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+ - Mystery Signal Could be Dark Matter Hint in ISS Detector->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine (1577233) writes "Analysis of 41 billion cosmic rays striking the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer particle detector aboard the International Space Station shows an unknown phenomena that is “consistent with a dark matter particle” known as a neutralino, researchers announced Thursday. Key to the hunt is the ratio of positrons to electrons and so far the evidence from AMS points in the direction of dark matter. The smoking gun scientists look for is a rise in the ratio of positrons to electrons, followed by a dramatic fall — the telltale sign of dark matter annihilating the Milky Way’s halo, which lies beyond its central disk of stars and dust. However, “we have not found the definitive proof of dark matter,” AMS lead researcher Samuel Ting, with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and CERN in Switzerland, wrote in an email to Discovery News. “Whereas all the AMS results point in the right direction, we still need to measure how quickly the positron fraction falls off at the highest energies in order to rule out astrophysical sources such as pulsars.” But still, this new finding is a tantalizing step in the dark matter direction."
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+ - Rosetta's Lander Philae Snaps Mind-Blowing Comet Selfie->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine (1577233) writes "You’d be hard-pressed to find a more impressive “selfie” than this! Attached to the European Space Agency's comet-chasing spacecraft Rosetta, the Philae lander opened one of its robotic eyes when the mission was orbiting comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko at a distance of only 50 kilometers (31 miles) on Sunday. With two high-contrast exposures, the lander captured one of Rosetta’s solar panels in the foreground with the comet behind."
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+ - Space Station's 'Cubesat Cannon' has Gone Rogue->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine (1577233) writes "Last night (Thursday), two more of Planet Lab’s shoebox-sized Earth imaging satellites launched themselves from aboard the International Space Station, the latest in a series of technical mysteries involving a commercially owned CubeSat deployer located outside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. Station commander Steve Swanson was storing some blood samples in one of the station’s freezers Friday morning when he noticed that the doors on NanoRack’s cubesat deployer were open, said NASA mission commentator Pat Ryan. Flight controllers at the Johnson Space Center in Houston determined that two CubeSats had been inadvertently released. “No crew members or ground controllers saw the deployment. They reviewed all the camera footage and there was no views of it there either,” Ryan said."
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+ - Welcome to Laniakea, Our New Cosmic Home->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine (1577233) writes "Using a new mapping technique that takes into account the motions — and not just the distances — of nearby galaxies, astronomers discovered that the Milky Way is located in the suburb of a massive, previously unknown super-cluster they named Laniakea, a term from Hawaiian words meaning “immeasurable heaven.” Actually, Laniakea’s girth is measurable, though difficult to conceptualize. The super-cluster spans 520 million light-years in diameter, more than five times larger than the cluster previously believed to be the Milky Way’s cosmic home."
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+ - Can We Call Pluto and Charon a 'Binary Planet' Yet?->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine (1577233) writes "The debate as to whether Pluto is a planet or a dwarf planet rumbles on, but in a new animation of the small world, one can’t help but imagine another definition for Pluto. As NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft continues its epic journey into the outer solar system, its Kuiper Belt target is becoming brighter and more defined. Seen through the mission’s Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) camera, this new set of observations clearly shows Pluto and its biggest moon Charon locked in a tight orbital dance separated by only 11,200 miles. (Compared with the Earth-moon orbital separation of around 240,000 miles, you can see how compact the Pluto-Charon system really is.) Both bodies are shown to be orbiting a common point — the "barycenter" is located well above Pluto's surface prompting a new debate on whether or not Pluto and Charon should be redefined as a "binary planet"."
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+ - Saturn Moon's 101 Geysers Blast From Hidden Ocean->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine (1577233) writes "New observations from NASA’s Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft have revealed at least 101 individual geysers erupting from Enceladus’ crust and, through careful analysis, planetary scientists have uncovered their origin. From the cracked ice in this region, fissures blast out water vapor mixed with organic compounds as huge geysers. Associated with these geysers are surface “hotspots” but until now there has been some ambiguity as to whether the hotspots are creating the geysers or whether the geysers are creating the hotspots. “Once we had these results in hand, we knew right away heat was not causing the geysers, but vice versa,” said Carolyn Porco, leader of the Cassini imaging team from the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo., and lead author of one of the research papers. “It also told us the geysers are not a near-surface phenomenon, but have much deeper roots.” And those roots point to a large subsurface source of liquid water — adding Enceladus as one of the few tantalizing destinations for future astrobiology missions."
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+ - Can the Multiverse be Tested Scientifically?->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine (1577233) writes "Physicists aren’t afraid of thinking big, but what happens when you think too big? This philosophical question overlaps with real physics when hypothesizing what lies beyond the boundary of our observable universe. The problem with trying to apply science to something that may or may not exist beyond our physical realm is that it gets a little foggy as to how we could scientifically test it. A leading hypothesis to come from cosmic inflation theory and advanced theoretical studies — centering around the superstring hypothesis — is that of the "multiverse," an idea that scientists have had a hard time in testing. But now, scientists at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, in Ontario, Canada, have, for the first time, created a computer model of colliding universes in the multiverse in an attempt to seek out observational evidence of its existence."
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+ - How Hard Is It to Shoot Down a Plane?->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine (1577233) writes "Ukrainian government officials say Russian-backed rebel forces shot down a Malaysian Airlines flight with 295 passengers and crew over the embattled border region on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. The commercial flight was cruising at 33,000 feet, making it too high for a shoulder-launched missile and more likely that it was targeted by a radar-guided missile defense system, according to military experts. “It does seem depressingly likely,” said Mark Galeotti, a professor of global affairs at New York University currently studying Russian security issues in Moscow. “We know the rebels have the Buk missile system. We know they have shot down planes in the past. They may have believed it was a legitimate target.” Although the Buk system is designed to shoot down fast-moving military aircraft, a high-flying jetliner would have been an easy target. And although it would have been carrying a civilian transponder, if the anti-aircraft missile was being operated by a novice controller, mistakes were most likely made."
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+ - ExoLance: Shooting Darts at Mars to Find Life->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine (1577233) writes "To find life on Mars, some scientists believe you might want to look underground for microbes that may be hiding from the harsh radiation that bathes the red planet’s surface. Various NASA rovers have scraped away a few inches at a time, but the real paydirt may lie a meter or two below the surface. That’s too deep for existing instruments, so a team of space enthusiasts has launched a more ambitious idea: dropping arrow-like probes from the Martian atmosphere to pierce the soil like bunker-busting bug catchers. The “ExoLance” project aims to drop ground-penetrating devices, each of which would carry a small chemical sampling test to find signs of life. “One of the benefits of doing this mission is that there is less engineering,” said Chris Carberry, executive director of Explore Mars, a non-profit space advocacy group pushing the idea. “With penetrators we can engineer them to get what we want, and send it back to an orbiter. We can theoretically check out more than one site at a time. We could drop five or six, which increases the chances of finding something.”"
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+ - Cosmic Mystery Solved by Supersized Supernova Dust->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine (1577233) writes "How cosmic dust is created has been a mystery for some time. Although the textbooks tell us that the dusty stuff that builds the planets — and, ultimately, the complex chemistry that forms life (we are, after all, made of ‘star stuff’) — comes from supernova explosions, astronomers have been puzzled as to how delicate grains of dust condense from stellar material and how they can possibly survive the violent shock waves of the cataclysmic booms. But now, with the help of a powerful ground-based telescope, astronomers have not only watched one of these supernova ‘dust factories’ in action, they’ve also discovered how the grains can withstand the violent supernova shock. “When the star explodes, the shockwave hits the dense gas cloud like a brick wall,” said lead author Christa Gall, of Aarhus University, Denmark. “It is all in gas form and incredibly hot, but when the eruption hits the ‘wall’ the gas gets compressed and cools down to about 2,000 degrees. At this temperature and density elements can nucleate and form solid particles. We measured dust grains as large as around one micron (a thousandth of a millimeter), which is large for cosmic dust grains. They are so large that they can survive their onward journey out into the galaxy.” The surprising size of the measured dust particles means they can better survive the supernova's shockwave. This research has been published in the journal Nature."
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+ - The Higgs Boson Should Have Crushed the Universe->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine (1577233) writes "This may seem a little far fetched, but if our understanding of the physics behind the recently-discovered Higgs boson (or, more specifically, the Higgs field — the ubiquitous field that endows all stuff with mass) is correct, our Universe shouldn’t exist. That is, however, if another cosmological hypothesis is real, a hypothesis that is currently undergoing intense scrutiny in light of the BICEP2 results."
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+ - Star Within a Star: Thorne-Zytkow Object Discovered->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine (1577233) writes "A weird type of ‘hybrid’ star has been discovered nearly 40 years since it was first theorized — but until now has been curiously difficult to find. In 1975, renowned astrophysicists Kip Thorne, of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, Calif., and Anna Zytkow, of the University of Cambridge, UK, assembled a theory on how a large dying star could swallow its neutron star binary partner, thus becoming a very rare type of stellar hybrid, nicknamed a Thorne-Zytkow object (or TZO). The neutron star — a dense husk of degenerate matter that was once a massive star long since gone supernova — would spiral into the red supergiant’s core, interrupting normal fusion processes. According to the Thorne-Zytkow theory, after the two objects have merged, an excess of the elements rubidium, lithium and molybdenum will be generated by the hybrid. So astronomers have been on the lookout for stars in our galaxy, which is thought to contain only a few dozen of these objects at any one time, with this specific chemical signature in their atmospheres. Now, according to Emily Levesque of the University of Colorado Boulder and her team, a bona fide TZO has been discovered and their findings have been accepted for publication in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society Letters."
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+ - Strange New World Discovered: The 'Mega Earth'->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine (1577233) writes "Meet “mega-Earth” a souped-up, all-solid planet that, according to theory, should not exist. First spotted by NASA’s Kepler space telescope, the planet is about 2.3 times larger than Earth. Computer models show planets that big would be more like Neptune or the other gas planets of the outer solar system since they would have the gravitational heft to collect vast amounts of hydrogen and helium from their primordial cradles. But follow-up observations of the planet, designated as Kepler-10c, show it has 17 times as much mass as Earth, meaning it must be filled with rock and other materials much heavier than hydrogen and helium. “Kepler-10c is a big problem for the theory,” astronomer Dimitar Sasselov, director of the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative, told Discovery News. “It’s nice that we have a solid piece of evidence and measurements for it because that gives motivations to the theorists to improve the theory,” he said."
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+ - Red Dwarfs Could Sterilize Alien Worlds of Life->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine (1577233) writes "Red dwarf stars — the most common stars in the galaxy — bathe planets in their habitable zones with potentially deadly stellar winds, a finding that could have significant impacts on the prevalence of life beyond Earth, new research shows. About 70 percent of stars are red dwarfs, or M-type stars, which are cooler and smaller than the sun. Any red dwarf planets suitable for liquid water, therefore, would have to orbit much closer to their parent star than Earth circles the sun. That presents a problem for life — at least life as we know it on Earth, says physicist Ofer Cohen, with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Cohen and colleagues used a computer model based on data from the sun’s solar wind — a continuous stream of charged particles that permeates and defines the solar system –- to estimate the space environment around red dwarf stars. “We find that the conditions are very extreme. If you move planets very close to the star, the force of this flow is very, very strong. Essentially it can strip the atmosphere of the planet unless the planet has a strong magnetic field or a thick atmosphere to start with,” Cohen told Discovery News."
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+ - Hunt Intensifies for Aliens on Kepler's Planets->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine (1577233) writes "Could ET be chatting with colleagues or robots on sister planets in its solar system? Maybe so, say scientists who last year launched a new type of Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, or SETI, project to eavesdrop on aliens. Using data collected by NASA’s Kepler space telescope, a team of scientists spent 36 hours listening in when planets in targeted solar systems lined up, relative to Earth’s perspective, in hopes of detecting alien interplanetary radio signals. “We think the right strategy in SETI is a variety of strategies. It’s really hard to predict what other civilizations might be doing,” Dan Werthimer, director of SETI research at the University of California Berkeley, told Discovery News. So far the search hasn't turned up any artificial signals yet, but this marks a change in strategy for radio searches for ETI with Kepler data taking a focused lead."
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