Alien life may not exist due to a lack of this chemical element

April 5, 2018 by  
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Holding out hope for alien life somewhere out there? According to a recent study from Cardiff University , you may have to wait a long, long time – if phosphorus isn’t present, it could be difficult for that life to exist. Phosphorus is one of the six elements Earth’s organisms depend on, and researchers Jane Greaves and Phil Cigan found it in short supply near the Crab Nebula supernova remnant, around 6,500 light years away. In light of these new findings, we may be alone in the universe after all. Greaves said phosphorus “is crucial to the compound adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which cells use to store and transfer energy.” Astronomers have begun paying attention to phosphorus’ cosmic origins, and have discovered it’s created in supernovae. Related: Atacama ‘alien’ skeleton’s identity revealed by genetic testing Cigan and Greaves observed infrared light from phosphorus in the Crab Nebula using the William Herschel Telescope. They compared two “stellar explosions based on how they each ejected phosphorus into the atmosphere,” thanks to other scientists’ research on phosphorus in Cassiopeia A. Preliminary results hint “material blown out into space could vary dramatically in chemical composition.” Greaves said, “The route to carrying phosphorus into new-born planets looks rather precarious…If phosphorus is sourced from supernovae, and then travels across space in meteoritic rocks, it’s possible that a young planet could find itself lacking in reactive phosphorus because of where it was born. That is, it started off near the wrong kind of supernova. In that case, life might really struggle to get started out of phosphorous-poor chemistry , on another world otherwise similar to our own.” At the European Week of Astronomy and Space, Cigan and Greaves presented the preliminary results. They hope to continue to work and discover whether other supernova remnants lack phosphorus too, to discover if the element is rarer than scientists once thought. + Cardiff University Via The Telegraph Images via Depositphotos and Wikimedia Commons

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Alien life may not exist due to a lack of this chemical element

Scientists just found thousands of black holes at the center of our galaxy

April 5, 2018 by  
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For the first time ever, scientists have identified thousands of black holes lurking at the center of our galaxy. Scientists have long suspected that black holes might exist in the middle of the Milky Way, but until now, they haven’t been able to find any evidence. Now, thanks to new research, scientists believe that there are over 10,000 of them swirling together out there. According to a study published in the journal Nature this week, the center of the Milky Way holds 10,000 small black holes that have been previously undetected. Some of these smaller black holes interact with the supermassive black hole known as Sagittarius A* at the core of the galaxy, and give us a peek into how our galaxy formed. Related: Scientists glimpse most distant supermassive black hole in the known universe Using the Chandra X-ray Observatory space telescope, scientists began hunting around for the signature low-level radiation that mark binaries of stars and black holes locked together in space. “When black holes mate with a low mass star, the marriage emits X-ray bursts that are weaker, but consistent and detectable. If we could find black holes that are coupled with low mass stars and we know what fraction of black holes will mate with low mass stars, we could scientifically infer the population of isolated black holes out there,” lead author Chuck Hailey said. By using this method, they located dozens of binaries near Saggitarius A* and, from there, determined that there were thousands more out there. Not only can this information help us understand how the Milky Way originated, but it could help us understand other galaxies as well. Via Mashable Images via Deposit Photos ( 1 , 2 )

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Scientists just found thousands of black holes at the center of our galaxy

Scientists discover that exploding stars impact weather on Earth

December 20, 2017 by  
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Researchers at the Technical University of Denmark  have learned that cosmic rays emitted when stars explode have a measurable impact on weather patterns on Earth. Supernovae, which occur at the very end of a star’s life and result in a massive explosion, discharge cosmic rays, affecting cloud formation upon reaching Earth’s atmosphere . As cloud formation increases, weather on Earth becomes cooler. “Finally we have the last piece of the puzzle explaining how particles from space affect climate on Earth,” said Dr Henrik Svensmark, lead author of the study published in Nature Communications . “It gives an understanding of how changes caused by solar activity or by supernova activity can change climate.” Researchers discovered that cosmic rays released by supernovae knock electrons out of atmospheric particles on Earth, creating ions which increase the number of cloud concentration nuclei, the “seeds” for cloud formation. Ionization allow aerosols, small clusters of molecules packed into air or another gas, to survive for longer in the atmosphere, enabling them to form cloud concentration nuclei more easily. Since cloud cover has a significant impact on the amount of solar energy that reaches Earth’s surface, this discovery sheds light on climate events in the past and helps to better predict the future. Related: New periodic table sorts 3,700 known exoplanets into 18 categories For example, the relationship between supernovae and cloud formation has strengthened the case that changes in solar activity played a key role in the Medieval Warm Period (~1000 AD) and the cold period in the Little Ice Age (1300-1900 AD). The researchers also discovered that the Sun affects how many cosmic rays reach Earth, which impacts the magnitude of a supernova’s effect on Earth’s climate. When the sun is magnetically active, less cosmic rays reach Earth; when it is dormant, there is a greater concentration of cosmic rays hitting Earth’s atmosphere. The impact of cosmic rays and solar activity on Earth’s climate may have contributed to recent climate events, such as changes observed in the 20th century and the warming-cooling of about 2 degrees Celsius over the past 10,000 years. Via Phys.org Images via NASA (1) (2)

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Scientists discover that exploding stars impact weather on Earth

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

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