Archive for May, 2011

Green crystal rain 1

An artists impression of the green crystals falling down upon the star, almost like glitter. Picture: NASA/JPL

Further proof that space is amazing, this time from the not-too-distant constellation of Orion, where one star is currently being bombarded with green crystal rain.

The embryonic star is described as “Sun-like” – as in our Sun – and named HOPS-38.

The crystals are a green mineral called olivine and have been spotted raining down from the clouds of gas engulfing HOPS-68 by NASA’s Spitzer infrared detectors.

Olivine can be found on Earth, in gemstones and on the green sand beaches of Hawaii. They’ve also been spotted before by NASA’s Stardust and Deep Impact comet-watchers, but this is the first time they’ve ever been observed falling as “rain”.

“You need temperatures as hot as lava to make these crystals,” Tom Megeath of the University of Toledo in Ohio, said.

Prof Megeath is the principal investigator of the research and the second author of a new study appearing in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

“We propose that the crystals were cooked up near the surface of the forming star, then carried up into the surrounding cloud where temperatures are much colder, and ultimately fell down again like glitter.”

Apart from the fact that they’re falling on a protostar, the crystals are unusual because they require temperatures around 700C to form, yet are found in the collapsing gas clouds around HOPS-38 where the mercury drops to around -170C.

The Toledo team say that jets of gas blasting away from the star might have lifted crystals into the clouds before raining back down.

If we ever make it to HOPS-38, we might even be able to see them.

“If you could somehow transport yourself inside this protostar’s collapsing gas cloud, it would be very dark,” the study team’s lead author Charles Poteet said.

“But the tiny crystals might catch whatever light is present, resulting in a green sparkle against a black, dusty backdrop.”

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Above: An artist’s concept of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft retrieving a sample from asteroid 1999 RQ36. Picture: NASA


Right: What a group of near-Earth asteroids might look like. Image credit: NASA

In 2016, researchers will send the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft on a journey to an asteroid called 1999 RQ36 to collect samples from the body as it travels through space.

According to NASA, RQ36 is the perfect place to look for material dating back more than 4.5 billion years to the solar nebula which collapsed to create our solar system.

“This asteroid is a time capsule from the birth of our solar system and ushers in a new era of planetary exploration,” said Jim Green, director of NASA’s planetary science division in Washington.

NASA is also interested to see whether RQ36 is carrying any organic molecules like the kind previously found on meteorite and comet samples.

The asteroid samples could give us new insights into how the solar system was formed and how life began.

That is, if we’re around long enough to study them.

RQ36′s orbit around the Sun occasionally brings it dangerously close to Earth. Scientists say it could actually smash into us in as little as 50 years.

Maria Eugenia Sansaturio of the Universidad de Valladolid in Spain last year put the odds of a collision at about 1000 to one, and said it could happen as early as 2060.

The years in which a collision was most likely were 2162 and 2182, Dr Sansaturio said.

The NASA project to collect samples from RQ36 with a robotic arm is expected to cost about $US800 million.

RQ36 is approximately 580m — or half a kilometre — in diameter. OSIRIS-REx is expected to reach it in 2020, after travelling for four years, and return to Earth in 2023.

Scientists have observed that each time RQ36 completes its 20-year orbit of the Sun, it swings a little bit closer towards Earth.

In 1900, Russian engineer Ivan Yarkovsky proposed that thermal radiation emanating from the “night side” of asteroids — the side facing away from the Sun — could potentially change their orbit.

As part of the mission, NASA also hopes to learn more about whether the “Yarkovsky” effect is pushing the asteroid closer to Earth.

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A 22-year-old Australian university student has solved a problem which has puzzled astrophysicists for decades, discovering part of the so-called “missing mass” of the universe during her summer break.

Simulated gravitational lensing (black hole go...

Simulated gravitational lensing (black hole going past a background galaxy)

Undergraduate Amelia Fraser-McKelvie made the breakthrough during a holiday internship with a team at Monash University‘s School of Physics, locating the mystery material within vast structures called “filaments of galaxies”.

Monash astrophysicist Dr Kevin Pimbblet explained that scientists had previously detected matter that was present in the early history of the universe but that could not now be located.

“There is missing mass, ordinary mass not dark mass … It’s missing to the present day,” Dr Pimbblet said.

“We don’t know where it went. Now we do know where it went because that’s what Amelia found.”

Ms Fraser-McKelvie, an aerospace engineering and science student, was able to confirm after a targeted X-ray search for the mystery mass that it had moved to the “filaments of galaxies”, which stretch across enormous expanses of space.

Dr Pimbblet’s earlier work had suggested the filaments as a possible location for the “missing” matter, thought to be low in density but high in temperature.

Dr Pimbblet said astrophysicists had known about the “missing” mass for the past two decades, but the technology needed to pinpoint its location had only become available in recent years.

He said the discovery could drive the construction of new telescopes designed to specifically study the mass.

Dr Pimbblet admitted the discovery was primarily academic, but he said previous physics research had led to the development of diverse other technologies.

“Whenever I speak to people who have influence, politicians and so on, they sometimes ask me ‘Why should I invest in physics pure research?’. And I sometimes say to them: ‘Do you use a mobile phone? Some of that technology came about by black hole research’.

“The pure research has knock-on effects to the whole society which are sometimes difficult to anticipate.”

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New Facebook scam takes you to fake YouTube site

Posted May 29, 2011 By David Kolle

fake youtube

Beware: Get caught clicking on this Facebook scam link and you’re going to get mocked.

Facebook’s no stranger to scams, and a new one hit the site a few days ago that’s been spreading like wildfire – and bringing malware with it. This particularl scam, true to form, comes in the form of a wall post advertising a video that tries to tempt your weaker, sicker side.

scam linkThe link reads “This woman has a [sic] orgasm on a roller coaster! LOL,” and claims to show you the video in return for filling out a short survey. If you’re even somewhat Internet savvy, you know that when a survey promises to show or give you something that means it’s illegitimate. What makes this particular scam somewhat more convincing (more so for the particular gullible or web-illiterate) is that it first takes users to a faux YouTube page. If you take notice of the URL – which is not – it’s obvious you’re in some dangerous territory.

You’ll also be asked to verify that you aren’t a spammer via a captcha on the page, something YouTube would never require. There’s code in this that will then post the original video link as a comment to you friends’ posts. Submit your text into the captcha and you’re then asked to complete one of a variety of surveys.

This scam is only minimally more sophisticated than most that hit the site, but it’s also a particularly embarrassing one to spam all your friends with.

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