40 years ago, July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to land on the moon, making the U.S. last to start but first to finish in the 'space race' with the Soviet Union. Armstrong's now famous words, "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," inspired a generation of scientists.
The new R&D enterprise it fostered, built to support America's geopolitical ambitions and based largely on federally-funded contracts and specifications rather than the private funding that had been the primary source of basic research before World War II, has had a remarkable effect on science and how advancements are made.
A team of astrophysicists has developed a new explanation for the early composition of our solar system - radioactive nuclei found in the earliest meteorites, dating back billions of years, could have been delivered by a nearby dying giant star of six times the mass of the sun.
If their hypothesis holds water, it could change our current ideas on the origin of the solar system.
Was there an impact on Jupiter or is that new dark spot just a temporary anomaly?
Anthony Wesley, who hails from Canberra, Australia, grabbed this shot of a new dark spot near the south pole of Jupiter
. The great thing about astronomy is it's one of the last areas in science where 'amateurs' can still do great things before Big Science gets to it.
The Eagle Nebula is a dazzling stellar nursery located 7000 light-years away near the constellation of Serpens - the Snake. In the Eagle Nebula, a region of gas and dust where young stars are currently being formed, a cluster of massive, hot stars named NGC 6611 has just been born.
The powerful light and strong winds from these massive new arrivals are shaping light-year long pillars, seen in the image partly silhouetted against the bright background of the nebula. The nebula itself has a shape vaguely reminiscent of an eagle, with the central pillars being the "talons".
Just a short anecdote today, as I'm suffering from mind erasure
. There's a rich history of ragging on management, ranging from Dilbert to The Daily WTF
. As a card-carrying contrarian, I therefore bring you a tale of good leadership and upbeat endings within NASA.
The story starts out as inevitable tragedy. A NASA worker wins a federal award, but cannot attend the ceremony because she'll be at a different NASA center that week. She asks her higher up to accept the award on her behalf. And, of course, the higher up can now step in and take all the credit, eh?
The cluster of stars surrounding a supermassive black hole after it has been ejected from a galaxy are a new kind of astronomical object, according to a paper published in Astrophysical Journal.
More importantly, the stars contain a 'fossil record' from the 'kicking' galaxy.
Stars and galaxies formed back in the early days of the universe, some 13 billion years ago, were not nearly as massive as originally thought.
Population III stars were not only smaller than believed, they actually formed in binary systems, that is, pairs of stars that orbit a common center, say the results of a new simulation.
"For a long time the common wisdom was that these Population III stars formed alone," said Brian O'Shea, a Michigan State University assistant professor of physics and astronomy who did the research with two colleagues. "Researchers also have believed that these stars were incredibly massive – up to 300 times the size of our own sun. Unfortunately, the observations just didn't jibe with the simulations we created."
A team of astrophysicists say they have solved a mystery that led some scientists to speculate that the distribution of certain gamma rays in our Milky Way galaxy was evidence for undetectable 'dark matter' making up much of the mass of the universe.
In two papers, the astrophysicists instead say that this distribution of gamma rays can be explained by the way "antimatter positrons" from the radioactive decay of elements, created by massive star explosions in the galaxy, propagate through the galaxy. Thus, they say, the observed distribution of gamma rays is not evidence for dark matter.
Johann Galle fans won't like reading this but professor David Jamieson, Head of the School of Physics at the University of Melbourne, says Galileo
beat him to the punch in the discovery of Neptune
- by 234 years.
If correct, the discovery would be the first new planet identified by humanity since deep antiquity.
The Swan Nebula, also called the Omega Nebula because when seen through a small telescope the nebula has a shape that reminds some observers of the final letter of the Greek alphabet, omega, while others see a swan with its distinctive long, curved neck, is a dazzling stellar nursery located about 5500 light-years away towards the constellation of Sagittarius (the Archer).
Don't feel left out, lawn games and crustaceans, it is also called the Horseshoe and the Lobster Nebula.
No matter its name, it is an active star-forming region of gas and dust about 15 light-years across and has recently spawned a cluster of massive, hot stars. The intense light and strong winds from these hulking infants have carved remarkable filigree structures in the gas and dust.