Astronomers spot the most distant star ever seen 9 billion light-years away

April 2, 2018 by  
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The Environmental Protection Agency is poised to undo Obama -era greenhouse gas emission regulations and fuel economy standards that were designed to encourage the development of cleaner, more efficient vehicles. EPA administrator Scott Pruitt will likely describe the move as lifting burdensome regulations on automakers to support the production of cheaper vehicles, but it doesn’t account for the costs of increased air pollution and continued climate change. Left in place, the rules would have reduced oil consumption by about 12 billion barrels while reducing carbon dioxide pollution by about six billion tons over the lifetime of vehicles produced under the regulations. The rules that are set to be rolled back under the Trump Administration were created in 2012 as one of President Obama’s major initiatives to combat climate change . If allowed to be fully implemented, the rules would have required automakers to nearly double the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Some worry that the United States ‘s decision to step away from stricter emissions standards could set a dangerous precedent around the world. “The concern is that automakers will go around the world basically trying to lobby regulators, saying, look, because the United States has reduced the pace, everywhere else should too,” Anup Bandivadekar, a researcher at the International Council on Clean Transportation, told the New York Times . Related: Congress rejects Trump’s renewable energy budget cuts While American automakers had initially lobbied the Trump Administration for more relaxed standards, they did not expect to see a complete repeal of the rules. “We didn’t ask for that,” claimed Robert Bienenfeld , assistant vice president for environment and energy strategy at American Honda Motor. “The position we outlined was sensible.” In a blog post, Ford Motor Company chairman Bill Ford and CEO Jim Hackett wrote that “we support increasing clean car standards through 2025 and are not asking for a rollback.” The relaxed standards proposed by automakers were viewed as less likely to cause a showdown with California and the dozen other states that follow its lead on strict environmental standards. Now, California is preparing for battle. “We’re going to defend first and foremost existing federal greenhouse gas standards,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra told the New York Times . “We’re defending them because they’re good for the entire nation. No one should think it’s easy to undo something that’s been not just good for the country, but good for the planet .” Via the New York Times Images via Depositphotos and the White House

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Astronomers spot the most distant star ever seen 9 billion light-years away

Astronomers observe an object in space unlike anything they’ve seen before

September 22, 2017 by  
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Astronomers recently observed a type of object in space unlike anything we’ve come across before. 288P is a binary asteroid – or two asteroids orbiting one other – that has features similar to a comet , like a long tail and bright coma, or cloud of dust and gas surrounding a comet’s nucleus. It is the first binary asteroid we’ve ever found that can also be classified as a comet. Scientists learned of 288P’s existence in 2011, but they weren’t able to really scrutinize the binary asteroid – it was too far away – until recently when it came a little closer to Earth. Using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope , a group of scientists led by Jessica Agarwal at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany were able to get a better look at the strange system. Related: Astronomers discover that exoplanet WASP-12b is “darker than asphalt” 288P is a main-belt comet as it’s located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter . Each of the two pieces that make up 288P are about 0.6 miles in diameter, and the research institute said they are unusually far apart: they’re orbiting one another at a distance of around 62 miles. The astronomers also observed ongoing activity in 288P. Agarwal said, “We detected strong indications of the sublimation of water ice due to the increased solar heating – similar to how the tail of a comet is created.” 288P has probably been a binary system for just around 5,000 years. And according to Hubble’s website, we’re not likely to find any more objects like 288P for a long time, since finding the binary main-belt comet “included a lot of luck.” The journal Nature published the research online earlier this week. Agarwal was joined by four other researchers from institutions in the United States. Via Hubble Space Telescope and the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research Images via ESA/Hubble, L. Calçada and ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser

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Astronomers observe an object in space unlike anything they’ve seen before

Don’t panic, but a massive hydrogen cloud is going to crash into the Milky Way

October 25, 2016 by  
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There’s a big cloud heading toward us, but it’s not the kind that looks like an elephant or your Uncle Todd. NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has been tracking the so-called Smith Cloud , which is charging toward the Milky Way at some 700,000 miles per hour . Made up largely of hydrogen gas, Smith Cloud can’t be seen by the naked eye, but it can be detected with radio waves. Of all the gaseous clouds floating around in space (and there are a lot of them), this is perhaps the most famous and possibly even the most beloved, as its path toward our galaxy has been well-documented since its initial discovery in the 1960s. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmmjpcl5mBk Earlier this year, NASA reported that the Smith Cloud began its journey toward the Milky Way around 70 million years ago, a conclusion scientists based on new data obtained by the Hubble telescope . The Smith Cloud, like others on the outskirts of our galaxy, contains the amount and types of gas plus heavy metals that suggest it could wind up producing millions of new stars. NASA data estimates the cloud, which has a comet-like shape, is “11,000 light-years long and 2,500 light-years across,” according to an earlier report . “If the cloud could be seen in visible light, it would span the sky with an apparent diameter 30 times greater than the size of the full moon.” Related: Newly discovered “ghost galaxy” full of dark matter is as big as the Milky Way Essentially, the Smith Cloud is getting whipped back into the outer edge of the Milky Way. It could be 30 millions years before the giant cloud of hydrogen gas  meets the edge of our galaxy, but in the meantime, NASA scientists are working to learn more about its composition, which would offer new clues about its origin. So far, they’ve learned the cloud is as rich in sulfur as the Milky Way’s outer disk, a region about 40,000 light-years from the galaxy’s center. That discovery indicates Smith Cloud was enriched by star material, leading scientists to believe it may have been hurled out of our galaxy at some point, rather than having its origins in a separate failed galaxy. What caused the hydrogen cloud to be ejected from the Milky Way is anyone’s guess, and NASA researchers are continuing to study the data and perform other tests to unlock more secrets hidden within this mysterious, invisible cloud. Via ABC7  and NASA Images via NASA

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Don’t panic, but a massive hydrogen cloud is going to crash into the Milky Way

New Hubble images finally reveal what the Crab Nebula hides in its core

July 8, 2016 by  
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Legions of scientists have studied and taken images of the Crab Nebula — in fact, it’s one of the most-studied object in space. But until now, astronomers have never been able to glimpse the object at the heart of the massive gas cloud. Until now. New Hubble images have revealed a fast-moving neutron star at the heart of the nebula. The Crab Nebula , which lies 6500 light years away from Earth, was created by a supernova long ago. A massive star in the Taurus constellation exploded at immense speeds, creating the expanding cloud of gas we see today, called a supernova remnant. Most images of the nebula focus on the intense colors and shapes of the nebula’s outer filaments, but what’s going on in the heart of the cloud may be even more interesting. It turns out that when the original star making up the nebula exploded, it left behind its inner core, a strange and exotic object known as a neutron star . While this star has roughly the same mass as our sun, it only measures a few tens of kilometers across — an incredible density made possible by the compression of the subatomic particles that make up the star. Until now, it’s been almost impossible to capture this star’s movement on camera due to its high speed: it rotates approximately 30 times per second. Related: NASA captures shockwave of a massive supernova for the first time ever To capture the neutron star, astronomers used the Hubble Space Telescope to take three high-resolution images about 10 years apart each. Those images were combined together to create a sort of time-lapse showing bright “ripples” in the center of the nebula; bands of light are actually caused by the radiation of electrons spiraling through the star’s magnetic field at nearly the speed of light. This isn’t the first time the Crab Nebula has made history . The supernova explosion that created the cloud was one of the first such events in recorded human history.  In the year 1045, astronomers in Japan and China noticed a bright new star in the night sky said to be nearly as bright as the moon. That bright light was caused by the distant explosion, and over the next several years it gradually faded until it was invisible to the naked eye. Luckily, it’s still possible to see with the help of the Hubble . Via Gizmodo Images via ESA/Hubble  

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New Hubble images finally reveal what the Crab Nebula hides in its core

Thousands of origami birds come together in Paris largest urban mural

July 8, 2016 by  
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The massive Lunar Cycles mural was installed on a building slated for demolition at the end of the year to make room for a new housing development. Before beginning her installation , Mademoiselle Maurice applied 500 liters of black paint to the front of the 140-meter-long building to create a sharp contrast for the rainbow-like, geometric patterns created by the origami. The artist spent over 150 hours folding thousands of origami birds, and also added 2,000 “Maurigamis,” a kind of two-dimensional painted origami, as a solution to weeks of rain onsite. Related: Madamoiselle Maurice’s Unique Urban Origami Brightens Up The Streets Of Vietnam and Hong Kong The final design was created with input from the community, including previous inhabitants of the demolition-slated building. The colorful and ephemeral artwork symbolizes the process of change and pays homage the hundreds of residents temporarily uprooted by the building project. “It was a big trauma for a lot of them because they spent their lives there, sometimes even there since they were born,” the artist said in an interview with Wide Walls . “They will come back later into the new building, but waiting for that they can say goodbye to their home with colors and with the evocation of changes.” Lunar Cycles opened to the public late last month and will be taken down late August 2016. + Madamoiselle Maurice Via Wide Walls Images via Mathgoth Gallery

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Thousands of origami birds come together in Paris largest urban mural

How an ancient civilization flourished in the desolate Arabian desert 2,000 years ago

July 8, 2016 by  
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According to information boards at the Petra visitor center, the Nabateans began to control water supplies across the 900,000 square mile expanse of the Arabian desert around 300BC – long before they established their capital at was then known as Raqmu. Today, southern Jordan receives roughly 4 inches of rain every year. An Arab people, the Nabateans hid water cisterns throughout the desert, enabling them, if attacked for example, to retreat deep into otherwise formidable territory. As their numbers grew and they became more settled, the Nabateans worked with the landscape, “utilizing gradients, wadis and springs to their best advantage” to build a city that could sustain 20,000 people. Inside Petra , the Nabateans’ engineering prowess is still on display. Walking through the Siq, a narrow two-kilometer-long gorge that was the official entrance to the original city, one can still see channels on either side of the towering rock walls that funneled rain and spring water to various points in the city and its suburbs. Cisterns and reservoirs were lined with waterproof cement to mitigate leaking and optimize water purity. “Their hydraulic engineering knowledge extended to understanding the geometry of water flow and pressure,” according to the Petra visitor center, “and use of gradients to minimize leakage and damage to pipes and maintain a constant supply of water throughout the year.” Related: Archaeologists find 2,150-year-old Petra monument hiding in plain sight The city had five major aqueducts. The Siq aqueduct transferred water from a spring in Wadi Musa to Qasar al Bint. A dam and tunnel at the entrance of the Siq diverted flood waters (flash floods are common in the region), keeping residents safe and ensuring not a single drop of water went to waste. Perhaps the most significant symbol of the Nabateans’ superior water management is a large water fountain in the center of the city called the Nymphaeum. Named after the female nature spirits popular in classical mythology, the Nymphaeum mirrored similar Graeco-Roman structures – an enormous luxury in a desert. The fountain not only supplied drinking water, but acted as place for the community to rendezvous. Having control of water also meant the Nabateans could control their food supply . In addition to being able to take care of livestock, they built terraces into the hills, which weakened runoff and prevented erosion. They cultivated olives, figs, dates, pomegranates, and grains, and at least 40 rock-cut Nabatean wine presses throughout the kingdom hints at the sweeping scale of grape and wine production . Having used their knowledge to develop dozens of oases with supplies for traders on the prodigious route stretching from Saudi Arabia to Gaza, which they controlled through a system of taxes and tolls, the Nabateans could focus their attention on the arts – a key indicator of a wealthy community. “They loved beautiful things, as evident [sic] by the intricately carved tomb facades of various architectural styles. Several hundred tombs, houses, banquet halls, altars and niches were carved from the rock, in addition to the construction of a number of free-standing temples, homes and other features,” the information boards read. “The Nabateans also produced fine pottery and painted beautiful frescoes, very few of which remain unfortunately.” + Visit Petra All photos by Tafline Laylin for Inhabitat

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How an ancient civilization flourished in the desolate Arabian desert 2,000 years ago

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