[ News Blog of Survive2012 ]

AP story on the next sunspot cycle

• The next sunspot cycle is expected in late 2011 or mid-2012 • Forecasters are split over whether their will be 90 sunspots or 140 sunspots • Solar storms can disrupt Earth communications

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Flares can kill GPS

"Bursts of radiation caused by solar flares interfere with the signal from satellites orbiting the earth, causing the receivers in cars to lose track of their position."

So if you have thrown your road map away, and are relying on GPS to get you somewhere, and it plays up, don't blame the manufacturer - blame nature!

Source: Telegraph

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Black Hole that does 27,000 rpm

That's right, either the fundamentals are wrong, or this black hole spins on its axis 27 thousand times every minute!

GRO J1655-40 has two powerful jets of plasma rushing away from its poles at nearly the speed of light. The illustration above is said to depict both a polar jet and the surrounding accretion disk. But how this curious reversal of gravity’s influence actually works is not yet clear, the theorists say.

Recent investigation has also found that GRO J1655-40 displays an unexpected flickering some 450 times a second. How would the mathematicians respond to something never envisioned by a model that worked only with mass, density, and rotation? Very simply. The hidden black hole must be rotating at an amazing 27,000 rpm, somehow creating an energetic “lighthouse” beam of radiation.

Source: Thunderbolts.info

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Japan has launched a Sun 'microscope'

"Solar-B" is one of the new spacecraft dedicated to understanding our Sun. Next month NASA will launch its Stereo mission - two spacecraft that will make 3D observations of the Sun.

The probe will attempt to find out more about the magnetic fields thought to power solar flares, and try to identify the trigger that sets them off.

The ultimate goal for scientists is to use the new insights to make better forecasts of the Sun's behaviour.

Source: BBC

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Solar Cycle Has Turned?

"A backward sunspot is a sign that the next solar cycle is beginning."

....It sounds exciting, but Hathaway is cautious on several fronts:

First, the sunspot lasted only three hours. Typically, sunspots last days, weeks or even months. Three hours is fleeting in the extreme. "It came and went so fast, it was not given an official sunspot number," says Hathaway. The astronomers who number sunspots didn't think it worthy!

Second, the latitude of the spot is suspicious. New-cycle sunspots almost always pop up at mid-latitudes, around 30o N or 30o S. The backward sunspot popped up at 13o S. "That's strange."

These odd-isms stop Hathaway short of declaring the onset of a new solar cycle. "But it looks promising," he says.

Source: NASA

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Moon's bulge explained?

Personally, I think it is the join line, like what you see on cheap, plastic toys...

The moon's peculiar shape can be explained if the satellite moved in an eccentric oval-shaped orbit 100 million years after its violent formation, when the satellite hadn't yet solidified, the researchers say.

It was like a big ball of molasses and all around the equator it got deformed, study team member Ian Garrick-Bethell of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology told SPACE.com.

Around that time, conditions, such as orbit shape and position, were optimal for this "ball of molasses" to cool down and become the solid moon that we now know.

Source: CNN

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Unique supernova remnant

Embedded in the heart of a supernova remnant 10,000 light-years away is a stellar object the likes of which astronomers have never seen before in our galaxy.

At first glance, the object looks like a densely packed stellar corpse known as a neutron star surrounded by a bubble of ejected stellar material, exactly what would be expected in the wake of a supernova explosion.

However, a closer 24.5-hour examination with the European Space Agency's XMM Newton X-ray satellite reveals that the energetic X-ray emissions of the blue, point-like object cycles every 6.7 hours — tens of thousands of times longer than expected for a freshly created neutron star.

One explanation for the neutron star's strange behavior is that it might be a magnetar, an exotic subclass of highly magnetized neutron stars. Of the dozen or so magnetars that are known, however, most usually spin several times per minute — much faster than 1E.[1E161348-5055]

Source: USA Today

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Could a local Quark Nova harm us??

A new candidate for "local space nasty that can cause us damage in 2012" has emerged:

The density creates such high pressure at the core that quarks sometimes could be squeezed out of their usually tight groupings, and become free. This liberation, called quark deconfinement, would turn a normal neutron star into a “quark star.”

Astronomers have already found a few objects that they theorize may be quark stars.

But Rachid Ouyed, an astrophysicist at the University of Calgary in Canada, and a group of colleagues also propose that their formation could release massive amounts of energy, producing a type of implosion they call a “quark nova.” That, they add, may help explain certain hitherto mysterious cosmic blasts.

“Quark stars are the only place we would expect to see quarks ranging free in nature,” said Ouyed. His group plans to present findings of their theoretical studies June 5 at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Calgary.

Most likely to become quark stars are fast-spinning neutron stars with masses between 1.5 and 1.8 times that of our sun, they calculated. Thus one in every hundred known neutron stars could actually be a quark star.

Quark stars probably look like normal neutron stars except they don’t emit certain radio waves, the researchers argue. This peculiarity has already been noted in a class of neutron stars described as “radio-quiet,” about seven of which are known. Thus, these may be quark stars, the scientists say.

And so, is there a local candidate. Yes there is, RX J1856.5-3754 (also called RX J185635-3754, RX J185635-375, and various other designations). Discovered in 1992, it is between 150 & 450 light years away. Next closest is Geminga (Gemini gamma-ray source), a neutron star approximately 552 light-years away in the constellation Gemini.

Source: World Science

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Quasar / Black Hole – without a surrounding galaxy?

Astronomers have observed what appears to be a quasar floating all by its lonesome in space. If confirmed, it would be the first instance of a quasar – and therefore a black hole – without a surrounding galaxy.

Quasars are extremely bright light emissions from super-massive black holes, caused when gas is drawn in by a hole’s enormous gravity. The process heats the gas to extreme temperatures, creating brilliance observable from Earth.

The new discovery raises questions about whether super-massive black holes could form before galaxies and whether a halo of dark matter around a black hole could spark a quasar.

Source: New Scientist

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DNA Nebula

The discovery of the twisted nebula, which stretches across 80 light-years at the center of the Milky Way, the galaxy that includes Earth, was reported in the current edition of the journal Nature.
Just wait until they decode it and find that it represents the DNA of a newt! Or a hyena!

Source: CNN

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New Type of Cosmic Explosion

Could this be evidence of a new space nasty? One that can occur close enough to cause us harm in 2012?

A new kind of cosmic explosion, catalogued as GRB 060218, has been spotted in Earth's celestial neighbourhood, scientists report.

The blast seems like a gamma-ray burst, but when scientists first detected it with NASA's Swift satellite on 18 February, the explosion was about 25 times closer and lasted 100 times longer than a typical gamma-ray burst.

"This could be a new kind of burst, or we might be seeing a gamma-ray burst from an entirely different angle," said Swift scientist John Nousek at Penn State University. Astronomers don't fully understand gamma-ray bursts (GRBs). But they theorize that when one is pointed our way, it appears brighter than when the beams it produces shoot off in other directions.

The explosion originated in a star-forming galaxy about 440 million light-years away towards the constellation Aries. This would be the second-closest gamma-ray burst ever detected, if indeed it is one.

The burst lasted for nearly 2000 seconds, or about 33 minutes, astronomers say. Most bursts last a few milliseconds to tens of seconds.

It was dimmer than most. Even so, the newly spotted point of light in the sky outshines the entire galaxy in which the event occurred.

If the eruption indeed precedes a supernova, then it would reach peak brightness in about a week, scientists said.

Sources: ABC + Space.com + NASA

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Space-elevator - one mile high

I love this - it will happen:

A slim cable for a space elevator has been built stretching a mile into the sky, enabling robots to scrabble some way up and down the line.

LiftPort Group, a private US company on a quest to build a space elevator by April 2018, stretched the strong carbon ribbon 1 mile (1.6 km) into the sky from the Arizona desert outside Phoenix in January tests, it announced on Monday.

The company's lofty objective will sound familiar to followers of NASA's Centennial Challenges programme. The desired outcome is a 62,000-mile (99,779 km) tether that robotic lifters – powered by laser beams from Earth – can climb, ferrying cargo, satellites and eventually people into space.

Source: New Scientist

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Bursting Neutron Stars

from 1998 to 2002...the team's computer algorithm identified 11 bursting radio sources coming from various directions near the galactic plane. The team spent the next three years observing the sky coordinates of these objects to confirm the discovery and to measure their properties.

On average these bursting objects are invisible for all but 0.1 to 1 second per day, which explains why they were not discovered earlier. The bursts last between 2 and 30 milliseconds, with intervals between bursts ranging from 4 minutes to 3 hours. Previous astronomers might have interpreted such signals as radio interference.

The group found periodicities for 10 of the 11 sources, falling between 0.4 and 7 seconds. This regularity strongly suggests (but does not prove) that the radio bursts come from rotating neutron stars. McLaughlin's team has affectionately named these objects RRATs, short for Rotating RAdio Transients.

Source: Sky and Telescope

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Neutron stars, not black holes, at center of galaxies

Dr. Oliver Manuel claims that "massive neutron stars are the energy source at the center of galaxies. “The neutron stars break up and form smaller stars, which drift apart to form planetary systems,”

“This cycle involves neither the production of matter in an initial Big Bang, nor the disappearance of matter into black holes.”

Since the 1960s, scientists have more or less assumed that black holes populate the center of galaxies. Manuel says that assumption just doesn’t make sense to him.

“You should find a hole there, not a huge outpouring of energy and light,” Manuel insists. “If black holes exist at the center of galaxies, stars should be falling in -- instead of explosively moving away from the center.”

More: www.physorg.com

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Eta Carinae might be a twin

...a team is claiming the first direct evidence that Eta Carinae has a binary companion. Astronomers previously have been unable to detect this star for three reasons: the entire system is shrouded in vast quantities of dust, the secondary star's light is overwhelmed by the brilliance of the primary, and the two objects are separated by less than 10 milliarcseconds on the sky.

Based on previous indirect evidence, many astronomers have long suspected that a companion lurks in Eta Carinae's midst. In 1997 Augusto Damineli (University of São Paulo, Brazil) first called attention to the fact that Eta Carinae's optical spectrum undergoes changes every 5.5 years, presumably due to an orbiting star swinging behind the primary star in an elliptical orbit. Subsequent X-ray observations have lent powerful support to this picture, indicating that the winds of the two stars violently collide when the two bodies approach each other every 5.5 years.

But in a paper that has been posted on the Internet and that is scheduled to appear in the November 1st Astrophysical Journal, lead author Rosina C. Iping (Catholic University of America) and four colleagues report the direct detection of ultraviolet light from the companion.

Source: Sky and Telescope

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Another Magnetar Blast

On November 3rd, at least six spacecraft picked up a powerful burst of gamma rays coming from an area in Ursa Major in the general direction of M81 and M82, two relatively large galaxies located about 12 million light-years away. Most of the flare's energy was packed into a pulse lasting just one-tenth of a second. If the burst originated in M81 or M82, the total energy and spectrum closely resemble the December 2004 giant flare from SGR 1806–20.

...taken together these two flares suggest that such blasts occur once every few decades in a large spiral galaxy such as the Milky Way.

Source: Sky & Telescope

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Galactic Center Black Hole Only Sleeping

Scientists have long said that it is an unusually quiet galactic center, but the lack of energy seems to be temporary...

In other galaxies it is common to find black holes that are 100 million times brighter...

Only 350 years ago it would have looked a million times brighter to us on Earth than it does now...

Luckily, even if the black hole erupted again it would not pose a threat to life on Earthm, as our atmosphere provides ample protection from gamma rays.

But, the New Scientist article fails to mention if our atmosphere is enough to protect us from a million times current brightness (as in 350 years ago) or 100 million times, like other balck holes normally have, or even more than that...

Source: New Scientist Feb 5 2005, page 8

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Mysterious Gamma Ray Sources

Astronomers are puzzled by two vast objects in our galaxy that spew powerful radiation, yet appear pitch black.

The objects are not black holes, which generally are smaller and which, despite their name, do seem to emit visible light, though that light actually comes from around them and not inside them.

The two bizarre objects were detected in a survey of sources within our galaxy of very high-energy gamma rays. Gamma rays are a type of light that is the most powerful known, yet is invisible to our eyes.

The objects appear to be light-years wide, the astronomers said. This would make them bigger than our Solar System

...The newfound objects are also distinct from another, well known type of gamma-ray source called gamma-ray bursts—momentary flashes of gamma rays, detected about once a day, which astronomers think may signal the birth of black holes as dead stars abruptly shrink out of existence. Astronomers have dubbed the mystery objects dark accelerators.

Source: World Science

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MegaFauna Extinctions - A Supernova?

A supernova blast 41,000 years ago started a deadly chain of events that led to the extinction of mammoths and other animals in North America, according to two scientists.

...a key piece of evidence for the supernova is a set of 34,000-year-old mammoth tusks riddled with tiny craters.

...Whatever caused the craters had to have been traveling around 6,214 miles per second, and no other natural phenomenon explains the damage, they said.

They think the supernova exploded 250 light-years away from Earth, which would account for the 7,000-year delay before the tusk grain pelting. It would have taken that long for the supernova materials to have showered to Earth.

Then, 21,000 years after that event, the researchers believe a comet-like formation from the supernova's debris blew over North America and wreaked havoc.

This means that any supernova that could affect us would have been seen 6750 years ago. Or a different time depending on the distance. Basically, we won't see it coming!

Source: Discovery Channel

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Star leaves Milky Way at 1100 km per second

Astronomers have found a fast moving pulsar on a trajectory that'll take it completely out of the Milky Way. The object, called B1508+55, is located about 7,700 light-years from Earth ...moving at approximately 1,100 km/s (670 miles/s). By tracking its position back, the astronomers have calculated that it started out in the constellation Cygnus. A powerful nearby supernova explosion probably kicked it into its current trajectory.

Source: Universe Today

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