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Offline neilep

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The first stars
HARVARD-SMITHSONIAN CENTER FOR ASTROPHYSICS NEWS RELEASE
Posted: July 31, 2008

The universe began with the Big Bang about 13.7 billion years ago. Very soon after that event, the first stars formed. Today, those stars are dead and gone leaving little evidence of their size and composition behind. Now, a new computer simulation now offers the most detailed picture yet of how these first stars came into existence. These findings will be published by the journal Science on Friday, 1 August.


In this artist impression, swirling clouds
of hydrogen and helium gasses are illuminated
 by the first starlight to shine in the Universe.
 In the lower portion of the artwork, a supernova
explodes ejecting heavier elements that will someday
be incorporated into new stars and planets.
 Credit: David A. Aguilar, CfA

 
 
The composition of the early universe was quite different from that of today, and the physics that governed the early universe were also somewhat simpler. Dr. Naoki Yoshida, Nagoya University in Nagoya, Japan and co-author Dr. Lars Hernquist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA, incorporated these conditions of the early universe, sometimes referred to as the "cosmic dark ages," to simulate the formation of an astronomical object that would eventually shine as a star.

According to their simulations, gravity acted on minute density variations in matter, gases, and the mysterious "dark matter" of the universe after the Big Bang in order to form the early stages of a star called a protostar. With a mass of just one percent of our Sun, Dr. Yoshida's simulation also shows that the protostar would likely evolve into a massive star capable of synthesizing heavy elements, not just in later generations of stars, but soon after the Big Bang. These stars would have been up to one hundred times as massive as our Sun and would have burned for no more than one million years.

"This general picture of star formation, and the ability to compare how stellar objects form in different time periods and regions of the universe, will eventually allow investigation in the origins of life and planets," said Hernquist.

"The abundance of elements in the Universe has increased as stars have accumulated," he says, "and the formation and destruction of stars continues to spread these elements further across the Universe. So when you think about it, all of the elements in our bodies originally formed from nuclear reactions in the centers of stars, long ago."

Their simulation of the birth of a protostar in the early universe signifies a key step toward the ambitious goal of piecing together the formation of an entire primordial star and of predicting the mass and properties of these first stars of the universe. More powerful computers, more physical data, and an even larger range will be needed for further calculations and simulations, but these researchers hope to eventually extend this simulation to the point of nuclear reaction initiation ­ when a stellar object becomes a true star.

"Dr. Yoshida has taken the study of primordial star formation to a new level with this simulation, but it still gets us only to the halfway point towards our final goal. It is like laying the foundation of a skyscraper," said Volker Bromm, Assistant Professor of Astronomy at the University of Texas, Austin and the author of a companion article. "We must continue our studies in this area to understand how the initially tiny protostar grows, layer by layer, to eventually form a massive star. But here, the physics become much more complicated and even more computational resources are needed."

Headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) is a joint collaboration between the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard College Observatory. CfA scientists, organized into six research divisions, study the origin, evolution and ultimate fate of the universe


SOURCE:SPACEFLIGHTNOW.ORG
 

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'Cosmic ghost' discovered by volunteer astronomer
YALE UNIVERSITY NEWS RELEASE
Posted: August 5, 2008

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - When Yale astrophysicist Kevin Schawinski and his colleagues at Oxford University enlisted public support in cataloguing galaxies, they never envisioned the strange object Hanny van Arkel found in archived images of the night sky.


Hanny's Voorwerp: the green blob of gas
 believed to be a 'light echo' from the
bright, stormy centre of a distant galaxy
that has now gone dim.
 Credit : Dan Smith, Peter Herbert, Matt Jarvis & the ING

 
 
The Dutch school teacher, a volunteer in the Galaxy Zoo project that allows members of the public to take part in astronomy research online, discovered a mysterious and unique object some observers are calling a "cosmic ghost."

van Arkel came across the image of a strange, gaseous object with a hole in the center while using the www.galaxyzoo.org website to classify images of galaxies.

When she posted about the image that quickly became known as "Hanny's Voorwerp" ( Dutch for "object") on the Galaxy Zoo forum, astronomers who run the site began to investigate and soon realized van Arkel might have found a new class of astronomical object.

"At first, we had no idea what it was. It could have been in our solar system, or at the edge of the universe," said Schawinski, a member and co-founder of the Galaxy Zoo team.

Scientists working at telescopes around the world and with satellites in space were asked to take a look at the mysterious Voorwerp. "What we saw was really a mystery," said Schawinski. "The Voorwerp didn't contain any stars." Rather, it was made entirely of gas so hot - about 10,000 Celsius - that the astronomers felt it had to be illuminated by something powerful. They will soon use the Hubble Space Telescope to get a closer look.

Since there was no obvious source at hand in the Voorwerp itself, the team looked to find the source of illumination around the Voorwerp, and soon turned to the nearby galaxy IC 2497.

"We think that in the recent past the galaxy IC 2497 hosted an enormously bright quasar," Schawinski explains. "Because of the vast scale of the galaxy and the Voorwerp, light from that past still lights up the nearby Voorwerp even though the quasar shut down sometime in the past 100,000 years, and the galaxy's black hole itself has gone quiet."

"From the point of view of the Voorwerp, the galaxy looks as bright as it would have before the black hole turned off ­ it's this light echo that has been frozen in time for us to observe," said Chris Lintott, a co-organizer of Galaxy Zoo at Oxford University, UK. "It's rather like examining the scene of a crime where, although we can't see them, we know the culprit must be lurking somewhere nearby in the shadows." Similar light echoes have been seen around supernovae that exploded decades or centuries ago.

Quasars are very unusual, highly luminous objects, powered by supermassive black holes, and most are extremely distant. "The strange 'Hanny's Voorwerp' looks like it could be the nearest example of a luminous quasar," said C. Megan Urry, Israel Munson Professor of Physics & Astronomy and Chair of the Physics Department at Yale, who was not involved in the research.

"IC 2497 is so close that if the quasar was still shining today, on a good night you could probably see it with a small telescope," Schawinski added. "The nearest active quasar, called 3C 273, is 1.7 billion light years further away."

"This discovery really shows how citizen science has come of age in the Internet world," commented Professor Bill Keel of the University of Alabama, a galaxyzoo.org team member. "Hanny's attentiveness alerted us not only to a peculiar object, but to a window into the cosmic past which might have eluded us for a long time otherwise. Trying to understand the processes operating here has proven to be a fascinating challenge, involving a whole range of astrophysical techniques and instruments around the world and beyond. This has also been some of the most rewarding astronomy I've done in years!"

The Galaxy Zoo project was imagined and begun by Schawinski and his colleague Chris Lintott at Oxford. While working on his PhD thesis, Schawinski classified and catalogued nearly 50,000 galaxies. Knowing that the human eye is sometimes more sensitive than a computer at picking out unusual patterns, he mused that it would be wonderful if there were amateur astronomers who were interested in doing some of the "scanning."

"When we launched Galaxy Zoo we were overwhelmed - as was the internet portal, initially - with the outpouring of public interest and volunteer input," said Schawinski. During the last year, over 150,000 armchair astronomers from all over the world volunteered their time and submitted over 50 million classifications for a set of one million images online. They then could follow the progress of the science they made possible at www.galaxyzooblog.org

"It's amazing to think that this object has been sitting in the archives for decades and that amateur volunteers can help by spotting things like this online," said Hanny van Arkel. "It was a fantastic present to find out on my 25th birthday that we will get observational time on the Hubble Space Telescope to follow-up this discovery."

 SOURCE:SPACEFLIGHTNOW.ORG
 

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Generations of stars pose for family portrait
BY DR EMILY BALDWIN
ASTRONOMY NOW


Posted: August 26, 2008

In celebration of Spitzer’s five years in orbit, a stunning new image reveals the family portrait of a star-forming inferno studded with multiple generations of brilliant stars, and provides dramatic new evidence that massive stars can trigger the birth of stellar newborns through their savage winds and radiation.

"Triggered star formation continues to be very hard to prove," says Xavier Koenig of the Harvard Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, "but our preliminary analysis shows that the phenomenon can explain the multiple generations of stars seen in the W5 region."



The Spitzer image was taken over a period of 24 hours and is a three-colour composite showing infrared observations from two Spitzer instruments. Blue represents 3.6-micron light and are older stars in the star-forming cloud as well as unrelated stars behind and in front of the cloud, and green shows light of 8 microns, highlighting dense clouds, both captured by Spitzer's infrared array camera. Red is 24-micron light detected by Spitzer's multiband imaging photometer and shows heated dust that pervades the region's cavities. White knotty areas are where the youngest stars are forming. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Harvard-Smithsonian CfA.

W5 spans an area of sky equivalent to four full moons and is about 6,500 light-years away in the constellation Cassiopeia. Like other massive star-forming regions such as Orion and Carina, W5 hosts vast cavities that were carved out by blistering radiation and ferocious winds from the region's most massive stars. According to the theory of triggered star-formation, the sculpting of these cavities forces gas together, causing it to ignite into successive generations of new stars along the cavities' expanding rims. The result is a radial family tree of stars, with the oldest in the middle of the cavity, and younger stars further out.

Koenig and colleagues set out to test the triggered star-formation theory by studying the ages of the stars in W5. They used Spitzer's penetrating infrared vision to peer through the dusty clouds and view the stars' various stages of evolution. They found that stars within the W5 cavities (blue dots) are older than stars at the rims (pink and white dots) and even older than stars further out past the rim that are embedded in the elephant trunk-like pillars of gas. This ladder-like separation of ages provides some of the best evidence yet that massive stars do, in fact, give rise to younger generations.

"Our first look at this region suggests we are looking at one or two generations of stars that were triggered by the massive stars," says co-author Lori Allen. However, it is possible that the younger stars just happen to be near the edge of the cavities and were not triggered by the larger stars and so the research team plan to follow up with even more detailed measurements of the stars' ages to find out if there is a distinct time gap between the stars just inside and outside the rim.

And in a serious twist of fate, the massive stars in W5 will eventually die in tremendous explosions, wiping out some of the very stars that they triggered into existence millions of years previously.

SOURCE:SPACEFLIGHTNOW.ORG
 
 

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Milky Way Road Trip
Credit & Copyright: Tunç Tezel (TWAN)




BIGGY PICCY HERE



 In search of planets and the summer Milky Way, astronomer Tunç Tezel took an evening road trip. Last Saturday, after driving the winding road up Uludag, a mountain near Bursa, Turkey, he was rewarded by this beautiful skyview to the south. Near the center, bright planet Jupiter outshines the city lights below and the stars of the constellation Sagittarius. Above the mountain peaks, an arcing cloud bank seems to lead to the Milky Way's own cloudy apparition plunging into the distant horizon. In Turkish, Uludag means Great Mountain. Uludag was known in ancient times as the Mysian Olympus.
 

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I've been taking more photos... check out this bad-boy!

 

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A Flock of Stars
Credit & Copyright: Roger A. Hopkins








 Only a few stars can be found within ten light-years of our lonely Sun, situated near an outer spiral arm of the Milky Way galaxy. But if the Sun were found within one of our galaxy's star clusters, thousands of stars might occupy a similar space. What would the night sky look like in such a densely packed stellar neighborhood? When Roger Hopkins took this picture at the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge in the Finger Lakes region of western New York, USA, he was struck by this same notion. Appropriately, he had photographed a flock of starlings against the backdrop of a serene sunset. He then manipulated the image so that the black bird silhouettes were changed to white. The final picture dramatically suggests the tantalizing spectacle of approaching night in crowded skies above a cluster star world.
 

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M110: Satellite of the Andromeda Galaxy
Credit & Copyright: Jean-Charles Cuillandre (CFHT) & Giovanni Anselmi (Coelum Astronomia), Hawaiian Starlight






 Our Milky Way Galaxy is not alone. It is part of a gathering of about 25 galaxies known as the Local Group. Members include the Great Andromeda Galaxy (M31), M32, M33, the Large Magellanic Cloud, the Small Magellanic Cloud, Dwingeloo 1, several small irregular galaxies, and many dwarf elliptical and dwarf spheroidal galaxies. Pictured on the lower right is one of the dwarf ellipticals: NGC 205. Like M32, NGC 205 is a companion to the large M31, and can sometimes be seen to the south of M31's center in photographs. The image shows NGC 205 to be unusual for an elliptical galaxy in that it contains at least two dust clouds (at 9 and 2 o'clock - they are visible but hard to spot) and signs of recent star formation. This galaxy is sometimes known as M110, although it was actually not part of Messier's original catalog.
 

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SN 1006: A Supernova Ribbon from Hubble
Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA); Acknowledgement: W. Blair et al. (JHU)





What created this unusual space ribbon? Most assuredly, one of the most violent explosions ever witnessed by ancient humans. Back in the year 1006 AD, light reached Earth from a stellar explosion in the constellation of the Wolf (Lupus), creating a "guest star" in the sky that appeared brighter than Venus and lasted for over two years. The supernova, now cataloged at SN 1006, occurred about 7,000 light years away and has left a large remnant that continues to expand and fade today. Pictured above is a small part of that expanding supernova remnant dominated by a thin and outwardly moving shock front that heats and ionizes surrounding ambient gas. SN 1006 now has a diameter of nearly 60 light years. Within the past year, an even more powerful explosion occurred far across the universe that was visible to modern humans, without any optical aid, for a few seconds.
 

Offline Evie

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neilep...

I love APOD!!! I go on and look at the Astronomy Picture of the Day almost every morning. Did you know you can download a little program that will set your wallpaper (on your computer, of course, not your actual house walls) to whatever the APOD is, every day? Cool, huh?
 

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neilep...

I love APOD!!! I go on and look at the Astronomy Picture of the Day almost every morning. Did you know you can download a little program that will set your wallpaper (on your computer, of course, not your actual house walls) to whatever the APOD is, every day? Cool, huh?

That's really cool Evie (and I need to thank ewe for answering my Cliff thread too by the way)..Nope, I didn't know that about the wallpaper thingy, I must check it out ...cooool !!

Thanks

neil
 

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Active Region 1002 on an Unusually Quiet Sun
Credit: SOHO Consortium, EIT, ESA, NASA





 Why has the Sun been so quiet recently? No one is sure. Our Sun has shown few active regions -- that house even fewer associated sunspots -- for over a year now, and such a period of relative calm is quite unusual. What is well known is that our Sun is in a transitional period between solar cycles called a Solar Minimum, where solar activity has historically been reduced. The stark lack of surface tumult is unusual even during a Solar Minimum, however, and activity this low has not been seen for many decades. A few days ago, however, a bona-fide active region -- complete with sunspots --appeared and continues to rotate across the Sun's face. Visible above, this region, dubbed Active Region 1002 (AR 1002), was imaged in ultraviolet light yesterday by the SOHO spacecraft, which co-orbits the Sun near the Earth. Besides the tranquility on the Sun's surface, recent data from the Ulysses spacecraft, across the Solar System, indicate that the intensity of the solar wind blowing out from the Sun is at a fifty year low. Predictions hold, however, that our Sun will show more and more active regions containing more and more sunspots and flares until Solar Maximum occurs in about four years.
 

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Prehistoric funerary precinct excavated in northern Israel

Grave goods include phallic figurines, sea shells from Mediterranean and Red Seas, items from Syria, Cyprus and Anatolia




Hebrew University excavations in the north of Israel have revealed a prehistoric funerary precinct dating back to 6,750-8,500 BCE.

The precinct, a massive walled enclosure measuring 10 meters by at least 20 meters, was discovered at excavations being undertaken at Kfar HaHoresh. The Pre-Pottery Neolithic B site in the Nazareth hills of the lower Galilee is interpreted as having been a regional funerary and cult center for nearby lowland villages.

Prof. Nigel Goring-Morris of the Hebrew University's Institute of Archaeology, who is leading the excavations, says that the precinct is just one of the many finds discovered at the site this year – including remains of a fully-articulated, but tightly contracted 40 year old adult male.



(1) Phallic figurine,
 (2) Small symbolic axe made with serpentine,
 (3) Shell pendants,
 (4) Engraved token




Accompanying grave goods include a sickle blade and a sea shell, while a concentration of some 60 other shells were found nearby. The sea shells provide evidence for extensive exchange networks from the Mediterranean and Red Seas. Symbolic items include small plain or incised tokens. An entire herd of cattle was also found buried nearby.




Aerial view over the funerary precinct.


While fertility symbols during this period are often associated with female imagery, at Kfar HaHoresh only phallic figurines have been found to date, including one placed as a foundation deposit in the wall of the precinct.

Exotic minerals found at the site include malachite from south of the Dead Sea, obsidian (natural volcanic glass) from central Anatolia, and a votive axe on serpentine from either Cyprus or northern Syria.

"Cultic artifacts, installations and their contextual associations attest to intensive ritual practices in the area," says Prof. Goring-Morris.




Grave of complete body with shell, knife and sickle.


Burials at the site now total at least 65 individuals, and display an unusual demographic profile – with an emphasis on young adult males. Graves occur under or associated with lime-plaster surfaced L-shaped walled structures, and are varied in nature from single articulated burials through multiple secondary burials with up to 17 individuals. Bones in one had been intentionally re-arranged in what appears to be a depiction.

The Pre-pottery Neolithic B, ca. 8,500-6,750 BCE, corresponds to the period when the first large village communities were established in the fertile regions of the Near East when a wide ranging cultural interaction sphere came into being throughout the Levant.

SOURCE: EUREKA ALERT

 

Offline samuelcaleb

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wow, i like the way they are organizing a road show...

_________________________________
 
« Last Edit: 30/01/2009 09:26:12 by BenV »
 

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Moon Rays over Byurakan Observatory
Credit & Copyright: Babak Tafreshi (TWAN)





 On September 7th, the first quarter Moon and passing clouds contributed to a dramatic night sky over the Byurakan Astrophysical Observatory. This panoramic view begins at the left looking toward the eastern horizon and the rising stars of the constellation Perseus. Sweeping your gaze to the right (south), you'll find the large observatory dome, housing a 2.6 meter diameter telescope, backlit by lights from nearby Yerevan, capital city of Armenia. Fittingly poised above the observatory dome is the bright, giant star Enif in the high-flying constellation Pegasus. Farther to the right, the brightest celestial beacon just above the clouds is our Solar System's ruling gas giant Jupiter. At the far right, the Moon is nearly hidden by an approaching cloudbank, but the clouds themselves actually cast shadows in the bright moonlight, creating the effect of Moon rays across the evening sky.
 

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Bright Bolide
Credit & Copyright: Howard Edin (Oklahoma City Astronomy Club)



On September 30, a spectacular bolide or fireball meteor surprised a group of amateur astronomers enjoying dark night skies over the Oklahoma panhandle's Black Mesa State Park in the Midwestern US. Flashing past familiar constellations Taurus (top) and Orion, the extremely bright meteor was captured by a hillside camera overlooking the 2008 Okie-Tex Star Party. Astronomy enthusiast Howard Edin reports that he was looking in the opposite direction at the time, but saw the whole observing field light up and at first thought someone had turned on their car headlights. So far the sighting of a such a bright bolide meteor, produced as a space rock is vaporized hurtling through Earth's atmosphere, really is a matter of luck. But that could change. Earlier this week the discovery and follow-up tracking of tiny asteroid 2008 TC3 allowed astronomers to predict the time and location of its impact with the atmosphere. While no ground-based sightings of the fireball seem to have been reported, this first ever impact prediction was confirmed by at least some detections of an air burst and bright flash on October 7th over northern Sudan.
 

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Irregular Galaxy NGC 55
Credit & Copyright: Robert Gendler


Irregular galaxy NGC 55 is thought to be similar to the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). But while the LMC is about 180,000 light-years away and is a well known satellite of our own Milky Way Galaxy, NGC 55 is more like 6 million light-years distant and is a member of the Sculptor Galaxy Group. Classified as an irregular galaxy, in deep exposures the LMC itself resembles a barred disk galaxy. However, spanning about 50,000 light-years, NGC 55 is seen nearly edge-on, presenting a flattened, narrow profile in contrast with our face-on view of the LMC. Just as large star forming regions create emission nebulae in the LMC, NGC 55 is also seen to be producing new stars. This gorgeous galaxy portrait highlights a bright core, telltale pinkish emission regions, and young blue star clusters in NGC 55.
 

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 In the Center of the Lagoon Nebula






Credit: A. Caulet (ST-ECF, ESA), NASA

 The center of the Lagoon Nebula is a whirlwind of spectacular star formation. Visible on the upper left, at least two long funnel-shaped clouds, each roughly half a light-year long, have been formed by extreme stellar winds and intense energetic starlight. The tremendously bright nearby star, Hershel 36, lights the area. Vast walls of dust hide and redden other hot young stars. As energy from these stars pours into the cool dust and gas, large temperature differences in adjoining regions can be created generating shearing winds which may cause the funnels. This picture, spanning about 5 light years, was taken in 1995 by the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope. The Lagoon Nebula, also known as M8, lies about 5000 light years distant toward the constellation of Sagittarius.
 

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 Great Orion Nebulae
Credit & Copyright: Tony Hallas





The Great Nebula in Orion, also known as M42, is one of the most famous nebulae in the sky. The star forming region's glowing gas clouds and hot young stars are on the right in this sharp and colorful two frame mosaic that includes the smaller nebula M43 near center and dusty, bluish reflection nebulae NGC 1977 and friends on the left. Located at the edge of an otherwise invisible giant molecular cloud complex, these eye-catching nebulae represent only a small fraction of this galactic neighborhood's wealth of interstellar material. Within the well-studied stellar nursery, astronomers have also identified what appear to be numerous infant solar systems. The gorgeous skyscape spans nearly two degrees or about 45 light-years at the Orion Nebula's estimated distance of 1,500 light-years.
 

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NGC 602 and Beyond
Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI / AURA) - ESA/Hubble Collaboration



 Near the outskirts of the Small Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy some 200 thousand light-years distant, lies 5 million year young star cluster NGC 602. Surrounded by natal gas and dust, NGC 602 is featured in this stunning Hubble image of the region. Fantastic ridges and swept back shapes strongly suggest that energetic radiation and shock waves from NGC 602's massive young stars have eroded the dusty material and triggered a progression of star formation moving away from the cluster's center. At the estimated distance of the Small Magellanic Cloud, the picture spans about 200 light-years, but a tantalizing assortment of background galaxies are also visible in the sharp Hubble view. The background galaxies are hundreds of millions of light-years or more beyond NGC 602.
 

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Massive Stars in Open Cluster Pismis 24
Credit:NASA, ESA and J. M. Apellániz (IAA, Spain)




How massive can a normal star be? Estimates made from distance, brightness and standard solar models had given one star in the open cluster Pismis 24 over 200 times the mass of our Sun, making it a record holder. This star is the brightest object located just above the gas front in the above image. Close inspection of images taken recently with the Hubble Space Telescope, however, have shown that Pismis 24-1 derives its brilliant luminosity not from a single star but from three at least. Component stars would still remain near 100 solar masses, making them among the more massive stars currently on record. Toward the bottom of the image, stars are still forming in the associated emission nebula NGC 6357, including several that appear to be breaking out and illuminating a spectacular cocoon.
 

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A Witch by Starlight
Credit & Copyright: Star Shadows Remote Observatory
(Steve Mazlin, Jack Harvey, Rick Gilbert, Teri Smoot, Daniel Verschatse)





By starlight this eerie visage shines in the dark, a crooked profile evoking its popular name, the Witch Head Nebula. In fact, this entrancing telescopic portrait gives the impression the witch has fixed her gaze on Orion's bright supergiant star Rigel. Spanning over 50 light-years, the dusty cosmic cloud strongly reflects nearby Rigel's blue light, giving it the characteristic color of a reflection nebula. Cataloged as IC 2118, the Witch Head Nebula is about 1,000 light-years away. Of course, you might see a witch this scary tonight, but don't panic. Have a safe and Happy Halloween!
 

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A Working Brain Model





A representation of a mammalian neocortical column,
 the basic building block of the cortex. The representation
 shows the complexity of this part of the brain, which has
 now been modeled using a supercomputer. Credit: BBP/EPFL

 
Blue Brain could soon let us do neuroscience in silico

By Duncan Graham-Rowe
MIT Technology Review,

Here for more http://www.andyross.net/blue_brain.htm



An ambitious project to create an accurate computer model of the brain has reached an impressive milestone. Scientists in Switzerland working with IBM researchers have shown that their computer simulation of the neocortical column, arguably the most complex part of a mammal's brain, appears to behave like its biological counterpart.

The project began with the initial goal of modeling the 10,000 neurons and 30 million synaptic connections that make up a rat's neocortical column, the main building block of a mammal's cortex. The neocortical column was chosen as a starting point because it is widely recognized as being particularly complex.

The model itself is based on 15 years' worth of experimental data on neuronal morphology, gene expression, ion channels, synaptic connectivity, and electrophysiological recordings of the neocortical columns of rats. Software tools were developed to reconstruct accurate 3D models of neurons and their interconnections.

The neuronal circuits were tested by simulating specific input stimuli and seeing how the circuits behaved, compared with those in biological experiments. Where gaps in knowledge appeared about how parts of the model were supposed to behave, the scientists went back to the lab and performed experiments.

The level of detail of the model can be taken further. It is still at a cellular level, but the scientists want to look at the molecular level. Doing so would enable simulation-based drug testing to be carried out by showing how specific molecules affect proteins, receptors, and enzymes.
 
 

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Radar Indicates Buried Glaciers on Mars
Data Reconstruction Credit : NASA/JPL-Caltech/UTA/UA/MSSS/ESA/DLR/JPL Solar System Visualization Project









What created this unusual terrain on Mars? The floors of several mid-latitude craters in Hellas Basin on Mars appear unusually grooved, flat, and shallow. New radar images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter bolster an exciting hypothesis: huge glaciers of buried ice. Evidence indicates that such glaciers cover an area larger than a city and extend as much as a kilometer deep. The ice would have been kept from evaporating into the thin Martian air by a covering of dirt. If true, this would indicate the largest volume of water ice outside of the Martian poles, much larger than the frozen puddles recently discovered by the Phoenix lander. Such lake-sized ice blocks located so close to the Martian equator might make a good drinking reservoir for future astronauts exploring Mars. How the glaciers originally formed remains a mystery. In the meantime, before packing up to explore Mars, please take a moment to suggest a name for NASA's next Martian rover.
 

Offline neilep

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In the Vicinity of the Cone Nebula
Credit & Copyright: T. A. Rector (NRAO), NOAO, AURA, NSF







Strange shapes and textures can be found in neighborhood of the Cone Nebula. The unusual shapes originate from fine interstellar dust reacting in complex ways with the energetic light and hot gas being expelled by the young stars. The brightest star on the right of the above picture is S Mon, while the region just above it has been nicknamed the Fox Fur Nebula for its color and structure. The blue glow directly surrounding S Mon results from reflection, where neighboring dust reflects light from the bright star. The orange glow that encompasses the whole region results not only from dust reflection but also emission from hydrogen gas ionized by starlight. S Mon is part of a young open cluster of stars named NGC 2264, located about 2500 light years away toward the constellation of Monoceros. The origin of the mysterious geometric Cone Nebula, visible on the far left, remains a mystery.
 

Offline Bikerman

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Some quality pics of the Antarctic here
http://www.leenks.com/link132921.html
 

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