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Passing the alcohol test: Fundamental properties of molecules have not changed during the past seven billion years

Schematic image of the methanol molecule. The black sphere represents the central carbon atom, the red one an oxygen atom and the grey spheres represent hydrogen atoms. The yellow arrow represents the internal rotation of the molecule, whose impediment causes a quantum tunnel effect. (Credit: VU University of Amsterdam / Paul Jansen)

Dec. 14, 2012 — The mass ratio of protons and electrons is deemed to be a universal constant. And rightly so, as the latest radio-astronomy observations of a distant galaxy have shown. Scientists at the VU University of Amsterdam and the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn used the 100-metre radio telescope in Effelsberg to measure absorption lines of the methanol...

Human brain, Internet, and cosmology: Similar laws at work?

Simple mapping between the two surfaces representing the geometries of the universe and complex networks proves that their large-scale growth dynamics and structures are similar. (Credit: Image courtesy of CAIDA/SDSC)

BestAstronomy (Nov. 19, 2012) — The structure of the universe and the laws that govern its growth may be more similar than previously thought to the structure and growth of the human brain and other complex networks, such as the Internet or a social...

Looking beyond space and time to cope with quantum theory

Trying to explain quantum “spooky action at a distance” using any kind of signal pits Einstein’s relativity against our concept of a smooth spacetime. (Credit: Timothy Yeo / CQT, National University of Singapore)

BestAstronomy (Oct. 28, 2012) — Physicists have proposed an experiment that could force us to make a choice between extremes to describe the behaviour of the Universe.

The proposal comes from an international team of researchers...

Hubble unmasks ghost galaxies

BestAstronomy (July 10, 2012) — Astronomers have used the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to study some of the smallest and faintest galaxies in our cosmic neighbourhood. These galaxies are fossils of the early Universe: they have barely changed for 13 billion years. The discovery could help explain the so-called "missing satellite" problem, where only a handful of satellite galaxies have been found around the Milky Way, against the thousands that are predicted by...

Quantum computers will be able to simulate particle collisions

BestAstronomy (June 1, 2012) — Quantum computers are still years away, but a trio of theorists has already figured out at least one talent they may have. According to the theorists, including one from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), physicists might one day use quantum computers to study the inner workings of the universe in ways that are far beyond the reach of even the most powerful conventional supercomputers.

Quantum computers require technology...

Could 'advanced' dinosaurs rule other planets?

BestAstronomy (Apr. 11, 2012) — New scientific research raises the possibility that advanced versions of T. rex and other dinosaurs -- monstrous creatures with the intelligence and cunning of humans -- may be the life forms that evolved on other planets in the universe. "We would be better off not meeting them," concludes the study, which appears in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

In the report, noted scientist Ronald Breslow, Ph.D., discusses the century-old...

NASA's Gravity Probe B confirms two Einstein space-time theories

— NASA's Gravity Probe B (GP-B) mission has confirmed two key predictions derived from Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity, which the spacecraft was designed to test.

The experiment, launched in 2004, used four ultra-precise gyroscopes to measure the hypothesized geodetic effect, the warping of space and time around a gravitational body, and frame-dragging, the amount a spinning object pulls space and time...

— NASA's Gravity Probe B (GP-B) mission has confirmed two key...

Far sighted space technology finds practical uses on Earth

— Technology developed for space missions to study the most distant objects in the Universe is now finding a host of practical applications back on Earth. QMC Instruments Ltd., in partnership with the Astronomical instrumentation Group at Cardiff University, has built instruments for many major space missions, including Herschel and Planck. Now, expanding on that experience they are developing KIDCAM, a kind of ...

— Technology developed for space missions to study the most distant...

An icy gaze into the big bang: Quantum physicists investigate new states of matter in ultracold atom mixtures

— Scientists of the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information (IQOQI) in Innsbruck, Austria, have reached a milestone in the exploration of quantum gas mixtures. In an international first, the research group led by Rudolf Grimm and Florian Schreck has succeeded in producing controlled strong interactions between two fermionic elements -- lithium-6 and potassium-40. This model system not only promises to ...

— Scientists of the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum...

The most distant mature galaxy cluster: Young, but surprisingly grown-up

— "We have measured the distance to the most distant mature cluster of galaxies ever found," says the lead author of the study in which the observations from ESO's VLT have been used, Raphael Gobat (CEA, Paris). "The surprising thing is that when we look closely at this galaxy cluster it doesn't look young -- many of the galaxies have settled down and don't resemble the usual star-forming galaxies seen in the early ...

— "We have measured the distance to the most distant mature cluster...

Flocculent spiral has relatively low star formation rate

— The galaxy NGC 2841 -- shown in a NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image, taken with the space observatory's newest instrument, the Wide Field Camera 3 -- currently has a relatively low star formation rate compared to other spirals. It is one of several nearby galaxies that have been specifically chosen for a new study in which a pick 'n' mix of different stellar nursery environments and birth rates are being ...

— The galaxy NGC 2841 -- shown in a NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image...

Herschel measures dark matter for star-forming galaxies

— The Herschel Space Observatory has revealed how much dark matter it takes to form a new galaxy bursting with stars.

The findings are a key step in understanding how dark matter, an invisible substance permeating our universe, contributed to the birth of massive galaxies in the early universe.

"If you start with too little dark matter, then a developing galaxy would peter out," said astronomer Asantha Cooray of the...

— The Herschel Space Observatory has revealed how much dark matter...

Astronomers identify thick disc of older stars in nearby Andromeda galaxy

— An international team of astronomers has identified for the first time a thick stellar disc in the Andromeda galaxy, the nearest large spiral galaxy to our own Milky Way.

The discovery of the thick disc, a major result from a five-year investigation, will help astronomers better understand the processes involved in the formation and evolution of large spiral galaxies like ours, according to the team, which includes...

— An international team of astronomers has identified for the first...

First stars in universe were not alone

— The first stars in the universe were not as solitary as previously thought. In fact, they could have formed alongside numerous companions when the gas disks that surrounded them broke up during formation, giving birth to sibling stars in the fragments.

These are the findings of studies performed with the aid of computer simulations by researchers at Heidelberg University's Centre for Astronomy together with...

— The first stars in the universe were not as solitary as previously...

Exploring an 'island of inversion,' physicists find new clues to element synthesis in supernovae

— Elements heavier than iron come into being only in powerful stellar explosions, supernovae. During nuclear reactions all kinds of short-lived atomic nuclei are formed, including more stable combinations -- the so-called magic numbers -- predicted by theory. Yet here, too, there are exceptions: the islands of inversion. Headed by physicists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen ...

— Elements heavier than iron come into being only in powerful...

Picture-perfect pure-disc galaxy

— The bright galaxy NGC 3621, captured in a new image using the Wide Field Imager on the 2.2-meter telescope at ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile, appears to be a fine example of a classical spiral. But it is in fact rather unusual: it does not have a central bulge and is therefore described as a pure-disc galaxy.

NGC 3621 is a spiral galaxy about 22 million light-years away in the constellation of Hydra (The Sea...

— The bright galaxy NGC 3621, captured in a new image using the...

Planck's new view of the cosmic theater

— The first scientific results from ESA's Planck mission were released on Jan. 11, 2011 in Paris. The findings focus on the coldest objects in the Universe, from within our Galaxy to the distant reaches of space.

If William Shakespeare were an astronomer living today, he might write that "All the Universe is a stage, and all the galaxies merely players." Planck is bringing us new views of both the stage and players,...

— The first scientific results from ESA's Planck mission were...

NASA's Fermi catches thunderstorms hurling antimatter into space

— Scientists using NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope have detected beams of antimatter produced above thunderstorms on Earth -- a phenomenon never seen before.

Scientists think the antimatter particles were formed in a terrestrial gamma-ray flash (TGF), a brief burst produced inside thunderstorms and shown to be associated with lightning. It is estimated that about 500 TGFs occur daily worldwide, but most go...

— Scientists using NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope have detected...

Toronto astronomers among those announcing first scientific results of Planck satellite mission

— University of Toronto astronomers are part of an international conference, taking place in Paris, announcing the first scientific results of the Plank space telescope mission.

Launched in May, 2009, the telescope has nearly completed three of its four planned surveys of the entire sky, providing astronomers a glimpse of conditions near the beginning of the Universe and providing data that will help answer the big...

— University of Toronto astronomers are part of an international...

14 billion years of cosmic history in one: Planck mission presents first results

— The Planck conference in Paris this week will be dedicated to the impressive results achieved in the first year with the Planck Surveyor satellite mission to study the Big Bang, 14 billion years ago: a catalogue with 15000 celestial objects such as galaxy clusters, quasars, radio galaxies, nearby galaxies and galactic dust clouds, 25 scientific papers, as well as the most precise measurement of the far infrared ...

— The Planck conference in Paris this week will be dedicated to the...

Dwarf galaxy harbors supermassive black hole

— The surprising discovery of a supermassive black hole in a small nearby galaxy has given astronomers a tantalizing look at how black holes and galaxies may have grown in the early history of the Universe. Finding a black hole a million times more massive than the Sun in a star-forming dwarf galaxy is a strong indication that supermassive black holes formed before the buildup of galaxies, the astronomers said.

The...

— The surprising discovery of a supermassive black hole in a small...