And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour."
-William Blake, Auguries of Innocence
With deference to the genius of David Bowie, here’s Space Oddity, recorded on Station. A last glimpse of the World.
Huge thanks in the making of the video to the talented trio of Emm Gryner, Joe Corcoran and Andrew Tidby, plus Evan Hadfield and all at the CSA.
Violent Birth of Supernovae |
A team of astronomers led by the University of Leicester has uncovered new evidence that suggests that X-ray detectors in space could be the first to witness new supernovae that signal the death of massive stars.
Astronomers have measured an excess of X-ray radiation in the first few minutes of collapsing massive stars, which may be the signature of the supernova shock wave first escaping from the star.
The findings have come as a surprise to Dr Rhaana Starling, of the University of Leicester Department of Physics and Astronomy whose research is published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Dr Starling said: “The most massive stars can be tens to a hundred times larger than the Sun. When one of these giants runs out of hydrogen gas it collapses catastrophically and explodes as a supernova, blowing off its outer layers which enrich the Universe. But this is no ordinary supernova; in the explosion narrowly confined streams of material are forced out of the poles of the star at almost the speed of light. These so-called relativistic jets give rise to brief flashes of energetic gamma-radiation called gamma-ray bursts, which are picked up by monitoring instruments in Space, that in turn alert astronomers.”
Gamma-ray bursts are known to arise in stellar deaths because coincident supernovae are seen with ground-based optical telescopes about ten to twenty days after the high energy flash. The true moment of birth of a supernova, when the star’s surface reacts to the core collapse, often termed the supernova shock breakout, is missed. Only the most energetic supernovae go hand-in-hand with gamma-ray bursts, but for this sub-class it may be possible to identify X-ray emission signatures of the supernova in its infancy. If the supernova could be detected earlier, by using the X-ray early warning system, astronomers could monitor the event as it happens and pinpoint the drivers behind one of the most violent events in our Universe. continue reading
Wonders of the Universe: Stardust
Spectroscopy of Stars. How to tell which stars are made of what.
Ice Water Found on Mercury!
NASA announced today that its Messenger spacecraft has discovered “compelling” evidence of frozen water and possible organic materials on Mercury’s north pole (shown left in red), confirming the decades of suspicion in the scientific community.
“The neutron data indicate that Mercury’s radar-bright polar deposits contain, on average, a hydrogen-rich layer more than tens of centimeters thick beneath a surficial layer 10 to 20 centimeters thick that is less rich in hydrogen,” according to David Lawrence, a Johns Hopkins University physics scientist working on the Messenger project.
The universe may grow like a giant brain, according to a new computer simulation.
Image: A fundamental law of nature may govern the growth of brain networks, social networks, and the expansion of the Universe, a new computer simulation suggests Credit: WGBH Educational Foundation
The results, published Nov.16 in the journal Nature’s Scientific Reports, suggest that some undiscovered, fundamental laws may govern the growth of systems large and small, from the electrical firing between brain cells and growth of social networks to the expansion of galaxies.
“Natural growth dynamics are the same for different real networks, like the Internet or the brain or social networks,” said study co-author Dmitri Krioukov, a physicist at the University of California San Diego.
The new study suggests a single fundamental law of nature may govern these networks, said physicist Kevin Bassler of the University of Houston, who was not involved in the study.
“At first blush they seem to be quite different systems, the question is, is there some kind of controlling laws can describe them?”.
By raising this question, “their work really makes a pretty important contribution,” he said.
Past studies showed brain circuits and the Internet look a lot alike. But despite finding this functional similarity, nobody had developed equations to perfectly predict how computer networks, brain circuits or social networks grow over time, Krioukov said.
Using Einstein’s equations of relativity, which explain how matter warps the fabric of space-time, physicists can retrace the universe’s explosive birth in the Big Bang roughly 14 billion years ago and how it has expanded outward in the eons since.
So Krioukov’s team wondered whether the universe’s accelerating growth could provide insight into the ways social networks or brain circuits expand.
Brain cells and galaxies
The team created a computer simulation that broke the early universe into the tiniest possible units — quanta of space-time more miniscule than subatomic particles. The simulation linked any quanta, or nodes in a massive celestial network, that were causally related. (Nothing travels faster than light, so if a person hits a baseball on Earth, the ripple effects of that event could never reach an alien in a distant galaxy in a reasonable amount of time, meaning those two regions of space-time aren’t causally related.)
As the simulation progressed, it added more and more space-time to the history of the universe, and so its “network” connections between matter in galaxies, grew as well, Krioukov said.
When the team compared the universe’s history with growth of social networks and brain circuits, they found all the networks expanded in similar ways: They balanced links between similar nodes with ones that already had many connections. For instance, a cat lover surfing the Internet may visit mega-sites such as Google or Yahoo, but will also browse cat fancier websites or YouTube kitten videos. In the same way, neighboring brain cells like to connect, but neurons also link to such “Google brain cells” that are hooked up to loads of other brain cells.
The eerie similarity between networks large and small is unlikely to be a coincidence, Krioukov said.
“For a physicist it’s an immediate signal that there is some missing understanding of how nature works,” Krioukov said.
It’s more likely that some unknown law governs the way networks grow and change, from the smallest brain cells to the growth of mega-galaxies, Krioukov said.
“This result suggests that maybe we should start looking for it,” Krioukov told LiveScience.
Here’s a related TED film about the relationship between a child’s brain development and the growth of the internet: Brain Power: From Neurons to Networks.
NASA & Deep Space Network (DSN) Resources
NASA – Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex official site
NASA – NetworKing game
Flickr – More pictures
Hank reports on the discovery by NASA scientists of the most distant, oldest galaxy ever observed.
“Spread Knowledge, It Is Power, It Is Free”
From the lives of the stars to creation theories, functions of the human brain, and the ongoing search for extraterrestrial intelligence, Cosmos asks big questions. When appropriate, Sagan offers big answers, or asks still bigger–and yes, even spiritual–questions at the boundaries of science and religion.
What’s most remarkable about Cosmos is that it remains almost entirely fresh, with few updates needed to the science that Sagan so passionately celebrates. It is no exaggeration to say that Cosmos–for all the debate it may continue to provoke–is a vital document for humanity at a pivotal crossroads of our history.
The complete landmark TV series – 13 one-hour episodes, including:
I: The Shores Of the Cosmos II: One Voice In the Cosmic Fugue III: The Harmony Of the Worlds IV: Heaven and Hell V: Blues For A Red Planet VI: Travellers’ Tales VII: The Backbone of Night VIII: Travels In Space and Time IX: The Lives Of the Stars X: The Edge Of Forever XI: The Persistence Of Memory XII: Encyclopedia Galactica XIII: Who Speaks For Earth?
The Music of Cosmos – Collector’s Edition
I: The Shores Of the Cosmos
II: One Voice In the Cosmic Fugue
III: The Harmony Of the Worlds
IV: Heaven and Hell
V: Blues For A Red Planet
VI: Travellers’ Tales
VII: The Backbone of Night
VIII: Travels In Space and Time
IX: The Lives Of the Stars
X: The Edge Of Forever
XI: The Persistence Of Memory
XII: Encyclopedia Galactica
XIII: Who Speaks For Earth?
XIV: A Dialougue Between Carl Sagan & Ted Turner
Can also be found on Hulu.
I know for a fact that Tumblr science readers hold a special place in their hearts for anything astronomy-related (along with Brian Cox, Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson…)
So, without further ado, rejoice!
100,000 Stars: An Interactive Exploration of the Milky Way Galaxy
100,000 Stars is a new experiment for Chrome web browsers (or any other WebGL browser like Firefox or Safari) that lets you interactively explore the Milky Way galaxy with your mouse and scroll wheel.
Neil deGrasse Tyson
We Stopped Dreaming.