Archive for the ‘research’ Category

Proposed path of Planet 9 around the sun with Neptune and several notable TNOs for reference [credit: Wikipedia]

Proposed path of Planet 9 around the sun with Neptune and several notable TNOs for reference [credit: Wikipedia]


Researchers suggest the pair may have got too close to the hypothetical Planet Nine, resulting in their current orbits.

The dynamical properties of these asteroids, observed spectroscopically for the first time using the Gran Telescopio CANARIAS, suggest a possible common origin and give a clue to the existence of a planet beyond Pluto, the so-called ‘Planet Nine’, reports Phys.org.

In the year 2000 the first of a new class of distant solar system objects was discovered, orbiting the Sun at a distance greater than that of Neptune: the “extreme trans Neptunian objects” (ETNOs). Their orbits are very far from the Sun compared with that of the Earth.

We orbit the Sun at a mean distance of one astronomical unit (1 AU which is 150 million kilometres) but the ETNOs orbit at more than 150 AU. To give an idea of how far away they are, Pluto’s orbit is at around 40 AU and its closest approach to the Sun (perihelion) is at 30 AU. This discovery marked a turning point in Solar System studies, and up to now, a total of 21 ETNOs have been identified.

Recently, a number of studies have suggested that the dynamical parameters of the ETNOs could be better explained if there were one or more planets with masses several times that of the Earth orbiting the Sun at distances of hundreds of AU.
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nasalogo
It looks more like ‘winding down’ at this stage, but ‘scrapping’ eventually. Not unexpected, if it goes ahead as suggested.
H/T Europe Breaking News

Donald Trump is poised to eliminate all climate change research conducted by Nasa as part of a crackdown on “politicized science”, his senior adviser on issues relating to the space agency has said.

Nasa’s Earth science division is set to be stripped of funding in favor of exploration of deep space, with the president-elect having set a goal during the campaign to explore the entire solar system by the end of the century. This would mean the elimination of Nasa’s world-renowned research into temperature, ice, clouds and other climate phenomena.
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Great Wall of China

Great Wall of China


This runs counter to claims that a warming world leads to more extreme weather. The summer monsoon strength shows a consistent decline over the study period. But last year was an exception – possibly related to the big El Niño?

In one of the most comprehensive studies on trends in local severe weather patterns to date, an international team of researchers found that the frequency of hail storms, thunderstorms and high wind events has decreased by nearly 50 percent on average throughout China since 1960, as Phys.org reports.

The team analyzed data from the most robust meteorological database known, the Chinese National Meteorology Information Center, a network of 983 weather observatories stationed throughout China’s 3.7 million square miles. Meteorologists have been collecting surface weather data through the network since 1951 or earlier, which provided the researchers an unprecedented look at local severe weather occurrences.
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gr_prob
The research team thinks its results are ‘difficult to understand in terms of dark matter’, reports Phys.org. The study was earlier reported here.

The distribution of normal matter precisely determines gravitational acceleration in all common types of galaxies, a team led by Case Western Reserve University researchers reports.

The team has shown this radial acceleration relation exists in nearby high-mass elliptical and low-mass spheroidal galaxies, building on last year’s discovery of this relation in spiral and irregular galaxies.

This provides further support that the relation is tantamount to a new natural law, the researchers say.
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Dwarf galaxy NGC 5264 [image credit: ESA/Hubble]

Dwarf galaxy NGC 5264 [image credit: ESA/Hubble]


Dark matter faces quantised inertia. One of these ideas must leave town, or the galaxies, it seems.

British physicist Dr Mike McCulloch, who previously used quantised inertia to explain how the controversial electromagnetic space propulsion technology EmDrive works, says that he has new evidence showing his theory can also explain galaxy rotation, which is one of physics’ biggest mysteries, as the IB Times reports.

McCulloch, a lecturer in geomatics at Plymouth University’s school of marine science and engineering, says he now has even more evidence that his “new physics theory” about quantised inertia works, and that it makes it possible to explain why galaxies are not ripped apart without using theory of dark matter.

One of the biggest problems in physics today is how galaxies rotate. Galaxies are collections of millions of stars swirling around, and galaxies spin so rapidly that their centrifugal force should cause them fly apart, as there isn’t enough visible matter in them to hold them together by the force of gravity.
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Kingdom of Judah [credit: IB Times]

Kingdom of Judah [credit: IB Times]


The ‘two Iron Age spikes’ in magnetism could be worth investigating further.

Ancient clay jar handles can act as a record of the Earth’s magnetic history, a new study finds, confirming evidence of sudden, sharp spikes in the strength of the field, as the IB Times reports.

Fragments of pottery were historically stamped with an emblem of the rulers of the Kingdom Judah, which encompassed Jerusalem and nearby areas. These jars were also marked by the state of the Earth’s geomagnetic field at its time of construction, offering researchers a unique chance to reconstruct the past of the Earth’s magnetic field.

The study is based on the technique of archaeomagnetism. Some minerals in clay are magnetic, and before they are heated they are aligned randomly. As the pottery is heated during the firing process, the magnetic particles tend to align with the Earth’s magnetic field. The stronger the magnetic field, the greater the degree of alignment in the magnetic minerals.
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Solar activity [image credit: NASA]

Solar activity [image credit: NASA]


A tough question on the face of it, but the researchers claim to have unearthed a ‘new type of solar event’ based on evidence from one tree (according to this report).
H/T oldmanK

Nagoya, Japan – An international team led by researchers at Nagoya University, along with US and Swiss colleagues, has identified a new type of solar event and dated it to the year 5480 BC; they did this by measuring carbon-14 levels in tree rings, which reflect the effects of cosmic radiation on the atmosphere at the time, as Scienmag reports.

They have also proposed causes of this event, thereby extending knowledge of how the sun behaves. When the activity of the sun changes, it has direct effects on the earth.

For example, when the sun is relatively inactive, the amount of a type of carbon called carbon-14 increases in the earth’s atmosphere. Because carbon in the air is absorbed by trees, carbon-14 levels in tree rings actually reflect solar activity and unusual solar events in the past.

The team took advantage of such a phenomenon by analyzing a specimen from a bristlecone pine tree, a species that can live for thousands of years, to look back deep into the history of the sun.
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HR 8799 system [image credit: Many Worlds]

HR 8799 system [image credit: Many Worlds]


It can’t get much more obvious than this. The report says ‘it’s a one-two-four-eight resonance’ of the orbits of these massive planets, but we find it’s much nearer to 1:2:4:9, with the outer planet taking 450 years for one orbit.

The era of directly imaging exoplanets has only just begun, but the science and viewing pleasures to come are appealingly apparent says Many Worlds.

This evocative movie of four planets more massive than Jupiter orbiting the young star HR 8799 is a composite of sorts, including images taken over seven years at the W.M. Keck observatory in Hawaii. The movie clearly doesn’t show full orbits, which will take many more years to collect.

The closest-in planet circles the star in around 49 years [report incorrectly says 40]; the furthest takes more than 400 years. But as described by Jason Wang,  an astronomy graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, researchers think that the four planets may well be in resonance with each other.
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Credit: Imperial College London

Credit: Imperial College London


A small team of researchers with the University of Hawaii, Ponta Grossa State University in Brazil and Stanford University has found what they believe is the reason that the surface of the sun rotates more slowly than its core, reports Phys.org.

In their paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters, the team explains how they used a new technique to measure the speed of the sun’s rotation at different depths and what it revealed about the speed of the sun’s outer 70km deep skin.

Scientists have known for some time that the surface of the sun spins more slowly than its interior but have no good explanation for it. In this new effort, the researchers were able to take a better look at what was occurring and by doing so discovered what they believe is the source of the slowdown.
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Image credit: BBC

Image credit: BBC

It’s an old idea but a new theory. The research director says ‘This is very exciting and in accord with very recent findings of an ‘ocean’s worth’ of water in the Earth’s mantle’.
– – –
Earth’s water may have originally been formed by chemical reactions deep within the planet’s mantle, according to research led by University College Dublin.

The new theory offers an alternative explanation as to how the life-giving liquid may have originated on Earth reports Phys.org.

Previously, scientists have suggested that comets that collided with the planet could have deposited large amounts of ice on the Earth which later melted, forming water.
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Which way next?

Which way next?


Those trying to make a business case for renewable energy may want to look away now. The assumption that vast numbers of solar panels and wind turbines are good for the environment is questionable.

Poverty, unemployment and zero economic growth are the likely outcome for countries which choose renewable energy sources over fossil fuels, according to a study.

Energy from fossil fuels appears to ignite economies into greater and more sustained growth, whereas energy from wind and solar power not only fails to enhance or promote economic growth, it actually causes economies to flat-line, as Phys.org reports.

The results, from an in-depth study of more than 100 countries over 40 years, pose a serious ethical dilemma, according to the lead author, economist Dr Nikolaos Antonakakis, Visiting Fellow at the University of Portsmouth Business School and Associate Professor at Webster Vienna University.

Dr Antonakakis said: “Put simply, the more energy a country consumes, the more it pollutes the environment, the more its economy grows. And the more the economy grows, the more energy consumption it needs, and so on.

“This poses big questions. Should we choose high economic growth, which brings lower unemployment and wealth for many, but which is unsustainable for the environment? Or should we choose low or zero economic growth, which includes high unemployment and a greater degree of poverty, and save our environment?”

Dr Antonakakis and co-authors, Dr Ioannis Chatziantoniou, at the University of Portsmouth, and Dr George Filis, at Bournemouth University, set out to study whether environmentally friendly forms of energy consumption were more likely to enhance economic growth.

In the light of recent policies designed to promote the use of green energy, including tax credits for the production of renewable energy and reimbursements for the installation of renewable energy systems, the authors predicted that environmentally friendly forms of energy consumption would enhance economic growth. Dr Antonakakis said: “It turned out not to be the case.”

They argue that societies now need to rethink their approach toward environmental sustainability, and strongly question the efficacy of the recent trend in many countries to promote renewable energy resources as a reliable alternative for helping achieve and maintain good economic growth.

The report continues here.

Northern Lights illuminate sky over UK [image credit: BBC]

Northern Lights illuminate sky over UK [image credit: BBC]


‘We could see these changes occurring as early as the next few decades’, say the researchers.

Britain may lose the magic of the Northern Lights by the middle of the century due to major shifts in solar activity, scientists have discovered.

Space scientists at the University of Reading conclude that plummeting solar activity will shrink the overall size of the sun’s ‘atmosphere’ by a third and weaken its protective influence on the Earth, reports Phys.org.

This could make the Earth more vulnerable to technology-destroying solar blasts and cancer-causing cosmic radiation, as well as making the aurora less common away from the north and south polar regions for 50 years or more.
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Image credit: NASA

Image credit: NASA


From the research paper: ‘We suggest the possibility that the Earth’s atmosphere of billions of years ago may be preserved on the present-day lunar surface.’

A team of researchers affiliated with several institutions in Japan, examining data from that country’s moon-orbiting Kaguya spacecraft, has found evidence of oxygen from Earth’s atmosphere making its way to the surface of the moon for a few days every month, reports Phys.org.

In their paper published in the journal Nature Astronomy, the researchers describe what data from the spacecraft revealed.
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Fairy circles in Namibia's Marienfluss valley  [image credit: Thorsten Becker]

Fairy circles in Namibia’s Marienfluss valley
[image credit: Thorsten Becker]


An attempt last year to explain the Australian version of this phenomenon was covered here.

One of nature’s greatest mysteries — the ‘Fairy Circles’ of Namibia — may have been unraveled by researchers at the University of Strathclyde and Princeton University, reports ScienceDaily.

The cause of the circular patches of earth surrounded by grass, which are arranged in honeycomb-like patterns in huge areas of the Namib desert, has been the source of scientific debate for decades.

The new research, published in scientific journal Nature, suggests that the interaction between termite engineering and the self-organization of vegetation could be jointly responsible for the phenomenon.
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Hurricane Katrina [image credit: NASA]

Hurricane Katrina [image credit: NASA]


Although some climate alarmists contend that CO2-induced global warming will increase the number of hurricanes in the future, the search for such effect on Atlantic Ocean tropical cyclone frequency has so far remained elusive, reports CO2 Science.

And with the recent publication of Rojo-Garibaldi et al. (2016), it looks like climate alarmists will have to keep on looking, or accept the likelihood that something other than CO2 is at the helm in moderating Atlantic hurricane frequency.

In their intriguing analysis published in the Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics, the four-member research team of Rojo-Garibaldi et al. developed a new database of historical hurricane occurrences in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, spanning twenty-six decades over the period 1749 to 2012.
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[click on image to enlarge]

[click on image to enlarge]


Another one to add to the ‘how and why did they do that?’ list of ancient sites. Years of research lie ahead.

Imagine you are about to plan and construct a building that involves several complicated geometrical shapes, but you aren’t allowed to write down any numbers or notes as you do it. For most of us, this would be impossible.

Yet, new research from Arizona State University has revealed that the ancient Southwestern Pueblo people, who had no written language or written number system, were able to do just that – and used these skills to build sophisticated architectural complexes, reports Phys.org.

Dr. Sherry Towers, a professor with the ASU Simon A. Levin Mathematical, Computational and Modeling Sciences Center, uncovered these findings while spending several years studying the Sun Temple archaeological site in Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, constructed around A.D. 1200.

“The site is known to have been an important focus of ceremony in the region for the ancestral Pueblo peoples, including solstice observations,” Towers says. “My original interest in the site involved looking at whether it was used for observing stars as well.”

However, as Towers delved deeper into the site’s layout and architecture, interesting patterns began to emerge.
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Credit: airbus.com

Credit: airbus.com


The observed radiation surges seem to occur ‘at relatively high latitudes, well above 50 degrees in both hemispheres’. They suspect certain magnetic phenomena could be at work. Korean researchers may have found something similar occurring at middle latitudes.

A new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Space Weather reports the discovery of radiation “clouds” at aviation altitudes. When airplanes fly through these clouds, dose rates of cosmic radiation normally absorbed by air travelers can double or more, reports Spaceweather.com.

“We have flown radiation sensors onboard 264 research flights at altitudes as high as 17.3 km (56,700 ft) from 2013 to 2017,” says Kent Tobiska, lead author of the paper and PI of the NASA-supported program Automated Radiation Measurements for Aerospace Safety (ARMAS). “On at least six occasions, our sensors have recorded surges in ionizing radiation that we interpret as analogous to localized clouds.”
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Petrified log at Petrified Forest National Park, AZ [image credit: Jon Sullivan / Wikipedia]

Petrified log at Petrified Forest National Park, AZ
[image credit: Jon Sullivan / Wikipedia]


They seem to base their estimates of the past solar cycle length on a study of only 79 years’ worth of data which is almost certainly too short for high accuracy, but the results are interesting nevertheless.

A pair of German researchers has found evidence in ancient tree rings of a solar sunspot cycle millions of years ago similar to the one observed in more modern times, reports Phys.org.

In their paper published in the journal Geology, Ludwig Luthardt and Ronny Rößler describe how they gathered an assortment of petrified tree samples from a region in Germany and used them to count sunspot cycles.

Scientists know that the sun undergoes a sunspot cycle of approximately 11 years—some spots appear, grow cooler and then slowly move toward the equator and eventually disappear—the changes to the sun spots cause changes to the brightness level of the sun—as the level waxes and wanes, plants here on Earth respond, growing more or less in a given year—this can be seen in the width of tree rings.

In this new effort, the researchers gathered petrified tree samples from a region of Germany that was covered by lava during a volcanic eruption approximately 290 million years ago (during the Permian period), offering a historical record of sun activity.
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fusiongrid
The latest contenders for the elusive fusion crown are reviewed here. Chasing the ‘holy grail’ of energy is an expensive and time-consuming business, as IB Times reports.

In a world struggling to kick its addiction to fossil fuels and feed its growing appetite for energy, there’s one technology in development that almost sounds too good to be true: nuclear fusion, writes Matthew Hall.

If it works, fusion power offers vast amounts of clean energy with a near limitless fuel source and virtually zero carbon emissions. That’s if it works. But there are teams of researchers around the world and billions of dollars being spent on making sure it does.

In February last year a new chapter of fusion energy research commenced with the formal opening of Wendelstein 7-X. This is an experimental €1 billion (A$1.4bn) fusion reactor built in Greifswald, Germany, to test a reactor design called a stellarator.
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venus_atm
A wave from pole to pole in the cloud tops that doesn’t move – but then disappears? Another Venus conundrum emerges.

A massive, un-moving structure has been discovered in the upper atmosphere of Venus, reports the IB Times.

Scientists detected the feature with the Jaxa’s Akatsuki spacecraft and they believe it is some sort of gravity wave – although they do not understand how it ended up at the altitude of cloud tops.

The bow-shaped structure was first spotted in December 2015 and a team led by scientists from Rikkyo University in Japan were able to observe it over several days.

It measured 10,000km in length and was brighter and hotter than the surrounding atmosphere. When scientists attempted to observe it again a month later, it had disappeared. The team published their findings in the journal Nature Geoscience.
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