction after all"
"In quantum mechanics, the uncertainty principle says we can never be sure that an apparent vacuum is truly empty. Instead, space is fizzing with photons that are constantly popping into and out of existence before they can be measured directly."
We've discovered that the vacuum of space is not empty, that nothing is no longer nothing, and it really blows my mind.

Image Credit: Ellinor Hall/Johner/Corbis

Geekologie of all places had quite an interesting post recently.  "Photos Overlayed To Produce The 'Average' Face Of A Woman From Various Countries"

Image Credit: at http://www.faceresearch.org/demos/average you can play around with the work they're doing and upload your own content to fool around with.


------ Sharing via these buttons will share the current article page, unless your current url is the main page of Astronasty. Click the title of the article to go to an individual article page.
Share Spread the Love

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Life Imitating Art: The Army of Darkness Lobster

A new deep sea lobster has been Discovered by Rockefeller University's Jesse Ausubel.
In his honor, its technical name is Dinochelus ausubeli.  Is it me or is that nature's chainsaw attached to its lobster arm?


Dinochelus ausubeli has a striking resemblance to Bruce Campbell in Army of Darkness.  The lobster claw is not only a hand, but its weapon of destruction.  The wild disproportion of its appendages also bring to mind the weapon of another pop culture reference, Hellboy.


Dinochelus ausubeli.  I don't know why they felt they had to add an "i" on the end of his name.  It seems that addition is just to make it sound like Latin.  Does it have a purpose?  Am I wrong? Tell me if so.

Deep Sea creatures are always fascinating to me.  Such bizzare evolution of life down there, where we have observed so little.  A blog I frequent is Deep Sea News.   I recommend it!  They'll probably cover the story of this discovery soon.


------ Sharing via these buttons will share the current article page, unless your current url is the main page of Astronasty. Click the title of the article to go to an individual article page.
Share Spread the Love

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Science Pictures and Videos in the News: Feb. 5, 2011

BBC posted a beautiful video capturing the northern lights.  I'm awestruck!  "Photographer captures Northern Lights phenomenon"
"A photographer has managed to capture the Northern Lights phenomenon in Northern Norway, after he decided to place his camera on top of a mountain to shoot a time lapse of the sky."



Video Credit: BBC/Eirik Evjen


On Universe Today, "Observing Alert: Z Canis Major In Outburst"
"Z Canis Major"

Image Credit: Palomar Observatory, courtesy of Caltech



------ Sharing via these buttons will share the current article page, unless your current url is the main page of Astronasty. Click the title of the article to go to an individual article page.
Share Spread the Love

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Science in the News: Feb. 2, 2011

Today on BBC Science, "Brian Cox: Science is not 'dominated by old men'"
Brian Cox on illusory limits to pursuing a scientific career.  To me personally, this is incredibly inspiring.




Also on BBC Today, "Why the Moon is getting further away from Earth" explains the physics behind the acceleration of the moon via the tides on Earth that the Moon itself causes. 
"The Moon continues to spin away from the Earth, at the rate of 3.78cm (1.48in) per year, at about the same speed at which our fingernails grow."


Discover posted an Article today, "Is Deep Space the Birthplace of Life Across the Cosmos?" featuring this brilliant image of the Orion Nebula:

Image Credit: Tony Hallas



ESO Released a new image of a galaxy newly found to be extraordinarily flat, without bulges.  "A Picture-perfect Pure-disc Galaxy"
This is one of the most popular image floating around the news today.
"The bright galaxy NGC 3621, captured here using the Wide Field Imager on the 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile, appears to be a fine example of a classical spiral. But it is in fact rather unusual: it does not have a central bulge and is therefore described as a pure-disc galaxy"

Image Credit: ESO and Joe DePasquale



Lifehacker Chimes In with "How to Keep Your Facebook Secure (by Enabling HTTPS)"
It's a must if you're using firefox on a public wifi connection, and takes only seconds to change.



Today Starts With A Bang, while explaining "Why the Moon Turns Red During an Eclipse!" touches on the Earth's atmosphere, and accents it with this beautiful photograph:

Image Credit: NASA

------ Sharing via these buttons will share the current article page, unless your current url is the main page of Astronasty. Click the title of the article to go to an individual article page.
Share Spread the Love

Popular Posts This Month

Follow by Email