Tag: earth

Has The Mystery Of How The Moon Was Formed Finally Been Solved?

The object that smashed into earth to create the moon was far smaller than thought, a new simulation has shown.

Researchers at the Paris Institute of Earth Physics tested over two billion combinations of parameters to try and solve the mystery of how the moon formed.

The key, they concluded, was an impact with a body roughly one-tenth the mass of Earth.

Astronomers have long suspected that the moon was created when a giant protoplanet called Theia struck the newly formed Earth – a theory first put forward in the 1970s.




It says the huge collision created a vast cloud of debris, which coalesced into the moon.

However, until now, astronomers have not been able to explain how this left the moon and Earth chemically identical.

This led to two other ideas, which predicted dramatically different masses for the impact object.

In one, two half-Earths merged to form the Earth-moon system, and in the second, Theia was a small, high-velocity projectile that smacked into a larger and fast-spinning young Earth.

The researchers ran more than 2 billion simulations of the crash, and found an impactor larger than 15 per cent of the mass of Earth, couldn’t produce the chemistry we see in Earth’s mantle, instead leading to a mantle far too rich in nickel and cobalt.

This was known as the giant-impact hypothesis, or the Big Splash.

Now, a simulation created by researchers from Southwest Research Institute in Colorado has found that after this massive impact, there was a long period when leftover mini planets called planetesimals pounded the Earth.

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The Most Distant Supermassive Black Hole Ever Discovered

Scientists searching for astronomical objects in the early universe, not long after the Big Bang, have made a record-breaking, two-for-one discovery.

Using ground-based telescopes, a team of astronomers have discovered the most distant supermassive black hole ever found.

The black hole has a mass 800 million times greater than our sun, which earns it the “supermassive” classification reserved for giants like this.

Astronomers can’t see the black hole, but they know it’s there because they can see something else: A flood of light around the black hole that can outshine an entire galaxy.

This is called a quasar, and this particular quasar is the most distant one ever observed.




The light from the quasar took more than 13 billion years to reach Earth, showing us a picture of itself as it was when the universe was just 5 percent of its current age.

Back then, the universe was “just” 690 million years old. The hot soup of particles that burst into existence during the Big Bang was cooling rapidly and expanding outward.

The first stars were starting to turn on, and the first galaxies beginning to swirl into shape.

Quasars from this time are incredibly faint compared to the nearest quasars, the light from some of which takes just 600 million light years to reach the Earth.

Black holes, mysterious as they are, are among the most recognizable astronomical phenomena in popular science.

They’re pretty straightforward: Black holes are spots in space where the tug of gravity is so strong that not even light can escape.

They gobble up gas and dust and anything that comes near, growing and growing in size. A supermassive black hole sits in the center of virtually all large galaxies, including the Milky Way.

Astronomers can infer their existence by watching fast-moving stars hurtle around a seemingly empty, dark region.

Quasars, meanwhile, are a little trickier to understand, and you’d be forgiven for thinking they sound like something out of Star Trek.

A quasar is, to put it simply, the product of a binge-eating black hole. A black hole consumes nearby gas and dust inside a galaxy with intense speed, and the violent feast generates a swirling disk of material around it as it feeds.

The disk heats up to extreme temperatures on the order of 100,000 degrees Kelvin and glows brightly. The resulting light show is what we call a quasar, and what a light show it is.

The more material a black hole consumes, the bigger it becomes. Eventually, the black hole drains the surrounding area of material and has nothing to eat.

The luminous disk around it shrinks and fades, and the quasar is extinguished.

In this way, quasars—and the black holes that power them—are like volcanoes, erupting under one set of conditions and settling into dormancy under another.

Quasars were first detected in 1963 by the Dutch astronomer Maarten Schmidt with California’s Palomar Observatory.

Astronomers thought these newly discovered points of light were stars because of their extreme brightness.

But when they studied the spectrum of their light, they were stunned to find the “stars” were more than a billion light-years away.

When light travels through space, it gets stretched thanks to the constant expansion of the universe. As it moves, it shifts toward redder, longer wavelengths.

Astronomers can measure this “redshift” to figure out how long the light took to reach Earth, which indicates how far a certain object is.

Schmidt and his fellow astronomers knew that for stars to appear so luminous to Earth from such great distances was impossible. They were dealing with completely new phenomena.

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Budweiser Is Sending Barley To Space In Hopes Of Learning How To Brew Beer On Mars

Budweiser wasn’t kidding about its plans to brew “the first beer on Mars.

After announcing its initiative at the South by Southwest conference in March, Budweiser is reportedly taking its next steps toward accomplishing its out-of-this-world goal by sending beer-making grains, namely, barley — into space later this year.

According to a press release, this December, SpaceX will be delivering the shipment of barley to the International Space Station, where it will remain in orbit for a month.




Once back on Earth, the barley will be analyzed in order to determine how the grain reacts to microgravity environments.

Budweiser’s “innovation team” will also experiment with germinating the exposed barley seeds.

Budweiser is always pushing the boundaries of innovation and we are inspired by the collective American Dream to get to Mars,” said Budweiser Vice President Ricardo Marques in a statement.

“We are excited to begin our research to brew beer for the red planet.”

The company said its efforts might also provide insight on its agricultural practices here on Earth, although it maintained that its foremost goal is to one day supply “a colonized red planet the same enjoyments provided here on Earth.

Budweiser executives originally announced the company’s plans back on March 11 during SXSW in Austin, Texas, at a panel discussion that also included retired astronaut Clayton “Clay” Anderson and actress Kate Mara, of the 2015 film “The Martian.”

At the time, Budweiser also explained the challenges it faced in brewing beer in a Mars-like environment, including limited water resources, limited sunlight for growing hops and atmospheric pressure that would turn traditional beer to “foamy slop.”

Nevertheless, the company vowed to be ready to “toast on Mars” when mankind finally colonizes the planet.

With this bold, new dream Budweiser is celebrating the entrepreneurial spirit in which our iconic brand was founded upon,” said Marques in a press release issued shortly after the initial announcement.

Through our relentless focus on quality and innovation, Budweiser can today be enjoyed in every corner of the world, but we now believe it is time for the King of Beers to set its sights on its next destination.”

“When the dream of colonizing Mars becomes a reality, Budweiser will be there to toast the next great step for mankind.”

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NASA Just Found Our Solar System’s Twin By Using Artificial Intelligent

Searching the stars for unique phenomena is not an easy process.

The problem is that space is simply too big, too diverse, and too wonderful.

Locating a specific kind of anomaly among the many wondrous sights scattered throughout the cosmos is near impossible for humans, without easily-distracted brains.

With so many stars to check, the process of scanning the galaxy to find planets like our own can take a lot of time and effort.

Thankfully, artificial intelligence can help us in the process of spotting distant stars and their neighboring planets.

NASA has announced that, thanks to an AI program that was given the task of spotting cool stuff in space, the agency has been able to find a solar system that looks uncannily like our own; albeit in miniature form.




The Kepler-90 system exists a distant 2,545 light years from Earth, but has drawn attention from the astrological society after an AI noted that its series of eight planets match up well with our own.

The primary difference is that its planets orbit a lot closer to the sun than those in our solar system, with the newly discovered Kepler-90i making a full rotation around the star in a matter of just fourteen Earth days.

In order to locate Kepler-90’s planets NASA’s AI had to scan through a daunting thirty five thousand potential signals from distant stars, over a period of four years.

This is where machine learning was able to come into play to help make the process easier—the AI was fed data from around fifteen thousand signals that NASA had previously investigated.

So the AI had a pretty good idea of what it was looking for based on the kinds of readings that NASA had flagged as noteworthy among the program’s database of reference materials.

From there, it was a simple matter of letting the AI run checks for all potential star systems against its database until the program found something that matched what it was looking for, which happened to be a bunch of newly discovered planets orbiting Kepler-90.

Kepler-90 isn’t actually the most exciting solar system in the galaxy—it’s unlikely that its super hot worlds will bear life, or even any noteworthy new discoveries.

What is special, is the fact that an AI managed to identify Kepler-90 as fitting the right parameters for investigation.

This shows that there really are benefits to employing machine learning as a technique for searching the cosmos for interesting research subjects without the need for a human to slog through thousands of signals in order to find a few interesting stars that warrant a closer look.

Essentially, NASA is building a self-teaching search engine that can trawl through all of our records of the stars to find things that look interesting, based only on a vague description of what scientists are looking for.

The future of space exploration is going to be a whole lot easier if we can trust an artificial intelligence to do all the boring stuff for us.

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The Remarkable Island Born From An Underwater Volcanic Eruption

 

Nearly three years ago, an island sprung into existence in the South Pacific Kingdom of Tonga, nestling between two older islands in the archipelago.

The new island formed after the eruption of a submarine volcano in the region, which flung ash 30,000 feet into the sky, before it eventually settled in January 2015.

While scientists first estimated that the island with a 400-foot (120-meter) summit would last just a few months, new calculations suggest it could remain in its new place for as much as 30 years.

The island has come to be known as Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai.

It became visible to satellites in 2015, and is the first of its kind to emerge and survive in the modern satellite era, according to NASA.




A stunning time-lapse released by the space agency this week reveals how its shape has changed since it first emerged, using 33 months of high-resolution satellite data.

Over the last 150 years, there have been three of these ‘surtseyan’ volcanic island formations, with the Tongan being the most recent.

It sits on the north rim of a caldera atop an underwater volcano, which is nearly 4,600 feet (1,400 meters) higher than the surrounding sea floor, the researchers say.

Volcanic islands are some of the simplest landforms to make“, said Jim Garvin, chief scientist of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Our interest is to calculate how much the 3D landscape changes over time, particularly its volume, which has only been measured a few times at other such islands.

It’s the first step to understand erosion rates and processes and to decipher why it has persisted longer than most people expected.

Experts were able to track the formation of the new Tongan island since its beginning, using high-resolution satellite observations.

The scientists first began watching the island after the initial eruption died down, using images from NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments to make a 3D map of its topography.

According to the team, there are two potential scenarios that could play out. The island could experience accelerated erosion by wave abrasion, they say.

This would destabilize the tuff cone in roughly six to seven years, leaving behind a land-bridge between the two neighbouring islands.

Or, erosion could occur at a slower rate, which would leave it intact for 25-30 years.

According to the researchers, the new Tongan island may be experiencing similar interactions as seen at Surtsey, where warmed seawater and ash chemically altered the rock to create a tougher material.

And, a similar process could help explain some of the volcanic features on Mars.

Everything we learn about what we see on Mars is based on the experience of interpreting Earth phenomena,” Garvin said.

We think there were eruptions on Mars at a time when there were areas of persistent surface water.

We may be able to use this new Tongan island and its evolution as a way of testing whether any of those represented an oceanic environment or ephemeral lake environment.

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Scientists Are Slowly Unlocking The Secrets Of The Earth’s Mysterious Hum

“In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.”

— Cormac McCarthy, “The Road”

The world hums. It shivers endlessly.

It’s a low, ceaseless droning of unclear origin that rolls imperceptibly beneath our feet, impossible to hear with human ears.

A researcher once described it to HuffPost as the sound of static on an old TV, slowed down 10,000 times.

It’s comforting to think of Earth as solid and immovable, but that’s false. The world is vibrating, stretching and compressing. We’re shaking right along with it.

The earth is ringing like a bell all the time,” said Spahr Webb, a seismologist at Columbia University.

The hum is everywhere. Its ultralow frequencies have been recorded in Antarctica and Algeria, and — as announced this week by the American Geophysical Union — on the floor of the Indian Ocean.

We still don’t know what causes it.




Some have theorized that it’s the echo of colliding ocean waves, or the movements of the atmosphere, or vibrations born of sea and sky alike.

But if we could hear this music more clearly, scientists around the world say, it could reveal deep secrets about the earth beneath us, or even teach us to map out alien planets.

And the hum is getting clearer all the time.

Earth vibrates at different frequencies and amplitudes, for different reasons, and not all those vibrations are the ‘hum’. Earthquakes are like huge gong bangs.

When an enormous quake hit Japan in 2011, Webb said, the globe kept ringing for a month afterward.

People sitting on the other side of the world bounced up and down about a centimeter, though so slowly they didn’t feel a thing.

In 1998, a team of researchers analyzed data from a gravimeter in east Antarctica and realized that some of these vibrations never actually stop.

The phenomenon became popularly known as the “hum of the Earth.

Webb was one of many researchers who searched for the hum’s cause in the 21st century.

Some thought interactions between the atmosphere and solid ground caused the shaking, though he discounts the idea.

Sometimes waves sloshing in opposite directions intersect, sending vibrations deep down into Earth’s crust.

Sometimes a wave on a shallow coast somewhere ripples over the rough sea floor and adds its own frequencies to the hum.

Whatever the origin, the result is a harmony of ultralow frequencies that resonate almost identically all over the globe.

And that’s potentially invaluable to those who want to know what goes on beneath its surface, where the core spins and tectonic plates shift.

Scientists already measure how fast earthquake waves travel through different regions of the underground to make detailed subterranean maps.

The scientists collected data from seismometer stations that had been placed in the Indian Ocean near Madagascar several years ago.

These stations were meant to study volcanic hot spots nothing to do with the hum but the team worked out a method to clean the data of ocean currents, waves, glitches and other noise.

It peaked between 2.9 and 4.5 millihertz, they said — a tighter range than the first hum researchers in the 1990s had recorded.

It was also similar to measurements taken from a land-based station in Algeria.

So more evidence that the hum goes all the way around the world; and more hope that we may one day reveal all that goes on beneath it.

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Bacteria On Space Station Likely From Germy Humans, Not Aliens

Living bacteria have been found on the outside of the International Space Station, a Russian cosmonaut told the state news agency TASS this week.

Anton Shkaplerov, who will lead Russia’s ISS crew in December, said that previous cosmonauts swabbed the station’s Russian segment during spacewalks and sent the samples back to Earth.

The samples came from places on the station that had accumulated fuel waste, as well as other obscure nooks and crannies.

Their tests showed that the swabs held types of bacteria that were not on the module when it originally launched into orbit, Shkaplerov says.

In his interview with TASS, Shkaplerov says the bacteria “have come from outer space and settled along the external surface“, a claim that sparked some media outlets to issue frenzied reports about aliens colonizing the space station.

For now, though, details about the swabbing experiment are thin on the ground.




Shkaplerov did not note whether the study has been vetted by a peer-reviewed journal, which means it’s unclear exactly when and how the full experiment was conducted, or how the team avoided any contamination from much more mundane bacteria on the cosmonauts or in the Earth-bound lab.

Interview requests with the Russian space agency were unanswered when this article went to press. Up in the vacuum of space, microbes have to deal with turbulent temperatures, cosmic radiation, and ultraviolet light.

But Earth is home to plenty of hardy organisms that can survive in extreme environments, like virtually indestructible tardigrades.

Sometimes, researchers intentionally send terrestrial contaminants, such as E. coli and rocks covered in bacteria, into space to see how it will react.

And TASS reports that on a previous ISS mission, bacteria accidentally hitched a ride to the station on tablet PCs and other materials.

Scientists sent these objects up to see how they would fare in space, and the freeriding organisms managed to infiltrate the outside of the station.

They remained there for three years, braving temperatures fluctuating between -150 and 150 degrees Celsius.

 

These types of discoveries present concerns for scientists trying to limit the spread of human germs on other worlds.

NASA in particular has set strict limits on its interplanetary contamination.

Apollo astronauts were quarantined when they returned from their missions, for example, to prevent extraterrestrial germs from making their way out into the world.

And almost all equipment from Earth is sterilized before it heads skyward, either with extreme heat or an alcohol bath, depending on its intended destination.

These treatments are especially important for missions sent to Mars, which may have once hosted its own life-forms, leaving fossil traces in the rusty rocks.

But all bets may be off when and if we manage to send humans to explore Mars, writes The Planetary Society’s Emily Lakdawalla: “Once we’ve put humans on the surface, alive or dead, it becomes much, much harder to identify native Martian life.”

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The Big Bang Wasn’t The Beginning

What if the Big Bang wasn’t the beginning of the universe, but only one stage in an endlessly repeated cycle of universal expansion and contraction?

So suggests mathematical physicist and string theorist Neil Turok.

He thinks there may be many universes, at once interpolated but separate, like a mixture of gases.

These universes are attracted to each other; every few trillions of trillions of years, they collide, explode, expand and contract, then repeat the sequence all over again.

According to Turok, winner of the first TED Prize of 2008, “The Big Bang theory rests very strongly on Einstein’s theory of general relativity, which combines with nuclear and particle physics and all the other physical laws to describe the contents of the universe.




The theory is that 13.7 billion years ago, there was a singularity, a point of infinite density, and the universe emerged, emerging and very hot, from that singularity.

But the singularity is not describable with Einstein’s theory. The theory fails: everything goes to infinity. The density of the universe goes to infinity.

The curvature of spacetime goes to infinity. All the properties we normally use to describe the universe and its contents just fail.

Experts just say, “Let’s assume the universe sprang into existence, start our decription a tiny fraction of a second after that, run the clock forward and never ask where it came from.”

Turok’s theory:

“Imagine two sheets on a washing line, and they’re very close together, very nearly parallel. Those are two-dimensional sheets; ours are three-dimensional.”

“Think of it as two intimately intertwined objects which are nevertheless able to exert force on each other, a pull. The Big Bang is the touching of those two sheets. When they touch, they release that energy.”

Interestingly, Turok’s theory hasn’t always been well-received by Christians, for whom the Big Bang dovetails neatly with their creation myths.

Conversely, New Age types have embraced this scientific picture of a cyclical universe without beginning or end. Turok, for his part, doesn’t want any such attention.

I see religion and science as being two completely different things,” he said.

Science studies how the world operates, not why it?’s here. I think the world is an incredible miracle, and we have to do whatever we can to appreciate it.”

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Leftovers From The Moon’s Formation May Have Tunnelled To The Earth’s Core

The origin of our moon has long been debated.

Now, a scientist has claimed that Earth effectively ‘gave birth‘ to the moon four-and-a-half billion years ago.

A controversial new theory has been proposed that a giant explosion equivalent to 40 billion atomic bombs originating from the Earth’s core somehow led to the formation of the moon.

Planetary scientist Wim van Westrenen believes this violent event took place approximately four-and-a-half billion years ago and could answer the hotly contested question of where our moon comes from.

The scientist, from VU University in Amsterdam said that previous explanations about how the moon came to be simply do not add up.

Charles Darwin’s son, astronomer George Darwin, proposed that the early Earth spun so fast that it fell apart, hurling a part of itself into space that became the moon.





His theory was popular but was then eclipsed by the giant impact hypothesis, or ‘big splat‘, which said that a Mars-sized object crashed into an infant Earth and shattered on impact, the magazine reported.

In this theory, the debris formed the moon. However, it was largely thrown-out when astronauts brought back rocks from the Apollo moon landings.

Chemical analysis of the rocks last year by the University of Chicago found that they shared identical oxygen, silicon and potassium isotopes with Earth, hinting that the Moon shares its origin with the Earth.

Van Westeren said that taken at face value, the findings suggest that the moon was once part of the Earth that was blasted into space by an enormous explosion from the Earth’s fiery core.

To do this, he believes that there must have been a ‘massive energy kick‘ delivered quickly and he calculates that the explosion was the strength of 40 billion atomic bombs the size of those dropped on Hiroshima.

The idea that the Earth’s core harbours a huge nuclear reactor has been around for over 60 years.

There is also evidence of much smaller natural fossil reactors up to 10 metres across in West Africa that were active around 10 billion years ago.

This theory of  an internal nuclear reactor could explain why Earth gives out more energy than it receives from the sun.

However, experts have said that even if evidence of “global georeactors” was found, many scientists would need convincing that they were capable of creating the moon.

There are many conflicting ideas of exactly how the moon came to be and scientists are starting to re-question older theories.

Matija Cuk, a planetary scientist at Harvard University said: “I don’t think you can separate the moon’s formation from a giant impact.”

But he draws upon Darwin’s idea and the big splat and believes that a peculiar alignment of the sun, earth and moon is the reason why the moon orbits the Earth.

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Europa: Facts About Jupiter’s Icy Moon And Its Ocean

Europa is one of the Galilean moons of Jupiter, along with Io, Ganymede and Callisto. Astronomer Galileo Galilei gets the credit for discovering these moons, among the largest in the solar system.

Europa is the smallest of the four but it is one of the more intriguing satellites.

The surface of Europa is frozen, covered with a layer of ice, but scientists think there is an ocean beneath the surface. The icy surface also makes the moon one of the most reflective in the solar system.

Water plumes were spotted jetting from the moon in 2013, although those observations have not been repeated.

Several spacecraft have done flybys of Europa (including Pioneers 10 and 11 and Voyagers 1 and 2 in the 1970s).

The Galileo spacecraft did a long-term mission at Jupiter and its moons between 1995 and 2003.

Both NASA and the European Space Agency plan missions to Europa and other moons in the 2030s.




Galileo Galilei discovered Europa on Jan. 8, 1610. It is possible that German astronomer Simon Marius (1573-1624) also discovered the moon at the same time.

However, he did not publish his observations, so it is Galileo who is most often credited with the discovery. For this reason, Europa and Jupiter’s other three largest moons are often called the Galilean moons.

Galileo, however, called the moons the Medicean planets in honor of the Medici family.

It is possible Galileo actually observed Europa a day earlier, on Jan. 7, 1610. However, because he was using a low-powered telescope, he couldn’t differentiate Europa from Io, another of Jupiter’s moons.

It wasn’t until later that Galileo realized they were two separate bodies.

The discovery not only had astronomical, but also religious implications. At the time, the Catholic Church supported the idea that everything orbited the Earth, an idea supported in ancient times by Aristotle and Ptolemy.

Galileo’s observations of Jupiter’s moons as well as noticing that Venus went through “phases” similar to our own moon gave compelling evidence that not everything revolved around the Earth.

As telescopic observations improved, however, a new view of the universe emerged.

The moons and the planets were not unchanging and perfect; for example, mountains seen on the moon showed that geological processes happened elsewhere. Also, all planets revolved around the sun.

Over time, moons around other planets were discovered and additional moons found around Jupiter.

Marius, the other “discoverer,” first proposed that the four moons be given their current names, from Greek mythology.

But it wasn’t until the 19th century that the moons were officially given the so-called Galilean names we know them by today.

All of Jupiter’s moons are named for the god’s lovers (or victims, depending on your point of view).

In Greek mythology, Europa was abducted by Zeus, who had taken the form of a spotless white bull to seduce her.

She decorated the “bull” with flowers and rode on its back to Crete. Once in Crete, Zeus then transformed back to his original form and seduced her.

Europa was the queen of Crete and bore Zeus many children.

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