Seven New Embedded Clusters Detected In The Galactic Halo

A team of Brazilian astronomers, led by Denilso Camargo of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre, has discovered seven new embedded clusters located unusually far away from the Milky Way’s disc. The findings, presented in a paper published July 3 on, could provide new insights on star cluster formation.

Embedded clusters are stellar clusters encased in an interstellar dust or gas, consisting of extremely young stars. They are crucial for astronomers to better understand star formation and early stellar evolution. Studying these clusters could reveal the origin of stellar masses as well as the origin and evolution of protoplanetary disks, where planet formation processes take place.


In the Milky Way galaxy, most of embedded clusters lie within the thin disc less than 1,000 light years from the galactic midplane, especially in the spiral arms. However, Camargo and his team detected two young stellar clusters earlier this year, and now, after spotting seven more, suggest that they could be more common on the outskirts of the galaxy than previously thought.

“Now, we discovered seven star clusters far away from the Milky Way disc. Thus, this work points to a new paradigm in the star and star cluster formation, in the sense that the formation of such objects occurs in the halo and it seems to be frequent,” Camargo told

The scientists found the new clusters by analyzing the data provided by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). This space telescope is monitoring the entire galaxy in infrared light, snapping pictures of mainly remote galaxies, stars and asteroids. WISE was chosen for this job as it captures embedded clusters that are invisible at optical wavelengths, due to the fact that they are engulfed in significant amounts of interstellar dust.

“WISE provided infrared images of the entire sky, allowing us to penetrate the gas and dust within giant molecular clouds, in which the star formation can take place. Recently, we discovered more than 1,000 embedded clusters using WISE,” Camargo said.

According to the research paper, three newly found objects, designated C 932, C 934, and C 939, are high-latitude embedded clusters, projected within the newly identified cloud complex. These clusters are located at a vertical distance of about 16,300 light years below the galactic disc. Other new clusters, named C 1074, C 1099, C 1100, and C 1101, are in the range from 5,500 to 10,400 light years above the disc. All these clusters are younger than five million years.

The team noted that the new findings indicate that a sterile galactic halo could host ongoing star formation. The newly detected embedded clusters provide evidence of widespread star cluster forming processes far away from the Milky Way’s disc.

“The discovery of stellar clusters far away from the disc suggests that the Galactic halo is more actively forming stars than previously thought. Moreover, since most young clusters do not survive for more than five million years, the halo may be raining stars into the disc. The halo harbors generations of stars formed in clusters like those hereby detected,” Camargo said.

Before the team’s paper was published, it was thought that star formation processes in the Milky Way occur in the disk, but not in the halo. Thus, as Camargo concluded, this new study represents a paradigm shift, in the sense that a sterile halo becomes now a host of ongoing star formation.

A Star’s Birth Holds Early Clues To Life Potential

Our solar system began as a cloud of gas and dust. Over time, gravity slowly pulled these bits together into the Sun and planets we recognize today. While not every system is friendly to life, astronomers want to piece together how these systems are formed.


A challenge to this research is the opacity of dust clouds to optical wavelengths (the ones that humans can see). So, astronomers are experimenting with different wavelengths, such as infrared light, to better see the center of dense dust clouds, where young stars typically form.

Recently, astronomers used data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope—a powerful space observatory launched in 2003 that observes the Universe in infrared light—to look at a molecular cloud called L183, which is about 360 light-years away in the constellation Serpens Cauda (the serpent). Their goal was to see how light scattering affects the view of the cloud at the mid-infrared wavelength of 8 microns (μm). Ultimately, the astronomers hope to use this data to get a better look inside the clouds.

“One thing we have to do is evaluate the mass that is sitting in the center of the cloud, which is ready to collapse to make a star,” said co-author Laurent Pagani, a researcher at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Paris, France.


His former doctoral student, Charlène Lefèvre, led the research. Their work was recently published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics under the title, “On the importance of scattering at 8 μm: Brighter than you think.” Funding for the research came from CNRS and the French government.

Penetrating the dust

Dust clouds are tough to see through not only because of the dust itself, but also because the gases present are not very visible in telescopes observing in the infrared. Clouds are mainly made up of hydrogen and helium, which emit no radiation in the infrared or millimeter wavelengths. These two elements make up 98 percent of the mass of the cloud, meaning most of it is escaping any kind of measurement.

To get around this measurement problem, astronomers use proxies such as dust. Dust is roughly 1 percent of the cloud’s mass, but it is best measured at the edges of the cloud. Dust abundance can be inferred through the extinction of starlight. Since we can also measure the quantity of molecular hydrogen via ultraviolet absorption at the edge of the clouds, the dust abundance is derived with respect to molecular hydrogen. Once “calibrated,” the dust mass is measured throughout the cloud, providing the molecular hydrogen gas and the cloud mass.

For this project, Pagani and his team attempted to measure the amount of dust absorption at 8 microns for the cloud L183. It’s common to find light at this wavelength throughout the galaxy, making it a potential measuring tool for different clouds. By measuring the absorption, scientists can estimate how much light is coming from the front of the cloud to the back of the cloud; in other words, by how much the light from the background is diminished.


In so doing, astronomers hope to gain a better understanding about how young stars form. Other, unrelated studies of dust clouds are also looking at where elements—including those grouped in molecules associated with life, such as water—are situated in young solar systems.


More mysteries

The method appears to work, but there are limitations, the researchers concluded. Different types of dust clouds appear to be more or less sensitive to different wavelengths of light, making it difficult to see what is inside this region.

“There is not only absorption, but also scattering [in L183], and this scattering diminishes the contrast,” Pagani said. “You have the light that is absorbed by the dust, but the dust is also emitting or scattering light towards the observer. It looks less deep than it actually is, if you don’t take into account the scattering.”
Lefèvre was able to use the 8-micron scattering model correctly to fit other observations of the cloud. However, if she tried to observe using other wavelengths—such as 100 microns or 200 microns—she saw a very different picture concerning dust absorption. It’s possible that some of the measurements were affected by ice on the dust, which was not accounted for by her radiative transfer model, Pagani said.

More work will be required. The two researchers (Lefèvre is now a post-doctoral researcher at IRAM, the international Institute for Millimeter Radio-Astronomy but still working with Pagani) are using more grain types to try different methods to measure clouds at various wavelengths. “If this works, we know what kind of grains work in the clouds,” Pagani said. “If it doesn’t work, we have to talk to the theoreticians to modify [the models] to fit the observations.”

PART-II Nearby Supernovae Found to have Affected Life on Earth

The surface of the Earth was immersed in life-damaging radiation from nearby supernovae on several different occasions over the past nine million years. That is the claim of an international team of astronomers, which has created a computer model that suggests that high-energy particles from the supernovae created ionizing radiation in Earth’s atmosphere that reached ground level. This influx of radiation, the astronomers say, potentially changed the course of the Earth’s climate and the evolution of life.


Earlier this year, two independent teams of astronomers published evidence that several supernovae had exploded some 330 light-years from Earth. Each event showered the solar system in iron-60, an overabundance of which has been found in core samples from the bottom of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. A discovery of the same element ‘iron-60’ was found on the moon.

Iron-60 is not all that supernovae produce – they also produce cosmic rays, which are composed of high-energy electrons and atomic nuclei. Previous work by Neil Gehrels of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, was found to be incorrect as he indicated that a supernova would have to explode within 25 light-years of Earth to give our planet a radiation dose strong enough to cause a major mass extinction.


Now, a team led by Brian Thomas of Washburn University, and Adrian Melott of the University of Kansas argues that this conclusion is incorrect. The researchers looked at what would happen if a supernova exploded at a distance of 325 light-years and worked-out how its radiation would affect Earth. They found that cosmic rays accelerated towards Earth by the supernova are a different story. These have energies in the teraelectronvolt (TeV) region and are able to “pass right through the solar wind and Earth’s magnetic field and propagate much further into the atmosphere than cosmic rays normally do.”, says Melott.

When a cosmic ray strikes an air molecule, it produces a shower of secondary particles that is filled with the likes of protons, neutrons and a strong flux of muons. Ordinarily this takes place in the upper atmosphere and can be responsible for ionizing and destroying ozone in the stratosphere. However, the supernova cosmic rays are so energetic that they will pass straight through the stratosphere, lower atmosphere, and down to the surface and deep into the oceans and mantle.


Today, muons contribute a sixth of our annual radiation dose, however, the team calculated a supernova hit would result in a 20-fold increase in the muon flux that would triple the annual radiation dose of life forms on the planet.


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IMPORTANT ARTICLE: Greater Concern of Cosmic Rays Effect to Earth Then I Realized

As you will see from the following article, it is one of many describing findings from the latest research and studies related to galactic cosmic rays. What I find to be a bit perplexing, is the amount and method of delivery from the science community regarding cosmic rays. It would appear scientific data is coming in at record pace via the incredible spacecraft such as  HERSCHEL, PLANK, CHANDRA, and WISE, and researchers are hard pressed to disseminate their findings in published papers.

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As related to my research on the Galaxy-Sun-Earth connection published in 2012, it appears to have hit almost every note presented, however, apparently I under estimated the foretelling possibilities galactic cosmic rays could have on Earth. There is quite a bit of data flowing out, much of which has to do with recent discoveries indicating supernovae explosions hitting Earth; and was the source of at least two ‘mass’ extinctions, and very likely the source of ‘partial’ extinctions.

New Equation:
Increase Charged Particles → Decreased Magnetic Field → Increase Outer Core Convection → Increase of Mantle Plumes → Increase in Earthquake and Volcanoes → Cools Mantle and Outer Core → Return of Outer Core Convection (Mitch Battros – July 2012)

_new_equation 2012

There is a great deal to present to you so this will be a 3 or 4 part article with this as Part-I. Below is one of the latest published findings showing the desire to, better and perhaps quickly, understand the pre and post eruptions, and most importantly, the rhythmic cycles.



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Astronomers have uncovered the strongest evidence yet exhibiting an enormous X-shaped structure made of stars that lies within the central bulge of the Milky Way Galaxy. Previous computer models showing observations of other galaxies – including our own galaxy Milky Way, suggesting the X-shaped structure does exist. However, no one had observed it directly, and some astronomers argued that previous research pointed indirectly to the existence of the X, but that it could be explained in other ways.

Lead author is Melissa Ness, researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, along with Dustin Lang, research associate at the University of Toronto’s Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics, and co-author of the paper describing the discovery. Lang says: “Controversy about whether the X-shaped structure existed, but our paper furnishes an authoritative composition of our own Milky Way’s galactic core. The results appear in the July issue of the Astronomical Journal.


The Milky Way Galaxy is a barred spiral galaxy; a disk-shaped collection of dust, gas and billions of stars, 100,000 light-years in diameter. It is far from a simple disk structure, being comprised of two spiral arms, a bar-shaped feature that runs through its center, and a central bulge of stars. The central bulge, like other barred galaxy’s bulges, resembles a rectangular box or peanut as viewed from within the plane of the galaxy. The X-shaped structure is an integral component of the bulge.

“The bulge is a key signature of formation of the Milky Way Galaxy,” says Ness. “If we understand the bulge we will understand the key processes which had formed and shaped our galaxy.”

“The shape of the bulge tells us about how it has formed. We see the X-shape and boxy morphology so clearly in the WISE image, demonstrating the internal formation processes have been the ones driving the bulge formation.”


It is also evidence that our galaxy did not experience major merging events since the bulge formed. If it had, interactions with other galaxies would have disrupted its shape.

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Aftermath of the Permian – Triassic Mass Extinction

A new study of fossil fishes from Middle Triassic sediments on the shores of Lake Lugano provides new insights into the recovery of biodiversity following the great mass extinction event at the Permian-Triassic boundary 240 million years ago.


The largest episode of mass extinction in the history of the Earth, which led to the demise of about 90% of marine organisms and a majority of terrestrial species, took place between the Late Permian and Early Triassic, around 240 million years ago. How long it took for biological communities to recover from such a catastrophic loss of biodiversity remains the subject of controversial debate among paleontologists.

A new study of fossil fishes from Middle Triassic strata on the shores of Lake Lugano throws new light on the issue. The study, undertaken by researchers led by Dr. Adriana López-Arbarello, who is a member of the GeoBiocenter at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich and the Bavarian State Collection for Paleontology and Geology, suggests that the process of recovery was well underway within a few million years. The authors, including Dr. Heinz Furrer of Zurich University and Dr. Rudolf Stockar of the Museo Cantonale di Storia Naturale in Lugano, who led the excavations at the sites, and Dr. Toni Bürgin of the Naturmuseum St. Gallen report their findings in the journal PeerJ.

The fossil fishes analyzed by López-Arbarello and her colleagues originate from Monte San Giorgio in the canton Ticino in Switzerland, which is one of the most important sources of marine fossils from the Middle Triassic in the world. The Monte San Giorgio rises to an altitude of 1000 m on the promontory that separates the southern arms of Lake Lugano in the Southern Swiss Alps. But in the Middle Triassic, it was part of a shallow basin dotted with islands fringed by lagoons, which were separated by reefs from the open sea. “The particular significance of its fossil fauna lies in the careful stratigraphic work that has accompanied the excavations here.

The positions of each of the fossil finds discovered here have been documented to the centimeter,” says Adriana López-Arbarello. On the basis of detailed anatomical studies of new material and a taxonomic re-evaluation of previously known specimens from the locality, she and her colleagues have identified a new genus of fossil neopterygians, which they name Ticinolepis. The Neopterygii include the teleost fishes, which account for more than half of all extant vertebrate species. However, the new fossil species are assigned to the second major group of neopterygians, the Holostei, of which only a handful of species survives today. The researchers assign two new fossil species to the genus Ticinolepis, namely T. longaeva and T. crassidens, which occur in different sedimentary beds within the so-called Besano Formation on Monte San Giorgio.

The two species coexisted side by side but they occupied distinct ecological niches. T. crassidens fed on mollusks and was equipped with jaws and teeth that could handle their hard calcareous shells. T. longaeva was more of a generalist, and was found in waters in which T. crassidens could not survive. The authors interpret the different distribution patterns as a reflection of changing environmental conditions following the preceding mass extinction event.

The less specialized T. longaeva was able to exploit a broader range of food items, and could thus adapt more flexibly to fluctuating conditions. On the other hand, the dietary differentiation between the two species indicates that a variety of well-established ecosystems was available in the Besano Formation at this time. “This in turn suggests that the marine biota is likely to have recovered from the great mass extinction relatively quickly,” Adriana López-Arbarello concludes.

New Study Proposes Short and Long Process of Extinction

A new study of nearly 22,000 fossils finds that ancient plankton communities began changing in important ways as much as 400,000 years before massive die-offs ensued during the first of Earth’s five great extinctions.


The research, published July 18 in the Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, focused on large zooplankton called graptolites. It suggests that the effects of environmental degradation can be subtle until they reach a tipping point, at which dramatic declines in population begins.

“In looking at these organisms, what we saw was a disruption of community structures – the way in which the plankton were organized in the water column. Communities came to be less complex and dominated by fewer species well before the massive extinction itself,” says co-author H. David Sheets, PhD, professor of physics at Canisius College and associate research professor in the Evolution, Ecology and Behavior graduate program at the University at Buffalo.

This turmoil, occurring in a time of ancient climate change, could hold lessons for the modern world, says co-author Charles E. Mitchell, PhD, professor of geology in the University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences.

The shifts took place at the end of the Ordovician Period some 450 million years ago as the planet transitioned from a warm era into a cooler one, leading eventually to glaciation and lower sea levels.

“Our research suggests that ecosystems often respond in stepwise and mostly predictable ways to changes in the physical environment – until they can’t. Then we see much larger, more abrupt, and ecologically disruptive changes,” Mitchell says. “The nature of such tipping point effects are hard to foresee and, at least in this case, they led to large and permanent changes in the composition of the oceans’ living communities.

“I think we need to be quite concerned about where our current ocean communities may be headed or we may find ourselves at the tail end of a similar event – a sixth mass extinction, living in a very different world than we would like.” The study was a partnership between Canisius, UB, St. Francis Xavier University, Dalhousie University and The Czech Academy of Sciences.

A long slide toward oblivion

In considering mass extinction, there is perhaps the temptation to think of such events as rapid and sudden: At one moment in history, various species are present, and the next they are not.

This might be the conclusion you’d draw if you examined only whether different species of graptolites were present in the fossil record in the years immediately preceding and following the Ordovician extinction.

“If you just looked at whether they were present – if they were there or not – they were there right up to the brink of the extinction,” Sheets says. “But in reality, these communities had begun declining quite a while before species started going extinct.”

The research teased out these details by using 21,946 fossil specimens from areas of Nevada in the U.S. and the Yukon in Canada that were once ancient sea beds to paint a picture of graptolite evolution.

The analysis found that as ocean circulation patterns began to shift hundreds of thousands of years before the Ordovician extinction, graptolite communities that previously included a rich array of both shallow- and deep-sea species began to lose their diversity and complexity.

Deep-water graptolites became progressively rarer in comparison to their shallow-water counterparts, which came to dominate the ocean.

“There was less variety of organisms, and the rare organisms got rarer,” Sheets says. “In the aftermath of a forest fire in the modern world, you might find that there are fewer organisms left – that the ecosystem just doesn’t have the same structure and richness as before. That’s the same pattern we see here.”

The dwindling deep-sea graptolites were species that specialized in obtaining nutrients from low-oxygen zones of the ocean. A decrease in the availability of such habitats may have sparked the creatures’ decline, Sheets and Mitchell say.

“Temperature changes drive deep ocean circulations, and we think the deep-water graptolites lost their habitats as the climate changed,” Sheets says. “As the nature of the oceans shifted, their way of life went away.”

Alien Solar System Boasts Tightly Spaced Planets, Unusual Orbits

Tightly spaced planets inside an alien solar system known as Kepler-80 boast a rare orbital configuration.

The study was led by Mariah MacDonald as an undergraduate with Darin Ragozzine, an assistant professor of physics and space sciences, both at Florida Institute of Technology.

The unusual planetary array highlighted in the study deepens the ongoing examination of similar systems known as STIPs – Systems with Tightly-spaced Inner Planets – and contributes to the understanding of how Earth formed.

Located about 1,100 light years away, Kepler-80, named for the NASA telescope that discovered it, features five small planets orbiting in extreme proximity to their star. MacDonald and Ragozzine determined the nature of the exoplanetary system through measurements taken with the telescope.

As early as 2012, Kepler scientists found that all five planets orbit in an area about 150 times smaller than the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, with “years” of about one, three, four, seven and nine days. The planets’ close proximity to each other and their star allowed the Kepler Space Telescope to detect tiny variations (about 0.001 percent) in the length of their “years” due to their mutual gravitational interactions.

Analysis by MacDonald and her collaborators revealed that the outer four planets had masses about four- to six-times that of Earth, though they shared Earth’s rocky composition. All four planets have masses similar to one another, though the two outermost planets are almost twice as big. This was attributed to a very puffy hydrogen/helium atmosphere.

These properties are not uncommon for exoplanets, but having precise compositional estimates for multiple planets in the same planetary system is rare.
Another rare attribute of the Kepler-80 system is that its planets have “synchronized” orbits. “The outer four planets return to almost exactly the same configuration every 27 days,” said Ragozzine. This effect is known as a “resonance” and helps the system remain gravitationally stable.

The study also explained the origin of the synchronized orbits in general – and possibly the tightly-spaced configuration. In a process called migration, the orbits of these planets shrank over time while they were forming. Simulations clearly showed that this migration effect caused the planets to lock into synchronized orbits just like those seen with Kepler-80.

Kepler has discovered hundreds of other STIPs, which consist of three to seven relatively small and closely packed planets that complete orbits in 1 to 100 days. This new form of planetary system, quite different from our own solar system, is changing the way scientists think about how planets form, including the Earth. With all the knowledge gained by the analysis of Kepler-80, this system is granting important insight into how STIPs formed.