SpaceJibe

March 28, 2012

New ‘life in space’ hope after billions of ‘habitable planets’ found in Milky Way

Filed under: Big Bang, Cool, Cosmology, Exoplanets, Extraterrestrial Life, Life — bferrari @ 9:24 pm

Billions of potentially habitable planets may exist within our galaxy, the Milky Way, raising new prospects that life could exist near Earth, a study has found.

Hundreds of thousands of stars crowded into the swirling core of our spiral Milky Way galaxy (NASA)

Hundreds of thousands of stars crowded into the swirling core of our spiral Milky Way galaxy (NASA)

Researchers discovered that at least 100 of the ”super-Earths” may be on our galactic doorstep, at distances of less than 30 light years, or about 180 trillion miles, from the sun.
Astronomers say the findings were made after conducting a survey of red dwarf stars, which account for about four in five stars in the Milky Way.
They calculate that around 40 per cent of red dwarfs have a rocky planet not much bigger than Earth orbiting the ”habitable zone”, in which liquid surface water can exist.
Scientists say that where there is water, there also could be life although they add that being in the habitable zone is no guarantee that life has evolved on a planet.
Dr Xavier Bonfils, from Grenoble University in France, who led the international team, said: ”Because red dwarfs are so common – there are about 160 billion of them in the Milky Way – this leads us to the astonishing result that there are tens of billions of these planets in our galaxy alone.”

In their study, the team of astronomers surveyed a carefully chosen sample of 102 red dwarfs using the European Southern Observatory’s 3.6-metre telescope at La Silla, Chile.

A total of nine super-Earths – planets with masses between one and 10 times that of Earth – were found. Two were located within the habitable zones of the stars Gliese 581 and Gliese 667 C.

These data were combined with other observations, including those of stars which did not have planets.

The astronomers, whose research was reported in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, worked out that habitable zone super-Earths orbiting red dwarfs occurred with a frequency of around 41 per cent.

Meanwhile massive planets similar to Jupiter and Saturn were rare around red dwarfs. Less than 12 per cent of the stars were expected to have such ”gas giants”.

Because red dwarfs are common near the sun, many ”super-Earths” may not be far away in astronomical terms. The scientists estimate there could be around 100 habitable zone planets within 30 light years.

Red dwarfs are cooler than the sun, which means planets must orbit close to their parent stars to be warm enough to be habitable. Scientists said this might not be good news for life.

Dr Stephane Udry, from Geneva Observatory, who is also a member of the international team, added: “The habitable zone around a red dwarf, where the temperature is suitable for liquid water to exist on the surface, is much closer to the star than the Earth is to the sun.

”But red dwarfs are known to be subject to stellar eruptions or flares, which may bathe the planet in X-rays or ultraviolet radiation, and which may make life there less likely.” One light year is nearly six trillion miles.

 

Source

 

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March 24, 2012

Immortality Drive

Filed under: Cool, Life, Wierd — bferrari @ 4:48 pm
Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong

The Immortality Drive is a large memory device which was taken to the International Space Station in a Soyuz spacecraft on October 12, 2008. The Immortality Drive contains digitized DNA sequences of a select group ofhumans, such as physicist Stephen Hawking, comedian Stephen ColbertPlayboy model Jo Garcia, game designer Richard Garriot, fantasy authors Tracy Hickman and Laura Hickman, Pro Wrestler Matt Morgan, and athleteLance Armstrong.[1][2] The microchip also contains a copy of George’s Secret Key to the Universe, a children’s book authored by Stephen Hawking and his daughter, Lucy.

The intent of the Immortality Drive is to preserve human DNA in a time capsule, in case some global cataclysm should occur on Earth.

The Immortality Drive was featured in History Channel‘s Life After People, first season episode “The Bodies Left

Stephen Hawking - World renowned Physicist

Stephen Hawking - World renowned Physicist

Behind”.

March 22, 2012

World’s most powerful laser fires most powerful laser blast in history

Filed under: Cool, Gadgets, Military — bferrari @ 9:52 am
A service system lift allows technicians to access the target chamber interior at the National Ignition Facility for inspection and maintenance. (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)l

A service system lift allows technicians to access the target chamber interior at the National Ignition Facility for inspection and maintenance. (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)l

The largest laser in the world was turned on for a fraction of a second last week — and it unleashed the most powerful laser blast in history.
The National Ignition Facility (NIF) — a laser test facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif. — turned on its 192 laser beams for a brief instant on March 15, unleashing a record-setting 1.875-megajoule blast into a target chamber.
The lasers were combined, gathered and focused through a series of lens into a 2.03-megajoule shot, said Ed Moses, NIF director — a record for the facility.
That pulse of energy lasted for just 23 billionths of a second, yet it generated 411 trillion watts of power, NIF said — 1,000 times more than the entire United States consumes at any given instant.
“It’s a remarkable demonstration of the laser from the standpoint of its energy, its precision, its power, and its availability,” Moses told Nature magazine.
But it’s barely half the battle. NIF hopes to dramatically increase the power of the laser shots by the end of year, intending to ultimately use the facility to harness the energy reaction that occurs naturally within the sun: fusion.
“This event marks a key milestone in the National Ignition Campaign’s drive toward fusion ignition,” Moses said.
In fission, atoms are split and the massive energy released is captured. The NIF aims for fusion, the ongoing energy process in the sun and other stars where hydrogen and helium nuclei are continually fusing and releasing enormous amounts of energy. In the ignition facility, beams of light converge on pellets of hydrogen isotopes to create a similar, though controlled, micro-explosion.
As the beams move through a series of amplifiers, their energy increases exponentially. From beginning to end, the beams’ total energy grows from one-billionth of a joule to a potential high of four million joules, NIF said — a factor of more than a quadrillion.
And it all happens in about five millionths of a second.
Because the laser is on for the merest fraction of a second, it costs little to operate — between $5 and $20 per blast, said spokeswoman Lynda Seaver. But the potential is enormous.

NIF’s managers hope by the end of the year to reach a break-even point, where the energy released is equal to if not greater than the energy that went into the blast.
“We have all the capability to make it happen in fiscal year 2012,” Moses told Nature.
Experts aren’t so sure, citing challenges that NIF and other types of fusion have had in the past.
Glen Wurden, a plasma physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, told Nature scientists should be wary of putting all their eggs in the laser basket.
“It’s premature right now,” he told the magazine, citing the troubles that have plagued a competing approach to fusion and its flagship project in France.

 

Source

March 9, 2012

World’s largest telescope to detect threats from outer space

Filed under: Big Bang, Cool, Cosmology, Extraterrestrial Life, Gadgets, Space Exploration, Wierd — bferrari @ 12:11 pm
An artist's interpretation of the Square-Kilometer Array, a huge radio telescope currently under development in Australia.

An artist's interpretation of the Square-Kilometer Array, a huge radio telescope currently under development in Australia.

If there are space invaders out there, it won’t be long before they can no longer stage a sneak attack, thanks to a project to build the most sensitive radio telescope ever — one that’s the size of a continent.
Known as The Square Kilometer Array (SKA), it will explore the universe, identify any potential alien threats to our planet and hopefully answer some fundamental questions from astronomers. Its thousands of receptors, spaced roughly one kilometer apart, will be linked across an entire continent.
They’ll be arranged in five spiral arms like a galaxy, 3,000 50-foot-wide dishes that extend out from a central core at least 1,860 miles (3,000 kilometers) — about the distance from New York City to Albuquerque, N.M.
The board of directors behind the telescope met for the first time in late January to kick off the project. Their first decision: where to house such a beast. After all, if it’s located in Australia, the antennas could span the entire continent. If it’s in South Africa, another location being considered, they would stretch to the Indian Ocean islands.
Optical telescopes can reveal only so much of the universe. The SKA’s radio telescopes, on the other hand, pick up radio-frequency signals unobscured by, say, cosmic dust. They will survey the sky 10,000 times faster than any other telescope and with 50 times the sensitivity and 100 times the survey speed of current imaging instruments.
Among the SKA’s missions: finding an answer to the question, “Are we alone?”
From a defense perspective, that’s a coy way of asking whether there are aliens out there with the capacity and appetite to attack us.
The SKA will be able to detect very weak extraterrestrial signals and search for complex molecules, the building blocks of life. Many new planets outside our solar system have been discovered in recent years, but it’s not clear whether they host life.
The search for extraterrestrial transmission has been underway for a long time, but the SKA’s sensitivity will provide a key advantage.
For the first time, it will even be possible to detect the relatively weak signals of televisions and radars from nearby stars. Spying such an artificial transmission from a planet around a star would be a pretty good clue that we’re not in this by ourselves.
The SKA will also look at how galaxies evolve and investigate the nature of dark energy. By mapping out the cosmic distribution of hydrogen, it will study the expansion of the universe after the Big Bang. Such a map will also allow researchers to track young galaxies.
How were stars born and black holes formed? The SKA will study the very first ones, as well as stars and galaxies that shaped the development of the universe. It will even be able to detect black holes forming during the Dark Ages.
SKA will also take on Einstein. The board of directors speculate that it may challenge the theory of general relativity and probe the nature of gravity.
Initial construction is due in 2016, and the SKA is expected to be fully operational by 2024. By 2019, well before the full array is completed, the team expects some exciting science results will be achievable.
All that science won’t come cheap, of course. The SKA is expected to cost approximately $2.36 billion.

But those bucks buy an awful lot of power: The SKA’s central computer will have the processing power of approximately 1 billion PCs, and it will produce enough raw data to fill 15 million 64GB iPods every day. The SKA dishes will produce 10 times as much data the world’s Internet traffic.
In fact, one of the largest design challenges was how to relay the huge amount of data across such large distances.

The solution: Enough optical fiber to wrap twice around the Earth — and take the Earth’s defense to an entirely different scale.

Source

March 6, 2012

NASA’s Fermi Telescope Finds Giant Structure in our Galaxy

Filed under: Big Bang, Black Holes, Cool, Cosmology, Gamma Ray Bursts, Wierd — bferrari @ 6:23 pm

WASHINGTON — NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has unveiled a previously unseen structure centered in the Milky Way. The feature spans 50,000 light-years and may be the remnant of an eruption from a supersized black hole at the center of our galaxy.

From end to end, the newly discovered gamma-ray bubbles extend 50,000 light-years, or roughly half of the Milky Way's diameter, as shown in this illustration. Hints of the bubbles' edges were first observed in X-rays (blue) by ROSAT, a Germany-led mission operating in the 1990s. The gamma rays mapped by Fermi (magenta) extend much farther from the galaxy's plane.

From end to end, the newly discovered gamma-ray bubbles extend 50,000 light-years, or roughly half of the Milky Way's diameter, as shown in this illustration. Hints of the bubbles' edges were first observed in X-rays (blue) by ROSAT, a Germany-led mission operating in the 1990s. The gamma rays mapped by Fermi (magenta) extend much farther from the galaxy's plane.

“What we see are two gamma-ray-emitting bubbles that extend 25,000 light-years north and south of the galactic center,” said Doug Finkbeiner, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., who first recognized the feature. “We don’t fully understand their nature or origin.”

The structure spans more than half of the visible sky, from the constellation Virgo to the constellation Grus, and it may be millions of years old. A paper about the findings has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal.

Finkbeiner and his team discovered the bubbles by processing publicly available data from Fermi’s Large Area Telescope (LAT). The LAT is the most sensitive and highest-resolution gamma-ray detector ever launched. Gamma rays are the highest-energy form of light.

Other astronomers studying gamma rays hadn’t detected the bubbles partly because of a fog of gamma rays that appears throughout the sky. The fog happens when particles moving near the speed of light interact with light and interstellar gas in the Milky Way. The LAT team constantly refines models to uncover new gamma-ray sources obscured by this so-called diffuse emission. By using various estimates of the fog, Finkbeiner and his colleagues were able to isolate it from the LAT data and unveil the giant bubbles.

Scientists now are conducting more analyses to better understand how the never-before-seen structure was formed. The bubble emissions are much more energetic than the gamma-ray fog seen elsewhere in the Milky Way. The bubbles also appear to have well-defined edges. The structure’s shape and emissions suggest it was formed as a result of a large and relatively rapid energy release – the source of which remains a mystery.

One possibility includes a particle jet from the supermassive black hole at the galactic center. In many other galaxies, astronomers see fast particle jets powered by matter falling toward a central black hole. While there is no evidence the Milky Way’s black hole has such a jet today, it may have in the past. The bubbles also may have formed as a result of gas outflows from a burst of star formation, perhaps the one that produced many massive star clusters in the Milky Way’s center several million years ago.

“In other galaxies, we see that starbursts can drive enormous gas outflows,” said David Spergel, a scientist at Princeton University in New Jersey. “Whatever the energy source behind these huge bubbles may be, it is connected to many deep questions in astrophysics.”

Hints of the bubbles appear in earlier spacecraft data. X-ray observations from the German-led Roentgen Satellite suggested subtle evidence for bubble edges close to the galactic center, or in the same orientation as the Milky Way. NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe detected an excess of radio signals at the position of the gamma-ray bubbles.

The Fermi LAT team also revealed Tuesday the instrument’s best picture of the gamma-ray sky, the result of two years of data collection.

“Fermi scans the entire sky every three hours, and as the mission continues and our exposure deepens, we see the extreme universe in progressively greater detail,” said Julie McEnery, Fermi project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

NASA’s Fermi is an astrophysics and particle physics partnership, developed in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy, with important contributions from academic institutions and partners in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden and the United States.

“Since its launch in June 2008, Fermi repeatedly has proven itself to be a frontier facility, giving us new insights ranging from the nature of space-time to the first observations of a gamma-ray nova,” said Jon Morse, Astrophysics Division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “These latest discoveries continue to demonstrate Fermi’s outstanding performance.”

For more information about Fermi, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/fermi

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