Sending a Rocket Through the Northern Lights

ICI-4 - a space weather mission. Illustration: Trond Abrahamsen, Andøya Space Center

ICI-4 – a space weather mission. Illustration: Trond Abrahamsen, Andøya Space Center

The combination of American electron clouds and Norwegian northern lights spells trouble for navigation and communication in the Northern regions. The ICI4 rocket will provide knowledge that can help us predict the weather in space.

Follow the scientists live-blogging the attempt to launch the rocket on facebook.com/ici4rocket and twitter: #ICI4 Read More →

Are We Inside a ‘Galactic Transport System’?

Wormhole simulation - Credits Davide and Paolo Salucci.

Wormhole simulation – Credits Davide and Paolo Salucci.

In theory, the Milky Way could be a “galactic transport system”

Based on the latest evidence and theories our galaxy could be a huge wormhole (or space-time tunnel such as the one depicted in the recent film Interstellar) and, if that were true, it would be “stable and navigable”. This is the hypothesis put forward in a study published in Annals of Physics and conducted with the participation of SISSA in Trieste [citation below]. Read More →

Scent of a Comet

Image taken on 26 September from a distance of 26.3 km from Comet Chury. The image shows the spectacular region of activity at the «neck» of the comet with ices sublimating and gases escaping from inside the comet. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

Image taken on 26 September from a distance of 26.3 km from Comet Chury. The image shows the spectacular region of activity at the «neck» of the comet with ices sublimating and gases escaping from inside the comet. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

How does a comet smell and what can it teach us about the emergence of our solar system? Since early August, the Rosetta Orbiter Sensor for Ion and Neutral Analysis (ROSINA) has been “sniffing” the fumes of the comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko with its two mass spectrometers to answer these very questions. The detected chemistry in the coma of the comet is surprisingly rich at more than 400 million kilometers from the Sun.  Read More →

Evolution of Asteroid Study

Asteroid

On 13 April 2029, asteroid 99942 (heretofore known as Apophis) is estimated to come within 18,300 miles of the Earth. This alarming distance is even more shocking when one takes into consideration that modern geosynchronous satellites orbit the Earth at approximately 26,000 miles. Once the shock has cleared, there is another fact you need to take into consideration: astronomers across the globe are tracking Apophis every day. It is currently labeled as a “0” on the Torino Scale. The Torino Scale is used to categorize the likeness of an asteroid impact on Earth. Read More →

Intro to External Pulsed Plasma Propulsion (EPPP)

Future Engine

External Pulsed Plasma Propulsion (EPPP)  is something that’s been discussed for some time. In fact, it was originally proposed by Stanislaw Ulam way back in 1947. Unfortunately the public perception of atomic technology as well as pieces of otherwise well meaning legislation have called into question the feasibility of spacecraft that operate using this advanced principle. Read More →

Solving a 30-Year-Old Problem in High Mass Star Formation

This false-color Very Large Array image of the ionized gas in the star forming region Sgr B2 Main was used to detect small but significant changes in brightness of several of the sources. The blobs and filaments in this image are regions of ionized gas around massive stars. The changes in brightness detected support a model that could solve a 30-year-old question in high mass star formation. (Credit: NRAO/Agnes Scott College)

This false-color Very Large Array image of the ionized gas in the star forming region Sgr B2 Main was used to detect small but significant changes in brightness of several of the sources. The blobs and filaments in this image are regions of ionized gas around massive stars. The changes in brightness detected support a model that could solve a 30-year-old question in high mass star formation. (Credit: NRAO/Agnes Scott College)

Some 30 years ago, astronomers found that regions of ionized gas around young high mass stars remain small (under a third of a light-year) for ten times longer than they should if they were to expand as expected in simple models. Recent supercomputer simulations predicted that these regions actually flicker in brightness over this period rather than grow continuously. Observations from a team of researchers using the Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) over a 23-year period have confirmed that such flickering actually occurs. Read More →

Finding Extraterrestrial Life on Europa

Jupiter Europa

Earlier this week, we learned during a NASA press conference that scientists have discovered huge active plumes containing water vapor being released from the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa. This sensational find was made using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Joachim Saur, professor at the Institute for Geophysics and Meteorology of the University of Cologne was principal investigator of the Hubble observing campaign. Read More →

What White Dwarfs Can Tell Us About the Universe

Birth of a white dwarf (bright spot at the center) in the Dumbbell Nebula./ Credit: Telescopio Joan Oro - Observatori Astronomic del Montsec

Birth of a white dwarf (bright spot at the center) in the Dumbbell Nebula./ Credit: Telescopio Joan Oro – Observatori Astronomic del Montsec

Researchers from Europe and the U.S. have ruled out a multitude of possible parameters for dark photons – a type of dark matter and energy – with the help of white dwarfs. In some aspects, the shining of these dying stars gives more information on dark forces than is provided by earth-based laboratories. The journal ‘Physical Review D’ has published the study [citation below]. Read More →

What Aliens From Another World Will Look Like

Silicon Alien

Invading aliens from outer space won’t look like a Lady Gaga zombie or creatures with serious nasal drip problems. Top planetary scientists have now come up with different sketches of how aliens might appear. Here, then, are what real aliens will most likely look like if they drop on your house. Read More →

How the Largest Known Star is Tearing Itself Apart

The new VST image of the star cluster Westerlund 1. The stars in the cluster appear red due to foreground dust blocking out their blue light. The blue stars are foreground objects and are not related to the cluster. The star W26 is in the upper left of the cluster and is surrounded by a green glow. Credit: ESO/VPHAS+ Survey/N. Wright.

The new VST image of the star cluster Westerlund 1. The stars in the cluster appear red due to foreground dust blocking out their blue light. The blue stars are foreground objects and are not related to the cluster. The star W26 is in the upper left of the cluster and is surrounded by a green glow. Credit: ESO/VPHAS+ Survey/N. Wright.

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 USA, 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 University Press journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (citation below). Read More →