Friday, May 27, 2011

Understanding Dark Matter: What We Don't Know

I saw this great video on Boing Boing and thought I'd share in light of the new dark planets discovery. I've read comments on a few sites that the rogue, Jupiter-like planets must help explain the massive amounts of dark matter out there in the universe. Judging by what I've read elsewhere--and this cool animated film--it's more complicated than meets the eye. Stuff like this is part of the reason I love astronomy, it's still new and we still don't know a lot!


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

BILLIONS of rogue planets in the Milky Way may outnumber stars!

Astronomer's have made a startling discovery that there are "hundreds of billions" of orphaned, Jupiter-sized planets in our galaxy. In fact, these free-floating orbs may outnumber the stars! From NYT:
There are two Jupiter-mass planets for each of the 200 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy, according to measurements and calculations undertaken by an international group of astronomers led by Takahiro Sumi, of Osaka University in Japan, and reported in the journal Nature.

“It’s a bit of a surprise,” said David Bennett, a Notre Dame astronomer, who was part of the team. Before this research, it was thought that only about 10 or 20 percent of stars harbored Jupiter-mass planets. Now it seems as if the planets outnumber the stars.
I wonder if they also have moons like the gas giants in our neck of the woods. At least one of the scientists seems to postulate as much, From Nature:
Planetary scientist David Stevenson at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena has considered how the temperatures on ejected planets might compare with those on star-bound bodies2. If Jupiter were kicked out of the Solar System, its surface temperature would drop by only about 15 kelvin, he says – although it would still be unsuitable for supporting life. However, "when you eject a planet that is quite massive, it could have carried along an orbiting body", Stevenson adds. "And that might be a more attractive possibility for life."

Unbound Earth-mass planets might still be capable of carrying liquid water, Stevenson says, even in the frozen reaches of interstellar space – as long as they have a heat-trapping hydrogen atmosphere. "That can bring the surface temperature up to 300 kelvin [about 27 °C]," he says. "And then you can have oceans."
What's your take on these newly discovered orphan worlds?

Learn more

Friday, May 6, 2011

Some inspriational tools for story ideas...

I've been updating the Inspiration page of late with a few recent finds. One in particular that I think it really wonderful is the Scirus, a great search tool for science links and information. The site casts a wide net on different disciplines and you can narrow by abstract, articles--event patents.

I used it recently and found an interesting page on Archeology Anomolies, a thorough list of controversial discoveries and topics. I'm not advocating a particular stance here--just pointing out some sources to get the ol' Muse singing in your minds eye. Fair warning, it's long and you'll likely need to Google terms yourself, but it's enough to get you started.

In case that's too geeky, there's a handful of other links I sprinkled in on a variety of history, archeology, science, and other areas of interest. If you've got some you particularly enjoy, feel free to comment below and I'll look at adding them to the Inspiration page. This is a resource I'd like to expand and eventually organize.

Thanks and enjoy!

Amazing Timelapse Video of the Milky Way

The Mountain from Terje Sorgjerd on Vimeo.

Photography blog Shuttersalt says:
Terje Sorgjerd, the photographer behind the viral video The Aurora, has done it again. Here, Sogjerd captures the Milky Way over El Teide, Spain’s highest mountain.
You can also click through to see how the video was made.


Friday, March 18, 2011

Are you ready for this weekend's SUPERMOON?

Learn what makes a big full moon a true 'supermoon' in this infographic.

On Saturday, March 19, at 3:00 p.m. Eastern time, the SUPERMOON arrives! The moon will appear bigger due to it's orbit, the moon will appear bigger, brighter, and more beautiful than usual.

At its peak, the supermoon of March may appear 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than lesser full moons (when the moon is at its farthest from Earth), weather permitting. Yet to the casual observer, it may be hard to tell the difference.

The supermoon will not cause natural disasters, such as the Japan earthquake, a NASA scientist has stressed.
That's a relief! There will however be slight effect on ocean tides. For the full story and more moon facts, check out the

So get your cameras, binoculars, and telescopes and get out there and have a peek at the largest moon in nearly two decades!

Transylvanian Treasure Horde of Gold Discovered!

Image: Mihai Barbu, Reuters via National Geographic
Here's a few images of a treasure trove of gold goodies that was unearthed in Transylvania and belonged to the Dacians, an ancient civilization from around the time of the Roman Empire™.

From National Geographic:
Most of the 2,000-year-old accessories tip the scales at about 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) each, more than some laptops—a heft that materials scientist Paul Craddock found "surprising."

"Yes," Craddock concluded, "they did have a lot of gold."

"They" are the Dacian people, mysterious contemporaries of the ancient Romans. Ruling Transylvania centuries before Bram Stoker dreamed up Dracula, the Dacians left behind no writings but, the bracelets suggest, were apparently flush with treasure—as historians have long suspected, given the mineral wealth of the region's mountains and rivers.
Full story at Nat Geo...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Atlantis finally found in Spain--on land?

Using satellite imaging of a marshland area north of Caldiz, Spain, researchers believe they may have found the submerged "ringed city" of Atlantis. The findings will be featured on a National Geographic special tonight called Finding Atlantis.

Lead scientist Richard Freund says that Atlantis was wiped out by an ancient tsunami that came inland and "sank" the city. From Yahoo:
"It is just so hard to understand that it can wipe out 60 miles inland, and that's pretty much what we're talking about," said Freund, a University of Hartford, Connecticut, professor who lead an international team searching for the true site of Atlantis.

To solve the age-old mystery, the team used a satellite photo of a suspected submerged city to find the site just north of Cadiz, Spain. There, buried in the vast marshlands of the Dona Ana Park, they believe that they pinpointed the ancient, multi-ringed dominion known as Atlantis.

The team of archeologists and geologists in 2009 and 2010 used a combination of deep-ground radar, digital mapping, and underwater technology to survey the site.

Freund's discovery in central Spain of a strange series of "memorial cities," built in Atlantis' image by its refugees after the city's likely destruction by a tsunami, gave researchers added proof and confidence, he said.
Read the full story at Reuters.

And if Atlantis piques your interest, over at Flooby Nooby (What? that's the title!) there's a great post of 10 lost civilizations that mysterious disappeared.

/props to Boing Boing for the info!
/image: Nat Geo via MSNBC

Friday, March 11, 2011

Africa's Natural Nuclear Reactors

Image: United States Geological Survey and the Mineral Information Institute via Scientific American
Hat tip to Beam Me Up for finding this unusual story from Scientific American about a cache of uranium in a mine in Oklo (in Gabon) in western Africa that, in prehistoric times, had output a steady stream of energy for thousands of years. Now we're not talking Three-Mile Island here, it's more like 100 kilowatts of energy, but still, I find the idea of a "natural" nuclear power plant really intriguing.

From the Scientific American article by researcher Alex P. Meshik, PhD, who's studied the phenomenon:
Physicists confirmed the basic idea that natural fission reactions were responsible for the depletion in uranium 235 at Oklo quite soon after the anomalous uranium was discovered. Indisputable proof came from an examination of the new, lighter elements created when a heavy nucleus is broken in two. The abundance of these fission products proved so high that no other conclusion could be drawn. A nuclear chain reaction very much like the one that Enrico Fermi and his colleagues famously demonstrated in 1942 had certainly taken place, all on its own and some two billion years before.

Shortly after this astonishing discovery, physicists from around the world studied the evidence for these natural nuclear reactors and came together to share their work on “the Oklo phenomenon” at a special 1975 conference held in Libreville, the capital of Gabon. The next year George A. Cowan, who represented the U.S. at that meeting (and who, incidentally, is one of the founders of the renowned Santa Fe Institute, where he is still affiliated), wrote an article for Scientific American [see “A Natural Fission Reactor,” by George A. Cowan, July 1976] in which he explained what scientists had surmised about the operation of these ancient reactors.
Fascinating! Seems like fodder for a sci-fi story, doesn't it? Ancient astronauts plunder prehistoric earth for natural nuclear energy to power their spaceships and rayguns!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Gorgeous Glacier Cave Photos!

Now these are straight out of a sci-fi movie--or at least you'd swear they were! Eric Guth, who works for an Alaskan expedition company took some amazing photos of a cavern deep inside an glacier. Here's a few choice shots:

All photos: Eric Guth
Read the full story.
Hat tip to Boing Boing!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Pardon my dust....

I'm doing a little reformatting, mainly behind the scenes, but also some aesthetic changes. I've had my hands full for a bit with work life as well, which has slowed things down. I expect regular posting to resume withing a week (sooner would be great!).