Worlds of David Darling

Encyclopedia of Science

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Encyclopedia of Alternative Energy and Sustainable Living

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Latest space and science news

Super-sweeper supernova


(Apr 16, 2014) A supernova remnant called G352.7-0.1, lying 24,000 light-years away, is doing a great job of cleaning up its interstellar surroundings. So far the blast from this stellar wreckage has swept up 45 Sun's-worth of material as it expands outward.

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Cosmic gem

Abell 33

(Apr 13, 2014) Astronomers using ESO's Very Large Telescope in Chile have captured this eye-catching image of planetary nebula PN A66 33 — usually known as Abell 33. Created when an aging star blew off its outer layers, this beautiful blue bubble is, by chance, aligned with a foreground star, and bears an uncanny resemblance to a diamond engagement ring. This cosmic gem is unusually symmetric, appearing to be almost circular on the sky.

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Dark matter may be about to come into the light

Dark matter distribution

(Apr 10, 2014) The quest to uncover the nature of dark matter is entering a critical phase. A powerful detector, called LUX, located in the bottom of a gold mine in South Dakota, could offer the best chance yet of pinning down the elusive substance that is far more common throughout the universe than ordinary matter. In the coming weeks, LUX will begin a 300-day-long run that could provide the first direct evidence of dark matter particles.

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Where did Mercury come from?

 Kipling crater on Mercury (Image: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington)

(Apr 7, 2014) Mercury seems out of place. A new study of Its surface concludes that volcanic eruptions have rocked it up to as recently as 1 billion years ago, and this doesn't mesh with theories of its birth. It even raises the prospect that Mercury may have formed further out in the solar system and migrated in.

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More hints of dark matter from the galactic core

False-colour image of the center of the galaxy taken by the Fermi space telescope, all known gamma-ray sources have been removed, revealing excess emissions that may arise from dark matter annihilations (Image: T. Linden, University of Chicago)

(Apr 5, 2014) A brilliant haze of gamma rays coming from the center of the Milky Way Galaxy is increasingly likely to be a sign of dark matter particles annihilating each other in space. Meanwhile, hints of the same signal coming from dwarf galaxies now strengthen the case.

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A tale of two galaxies

NGC 1316, and its smaller neighbour NGC 1317.

(Apr 4, 2014) This new image from the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope at ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile shows two contrasting galaxies: NGC 1316, and its smaller neighbor NGC 1317. These two are quite close to each other in space, but they have very different histories. The small spiral NGC 1317 has led an uneventful life, but NGC 1316 has engulfed several other galaxies in its violent history and shows the battle scars.

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Black hole spawns vast star clusters

False-color image combining several sets of observations, the visible light is in blues (from the Hubble Space telescope) showing swirls of stars; the observations from the Very Large Array radio telescope are in green and aqua displaying a central emission with two jets, and the newly discovered clusters are in red in the middle.

(Apr 2, 2014) Huge young star clusters resembling a string of pearls around a black hole in the center of a galaxy 120 million light-years away have been discovered by researchers at Swinburne University of Technology. The galaxy, called NGC2110, is in the constellation of Orion.

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Rings around an asteroid

Artist's impression of the rings around Chariklo

(Mar 30, 2014) Observations at many sites in South America, including ESO's La Silla Observatory, have made the surprise discovery that the remote asteroid Chariklo is surrounded by two dense and narrow rings. This is the smallest object by far found to have rings and only the fifth body in the Solar System — after the much larger planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune — to have this feature. The origin of these rings remains a mystery, but they may be the result of a collision that created a disk of debris.

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Philae comet lander awakes

Philae on the surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

(Mar 29, 2014)The Philae lander, which Europe hopes to put on the surface of a comet later this year, has been re-activated after three years in deep-space hibernation. The small probe is currently riding piggy-back on the Rosetta spacecraft. This was despatched 10 years ago to rendezvous with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, and was itself awoken in January.

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New-found dwarf planet in Oort Cloud hints at massive undiscovered world

2012 VP-113

(Mar 28, 2014) Astronomers searching for the faintest glimmers of light beyond distant Pluto say they've discovered a new dwarf planet – and that this planetoid's movements hint that an invisible giant planet perhaps 10 times the size of Earth could be lurking around the dark fringes of our solar system. The new dwarf planet 2012 VP-113, described Wednesday in the journal Nature, helps confirm the existence of an "inner Oort cloud" in an interplanetary no man's land that was once thought to be empty but could potentially be teeming with rocky denizens.

Read more (LA Times)

Space-time ripples hint at physics beyond the big bang

Planck map of the microwave background

(Mar 26, 2014) Primordial gravitationa waves, evidence for which was announced last week, seem much more pronounced than they should be, according to previous observations of the early universe. Resolving the discrepancies – perhaps using results due out later this year from the Planck space telescope – might give a glimpse of physics from before the Big Bang. Or it might mean inflation is out, and that we actually have the first whiff of evidence for string theory.

Read more (New Scientist)

Moon water: hopes fade

Dark side of the Moon

(Mar 24, 2014) Doubt has been cast on earlier claims that the Moon once had abundant water. The presence of the mineral apatite, which is found in a variety of lunar rock types, has turned out to be an unreliable indicator of past moisture.

Read more (BBC)

'Shrapnel' risk to future Moon surface missions

A recent crater formed on the Moon

(Mar 21, 2014) The "shrapnel" generated by small space rocks that periodically hit the Moon may pose a larger risk to lunar missions than was previously believed. A relatively small impact on the Moon last year hurled hundreds of pieces of rocky debris out of the crater.

Read more (BBC)

Earth rocked by double whammy

binary asteroid

(Mar 19, 2014) Researchers have outlined some of the best evidence yet for a double space impact, where an asteroid and its moon apparently struck Earth in tandem. Using tiny, plankton-like fossils, they established that neighbouring craters in Sweden are the same age - 458 million years old.

Read more (BBC)

First glimpse of gravitational waves after the Big Bang


(Mar 18, 2014) Scientists working with the BICEP2 collaboration at the south pole habe announced the first clear sign of gravitational waves, found in maps of the earliest light emitted after the big bang. The distinctive swirls made by the waves are more pronounced than the team expected, because models had suggested that gravitational waves from this early era would be incredibly weak and perhaps even undetectable.

Read more (New Scientist)

Record-breaking yellow hypergiant discovered

ESO VLT image of the largest yellow star known

(Mar 15, 2014) ESO’s Very Large Telescope Interferometer has revealed the largest yellow star — and one of the ten largest stars found so far. This hypergiant has been found to measure more than 1300 times the diameter of the Sun, and to be part of a double star system, with the second component so close that it is in contact with the main star. Observations spanning over sixty years, some from amateur observers, also indicate that this rare and remarkable object is changing very rapidly and has been caught during a very brief phase of its life.

Read more (ESO)


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