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Lost and found: Chandra locates missing matter

CHANDRA X-RAY CENTER NEWS RELEASE



NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has discovered two huge intergalactic clouds of
diffuse hot gas. These clouds are the best evidence yet that a vast cosmic web of hot gas
 contains the long-sought missing matter - about half of the atoms and ions in the Universe.



This illustration shows the absorption of X-rays from the quasar Mkn 421
 by two intergalactic clouds of diffuse hot gas.
 These distant clouds (located 150 million and 370 million light years from Earth),
 are likely part of a predicted diffuse web-like
system of hot gas clouds - the cosmic web - from which
galaxies and clusters of galaxies are thought to have formed. Credit: CXC/M.Weiss
 


Various measurements give a good estimate of the mass-density of the baryons - the neutrons
and protons that make up the nuclei of atoms and ions - in the Universe 10 billion years ago.
 However, sometime during the last 10 billion years a large fraction of the baryons, commonly
referred to as "ordinary matter" to distinguish them from dark matter and dark energy,
 have gone missing.

SOURCE:SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM



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Swift sees Pinwheel Galaxy
 as satellite goes operational


PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY NEWS RELEASE


The Swift satellite's Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope (UVOT) has seen first light, capturing
an image of the Pinwheel Galaxy, long loved by amateur astronomers as the "perfect" face-on
spiral galaxy. The UVOT now remains poised to observe its first gamma-ray burst.



M101 is a bright, face-on, spiral galaxy located in the constellation Ursa Major
(containing the Big Dipper), about 15 million light years from Earth.


Swift is a NASA-led mission dedicated to the gamma-ray burst mystery.
 These random and fleeting explosions likely signal the birth of black holes.
With the UVOT turned on, Swift now is fully operational. Swift's two other instruments -- the
 Burst Alert Telescope (BAT) and the X-ray Telescope (XRT) -- were turned on over the past
 several weeks and have been snapping up gamma-ray bursts ever since.

SOURCE:SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM


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Saturn has strange hot spot

W. M. KECK OBSERVATORY NEWS RELEASE


Astronomers using the Keck I telescope in Hawaii are learning much more about a strange,
 thermal "hot spot" on Saturn that is located at the tip of the planet's south pole.
In what the team is calling the sharpest thermal views of Saturn ever taken from the ground,
 the new set of infrared images suggest a warm polar vortex at Saturn's south pole
 -- the first to ever be discovered in the solar system. This warm polar cap is home to
 a distinct compact hot spot, believed to contain the highest measured temperatures
 on Saturn. A paper announcing the results appears in the Feb. 4th issue of "Science."



Mosaic false-color image of thermal heat emission from
Saturn and its rings taken on February 4, 2004, with the Keck I
telescope at 17.65 micron wavelengths. The black square at 4 o'clock
 represents missing data. Credit: W. M. Keck Observatory/NASA/JPL-G.
Orton
Download larger image version here
http://www2.keck.hawaii.edu/news/science/saturn/saturn2004a.jpg



A "polar vortex" is a persistent, large-scale weather pattern, likened to a jet stream
on Earth that occurs in the upper atmosphere. On Earth, the Arctic Polar Vortex is typically
 located over eastern North America in Canada and plunges cold artic air to the Northern Plains
in the United States. Earth's Antarctic Polar Vortex, centered over Antarctica, is responsible
 for trapping air and creating unusual chemistry, such as the effects that create the
 "ozone hole." Polar vortices are found on Earth, Jupiter, Mars and Venus, and are colder than
 their surroundings. But new images from the W. M. Keck Observatory show the first evidence
of a polar vortex at much warmer temperatures. And the warmer, compact region at the
 pole itself is quite unusual.

SOURCE:SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM

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Mini-planet system seen in growth
   
Astronomers believe there may be mini solar systems out there - planets which orbit small, failed stars



An artist's impression of a brown dwarf surrounded by a swirling disc of planet-building dust. OTS 44's disc has enough
mass to make one small gas giant and a few Earth-sized rocky planets, scientists say. (Image: Nasa/JPL-Caltech/T.Pyle-SSC)


The suggestion is based on Spitzer telescope observations, which detail a dusty disc
around a brown dwarf, a star too small to ignite its nuclear fuel.

The star, named OTS 44, is only about 15 times the mass of Jupiter.

This is much smaller than any other brown dwarf known to be surrounded by a disc
 of planet-building material, says US researcher Dr Kevin Luhman.

"This leads to all sorts of new questions, like 'Could life exist on such planets?' or
'What do you call a planet circling a planet-sized body? A moon or a planet?'," he added.

Previously, the smallest brown dwarf known to host a planet-forming disc was 25 to 30
times more massive than Jupiter.

The finding should ultimately help astronomers better understand how and where planets -
 including rocky ones resembling our own - form, the US space agency (Nasa) said in a statement.

OTS 44 was first discovered by the Gemini Observatory in Chile and then subjected to
 further investigation with orbiting Spitzer telescope.

The brown dwarf is located 500 light-years away in the Chamaeleon constellation.

Spitzer's speciality is in the infrared, where the detail in the dim glow of dust can be
more easily discerned.

The Spitzer results are being published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

SOURCE:BBC.CO.UK

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Mimas blues
CASSINI PHOTO RELEASE


Mimas drifts along in its orbit against the azure backdrop of Saturn's northern
 latitudes in this true color view. The long, dark lines on the atmosphere are shadows
cast by the planet's rings.


Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Download larger image version here

http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/jpeg/PIA06176.jpg

Saturn's northern hemisphere is presently relatively cloud-free, and rays of sunlight take
 a long path through the atmosphere. This results in sunlight being scattered at shorter
(bluer) wavelengths, thus giving the northernmost latitudes their bluish appearance at
visible wavelengths.

At the bottom, craters on icy Mimas (398 kilometers, or 247 miles across) give the moon
 a dimpled appearance.

SOURCE:SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM


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First stellar outcast discovered by astronomers

HARVARD-SMITHSONIAN CENTER FOR ASTROPHYSICS NEWS RELEASE


Using the MMT Observatory in Tucson, AZ, astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for
Astrophysics (CfA) are the first to report the discovery of a star leaving our galaxy,
speeding along at over 1.5 million miles per hour. This incredible speed likely resulted
 from a close encounter with the Milky Way's central black hole, which flung the star
outward like a stone from a slingshot. So strong was the event that the speedy star
eventually will be lost altogether, traveling alone in the blackness of intergalactic space.


Astronomers at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory have
discovered the first star flung out of the Milky Way, speeding away at over 1.5 million
 miles per hour. The so-called outcast star is shown in this artist's depiction
in its current location as it travels through the distant outskirts of the Milky Way.
 Credit: Ruth Bazinet, CfA


SOURCE:SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM


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Ring beholds a delicate flower, Spitzer reveals

SPITZER PHOTO RELEASE
NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope finds a delicate flower in the Ring Nebula, as shown
in this image. The outer shell of this planetary nebula looks surprisingly similar
to the delicate petals of a camellia blossom.



Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Harvard-Smithsonian CfA
Download larger image version herehttp://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/jpeg/PIA07343.jpg




A planetary nebula is a shell of material ejected from a dying star.

Located about 2,000 light years from Earth in the constellation Lyra, the Ring
 Nebula is also known as Messier Object 57 and NGC 6720. It is one of the best examples
 of a planetary nebula and a favorite target of amateur astronomers.

The "ring" is a thick cylinder of glowing gas and dust around the doomed star.
 As the star begins to run out of fuel, its core becomes smaller and hotter, boiling
off its outer layers. The telescope's infrared array camera detected this material expelled
from the withering star.

SOURCE: SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM

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Blast affected Earth from halfway across the Milky Way

CENTER FOR ASTROPHYSICS NEWS RELEASE


Forget "Independence Day" or "War of the Worlds." A monstrous cosmic explosion last
December showed that the earth is in more danger from real-life space threats than
from hypothetical alien invasions.



Artist's conception of the December 27 gamma ray flare expanding from SGR 1806-20 and impacing Earth's atmosphere. Credit: NASA

The gamma-ray flare, which briefly outshone the full moon, occurred within the Milky Way galaxy.
 Even at a distance of 50,000 light-years, the flare disrupted the earth's ionosphere.
If such a blast happened within 10 light-years of the earth, it would destroy the much
of the ozone layer, causing extinctions due to increased radiation.

"Astronomically speaking, this explosion happened in our backyard. If it were in our living room,
we'd be in big trouble!" said Bryan Gaensler (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics),
lead author on a paper describing radio observations of the event.

Gaensler headed one of two teams reporting on this eruption at a special press event
today at NASA headquarters. A multitude of papers are planned for publication.

The giant flare detected on December 27, 2004, came from an isolated, exotic
neutron star within the Milky Way. The flare was more powerful than any blast previously
 seen in our galaxy.

SOURCE: SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM

One calculation has the giant flare unleashing about 10,000 trillion trillion trillion watts, that's more energy in a tenth of a second than our sun emits in 100,000 years:...source BBC

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Solar Tadpoles Wave at Astrophysicists


Researchers at the University of Warwick's Department of Physics have gained insight
 into the mysterious giant dark "tadpoles" that appear to swim towards the surface
 of the Sun during solar flares - enormous energy releases happening in the atmosphere of the Sun.

The tadpoles - colossal physical structures with dark heads and attendant wiggly
 tails that seem to swim sunwards against tides of hot matter being thrown away from
the Sun during flares - have puzzled astrophysicists for several years, as they
are so unlike any other phenomena observed on the Sun.

University of Warwick researchers Dr Valery Nakariakov and Dr Erwin Verwichte believe
 they have managed to understand the physics of this process. They analysed observations
 obtained with NASA's "Transition Region And Coronal Explorer" (TRACE) space mission
and put forward the idea that the wiggles of the tadpoles' tails are huge waves - similar
to the flying of flags in the wind - though, these solar wiggles are several times larger
than the Earth. The scientists think that the waves are produced by a peculiar physical
mechanism known as "negative energy waves", when waves suck energy from the medium they
 propagate through.

The understanding of the wiggles allowed the researchers to conclude that the tadpoles
themselves are not material features, but optical illusions, as the solar matter is not
 falling down but is being continuously thrown upwards. The apparently descending
tadpole head marks the falling start point of the matter's upward acceleration.

SOURCE:EUREKALERT.ORG



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Cassini captures greatest Saturn portrait yet

CASSINI PHOTO RELEASE




BigPicture here..(and I mean BIG...5.4MB !!)http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/jpeg/PIA06193.jpg

 
While cruising around Saturn, Cassini captured a series of images that have been composed
 into the largest, most detailed, global natural color view of Saturn and its rings ever made.

This grand mosaic consists of 126 images acquired in a tile-like fashion, covering
one end of Saturn's rings to the other and the entire planet in between. The images
were taken over the course of 2 hours on Oct. 6, 2004, while Cassini was approximately 6.3 million kilometers
(3.9 million miles) from Saturn. Since the view seen by Cassini during this time changed
very little, no re-projection or alteration of any of the images was necessary.

Three images (red, green and blue) were taken each of 42 locations, or "footprints", across the planet.
 The full color footprints were put together to produce a mosaic that is 8,888 pixels across
and 4,544 pixels tall.




SOURCE:SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM

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Spitzer exposes dusty galactic hideouts

NASA NEWS RELEASE


How do you hide something as big and bright as a galaxy? You smother it in cosmic dust.
 NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope saw through the cosmic dust to uncover a hidden
population of monstrously bright galaxies approximately 11 billion light-years away.



This artist's animation demonstrates that an invisible galaxy shrouded
 in dust can become glaringly bright when viewed in
infrared light. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech



These strange galaxies are among the most luminous in the universe, shining with the equivalent
 light of 10 trillion suns. But, they are so far away and so drenched in dust, it took
Spitzer's highly sensitive infrared eyes to find them.

"We are seeing galaxies that are essentially invisible," said Dr. Dan Weedman of Cornell
 University, Ithaca, N.Y., co-author of the study detailing the discovery. It will be
published in today's issue of the Astrophysical Journal letters. "Past infrared
 missions hinted at the presence of similarly dusty galaxies over 20 years ago, but those
galaxies were closer. We had to wait for Spitzer to peer far enough into the distant
 universe to find these," he said.

Where is all this dust coming from? The answer is not quite clear. Dust is churned out
 by stars, but it is not known how the dust wound up sprinkled all around the galaxies.
 Another mystery is the exceptional brightness of the galaxies. Astronomers speculate
 a new breed of unusually dusty quasars, the most luminous objects in the universe,
 may be lurking inside. Quasars, like giant light bulbs at the centers of galaxies,
 are powered by huge black holes.

SOURCE: SPACEFLIGHTNOW.CPM

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Hubble sees impending destruction of galaxy

SPACE TELESCOPE SCIENCE INSTITUTE NEWS RELEASE



What happens when a galaxy falls in with the wrong crowd? The irregular galaxy NGC 1427A
is a spectacular example of the resulting stellar rumble. Under the gravitational grasp
 of a large gang of galaxies, called the Fornax cluster, the small bluish galaxy is
 plunging headlong into the group at 600 kilometers per second or nearly 400 miles per second.

NGC 1427A, which is located some 62 million light-years away from Earth in the direction
 of the constellation Fornax, shows numerous hot, blue stars in this newly released image
obtained by the Hubble Space Telescope. These blue stars have been formed very recently,
showing that star formation is occurring extensively throughout the galaxy.

Le Grande Piccy ici http://imgsrc.hubblesite.org/hu/db/2005/09/images/a/formats/print.jpg


SOURCE: SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM

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Martian Landscaping: Spacecraft eyes evidence of a frozen sea

Ron Cowen

A flat region near the Red Planet's equator may hold a frozen ocean that was once as deep
 and big as the North Sea. The region's relatively craterless facade suggests that water gushed
 to the surface and froze recently, raising the possibility that life might exist today
on or just beneath the surface, says Mars Express researcher John Murray. Last week, his
team reported its analysis of images that were taken by the orbiting Mars Express spacecraft.


MARTIAN OCEAN? A frozen sea could have sculpted this flat region near the Martian equator.
ESA


SOURCE: SCIENCENEWS.COM


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Newly seen force may help gravity in star formation
NASA-GSFC NEWS RELEASE


Scientists have pierced through a dusty stellar nursery to capture the earliest and most
detailed view of a collapsing gas cloud turning into a star, analogous to a baby's first ultrasound.



This image comes from the R Corona Australis star-forming region,
about 500 light years from Earth. This image was created with the
University of Hawaii 88-inch telescope in the "near" infrared
waveband, which is slightly lower in energy than what is visible to
our eyes. Many protostars (reddish) and young stars (bright white)
 are seen here. Credit: UH88/Nedachi et al.


"We are seeing star formation at its embryonic stage," said Dr. Kenji Hamaguchi,
 a NASA-funded researcher at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., lead
author on a report in The Astrophysical Journal. "Previous observations have
captured the shape of such gas clouds but have never been able to peer inside.
 The detection of X-rays this early indicates that gravity alone is not the only force
 shaping young stars."





Big Pic http://www.nasa.gov/images/content/107415main_region_88.jpg


SOURCE: SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM

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Hubble weighs in on the heaviest stars in the galaxy

NASA NEWS RELEASE


Astronomers have taken an important step toward establishing an upper limit to
the masses of stars. Using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, they made the first direct
 measurement within our Milky Way Galaxy, and concluded stars cannot get any larger
than about 150 times the mass of our sun.



This artist's impression shows how the Arches star
cluster appears from deep inside the hub of our Milky Way Galaxy.
 Although hidden from our direct view, the massive cluster lies
25,000 light-years away and is the densest known gathering of young
stars in our galaxy. The illustration is based on infrared
observations with Hubble and with ground-based telescopes, which
pierced our galaxy's dusty core and snapped images of the luminous
cluster of about 2,000 stars. Credit: NASA, ESA and A. Schaller (for
 STScI)



A star's weight ranges from less than one-tenth to more than 100 times the mass of our sun.
 Although astronomers know stars come in a variety of masses, they don't know if the bodies
have a weight limit at birth. Knowing how large a star can form may offer important clues to
 how the universe makes them.

Astronomers have been uncertain about how large a star can get before it cannot hold
itself together and blows apart. Astronomers don't know enough about the details of the star-
formation process to estimate a star's upper mass. Consequently, theories have predicted
stars can be anywhere between 100 to 1,000 times more massive than the sun.





This illustration compares the different masses of
stars. Credit: NASA, ESA and A. Feild (STScI)

 






SOURCE:SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM

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SUPERVOLCANO

Pictures from scenes of the BBCs Factual Drama:













SOURCE: BBC

....and here's the link to the web pages dedictaed to Supervolcanos and about the making of the program. http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/tvradio/programmes/supervolcano/programme.shtml


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Dark energy evidence in local galactic neighborhood

UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON NEWS RELEASE

Astrophysicists in recent years have found evidence for a force they call dark energy in
observations from the farthest reaches of the universe, billions of light years away.



A supercomputer-produced cross-section of part of the
universe shows galaxies as brighter dots along filaments of matter,
 with a sea of dark energy filling in between the galactic islands.
 Credit: James Wadsley, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario


The data paint a picture of the universe as a virtual sea of dark energy, with billions
of galaxies as islands emerging from the sea, said Fabio Governato, a University of Washington
research associate professor of astronomy and a researcher with Italy's National
Institute for Astrophysics.

In 1929 astronomer Edwin Hubble demonstrated that galaxies are moving away from each other,
 which supported the theory that the universe has been expanding since the big bang. In 1999
cosmologists reported evidence that an unusual force, called dark energy, was actually
causing the expansion of the universe to accelerate.

However, the expansion is slower than it would be otherwise because of the tug of gravity
among galaxies. As the battle between the attraction of gravity and the repellent force of
 dark energy plays out, cosmologists are left to ponder whether the expansion will continue
 forever or if the universe will collapse in a "big crunch."

In 1997, Governato designed a computer model to simulate evolution of the universe from
the big bang until the present. His research group found the model could not duplicate
the smooth expansion that had been observed among galaxies around the Milky Way, the
galaxy in which Earth resides. In fact, the model produced deviations from a
purely radial expansion that were three to seven times higher than astronomers had
actually observed, Governato said.

"The observed motion was small, and we could not duplicate it without the presence
of dark energy," he said. "When we added the dark energy, we got a perfect match."


SOURCE: spaceflightnow.com



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Sliced-up craters on Saturn's icy moon Enceladus

CASSINI PHOTO RELEASE


Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
During its very close flyby of Enceladus on March 9, Cassini took high resolution images
 of the icy moon that are helping scientists interpret the complex topography of this
 intriguing little world.

This scene(above) is an icy landscape that has been scored by tectonic forces. Many of the
craters in this terrain have been heavily modified, such as the 10-kilometer-wide (6-mile-wide)
 crater near the upper right that has prominent north-south fracturing along its northeastern slope.

Biggy http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/jpeg/PIA06217.jpg



Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

This view (above)of Saturn's moon Enceladus shows an area that has undergone a very intriguing --
and in places puzzling -- sequence of events. The craters here are subdued, as seen elsewhere
on Enceladus, and most, but not all, are older than the fractures. Fracturing has occurred at
 a wide variety of scales, from the wide rift running through the center of the image to much
narrower sets of shorter fractures that crosscut the craters (and each other) to the left.

Biggy: http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/jpeg/PIA06215.jpg



Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

This image (above)of Saturn's moon Enceladus shows a region of craters softened by time and torn
 apart by tectonic stresses. Fractures 100 to 400 meters (330 to 1,300 feet) in width crosscut
 the terrain: One set trends northeast-southwest and another trends northwest-southeast.
North is up. A region of "grooved terrain" is visible on the left. A broad canyon, its floor
partly concealed by shadow, is notable on the right.

Biggy: http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/jpeg/PIA06213.jpg

SOURCE: SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM

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Young and exotic stellar zoo

EUROPEAN SOUTHERN OBSERVATORY NEWS RELEASE

Super star clusters are groups of hundreds of thousands of very young stars packed
into an unbelievably small volume. They represent the most extreme environments in which
 stars and planets can form.




This is a composite image of the super star
cluster "Westerlund 1" from 2.2-m MPG/ESO Wide-Field Imager (WFI)
 observations. The foreground stars appear blue, while the hot
massive members of the cluster look orange, and the cool massive
ones come out red. Credit: ESO



Until now, super star clusters were only known to exist very far away, mostly in pairs or
groups of interacting galaxies. Now, however, a team of European astronomers have used
ESO's telescopes to uncover such a monster object within our own Galaxy, the Milky Way,
almost, but not quite, in our own backyard!

The newly found massive structure is hidden behind a large cloud of dust and gas and this
is why it took so long to unveil its true nature. It is known as "Westerlund 1" and
is a thousand times closer than any other super star cluster known so far. It is close
enough that astronomers may now probe its structure in some detail.

Westerlund 1 contains hundreds of very massive stars, some shining with a brilliance of
almost one million suns and some two-thousand times larger than the Sun (as large as the
 orbit of Saturn)! Indeed, if the Sun were located at the heart of this remarkable cluster,
our sky would be full of hundreds of stars as bright as the full Moon. Westerlund 1 is
 a most unique natural laboratory for the study of extreme stellar physics, helping astronomers
to find out how the most massive stars in our Galaxy live and die.
 

SOURCE:SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM


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Fastest supercomputer gets faster
Blue Gene (Image: IBM)


Blue Gene snatched the crown from Japan in November
Blue Gene/L, the fastest supercomputer in the world, has broken its own speed record,
 reaching 135.5 teraflops - a trillion calculations a second.

That is double the speed it clocked up to take it to the number one spot in the Top 500
 supercomputer league.




The IBM Blue Gene machine that achieved the new mark is being assembled for the
 Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a US Department of Energy (DOE) lab.

It did 70.72 teraflops last year to beat Japan's NEC Earth Simulator.

The Blue Gene/L is due to be completed for the Livermore labs in 2005.

   
WORLD TOP 5 SUPERCOMPUTERS
1. Blue Gene/L, USA
2. Columbia, USA
3. Earth Simulator, Japan
4. MareNostrum, Spain
5. Thunder, USA
Its peak theoretical performance is expected to be 360 teraflops, with the machine
taking up 64 full racks.


SOURCE: BBC.CO.UK


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Old Softy: Tyrannosaurus fossil yields flexible tissue


Sid Perkins

Scientists analyzing fragments of a Tyrannosaurus rex's leg bone have recovered pliable
 material containing structures that appear to be cells and blood vessels.



TENDER TOUCH. Demineralized fragments from a Tyrannosaurus
 rex leg bone contain fibrous areas (arrows) yielding structures
 that appear to be cells of a type found in living bone.
Science


Paleontologists usually find only a creature's hard body parts, such as bones, teeth,
or shells, preserved as fossils. In the rare instances when internal organs, muscles,
skin, and other soft body parts turn up, the original tissue has been replaced by
minerals that create hard replicas, says Mary H. Schweitzer, a paleontologist at
 North Carolina State University in Raleigh. Sometimes, a soft tissue's shape is
 recorded by sediments that surround it.

Now, the first report of flexible material from a fossil describes an extraction
from the femur, or upper leg bone, of a T. rex that lived about 68 million years ago in
 what is now Montana.

SOURCE:SCIENCENEWS.ORG

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Hubble telescope spies cosmic dust bunnies

SPACE TELESCOPE SCIENCE INSTITUTE NEWS RELEASE


Like dust bunnies that lurk in corners and under beds, surprisingly complex loops and blobs
 of cosmic dust lie hidden in the giant elliptical galaxy NGC 1316. This image made from
 data obtained with the NASA Hubble Space Telescope reveals the dust lanes and star clusters
of this giant galaxy that give evidence that it was formed from a past merger of two
gas-rich galaxies.


Credit: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
Download larger image version here
http://imgsrc.hubblesite.org/hu/db/2005/11/images/a/formats/large_web.jpg

The combination of Hubble's superb spatial resolution and the sensitivity of the
Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), installed onboard Hubble in 2002 and used for these images,
 enabled uniquely accurate measurements of a class of red star clusters in NGC 1316.
 Astronomers conclude that these star clusters constitute clear evidence of the occurrence
 of a major collision of two spiral galaxies that merged together a few billion years ago
 to shape NGC 1316 as it appears today.

source: spaceflightnow.com

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New image of Earth, seen through gamma-ray eyes
NASA-GSFC NEWS RELEASE


A NASA-funded scientist has produced a new type of picture of the Earth from space,
which complements the familiar image of our "blue marble". This new picture is the first
 detailed image of our planet radiating gamma rays, a type of light that is millions to
billions of times more energetic than visible light.


Here we see a false-color image of the Earth in three
gamma-ray energy bands, analogous to the colors red (lower energy),
 green (mid energy) and blue (higher energy) in the visible
spectrum. For the complete caption and print-resolution versions,
see the links at the end of this article. Credit: NASA/CGRO/EGRET/
Dirk Petry


The image portrays how the Earth is constantly bombarded by particles from space.
These particles, called cosmic rays, hit our atmosphere and produce the gamma-ray light high
 above the Earth. The atmosphere blocks harmful cosmic rays and other high-energy radiation
 from reaching us on the Earth's surface.

source: spaceflightnow.com



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Planets galore like Earth await discovery

ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY NEWS RELEASE


How many planets like the Earth are there among the 130 or so known planetary systems beyond our own?
 How many of these "Earths" could be habitable?


An artist's impression shows an Earth-like planet. Credit: Julian Baum/Take 27 Ltd.

 Recent theoretical work by Barrie Jones, Nick Sleep, and David Underwood at the Open University
in Milton Keynes indicates that as many as half of the known systems could be harbouring habitable
 "Earths" today.

Unfortunately, existing telescopes are not powerful enough to see these relatively small, distant
"Earths". Orbiting close to a much brighter star, these very faint worlds resemble glow-worms
hidden in the glare of a searchlight.

All of the planets that have been detected so far are giants the mass of Neptune or larger.
 Even so, they cannot be directly seen with ground-based instruments. Almost all
 of the known exoplanets have been found through the "wobbling" motion they induce in
 their star as they orbit it, like a twirling dumb-bell in which the mass at one end (the star)
 is much greater than the mass at the other end (the giant planet).

SOURCE: SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM
 



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LISA and the search for elusive gravity waves

ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY NEWS RELEASE


For almost 100 years, scientists have been searching for direct evidence of the existence
 of gravity waves - faint ripples in the fabric of spacetime predicted in Albert
 Einstein's theory of General Relativity.




An artist's concept shows the search for gravitational waves with LISA. Credit: ESA


 Today, the hunt for gravity waves has become a worldwide effort involving hundreds of scientists.
A number of large, ground-based facilities have been developed in Europe, the United States
and Japan, but the most sophisticated search of all will soon take place in space.

Speaking on Tuesday 5 April at the RAS National Astronomy Meeting in Birmingham, Professor Mike Cruise
 described a joint ESA-NASA project called LISA (Laser Interferometric Space Antenna),

Scheduled for launch in 2012, LISA will comprise three spacecraft flying in formation around the Sun,
 making it the largest scientific instrument ever placed in orbit.

"LISA is expected to provide the best chance of success in the search for the exciting,
 low frequency gravity waves," said Professor Cruise. "However, the mission is one of the most complex,
 technological challenges ever undertaken."

According to Einstein's theory, gravity waves are caused by the motion of large masses
(e.g. neutron stars or black holes) in the Universe. The gravitational influence
between distant objects changes as the masses move, in the same way that moving electric
charges create the "electromagnetic waves" that radio sets and TV's can detect.

SOURCE: SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM

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