New Type Of Meteorite Linked To Ancient Asteroid Collision

An ancient space rock discovered in a Swedish quarry is a type of meteorite never before found on Earth, scientists reported June 14 in the journal Nature Communications.

meteorite

“In our entire civilization, we have collected over 50,000 meteorites, and no one has seen anything like this one before,” said study co-author Qing-zhu Yin, professor of geochemistry and planetary sciences at the University of California, Davis. “Discovering a new type of meteorite is very, very exciting.”

The new meteorite, called Ost 65, appears to be from the missing partner in a massive asteroid collision 470 million years ago. The collision sent debris falling to Earth over about a million years and may have influenced a great diversification of life in the Ordovician Period. One of the objects involved in this collision is well-known: It was the source of L-chondrites, still the most common type of meteorite. But the identity of the object that hit it has been a mystery.

Ost 65 was discovered in Sweden’s Thorsberg quarry, source of more than 100 fossil meteorites. Measuring just under 4 inches wide, it looks like a gray cow patty plopped into a pristine layer of fossil-rich pink limestone. The Ost 65 rock is called a fossil meteorite because the original rock is almost completely altered except for a few hardy minerals — spinels and chromite. Analyses of chromium and oxygen isotopes in the surviving minerals allowed the researchers to conclude the Ost 65 meteorite is chemically distinct from all known meteorite types.

By measuring how long Ost 65 was exposed to cosmic rays, the team established that it traveled in space for about a million years before it fell to Earth 470 million years ago. This timeline matches up with L-chondrite meteorites found in the quarry, leading the study authors to suggest the rock is a fragment of the other object from the Ordovician collision. The original object may have been destroyed during the collision, but it’s also possible that the remains are still out in space.

Meteorites may have influenced evolution

Researchers think that about 100 times as many meteorites slammed into Earth during the Ordovician compared with today, thanks to the massive collision in the asteroid belt. This rain of meteorites may have opened new environmental niches for organisms, thus boosting both the diversity and complexity of life on Earth.

“I think this shows the interconnectedness of the entire solar system in space and time, that a random collision 470 million years ago in the asteroid belt could dictate the evolutionary path of species here on Earth,” Yin said.

The study was led by Birger Schmitz, of Lund University in Sweden. Yin, of UC Davis, together with his postdoctoral fellow Matthew Sanborn, made the very precise measurement of chromium in tiny mineral grains within the meteorite. Researchers from the University of Hawaii at Manoa analyzed its oxygen isotopes.

The new findings strengthen suspicions that more recent meteorite falls on Earth do not represent the full range of rocks drifting through the solar system. Yin said there is potential to better understand the history of our solar system by collecting meteorite fragments preserved in Earth’s ancient rocks. “If we can go back even further in time, we may eventually be able to find some of the true building blocks of Earth,” Yin said.

The research was funded by NASA, the UC Office of the President and a European Research Council Advanced Grant.

Did Gravitational Wave Detector Find Dark Matter?

The eight scientists from the Johns Hopkins Henry A. Rowland Department of Physics and Astronomy had already started making calculations when the discovery by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) was announced in February. Their results, published recently in Physical Review Letters, unfold as a hypothesis suggesting a solution for an abiding mystery in astrophysics.

gravitational waves

“We consider the possibility that the black hole binary detected by LIGO may be a signature of dark matter,” wrote the scientists in their summary, referring to the black hole pair as a “binary.” What follows are five pages of annotated mathematical equations showing how the researchers considered the mass of the two objects LIGO detected as a point of departure, suggesting that these objects could be part of the mysterious substance known to make up about 85 percent of the mass of the universe.

A matter of scientific speculation since the 1930s, dark matter has recently been studied with greater precision; more evidence has emerged since the 1970s, albeit always indirectly. While dark matter itself cannot yet be detected, its gravitational effects can be. For example, the influence of nearby dark matter is believed to explain inconsistencies in the rotation of visible matter in galaxies.

The Johns Hopkins team, led by postdoctoral fellow Simeon Bird, was struck by the mass of the black holes detected by LIGO, an observatory that consists of two expansive L-shaped detection systems anchored to the ground. One is in Louisiana and the other in Washington State.

Black hole masses are measured in terms of multiples of our sun. The colliding objects that generated the gravity wave detected by LIGO — a joint project of the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — were 36 and 29 solar masses. Those are too large to fit predictions of the size of most stellar black holes, the ultra-dense structures that form when stars collapse. But they are also too small to fit predictions for the size of supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies.

The two LIGO-detected objects do, however, fit within the expected range of mass of “primordial” black holes.

Primordial black holes are believed to have formed not from stars but from the collapse of large expanses of gas during the birth of the universe. While their existence has not been established with certainty, primordial black holes have in the past been suggested as a possible solution to the dark matter mystery. Because there’s so little evidence of them, though, the “dark matter is primordial black holes” hypothesis has not gained a large following among scientists.

The LIGO findings, however, raise the prospect anew, especially as the objects detected in that experiment conform to the mass predicted for dark matter. Predictions made by scientists in the past held that conditions at the birth of the universe would have produced lots of these primordial black holes distributed roughly evenly in the universe, clustering in halos around galaxies. All this would make them good candidates for dark matter.

The Johns Hopkins team calculated how often these primordial black holes would form binary pairs, and eventually collide. Taking into account the size and elongated shape believed to characterize primordial black hole binary orbits, the team came up with a collision rate that conforms to the LIGO findings.

“We are not proposing this is the dark matter,” said one of the authors, Marc Kamionkowski, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. “We’re not going to bet the house. It’s a plausibility argument.”

More observations from LIGO and other evidence would be needed to support the hypothesis, including further detections like the one announced in February. That could suggest greater abundance of objects of that signature mass.

“If you have a lot of 30-mass events, that begs an explanation,” said co-author Ely D. Kovetz, a postdoctoral fellow in physics and astronomy at Johns Hopkins. “That the discovery of gravitational waves could be connected to dark matter” is creating lots of excitement among astrophysicists, he said.

“It’s got a lot of potential,” Kamionkowski said.

Meteor Activity Outlook for June 11-17, 2016 by Robert Lunsford – American Meteor Society

The Northern June Aquilids (NCZ) were discovered by Zdenek Sekanina through his Radio Meteor Project at Havana, Illinois. These meteors are active from June 10-26, which maximum activity occurring on the 16th. The current position of the radiant is 19:37 (294) -11. This position lies in a remote area of southern Aquila near the Sagittarius border. The nearest notable star is 3rd magnitude Algiedi (Alpha Capricorni), which lies 9 degrees to the east. Rates, even at maximum, are expected to be less than 1 per hour. With an entry velocity of 41 km/sec., the average Northern June Aquilid meteor would be of medium speed.

Northern June Aquilids_m

During this period the moon reaches its first quarter phase on Saturday June 11th. At this time the half-illuminated moon will lie 90 degrees east of the sun and will set soon after midnight for most locations located at mid-northern latitudes. As the week progresses the window of opportunity for viewing meteors in dark skies decreases with each passing night. Toward the end of the period the nearly full moon will lie above the horizon nearly all night long, making meteor observations difficult.

The estimated total hourly meteor rates for evening observers this week is near 2 for observers located in the northern hemisphere and 3 for observers located in tropical southern locations (25S). For morning observers the estimated total hourly rates should be near 8 as seen from mid-northern latitudes (45N) and 12 as seen from tropical southern locations (25S). Evening rates are reduced during this period due to interfering moonlight. The actual rates will also depend on factors such as personal light and motion perception, local weather conditions, alertness and experience in watching meteor activity.

Note that the hourly rates listed below are estimates as viewed from dark sky sites away from urban light sources. Observers viewing from urban areas will see less activity as only the brightest meteors will be visible from such locations.

The radiant (the area of the sky where meteors appear to shoot from) positions and rates listed below are exact for Saturday night/Sunday morning June 11/12. These positions do not change greatly day to day so the listed coordinates may be used during this entire period. Most star atlases (available at science stores and planetariums) will provide maps with grid lines of the celestial coordinates so that you may find out exactly where these positions are located in the sky. A planisphere or computer planetarium program is also useful in showing the sky at any time of night on any date of the year.

Activity from each radiant is best seen when it is positioned highest in the sky, either due north or south along the meridian, depending on your latitude. It must be remembered that meteor activity is rarely seen at the radiant position. Rather they shoot outwards from the radiant so it is best to center your field of view so that the radiant lies at the edge and not the center. Viewing there will allow you to easily trace the path of each meteor back to the radiant (if it is a shower member) or in another direction if it is a sporadic. Meteor activity is not seen from radiants that are located far below the horizon. The positions below are listed in a west to east manner in order of right ascension (celestial longitude).

The positions listed first are located further west therefore are accessible earlier in the night while those listed further down the list rise later in the night.

These sources of meteoric activity are expected to be active this week.

The center of the large Anthelion (ANT) radiant is currently located at 18:16 (274) -23. This position lies in western Sagittarius, 3 degrees south of the 4th magnitude star known as Polis (mu Sagittarii). Due to the large size of this radiant, Anthelion activity may also appear from the nearby constellations of Scutum, Serpens Caput, southern Ophiuchus, and southeastern Scorpius as well as Sagittarius. This radiant is best placed near 0200 local daylight saving (LDST), when it lies on the meridian and is located highest in the sky. Hourly rates at this time should be near 2 as seen from mid-northern latitudes and 3 as seen from tropical southern latitudes. With an entry velocity of 30 km/sec., the average Anthelion meteor would be of slow velocity.

The June Rho Cygnids (JRC) is a shower of short duration discovered by Damir Šegon and associates of the Croatian Meteor Network. These meteors are only active from June 14-16, with maximum activity occurring on the 14th. The radiant position at maximum lies at 21:22 (320) +45. This area of the sky lies in northeastern Cygnus, 4 degrees west of the 4th magnitude star known as rho Cygni. These meteors are best seen near during the last dark hour of the night when the radiant lies highest in a dark sky. These meteors are better seen from the northern hemisphere where the radiant rises higher into the sky before the start of morning twilight. Hourly rates, are expected to remain less than 1. With an entry velocity of 48 kilometers per second, a majority of these meteors will appear to move with medium velocities. This shower is synonymous with shower #521 JRP in the IAU Meteor Catalog.

The Pi Piscids (PPS) were discovered by Dr. Peter Brown in his meteoroid stream survey using the Canadian Meteor Orbit Radar. This shower was later verified by Dr. Peter Jenniskens and David Holman using data from the CAMS network in northern California. These meteors are active from June 11 through July 25 with maximum activity occurring on July 1st. The current position of the radiant is 00:00 (000) +18. This position actually lies in southeastern Pegasus, 4 degrees northwest of the 3rd magnitude star known as Algenib (Gamma Pegasi). Rates are currently expected to be less than 1 per hour no matter your location. With an entry velocity of 68 km/sec., the average Pi Piscid meteor would be of swift speed.

The radiant for the Daytime Arietids (ARI) only lies 45 degrees west of the sun. Therefore these meteors can only be seen between the time the radiant rises and dawn. This is a small window of opportunity that lasts for about an hour before the break of dawn. Maximum activity for this shower was expected on June 7th. The current position of the radiant is 03:16 (049) +24. This position lies in eastern Aries, a little more than 5 degrees west of the naked eye open star cluster known as the Pleiades or 7 Sisters. Despite being a strong source of meteors, visual members of this shower are rare due to the low altitude of the radiant. If this radiant was better placed in the sky it would rival the better known Perseids of August. These meteors are the strongest source of radio meteors for the entire year. With an entry velocity of 42 km/sec., the average Daytime Arietid meteor would be of medium speed.

As seen from the mid-northern hemisphere (45N) one would expect to see approximately 6 sporadic meteors per hour during the last hour before dawn as seen from rural observing sites. Evening rates would be near 1 per hour. As seen from the tropical southern latitudes (25S), morning rates would be near 9 per hour as seen from rural observing sites and 2 per hour during the evening hours. Locations between these two extremes would see activity between the listed figures. Evening rates during this period are reduced due to moonlight.

BREAKING NEWS: Research Suggests Major Changes to Geology Textbooks Related to Mantle Plumes

Super-computer modeling of Earth’s crust and upper-mantle suggests that ancient geologic events may have left deep ‘scars’ that can come to life to play a role in earthquakes, mountain formation, and other ongoing processes on our planet.

tectonic-plates-6464_m

Mantle Plumes are columns of hot magma rising by convection in the mantle, believed to cause volcanic activity in hot spots, are often the source of mountain building such as the Hawaiian Islands, and are away from plate margins. This changes the widespread view that only interactions at the boundaries between continent-sized tectonic plates could be responsible for such events.

A team of researchers from the University of Toronto and the University of Aberdeen have created models indicating that former plate boundaries may stay hidden deep beneath the Earth’s surface. These multi-million-year-old structures, situated at sites away from existing plate boundaries, may trigger changes in the structure and properties at the surface in the interior regions of continents.

mantle_lithosphere_deformation_m

“This is a potentially major revision to the fundamental idea of plate tectonics,” says lead author Philip Heron, a postdoctoral fellow in Russell Pysklywec’s research group in UT’s Department of Earth Sciences. Their paper, “Lasting Mantle Scars Lead to Perennial Plate Tectonics,” appears in the June 10, 2016 edition of Nature Communications.

Heron and Pysklywec, together with University of Aberdeen geologist Randell Stephenson have even proposed a ‘perennial plate tectonic map’ of the Earth to help illustrate how ancient processes may have present-day implications.

willson cycle

“It’s based on the familiar global tectonic map that is taught starting in elementary school,” says Pysklywec, who is also chair of UT’s Department of Earth Sciences. “What our models redefine and show on the map are dormant, hidden, ancient plate boundaries that could also be enduring or “perennial” sites of past and active plate tectonic activity.”

To demonstrate the dominating effects that mantle plume anomalies below the Earth’s crust can have on shallow geological features, the researchers used UT’s SciNet – home to Canada’s most powerful computer and one of the most powerful in the world- to make numerical models of the crust and upper-mantle into which they could introduce these scar-like anomalies.

mantle anomalies

The team essentially created an evolving “virtual Earth” to explore how such geodynamic models develop under different conditions.

“For these sorts of simulations, you need to go to a pretty high-resolution to understand what’s going on beneath the surface,” says Heron. “We modeled 1,500 kilometers across and 600 kilometers deep, but some parts of these structures could be just two or three kilometers wide. It is important to accurately resolve the smaller-scale stresses and strains.”

Using these models, the team found that different parts of the mantle below the Earth’s crust may control the folding, breaking, or flowing of the Earth’s crust within plates – in the form of mountain-building and seismic activity – when under compression. In this way, the mantle structures dominate over shallower structures in the crust that had previously been seen as the main cause of such deformation within plates.

“The mantle is like the thermal engine of the planet and the crust is an eggshell above,” says Pysklywec. “We’re looking at the enigmatic and largely unexplored realm in the Earth where these two regions meet.”

“Most of the really big plate tectonic activity happens on the plate boundaries, like when India rammed into Asia to create the Himalayas or how the Atlantic opened to split North America from Europe,” says Heron. “But there are lots of things we couldn’t explain, like seismic activity and mountain-building away from plate boundaries in continent interiors.”

The research team believes their simulations show that these mantle anomalies are generated through ancient plate tectonic processes, such as the closing of ancient oceans, and can remain hidden at sites away from normal plate boundaries until reactivation generates tectonic folding, breaking, or flowing in plate interiors.

“Future exploration of what lies in the mantle beneath the crust may lead to further such discoveries on how our planet works, generating a greater understanding of how the past may affect our geologic future,” says Heron.

The research carries on the legacy of J. Tuzo Wilson, also a U of T scientist, and a legendary figure in geosciences who pioneered the idea of plate tectonics in the 1960’s.

“Plate tectonics is really the cornerstone of all geoscience,” says Pysklywec. “Ultimately, this information could even lead to ways to help better predict how and when earthquakes happen. It’s a key building block.”

_science-of-cycles24_ms


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Deep ‘Scars’ From Ancient Geological Events Play Role In Current Earthquakes

Super-computer modelling of Earth’s crust and upper-mantle suggests that ancient geologic events may have left deep ‘scars’ that can come to life to play a role in earthquakes, mountain formation, and other ongoing processes on our planet.

quake

This changes the widespread view that only interactions at the boundaries between continent-sized tectonic plates could be responsible for such events.

A team of researchers from the University of Toronto and the University of Aberdeen have created models indicating that former plate boundaries may stay hidden deep beneath the Earth’s surface. These multi-million-year-old structures, situated at sites away from existing plate boundaries, may trigger changes in the structure and properties at the surface in the interior regions of continents.

“This is a potentially major revision to the fundamental idea of plate tectonics,” says lead author Philip Heron, a postdoctoral fellow in Russell Pysklywec’s research group in U of T’s Department of Earth Sciences. Their paper, “Lasting mantle scars lead to perennial plate tectonics,” appears in the June 10, 2016 edition of Nature Communications.

Heron and Pysklywec, together with University of Aberdeen geologist Randell Stephenson have even proposed a ‘perennial plate tectonic map’ of the Earth to help illustrate how ancient processes may have present-day implications.

“It’s based on the familiar global tectonic map that is taught starting in elementary school,” says Pysklywec, who is also chair of U of T’s Department of Earth Sciences. “What our models redefine and show on the map are dormant, hidden, ancient plate boundaries that could also be enduring or “perennial” sites of past and active plate tectonic activity.”

To demonstrate the dominating effects that anomalies below the Earth’s crust can have on shallow geological features, the researchers used U of T’s SciNet — home to Canada’s most powerful computer and one of the most powerful in the world- to make numerical models of the crust and upper-mantle into which they could introduce these scar-like anomalies.

The team essentially created an evolving “virtual Earth” to explore how such geodynamic models develop under different conditions.

“For these sorts of simulations, you need to go to a pretty high-resolution to understand what’s going on beneath the surface,” says Heron. “We modeled 1,500 kilometres across and 600 kilometres deep, but some parts of these structures could be just two or three kilometres wide. It is important to accurately resolve the smaller-scale stresses and strains.”

Using these models, the team found that different parts of the mantle below the Earth’s crust may control the folding, breaking, or flowing of the Earth’s crust within plates — in the form of mountain-building and seismic activity — when under compression.

In this way, the mantle structures dominate over shallower structures in the crust that had previously been seen as the main cause of such deformation within plates.

“The mantle is like the thermal engine of the planet and the crust is an eggshell above,” says Pysklywec. “We’re looking at the enigmatic and largely unexplored realm in the Earth where these two regions meet.”

“Most of the really big plate tectonic activity happens on the plate boundaries, like when India rammed into Asia to create the Himalayas or how the Atlantic opened to split North America from Europe,” says Heron. “But there are lots of things we couldn’t explain, like seismic activity and mountain-building away from plate boundaries in continent interiors.”

The research team believes their simulations show that these mantle anomalies are generated through ancient plate tectonic processes, such as the closing of ancient oceans, and can remain hidden at sites away from normal plate boundaries until reactivation generates tectonic folding, breaking, or flowing in plate interiors.

“Future exploration of what lies in the mantle beneath the crust may lead to further such discoveries on how our planet works, generating a greater understanding of how the past may affect our geologic future,” says Heron.

The research carries on the legacy of J. Tuzo Wilson, also a U of T scientist, and a legendary figure in geosciences who pioneered the idea of plate tectonics in the 1960’s.

“Plate tectonics is really the cornerstone of all geoscience,” says Pysklywec. “Ultimately, this information could even lead to ways to help better predict how and when earthquakes happen. It’s a key building block.”

SPECIAL REPORT: Study Shows Weakened Magnetic Field Has No Effect on Avian Compass

Reporting their results in the New Journal of Physics, scientists have taken a step forward in unraveling the inner workings of the avian compass – a puzzle that has captivated researchers for decades. The team, led by a group at Oxford University, is exploring the possibilities of a weakened Earth’s magnetic field would have on living organisms.

avian_magnetoreception_m

Magnetic sensing is a type of sensory perception that has long been studied. Over the past 50 years, scientific studies have shown a wide variety of living organisms have the ability to perceive magnetic fields and can use information from the Earth’s magnetic field in orientation behavior. Examples abound: salmon, sea turtles, spotted newts, lobsters, honeybees, and perhaps us humans, most of which can perceive and utilize geomagnetic field information.

The avian magnetic compass is a complex entity with many surprising properties. The basis for the magnetic sense is located in the eye of the creature, and furthermore, it is light-dependent. The most accepted theory is living organisms or themselves via magnetically sensitive chemical reactions, which take place in proteins known as cryptochromes present in the eyes retina.

avian_magnetoreception1_m

Scientific studies have confirmed that humans do in fact have both magnetite and cryptochromes hardwired as part of our biological makeup. Using an ultrasensitive superconducting magnetometer in a clean-lab environment, scientists have detected the presence of ferromagnetic material in a variety of tissues from the human brain. Magnetic particle extracts from solubilized brain tissues examined with high-resolution transmission electron microscopy, electron diffraction, and elemental analyses identify minerals in the magnetite-maghemite family.

Now the question is, does the weakening Earth’s magnetic field have an effect on living organisms? “The principle that chemical transformations can respond to very weak magnetic fields, known as the radical pair mechanism, is unquestionably genuine,” said Peter Hore, a biophysical chemist at Oxford University, who is heading up the study. “What is not yet proven is whether this mechanism lies at the heart of avian magneto-reception (The ability to perceive magnetic fields).”

Herbal Magnetic Logo_m

According to Hore, probably the most serious stumbling block is whether the spin coherence in the radicals (the short-lived chemical intermediates responsible for the magnetic field effect) could last long enough to allow a magnetic field as weak as the Earth’s to alter the photochemistry of a cryptochrome.

To find out more, the team has built a computational model focusing on the internal magnetic interactions within and between the radicals involved in the process. The simulations allow the scientists to examine the modulation of these interactions caused by thermal fluctuations in the positions of the radicals in their binding sites in the cryptochrome.

Examining the data, the group observes the effect of a weakening Earth magnetic field is sufficient to change the proportion of radical pairs that proceed along two competing chemical reaction pathways. “The effect happens in such a way that the yield of the signaling state of  protein should depend on the direction of the magnetic field with respect to the cryptochrome molecule,” Hore adds. “Furthermore, our results show the loss of coherence caused by certain sorts of internal magnetic interactions and molecular dynamics could actually enhance, rather than degrade, the sensitivity of a cryptochrome-based magnetic compass sensor.”

Device applications
Thinking further ahead, the researchers highlight that their findings could benefit the development of low-cost and more environmentally-friendly electronic devices. “Certain organic semiconductors (OLEDs, for example) exhibit magneto-electro-luminescence or magneto-conductance, the mechanism of which shares essentially identical physics with radical pairs,” said Hore. “I believe there is scope for the design and construction of electronically addressable devices, based on principles learnt from studies of the avian compass, for determining the presence, intensity and direction of weak magnetic fields using cheap, non-toxic organic materials.”

 

New Algorithm Created by MIT Researchers to Produce First Image of a Black Hole

A team of MIT scientists has developed an algorithm that could finally lead to taking pictures of black holes. Black holes are one of Universe’s great mysteries, yet to be fully discovered and understood. They are regions of space-time that manifest a strong gravitational effect that sucks everything inside them – not even light an escape. And it is because light cannot get out, that people can’t see the enigmatic black holes.

black-hole-dn28647

Seeing black holes would only be possible through a telescope with a 10,000 diameter. This is impossible to construct, given that it would end up being roughly the size of the Earth. This is why scientists try to put together data collected from radio telescopes located in different areas of the Globe.

The MIT group determined to finally take a glimpse of black holes has developed the Continuous High-resolution Image Reconstruction using Patch priors (CHIRP) algorithm to solve the “puzzle”. CHIRP is based on interferometry, a technique combining atmospheric signals captured by different telescopes and tamper them with each other.

event_horizon-blackhole

Today, we have other algorithms trying to reveal what very-long-baseline interferometry data looks like, but the pictures created by them are blurry. This is why we are currently not able to see pictures of black holes. These algorithms also cannot handle large amounts of data. That’s where CHIRP shines because it only picks the relevant data and turns it into sharper pictures.

The team is now eager to get all the Event Horizon Telescope data and further update the algorithm. They plan on including factors such as the changing of black holes over time, or their magnetic fields. The scientists’ ultimate goal is to film black holes as they’re “eating” materials in space.

The MIT team will show off their groundbreaking algorithm at the Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) this June.