Astronomers Discover Pair of Black Holes In Inactive Galaxy

William Robinson (875390) writes “The Astronomers at XMM-Newton have detected a pair of supermassive black holes at the center of an inactive galaxy. Most massive galaxies in the Universe are thought to harbor at least one supermassive black hole at their center. And a pair of black holes is indication of strong possibility that the galaxies have merged. Finding black holes in quiescent galaxies is difficult because there are no gas clouds feeding the black holes, so the cores of these galaxies are truly dark. It can be only detected by this ‘tidal disruption event’.”

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Deep-Space Missions Can Cause ‘Cognitive Deficits’ in Astronauts



The first astronauts who set foot on the moon were quarantined for three weeks when they returned to Earth. Scientists weren’t sure what kinds of lunar germs they might have brought back with them.

That level of caution may sound absurd today, but a new study shows trips to outer space can still mess with astronauts on a physiological level.

New research from Johns Hopkins finds that long-term deep space missions can alter brain proteins and cause cognitive deficits like lapses in attention and slower reaction times. Researchers came to this conclusion by exposing rats to high-energy particles that simulate the conditions that astronauts would experience in deep space, then running them through a series of tests that mimic the fitness assessments that astronauts, pilots, and soldiers are required to take. Read more…

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Why Habitable Exoplanets Might Mean Humanity Is Doomed



Last week, scientists announced the discovery of Kepler 186f, a planet 492 light years away in the Cygnus constellation. Kepler 186f is special because it marks the first planet almost exactly the same size as Earth orbiting in the “habitable zone” – the distance from a star in which we might expect liquid water, and perhaps life.

What did not make the news, however, is that this discovery also slightly increases how much credence we give to the possibility of near-term human extinction. This because of a concept known as the Great Filter.

The Great Filter is an argument that attempts to resolve the Fermi Paradox: why have we not found aliens, despite the existence of hundreds of billions of solar systems in our galactic neighborhood in which life might evolve? As the namesake physicist Enrico Fermi noted, it seems rather extraordinary that not a single extraterrestrial signal or engineering project has been detected (UFO conspiracy theorists notwithstanding). Read more…

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Virgin Galactic SpaceshipTwo: What Your $250K Flight Will Feel Like



The future of manned spaceflight is coming into focus. Whether it’s through NASA’s Orion program, its partnerships with private companies or in the form of the quick, space-immersion experiences that Virgin Galatic’s SpaceshipTwo spaceships are soon to offer.

Billionaire Richard Branson recently placed a full-scale replica of his spaceship on the deck of the Intrepid Air and Space Museum in New York City. You can see it for yourself in the gallery above and Vine video below

Despite the company working on private spaceflight for almost a decade, not many people have seen SpaceshipTwo (even an exact replica) in person or know a lot about what it will be like to fly in one of these things. Until now. Read more…

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Experts: Without Russia, the U.S. Has No Manned Spaceflight Options



Right now, some 250 miles above Earth, a six-member crew is aboard the International Space Station: two Americans, one Japanese astronaut and three Russian cosmonauts. Back here on ground, though, the countries haven’t been playing quite as nicely. As a result of Russia’s recent actions in the Ukraine, the U.S. will suspend some space-related contact with Russia (but not on the ISS).

For NASA employees, astronauts and space watchers, the tenuous relationship is potentially problematic. Russia is now the only option for American astronauts to travel to the ISS. Period

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Asteroid Impacts Bigger Risk Than Thought

Rambo Tribble (1273454) writes “The B612 Foundation, a U.S.-based nuclear test monitoring group, has disclosed that their acoustic sensors show asteroid impacts to be much more common than previously thought. Between 2000 and 2013 their infrasound system detected 26 major explosions due to asteroid strikes. The impacts were gauged at energies of 1 to 600 kilotons, compared to 45 kilotons for 1945 Hiroshima bomb.”

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Astronomers Map Milky Way in Remarkable Detail



Astronomers are one step closer to solving a longstanding mystery — just what our Milky Way galaxy looks like.

It may seem odd that a comprehensive understanding of the Milky Way’s structure has so far eluded researchers. But it’s tough to get a broad view of the galaxy from within.

“We are fairly confident that the Milky Way is a spiral galaxy, but we don’t know much in detail. At the most basic level, we’d like to be able to make a map that would show in detail what it looks like,” said Mark Reid of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who led the new study.

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NASA Astronauts Complete Spacewalk



NASA astronauts Steve Swanson and Rick Mastracchio completed a 1.5-hour spacewalk on Wednesday to replace a failed Multiplexer/Demultiplexer (MDM) back up computer aboard the International Space Station.

The spacewalk started just before 10 a.m. ET when the crew switched their suits to battery power, signaling the start of the operation. They began their re-pressurization sequence in the ISS’s airlock at 11:32 a.m. ET, which signifies the excursion’s end time.

Image: NASA/Mashable

The astronauts replaced a backup computer which failed on April 11 Read more…

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Hubble Telescope Image Reveals a Cross Section of the Cosmos



A new photo from NASA’s Hubble space telescope captures a variety of celestial objects both near and far, providing a glimpse of many different stages of cosmic history all at once.

The Hubble image, released April 17, is a 14-hour exposure that shows objects about 1 billion times fainter than the naked eye can make out, researchers said. Most of the galaxies visible in the photo lie less than 5 billion light-years away, but some objects are much more distant.

For example, the photo shows a quasar located 9 billion light-years from Earth, meaning it has taken about two-thirds of the universe’s history for the object’s light to reach Hubble. (The Big Bang that created the universe occurred 13.8 billion years ago.) Read more…

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‘Low-Cost’ Folding Telescope Under Development at DARPA



The United States military’s advanced research arm is working on a foldable space telescope that could image Earth in high resolution at a relatively low cost.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) says the telescope design – known as the Membrane Optical Imager for Real-Time Exploitation, or MOIRE – would be of great use in geosynchronous Earth orbit, the spot 22,000 miles up where most telecommunications satellites reside.

“Membrane optics could enable us to fit much larger, higher-resolution telescopes in smaller and lighter packages,” Lt. Col. Larry Gunn, MOIRE program manager, said in a statement. Read more…

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