Tag Archive: Universe


The first direct evidence of cosmic inflation — a period of rapid expansion that occurred a fraction of a second after the Big Bang — also supports the idea that our universe is just one of many out there, some researchers say.

On Monday (March 17), scientists announced new findings that mark the first-ever direct evidence of primordial gravitational waves — ripples in space-time created just after the universe began. If the results are confirmed, they would provide smoking-gun evidence that space-time expanded at many times the speed of light just after the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago.

The new research also lends credence to the idea of a multiverse. This theory posits that, when the universe grew exponentially in the first tiny fraction of a second after the Big Bang, some parts of space-time expanded more quickly than others. This could have created “bubbles” of space-time that then developed into other universes. The known universe has its own laws of physics, while other universes could have different laws, according to the multiverse concept.

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Rosetta, Europe’s comet-chasing spacecraft, has woken from its slumber.

A signal confirming its alert status was received by controllers in Darmstadt, Germany, at 18:17 GMT.

Rosetta has spent the past 31 months in hibernation to conserve power as it arced beyond the orbit of Jupiter on a path that should take it to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in August.

Engineers will now finesse the probe’s trajectory and prepare its instruments for the daring encounter.

One of the highlights of the mission will be the attempt to put a small robotic lander, Philae, on the surface of the 4.5km-wide comet. This will occur in November.

There were nail-biting moments in the Darmstadt control room as its flight engineers waited for the signal to come through. Three quarters of the way through the hour-long window of opportunity, they got what they were waiting for.

Gerhard Schwehm, mission manager for Rosetta, said: “After 31 months in hibernation, what is 45 minutes to wait?”

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The charged solar winds may have given stardust one of the ingredients of life <i>(Image: Fesus Robert/Shutterstock)</i>

A sprinkling of stardust is as magical as it sounds. The dust grains that float through our solar system contain tiny pockets of water, which form when they are zapped by a blast of charged wind from the sun.

The chemical reaction causing this to happen had previously been mimicked in laboratories, but this is the first time water has been found trapped inside real stardust.

Combined with previous findings of organic compounds in interplanetary dust, the results suggest that these grains contain the basic ingredients needed for life. As similar dust grains are thought to be found in solar systems all over the universe, this bodes well for the existence of life across the cosmos.

“The implications are potentially huge,” says Hope Ishii of the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, one of the researchers behind the study. “It is a particularly thrilling possibility that this influx of dust on the surfaces of solar system bodies has acted as a continuous rainfall of little reaction vessels containing both the water and organics needed for the eventual origin of life.”

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Cosmic ‘web’ seen for first time

Cosmic web of filaments

The hidden tendrils of dark matter that underlie the visible Universe may have been traced out for the first time.

Cosmology theory predicts that galaxies are embedded in a cosmic web of “stuff”, most of which is dark matter.

Astronomers obtained the first direct images of a part of this network, by exploiting the fact that a luminous object called a quasar can act as a natural “cosmic flashlight”.

Details of the work appear in the journal Nature.

The quasar illuminates a nearby gas cloud measuring two million light-years across.

And the glowing gas appears to trace out filaments of underlying dark matter.

The quasar, which lies 10 billion light-years away, shines light in just the right direction to reveal the cold gas cloud.

For some years, cosmologists have been running computer simulations of the structure of the universe to build the “standard model of cosmology”.

They use the cosmic microwave background, corresponding to observations of the very earliest Universe that can be seen, and recorded by instruments such as the Planck space observatory, as a starting point.

Their calculations suggest that as the Universe grows and forms, matter becomes clustered in filaments and nodes under the force of gravity, like a giant cosmic web.

The new results from the 10-metre Keck telescope in Hawaii, are reported by scientists from the University of California, Santa Cruz and the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg.

They are the first direct observations of cold gas decorating such cosmic web filaments.

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A team of astronomers and engineers want to reproduce the atmosphere of a red giant like the one you are seeing in this Hubble image—right here on Earth. To make this happen, projectNanocosmos will build three five-meter-long machines working with hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, silicon, titanium, iron and other metals at 1500 C (2732 F).

For the first time, Nanocosmos will design and build a machine capable of producing insterstellar dust grains emulating the physical and chemical conditions of the outer layers of dying stars.

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Astronomers at the European Southern Observatory’s Paranal Observatory in Chile have released a breathtaking new photograph showing the central area of our Milky Way galaxy. The photograph shows a whopping 84 million stars in an image measuring 108500×81500, which contains nearly 9 billion pixels.

It’s actually a composite of thousands of individual photographs shot with the observatory’s VISTA survey telescope, the same camera that captured the amazing 55-hour exposure that we shared back in March. Three different infrared filters were used to capture the different details present in the final image.

The VISTA’s camera is sensitive to infrared light, which allows its vision to pierce through much of the space dust that blocks the view of ordinary optical telescope/camera systems.

To give you an idea of how crazy this photo is (and what 84 million stars looks like), here are a couple of 100% crops we made while fully zoomed in. The first one shows the bright area seen in the center of the frame:

The Atlantic notes that if you were to print out this image as a standard book photograph, it would be nearly 30-feet wide and 23-feet tall.

Check out the zoomable version of the photograph yourself to get a sense of how massive this photo (and space) is.

A ten-dimensional theory of gravity makes the same predictions as standard quantum physics in fewer dimensions.

A team of physicists has provided some of the clearest evidence yet that our Universe could be just one big projection.

In 1997, theoretical physicist Juan Maldacena proposed that an audacious model of the Universe in which gravity arises from infinitesimally thin, vibrating strings could be reinterpreted in terms of well-established physics. The mathematically intricate world of strings, which exist in nine dimensions of space plus one of time, would be merely a hologram: the real action would play out in a simpler, flatter cosmos where there is no gravity.

Maldacena’s idea thrilled physicists because it offered a way to put the popular but still unproven theory of strings on solid footing — and because it solved apparent inconsistencies between quantum physics and Einstein’s theory of gravity. It provided physicists with a mathematical Rosetta stone, a ‘duality’, that allowed them to translate back and forth between the two languages, and solve problems in one model that seemed intractable in the other and vice versa. But although the validity of Maldacena’s ideas has pretty much been taken for granted ever since, a rigorous proof has been elusive.

In two papers posted on the arXiv repository, Yoshifumi Hyakutake of Ibaraki University in Japan and his colleagues now provide, if not an actual proof, at least compelling evidence that Maldacena’s conjecture is true.

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“While it is difficult to fathom the scale of this “large quasar group” (LQG), we can say quite definitely it is the largest structure ever seen in the entire universe,” said Dr Clowes of University of Central Lancashire’s Jeremiah Horrocks Institute. “This is hugely exciting – not least because it runs counter to our current understanding of the scale of the universe. Even traveling at the speed of light, it would take 4 billion years to cross. This is significant not just because of its size but also because it challenges the Cosmological Principle, which has been widely accepted since Einstein. Our team has been looking at similar cases which add further weight to this challenge and we will be continuing to investigate these fascinating phenomena.”

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Big Bang was mirage from collapsing higher-dimensional star, theorists propose.

It could be time to bid the Big Bang bye-bye. Cosmologists have speculated that the Universe formed from the debris ejected when a four-dimensional star collapsed into a black hole — a scenario that would help to explain why the cosmos seems to be so uniform in all directions.

The standard Big Bang model tells us that the Universe exploded out of an infinitely dense point, or singularity. But nobody knows what would have triggered this outburst: the known laws of physics cannot tell us what happened at that moment.

“For all physicists know, dragons could have come flying out of the singularity,” says Niayesh Afshordi, an astrophysicist at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Canada.

It is also difficult to explain how a violent Big Bang would have left behind a Universe that has an almost completely uniform temperature, because there does not seem to have been enough time since the birth of the cosmos for it to have reached temperature equilibrium.

To most cosmologists, the most plausible explanation for that uniformity is that, soon after the beginning of time, some unknown form of energy made the young Universe inflate at a rate that was faster than the speed of light. That way, a small patch with roughly uniform temperature would have stretched into the vast cosmos we see today. But Afshordi notes that “the Big Bang was so chaotic, it’s not clear there would have been even a small homogenous patch for inflation to start working on”.

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Constructing a 3D Map of the Large Scale Structure of the Universe

An international team led by astronomers from Kyoto University, the University of Tokyo and the University of Oxford has released its first version of a 3D map of the Universe from its FastSound project (Note 1), which is surveying galaxies in the Universe over nine billion light years away. Using the Subaru Telescope’s new Fiber Multi-Object Spectrograph, the team’s 3D map includes 1,100 galaxies and shows the large-scale structure of the Universe nine billion years ago.

he FastSound Project, one of Subaru Telescope’s Strategic Programs, began its observations in March 2012 and will continue them into the spring of 2014. Although surveys with 3D maps of the Universe have been conducted on the nearby Universe (e.g., the Sloan Digital Sky Survey with coverage up to five billion light years away), the FastSound project distinguishes itself by developing a 3D map of the far-distant Universe, covering the largest volume of the Universe farther than ten billion light years away. Subaru Telescope’s FMOS facilitates the project’s goal of surveying a large portion of the sky. FMOS is a powerful wide-field spectroscopy system that enables near-infrared spectroscopy of over 100 objects at a time; the spectrograph’s location at prime focus allows an exceptionally wide field of view when combined with the light collecting power of the 8.2 m primary mirror of the telescope.

The current 3D map of 1,100 galaxies shows the large-scale structure of the Universe nine billion years ago, spanning 600 million light years along the angular direction and two billion light years in the radial direction. The team will eventually survey a region totaling about 30 square degrees in the sky and then measure precise distances to about 5000 galaxies that are more than ten billion light years away. Although the clustering of galaxies is not as strong as that of the present-day Universe, gravitational interaction will eventually result in clustering that grows to the current level.

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No one knows for sure, but it is not at all unlikely that the universe is constructed in a very different way than the theories and models of today predict. The most widely used model today cannot explain everything in the universe, and therefore there is a need to explore the parts of nature which the model cannot explain. This research field is called “New Physics,” and it turns our understanding of the universe upside down.

“New physics is about searching for unknown physical phenomena not known from the current perception of the universe. Such phenomena are inherently very difficult to detect,” explains PhD student Matin Mojaza from Europe’s CP3-Origins. The Standard Model needs to be extended so that it can explain the Higgs particle, dark matter and gravity. One possibility in this regard is to examine the so-called technicolor theory, and another is the theory of supersymmetry.According to the supersymmetry theory, each particle has a partner somewhere in the universe – these have not yet been found though. According to the technicolor theory there is a special techni-force that binds so-called techni-quarks, which can form other particles – perhaps this is how the Higgs particle is formed. This could explain the problems with the current model of the Higgs particle. Continue reading

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Concentrated laser light in the universe may singal the presence of a technological civilizations that might be living on distant planets or in a spacecraft nearby. “Think about humanity 300 hundred years from now,” he said. “Suppose we set up a colony on another planet … the most likely way we will communicate with (humans on those planets) is with radio signals or light beams.” Marcy believes that there may be other civilizations in the universe that are years ahead of human society and might currently be communicating with radio signals in a network he calls a “galactic Internet.”

Marcy uses advanced telescopes to detect concentrated signals in space. He believes these signals may indicate the existence of another advanced civilization, because nothing in the universe is known to emit such signals. The Templeton Foundation recently granted him $200,000 for his proposal.Marcy leads a team that specializes in searching for laser light for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, or SETI, program at UC Berkeley, a program that uses advanced telescopes to detect strong signals in an attempt to find technological civilizations in the universe.His work is only a section of the collective effort of the organization. UC Berkeley has established a reputation as the world’s largest organization — since NASA’s 1993 SETI program — for exploring advanced life in the universe. Continue reading

Particles’ changing masses could explain why distant galaxies appear to be rushing away.

It started with a bang, and has been expanding ever since. For nearly a century, this has been the standard view of the Universe. Now one cosmologist is proposing a radically different interpretation of events — in which the Universe is not expanding at all.

In a paper posted on the arXiv preprint server, Christof Wetterich, a theoretical physicist at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, has devised a different cosmology in which the Universe is not expanding but the mass of everything has been increasing. Such an interpretation could help physicists to understand problematic issues such as the so-called singularity present at the Big Bang, he says.

Although the paper has yet to be peer-reviewed, none of the experts contacted by Nature dismissed it as obviously wrong, and some of them found the idea worth pursuing. “I think it’s fascinating to explore this alternative representation,” says Hongsheng Zhao, a cosmologist at the University of St Andrews, UK. “His treatment seems rigorous enough to be entertained.”

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OUR home galaxy has been weighed, and it is surprisingly lean. The latest gauge of the dark matter mass of the Milky Way suggests it weighs only a quarter to a third of the amount previously estimated.

This could explain the dearth of smaller galaxies buzzing around the Milky Way. But it also means we may live in a cosmic anomaly.

It is thought the first galaxies were born as normal matter coalesced around globs of dark matter, the invisible stuff thought to make up about 80 per cent of the matter in the universe. We can’t see dark matter itself, but we can trace its effects in the motions of stars in modern galaxies.

Stars on the edges of large spirals like the Milky Way are orbiting so fast that they should fly off, so something must be holding on to them. That thing is thought to be a halo of dark matter encircling the visible disc.

Knowing our galaxy’s total mass will tell us a lot about it. “Is our Milky Way typical, or is it actually quite weird?” asks Alis Deason of the University of California, Santa Cruz.

A smattering of stars live in the Milky Way’s dark matter halo, and previous studies have used their motion to figure out the halo’s mass. But we are embedded in a spiral arm, which means dust and gas blocks much of our view of our relatively flat galaxy, so those models had to make assumptions about the parts we can’t see.

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universe expanding

It started with a bang, and has been expanding ever since. For nearly a century, this has been the standard view of the Universe. Now one cosmologist is proposing a radically different interpretation of events — in which the Universe is not expanding at all.

In a paper posted on the arXiv preprint server, Christof Wetterich, a theoretical physicist at the University of Heidelberg in Germany, has devised a different cosmology in which the universe is not expanding but the mass of everything has been increasing. Such an interpretation could help physicists to understand problematic issues such as the so-called singularity present at the Big Bang, he says.

Although the paper has yet to be peer-reviewed, none of the experts contacted byNature dismissed it as obviously wrong, and some of them found the idea worth pursuing. “I think it’s fascinating to explore this alternative representation,” says Hongsheng Zhao, a cosmologist at the University of St Andrews, UK. “His treatment seems rigorous enough to be entertained.”

Astronomers measure whether objects are moving away from or towards Earth by analysing the light that their atoms emit or absorb, which comes in characteristic colours, or frequencies. When matter is moving away from us, these frequencies appear shifted towards the red, or lower-frequency, part of the spectrum, in the same way that we hear the pitch of an ambulance siren drop as it speeds past.

In the 1920s, astronomers including Georges Lemaître and Edwin Hubble found that most galaxies exhibit such a redshift — and that the redshift was greater for more distant galaxies. From these observations, they deduced that the Universe must be expanding.

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Scientists have observed in unprecedented detail the birth of a massive star within a dark cloud core about 10,000 light years from Earth.

The team used the new ALMA (Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array) telescope in Chile – the most powerful radio telescope in the world – to view the stellar womb which, at 500 times the mass of the Sun and many times more luminous, is the largest ever seen in our galaxy.

The researchers say their observations – to be published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics – reveal how matter is being dragged into the centre of the huge gaseous cloud by the gravitational pull of the forming star – or stars – along a number of dense threads or filaments.

“The remarkable observations from ALMA allowed us to get the first really in-depth look at what was going on within this cloud,” said lead author Dr Nicolas Peretto, from Cardiff University. “We wanted to see how monster stars form and grow, and we certainly achieved our aim. One of the sources we have found is an absolute giant — the largest protostellar core ever spotted in the Milky Way!

“Even though we already believed that the region was a good candidate for being a massive star-forming cloud, we were not expecting to find such a massive embryonic star at its centre. This cloud is expected to form at least one star 100 times more massive than the Sun and up to a million times brighter. Only about one in 10,000 of all the stars in the Milky Way reach that kind of mass.”

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plasmaspheric-wind-leak-loop

Earth looks like such a solid and stable blue marble from outer space. But looks can be deceiving. Our planet is actually quietly leaking the equivalent of about 90 metric tons of plasma into outer space every day, according to new data collected by the European Space Agency’s Cluster mission. Plasma is an invisible, electrically charged gas that forms in the upper atmosphere when air particles are heated by the Sun’s ultraviolet rays. These particles travel along Earth’s magnetic field lines and are able to escape Earth’s gravity, but most remain trapped in an enormous bubble around the Earth known as the plasmasphere that ends about 16,000 miles outward from the planet.

Scientists observed that some plasma was escaping even further beyond this point in sporadic bursts of sudden activity known as plumes, which were first recored in the 1990s. But now the new data from ESA’s Cluster missions suggests the process of plasma escape is actually more regular, supporting a theory first proposed in 1992. “Now we have finally found proof of a permanent and continuous leakage of material from the plasmasphere outwards,” said Iannis Dandouras, a French scientist involved in the research, in a statement published online.

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Scientists find neighbour star with 6 planets, 3 of them capable of supporting life

A neighbour star has at least six planets in orbit, including three circling at the right distance for water to exist, a condition believed to be necessary for life, scientists said on Tuesday.

Previously, the star known as Gliese 667C was found to be hosting three planets, one of which was located in its so-called “habitable zone” where temperatures could support liquid surface water. That planet and two newly found sibling worlds are bigger than Earth, but smaller than Neptune.

“This is the first time that three such planets have been spotted orbiting in this zone in the same system,” astronomer Paul Butler, with the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C., said in a statement.

Scientists say the discovery of three planets in a star’s habitable zone raises the odds of finding Earth-like worlds where conditions might have been suitable for life to evolve.

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Ten years ago when the WMAP data on the cosmic microwave background (CMB) became available, John Cramer, Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Washington, completed a Mathematica calculation to produce “the sound of the Big Bang.” Cramer decided to do the same thing with the new data from the ESA’s Planck Mission analysis of the CMB, which analyzes the temperature variations of the cosmic microwave background into angular frequency components or multipoles. The new frequency spectrum goes to much higher frequencies than did the WMAP analysis, and therefore offers a more “high-fidelity” rendition of the Sound of the Big Bang.

The simulation represents the first 760,000 years of evolution of the universe, as the emitted CBR rises and falls in intensity following the Planck profile; (3) The universe was expanding and becoming more of a “bass instrument” while the cosmic background radiation was being emitted. To put it another way, the expanding universe “stretches” the sound wavelengths and thereby lowers their frequencies. To account for this effect, the program shifts the waves downward in frequency to follow the expansion in the first 760 thousand years of the universe.

Plato’s Universe

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According to a recent theory the Universe could be a dodecahedron. It is surprising that Plato used a dodecahedron as the quintessence to describe the cosmos. Plato (c. 427 BC – c. 347 BC) also stated that time had a beginning; it came together with the universe in one instant of creation.

Plato held the view that mathematical objects really existed so that they are discovered by mathematicians (in the same way that new continents are discovered by explorers) rather than invented. Plato believed that mathematics provided the best training for thinking about science and philosophy. The five regular solids are named Platonic Solids today after Plato.

Of the 5 solids, the tetrahedron has the smallest volume for its surface area and the icosahedron the largest; they therefore show the properties of dryness and wetness respectively and so correspond to Fire and Water. The cube, standing firmly on its base, corresponds to the stable Earth but the octahedron which rotates freely when held by two opposite vertices, corresponds to the mobile Air. The dodecahedron corresponds to the Universe because the zodiac has 12 signs (the constellations of stars that the sun passes through in the course of one year) corresponding to the 12 faces of the dodecahedron.

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