Tag: discovery

Here’s the Best-Ever Image of the Black Hole Devouring Our Galaxy

Researchers have captured the best-ever image of Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy, by using a new computer model to see through the haze of plasma surrounding the cosmic monster.

The galactic centre is full of matter around the black hole, which acts like frosted glass that we have to look through to see the black hole,” Max Planck Institute researcher Eduardo Ros said of the discovery.

Powerful Jet

Credit: The Astrophysical Journal

The fresh image of the black hole, which is twice the resolution of the previous best one, is described in a new paper in The Astrophysical Journal. 

Researchers used 13 powerful telescopes around the world to capture the image and have been teasing its release since earlier in January.

According to reports, strophysicists had assumed that such a black hole would show a gigantic jet of matter and radiation.

Surprisingly, they didn’t find such a jet coming out of the Milky Way’s monstrous black hole. Either it doesn’t have one — or they can’t see it because it’s pointed directly at us.

No Danger




Even if that were the case, Ros cautioned, it’s not cause for alarm.

If anything is there, it will be a length that is 1,000 times less than the distance to us,” Ros said. “There is no danger at all – we should not fear the supermassive black hole.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: New Scientist

NASA Spacecraft Finds Water In Search For Origins Of Life On Asteroid

A NASA spacecraft that just arrived last December 2018 on an asteroid has already made its first big discovery: ingredients for water.

Scientists hope that the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will shed light on the mysteries of Bennu, an asteroid the size of a skyscraper that could hold clues to the origins of life on Earth.

The craft only arrived at the asteroid in recent days but the discovery of water is a major breakthrough that scientists hope can be matched by more discoveries in the future.

It was found when OSIRIS-REx flew close to the asteroid and picked up traces of hydrogen and oxygen molecules in its rocky surface. Those make up part of the recipe for water – itself a key ingredient in life itself.




The probe, on a mission to return samples from the asteroid to Earth for study, was launched in 2016. Bennu, roughly a third of a mile wide (500 meters), orbits the sun at roughly the same distance as Earth.

There is concern among scientists about the possibility of Bennu impacting Earth late in the 22nd century.

We have found the water-rich minerals from the early solar system, which is exactly the kind of sample we were going out there to find and ultimately bring back to Earth,” University of Arizona planetary scientist Dante Lauretta, the OSIRIS-REx mission’s principal investigator, said in a telephone interview.

Asteroids are among the leftover debris from the solar system’s formation some 4.5 billion years ago.

Scientists believe asteroids and comets crashing into early Earth may have delivered organic compounds and water that seeded the planet for life, and atomic-level analysis of samples from Bennu could provide key evidence to support that hypothesis.

OSIRIS-REx will pass later this month just 1.2 miles (1.9 km) from Bennu, entering the asteroid’s gravitational pull and analyzing its terrain.

From there, the spacecraft will begin to gradually tighten its orbit around the asteroid, spiraling to within just 6 feet (2 meters) of its surface so its robot arm can snatch a sample of Bennu by July 2020.

The spacecraft will later fly back to Earth, jettisoning a capsule bearing the asteroid specimen for a parachute descent in the Utah desert in September 2023.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: New Scientist

This 24ft Long Crocodile That Had Razor Sharp Teeth Was A Top Land Predator In Madagascar Million Years Ago

Razanandrongobe sakalavae

A new study has finally shed light on a mysterious, jaw fragment discovered on Madagascar years ago. It is from an ancient crocodile, nearly 24-feet in length, with teeth like a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

The study, published in the journal PeerJ, highlights the creature, identified as Razanandrongobe sakalavae, as an enormous crocodile ancestor. The ancient croc likely walked on land, hunting its prey with its massive teeth and jaws.




Put together by researchers Cristiano Dal Sasso , Giovanni Pasini, Guillaume Fleury and Simone Maganuco , the study notes that the teeth are “remarkably large, even larger than the largest denticles in large-bodied theropods.

The longest tooth found was 15 cm (5.9 inches) in length. By comparison, the longest T. rex tooth ever found was 12 inches, though they often vary in length.

Razanandrongobe sakalavae

R. sakalavae means “giant lizard ancestor from Sakalava region.”

“Razanandrongobe sakalavae is the largest terrestrial carnivore from this Middle Jurassic terrestrial ecosystem and was perhaps one of the top predators in Madagascar at the time,” the study’s conclusion reads.

“Its jaws were extremely robust and high, but possibly short, and bore large teeth with serrated edges resembling those of theropod dinosaurs. Many features of this species strongly suggest that it fed also on hard tissue such as bone and tendon.”

Razanandrongobe sakalavae

It is the oldest and largest known “notosuchian,” a suborder of Gondwanan mesoeucrocodylian crocodylomorphs that lived during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. It predates other members of the species by 42 million years.

The fossils are from the mid-Jurassic period, approximately 166 million years ago. They were first found in the early 1970s, with other parts of the Razana skull found later.

The findings were made after the fossils were made available to the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle in Toulouse, France, where they were then analyzed and reconstructed. They had been previously part of a private collection.

jaw

The skull was reconstructed using a CT scan, as well as using 3-D printers to print out missing bone fragments, using mirror images of existing fragments.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

Early Opaque Universe Linked To Galaxy Scarcity

It has long been known that the universe is filled with a web-like network of dark matter and gas.

This “cosmic web” accounts for most of the matter in the universe, whereas galaxies like our own Milky Way make up only a small fraction.

Today, the gas between galaxies is almost totally transparent because it is kept ionized — electrons detached from their atoms — by an energetic bath of ultraviolet radiation.

Over a decade ago, astronomers noticed that in the very distant past — roughly 12.5 billion years ago, or about 1 billion years after the Big Bang — the gas in deep space was not only highly opaque to ultraviolet light, but its transparency varied widely from place to place, obscuring much of the light emitted by distant galaxies.

Then a few years ago, a team led by Becker, then at the University of Cambridge, found that these differences in opacity were so large that either the amount of gas itself, or more likely the radiation in which it is immersed, must vary substantially from place to place.




To find out what created these differences, the team of University of California astronomers from the Riverside, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles campuses turned to one of the largest telescopes in the world: the Subaru telescope on the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii.

Using its powerful camera, the team looked for galaxies in a vast region, roughly 300 million light years in size, where they knew the intergalactic gas was extremely opaque.

For the cosmic web more opacity normally means more gas, and hence more galaxies. But the team found the opposite: this region contained far fewer galaxies than average.

Because the gas in deep space is kept transparent by the ultraviolet light from galaxies, fewer galaxies nearby might make it murkier.

This discovery, reported in the August 2018 issue of the Astrophysical Journal, may eventually shed light on another phase in cosmic history.

In the first billion years after the Big Bang, ultraviolet light from the first galaxies filled the universe and permanently transformed the gas in deep space.

Astronomers believe that this occurred earlier in regions with more galaxies, meaning the large fluctuations in intergalactic radiation inferred by Becker and his team may be a relic of this patchy process, and could offer clues to how and when it occurred.

By studying both galaxies and the gas in deep space, astronomers hope to get closer to understanding how this intergalactic ecosystem took shape in the early universe.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

The Mystery Of Blue Diamonds And Where They Come From Finally Solved

They are the world’s most expensive diamonds, with some stones valued at £100 million.

But until now nobody has known how rare blue diamonds are made or where they come from.

Now scientists have discovered that they are formed 400 miles down in the Earth, around four times as deep as clear diamonds, where the element boron combines with carbon in such extreme pressure and heat that it crystallizes into the world’s most precious stone.

And because boron is mostly found on the Earth’s surface, scientists believe that it must have travelled down into the mantle when tectonic plates slipped beneath each other.

Eventually volcanic action brought the diamonds up closer to the surface.




The study, published in the journal Nature, suggests blue diamonds are even rarer than first thought.

We now know that the finest gem-quality diamonds come from the farthest down in our planet.”  said Steven Shirey, of the Carnegie Institution of Science.

Blue diamonds have always held a special intrigue. The world’s most famous jewel, the Hope Diamond, which was once owned by Louis XIV, Marie-Antoninette, and George IV was said to be cursed with many of its owners and their families coming to a sticky – and often headless – end.

The postman who delivered the Hope Diamond to its current location in the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC had his leg crushed in a lorry accident shortly after and then his house burned down.

But the value and rarity of blue diamonds makes them difficult to study and researchers at the Carnegie Institution have spent two years tracking down and studying 46 blue diamonds from collections around the world.

And they were looking for the rarest of blue diamonds, those which include tiny mineral traces called inclusions which hint at their origins.

These so-called type IIb diamonds are tremendously valuable, making them hard to get access to for scientific research purposes,” said lead author Evan Smith of the Gemological Institute of America, adding,

“And it is very rare to find one that contains inclusions, which are tiny mineral crystals trapped inside the diamond.”

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science

Scientists Discover A New Shape That Might Be Inside You Right Now

The cells in our bodies are put together in all kinds of weird ways. Neuron cells have long, branching connections to other cells, bones form porous structures, and blood vessels float freely around the body.

But a lot of cells are simply squished together as tightly as possible, and scientists have determined that these cells in particular come in a unique and previously unknown shape, called a “scutoid.”

Much of our bodies are covered in epithelial cells, which are cells designed to stick very closely together in order to form some type of barrier or wall.

Our skin cells are epithelial cells, as are the cells that form the walls of many of our organs.

One of the most important functions these cells have is keeping things either inside or outside of the areas they surround, so forming a tight wall is of paramount importance.

So what shape do these cells take? Most scientists previously believed that these cells were shaped like simple cylinders, but new research suggests they take a more complicated shape.




Researchers at the University of Seville ran a computer simulation to determine what the most efficient shape would be, and their simulation settled on a strange prism-like shape.

The shape has six sides at the top and five sides at the bottom, and one of the sides had a triangular protrusion.

Crucially, this shape—which the scientists named the “scutoid” after the similarly-named and -shaped scutellum of a beetle—does indeed stack much better than a simple cylinder.

But just because a computer says it’s the best shape doesn’t mean that anything in nature actually uses it, so the researchers examined cells from fruit flies and zebrafish to see if the scutoid shows up in those animals’ epithelial tissue.

To their delight, it did. They’re not certain whether these scutoid-shaped cells exist in humans as well, but there’s a good chance.

In addition to discovering what epithelial cells look like, these researchers also discovered a brand new shape new to mathematics.

Mathematical discoveries are often very abstract but can frequently have impact in other fields in science or engineering.

So scutoids are only in your body right now, but eventually we might start seeing them show up all over the place.

Please like, share and tweet this article.

Pass it on: Popular Science