Lasers. Very cool and exciting toys. They have also revolutionized science and technology. Through a comparatively simple process, photons are bounced backward and forward within an optical cavity. Stimulated emission from the quantum states of the material within the cavity causes more and more photons to be generated. Eventually a threshold is reached and laser emission results, producing a collimated beam of a defined wavelength.
This week has been an exciting week for astronomers. The largest explosion ever seen in the Universe was observed on Wednesday. This gamma ray burst, produced when a star collapses in on itself to create a black hole, is a record breaker. Not only is it the biggest explosion mankind has seen since records began, it is also the furthest and oldest “thing” we have ever observed… Continue reading “Daily Roundup: The Mars Curse and the Biggest Explosion in the Universe!”
We know that dark matter is difficult to observe… in fact, we can only indirectly observe the stuff. Gravitational lensing and WMAP “Haze” are two possible ways to observe large-scale dark matter, but what about the small-scale stuff? New research suggests that some types of dark matter may be in the form of cold, primordial clumps of elementary particles and there’s a possibility we’ve been accidentally been observing them for years… Continue reading “Primordial Quark Nuggets Disguised as Near Earth Asteroids?”
The Earth’s Van Allen belts are the location for some of the most fearsome particles in space. Highly energetic particles from the Sun get trapped in the layers of the magnetosphere, setting them up for an injection of waves causing acceleration and heating. This naturally causes concern for astronauts and spacecraft passing out of the atmosphere and into this bubble of radiation only 200 miles above the surface. But spare a thought for any spacecraft passing through Jupiter’s magnetic field. The energetic particles there are far more powerful, plus one of the Jovian moons has a huge part to play, generating the plasma waves accelerating the particles even more… Continue reading “When a Moon Makes a World of a Difference”
There is a huge following of space blogs, like astroengine.com, following the developments of current space missions and new discoveries. Space blogs are different in that they present the news, but give a personal spin on what is going on. Far more exciting reading if you ask me, guaranteed to spark debate and awareness of mankind’s efforts in space…
The Universe as we know it could be in big trouble. I have reported before on situations where our universe may be changing beyond the realms of “normal” physics, but the “heat death problem” could be a physical situation where the Universe will eventually expand so far that all energy will dissipate and be lost. Thermodynamics will eventually catch up with all the stars in the cosmos, ensuring they extinguish, all energy ebbing away into frozen space. Even the last of the supermassive black holes will evaporate after 10150 years. What’s left then? Well… nothing. So the question is: if a sufficiently advanced incarnation of the human race can beat the increasing entropy of the cosmos, can the future “us” continue to live beyond the heat death? Some rather philosophical ideas have come to light, including the creation of a virtual universe… Continue reading “Artificial Cosmogenesis – Building a Virtual Universe”
Observing a supernova as it happens is a very tough thing to do. If you blink, you’ll miss it. Astronomers are constantly trying to find ways to look in the direction of a massive star just before it blows, but supernova prediction is a very young science. Now, combining the sensitivity of neutrino detectors and attempting to make the data as “real time” as possible, the SuperNova Early Warning System (SNEWS) is born, sending you a neutrino weather forecast direct to your inbox hours before a star explodes. Continue reading “How do you catch a Supernova in the Act? Build a Neutrino Detecting, Early Warning Device.”
Apparently, black holes and dark matter don’t play well together. Broadly speaking, black holes can be considered to be a significant portion of the “missing mass” in the universe, but dark matter is distinguished as “non-baryonic matter”. It seems that this mysterious non-baryonic matter is being used to explain a huge number of unexplained cosmic mysteries, but in the case of supermassive black holes, dark matter plays a very small role insofar as being used as black hole food… Continue reading “Supermassive Black Holes Can’t Swallow Dark Matter”