Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Breaking the Supermassive Black Hole Speed Limit

Quasar growing under intense accretion streams. Credit:

A new computer simulation helps explain the existence of puzzling supermassive black holes observed in the early universe. The simulation is based on a computer code used to understand the coupling of radiation and certain materials.

Riding ‘Drifting Carousel' to Understand Pulsars

CAASTRO-Curtin student Sam McSweeney explains sub-pulse drifting. Credit: CAASTRO

What sounds like a stomach-turning ride at an amusement park might hold the key to unraveling the mysterious mechanism that causes beams of radio waves to shoot out from pulsars − super-magnetic rotating stars in our Galaxy. New research from Curtin University, obtained using the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) radio telescope located in the Western Australian outback, suggests the answer could lie in a ‘drifting carousel’ found in a special class of pulsars.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

From Black Holes to Helium

Adrian Del Maestro, a physicist at the University of Vermont. (Photo: Josh Brown)

A team of scientists has discovered that a law controlling the bizarre behavior of black holes out in space—is also true for cold helium atoms that can be studied in laboratories. “It’s called an entanglement area law,” says Adrian Del Maestro, a physicist at the University of Vermont who co-led the research. That this law appears at both the vast scale of outer space and at the tiny scale of atoms, “is weird,” Del Maestro says, “and it points to a deeper understanding of reality.”

Collapsing Cliff Reveals Comet's Interior

Comet cliff collapse: before and after. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NavCam – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0; ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

Rosetta scientists have made the first compelling link between an outburst of dust and gas and the collapse of a prominent cliff, which also exposed the pristine, icy interior of the comet. Sudden and short-lived outbursts were observed frequently during Rosetta’s two-year mission at Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Although their exact trigger has been much debated, the outbursts seem to point back to the collapse of weak, eroded surfaces, with the sudden exposure and heating of volatile material likely playing a role.

Monday, March 20, 2017

CRS-10 Dragon Unberthed, Recovered in Pacific Ocean

The SpaceX Dragon is pictured seconds before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. Photo Credit: SpaceX

The 10th SpaceX Dragon spacecraft to visit the International Space Station (ISS) left the outpost on March 19, 2017, and fell back to Earth. The capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 7:46 a.m. PDT (14:46 GMT) and was recovered off the coast of Baja California.

Does Mars Have Rings?

A new theory by Purdue University scientists says that the Martian moon Phobos might eventually break apart, forming a ring around the red planet. The NASA-funded scientists theorize that this ring formation has happened before, and that as the moons break apart some of the material falls to the surface, as shown in this illustration. (Illustration by Purdue University Envision Center)

As children, we learned about our solar system’s planets by certain characteristics — Jupiter is the largest, Saturn has rings, Mercury is closest to the sun. Mars is red, but it’s possible that one of our closest neighbors also had rings at one point and may have them again someday.

Less Radiation in Inner Van Allen Belt than Previously Believed

Van Allen Probes circle radiation belts. This artist’s rendering of the Van Allen Probes mission shows the path of its two spacecraft through the radiation belts that surround Earth, which are made visible in false color. Credit: NASA

The inner Van Allen belt has less radiation than previously believed, according to a recent study in the Journal of Geophysical Research. Observations from NASA’s Van Allen probes show the fastest, most energetic electrons in the inner radiation belt are actually much rarer and harder to find than scientists expected. This is good news for spacecraft that are orbiting in the region and can be damaged by high levels of radiation. The results will also help scientists better understand—and detect—effects from high-altitude nuclear explosions.