Space

We don't know what dark matter is but we know it must be. And now, computer hypothetically, we know it a little better, thanks to new supercomputer simulations showing a possible evolution of our corner of the cosmos, the Local Group, from the Big Bang to the present day.


Surrounding the sun is a vast atmosphere of solar particles, through which magnetic fields swarm, solar flares erupt, and gigantic columns of material rise, fall and jostle each other around.  We call it the corona.

This corona, is even larger than thought, extending out some 5 million miles above the sun's surface *the equivalent of 12 solar radii), according to data from  NASA's Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory. This has implications for NASA's upcoming Solar Probe Plus mission, which is due to launch in 2018 and will go closer to the sun than any man-made technology ever has.


Space looks empty the same way that nature sounds quiet. Unlike nature, space actually is a soundless vacuum, but it's not a void. Invisible to human eyes, space flows with electric activity. NASA is developing plans to send humans to an asteroid, and wants to know more about the electrical environment explorers will encounter there.


We can't even define dark matter, other than it being some blanket term for something that must exist due to unexplainable gravitational influence on the movements and appearance of stars or galaxies. 

Based on indirect evidence, astronomers believe that dark matter is the dominant type of matter in the Universe – everything else has been conjecture. But astronomers using high-energy observatories believe they may have discovered a clue that hints at this elusive invisible ingredient. 

IAstronomers have discovered a bright, mysterious geologic object in 
radar images of Ligeia Mare, the second-largest sea on Saturn's moon Titan.
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Scientifically speaking, this is a transient feature. They want to call it a magic island and so do we. Titan, the largest of Saturn's 62 known moons, is a world of lakes and seas. The moon – smaller than our own planet – bears close resemblance to watery Earth, with wind and rain driving the creation of strikingly familiar landscapes. Under its thick, hazy nitrogen-methane atmosphere, astronomers have found mountains, dunes and lakes. But in lieu of water, liquid methane and ethane flow through riverlike channels into seas the size of Earth's Great Lakes. 


New observations made using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope show that dwarf galaxies are responsible for forming a large proportion of the universe's stars.

The result supports a decade-long investigation into whether there is a link between a galaxy's mass and its star-forming activity, and helps paint a consistent picture of how galaxies grew and evolved 3.5 to 6 billion years after the beginning of the universe. 


A misconception arises when we ask people about the role that gravity plays in space. 

If you watch movies set in space — or for that matter, read statements from NASA —you will be led to think that gravity is absent in space. After all, people often refer to space as a “zero gravity” environment (the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey famously showed a complex set of instructions for its “zero gravity toilet”), and NASA usually refers to the conditions in orbit as “microgravity.” 

In May, NASA's Swift satellite imaged comet Siding Spring, which is going to play a bit of a game of chicken with  Mars later this year. 

"Fresh" comets like Siding Spring, which is formally known as C/2013 A1, contain some of the most ancient material scientists can study. The solid part of a comet, called its nucleus, is a clump of frozen gases mixed with dust and is often described as a "dirty snowball." Comets cast off gas and dust whenever they venture near enough to the sun.

The new optical and ultraviolet observations are the first to reveal how rapidly the comet is producing water and allow astronomers to better estimate its size. 


Pluto orbits the sun more than 29 times farther away than Earth, with a surface temperature estimated to be about 380 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.

The environment on Pluto, which 2 percent of astronomers voted on no longer being really a planet anyway, is far too cold to allow liquid water on its surface. Its moons are in the same frigid environment.

Pluto's remoteness and small size make it difficult to observe so take speculation about Charon, a moon of Pluto, having cracks in its surface and perhaps a subterranean ocean of liquid water, with a grain of otherworldly salt. In July of 2015, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft will be the first to visit Pluto and Charon, until then we have numerical models and a fair amount of educated guessing. 


The standard cosmological model is the frame of reference for generations of scientists but some question its ability to accurately reproduce what is observed in the nearby universe. 

Dwarf galaxies that orbit the Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxies defy the accepted model of galaxy formation,  according to an international team of astrophysicists, and recent attempts to wedge them into the model are flawed, they believe. 

David Merritt, professor of astrophysics at Rochester Institute of Technology, says their work pokes holes in the accepted model of the origin and evolution of the universe. According to the standard paradigm, 23 percent of the mass of the universe is shaped by invisible (insert your definition here) known as dark matter.


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