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Planets come in different species – The Economist

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Link:

Planets come in different species – The Economist

French Scientists Question Macron’s Climate Pledge to the US – The Scientist


The Scientist
French Scientists Question Macron's Climate Pledge to the US
The Scientist
Instead [of a commitment to stable domestic science funding], we get a fancy website which is more an empty shell than anything else, astrophysicist Olivier Bern of the Research Institute in Astrophysics and Planetology in Toulouse tells Science.

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The rest is here:

French Scientists Question Macron’s Climate Pledge to the US – The Scientist

Curiosity and irritation meet Macron’s effort to lure foreign scientists to France – Science Magazine

French Embassy in the U.S./Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

By Elisabeth PainJun. 10, 2017 , 12:00 PM

Just a few hours after President Donald Trump announced on 1 June that the United States was withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, French President Emmanuel Macron pledged in a video to make our planet great again by intensifying efforts to combat climate change — and inviting U.S. researchers who might be unhappy with Trump to work in France.

The French government followed up on 8 June by unveiling a website aimed at attracting foreign scientists with 4-year grants worth up to 1.5million each.

But while some U.S. researchers say the invitation is intriguing, it has irritated some French scientists, who say the move raises concerns about their nations commitment to homegrown science. In particular, some French researchers are disappointed that the new Macron government offered grants to foreign researchers before answering their own recent call to shore up funding for struggling research institutes.

Instead [of a commitment to stable domestic science funding], we get a fancy website which is more an empty shell than anything else, says Olivier Bern, an astrophysicist and CNRS researcher at the Research Institute in Astrophysics and Planetologyin Toulouse. He helped organize the March for Science in France, as well as a letter from 1,500 scientists to Frances research minister that spelled out 10 funding priorities for the new government.

The new recruiting website is the result of roundtable discussions among government ministers, scientists, non-governmental organizations, and economic representatives that took place last week. It asks researchers to fill out a short form asking why they want to fight climate change and to describe their proposed research. It offers 4-year grants of up to 1.5million for scientists with more than 15 years experience,and 1Mfor scientists with more than 2 years experience following their Ph.D. It says grant winners will get French residency rights — and their spouses the right to work and promises to deal with the administrative and practical issues associated with the relocation.

At first, some French scientists thought the website was a fake, says Bern, in part because it doesnt specify how many grants are available or where the funding is coming from. But after it became clear it was real, some also became annoyed at what they saw as more of a communications campaign than a commitment to tackling climate change. The effort is not at the level of what French research really requires today to be a leader on the international scene, says Bern. Hed rather see the government first commit to funding French laboratories properly, he says. Then, when this is done, all the scientists including those working on climate change can work properly, and can invite American colleagues also to come.

Both a publicity stunt and a real opportunity.

One U.S. scientist, David Blockstein of the nonprofit National Council for Science and the Environment in Washington, D.C., sees Macron’s invitation as both a publicity stunt and a real opportunity. He believes it is not likely many American scientists will take up the offer, but says the invitation offers a sharp contrast to an increasingly hostile U.S. political environment for science.

But some key questions, Blockstein adds, are whether France will also offer increased opportunities to its own scientists to collaborate with their colleagues, and whether funding for American scientists will cause competition and resentment from French scientists.

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Curiosity and irritation meet Macron’s effort to lure foreign scientists to France – Science Magazine

Maui Now : Massive Kaua’i Sinkhole Reveals Source of 1586 Tsunami – Maui Now

Research of coral deposits at a massive sinkhole/cave on the island of Kauai has revealed the origin of a tsunami that hit Sanriku, Japan in 1586.

The study determined that the Japan event was caused by a mega-earthquake measuring greater than a magnitude 9.5 from the Aleutian Islands that broadly impacted the north Pacific.

Makauwahi sinkhole. Credits: R. Butler (L), Gerard Fryer (R), GoogleMaps.

A team of researchers led by Dr. Rhett Butler, geophysicist at the University of Hawaii at Mnoa, re-examined historical evidence around the Pacific including coral fragments deposited into the Makauwahi Cave on Kauai.

The Makauwahi geological feature is situated in a hardened sand dune about 100 meters from the ocean in the Mhulep area, and is the only well-documented paleotsunami deposit in Hawaii from the 16th century.

An earlier study estimated the probability of a 9+ Magnitude earthquake in the Aleutian Islands, and its power to create a mega-tsunami in Hawaii.

Butler said the latest study identified a very precise age of the tsunami event that caused the coral deposits on Kauai.

The coral deposits were previously dated to approximately the sixteenth century using carbon-14, which had an uncertainty of120 years. Using more specific isotopes of naturallyoccurring thorium and uranium in the coral fragments, researchers came up with a more precise, 157221 date.

This increased precision allowed for better comparison with dated, known tsunamis and earthquakes throughout the Pacific.

Coral fragments analyzed in this study (35 cm in longest dimension). Credit: Butler, et al.

Until now, researchers considered the event an orphan tsunami, a historical tsunami without an obvious local earthquake source, likely originating far away.

Although we were aware of the 1586 Sanriku tsunami, the age of the Kauai deposit was too uncertain to establish a link, said Butler. Also, the 1586 Sanriku event had been ascribed to an earthquake in Lima, Peru. After dating the corals, their more precise date matched with that of the Sanriku tsunami.

Even though there was no seismic instrumentation in the 16th century, we offer a preponderance of evidence for the occurrence of a magnitude 9 earthquake in the Aleutian Islands. Our knowledge of past events helps us to forecast tsunami effects and thereby enable us to assess this risk for Hawaii.

Further, re-analysis of the Peruvian evidence showed that the 1586 Peruvian earthquake was not large enough to create a measurable tsunami hitting Japan. They found additional corroborative evidence around the Pacific thatstrengthened the case. Earthquakes from Cascadia, the Alaskan Kodiak regionand Kamchatka were incompatible with the Sanriku data in several ways. However, a mega-earthquake (magnitude greater than 9.25) in the Aleutians was consistent with evidence from Kauai and the northeast coast of Japan.

Tsunami amplitudes for (a) Mw 9.25 earthquake in E Aleutians, (b) Mw 8.05 earthquake in Lima, Peru.

Butler and scientists from the National Tropical Botanical Garden, UHM School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technologyand NOAAs Pacific Tsunami Warning Center participated in the latest research.

Hawaii is surrounded by the ring of fire where mega-earthquakes generate great tsunamis impacting our island shoresthe 2011 Tohoku Japan is the most recent example, said Butler.

Forecast models of a great Aleutian event inform the development of new maps of extreme tsunami inundation zones for the State of Hawaii. By linking evidence on Kauai to other sites around the Pacific, researchers say they can better understand the Aleutian earthquake that generated the tsunami.

Butler and colleagues at UH Mnoaare now working to determine how frequently great earthquakes along the Cascadia margin of the Pacific Northwest might occur. These events have the potential to devastate the coasts of Oregon and Washington, and send a dangerous tsunami to Hawaiis shores.

The coral dating was funded by Directors funds from the UHM Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology. Tsunami forecast methods were provided by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center of NOAA. Historical and scientific literature research used the resources of the University of Hawaii library.

Originally posted here:

Maui Now : Massive Kaua’i Sinkhole Reveals Source of 1586 Tsunami – Maui Now

Massive Kaua’i Sinkhole Reveals Source of 1586 Tsunami – Maui Now

Research of coral deposits at a massive sinkhole/cave on the island of Kauai has revealed the origin of a tsunami that hit Sanriku, Japan in 1586.

The study determined that the Japan event was caused by a mega-earthquake measuring greater than a magnitue 9.5 from the Aleutian Islands that broadly impacted the north Pacific.

Makauwahi sinkhole. Credits: R. Butler (L), Gerard Fryer (R), GoogleMaps.

A team of researchers led by Dr. Rhett Butler, geophysicist at the University of Hawaii at Mnoa, re-examined historical evidence around the Pacific including coral fragments deposited into the Makauwahi Cave on Kauai.

The Makauwahi geological feature is situated in a hardened sand dune about 100 meters from the ocean in the Mhulep area, and is the only well-documented paleotsunami deposit in Hawaii from the 16th century.

An earlier study estimated the probability of a 9+ Magnitude earthquake in the Aleutian Islands, and its power to create a mega-tsunami in Hawaii.

Butler said the latest study study identified a very precise age of the tsunami event that caused the coral deposits on Kauai.

The coral deposits were previously dated to approximately the sixteenth century using carbon-14, which had an uncertainty of120 years. Using more specific isotopes of naturallyoccurring thorium and uranium in the coral fragments, researchers came up with a more precise, 157221 date.

This increased precision allowed for better comparison with dated, known tsunamis and earthquakes throughout the Pacific.

Coral fragments analyzed in this study (35 cm in longest dimension). Credit: Butler, et al.

Until now, researchers considered the event an orphan tsunami, a historical tsunami without an obvious local earthquake source, likely originating far away.

Although we were aware of the 1586 Sanriku tsunami, the age of the Kauai deposit was too uncertain to establish a link, said Butler. Also, the 1586 Sanriku event had been ascribed to an earthquake in Lima, Peru. After dating the corals, their more precise date matched with that of the Sanriku tsunami.

Even though there was no seismic instrumentation in the 16th century, we offer a preponderance of evidence for the occurrence of a magnitude 9 earthquake in the Aleutian Islands. Our knowledge of past events helps us to forecast tsunami effects and thereby enable us to assess this risk for Hawaii.

Further, re-analysis of the Peruvian evidence showed that the 1586 Peruvian earthquake was not large enough to create a measurable tsunami hitting Japan. They found additional corroborative evidence around the Pacific thatstrengthened the case. Earthquakes from Cascadia, the Alaskan Kodiak regionand Kamchatka were incompatible with the Sanriku data in several ways. However, a mega-earthquake (magnitude greater than 9.25) in the Aleutians was consistent with evidence from Kauai and the northeast coast of Japan.

Tsunami amplitudes for (a) Mw 9.25 earthquake in E Aleutians, (b) Mw 8.05 earthquake in Lima, Peru.

Butler and scientists from the National Tropical Botanical Garden, UHM School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technologyand NOAAs Pacific Tsunami Warning Center participated in the latest research.

Hawaii is surrounded by the ring of fire where mega-earthquakes generate great tsunamis impacting our island shoresthe 2011 Tohoku Japan is the most recent example, said Butler.

Forecast models of a great Aleutian event inform the development of new maps of extreme tsunami inundation zones for the State of Hawaii. By linking evidence on Kauai to other sites around the Pacific, researchers say they can better understand the Aleutian earthquake that generated the tsunami.

Butler and colleagues at UH Mnoaare now working to determine how frequently great earthquakes along the Cascadia margin of the Pacific Northwest might occur. These events have the potential to devastate the coasts of Oregon and Washington, and send a dangerous tsunami to Hawaiis shores.

The coral dating was funded by Directors funds from the UHM Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology. Tsunami forecast methods were provided by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center of NOAA. Historical and scientific literature research used the resources of the University of Hawaii library.

See the original post here:

Massive Kaua’i Sinkhole Reveals Source of 1586 Tsunami – Maui Now

Eligibility – SpaceMaster

Bachelors degree or Swedish Kandidatexamen with a minimum of 180 ECTS.

Areas: physics (space, plasma, atmospheric, nuclear, particle, fluid dynamics, aerodynamics), space science, planetology, astronomy, atmospheric science, remote sensing, numerical simulations, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, space engineering, aerospace engineering, robotics, automation, communication, electronics, mechatronics, control theory.

A minimum of 22.5 ECTS in mathematics at the university level is required.

Requirements for English proficiency are outlined here.

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Eligibility – SpaceMaster

Scientists Discover Signs of Frost on the Moon – Big Island Now

In craters near the south pole of the moon, NASAs Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter found some bright areas and some very cold areas. In areas that are both bright and cold, water ice may be present on the surface as frost.Photo Credit: NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center/Scientific Visualization Studio.

A group of scientists, including University of Hawaii at Mnoa researcher Paul Lucey, have found evidence of frost in craters near the south pole of the moon.

Using data from NASAs Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), researchers analyzed data combining surface temperatures with information about how much light is reflected off the lunar surface using a laser-equipped instrument aboard the probe.

We found that the coldest places near the moons south pole are also the brightest placesbrighter than we would expect from soil aloneand that might indicate the presence of surface frost, said Elizabeth Fisher, the lead author of the study, published in Icarus.

Fisher completed the data analysis while conducting research with Lucey at the UHM Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology after earning her undergraduate degree. She is now a graduate student at Brown University.

The icy deposits appear patchy and thin, and may be mixed in with the surface layer of soil, dust and small rocks on the moon, also known as regolith.

We estimate that the ice detected would fill about one Olympic-sized swimming pool, said Lucey.

The frost was found in deep lunar craters that are shielded from direct sunlight. Temperatures in these regions remains below minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 163 degrees Celsius). In these conditions, water ice can remain for millions or even billions of years.

Scientists suggested the presence of water ice in these permanently dark regions of the moon more than a half-century ago, but confirming that hypothesis was challenging.

These findings demonstrate once again the value of studying the moon from orbit long-term, said John Keller, the LRO project scientist at NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. All of this work begins with comprehensive data sets made up of years worth of continuous measurements.

The new findings strengthen the case that craters have trapped frost near the moons south pole. So far, researchers have turned up no signs near the north pole.

What has always been intriguing about the moon is that we expect to find ice wherever the temperatures are cold enough for ice, but thats not quite what we see, said Matt Siegler, a researcher with the Planetary Science Institute in Dallas, Texas, and a co-author on the study.

Read more from the original source:

Scientists Discover Signs of Frost on the Moon – Big Island Now

New evidence of frost on moon’s surface – UH System Current News

Scientists using data from NASAs Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, have identified bright areas in craters near the moons south pole that are cold enough to have frost present on the surface.

Using data from NASAs Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), scientists, including University of Hawaii at Mnoa researcher Paul Lucey, have identified bright areas in craters near the moons south pole that are cold enough to have frost present on the surface.

The new evidence comes from an analysis that combined surface temperatures with information about how much laser light is reflected off the moons surface from one of the LRO instruments.

We found that the coldest places near the moons south pole are also the brightest placesbrighter than we would expect from soil aloneand that might indicate the presence of surface frost, said Elizabeth Fisher, the lead author of the study, published in Icarus. Fisher carried out the data analysis while doing research with Lucey at the UH Mnoa Hawaii Institute ofGeophysics and Planetology after earning her undergraduate degree. She is now a graduate student at Brown University.

The icy deposits appear to be patchy and thin, and its possible that they are mixed in with the surface layer of soil, dust and small rocks called the regolith. The researchers say they are not seeing expanses of ice similar to a frozen pond or skating rink. Instead, they are seeing signs of surface frost.

Credit: NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center/Scientific Visualization Studio.

We estimate that the ice detected would fill about one Olympic-sized swimming pool, said Lucey.

The frost was found in permanently dark areaslocated on the floors of deep craters that dont receive direct sunlightwhere temperatures remain below minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 163 degrees Celsius). Under these conditions, water ice can persist for millions or billions of years.

More than a half-century ago, scientists suggested that permanently dark areas could store water ice, but confirming that hypothesis turned out to be challenging.

These findings demonstrate once again the value of studying the moon from orbit long-term, said John Keller, the LRO project scientist at NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. All of this work begins with comprehensive data sets made up of years worth of continuous measurements.

The study strengthens the case that there is frost in cold traps near the moons south pole. So far, however, researchers have not seen the same signs near the moons north pole.

What has always been intriguing about the moon is that we expect to find ice wherever the temperatures are cold enough for ice, but thats not quite what we see, said Matt Siegler, a researcher with the Planetary Science Institute in Dallas, Texas, and a co-author on the study.

Excerpt from:

New evidence of frost on moon’s surface – UH System Current News

Theory of the Earth – CaltechAUTHORS

Anderson, Don L. (1989) Theory of the Earth. Blackwell Scientific Publications , Boston, MA. ISBN 0865423350 http://resolver.caltech.edu/CaltechBOOK:1989.001

Use this Persistent URL to link to this item: http://resolver.caltech.edu/CaltechBOOK:1989.001

The maturing of the Earth sciences has led to a fragmentation into subdisciplines which speak imperfectly to one another. Some of these subdisciplines are field geology, petrology, mineralogy, geochemistry, geodesy and seismology, and these in turn are split into even finer units. The science has also expanded to include the planets and even the cosmos. The practitioners in each of these fields tend to view the Earth in a completely different way. Discoveries in one field diffuse only slowly into the consciousness of a specialist in another. In spite of the fact that there is only one Earth, there are probably more Theories of the Earth than there are of astronomy, particle physics or cell biology where there are uncountable samples of each object. Even where there is cross-talk among disciplines, it is usually as noisy as static. Too often, one discipline’s unproven assumptions or dogmas are treated as firm boundary conditions for a theoretician in a slightly overlapping area. The data of each subdiscipline are usually consistent with a range of hypotheses. The possibilities can be narrowed considerably as more and more diverse data are brought to bear on a particular problem. The questions of origin, composition and evolution of the Earth require input from astronomy, cosmochemistry, meteoritics, planetology, geology, petrology, mineralogy, crystallography, materials science and seismology, at a minimum. To a student of the Earth, these are artificial divisions, however necessary they are to make progress on a given front. In Theory of the Earth I attempt to assemble the bits and pieces from a variety of disciplines which are relevant to an understanding of the Earth. Rocks and magmas are our most direct source of information about the interior, but they are biased toward the properties of the crust and shallow mantle. Seismology is our best source of information about the deep interior; however, the interpretation of seismic data for purposes other than purely structural requires input from solid-state physics and experimental petrology. Although this is not a book about seismology, it uses seismology in a variety of ways. The “Theory of the Earth” developed here differs in many respects from conventional views. Petrologists’ models for the Earth’s interior usually focus on the composition of mantle samples contained in basalts and kimberlites. The simplest hypothesis based on these samples is that the observed basalts and peridotites bear a complementary relation to one another, that peridotites are the source of basalts or the residue after their removal, and that the whole mantle is identical in composition to the inferred chemistry of the upper mantle and the basalt source region. The mantle is therefore homogeneous in composition, and thus all parts of the mantle eventually rise to the surface to provide basalts. Subducted slabs experience no barrier in falling through the mantle to the core-mantle boundary.

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Theory of the Earth – CaltechAUTHORS

Not dinosaurs, this time Ross Geller wants you to know about sexual harassment – India Today

You’ve smiled at his misery, you’ve revelled in his glorious obsession with dinosaurs and you’ve shipped him with Rachel Green for ten years straight. But this Ross Geller is different. This Ross Geller is trying to engage you in a conversation that, unlike planetology, concerns everyone.

A series of six short films by Israeli-American filmmaker, Sigal Avin, touches upon the glaring issue of sexual harassment and features her actor friend, David Schwimmer fondly remembered as Ross Geller from the sitcom, FRIENDS.

Inspired by real-life experiences, the six shorts come with titles like The Coworker, The Actor, The Boss, The Doctor, The Photographer and The Politician. As simple as the titles are, they seek to convey how sexual harassment isn’t limited to a particular profession or space and that literally no one is immune to its perils. Originally released in Israel (2016) the series had five parts whereas its American adaptation released in 2017 has six shorts that explore the various forms of sexual harassment.

Also Read: How sexual assault affects its survivors and what you can do to help

In an interview for Cosmopolitan, Avin admitted that one of the six shorts, The Actor, was in fact, inspired by something she experienced nearly 18 years ago.

“The first script I wrote was based on my personal story, the one with the actor. That’s something that happened to me about 18 years ago, when I was a young playwright and I came to talk with a very famous star at that point,” Cosmopolitan quotes her as saying, before she describes the incident at length.

Also Read: TVF CEO Arunabh Kumar unreachable since blog accusing him of harassment went viral, say friends

Schwimmer, who’s the co-producer of the shorts, also mentioned how he “grew up with stories of sexual harassment” from his mom and how “every woman in my family, in my life, has been harassed, except my daughter, thank god, who’s only 6.”

It must be noted that despite cultural differences, these six shorts aren’t merely relevant to Israel or America alone, but also hit close to home. Only recently, a series of sexual harassment allegations were made against the CEO of The Viral Fever, Arunabh Kumar and against the founder of a prominent period product, Miki Agrawal, who were both accused of harassing their colleagues in a workplace environment.

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Not dinosaurs, this time Ross Geller wants you to know about sexual harassment – India Today

James Webb Space Telescope will observe TRAPPIST-1 planets – The Space Reporter

Following its October 2018 launch, NASAs James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will observe the seven Earth-sized planets discovered orbiting the red dwarf star TRAPPIST-1, NASA announced last week.

Discovered in February, these planets are ideal targets for JWST because of their relatively nearby location just 40 light years away.

The star is small, so signals from the planets should be large, making it possible for scientists using JWST to detect atmospheric components.

Three of the planets, designated e, f, and g, are located in the stars habitable zone, where temperatures would allow liquid water to exist on their surfaces.

Scientists will use JWST to probe the planets atmospheres to determine the proportion of particular molecules, such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, methane, oxygen, ozone, and water. Knowing the proportions of these molecules will inform researchers as to whether the planets environments are conducive to supporting life.

JWST will observe in the infrared and will use spectroscopy, a technique in which light is split into distinct wavelengths, and their spectra analyzed, in its study of the system. These tools will extend its capabilities beyond those of the Hubble Space Telescope.

Each molecule has its own unique wavelength signature, so spectroscopy will enable scientists to identify the specific chemical components and their proportions in these worlds atmospheres.

These are the best Earth-sized planets for the James Webb Space Telescope to characterize, perhaps for its whole lifetime, said Hannah Wakeford, a postdoctoral fellow at NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center, where the telescope is currently located.

The Webb telescope will increase the information we have about these planets immensely. With the extended wavelength coverage, we will be able to see if their atmospheres have water, methane, carbon monoxide/dioxide, and/or oxygen.

Scientists will specifically look for evidence of ozone or methane, both of which are biomarkers, or signs of biological activity.

Ozone is produced when oxygen emitted by plant life via photosynthesis is released into the atmosphere and interacts with sunlight. Tracking methane will lead researchers to biological sources that could be producing oxygen.

The TRAPPIST-1 system will make it possible for scientists to engage in comparative planetology, a new field that involves comparing processes and compositions of different worlds.

Engineers and scientists are now conducting various tests on JWST, whose mirrors were installed last year.

For thousands of years, people have wondered, are there other planets like Earth out there? Do any support life? Now, we have a bunch of planets that are accessible for further study to try to start to answer these ancient questions, emphasized Sara Seager of MIT in the NASA statement.

Laurel Kornfeld is a freelance writer and amateur astronomer from Highland Park, NJ, who enjoys writing about astronomy and planetary science. She studied journalism at Douglass College, Rutgers University, and earned a Graduate Certificate of Science in astronomy from Swinburne Universitys Astronomy Online program.

See the original post here:

James Webb Space Telescope will observe TRAPPIST-1 planets – The Space Reporter

Probing Seven Worlds with NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope – Astrobiology Magazine (registration)

Credit: NASA

With the discovery ofseven earth-sized planets around the TRAPPIST-1 star40 light years away, astronomers are looking to the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope to help us find out if any of these planets could possibly support life.

If these planets have atmospheres, the James Webb Space Telescope will be the key to unlocking their secrets, said Doug Hudgins, Exoplanet Program Scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. In the meantime, NASAs missions like Spitzer, Hubble, and Kepler are following up on these planets.

These are the best Earth-sized planets for the James Webb Space Telescope to characterize, perhaps for its whole lifetime, said Hannah Wakeford, postdoctoral fellow at NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. At Goddard, engineers and scientists are currently testing the Webb telescope which will be able to view these planets in the infrared, beyond the capabilities we currently have.

The Webb telescope will increase the information we have about these planets immensely. With the extended wavelength coverage we will be able to see if their atmospheres have water, methane, carbon monoxide/dioxide and/or oxygen.

When hunting for a potentially life-supporting planet, you need to know more than just the planets size or distance from its star. Detecting the relative proportions of these molecules in a planets atmosphere could tell researchers whether a planet could support life.

For thousands of years, people have wondered, are there other planets like Earth out there? Do any support life? said Sara Seager, astrophysicst and planetary scientist at MIT. Now we have a bunch of planets that are accessible for further study to try to start to answer these ancient questions.

This rendering of the James Webb Space Telescope is current to 2015. Upon request we can provide a high-resolution image without a background. Credits: Northrop Grumman

Launching in 2018, one of Webbs main goals is to use spectroscopy, a method of analyzing light by separating it into distinct wavelengths which allows one to identify its chemical components (by their unique wavelength signatures) to determine the atmospheric components of alien worlds.

Webb will especially seek chemical biomarkers, like ozone and methane, that can be created from biological processes. Ozone, which protects us from harmful ultraviolet radiation here on Earth, forms when oxygen produced by photosynthetic organisms (like trees and phytoplankton) synthesizes in light. Because ozone is largely dependent on the existence of organisms to form, Webb will look for it in alien atmospheres as a possible indicator of life. It will also be able to look for methane which will help determine a biological source of the oxygen that leads to ozone accumulation.

The discovery of the planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system means that Webb will be able to use its immense capabilities on a relatively nearby system. Researchers recently identified three promising planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system e, f and g which orbit in the habitable zone and would make good candidates for Webb to study. Depending upon their atmospheric composition, all three of these Earth-like exoplanets could have the appropriate conditions for supporting liquid water. Because the planets orbit a star that is small, the signal from those planets will be relatively large, and just strong enough for Webb to detect atmospheric features.

Shawn Domagal-Goldman, an astrobiologist at NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center said, Two weeks ago, I would have told you that Webb can do this in theory, but in practice it would have required a nearly perfect target. Well, we were just handed three nearly perfect targets.

The number of planets in the system will also enable new research in the field of comparative planetology, which uncovers fundamental planetary processes by comparing different worlds.

This is the first and only system to have seven earth-sized planets, where three are in the habitable zone of the star, said Wakeford. It is also the first system bright enough, and small enough, to make it possible for us to look at each of these planets atmospheres. The more we can learn about exoplanets, the more we can understand how our own solar system came to be the way it is. With all seven planets Earth-sized, we can look at the different characterisitics that make each of them unique and determine critical connections between a planets conditions and origins.

NASA is exploring the solar system and beyond to better understand the universe and our place in it. Were looking to answer age-old questions, like how did our universe begin and evolve; how did galaxies, stars, and planets come to be; and are we alone.

Link:

Probing Seven Worlds with NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope – Astrobiology Magazine (registration)

NASA’s Search for Alien Atmospheres –"James Webb Space Telescope to Probe Exoplanet Discoveries in the Infrared" – The Daily Galaxy (blog)

“For thousands of years, people have wondered, are there other planets like Earth out there? Do any support life?” said Sara Seager, astrophysicst and planetary scientist at MIT. “Now we have a bunch of planets that are accessible for further study to try to start to answer these ancient questions.”

“These are the best Earth-sized planets for the James Webb Space Telescope to characterize, perhaps for its whole lifetime,” said Hannah Wakeford, postdoctoral fellow at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. At Goddard, engineers and scientists are currently testing the Webb telescope which will be able to view these planets in the infrared, beyond the capabilities we currently have. “The Webb telescope will increase the information we have about these planets immensely. With the extended wavelength coverage we will be able to see if their atmospheres have water, methane, carbon monoxide/dioxide and/or oxygen.”

When hunting for a potentially life-supporting planet, you need to know more than just the planet’s size or distance from its star. Detecting the relative proportions of these molecules in a planet’s atmosphere could tell researchers whether a planet could support life.

Launching in 2018, one of Webb’s main goals is to use spectroscopy, a method of analyzing light by separating it into distinct wavelengths which allows one to identify its chemical components (by their unique wavelength signatures) to determine the atmospheric components of alien worlds. Webb will especially seek chemical biomarkers, like ozone and methane, that can be created from biological processes. Ozone, which protects us from harmful ultraviolet radiation here on Earth, forms when oxygen produced by photosynthetic organisms (like trees and phytoplankton) synthesizes in light. Because ozone is largely dependent on the existence of organisms to form, Webb will look for it in alien atmospheres as a possible indicator of life. It will also be able to look for methane which will help determine a biological source of the oxygen that leads to ozone accumulation.

The discovery of the planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system means that Webb will be able to use its immense capabilities on a relatively nearby system. Researchers recently identified three promising planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system – e, f and g – which orbit in the habitable zone and would make good candidates for Webb to study. Depending upon their atmospheric composition, all three of these Earth-like exoplanets could have the appropriate conditions for supporting liquid water. Because the planets orbit a star that is small, the signal from those planets will be relatively large, and just strong enough for Webb to detect atmospheric features. Shawn Domagal-Goldman, an astrobiologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center said, “Two weeks ago, I would have told you that Webb can do this in theory, but in practice it would have required a nearly perfect target. Well, we were just handed three nearly perfect targets.”

The number of planets in the system will also enable new research in the field of comparative planetology, which uncovers fundamental planetary processes by comparing different worlds. “This is the first and only system to have seven earth-sized planets, where three are in the habitable zone of the star,” said Wakeford. “It is also the first system bright enough, and small enough, to make it possible for us to look at each of these planets’ atmospheres. The more we can learn about exoplanets, the more we can understand how our own solar system came to be the way it is. With all seven planets Earth-sized, we can look at the different characterisitics that make each of them unique and determine critical connections between a planet’s conditions and origins.”

NASA is exploring the solar system and beyond to better understand the universe and our place in it. We’re looking to answer age-old questions, like how did our universe begin and evolve; how did galaxies, stars, and planets come to be; and are we alone.

The James Webb Space Telescope is the scientific successor to NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. It will be the most powerful space telescope ever built. Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.

The Daily Galaxy via NASA Exoplanets

Read the rest here:

NASA’s Search for Alien Atmospheres –"James Webb Space Telescope to Probe Exoplanet Discoveries in the Infrared" – The Daily Galaxy (blog)

The Secrets of Pluto’s Thin Blue Line | Planetary Science | Sci-News … – Sci-News.com

Like a summers evening here on Earth just after sunset. A faint blue glow follows the Sun below the horizon the only bit of color within an otherwise black sky, Tanguy Bertrand imagines a view from the surface of Pluto, a picture more fully realized following recent man-made visitors to the icy dwarf planet, and further enhanced through new modeling from his team 4.7 billion km away in Paris.

Plutos haze layer shows its blue color in this picture taken by the New Horizons Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC). The high-altitude haze is thought to be similar in nature to that seen at Saturns moon Titan. The source of both hazes likely involves sunlight-initiated chemical reactions of nitrogen and methane, leading to relatively small, soot-like particles called tholins that grow as they settle toward the surface. This image was generated by software that combines information from blue, red and near-infrared images to replicate the color a human eye would perceive as closely as possible. Image credit: NASA / Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory / Southwest Research Institute.

Plutos atmosphere was characterized scientifically during 2015s New Horizons flyby that analyzed both its emissions into space (its airglow), and the dimming of background stars viewed through it.

However, it was the view from Plutos far side, the atmosphere backlit by our own Sun, which provided a more illustrative, even familiar picture of a thin blue line encircling the dwarf planet.

That illuminated sky blue ring results from the scattering of sunlight by layers of organic haze within the atmosphere, making Pluto the latest in a growing list of hazy solar system bodies.

A world where haze is a far more pronounced atmospheric feature, tinting the sunlight illuminating its frozen host, can be found orbiting Saturn.

Titans thick orange-brown haze was captured by the Huygens probe during its descent and time on the surface.

Described like L.A. smog on steroids, by Scott Edgington, Cassini deputy project scientist, the solid organic molecules are suspended in Titans atmosphere for far longer than on Pluto due to intense Earth-like vertical winds, creating a thicker haze.

On Pluto, haze particles quickly fall to the surface after their production.

Clues to the origin of atmospheric hazes have mostly come from the analysis of Titan, where evidence suggests methane and nitrogen molecules are dissociated and ionized by the suns UV radiation, a process known as photolysis. The molecules then react with each other to form larger precursor hydrocarbon and nitrile molecules which eventually, through aggregation, produce solid organic aerosols heavy enough to form a haze.

Similar processes are also thought to occur on Neptunes moon Triton, but like on Pluto, yield less haze, whilst organic chemistry models suggest the early Earths nitrogen and methane heavy atmosphere might have been hazy too.

In fact, it has been suggested our own ancient haze may have played a role in the formation of life, protecting the surface from deadly UV and countering the build-up of greenhouse gases to ensure a habitable temperature.

Despite their misty nature, organic hazes are thought to be extremely revealing of the surface and atmospheric state of the bodies they envelope. Their ability to produce and deposit complex hydrocarbons, known as tholins, is thought to give Plutos surface its reddish appearance.

To aid the investigation of Plutos haze and what it might reveal about its host dwarf planet, Bertrand and his team at the Laboratoire de Mtorologie Dynamique in Paris set out to reproduce New Horizons flyby observations.

The model they used was developed 30 years ago for the Earths own atmosphere, before versions were created for Mars, Venus, the gas giant planets, their satellites and recently discovered exoplanets.

We worked hard to have models ready in anticipation of the New Horizons flyby in the hope we could provide explanations of any observations made.

In a new paper, published in the journal Icarus, Bertrand used aerosol properties similar to those observed in the upper layers of Titan, which most closely resemble Plutos haze to get a close enough fit to constrain certain haze parameters on Pluto. These include haze particle size, to around 10-50 nm, and the amount of time the haze precursor molecules took to become solid, to around 3 months.

This paper is a nice example of the power of comparative planetology where we apply what we learn from one planet to discover new things about another, says Giada Arney from NASA Astrobiology Institutes Virtual Planetary Laboratory, who has herself looked at models of Earths ancient haze to study similar atmospheres around exoplanets.

This paper an important step forward in understanding the processes that occur in Plutos atmosphere.

Bertrands model also showed that the methane photolysis reactions peak at an altitude of 250 km, and occur mostly in the sunlit summer hemisphere, which the team believes explains the higher density hazes observed in the current sun facing north.

Despite this uneven production, the team suggest that the low level of atmospheric circulation should still be sufficient, when combined with indirect UV flux from the interplanetary medium to ensure haze material is falling down to the surface everywhere at all times, covering any icy surface material with a thin layer of darker organics.

This really confirms our inclination that shiny parts of Pluto must be evidence of recent resurfacing,

However, the wide scale reddening of Plutos equatorial region remains a mystery.

Previous suggestions that direct photolysis of the surface could be a cause are contradicted by Bertrands model, which shows Plutos entire UV flux would be blocked through absorption by its atmospheric methane.

Earlier this year an alternative mechanism was proposed that linked the dark equator to the impact that formed Plutos moon Charon.

As well as answering these questions, Bertrand hopes that refined versions of their model could be applied to another wispy atmosphere at the edges of our solar system.

We have very little data on Triton if we understand what is going on with Pluto we may better understand what is going on there as well.

_____

Tanguy Bertrand & Franois Forget. 2017. 3D modeling of organic haze in Plutos atmosphere. Icarus 287: 72-86; doi: 10.1016/j.icarus.2017.01.016

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The Secrets of Pluto’s Thin Blue Line | Planetary Science | Sci-News … – Sci-News.com

NASA funding crucial to Earth’s future – Virginia Tech Collegiate Times

Planet Earth is our home the only known location in the universe where humans can live unaided by sophisticated technology. Given the fact that we are the fruit of this worlds soil, it follows that we are also its caretakers. Whether or not life started here or hitched a ride on a comet from elsewhere is irrelevant. We evolved here. We call it Mother Earth for a reason.

Climate change is real, and it is caused by human actions. It has been reassuring to see the majority of politicians on both sides of the aisle endorse this statement. The Trump administration, however, has given indications that it will look to cut NASAs funding for research into environmental concerns like global warming.

This crusade against science is reminiscent of a dictatorship and comes at a critical time in the progression of climate change. At a certain point, it will become irreversible. In order to preserve our ecosystem, we must adapt our infrastructure and lifestyles. Humans are not wired to be long-term thinkers, but this is one situation in which we must overcome our basic instincts.

The problem is that climate change will not kill the Earth as such, though it will likely make her barren. The Earth as a celestial sphere is simply too massive to be affected by anything that humans can do, at least at this point in our technological development. However, it will surely make the planet unfit for human life.

In comparison to any other celestial body within a reasonable voyage, Earth is a veritable Garden of Eden, and we must not squander it.

One only has to look at Venus to visualize what the Earth would look like after a runaway greenhouse effect. The average surface temperature is 462 degrees Celsius and the atmosphere, made of poisonous carbon and sulfur dioxides, creates an average surface pressure of a whopping 90 Earth atmospheres. Venus is about as inhospitable as it gets in our solar system.

Mars, on the other hand, shows what the Earth would look like if it got too cold, where most of its atmosphere is frozen at the poles and in the soil itself. As a result, Mars has less than 1 percent of the atmosphere of Earth, and a human would have about a minute to live if exposed to it. Like Venus, Mars atmosphere is 98 percent carbon dioxide. Additionally, the average surface temperature is a balmy -63 degrees Celsius, and in places it can drop below -140 degrees Celsius. Thus, with the exception of Earth, this trend of less-than-ideal living conditions continues in our solar system.

While our two closest planetary neighbors would prove extremely difficult to colonize in their current states, they can offer insight into the workings of planetology and the cause and effect relationships of climatology that have proven so elusive to understand fully.

Interestingly, part of NASAs Earth science budget supports missions to these planets to study them, such as the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Exploration Mission (MAVEN). These data are then compared with data taken from our own planet, and suddenly there are three data points with which to extrapolate planetary trends instead of just one.

Any scientist would be able to appreciate that. In political science, for example, the prominent scholar Ken Waltz developed an international relations theory called neorealism. One of the largest criticisms of the theory is that most of its tenets such as the fact that a bipolar world system is the most stable are based on a single period of history. In this case, the Cold War was the only period where such a system existed. Such theories are very inconsistent when used to try to to predict the future.

Predicting the future reliably is an ability we must have when we are talking about the fate of the human race. Climate change is real, and it has very relevant consequences that will only get worse. According to NASA, the past three years have all set new global surface temperature records respectively and scientists observed record low total Arctic ice sheet areas. So far, 2017 seems to be continuing that trend.

Warmer temperatures are the most readily observed effects, but the problem is that we do not fully understand what those temperature changes will do to the fragile balance of our ecosystem. For example, some areas, like northern Africa, Brazil and, more recently, southern California, have experienced widespread droughts, threatening the viability of their water supply systems and draining their aquifers at unsustainable rates. In the past two years, Sao Paulo, South Americas largest city, experienced a drought that pushed it to the brink of a water crisis.

A contributing factor to these droughts is the troubling rate of rainforest clearing across the tropical zone. Rainforests are not only the largest producers of oxygen on the planet, but they also transpire huge quantities of water vapor into the atmosphere. Their deforestation for short-term economic benefits is utterly reckless.

While regions such as these are becoming more arid and deserts are expanding, other areas are quite literally drowning in excesses of water. Rising sea levels are threatening to erase some small island nations from the map, such as the Republic of Kiribati and the Maldives. Combined with storms of ever-increasing ferocity, coastal population centers are more and more at risk of catastrophic flooding, as we saw in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and in New York City after Hurricane Sandy.

In southern Asia, millions were displaced in the aftermath of Cyclone Komen in 2015 and there was widespread infrastructure collapse. Consider the devastation in New Orleans and the amount of time it took for the city and its population to recover, especially given the fact that the disaster occurred in the worlds wealthiest country. Now consider Bangladesh, a relatively poor country where most of the 150 million people live in and around the Padma (Ganges) River delta. The destruction there is unimaginable.

The answer to the question of whether or not the human race has the capacity to facilitate the reversal of these trends is an unequivocal yes. We have the knowledge and the technology. What is lacking is the political will and, in large part, the initiatives of individuals. Climate change seems so abstract that most people either are not aware of the true threat that it poses, or put it out of mind because that is easier and more pain-free. But if we want to preserve the habitability and cleanliness of our planet, everyone has to be on board.

There needs to be widespread consensus that action must be taken and a clear outline of what that action should be. For example, as a college student, turning off your power strip in your room when you arent there saves a great deal of power, and remembering to turn off the faucet when youre washing dishes or brushing your teeth does the same for water.

When youre making decisions in your daily life, consider your own impact on the environment and dont forget that you have the potential to make the world a better place through simple actions.

Analyzing the behavior of the Earth and her processes is absolutely critical to understanding the nature and progression of global warming. Removing the funding for NASA to carry out this research is like going into a boxing match blindfolded. It is completely idiotic and contrary to hundreds of years of respect for the scientific process. It also sends the message that science is not legitimate when it exposes the detrimental side of business practices and their effects.

Trump should leave the science to the scientists, which includes not telling them what they can and cannot research, and focus on the innumerable other problems he should be worrying about as the president of the United States.

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NASA funding crucial to Earth’s future – Virginia Tech Collegiate Times

Viscosity Data Tables – University of Hawaii

Hawai’i Space Grant Consortium, Hawai’i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, University of Hawai’i, 1996 Type of Fluid Fluid density (p) Density of sphere (p) Density Contrast Radius of sphere (a) gravity (g) 10 meters per second second Fall distance (d) Measurement number Time (t), (seconds) Velocity (v), (meters/seconds) Viscosity (Pa s) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Average

delta p = difference in density between the sphere and the liquid

g = acceleration of gravity

a = radius of sphere

v = velocity = d/t = (distance sphere falls)/(time of it takes to fall)

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Viscosity Data Tables – University of Hawaii

Andromeda is acting weird, and it could mean dark matter – Blastr

Something strange is going on in the Andromeda galaxy, and it could mean something even stranger.

NASAs Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope recently observed a super-powered gamma ray signal of indeterminate origin at the center of Andromeda (aka M31). While emissions of these penetrating high-energy beams often occur in galaxies and are typically scattered throughout, the gamma radiation issuing from Andromeda is unusually strong and concentrated at its core. Pulsars clustered in the middle of Andromeda could be one explanation for the mysterious surge of energy. So could dark matter.

Astrophysicist and research team lead Pierrick Martin of the National Center for Scientific Research and the Research Institute in Astrophysics and Planetology in Toulouse, France, is optimistic about what this find could reveal about the unknown.

“We expect dark matter to accumulate in the innermost regions of the Milky Way and other galaxies, which is why finding such a compact signal is very exciting, said Martin. M31 will be a key to understanding what this means for both Andromeda and the Milky Way.”

Dark matter is a scientific conundrum. Invisible because it is non-luminous and does not interact with any form of light, it can still have its presence inferred from its gravitational influence on its surroundings. Hypothetical particles of dark matter otherwise known as WIMPs (Weakly-Interacting Massive Particles) supposedly go kamikaze and release bursts of gamma radiation when they crash into each other and self-annihilate. High concentrations of gamma rays therefore could indicate dense dark matter. Enter Fermi.

What Fermi, which can see photons with up to hundreds of billions of times more energy than anything visible to the naked human eye, captured in Andromeda reflects similar (though not as intense) emissions in the Milky Way. Mirrors between the two galaxies mean that what is already known about phenomena in the Milky Way especially pulsars can be applied to X-ray and radio observations of Andromeda when testing to determine where the gamma rays originate. Fermi is also able to observe Andromeda from a point of view impossible to attain within the Milky Way, and vice versa.

Illuminating an answer to the question of where exactly Andromeda’s gamma rays emerge from is still problematic. Our neighboring galaxy is 2.5 million light years away, which will make it difficult to single out individual pulsars from its perceived cluster if that is confirmed to the source. Not to mention that for all the theorizing about its existence, anything definite about dark matter still eludes science. The mystery can only continue to unravel with more observations.

“We still have a lot to learn about the gamma-ray sky,” said Regina Caputo, research scientist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. “The more information we have, the more information we can put into models of our own galaxy.”

(via Space.com)

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Andromeda is acting weird, and it could mean dark matter – Blastr

Modeling The Universe And The Polar Lights From Aristotle To Iowa – Forbes


Forbes
Modeling The Universe And The Polar Lights From Aristotle To Iowa
Forbes
A century after Birkeland's original Terrella model and four decades after Van Allen's discovery of radiation belts, a group of CNRS researchers led by Dr. Jean Lilensten at the Institute of Planetology and Astrophysics in Grenoble (IPAG) began to

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Modeling The Universe And The Polar Lights From Aristotle To Iowa – Forbes

Signals from Andromeda may indicate presence of mysterious dark matter – The Siasat Daily

Washington: A signal detected from the neighboring Andromeda galaxy may indicate presence of the mysterious dark matter the elusive substance that is believed to make up most of our universe NASA said on Wednesday.

The signal is similar to one seen by the NASAs Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope at the centre of our own Milky Way galaxy in 2014.

Gamma rays are the highest-energy form of light, produced by the universes most energetic phenomena.

They are common in galaxies like the Milky Way because cosmic rays, particles moving near the speed of light, produce gamma rays when they interact with interstellar gas clouds and starlight.

Surprisingly, the latest Fermi data shows the gamma rays in Andromeda also known as M31 are confined to the galaxys centre instead of spread throughout.

To explain this unusual distribution, scientists are proposing that the emission may come from several undetermined sources. One of them could be dark matter, an unknown substance that makes up most of the universe.

We expect dark matter to accumulate in the innermost regions of the Milky Way and other galaxies, which is why finding such a compact signal is very exciting, said Pierrick Martin, an astrophysicist at the National Centre for Scientific Research and the Research Institute in Astrophysics and Planetology in France.

M31 will be a key to understanding what this means for both Andromeda and the Milky Way, said Martin.

Another possible source for this emission could be a rich concentration of pulsars in M31s centre. These spinning neutron stars weigh as much as twice the mass of the sun and are among the densest objects in the universe.

One teaspoon of neutron star matter would weigh a billion tons on Earth. Some pulsars emit most of their energy in gamma rays. Since M31 is 2.5 million light-years away, it is difficult to find individual pulsars.

To test whether the gamma rays are coming from these objects, scientists can apply what they know about pulsars from observations in the Milky Way to new X-ray and radio observations of Andromeda.

Now that Fermi has detected a similar gamma-ray signature in both M31 and the Milky Way, scientists can use this information to solve mysteries within both galaxies.

We dont fully understand the roles cosmic rays play in galaxies, or how they travel through them, said Xian Hou, an astrophysicist at Chinese Academy of Sciences.

M31 lets us see how cosmic rays behave under conditions different from those in our own galaxy, said Hou.

The similar discovery in both the Milky Way and M31 means scientists can use the galaxies as models for each other when making difficult observations.

While more observations are necessary to determine the source of the gamma-ray excess, the discovery provides an exciting starting point to learn more about both galaxies, and perhaps about the still elusive nature of dark matter.

The study was published in The Astrophysical Journa.

PTI

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Signals from Andromeda may indicate presence of mysterious dark matter – The Siasat Daily

A Potential Dark Matter Signature Has Been Seen in The … – Lifeboat Foundation (blog)

NASAs Fermi Telescope has looked at the gamma-ray emission of M31, the Andromeda Galaxy, and discovered the largest fraction of this powerful radiation comes from the core of the galaxy, very much like in our own Milky Way. The international team of researchers has considered this signature as potential indirect evidence of dark matter.

Some theoretical models predict gamma-ray emissions when dark matter particles interact with each other. Dark matter doesnt like interacting at all, it doesnt form clumps or clouds, so these gamma-ray signals might only happen in dense regions, like at the core of galaxies.

We expect dark matter to accumulate in the innermost regions of the Milky Way and other galaxies, which is why finding such a compact signal is very exciting, said lead scientist Pierrick Martin, an astrophysicist at the National Center for Scientific Research and the Research Institute in Astrophysics and Planetology in Toulouse, France, in a statement. M31 will be a key to understanding what this means for both Andromeda and the Milky Way.

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A Potential Dark Matter Signature Has Been Seen in The … – Lifeboat Foundation (blog)


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