Tag Archives: astrophysics

Time is A One Way Street…

TimeThe June 2008 issue of Scientific American sets out to answer a very perplexing question:

Why does time only move forward?

To find the answer, according to Sci-Am and Mr. Sean M. Carroll, we have to start looking at a very unlikely place:

To account for it, we have to delve into the prehistory of the universe, to a time before the big bang. Our universe may be part of a much larger multiverse, which as a whole is time-symmetric. Time may run backward in other universes.

The article is filled with high-end physics and a bit of science jargon, but Mr. Caroll puts uses neat little analogies to explain difficult concepts:

The asymmetry of time, the arrow that points from past to future, plays an unmistakable role in our everyday lives: it accounts for why we cannot turn an omelet into an egg, why ice cubes never spontaneously unmelt in a glass of water, and why we remember the past but not the future. And the origin of the asymmetry we experience can be traced…back to the orderliness of the universe near the big bang. Every time you break an egg, you are doing observational cosmology.

All in all, it’s a very interesting article and well worth a read. Some of the concepts used in the article are highly science fictional and are prime idea fodder for stories about multiverses and time travel. In fact, for those who’ve read River of Gods, may recognize the inspiration for ideas in that novel presented in this article. [image by gadl]

Black Holes in the sky, Black Holes in the internet

Three black holes interact in complex waysA mix of two stories about completely different types of Black Holes today. First, researchers at the Rochester Institute of Technology found that interactions between three black holes should produce gravitational waves that detectors like LISA or LIGO could detect within the next ten years. Gravitational Waves are ‘ripples’ in Space-Time caused by massive objects and events and could tell us a great deal about the big bang.

Another kind of black hole in the news is the ‘internet black hole’. Researchers for the Hubble internet project found distinct pathways on the internet where data was lost for unexplainable reasons. The project, which you can see the results of at their website, was intentionally named after the famous astronomer and telescope. The researchers say they are performing ‘internet astronomy’, looking for events in the cosmos of data that is the internet.

[image by M Campanelli/L Carlos/Y Zlochower/H-P Bischof, that plus space story via New Scientist, internet story via TG Daily]

Alpha Centauri ‘should have an Earth-like planet’

An artist’s impression of an earth-like planet around Alpha CentauriAlpha Centauri is the closest star system to our own but with a bonus: there are three stars rather than one. It’s also one of the best chances we know in the local area to have a planet similar to Earth capable of developing life like ours.

If any planet were to harbour earth-like life in the three-star system, it would likely be around Alpha Centauri A, which is most similar to the sun. However astronomer Javier Guedes and his coauthors believe that Alpha Centauri B is likely to have terrestrial planets in its habitable region. Based on computer simulations of planet formation, Guedes and his team found that no matter what starting conditions, a terrestrial planet always formed around the star. By studying the ‘wobbles’ the planet causes on its parent star, the team reckon they could find any potential planets within a few years.

[story via Daily Galaxy, image via Solstation]

First images from the Large Binocular Telescope

The first of many images by the new telescope

The Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona has ‘opened its eyes’ for the first time, marking one of the first in a new wave of high-tech astronomical devices to come online. The LBT combines two 8m mirrors working in tandem to take pictures of the sky in a wide range of wavelengths at resolutions higher than that of Hubble.

Another couple of new telescopes, Herschel and Planck, will come online this year following their launch into space in April. Laser Interferometer LISA, which measures the bending of space time, has been given the go ahead but won’t be ready for a decade. A spate of advanced telescopes are in planning and construction, taking advantage of the computer advances of the last decade to give more accurate and detailed pictures of the sky than ever before.

[story and image via BBC]

Asteroid may hit Mars at end of January

The asteroid is part of a small group of rocks that cross both Earth and Mars orbitsIf you’ve watched Deep Impact and Armageddon a hundred times and still want to know what a real asteroid impact would look like, mark January 30th 2008 on your calenders. On that date, the path of Asteroid 2007 WD5 passes perilously close to our neighbour Mars and may or may not hit it.

The NEO (near-earth object) was found in November and marked because it also passes close to Earth. Analysis of its path say there’s a 1 in 75 chance the 50m rock will impact on the red planet, causing a crater up to half a mile wide.

[via Chris Mckitterick, image by NASA]