Cosmic Search for a Missing Limb

This new Picture of the Week, taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, shows the dwarf galaxy NGC 4625, located about 30 million light-years away in the constellation of Canes Venatici (The Hunting Dogs). The image, acquired with the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), reveals the single spiral arm of the galaxy, which gives it an asymmetric appearance. But why is there only one spiral arm, when spiral galaxies normally have at least two?

Read the full article at (Hubble’s official website).

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Jupiter’s Colourful Clouds

By Calla Cofield

Jupiter’s southern hemisphere is a swirling, curling sea of colorful clouds in a new image from NASA’s Juno spacecraft and two citizen scientists.

The new image comes from data collected by the JunoCam instrument on Oct. 24, 2017, as Juno performed its ninth close flyby of Jupiter (its eighth science flyby), according to a statement from NASA. The raw data from the instrument were uploaded to the JunoCam website, and citizen scientists Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran took that data and processed it to create the image above. [Amazing Jupiter Photos by Juno and Citizen Scientists]

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How Vintage Rocket Tech Could Be NASA’s Ticket to Mars

I thought I would share that for me, this was one of those happy moments in the life of a sci-fi writer where I said, “I thought about that!”  Of course, I am by no means the first sci-fi writer to think of the use of nuclear rockets, especially when the tech was new.  But as a solution for the immediate problem of getting deeper into the solar system, and Mars in particular, I considered using vintage nuclear rocket tech as the logical solution for the extended time in space problem; and also for minimizing space radiation exposure.  This is part of the backstory to The Cloud.  So I was very excited to see this article.

Now I’ll go one step further, and I will point out that if this technology is successful, it could finally be the solution to nuclear waste disposal.  The reason why we do not just put all the nuclear waste on Earth in a rocket and blast it off into the sun (which is a natural high-test fusion reactor, in case you are not a science nerd type and you are reading this) is because we tried that and it blew up in high atmosphere, providing quite a light show in the magnetosphere for a few days, I understand.  But if we can stabilize this technology enough to make it safe for human transport (well, as safe as astronauting gets, anyway) then I imagine it could be stabilized enough to provide a safe(ish) container to transport nuclear waste in.  Just sayin’.

By Charlie Wood

Dangerous radiation. Overstuffed pantries. Cabin fever. NASA could sidestep many of the impediments to a Mars mission if they could just get there faster. But sluggish chemical rockets aren’t cutting it — and to find what comes next, one group of engineers is rebooting research into an engine last fired in 1972.

The energy liberated by burning chemical fuel brought astronauts to the moon, but that rocket science makes for a long trip to Mars. And although search for a fission-based shortcut dates back to the 1950s, such engines have never flown. In August, NASA boosted those efforts when the agency announced an $18.8-million-dollar contract with nuclear company BWXT to design fuel and a reactor suitable for nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP), a rocket technology that could jumpstart a new era of space exploration.

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Scientists Are Rewriting the History of Photosynthesis

By Jordana Cepelewicz

RESEARCHERS HAVE CAUGHT their best glimpse yet into the origins of photosynthesis, one of nature’s most momentous innovations. By taking near-atomic, high-resolution X-ray images of proteins from primitive bacteria, investigators at Arizona State University and Pennsylvania State University have extrapolated what the earliest version of photosynthesis might have looked like nearly 3.5 billion years ago. If they are right, their findings could rewrite the evolutionary history of the process that life uses to convert sunlight into chemical energy.

Read the full article at Wired.

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What Does the Higgs-Boson Look Like?

By Kate Kershner

In July 2012, the whole world came face to face with the Higgs boson: a sparkly, little light that danced across our screens like Tinker Bell. Wait, that’s not right.

While physicists jumped for joy to “see” the Higgs boson — that elusive particle that composes the Higgs field, which allows particles to gain mass — the truth is that they actually saw a whole bunch of numbers, graphs and general data that told them that the Higgs boson was detected. And even saying that it was “detected” deserves some explanation.

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Cosmic Radiation

Cassiopeia A is a famous supernova remnant, the product of a gigantic explosion of a massive star about 350 years ago. Although discovered in radio observations 50 years ago, we now know that its emitted radiation spans from radio through high-energy gamma rays. It is also one of the few remnants for which the birth date and the type of supernova are known. It was a type IIb, the result of a core collapse supernova explosion. The precise knowledge of its nature makes Cassiopeia A one of the most interesting and investigated objects in the sky, and in particular, the study of its connection with cosmic rays, subatomic particles that fill the galaxy with energies higher than anything achievable in laboratories on Earth.

The very high-energy part of the spectrum of Cassiopeia A results from cosmic rays (either electrons or protons) within the remnant. Until now, this range of energy could not be measured with sufficient precision to pinpoint its origin. Sensitive observations above 1 Tera-electronvolts (TeV) were required, but achieving them was daunting. An international team led by scientists from the Institute for Space Sciences and collaborators has finally achieved such observations with the Major Atmospheric Gamma-ray Imaging Cherenkov (MAGIC) telescope. The researchers recorded more than 160 hours of data between December 2014 and October 2016, revealing that Cassiopeia A is an accelerator of massive particles, mostly hydrogen nuclei (protons). However, even when those particles are 100 times more energetic than those in artificial accelerators, their  is not high enough to explain the cosmic rays that fill our galaxy.

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