1. Look at this baby picture of our universe. Wasn’t it cute? 

    The European Space Agency on Thursday released this image yesterday, which depicts what the universe looked like a mere 380,000 years after the Big Bang. While that may sound like a fair amount of time, the universe was virtually an infant then, giving scientists new insight into its origins.

    "The new satellite data underscored the existence of puzzling anomalies that may yet lead theorists back to the drawing board. The universe appears to be slightly lumpier, with bigger and more hot and cold spots in the northern half of the sky as seen from Earth than toward the south, for example. And there is a large, unexplained cool spot in the northern hemisphere.

    Keep reading…

     

  2. As if space travel weren’t risky enough already, now astronauts have to grapple with the fear that being in deep space might fry their brains.

    The radiation in space is similar to what might be experienced in a nuclear explosion, but here on Earth, we’re protected by our planet’s magnetic field. When astronauts leave Earth’s orbit, however, that layer of protection is gone, and human bodies are bombarded by radioactive particles, which have already been linked to increased cancer risk and cardiovascular issues. But “perhaps the greatest danger of such prolonged exposure,” says Alasdair Wilkins at io9, is “the degeneration of the brain itself.” 

    Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center wanted to study how prolonged time spent in deep space could affect astronauts. So they exposed mice to levels of radiation similar to what humans would encounter on a three-year round trip to Mars, then tested the mice’s memories. The results were startling. Mice exposed to radiation failed to recall objects and places, and their brains showed an increased buildup of beta amyloid, a protein considered one of the clearest indicators of Alzheimer’s disease. ”These findings clearly suggest that exposure to radiation in space has the potential to accelerate the development of Alzheimer’s disease,” says researcher M. Kerry O’Banion.

    Are cosmic rays giving astronauts Alzheimer’s?

     

  3. When Halley’s Comet reappeared in 1910, the Chicago Yerkes Observatory made the poorly calculated decision to announce that it had detected a poisonous gas in the comet’s tail. The New York Times added fuel to the fire by quoting a French astronomer as saying this gas “would impregnate that atmosphere and possibly snuff out all life on the planet.” Panic ensued, gas masks were purchased, and people began loading up on “comet pills,” which promised to counter the effects of the noxious gas. In an attempt to keep the fumes at bay, homeowners placed pieces of paper over their locks. 

    What actually happened: The planet remained undisturbed. Once the comet had passed, The Chicago Tribune announced to readers, “We’re still here.”

    6 predicted apocalypses that never happened

     

  4. As the moon passes the sun, the ghostly tendrils of the outer atmospheric layer, the “corona,” are visible, providing scientists a moment of focused attention on our mysterious star. 

    7 stunning images from Australia’s rare total solar eclipse

     

  5. Until recently, the thought of a single planet orbiting multiple stars at once seemed not only improbable but something very much in the realm of science fiction.

    Yet a remarkable new exoplanet discovered by a team of amateur astronomers has the extremely rare distinction of rotating around four stars simultaneously, earning the strange planet comparisons to Tatooine — Star Wars character Luke Skywalker’s planetary home that famously featured two setting suns.

    The planet with four suns

    (Source: theweek.com)

     

  6. "Solar wind is a flow of particles continually flowing away from the sun," says Nick Collins at The Telegraph. Earth’s magnetic field typically deflects these particles away, but the moon doesn’t have the same kind of protection. Solar wind “whacks into the lunar surface” at approximately a million miles per hour, often carrying hydrogen with it, says AFP.

    The impact is “so brutal” that the sun’s gust diminishes the moon’s mass by a million tons per hour. Although it’s unclear exactly how the next step happens, the foreign hydrogen then combines with the moon’s oxygen to form hydroxyls, or tiny glassy, bead-like compounds comprised of one oxygen atom and one hydrogen atom, says Irene Klotz at Discovery NewsThese hydroxyls, which Liu and his team discovered using new soil analysis techniques, get stored in the soil and are just one hydrogen atom away from becoming water. 

    Where did the water on the moon come from?

     

  7. Discovered: A far-off galaxy from the dawn of time 

    Astronomers caught a glimpse of what they think is the most distant galaxy ever seen. While it doesn’t “look like much,” the “fuzzy red orb” is an astonishing 13.2 billion light years away, says Rebecca J. Rosen at The Atlantic. That’s not much older than the universe itself, and this tiny galaxy may have emerged less than 200 million years after the Big Bang. It’s like an archeologist finding an incredibly old artifact that’s still relatively intact.

    More…

     

  8. PHOTO: ThinkStock/Hemera

    Scientists have confirmed with 99.996 percent certainty that dark energy exists, and is causing the universe to expand. 

    "Our universe is a mysterious place," says Jennifer Ouellette at Discovery News. Roughly 4 percent of it is made of ordinary matter like stars and planets. The rest, according to physicists, is a combination of mysterious dark matter — which functions as an invisible glue that holds the universe together — and an even lesser-understood substance call dark energy, which is “causing the cosmos to expand at an accelerating rate.”

    Keep reading

     

  9. Jupiter may have “saved Earth from a devastating cosmic collision” on Monday when it took a hit from what may have been a massive asteroid, resulting in a 100-mile-wide fireball large enough to be caught on film from Earth.

    This is the third time since 2009 observers have seen an impact flash on Jupiter’s surface, and some astronomers think the big planet’s gravitational pull serves as a sort of “cosmic shield” for the inner rings of planets — including Earth — “sweeping up incoming objects that would have a deadlier effect” if they were to crash into us. A few scientists think that without Jupiter’s protection, life on Earth wouldn’t have been able to develop.

    Watch the collision on Jupiter
     

  10. With NASA taking a backseat to private enterprises like Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, the future of space exploration is essentially in the hands of anyone with deep enough pockets and an overflow of ideas.

    Now, a new Dutch group calling itself Mars One is throwing its hat into the mix, and has announced an earnest (yet ”achievable”) plan to set up a fully manned station on the Red Planet by the year 2023.

    On the “surprisingly specific date” of September 14, 2022, Mars One aims to send four astronauts on a 10-month, one-way journey to set up permanent residence on Earth’s closest neighborsays Chris Taylor at Mashable. What separates this particular undertaking from earlier projects is that no one comes back, saving invaluable time and expensive equipment; consider the Mars base the “Plymouth Rock” of a new era. 

    Read on

     

  11. NASA scientists have just confirmed an entirely new category of planet just 40 light years away: A world with a diameter 2.7 times larger than Earth that’s covered almost entirely in water. "If you want to describe in one sentence what this planet is, it’s a big, hot ocean."

     


  12. That’s the speed at which a big asteroid will fly by Earth on Tuesday. The space rock, named 2005 YU55, is 1,300 feet across. That’s a bit longer than four football fields, or about the length of an aircraft carrier.

    Just how close is this thing coming?

     

  13. kateoplis:

    Astronomers discover ‘Star Wars planet’ with two suns

    An astrological discovery that would make Luke Skywalker a little homesick is making waves this week — a faraway planet has been found to have two suns.

    A team of experts used the NASA Kepler space telescope to discover the planet, which orbits around two large stars — similar to Tatooine, the fictional home of Skywalker in the Star Wars films.

    In this case, however, the discovery doesn’t get the Hollywood treatment in terms of a name. Its name is the far more prosaic Kepler-16b.

    via: nationalpost