Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Waters of Mars

Summary: As you have no doubt heard, NASA announced yesterday that there is now concrete evidence of flowing water on the surface of Mars. Amazing isn't it? I'll put a link to the press release but first let me highlight a few items. 

1. This was first noticed by am undergraduate student who was studying photos of the surface of Mars. They noticed that there were dark patterns on the surface, resembling river beds, that would appear in June and grow before shrinking again to nothing in September. They would then appear at the same time next year although never in the exact same spot. 

2. Not only was this proof of flowing liquid, but scientists were able to detect hydrated salt crystals. Proof that this liquid is definitely water. 

3. And because it is such a regular pattern, it is safe to assume that it has been occurring for much longer than five years. 

All this gives me greater hope for future exploration of Mars. Maybe this will provide enough public support that the space programs of the world can start collaborations more effectively. 

Of course the Whovian in me is also screaming that we shouldn't trust the water, but that's for another episode to address. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Symmetry of Nuclei

Summary: Finally, some news about antimatter! Scientists at the LHC who are working on ALICE, have been able to more precisely measure the nuclei of particles and their antiparticles. Happily they discovered that there is fundamental symmetry with their charge, parity, and time.

The ALICE experiment smashes particles together that create nuclei and antinuclei at the same rate which allow the scientists to study them easier.

Quarks to Quasars

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Another Nail in the Coffin for the Standard Model?

Summary: Data from the LHC's last run is still being analysed and with this comes possible new data to suggest faults in the standard model. Researchers at University of Maryland are studying leptons, subatomic particles that help to make up our universe. While studying the decay rate, they observed that not all particles decayed at the same rate as they should. Something was influencing the process.

What this mysterious force is, we do not know, but it is not predicted to exist in the standard model. This experiment is building on another experiment of their that also seemed to contradict the standard model. So it is not an instrumental error. Whatever it is, I am excited to find out.

University of Maryland

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Pluto Press Conference

Summary: It has been hard to miss the news of New Horizons flying past Pluto and getting beautiful images and data to send back to Earth. It has been harder to keep up with the constant flood of data that is pouring out. NASA has thankfully given a press conference and has published the highlights online.

Personally I am most overjoyed that they have nicknamed the dark spot on the top of Charon Mordor but I also love hearing about the giant ice cliffs. I will point you straight toward the mission site though to get all of the highlights.

If you have access to BBC, their program Sky at Night will be doing a big recap of all the news and what it means on the night of the 20th.

BBC News

Pluto through the years Credit: NASA

New particle seen at CERN

Summary: Nearly lost amid all the Pluto excitement, scientists at CERN have possibly discovered a new particle called the pentaquark. This new particle has been theorized to exist since the 60s and many have claimed to discover it before so they are being cautious. However, if this is indeed what is seems to be, then we have a new form of matter.

The pentaquark is a particle composed of four quarks and one antiquark.

Scientists found the particle by studying the way that the particle Lambda b decayed into three other particles. Some of the intermediary stages only made sense if the pentaquark did exist. Although still cautious about declaring this to be the pentaquark, the technology available to researchers at CERN allows them to view the problem in five dimensions rather than just one.

If this is indeed the particle they think it is, it will provide us with new ways of imagining quarks to be arranged and matter to be composed. Matter may be more complex than we thought.

BBC News

Quintuplet Stars

Summary: Our solar system features one star. There are many examples of binary star systems and even two binary stars coupled together. But astronomers have now found an incredibly rare new system. Two couples binary stars with one lonely companion star to make up a total of five stars.

Of the binaries, one is a detached pair and the other is coupled, meaning that the two stars share an outer atmosphere. Although there are no observations to prove it, it is possible that there are planets orbiting these stars. What a spectacular sky show they would have.

BBC News

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Rise and Shine, Philae

Summary: Remember when there was a huge celebration because as a human race, we landed a rover on a comet? It was thrilling at the time, but we lost contact with the rover after it bounced into the shade of a cliff. Now the comet has tilted to allow sunlight to reach Philae and the rover has reached out to Earth.

A few very short message was received but it gives scientists hope and affirms that the rover may be able to still carry out its mission. There is not much else known at this point but the comet will be shifting into a position with more sunlight so more can be understood about the condition of the rover.

BBC News