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  • richardmitnick 7:46 am on September 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Ceres’ lonely ice volcano is only one of many, , COSMOS,   

    From COSMOS Magazine: “Ceres’ lonely ice volcano is only one of many” 

    Cosmos Magazine bloc

    From COSMOS Magazine

    9.18.18
    Bill Condie

    1
    The mysterious mountain Ahuna Mons is seen in this mosaic of images from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. Dawn took these images from its low-altitude mapping orbit, from an altitude of 385 kilometres in December 2015. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

    NASA Dawn Spacescraft

    The dwarf planet Ceres has had as many as 22 ice volcanoes, new research suggests.

    Images from NASA’s Dawn mission has revealed there is currently a single volcano, an icy peak known as Ahuna Mons.

    But research based on data from the mission suggests that new volcanoes have appeared around every 50 million years over the past billion. They erupt, build up and then sink back into the surface.

    The research, published in Nature Astronomy, suggests that Ahuna Mons is relatively young.

    “Ahuna Mons has an upper age limit of 240 million years derived from crater size,” the researchers, led by University of Arizona planetary scientists Michael Sori, write. “But it may be much younger because the mountain itself is too small and has too few craters to be reliably dated.”

    Ice volcanoes, or cryovolcanoes, leave less impact on the surface than volcanoes on planets such as Earth.

    2
    A simulated perspective view of Ceres’ lonely mountain, Ahuna Mons. NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

    Instead of molten rock, they erupt liquid or gaseous ammonia, water or methane.

    Traces of cryovolcanism have been found on several bodies in the outer Solar System. “Cryovolcanism may be an important planetary phenomenon in shaping the surfaces of many worlds in the outer Solar System and revealing their thermal histories,” the researchers say.

    “However, the physics, chemistry and ubiquity of this geologic process remain poorly understood, especially in comparison to the better-studied silicate volcanism on the terrestrial planets.”

    NASA’s Dawn spacecraft discovered Ahuna Mons while orbiting Ceres in 2015.

    Sori and colleagues used models of relaxing dome shapes to identify 22 former cryovolcanoes on Ceres in images taken by the Dawn mission. 

The authors also estimate that the total amount of icy material that has been erupted onto the surface of Ceres is one hundred to one hundred-thousand times less than the volumes of molten rock erupted on the Earth, Moon, Venus or Mars.

    Ceres was the first object discovered in the main asteroid belt when Italian astronomer Father Giuseppe Piazzi spotted the object in 1801. It was initially classified as a planet but later classified as an asteroid as more objects were found in the same region.

    In recognition of its planet-like qualities, Ceres was designated a dwarf planet in 2006 along with Pluto and Eris.

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 7:24 am on August 30, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: An eternal cycle of Big Bang events, Big Bang, , Conformal Cyclic Cosmology, COSMOS, Hawking Points- anomalous high energy features in the CMB, , Roger Penrose, ,   

    From University of Oxford via COSMOS: “Black holes from a previous universe shine light on our own” 

    U Oxford bloc

    From University of Oxford

    via

    COSMOS

    30 August 2018
    Stephanie Rowlands

    Cold spots are a hot topic in Conformal Cyclic Cosmology.

    1
    Stephen Hawking suggested evidence of previous universes could be detected in the cosmic microwave background. Has he been proved right? Jemal Countess/Getty Images

    Cosmologists say they have found remnants of a bygone universe in the afterglow of the Big Bang found in the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB).

    CMB per ESA/Planck


    ESA/Planck 2009 to 2013

    The discovery gives weight to the controversial theory of Conformal Cyclic Cosmology, or CCC, that suggests our universe is just one of many, built from the remains of a previous one in the Big Bang 13.6 billion years ago.

    The theory describes an eternal cycle of Big Bang events, repeating into the far distant future, the end of our universe giving rise to a new one.

    A team led by Oxford University mathematics emeritus Roger Penrose, a former collaborator of the late Stephen Hawking, claims in a new paper lodged on the preprint server arXiv to have found signs of so-called Hawking Points, anomalous high energy features in the CMB.

    3
    Inside Penrose’s universe
    06 Dec 2010
    Cycles of Time: An Extraordinary New View of the Universe
    Roger Penrose
    2010 Bodley Head £25.00 hb 320pp

    https://people.maths.ox.ac.uk/lmason/RP80/paul.pdf

    Penrose and colleagues say that these anomalies were made from the last moments of black holes evaporating through “Hawking radiation”.

    Although black holes are famous for never releasing any light, Hawking proposed a subtle way for light and particles to escape over time.

    Through quantum mechanical effects, every black hole slowly shrinks and fades, losing its energy through Hawking radiation.

    “This burst of energy from a now decayed black hole then spreads out quickly in our newly formed universe, leaving a warm central point with a cooling spot around it,” says astronomer Alan Duffy from Australia’s Swinburne University and Lead Scientist of the Royal Institution of Australia, who was not involved in the research.

    “In other words, they have proposed that we can search for an echo of a previous universe in the CMB.”

    Conformal Cyclic Cosmology strongly conflicts with the current standard model explaining the evolution of the universe.

    “Unlike previous cyclic universe models, there is no ‘Big Crunch’ where everything comes together again,” explains Duffy.

    “Instead CCC links the similarity of the current accelerating expansion of the universe by dark energy with early expansion of inflation in the Big Bang.”

    While mathematically the two epochs of expansion are similar, not all cosmologists are convinced that the Big Bang eventually leads to another Big Bang from a future empty universe.

    The results from Penrose and colleagues are likely to be met with skepticism by many mainstream cosmologists.

    Penrose first claimed [Concentric circles in WMAP data may provide evidence of violent pre-Big-Bang activity] to have detected Hawking points in 2010. Other researchers shot down the claim in flames, arguing that his discoveries were nothing more than random noise contained in the data.

    NASA/WMAP 2001 to 2010


    Inflationary Universe. NASA/WMAP


    Lambda-Cold Dark Matter, Accelerated Expansion of the Universe, Big Bang-Inflation (timeline of the universe) Date 2010 Credit: Alex Mittelmann Cold creation

    See the full article here.


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    U Oxford campus

    Oxford is a collegiate university, consisting of the central University and colleges. The central University is composed of academic departments and research centres, administrative departments, libraries and museums. The 38 colleges are self-governing and financially independent institutions, which are related to the central University in a federal system. There are also six permanent private halls, which were founded by different Christian denominations and which still retain their Christian character.

    The different roles of the colleges and the University have evolved over time.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:10 pm on August 21, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , COSMOS, , Two-qubit chip draws quantum computing closer,   

    From University of Bristol via COSMOS: “Two-qubit chip draws quantum computing closer” 

    From University of Bristol

    via COSMOS

    21 August 2018
    Andrew Masterson

    Practical entanglement and reprogrammable devices now on the horizon.

    1
    Reprogrammable quantum computers are the “ultimate goal” of current research. Credit BeeBright/Getty Images

    The ultimate goal of quantum information programming – a device capable of being reprogrammed to perform any given function – is one step closer following the design of a new generation silicon chip that can control two qubits of information simultaneously.

    The invention, by a team led by Xiaogang Qiang from the Quantum Engineering Technology Labs at the University of Bristol in the UK, represents a significant step towards the development of a practical quantum computing.

    In a paper published in the journal Nature Photonics, Qiang and colleagues report proof-of-concept of a fully programmable two-qubit quantum processor “enabling universal two-qubit quantum information processing in optics”.

    The invention overcomes one of the primary obstacles facing the development of quantum computers. Using current technology, operations requiring just a single qubit (a unit of information that is in a superposition of simultaneous “0” and “1”) can be carried out with high precision.

    However, adding a second qubit and thus enabling quantum entanglement, a critical step for quantum computing, escalates problems dramatically.

    “This is recognised as one of the most challenging tasks for photonics because of the extra resources required for each entangling step,” write the researchers.

    To a notable extent, the challenge has now been met. Qiang and colleagues report constructing a quantum processor capable of controlling two qubits. The new chip comprises more than 200 photonic components and utilises complementary metal-oxide-semiconductors.

    The researchers report using the processor to “implement 98 different two-qubit unitary operations” at an average of 93% efficiency.

    According to team member Jingbo Wang from the University of Western Australia, the results bode well for future developments in the field.

    “The team have used the silicon chip to perform delicate quantum information experiments with 100,000 different reprogrammable settings,” she says.

    “One of the experiments is to implement a special class of quantum walk, which allows simultaneous traversing of all possible paths in arbitrarily complex network structures.”

    “Being able to explore everything at the same time offers exciting prospects for science and practical applications.”

    Referenced Paper:
    Reconfigurable controlled two-qubit operation on a quantum photonic chip New Journal of Physics November 2011

    See the full article here .

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    Bristol is one of the most popular and successful universities in the UK and was ranked within the top 50 universities in the world in the QS World University Rankings 2018.

    The University of Bristol is at the cutting edge of global research. We have made innovations in areas ranging from cot death prevention to nanotechnology.

    The University has had a reputation for innovation since its founding in 1876. Our research tackles some of the world’s most pressing issues in areas as diverse as infection and immunity, human rights, climate change, and cryptography and information security.

    The University currently has 40 Fellows of the Royal Society and 15 of the British Academy – a remarkable achievement for a relatively small institution.

    We aim to bring together the best minds in individual fields, and encourage researchers from different disciplines and institutions to work together to find lasting solutions to society’s pressing problems.

    We are involved in numerous international research collaborations and integrate practical experience in our curriculum, so that students work on real-life projects in partnership with business, government and community sectors.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:39 pm on June 23, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Stop looking for ET: modelling suggests we’re alone in the universe", COSMOS, , , Future of Humanity Institute,   

    From Future of Humanity Institute at University of Oxford via COSMOS: “Stop looking for ET: modelling suggests we’re alone in the universe” 

    U Oxford bloc

    From University of Oxford

    1

    Future of Humanity Institute

    COSMOS

    20 June 2018
    Andrew Masterson

    2
    Contact, Jodi Foster. No image credit found

    Despite the small matter of lack of evidence, most astrophysicists and cosmologists today are persuaded that extra-terrestrial intelligent life must exist.

    The logic behind the assumption seems compelling. There are billions of galaxies in the universe, each containing billions of stars, around a proportion of which orbit billions of planets. Given the vastness of those numbers, it would be statistically perverse to suggest that intelligent life evolved only once in the entire system.

    But what, however, if the startlingly improbable is nevertheless the truth? What if Homo sapiens is, in fact, the only species ever in the entire history of the universe to invent radio, build an X-ray observatory, and send a ship into space?

    What if – the existence of exoplanets coated in blue-green slime notwithstanding – we are utterly on our own?

    That’s the contention of physicists Anders Sandberg, Eric Drexler and Toby Ord, all of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University in the UK. In a paper lodged on the pre-print server Arxiv, and thus still awaiting peer review, the trio model what happens when two touchstones of astrobiology – the Fermi Paradox and the Drake Equation – are combined and subjected to mathematical rigour.

    2
    The Fermi Paradox, named for Dr. Enrico Fermi, describes the apparent contradiction between the lack of evidence of extraterrestrial civilizations and the high probability that such alien life exists. AP

    Frank Drake, SET Institute. No image credit

    Drake Equation, Frank Drake, Seti Institute

    The results, it must be said, aren’t good, at least for people hopeful that somewhere, out there, at least one alien civilisation is bubbling along.

    Existing calculations for the probability of extra-terrestrial intelligent life, they report, rest on uncertainties and assumptions that lead to outcomes containing margins for error spanning “multiple orders of magnitude”.

    Constraining these, as much as possible, by factoring in models of plausible chemical and genetic mechanisms, results, they conclude, in the finding “that there is a substantial probability that we are alone”.

    The Fermi Paradox is named after physicist Enrico Fermi, who noted in 1950 that there are so many stars, just in the Milky Way, that given the age of the universe even a small probability that intelligent life has evolved would mean that their existence should be plain to humanity by now.

    Yet, he continued, in terms of evidence, we have squat, which, given the probability of intelligent life emerging, is odd. Hence the paradox. “Where are they?” he asked.

    The Drake Equation, formulated by American astronomer Frank Drake in 1961, attempts to place an analytical framework around Fermi’s contention, by estimating the number of intelligent civilisations that exist in the universe, regardless of the fact that we can’t see them.

    In the equation, N represents the number of civilisations within the Milky Way capable of emitting detectable electromagnetic signals. The number is determined by the other factors in the model, which express the rate of suitable star formation, the fraction of those stars with exoplanets, the number of those planets suitable for life and the number on which life actually appears.

    That total is then further reduced by adding in other refinements – the number of life-bearing planets on which intelligence emerges, the number of those that produce technology capable of emitting signals into space, and the number of those that actually go ahead and do so.

    It’s all very impressive, but “sciencey” rather than scientific. Sandberg, Drexler and Ord gleefully quote US astronomer Jill Tarter, who described the Drake Equation as “a wonderful way to organise our ignorance”.

    The problem with the way the equation is usually wielded, the researchers argue, is that the parameters assigned to most of the various elements represent simply best guesses – and those guesses, furthermore, are heavily influenced by whether the person making them is optimistic or pessimistic about the chances of intelligent life existing. The result, they note, often involves well-estimated astronomical numbers multiplied by ad hoc figures.

    They quote another US astronomer, Steven J. Dick: “Perhaps never in the history of science has an equation been devised yielding values differing by eight orders of magnitude … each scientist seems to bring his own prejudices and assumptions to the problem.”

    Dick, they note, was being nice. Many outcomes from Drake Equation calculations yield probabilities that range over hundreds of orders of magnitude.

    In a not altogether unrelated sidebar, the researchers acknowledge a recent calculation by Swedish-American cosmologist Max Tegmark, estimating the chances of intelligent civilisations arising in the universe.

    Tegmark assumes there is no reason two intelligent civilisations should be any particular distance from each other, and then argues that – given the Milky Way is a minuscule fraction of the observable universe, which is itself only a tiny part of the universe beyond what we can see – it is unlikely that two intelligent civilisations would arise in the same observable universe. Thus, to all intents and purposes, we are very probably alone.

    Sandberg, Drexler and Ord use a different approach in their modelling, incorporating current scientific uncertainties that produce values for different parts of the equation ranging over tens and hundreds of orders of magnitude. Some of these concern critical questions regarding the emergence of life from non-living material – a process known as abiogenesis – and the subsequent likelihoods of early RNA-like life evolving into more adaptive DNA-like life.

    Then there is the essential matter of that primitive DNA-like life undergoing the sort of evolutionary symbiotic development that occurred on Earth, when a relationship between two different types of simple organisms resulted in the complex “eukaryotic” cells that constitute every species on the planet more complicated than bacteria.

    The results are depressing enough to send a thousand science-fiction writers into catatonic shock. The Fermi Paradox, they find, dissolves.

    “When we take account of realistic uncertainty, replacing point estimates by probability distributions that reflect current scientific understanding, we find no reason to be highly confident that the galaxy (or observable universe) contains other civilizations,” they conclude.

    “When we update this prior in light of the Fermi observation, we find a substantial probability that we are alone in our galaxy, and perhaps even in our observable universe.

    “‘Where are they?’ — probably extremely far away, and quite possibly beyond the cosmological horizon and forever unreachable.”

    See the full article here.


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    U Oxford campus

    Oxford is a collegiate university, consisting of the central University and colleges. The central University is composed of academic departments and research centres, administrative departments, libraries and museums. The 38 colleges are self-governing and financially independent institutions, which are related to the central University in a federal system. There are also six permanent private halls, which were founded by different Christian denominations and which still retain their Christian character.

    The different roles of the colleges and the University have evolved over time.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:26 am on April 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 'Nuclear geyser' may be origin of life, , , COSMOS, , ,   

    From Tokyo Institute of Technology via COSMOS: “‘Nuclear geyser’ may be origin of life” 

    tokyo-tech-bloc

    Tokyo Institute of Technology

    COSMOS

    18 April 2018
    Richard A. Lovett

    1
    A natural geyser hearing by nuclear fission in a uranium deposit may have provided the ideal conditions for biomolecules to form. SOPA Images / Getty.

    Life may not have originated in the primordial soup of an ancient pond, according to scientists, but rather in a “nuclear geyser” powered by an ancient uranium deposit.

    Shigenori Maruyama of Tokyo Institute of Technology says the idea came from what chemists know about crucial compounds in our own bodies.

    Many of these compounds – including DNA and proteins – are polymers formed from chains of smaller building blocks.

    Each of these molecules serves a different purpose in the body, but something they all have in common, says Nicholas Hud, a chemist from Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, is that a molecule of water is released when each new building block is added.

    “There is a theme here,” he said last week at a NASA-sponsored symposium on the early solar system and the origins of life. To a chemist, this suggests that these biopolymers must have originated under relatively dry conditions.

    Otherwise, Hud says, the presence of water would have forced the reactions to run backwards, breaking chains apart. But, there’s a problem: most scientists assume life started in water.

    The solution to this paradox, according to Hud, comes from realizing that water comes and goes. The major chemicals of life, and presumably life itself, may have formed in an environment that was alternately wet and dry. “It could be seasonal,” he says. “It could be tides. It could be aerosols that go up [into the air] and come back down.”

    Some prebiotic chemical reactions occur easily at moderate temperatures, but others, says Robert Pascal, a physical organic chemist from the University of Montpellier, France, require a more concentrated source of energy. This energy may have come from the sun, which in the early solar system was considerably more active than today. But another source is radiation.

    Which brings us back to nuclear geysers.

    Based on analyses similar to Hud’s and Pascal’s, Maruyama has identified nine requirements for the birthplace of life. One place where all can occur at once, Maruyama says, is in the plumbing of a nuclear geyser [Geoscience Frontiers].

    This would not only produce heat to power the geyser, but produce radiation strong enough to break the recalcitrant molecular bonds of water, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide, all of which must be cleaved in order to produce critical prebiotic compounds. Periodic eruptions of the geyser would also produce alternating wet and dry cycles, and water draining from the surface would bring back dissolved gases from the atmosphere. The rocks lining the geyser’s subterranean channels would provide a source of minerals such as potassium and calcium.

    “This is the place I recommend [for the origin of life],” Maruyama says.

    Once life originated, he says, it would have been spewed onto the surface and from there into the oceans. From there, it spread to every known habitable niche on the modern Earth.

    Extraterrestrial life (or at least life as we know it), he says, would need similar conditions in which to originate.

    That, he thinks, means the best place to look for it in our solar system is Mars. However habitable the subsurface oceans of outer moons such as Ganymede, Europa, and Titan may be for bacteria, they likely lack the conditions needed for the origin of life as we know it, he says.

    As for exoplanets? Similar conditions are also needed there, he says, including not only an energy source to power pre-biotic reactions, but a “triple junction” between rock, air, and water, where all the needed materials can come together simultaneously.

    See the full article here .

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    tokyo-tech-campus

    Tokyo Tech is the top national university for science and technology in Japan with a history spanning more than 130 years. Of the approximately 10,000 students at the Ookayama, Suzukakedai, and Tamachi Campuses, half are in their bachelor’s degree program while the other half are in master’s and doctoral degree programs. International students number 1,200. There are 1,200 faculty and 600 administrative and technical staff members.

    In the 21st century, the role of science and technology universities has become increasingly important. Tokyo Tech continues to develop global leaders in the fields of science and technology, and contributes to the betterment of society through its research, focusing on solutions to global issues. The Institute’s long-term goal is to become the world’s leading science and technology university.

     
  • richardmitnick 5:29 am on March 14, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , COSMOS, The Harvard "Computers"   

    From COSMOS: Women in STEM-“Forgotten women in science: The Harvard Computers” 

    Cosmos Magazine bloc

    COSMOS Magazine

    14 March 2018
    Zing Tsjeng

    Part 1 of 3

    1
    The Harvard Computers. Sara Netherway.

    The era of human computers didn’t begin with the West Computers or the Bletchleyettes. Toward the end of the 19th century, Harvard College Observatory drafted in dozens of women to take on one of the most unique mathematical computing jobs in its 178-year history: to unravel the mysteries of the heavens by calculating the positions of the stars.

    The work was less glamorous than it sounded. Thanks to new photographic technology, astronomers were able to capture images of the night sky onto glass plates. The problem, however, was that there was far too much data and too few people to analyse it.

    Observatory director Edward Charles Pickering (1846–1919) had an unusual solution: he employed a team of women to do it.

    2
    Edward Charles Pickering (1846–1919), Wikipedia.

    At the time, bright and talented graduates were emerging from America’s newly founded women’s colleges – such as Vassar College in upstate New York – and on the hunt for employment prospects that offered a little more excitement than working as a schoolteacher or running a household. Being a computer was as good as it got, even if they were paid far less than their male colleagues at 25 to 30 cents an hour. But it wasn’t just middle-class educated women who were offered a chance at classifying the stars; there were also uneducated women like Williamina Fleming (1857–1911), a Dundee-born single mother and housemaid whose aptitude for computing led Pickering to promote her from cleaning his rooms to computing his plates.

    3
    Williamina Fleming (1857–1911), Wikipedia.

    The Harvard Computers (1881–1919) – or, as they more rudely began to be known at the time, Pickering’s Harem – worked in the library next to the observatory.

    4
    The Harvard Computers (1881–1919) [ Pickering’s Harem], Wikipedia.

    The process of measuring the brightness of the stars and their positions in the sky required painstaking attention to detail and utmost concentration. Though the work was considered boring and tedious – hence why women were landed with it – it was also a lot less straightforward than it seemed.

    Most plates simply revealed dark splodges of dots against the glass. With the careful application of mathematical formulae, the women could work out the coordinates of the stars and their brightness. The northern and southern skies had never been mapped in their entirety before. The Harvard College Observatory, with its immense collection of plates, stood the best chance of doing it, and it couldn’t have made any progress without its computers.

    4
    The Harvard College Observatory, Wikipedia.

    Then came another challenge: how should they categorise these celestial bodies? Wellesley College graduate Annie Jump Cannon (1863–1941) created the Harvard Classification Scheme, which sorts the stars based on qualities such as their colour and temperature.

    5
    Annie Jump Cannon (1863–1941), YouTube.

    As Cannon put it: “It was almost as if the distant stars had really acquired speech, and were able to tell of their constitution and physical condition.”

    Her system is still used by astronomers today.

    Cannon and another computer, Henrietta Swan Leavitt (1868–1921), were both deaf; in Cannon’s case, this proved advantageous when she wanted to concentrate at work, as she would simply remove her hearing aid to block out the noises of the outside world.

    6
    Henrietta Swan Leavitt (1868–1921), Wikepedia.

    Even though none of them – barring Cannon – were ever allowed to use the mighty Harvard telescope known as the Great Refractor, the computers were on the cutting edge of astronomical discovery.

    8
    The Harvard Great Refractor, https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/480266747745788652/

    Fleming, for instance, catalogued more than 10,000 stars and from earth. However, initial publications of the finding missed out her name completely. (Subsequent catalogues, thankfully, rectified the mistake.) In 1899 she became the Curator of astronomical photographs and was one of the few computers to be appointed to a professional position at Harvard.

    Leavitt, on the other hand, realised that some stars pulsate with consistent brightness, making these so-called Cepheid variables solid benchmarks for calculating distances across space: a method that Edwin Hubble relied on to prove that the universe goes beyond our own paltry galaxy. In this way, the findings made by the Harvard Computers were truly revolutionary.

    Edwin Hubble at Caltech Palomar Samuel Oschin 48 inch Telescope,(credit: Emilio Segre Visual Archives/AIP/SPL)

    Harvard continued to use photographic plates until the 1990s, when digital cameras supplanted the old way of doing things. But the 500,000 glass plates that the computers once pored over still reside at the university, along with 118 boxes of notes and logbooks recently unearthed by the curator of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics.

    Together, they constitute a perfect record of what the night sky looked like a century ago, and of the women who sat in the small room next to Harvard’s telescope, deciphering the secrets of the universe. In 2005 the Centre began cleaning and digitising each glass plate for its archive. At the time of writing, more than 207,000 images have been preserved.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 9:36 am on March 12, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Carbon-based molecules are a by-product of red giants, Circumstellar envelopes, , COSMOS, , ,   

    From University of Hawaii Manoa via COSMOS: “Complex organic compounds from dying stars could be life precursors” 

    U Hawaii

    University of Hawaii Manoa

    COSMOS

    12 March 2018
    Richard A. Lovett

    Lab experiments reveal carbon-based molecules are a by-product of red giants.

    1
    A red giant star – the font, perhaps, of life… QAI Publishing/UIG via Getty Images

    Laboratory experiments designed to recreate conditions around carbon-rich red giant stars have revealed that startlingly complex organic compounds can form in the “circumstellar envelopes” created by stellar winds blowing off from them.

    The carbon is present because nuclear reactions in these dying stars have progressed to the point that much of their initial complement of hydrogen and helium has been converted into heavier elements such as carbon.

    “There is a lot of carbon in these circumstellar envelopes,” says Ralf Kaiser, a physical chemist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, US.

    In research published in the journal Nature Astronomy, a team led by Kaiser used a high-temperature chemical reactor to simulate conditions inside these circumstellar envelopes.

    The goal, he says, is to demonstrate how complex compounds can be assembled a couple of carbon atoms at a time at temperatures of up to about 1200 degrees Celsius. Previous research found that a host of organic chemicals can indeed be formed, but the new study pushed the process farther, demonstrating that it is possible to create chemicals at least as complex as pyrene, a 16-carbon compound with a structure like four fused benzene rings.

    So far, pyrene is the most complex molecule constructed in this manner, but Kaiser thinks that it might be just the beginning. “We hope when we do further experiments that this can be extended,” he says.

    What this means, he explains, is that circumstellar envelopes might be able to create molecules with 60 or 70 carbons, or even nanoparticle-sized sheets of graphene, a material composed of a larger array of fused rings.

    Such materials, he says, can act as building blocks on which other molecules, such as water, methane, methanol, carbon monoxide, and ammonia can condense as they move away from the star and cool to temperatures as low as minu-263 degrees Celsius. When the resulting chemical stew is exposed to ionising radiation either from nearby sources or galactic cosmic rays, Kaiser says, they can form sugars, amino acids, and dipeptides.

    “These are molecules relevant to the origins of life,” he adds.

    Billions of years ago, such organic-rich particles may have found their way into asteroids that then rained down onto the primordial Earth, endowing us with the precursors for life.

    Pyrene is a member of a family of compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), the simplest of which is naphthalene, the primary ingredient of mothballs. Simple PAHs have already been detected in space, but the holy grail, Kaiser says, will be if more complex ones, such as pyrene, are found by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission, now en route to asteroid 101955 Bennu, from which it is expected to send back a sample in 2023.

    NASA OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft

    “We do not know what this mission will find,” Kaiser says. But, “if they find carbonaceous materials such as PAHs, then our experiments say how this organic matter can be formed.”

    Humberto Campins, a planetary scientist from Central Florida University, Orlando, Florida, and member of the OSIRIS REx science team, agrees. Studying the chemical makeup of asteroids, he says, doesn’t just tell us about the composition of our own early solar system, but can also reveal information about “pre-solar” compounds.

    “One of the beauties of sample return missions is that the latest analytical techniques for chemical, mineralogical, and isotopic composition can be applied to very small components of the sample, such as pre-solar grains or molecules,” he says.

    “We know that the dust from these kinds of stars gets incorporated into meteorites, so they are absolutely contributing to the compounds that would be present within Bennu,” adds Chris Bennett, also of the University of Central Florida (and a former student of Kaiser’s, although he was not part of the present study team).

    Chris McKay, an astrobiologist at NASA Ames Research Centre in Moffett Field, California, adds that the paper supports the notion that that the universe contains a large amount of carbon in the form of organic molecules. “[That’s] not a new result,” he says, “but [it is] further support for this key idea in astrobiology.”

    Kaiser adds that the finding demonstrates the value of interdisciplinary studies.

    “Most of the scientists dealing with PAHs [in space] are astronomers,” he says. “They are excellent spectroscopists, but by nature, astronomy sometimes lacks fundamental knowledge about chemistry.”

    Laboratory studies are necessary to turn theories for how complex chemicals can form in space from “hand-waving” into something more definitive, he says.

    But the interdisciplinary impact goes beyond astronomy. Pyrene and other PAHs are common pollutants that can be incorporated into dangerous soot particles created by internal combustion engines and other industrial processes.

    Lessons from astrochemistry about how they can be formed, he says, says Kaiser, can therefore have the very practical side effect of helping us develop less-polluting automobile engines.

    See the full article here .

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    System Overview

    The University of Hawai‘i System includes 10 campuses and dozens of educational, training and research centers across the Hawaiian Islands. As the public system of higher education in Hawai‘i, UH offers opportunities as unique and diverse as our Island home.

    The 10 UH campuses and educational centers on six Hawaiian Islands provide unique opportunities for both learning and recreation.

    UH is the State’s leading engine for economic growth and diversification, stimulating the local economy with jobs, research and skilled workers.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:16 am on January 15, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Citizen Science Exoplanet Explorers, , COSMOS, K2-138, Music of the spheres: chain of planets rotates at “perfect fifth” intervals, Zooniverse   

    From COSMOS Magazine: “Music of the spheres: chain of planets rotates at “perfect fifth” intervals” 

    Cosmos Magazine bloc

    COSMOS Magazine

    15 January 2018
    Richard A Lovett

    1
    In 1619 Johannes Kepler calculated the “divine” musical scales of the planets in the solar system. Now citizen science has found a strong musical equivalence in a chain of newly discovered exoplanets. Photo 12/UIG via Getty Images.

    With the help of citizen scientists, exoplanet hunters have made one of their most unusual discoveries yet: a system called K2-138 that contains five planets orbiting in near-perfect resonances so close to their star that all five orbits are less than 13 days.

    Orbital resonances occur when planetary orbits are spaced so that they circle their star in numerically related patterns. In the case of K2-138, this resonance is close to 3:2, which means that each planet makes three circuits of the star in the time it takes the next one out to make two. That is, the outer planet’s orbit is 50% longer than the inner one’s.

    1
    Artist’s concept of a top-down view of the K2-138 system discovered by citizen scientists, showing the orbits and relative sizes of the five known planets. Orbital periods of the five planets, shown to scale, fall close to a series of 3:2 mean motion resonances. This indicates that the planets orbiting K2-138, which likely formed much farther away from the star, migrated inward slowly and smoothly.
    Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC)

    Such resonances are common in the planetary systems discovered by NASA’s Kepler space telescope (which seeks exoplanets by looking for dips in the brightness of distant stars that occur when planets cross in front of them, blocking part of their light). That’s because Kepler has discovered a great many compact planetary systems, in which planets would gravitationally interfere with each other if their orbits were not somehow synchronised.

    But K2-138 is the most dramatic example of this yet, with five planets — all between 1.6 and 3.3 times the size of the Earth — moving like clockwork in a succession of 3:2 resonances. Specifically, their orbits are 2.35, 3.56, 5.40, 8.26, and 12.76 days, forming an unbroken chain of close-to-3:2 resonances — the longest such chain ever discovered. Moreover, there are hints of a sixth planet, which, if it exists, would orbit in about 42 days.

    That’s particularly interesting, says Jessie Christiansen, an astronomer from California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, US, who presented her findings last week at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in National Harbor, Maryland, because 42 days falls into the same resonance chain.

    That raises the possibility that there might be as-yet unobserved planets in the gaps between 12.76 days and 42. “If you continue the chain it would be 19, 27, and 42,” she says. “So it could be that the longest chain could get longer yet.”

    It’s an exciting discovery, says Steve Bryson, an exoplanet-hunting astronomer at NASA Ames Research Centre at Mountain View in California, who was not a member of Christiansen’s team. “It gives us a deeper understanding of how planetary systems form.”

    Christiansen agrees. The fact that the planets wound up in such a smooth arrangement, she says, suggests that they migrated inward to their present positions very sedately, rather than via chaotic gravitational interactions. “They had no fights,” she says.

    It’s also intriguing because the 3:2 interval between these planets’ orbits is what musicians call a perfect fifth. “You can find them everywhere in music,” Christiansen says, citing the first two notes of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star as an example.

    Even more interestingly, the orbits aren’t quite perfect fifths, but are just ever so slightly off, she says. That is, instead of having orbital resonances that are exactly in a 3:2 ratio (or 1.5 to 1), they are 1.513, 1.518, 1.528, and 1.544. That’s intriguing, she says, because musicians actually tune their instruments to be just slightly off from perfect-fifth intervals to avoid the irritating “beat” phenomena that happens when tuning is too perfect.

    Possibly, she says, K2-138’s planets may have wound up in orbits just slightly off from perfect in order to avoid being destabilised by a similar phenomena due to too-perfect synchronisation.

    But even more exciting than the science, says Bryson, is the way in which the find was made. It came via a project called Exoplanet Explorers carried out on a website called zooniverse.org.

    The goal of that project, says Christiansen, is to recruit volunteers to examine any data in which the computer found a blip that might be a planet.

    “They’re doing the vetting,” she says. “Looking through and saying, ‘This is junk; this is real.’

    “It’s really hard to tell the computer to find everything that looks like a blip, but not ‘that’ kind of blip or ‘that’ kind of blip or ‘that’ kind of blip. So we just tell the computer to find all the blips and we’ll check.”

    But with thousands of stars involved, and a desire to have at least 10 people look at everything that might be interesting, that involves a tremendous amount of person-power.

    “We just uploaded 55,000 new potential planetary signals,” Christiansen says. “We would never be able to get through all of the signals we have without our volunteers.”

    Meg Schwamb, an astronomer at the Gemini Observatory in Hilo, Hawaii, agrees.

    “In our Internet age, online citizen science is enabling scientists to enlist the help of the general public from around the globe to perform data sorting and analysis tasks that are impossible to automate, or would be insurmountable for a single person or small group to undertake,” she says.

    “With so many eyes looking at the data, these projects can find hidden gems that may have gone missed in today’s large datasets.”

    “One of the things I love about astronomy,” adds Bryson, “is that it’s the one science where everyone can relate to it. Everyone knows what it’s like to look up at the stars.”

    Caltech article is posted here:
    https://sciencesprings.wordpress.com/2018/01/12/from-caltech-citizen-scientists-discover-five-planet-system/

    Christiansen’s study is in the online edition of The Astronomical Journal.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 9:54 am on January 5, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Coral bleaching, COSMOS, , Widespread coral bleaching in Australia's Great Barrier Reef   

    From COSMOS Magazine: “Worldwide coral bleaching has sped up dramatically in 30 years” 

    Cosmos Magazine bloc

    COSMOS Magazine

    05 January 2018
    Tanya Loos

    International data predicts annual reef bleaching is a real possibility.

    1
    Bleaching events have sped up significantly since the 1980s. Reinhard Dirscherl/ullstein bild via Getty Images

    2
    Global Coral Bleaching. http://www.globalcoralbleaching.org .

    The time between coral bleaching events at multiple reef locations has decreased five-fold in the past four decades, new research has found.

    A study in the journal Science reports that time elapsed between bleaching events in the tropics has contracted from 25-to-30 years in the early 1980s to just six years by 2010.

    “Before the 1980s, mass bleaching of corals was unheard of, even during strong El Niño conditions, but now repeated bouts of regional-scale bleaching and mass mortality of corals have become the new normal around the world as temperatures continue to rise,” says lead author Terry Hughes of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies based at James Cook University in Queensland, Australia.

    Using data from 100 reef sites around the world, Hughes and colleagues from Australia, Saudi Arabia, Canada and the US demonstrate that tropical sea temperatures are warmer today during cooler-than-average La Niña conditions than they were 40 years ago during El Niño periods.

    They find that the frequency of the bleaching events is having dire consequences for the complex ecosystems of coral reefs, because six years is insufficient time for the mature assemblages of the reef to recover. Even the fastest growing coral communities take approximately 10 to 15 years to recover after a bleaching event.

    The researchers fear that annual bleaching could soon occur.

    “Reefs have entered a distinctive human-dominated era – the Anthropocene,” says co-author Mark Eakin of the US National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration.

    “The climate has warmed rapidly in the past 50 years, first making El Niños dangerous for corals, and now we’re seeing the emergence of bleaching in every hot summer.”

    The timing and severity of mass bleaching events has varied across geographic regions. In the 1980s, the Western Atlantic and Pacific regions were at highest risk. More recently, bleaching risk has increased only slowly in the Western Atlantic, at an intermediate rate in the Pacific and very strongly in the Middle East and Australasian regions.

    The study highlights the Great Barrier Reef, which has bleached four times since 1998, including unprecedented back-to-back events in 2016 and 2017.

    3
    Widespread coral bleaching in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. http://www.slate.com .

    The researchers conclude that the future conditions of reefs, and the ecosystem services they provide to people, will depend critically on the trajectory of global emissions.

    “We hope our stark results will help spur on the stronger action needed to reduce greenhouse gases in Australia, the United States and elsewhere,” says Hughes.

    See the full article here .

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