An international team of planetary scientists determined that the Moon formed nearly 100 million years after the start of the solar system, according to a paper published today in Nature. This conclusion is based on measurements from the interior of the Earth combined with computer simulations of the protoplanetary disk from which the Earth and other terrestrial planets formed.
The team of researchers from France, Germany and the U.S. simulated the growth of the terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars) from a disk of thousands of planetary building blocks orbiting the Sun. By analyzing the growth history of the Earth-like planets from 259 simulations, the scientists discovered a relationship between the time the Earth was impacted by a Mars-sized object to create the Moon and the amount of material added to the Earth after that impact.
'Cosmic Barometer' May Reveal Universe's Violent Past
Scientists have developed a way of reading the universe’s “cosmic barometer” to learn more about ancient violent events in space. Exploding stars, random impacts involving comets and meteorites and even near misses between two bodies can create regions of great heat and high pressure.
Researchers from Imperial College London have now developed a method for analyzing the pressure experienced by tiny samples of organic material that may have been ejected from dying stars before making a long journey through the cosmos. The researchers have investigated a type of aromatic hydrocarbon called dimethylnaphthalene, which should enable them to identify violent events in the history of the universe.
Watch a Scientist Get Told His Life’s Work Has Been Proven Right
On Monday, news hit that researchers made a major physics advance- they found evidence to support the Big Bang Theory and the explosion of growth that immediately followed.
Physicist Alan Guth formally proposed inflationary theory in 1980, when he was a postdoctoral scholar at SLAC, as a modification of conventional Big Bang theory. Instead of the universe beginning as a rapidly expanding fireball, Guth theorized that the universe inflated extremely rapidly from a tiny piece of space and became exponentially larger in a fraction of a second. This idea immediately attracted lots of attention because it could provide a unique solution to many difficult problems of the standard Big Bang theory.
A paper published in Springer’s EPJ H provides the first English translation and an analysis of one of Albert Einstein’s little-known papers, “On the cosmological problem of the general theory of relativity.” Published in 1931, it features a forgotten model of the universe, while refuting Einstein’s own earlier static model of 1917. In this paper, Einstein introduces a cosmic model in which the universe undergoes an expansion followed by a contraction. This interpretation contrasts with the monotonically expanding universe of the widely known Einstein-de Sitter model of 1932.
Every Thursday, Laboratory Equipment features a Scientist of the Week, chosen from the science industry’s latest headlines. This week’s scientist is Jens Krog from the Univ. of Southern Denmark. He and a team preformed new calculations that confirm that the universe may one day collapse – and they concluded that the risk of a collapse is even greater than previously thought.
An international team of astronomers has discovered the first Earth-mass planet that transits, or crosses in front of, its host star. KOI-314c is the lightest planet to have both its mass and physical size measured. Surprisingly, although the planet weighs the same as Earth, it is 60 percent larger in diameter, meaning that it must have a very thick, gaseous atmosphere.
"This planet might have the same mass as Earth, but it is certainly not Earth-like," says David Kipping of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA), lead author of the discovery. "It proves that there is no clear dividing line between rocky worlds like Earth and fluffier planets like water worlds or gas giants."
On a clear night, the moon’s battered history comes into sharp relief: even from 240,000 miles away, its largest craters are so massive as to be visible to the naked eye.
Scientists have long thought that such lunar craters arose during a period called the Late Heavy Bombardment (LHB), about four billion years ago. During that time, a hailstorm of giant asteroids pummeled the solar system, slamming into the moon, along with young planets like Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. But now scientists from MIT, the Univ. of Paris and elsewhere have found that craters on the near side of the moon may not reflect the intensity of asteroid impacts from that period. Instead, much smaller asteroids likely created these craters — a finding that may redefine scientists’ picture of the LHB.
Research Sheds Light on Dark Matter, Cosmic Speed Up
In a new study, Dartmouth College researchers have ruled out a controversial theory that the accelerating expansion of the universe is an illusion.
While the findings don’t explain the cosmic speed up, they eliminate one provocative possibility that our planet, solar system and galaxy are at the center of the universe and that there is no dark energy. The findings appear in the journal Physical Review D.
Last year, when a team of astronomers led by a Michigan State Univ. professor discovered two black holes in a collection of stars known as a globular cluster, they weren’t sure if the black holes’ presence was a common occurrence or a unique stroke of luck.
Researchers are now thinking it was the former, as evidence of yet another black hole has been found in a globular cluster by an MSU-led team of researchers.
Experiment May Shed Light on Mysteries of Dark Matter
Dark matter, believed by physicists to outweigh all the normal matter in the universe by more than five to one, is by definition invisible. But certain features associated with dark matter might be detectable, according to some of the many competing theories describing this elusive matter. Now scientists at MIT and elsewhere have developed a tool that could test some of these predictions and thus prove, or disprove, one of the leading theories.
The work is described in a paper in the journal Physical Review Letters co-authored by MIT physics Profs. Richard Milner and Peter Fisher and 19 other researchers.
Texas A&M Univ. and the Univ. of Texas at Austin may be former football rivals, but the Lone Star State’s two research giants have teamed up to detect the most distant spectroscopically confirmed galaxy ever found — one created within 700 million years after the Big Bang.
The research is published in the most recent edition of the journal Nature. “It’s exciting to know we’re the first people in the world to see this,” says Vithal Tilvi, a Texas A&M postdoctoral research associate and co-author of the paper, available online today. “It raises interesting questions about the origins and the evolution of the universe.”
An international team of astronomers has observed part of the final death throes of the largest known star in the Universe as it throws off its outer layers. The discovery, by a collaboration of scientists from the UK, Chile, Germany and the U.S., is a vital step in understanding how massive stars return enriched material to the interstellar medium — the space between stars — which is necessary for forming planetary systems. The researchers publish their results in the Oxford Univ. Press journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Stars with masses tens of times larger than that of the Sun live very short and dramatic lives compared to their less massive siblings. Some of the most massive stars have lifetimes of less than a few million years before they exhaust their nuclear fuel and explode as supernovae. At the very ends of their lives these stars become highly unstable and eject a considerable amount of material from their outer envelopes. This material has been enriched by nuclear reactions deep within the star and includes many of the elements necessary for forming rocky planets like our Earth, such as silicon and magnesium, and which are also the basis for life.
The detection of four short bursts of radio waves, possibly arising from explosions billions of light years away, could be powerful tools to study our Universe, according to research published in Science.
In 2006, a similar so called “Lorimer burst” was detected with the CSIRO Parkes radio telescope and its authenticity was debated with widespread skepticism about its astrophysical origin. Those doubts have been laid to rest with the recent discovery of four similar bursts, using the same radio telescope in research co-authored by Curtin Univ.’s Ramesh Bhat.
The shape of the universe may be dramatically different than before thought, a group of researchers says.
Researchers investigating a major anomaly in the afterglow of the Big Bang suggest the fabric of space and time may actually be curved like a saddle, possibly upending the currently leading notion that light and anything else traveling through spacetime zips through a “flat” universe in straight lines. In a saddle-shaped universe, however, any object that seems like it is traveling parallel to another item will actually veer away from it after vast distances.
Airborne Observatory Records Space in Unprecedented Detail
Soaring at 41,000 feet in the air, a team of Ithaca College physics students and a professor recently took photos from a flying observatory to help discover what makes up our universe.
A collaboration between NASA and other researchers, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) provides key insight into the formation and evolution of stars and planets. SOFIA allows scientists to observe infrared light and collect data — such as never-before-seen images of Jupiter and the galaxy M82 — nearly impossible to obtain previously.