Scientists observe ‘diamond rain’ similar to that found on icy giant planets

August 24, 2017 by  
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You may have heard that icy planets like Neptune and Uranus experience diamond rain. But now, scientists have been able to mimic conditions of those planets and observe diamond rain at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California. Since it’s difficult for us at this point to directly observe the interiors of these planets, such research could help scientists better understand and classify worlds. For a long time, scientists have hypothesized that diamond rain arises over 5,000 miles below the surface of planets like Neptune and Uranus. In this recent experiment, a group of researchers simulated the conditions of these planets “by creating shock waves in plastic with an intense optical laser ” in the laboratory , according to a recent press release. They were able to observe that almost every carbon atom of the plastic was incorporated into diamond structures. The diamonds were tiny – only around a few nanometers wide – but on Uranus and Neptune, the researchers think the falling diamonds could weigh millions of carats. Related: Mysterious object near Neptune just made space a lot weirder Study lead author Dominik Kraus of research center Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf said in a statement, “We can’t go inside the planets and look at them, so these laboratory experiments complement satellite and telescope observations.” The scientists think diamond rain could produce an energy source, generating heat as it falls. Beyond observing a neat phenomenon, the experiment could help scientists learn about how elements mix together under pressure in the interiors of planets, providing them with more information on a planet’s defining features. These researchers plan to apply their methods to study the processes of other planets as well. Nature Astronomy published the study online this week. 23 scientists of institutions in Germany, Japan, the United States, and the United Kingdom contributed to the research. Via SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory Images via Greg Stewart/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

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Scientists observe ‘diamond rain’ similar to that found on icy giant planets

Scientists identify first ever meteorite to drop from the outer solar system

August 15, 2016 by  
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Sixteen years after it landed on Earth, scientists finally think they have identified the origin of a meteorite that is truly out of this world . Dubbed the Tagish Lake meteorite, named for the region of British Columbia where it landed in 2000, the specimen is quite different from most meteorites documented by science. Now, researchers who have been evaluating the rock’s composition say they have a better idea of where it came from, and the results are a bit surprising. Most of the meteorites known to man originated from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, which are close neighbors in the celestial sense. The Tagish Lake meteorite, though, is suspected to have traveled from the Kuiper Belt, the ring of rocks residing past the orbit of Neptune in the outer solar system. The belt is 30 to 50 times Earth’s distance from the sun, or 2.5 to 4.5 billion miles (4.5 to 7.4 billion kilometers). If the theory is correct, this marks the first time in scientific history that a meteorite from the outer solar system has been identified. Related: Australian geologists track down fallen meteorite “older than Earth itself” Scientists at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado have been studying the meteorite for years to determine its origin. The rock’s composition is similar, but not identical, to those stemming from the Mars-Jupiter asteroid belt. It is comprised mostly of carbon, but has a higher concentration of amino acids (the building blocks of protein) than other cataloged meteorites. Some pieces of the Tagish Lake specimen have 10 to 100 times more amino acids than others, which scientists have known for several years but didn’t quite understand until more recently. Linking the meteorite to the Kuiper Belt is happening right on time, though, as NASA approved an extension of the New Horizons mission earlier this summer to explore an object in the asteroid belt known as 2014 MU69. It’s really quite a trek, though, and the unmanned spacecraft isn’t expected to reach its destination until January 1, 2019. Perhaps then, we will learn more about the mysterious rock that landed in Canada nearly two decades earlier. Results of the study were recently published in The Astronomical Journal . Via Motherboard Images via Michael Holly, Creative Services, University of Alberta and NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle (SSC) 

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Scientists identify first ever meteorite to drop from the outer solar system

Mysterious object near Neptune just made space a lot weirder

August 11, 2016 by  
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With each new space discovery, we realize how much we still don’t know about the solar system . Astronomers recently detected a mysterious object near Neptune that doesn’t move through space as expected. The trans-Neptunian object (TNO) actually moves backwards around the sun, and it has scientists scratching their heads. Using the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System 1 Survey (Pan-STARRS 1) in Hawaii, a team of astronomers discovered the mysterious object. They nicknamed the TNO “Niku,” a Chinese word for ‘rebellious.’ Niku’s odd movement is so weird because angular momentum generally dictates that objects in a planetary system move in the same direction. Astronomer Michele Bannister of Queens University, Belfast told New Scientist, “Angular momentum forces everything to have that one spin direction all the same way. It’s the same thing with a spinning top, every particle is spinning the same direction.” Related: NASA confirms a second mini moon is circling Earth Except, of course, for Niku. Since the TNO is moving backwards, and also upwards, the astronomers think it must have been ” knocked off course .” But we don’t yet know what exactly bumped the TNO. At first the astronomers thought Niku’s abnormal movement could be related to Planet Nine, another baffling object even further away than Neptune. But they’ve tossed that theory out for now, as Niku is ” too close to the solar system ” to really be influenced by Planet Nine. Matthew Holman of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said, “It suggests that there’s more going on in the outer solar system than we’re fully aware of.” Bannister tweeted , “I hope everyone has buckled their seatbelts because the outer solar system just got a lot weirder.” A group of astronomers including Holman and 16 other scientists from institutions in Taiwan, Hawaii, the UK and Germany submitted a paper earlier this month detailing the find, and it has been accepted for publication in the journal ApJ Letters . Via New Scientist Images via Wikimedia Commons and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center on Flickr

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Mysterious object near Neptune just made space a lot weirder

Reclaimed Sweaters Show Moths Who’s Boss

November 27, 2010 by  
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Photo: Stella Neptune Never one to let a quality, albeit moth-eaten, cashmere sweater go to waste, Eva Kisevalter, the designers behind Los Angeles-based design house Stella Neptune , breaths new life into these winter staples with moth-shaped appliques to cover the holes (via Magnifeco ). The patches are hand screen printed on recycled cashmere, hand cut, then hand sewn over the moth hole.

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Reclaimed Sweaters Show Moths Who’s Boss

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