The strange object is circling a star 25,000 light years away
A star in the centre of our galaxy keeps blinking in and out of existence, and scientists have not been able to work out why.
In the middle of the Milky Way galaxy, 25,000 light years away, is the mysterious star VVV-WIT-08. Many stars change in brightness because they pulsate, or are eclipsed by another star, but this one is exceptionally rare because it becomes fainter over a several months – then suddenly brighter again.
Astronomers believe that VVV-WIT-08 is a new class of ‘blinking giant’ binary star system, where the giant mass of gas is blocked every few decades.
Scientists still don’t know what could be hiding the planet, though; the companion object, which could be another star or planet, is surrounded by an opaque disc, covering the star.
“Occasionally we find variable stars that don’t fit into any established category, which we call ‘what-is-this?’, or ‘WIT’ objects. We really don’t know how these blinking giants came to be. It’s exciting to see such discoveries from VVV after so many years planning and gathering the data,” Professor Philip Lucas from the University of Hertfordshire said.
It is possible that some unknown, dark object could have drifted in front of the giant star by chance, but it is incredibly unlikely. Simulations indicate there would have to be a ridiculously large number of dark bodies floating in the Milky Way for such an occurrence to happen by chance.
“It’s amazing that we just observed a dark, large and elongated object pass between us and the distant star and we can only speculate what its origin is,” said co-author Dr Sergey Koposov from the University of Edinburgh.
One other star system similar to VVV-WIT-08 has been known for some time: the giant star Epsilon Aurigae, which is partially eclipsed by a massive dust disk every 27 years. Even then, however, it is only dimmed by 50 per cent. Two more of these strange stars have been found in addition to this one, implying that even more may be out there.about:blank
“There are certainly more to be found, but the challenge now is in figuring out what the hidden companions are, and how they came to be surrounded by discs, despite orbiting so far from the giant star,” said Dr Leigh Smith from Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy.
In upcoming research, scientists will attempt to show the universe has consciousness. Yes, really. No matter the outcome, we’ll soon learn more about what it means to be conscious—and which objects around us might have a mind of their own.
What will that mean for how we treat objects and the world around us? Buckle in, because things are about to get weird.
What Is Consciousness?
The basic definition of consciousness intentionally leaves a lot of questions unanswered. It’s “the normal mental condition of the waking state of humans, characterized by the experience of perceptions, thoughts, feelings, awareness of the external world, and often in humans (but not necessarily in other animals) self-awareness,” according to the Oxford Dictionary of Psychology.
Scientists simply don’t have one unified theory of what consciousness is. We also don’t know where it comes from, or what it’s made of.
However, one loophole of this knowledge gap is that we can’t exhaustively say other organisms, and even inanimate objects, don’t have consciousness. Humans relate to animals and can imagine, say, dogs and cats have some amount of consciousness because we see their facial expressions and how they appear to make decisions. But just because we don’t “relate to” rocks, the ocean, or the night sky, that isn’t the same as proving those things don’t have consciousness.
This is where a philosophical stance called panpsychismcomes into play, writes All About Space’s David Crookes:
“This claims consciousness is inherent in even the tiniest pieces of matter — an idea that suggests the fundamental building blocks of reality have conscious experience. Crucially, it implies consciousness could be found throughout the universe.”
It’s also where physics enters the picture. Some scientists have posited that the thing we think of as consciousness is made of micro-scale quantum physics events and other “spooky actions at a distance,” somehow fluttering inside our brains and generating conscious thoughts.
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The Free Will Conundrum
One of the leading minds in physics, 2020 Nobel laureate and black hole pioneer Roger Penrose, has written extensively about quantum mechanics as a suspected vehicle of consciousness. In 1989, he wrote a book called The Emperor’s New Mind, in which he claimed “that human consciousness is non-algorithmic and a product of quantum effects.”
Let’s quickly break down that statement. What does it mean for human consciousness to be “algorithmic”? Well, an algorithm is simply a series of predictable steps to reach an outcome, and in the study of philosophy, this idea plays a big part in questions about free will versus determinism.
Are our brains simply cranking out math-like processes that can be telescoped in advance? Or is something wild happening that allows us true free will, meaning the ability to make meaningfully different decisions that affect our lives?
Within philosophy itself, the study of free will dates back at least centuries. But the overlap with physics is much newer. And what Penrose claimed in The Emperor’s New Mind is that consciousness isn’t strictly causal because, on the tiniest level, it’s a product of unpredictable quantum phenomena that don’t conform to classical physics.
So, where does all that background information leave us? If you’re scratching your head or having some uncomfortable thoughts, you’re not alone. But these questions are essential to people who study philosophy and science, because the answers could change how we understand the entire universe around us. Whether or not humans do or don’t have free will has huge moral implications, for example. How do you punish criminals who could never have done differently?
Consciousness Is Everywhere
In physics, scientists could learn key things from a study of consciousness as a quantum effect. This is where we rejoin today’s researchers: Johannes Kleiner, mathematician and theoretical physicist at the Munich Center For Mathematical Philosophy, and Sean Tull, mathematician at the University of Oxford.
Kleiner and Tull are following Penrose’s example, in both his 1989 book and a 2014 paper where he detailed his belief that our brains’ microprocesses can be used to model things about the whole universe. The resulting theory is called integrated information theory (IIT), and it’s an abstract, “highly mathematical” form of the philosophy we’ve been reviewing.
In IIT, consciousness is everywhere, but it accumulates in places where it’s needed to help glue together different related systems. This means the human body is jam-packed with a ton of systems that must interrelate, so there’s a lot of consciousness (or phi, as the quantity is known in IIT) that can be calculated. Think about all the parts of the brain that work together to, for example, form a picture and sense memory of an apple in your mind’s eye.
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The revolutionary thing in IIT isn’t related to the human brain—it’s that consciousness isn’t biological at all, but rather is simply this value, phi, that can be calculated if you know a lot about the complexity of what you’re studying.
If your brain has almost countless interrelated systems, then the entire universe must have virtually infinite ones. And if that’s where consciousness accumulates, then the universe must have a lot of phi.
Hey, we told you this was going to get weird.
“The theory consists of a very complicated algorithm that, when applied to a detailed mathematical description of a physical system, provides information about whether the system is conscious or not, and what it is conscious of,” Kleiner told All About Space. “If there is an isolated pair of particles floating around somewhere in space, they will have some rudimentary form of consciousness if they interact in the correct way.”
(CNN) Hundreds of mysterious fast radio bursts have been detected in space thanks to a Canadian telescope and an international group of researchers. The origins of these bright, millisecond-long flashes of light are unknown because the bursts, or FRBs, are unpredictable and vanish quickly. Scientists first observed them in 2007. In the decade following, they only observed about 140 bursts across the universe.” The thing about FRBs is that they are really hard to catch,” said Kiyoshi Masui, assistant professor of physics at MIT and member of the university’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research. “You have to have your radio telescope pointed at just the right place at just the right time and you can’t predict where or when that will be.”
Most radio telescopes only see a patch of sky the size of the moon at a given time, meaning the vast majority of FRBs go unseen, Masui said.
That all changed when the CHIME telescope, located at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory in British Columbia, Canada, began receiving radio signals in 2018 during its first year of operation.
The CHIME radio telescope array, pictured here, detected 535 fast radio bursts in its first year of operation.The stationary radio telescope, called the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment, detected 535 new fast radio bursts between 2018 and 2019.This enabled scientists to create the CHIME catalog of fast radio bursts, which was presented Wednesday at the 238th American Astronomical Society Meeting, an event that’s occurring virtually.
Not only does the catalog expand on the known number of fast radio bursts, but it also broadens the information available about their locations and properties. While most of the fast radio bursts occurred just once, 61 of them were repeating fast radio bursts from 18 sources. The repeating bursts appear differently — each flash lasts a little longer than the single bursts.When a burst repeats, scientists have a much better chance of tracing it back to its point of origin. These locations could help scientists determine what causes the bursts as well.
Fast radio burst may have come from the Milky Way. Based on their observations, the researchers believe that single fast radio bursts may have sources that are different from repeating ones.” With all these sources, we can really start getting a picture of what FRBs look like as a whole, what astrophysics might be driving these events, and how they can be used to study the universe going forward,” said Kaitlyn Shin, CHIME member and a graduate student in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Department of Physics, in a statement.
How CHIME works
The CHIME telescope functions a bit differently from others used for radio astronomy. The array of four giant radio antennas, comparable to the size and shape of half-pipes used for snowboarding, are entirely motionless. As Earth rotates on its axis, this array receives radio signals from half of the sky. Typically, radio dishes move to capture light from different areas in the sky. Instead, CHIME uses an all digital design and has a correlator, a digital signaling processor to capture incoming radio signals. It can churn through massive amounts of data — about 7 terabits per second, or the equivalent of a small percentage of global internet traffic.
Mysterious fast radio bursts traced to spiral galaxy arms “Digital signal processing is what makes CHIME able to reconstruct and ‘look’ in thousands of directions simultaneously,” Masui said. “That’s what helps us detect FRBs a thousand times more often than a traditional telescope.” The 535 bursts detected by CHIME came from all parts of the sky — and space. Based on the information they gathered, the researchers calculated that these bright fast radio bursts likely occur about 800 times per day across the entire sky.” That’s kind of the beautiful thing about this field — FRBs are really hard to see, but they’re not uncommon,” Masui said. “If your eyes could see radio flashes the way you can see camera flashes, you would see them all the time if you just looked up.” While these bursts would be intriguing enough based on their mysterious nature alone, scientists also believe they can use the bursts to have a better understanding of the universe and even map the distribution of gas across it. When these radio waves travel through space, it’s likely they’re encountering gas or plasma. This can distort the waves, change their properties and even their trajectory. Determining this information about a radio burst could help scientists estimate the distance it traveled and how much gas it encountered.” This carries a record within it of the structure of the universe that it has traveled through on its way to get from the source to us,” Masui said. “Because of this, we think that they are going to be the ultimate tool for studying the universe.” Many of these bright radio bursts detected by CHIME traveled from distant galaxies and were likely created by incredibly energetic sources — but researchers are still trying to determine the exact nature of those sources.This sky map shows fast radio bursts based on CHIME detections.
With enough fast radio bursts, it may be possible to map out the large-scale structure of the universe.” These large structures make up the filaments of the cosmic web,” said Alex Josephy, a doctoral student in physics at McGill University in Canada. “With the FRB catalog, we have detected this correlation between FRBs and large-scale structure. This is really, really exciting and ushers in a new era of (fast radio burst) cosmology.”
Two particles ready to collide to one another artistic image
A subatomic particle has been found to switch between matter and antimatter, according to Oxford physicists analyzing data from the Large Hadron Collider. It turns out that an unfathomably tiny weight difference between two particles could have saved the universe from annihilation soon after it began.
Antimatter is kind of the “evil twin” of normal matter, but it’s surprisingly similar – in fact, the only real difference is that antimatter has the opposite charge. That means that if ever a matter and antimatter particle come into contact, they will annihilate each other in a burst of energy.
To complicate things, some particles, such as photons, are actually their own antiparticles. Others have even been seen to exist as a weird mixture of both states at the same time, thanks to the quantum quirk of superposition (illustrated most famously through the thought experiment of Schrödinger’s cat.) That means that these particles actually oscillate between being matter and antimatter.
And now, a new particle has joined that exclusive club – the charm meson. This subatomic particle is normally made up of a charm quark and an up antiquark, while its antimatter equivalent consists of a charm antiquark and an up quark. Normally those states are kept separate, but the new study shows that charm mesons can spontaneously switch between the two.l
What ultimately gave away the secret was that the two states have slightly different masses. And we mean “slightly” in the extreme – the difference is just 0.00000000000000000000000000000000000001 grams.
This incredibly precise measurement was fished out of data gathered during the Large Hadron Collider’s second run, by physicists at Oxford University. Charm mesons are produced at the LHC in proton-proton collisions, and normally they only travel a few millimeters before they decay into other particles.
By comparing the charm mesons that tend to travel further versus those that decay sooner, the team identified differences in mass as the main factor that drives whether a charm meson turns into an anti-charm meson or not.
This absolutely tiny find could have gigantic implications for the universe. According to the Standard Model of particle physics, the Big Bang should have produced matter and antimatter in equal amounts, and over time that all would have collided and annihilated, leaving the cosmos a very empty place. Obviously that didn’t happen, and somehow matter came to dominate, but what caused that imbalance?
One hypothesis that the new discovery raises is that particles like the charm meson will transition from antimatter to matter more often than they turn from matter to antimatter. Investigating whether that’s true – and if so, why – could be a major clue that busts open one of the biggest mysteries of science.
Photo by: NASANASA’s Juno spacecraft has provided the first close-ups of Jupiter’s largest moon in two decades. Juno zoomed past icy Ganymede on Monday, passing within 645 miles.By: The Associated Press & Scripps NationalPosted at 5:20 PM, Jun 08, 2021 and last updated 6:20 PM, Jun 08, 2021
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA’s Juno spacecraft has provided the first close-ups of Jupiter’s largest moon in two decades.
Juno zoomed past icy Ganymede on Monday, passing within 645 miles.
It’s the closest any spacecraft has come to our solar system’s biggest moon since NASA’s Galileo spacecraft swept past in 2000.
NASA released two pictures Tuesday, highlighting Ganymede’s craters and long features possibly related to tectonic faults.
NASA said the pictures were captured from the JunoCam imager and its Stellar Reference Unit star camera.
“This is the closest any spacecraft has come to this mammoth moon in a generation,” said Juno Principal Investigator Scott Bolton of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, in a news release. “We are going to take our time before we draw any scientific conclusions, but until then we can simply marvel at this celestial wonder.”
Ganymede is bigger than the planet Mercury.
It is one of 79 known moons around Jupiter.
Launched a decade ago, Juno has been orbiting Jupiter for five years.
NASA chief Bill Nelson, who assumed his post just last month, has asked agency researchers to look into the spate of UFO sightings that U.S. Navy pilots have reported over the past two decades, CNN reported.
“Now that I’m here at NASA, I’ve turned to our scientists and I’ve said, ‘Would you, looking at it from a scientific standpoint, see if you can determine [what these objects are], so that we can have a better idea?'” Nelson told CNN’s Rachel Crane in an interview that the network posted online Friday (June 4).
“The bottom line is, we want to know,” he added. “And that’s what we’re trying to do.”
News of the UFO encounters broke in late 2017, when The New York Times and Politico reported that Navy pilots had repeatedly spotted strange objects performing maneuvers that were far more advanced than anything their own jets could do.
These stories also revealed that, in 2007, the U.S. Department of Defense created the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP) to investigate sightings of UFOs — or UAPs (“unidentified aerial phenomena”), as the military recently rebranded them. AATIP was officially phased out in 2012, but the Pentagon stood up a successor task force last summer.
And the drive to get to the bottom of the UFO mystery has continued to grow. In December 2020, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) — at the time the chair of the Senate’s intelligence committee — asked the Pentagon and the U.S. director of national intelligence to deliver an unclassified report about the UFO sightings to Congress within six months.
“I want us to take it seriously and have a process to take it seriously,” Rubio told reporter Bill Whitaker during an interview that aired last month on the CBS news program “60 Minutes,” stressing that any unknown object spotted in U.S. airspace could be a threat to national security.
“I want us to have a process to analyze the data every time it comes in — that there be a place where this is cataloged and constantly analyzed until we get some answers,” Rubio added. “Maybe it has a very simple answer. Maybe it doesn’t.”
The six-month deadline is almost up. And we’ve already gotten a sneak peak at the investigation’s findings, thanks to The New York Times, which talked to sources familiar with it. We shouldn’t expect a blockbuster announcement, according to the Times story; its headline is “U.S. finds no evidence of alien technology in flying objects, but can’t rule it out, either.”
Canadarm2 continues to function normally after getting whacked by space junk, Canadian Space Agency says
#ISS #Space #Debris
A chunk of space trash has left a hole in the International Space Station’s robotic arm but NASA and Canadian mission managers say the arm’s functions won’t be impacted; however, this is far from the last debris encounter for the orbiting laboratory.
The ISS orbits about 200 miles above the planet, in low-Earth orbit, a very popular area for small satellite launches and lots of space debris. More than 23,000 pieces of, essentially, trash from defunct satellites, rocket parts and other objects are being tracked by NASA at all times in the event of a possible collision with spacecraft or the American football-field length space station — where typically about seven astronauts are living and working. There are also other objects including dust particles or smaller pieces of satellite debris that are too small to be tracked.
Even with those precautions — mission managers can make the call to move the ISS to avoid such collisions — impacts to the ISS and its extremities do happen. The space station has also been impacted by tiny micrometeorites before.
On May 12, during a routine inspection of the Canadian Space Agency-made robotic arm, known as Canadarm2, a hole was observed in a small section of the arm boom and thermal blanket.
CSA and NASA engineers worked together to assess the damage and have determined the arm’s performance remains unaffected, according to an update from the CSA. The robotic arm is key to the ISS because it is used to grapple spacecraft and assist astronauts during spacewalks, several of which are coming up.
Operations for the Canadarm2 will continue as planned. The CSA did not disclose if the hole will be patched or repaired.
This week SpaceX will launch its Cargo Dragon spacecraft to the ISS carrying 7,300 pounds of science, supplies and hardware, including a massive set of new solar panels to power the ISS for years to come.
Liftoff is scheduled for 1:29 p.m. Thursday from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A.
Washington (AP) — Navy pilots capture lumps in distant, blurry videos that appear to be gliding just above sea waves at improbable speeds, with no distinguishable means of propulsion or lift. I will. “Oh my god, man” One aviator tells another and laughs at the strange sight. “what is that?”
Is it a bird? airplane? Super drone? Something extraterrestrial?
The US government is scrutinizing such unidentified flying objects.Better known as a report summarizing what the United States knows about “unidentified aerial phenomena.” UFO — Will be released later this month.
Aliens never remove the mask. Two officials who were briefed on the report said no link between the reported sightings captured in the video and extraterrestrial life was found. The report does not rule out ties to other countries, officials said on condition of anonymity.
Extensive conclusions are currently being reported, but the full report may provide a broader picture of what the government knows. Expectations surrounding the report show that topics that are usually confined to science fiction and a small, often rejected group of researchers have become mainstream.
Concerned about national security threats from adversaries, lawmakers ordered investigation and publication of a phenomenon that the government had been reluctant to speak for generations.
“Something is flying in our airspace,” Florida Senator Marco Rubio, one of the senators who urged us to investigate, recently told Fox News. “We don’t know what it is. We need to know.”
Parliament at the end of last year instructed the Director of National Intelligence to provide “detailed analysis of unconfirmed aerial phenomenon data” from multiple agencies and report within 180 days. That time is just around the corner. Intelligence did not say when the full document would be released last week.
A bill passed by Congress told the Director of National Intelligence that “potential adversaries may have achieved groundbreaking aerospace capabilities that could endanger the US strategic or regular military. We are looking for an incident or pattern that indicates.
The main concern is whether hostile nations are deploying sophisticated, bizarre, confusing and threateningly sophisticated and eccentric aviation technology in the world’s largest military force. But when lawmakers talk about it, they tend to leave room for a bit of shaking themselves in case it’s something else. More space, even more mediocre than military rivals. Be the target.
“There are a lot of open questions right now,” California Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff told NBC this week. “If other countries have abilities that we don’t know, we want to know. If there are other explanations, we want to learn that too.”
Luis Elizondo, a former head of the Pentagon’s Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, said he did not believe the sightings were due to foreign technology. Elizondo said the Pentagon was trying to discredit him. He accuses him of being, and says there is a lot of other information that the United States keeps confidential.Images from a video labeled Gimbal provided by the Pentagon in 2015 track unexplained objects, soaring high along clouds and against the wind. Only one obscure object is shown, but one Navy aviator told another aviator, “I have the entire fleet of them.” It’s spinning. “The US government, under parliamentary orders. , A scrutiny of unidentified flying objects and a report summarizing what the authorities know will be published in June 2021. (Ministry of Defense via AP)
“We live in an incredible universe,” Elizondo said. “There are various hypotheses that suggest that it is not so easy to explain the three-dimensional universe in which we live.”
But Skeptic editor Michael Shermer is skeptical.
A longtime analyst of UFO theory and other phenomena, a scientific historian said there were too many blurry images of encounters with aliens to be convinced by the more blurry images of airborne droplets. Now is the time when billions of people around the world have smartphones, take crisp images, and satellites accurately render ground details.
“Show me the body, show me the spaceship, or show me some really high quality videos and photos,” he said in an interview. “And I believe.”
Mick West, a prominent scholar of unexplained phenomena and a conspiracy-theoretic scholar, said the government was right to investigate and report on the potential impact of sightings on national security. It was. Currently captured in declassified video.
“Whenever there is an unidentified object passing through military airspace, it’s a real problem that needs to be investigated,” he told AP.
“But while the video shows an unidentified object, it doesn’t show a surprisingly unidentified object.”
Pilots and Sky-Watchers have long reported that UFOs have been sporadically witnessed in US airspace at unusual speeds and orbits. In most cases, those mysteries evaporate during the investigation.
In 1960, the CIA stated that 6,500 objects had been reported to the US Air Force in the last 13 years. The Air Force has concluded that there is no evidence that these sightings are associated with “hostile” or “interplanetary spacecraft,” the CIA said.
Of course, UFO reports have been going on ever since. Some people studying this topic claim that the investigation is limited due to conspiracy theories and the stigma of being related to the story of the Little Green Man raiding the Earth. They point out that the government has a history of lying, hindering unexplained things.
It took 50 years for the government to show that it wanted the allegations that the alien bodies were recovered at the crash site in New Mexico in 1947 to be completely denied. Dummy used in parachute test, The recent ancestor of today’s car accident dummy.
Former Air Force Colonel Richard Weaver, who wrote one of the official reports on Roswell’s rumors, sought to assure the public that the government was not capable of hiding real alien sightings. Needless to say, we have a hard time keeping secrets, “he said.
A recent turning point came in December 2017 when the New York Times unveiled a five-year Pentagon program to investigate UFOs. The Pentagon then released a video of a previously leaked shadow object that military pilots could not identify.
One was a video clip of an aviator tracking a mass above the sea on the US coast in 2015, called Gofast. In another year of the year, an unexplained object named the gimbal is tracked, soaring high along the clouds and moving against the wind. Only one obscure object is shown, but one Navy aviator told another, “I have the entire fleet of them.” It’s spinning. “
In 2019, the Navy announced that pilots would create a formal process for reporting unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs). Last August, the Pentagon created a task force dedicated to this issue. The mission was to “detect, analyze, and catalog UAPs” that could endanger the United States.
In the era of increasingly sophisticated drone aircraft, it is seen as a risk to sensitive domestic military installations such as nuclear missile bases, focusing on foreign rivals rather than visitors from other planets. Has been done. However, the formation of a task force stood as a rare approval from the government that UFOs raise potential national security concerns.
Recently, a declassified video was featured in CBS’s “60 Minutes” article, raising questions about what information the US government has.
Rubio, the Republican leader and former chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Information, said it was important for investigators to follow up on pilot reports and publish findings. “I ignore what our military personnel and their radar and their eyesight are telling them,” Rubio said. “There are several highly trained and highly capable people. . “
But what’s in the sky is often different from what it looks like. Shermer rattles an example where what looks like a different world is a boring example of this planet.
“90-95% of all UFO sightings are meteorological balloons, flares, sky lanterns, formation-flying planes, secret military aircraft, sun-reflecting birds, sun-reflecting planes, brips, helicopters, planets. Venus and Mars, meteorites and meteorites, space debris, artificial satellites, moist gas … Ball lightning, Ice crystals that reflect cloud light, ground light, light that reflects off cockpit windows, temperature reversal, Punch cloud“
“In order for any of these to be genuine, we need more than these grainy videos and blurry photos,” he said.
“If this were true, it would actually be one of the most anomalous claims to date, so we really need some solid and anomalous evidence.”
All cells on Earth are made of phospholipid membranes. Now astronomers have found the component molecules in interstellar space.
Kateryna Kon/ShutterstockThe origin of life is one the great unanswered questions in science. One piece of this puzzle is that life started on Earth 4.5 billion years ago, just a few hundred million years after the formation of the Solar System, and involved numerous critical molecular components. How did all these components come to be available so quickly?
One potential explanation is that the Earth was seeded from space with the building blocks for life. The idea is that space is filled with clouds of gas and dust that contain all the organic molecules necessary for life.
Indeed, astronomers have observed these buildings blocks in interstellar gas clouds. They can see amino acids, the precursors of proteins and the machinery of life. They can also see the precursors of ribonucleotides, molecules that can store information in the form of DNA.
But there is another crucial component for life – molecules that can form membranes capable of encapsulating and protecting the molecules of life in compartments called protocells. On Earth, the membranes of all cells are made of molecules called phospholipids. But these have never been observed in space. Until now.about:blankabout:blank
Precursors of life
Víctor Rivilla at the Spanish Astrobiology Centre in Madrid and colleagues, have made the first detection in space of ethanolamine, a crucial component of the simplest phospholipid. The discovery suggests that the interstellar medium is brimming will all the precursors for life. “This has important implications not only for theories of the origin of life on Earth, but also on other habitable planets and satellites anywhere in the Universe,” say the team.
The group made their discovery by analyzing light from an interstellar cloud of gas and dust called Sagittarius B2, just 390 light years from the center of the Milky Way. Astronomers have long known of this region as a rich reservoir of organic molecules, ices and dust particles.
Ethanolamine has the chemical formula NH2CH2CH2OH. The team simulated the spectrum that this molecule ought to produce at the cold temperatures thought to exist in the cloud. They then looked for, and found, clear evidence of this spectrum in light that had passed through the cloud.
Although never before spotted in space, astronomers have found ethanolamine in meteorites. How it got there has been an issue of some debate with some researchers arguing it could only have formed through an unusual set of reactions on a parent asteroid.about:blankabout:blank
The new discovery suggests ethanolamine is much more widespread. On Earth, it forms the hydrophilic head of phospholipid molecules that self-assemble into cell membranes. Rivilla and colleagues say its discovery in interstellar clouds suggests “ethanolamine could have been transferred from the proto-Solar nebula to planetesimals and minor bodies of the Solar System, and thereafter to our planet.” That could have led to the formation of cells in the prebiotic soup from which our earliest ancestors emerged.
A more radical idea is that ethanolamine might allow the formation of protocells in the interstellar medium itself. This is rich in other prebiotic components such as water and amino acids, which these protocells would have naturally encapsulated. The result would then be ready-made melting pots of prebiotic goop ready to seed the Earth, or any other body that passes by.
Of course, none of this ultimately answers the question of how life began on Earth. But the work does show that there is no longer any mystery about where the building blocks of life might have come from. “These results indicate that ethanolamine forms efficiently in space and, if delivered onto early Earth, it could have contributed to the assembling and early evolution of primitive membranes.,” say Rivilla and co. The question now is: what happened next?
Powerful solar storms can hammer Earth, causing major technology glitches. One of the best-remembered events is the Quebec power grid failure of 1989, a 12-hour blackout in which millions of people found themselves in dark office buildings, stalled elevators, and underground pedestrian tunnels. Going farther back, there’s the famous Carrington Event of 1859, which fried telegraph wires. Scientists agree it’s only a matter of time until the next powerful solar storm affects earthly technologies. Next time, we might expect steeper consequences, since today’s world relies so heavily on technology. But, with few events to go on, no one knows when the next powerful Earth-directed event will erupt on the sun. That’s one reason researchers were happy to announce in March 2021 that they’ve unearthed new eyewitness accounts from a 1582 solar storm that startled skywatchers across the globe.
A great fire appeared in the sky to the north, and lasted three nights.
All that part of the sky appeared burning in fiery flames; it seemed that the sky was burning. Nobody remembered having seen something like that … At midnight, great fire rays arose above the castle which were dreadful and fearful. The following day, it happened the same at the same hour but it was not so great and terrifying. Everybody went to the countryside to see this great sign.
According to a statement from scientists who studied the event:Must Watch Sky Events in 2021
Across the globe in feudal Japan, observers in Kyoto noted the same fiery red display in their skies, too. Similar accounts of strange nighttime lights were recorded in Leipzig, Germany; Yecheon, South Korea; and a dozen other cities across Europe and East Asia.
During those few days in 1582, people looking skyward – not understanding what they saw – were marveling at a strong display of the northern lights, or aurora borealis, which was little understood at the time and the subject of many myths and legends. The northern lights are seen mostly at high latitudes on Earth. They’re not often seen at lower latitudes, like Portugal. That’s another thing a powerful solar storm can do, however; it can cause northern lights to be seen closer to Earth’s equator.
Today’s researchers look to uncover events in the past, such as the 1582 solar storm, in order to investigate the pattern of these strong storms on the sun. They want to know how often they occur. They hope historical records, like that of the 1582 storm, will help them predict future solar storms. At present, with scientists’ limited understanding of the patterns, the historical record suggests that such powerful Earth-sun events occur at least once a century.
The historical record seems to suggest that major storms like the one in 1582 are, at minimum, a once-in-a-century occurrence, and so we should expect one or more of them to hit Earth in the 21st century.
The sun waxes and wanes in activity on about an 11-year cycle. Solar Cycle 25 officially began in late 2020. In other words, we’re heading toward another solar maximum, when the sun should be at its most active. Scientists expect this solar maximum to occur around 2025.
In the coming few years, we can expect Earth to undergo some effects as activity on the sun increases. At the peak of the sun’s activity, charged particles from the sun may affect satellites in orbit, and may disrupt communications or navigation on Earth. But, for the most part, these effects are expected to be manageable.
In the meantime, scientists are looking out for the next truly big solar storm. For example, Rami Qahwaji of the University of Bradford wrote at The Conversation:
My colleagues and I developed a real-time automated computer system which uses image processing and artificial intelligence technologies to monitor and analyze solar satellite data. This helps predict the likelihood of solar flares in the coming 24 hours.
This team has also created a process for automatically classifying sunspots and detecting different solar features, such as active regions and sunspots. Their space weather prediction system is publicly available here.
Another wonderful place for information about solar storms is the website SpaceWeather.com. There, you’ll find daily updates on the day-to-day activity on the sun, which can be expected to increase in the coming few years.
Bottom line: In March 2021, scientists said they’ve unearthed new eyewitness accounts from a 1582 solar storm that startled skywatchers across the globe. They were glad to have these reports, which might help them understand long-term patterns in solar activity, as it affects Earth.
Stephen Hawking’s fame was founded on the research he did on general relativity and black holes. But he often stepped outside his own field of research, using his recognition to highlight what he saw as the great challenges and existential threats for humanity in coming decades. His pronouncements drove headlines in the media, which sometimes proved controversial.
Hawking was clearly troubled that we were putting all our eggs in one basket – that basket being Earth. For decades, Hawking had been calling for humans to begin the process of permanently settling other planets. It made news headlines again and again.
Hawking’s rationale was that humankind would eventually fall victim to an extinction-level catastrophe – perhaps sooner rather than later. What worried him were so-called low-probability, high impact events – a large asteroid striking our planet is the classic example. But Hawking perceived a host of other potential threats: artificial intelligence, climate change, GM viruses and nuclear war to name a few.
In 2016, he told the BBC: “Although the chance of a disaster to planet Earth in a given year may be quite low, it adds up over time, and becomes a near certainty in the next thousand or 10,000 years.
He was confident that humans would spread out into the cosmos by that time (given the chance), but added: “We will not establish self-sustaining colonies in space for at least the next hundred years, so we have to be very careful in this period.”
Here, Hawking’s views dovetailed with those of entrepreneur Elon Musk, another science superstar whose cogitations attract widespread attention. In 2013, Musk told a conference: “Either we spread Earth to other planets, or we risk going extinct. An extinction event is inevitable and we’re increasingly doing ourselves in.”
In line with his thoughts on the matter, Hawking also attached his name to a project researching technologies for interstellar travel – the Breakthrough Starshot initiative.
Rise of the machines?
Hawking recognised the great opportunities that arose from advances in artificial intelligence, but also warned about the dangers.
Hawking said the primitive forms of artificial intelligence developed so far had already proved very useful; indeed, the tech he used to communicate incorporated a basic form of AI. But Hawking feared the consequences of advanced forms of machine intelligence that could match or surpass humans.
Some academics thought the comments drew on outdated science fiction tropes. Others, such as Prof Bradley Love, from UCL, agreed there were risks: “Clever AI will create tremendous wealth for society, but will leave many people without jobs,” he told The Conversation.
But he added: “If we are going to worry about the future of humanity we should focus on the real challenges, such as climate change and weapons of mass destruction rather than fanciful killer AI robots.”
The Cambridge physicist regarded global warming as one of the biggest threats to life on the planet. Hawking was particularly fearful of a so-called tipping point, where global warming would become irreversible. He also expressed concern about America’s decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement.
“We are close to the tipping point where global warming becomes irreversible. Trump’s action could push the Earth over the brink, to become like Venus, with a temperature of 250 degrees, and raining sulphuric acid,” he told BBC News.
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also highlights the potential risk of hitting climate tipping points as temperatures increase – though it also emphasises the gaps in our knowledge.
However, Hawking was in plentiful company in regarding global warming as one of the great challenges of centuries to come.
Shhhh, keep it down
There’s a whole field of science, known as Seti (The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) dedicated to listening for signals from intelligent beings elsewhere in the Universe. But Hawking cautioned against trying to actively hail any alien civilisations that might be out there.
In 2010, he told the Discovery Channel that aliens might simply raid Earth for resources and then move on.
“If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans,” he said.
“We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet.”
At the time, Seth Shostak, from the Seti Institute in California, told the Guardian: “This is an unwarranted fear. If they’re interested in resources, they have ways of finding rocky planets that don’t depend on whether we broadcast or not. They could have found us a billion years ago.”
But others saw the logic in Hawking’s comments. Ian Stewart, a mathematician at Warwick University, commented: “Lots of people think that because they would be so wise and knowledgeable, they would be peaceful. I don’t think you can assume that.”
The media attention gave him an unprecedented platform. But some in the scientific community were occasionally less enthusiastic about the resulting headlines than the journalists who wrote them.
Indeed, I’ve been asked in the past why the British media seemed to hang on Hawking’s every word.
Prof Sir Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal, said: “He had robust common sense, and was ready to express forceful political opinions.
“However, a downside of his iconic status was that that his comments attracted exaggerated attention even on topics where he had no special expertise – for instance philosophy, or the dangers from aliens or from intelligent machines.”
But many would also argue that, beyond individual statements or headlines, Hawking had a unique ability to connect with the public.
They would say that the “hype” this sometimes generated was an inevitable by-product of his household name status. Instead, we should focus on a greater good – his ability to bring science to the attention of people who might otherwise never have given it a second thought.
It’s testament to his success as a communicator that the mourning for this champion of rational thinking extends far beyond the scientific community.
Probably one of the most credible and underreported close encounters of UFOs and aliens in the history of Ufology occurred between Jun. 21 and Jun. 27, 1958 at the Boianai Anglican Mission in Papua, New Guinea.
It was there that the Reverend Father W.B. Gill and 38 others witnessed a squadron of UFOs, a large craft with “elaborative superstructures” along with smaller apparently remote-controlled discs. The mission watch the UFOs and their occupants several times over a three-day period that eventually totaled about 3 hours of observation.
Capable of Extremely High Speeds
A thorough report on this amazing incident was conducted by lawyer and UFO investigator Peter Norris for the Aerial Phenomena Research Organization (APRO), a group that scientifically investigated UFO sightings from 1952 to 1988.* The so-called main ship or mother ship of this squadron was first observed June 21, crossing the Boianai Bay (about 30 miles wide) in less than 1 second. The time was about 1 a.m. Sunday morning. It was a clear night with moonlight and was first sighted by Stephen Moi, a teacher at the missionary’s school.
“I saw a bright, white light, silently coming out of the sky from a point a quarter of a mile above the sea,” Moi said. “It descended from that seemed great height and I watched it for the space of about 3 minutes, moving descending eastwards and parallel to the coast. It stopped at a point a little east of the station and at a height ofabout 300 feet. There it remained stationary for perhaps 30 seconds and gradually decreased in brilliance until the shape of an inverted saucer could be discerned, which was tilted slightly backwards with part of the base visible.”
Lights and Markings
Moi continued: “The object then moved upwards and disappeared from view into the clouds. When first sighted, I thought it to have been a light similar to those dropped by planes during the war. Underneath the saucer I saw about 4 round black spots.”
No Doubt They Are Human
Although Father Gill could not see the features ofthe figures, he believed they were human. Over the next few days, Father Gill, his staff and the residents of the missionary watched in amazement as the large craft would appear close to the ground, but never land.
Instead, a total of 4 glowing “men” emerged from the top of the craft and began moving busily about — as though adjusting or making some sort of repairs. Even though he couldn’t see their features because their uniforms glowed, he was sure that the outline of the visitors were “human.”
However, this could be his mind not accepting the possibility that the creatures could have been outer-worldly. Once the humanoids were done working on the craft, a thin blue light shone on them, and they disappeared.
Acknowledged Humans’ Presence
The second night the UFOs and its crew appeared, once again busily working on the top of the mother ship, Gill says they noticed that “one figure seemed to be standing looking down at us (a group of about a dozen).”
“I stretched my arm above my head and waved,” Gill said. “And to our surprise the figure did the same. “Ananias (a member of Gill’s staff) and self began waving our arms and all four now seemed to wave back. There seemed to be no doubt that our movements were answered. All the mission boys made an audible gasp of either joy or surprise — or both.”
When they were finished working on the craft, the figures were once again engulfed in a thin, blue beam and then disappeared. Before the mothership and accompanying UFOs took off, one of the missionaries in the group who had a flashlight flicked it on and off several time at which the UFO responded by making several waving motions back and forth.
Making Repairs in Isolated Area
After apparently making some kind of repairs or adjustments to the mother ship, the entire squadron left as quickly as they had come in the middle of the night. As they left, they gave the mission residents quite a light show, with the squadron of UFOs changing into brilliant reds, blues, whites and yellows — as they instantaneously disappeared into the horizon.
In today’s age of cellphone cameras and the Internet, it is hard to understand why the mission had no photos of the event. But back in 1959, box cameras with flashbulbs could never have captured such images in the deep darkness of the jungle. In fact, although it isn’t mentioned in the report, it’s doubtful if the mission even possessed even a primitive camera. There were no phone lines of electricity. It took weeks for the mission to get out the narrative of its close encounter via mail
Here is a historic documentary on the event: This report is based on an APRO investigation reported in its November, 1959 edition.