Planetary Collision That Formed The Moon Made Life Possible On Earth

Most of Earth’s essential elements for life — including most of the carbon and nitrogen in you — probably came from another planet.

Earth most likely received the bulk of its carbon, nitrogen and other life-essential volatile elements from the planetary collision that created the moon more than 4.4 billion years ago, according to a new study by Rice University petrologists in the journal Science Advances.

“From the study of primitive meteorites, scientists have long known that Earth and other rocky planets in the inner solar system are volatile-depleted,” said study co-author Rajdeep Dasgupta. “But the timing and mechanism of volatile delivery has been hotly debated. Ours is the first scenario that can explain the timing and delivery in a way that is consistent with all of the geochemical evidence.”

The evidence was compiled from a combination of high-temperature, high-pressure experiments in Dasgupta’s lab, which specializes in studying geochemical reactions that take place deep within a planet under intense heat and pressure.

In a series of experiments, study lead author and graduate student Damanveer Grewal gathered evidence to test a long-standing theory that Earth’s volatiles arrived from a collision with an embryonic planet that had a sulfur-rich core.

The sulfur content of the donor planet’s core matters because of the puzzling array of experimental evidence about the carbon, nitrogen and sulfur that exist in all parts of the Earth other than the core.

“The core doesn’t interact with the rest of Earth, but everything above it, the mantle, the crust, the hydrosphere and the atmosphere, are all connected,” Grewal said. “Material cycles between them.”

One long-standing idea about how Earth received its volatiles was the “late veneer” theory that volatile-rich meteorites, leftover chunks of primordial matter from the outer solar system, arrived after Earth’s core formed. And while the isotopic signatures of Earth’s volatiles match these primordial objects, known as carbonaceous chondrites, the elemental ratio of carbon to nitrogen is off. Earth’s non-core material, which geologists call the bulk silicate Earth, has about 40 parts carbon to each part nitrogen, approximately twice the 20-1 ratio seen in carbonaceous chondrites.

Grewal’s experiments, which simulated the high pressures and temperatures during core formation, tested the idea that a sulfur-rich planetary core might exclude carbon or nitrogen, or both, leaving much larger fractions of those elements in the bulk silicate as compared to Earth. In a series of tests at a range of temperatures and pressure, Grewal examined how much carbon and nitrogen made it into the core in three scenarios: no sulfur, 10 percent sulfur and 25 percent sulfur.

“Nitrogen was largely unaffected,” he said. “It remained soluble in the alloys relative to silicates, and only began to be excluded from the core under the highest sulfur concentration.”

Carbon, by contrast, was considerably less soluble in alloys with intermediate sulfur concentrations, and sulfur-rich alloys took up about 10 times less carbon by weight than sulfur-free alloys.

Using this information, along with the known ratios and concentrations of elements both on Earth and in non-terrestrial bodies, Dasgupta, Grewal and Rice postdoctoral researcher Chenguang Sun designed a computer simulation to find the most likely scenario that produced Earth’s volatiles. Finding the answer involved varying the starting conditions, running approximately 1 billion scenarios and comparing them against the known conditions in the solar system today.

“What we found is that all the evidence — isotopic signatures, the carbon-nitrogen ratio and the overall amounts of carbon, nitrogen and sulfur in the bulk silicate Earth — are consistent with a moon-forming impact involving a volatile-bearing, Mars-sized planet with a sulfur-rich core,” Grewal said.

Dasgupta, the principal investigator on a NASA-funded effort called CLEVER Planets that is exploring how life-essential elements might come together on distant rocky planets, said better understanding the origin of Earth’s life-essential elements has implications beyond our solar system.

“This study suggests that a rocky, Earth-like planet gets more chances to acquire life-essential elements if it forms and grows from giant impacts with planets that have sampled different building blocks, perhaps from different parts of a protoplanetary disk,” Dasgupta said.

“This removes some boundary conditions,” he said. “It shows that life-essential volatiles can arrive at the surface layers of a planet, even if they were produced on planetary bodies that underwent core formation under very different conditions.”

Dasgupta said it does not appear that Earth’s bulk silicate, on its own, could have attained the life-essential volatile budgets that produced our biosphere, atmosphere and hydrosphere.

“That means we can broaden our search for pathways that lead to volatile elements coming together on a planet to support life as we know it.”

Milky Way’s Neighbors Pick Up The Pace

After slowly forming stars for the first few billion years of their lives, the Magellanic Clouds, near neighbors of our own Milky Way galaxy, have upped their game and are now forming new stars at a fast clip. This new insight into the history of the Clouds comes from the first detailed chemical maps made of galaxies beyond the Milky Way.

Named for explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who led the first European expedition to circumnavigate the globe, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds are the Milky Way’s nearest galactic neighbors — companion galaxies that will someday merge with our galaxy. The two galaxies are visible only from the Southern Hemisphere, where they look like bright, wispy clouds.

A Map to Stellar History

Although humans have gazed at the Clouds for millennia, this is the first time astronomers have made a detailed map of the chemical compositions of the stars within them. The project, carried out by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), was led by NOAO astronomer David Nidever, who is also a research professor of physics at Montana State University.

“We mapped the positions, movements, and chemical make-up of thousands of stars in the Magellanic Clouds,” said Nidever. “Reading these maps helps us reconstruct the history of when these galaxies formed their stars.”

The maps are the first major discovery to come out of the new southern operations of SDSS’s Apache Point Observatory Galaxy Evolution Experiment 2 (APOGEE-2) survey, which is being carried out on the Irénée du Pont Telescope at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile.

Making Maps from Stellar Spectra

To make the maps, the SDSS team collected spectra of as many stars as possible. Spectra, which spread out the light from a star in the form of a rainbow, encode the motions of stars, their temperature, the chemical elements they contain, and their stage in the stellar life cycle.

By measuring the chemical make-up of a galaxy’s stars, astronomers are able to infer their “star formation history,” a rough record of the rate at which stars formed over time. The reconstruction is possible because of the difference in the lifetimes of stars of different masses and the role more massive stars play in enriching galaxies with heavy elements.

As stars age, stars more massive than the Sun evolve and explode as supernovae, ejecting heavy elements out into the galaxy, while less massive stars live on. The ejected elements mix with the existing gas, enriching it. New generations of stars form from the enriched gas and inherit that chemical make-up. The process repeats, with the longer-lived lower mass stars surviving to record the enrichment history of the galaxy. By mapping the abundances of these stars, astronomers can “read” the star formation record of the galaxy.

Slow Start Followed by a Bang

The results show that the star formation history of the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds is completely different from that of our galaxy. “In the Milky Way, star formation began like gangbusters and later declined,” explained team member Sten Hasselquist from the University of Utah. “In contrast, in the Magellanic Clouds, stars formed extremely slowly at early times, at a rate only 1/50th of the star formation rate in the Milky Way, but that rate has skyrocketed in the last 2 billion years.”

Nidever thinks that the dramatic increase in the star formation rate is due to the interaction of the Magellanic Clouds with one another as they tumble toward the Milky Way. “The Clouds began their lives calmly in a relatively isolated part of the Universe, where there was no reason to form stars,” said Nidever. “But in the last few billion years, the close interactions that the Clouds have had with each other and with the Milky Way is causing the gas in the Clouds to transform into stars.”

Fireworks Ahead!

Over the next several billion years, the Magellanic Clouds will continue to merge with the Milky Way, as the gravitational force of the much more massive Milky Way pulls them in. As the merger progresses, star formation in the Clouds is expected to reach an even greater, fevered pitch, according to recent work. In about 2.5 billion years, the Large Magellanic Cloud will be entirely consumed by the Milky Way in a cosmic explosion of star formation. Our nearest neighbors may have gotten off to a slow start, but exciting times lie ahead!

BREAKING NEWS: Earth’s Magnetic Poles Could Start to Flip


Today’s article will come as no surprise to Science Of Cycles readers. There have been several articles SOC published regarding this issue going back to 2012. One of the highly contested questions regarding the pole shift…is ‘where’ on the time line are we measured as of today. I address this in a few of my previous articles. A significant conveying influence to the makings of a magnetic pole reversal is the deluge of cosmic rays which has an effect on the Earth’s mantle and outer core.

The process of convection is amplified which can produce an imbalance that could cause a ‘bulge’, also can produce an acceleration of mantle plumes – which in-turn causes heating of the oceans. These processes can have an effect of Earth’s dipole which creates the North and South magnetic direction. 

Furthermore, my research presents a hypothesis suggesting the influx of cosmic rays during extended solar minimum cycles which could range from 40,000 years to 700,000 years – each being its own cycle within a cycle, could be a contributing factor in historic global extinctions.

As you might have guessed, a large part of my research is the study of cycles, hence, my company’s title; Science Of Cycles.  I will be presenting my article titled “Cosmic Rays Role in Historic Extinctions” tomorrow, which will comprise the latest research published on December 6th 2018.

As Earth’s magnetic shield fails, so do its satellites.First, our communications satellites in the highest orbits go down. Next,astronauts in low-Earth orbit can no longer phone home. And finally, cosmic rays start to bombard every human on Earth.

If Earth’s magnetic field were to decay significantly, it could collapse altogether and flip polarity – changing magnetic north to south and vice versa. The consequences of this process could be dire for our planet. Most worryingly, we may be headed right for this scenario.

‘The geomagnetic field has been decaying for the last 3,000 years,’ said Dr. Nicolas Thouveny from the European Center for Research and Teaching of Environmental Geosciences (CEREGE) in Aix-en-Provence, France. ‘I fit continues to fall down at this rate, in less than one millennium we will be in a critical (period).’

Dr. Thouveny is one of the principal investigators on the five-year EDIFICE project, which has been running since 2014. Together with his colleagues, he has been investigating the history of Earth’s magnetic field,including when it has reversed in the past, and when it might again.

Cosmic rays: Our planet’s magnetic field is predominantly created by the flow of liquid iron inside the core. It has always been a feature of our planet, but it has flipped in polarity repeatedly throughout Earth’s history. Each time it flips – up to 100 times in the past 20 million years, while the reversal can take about 1,000 years to complete – it leaves fossilized magnetization in rocks on Earth.

By taking cores – or columns – of sediments from the seafloor, like a long straw that can extend down up to 300 meters with the help of a drill, we can look back in time and see when these reversals occurred. Dr. Thouveny and his team looked at two particular forms of elements that allowed them to probe the history of our planet’s magnetic field in greater detail.

For a polarity reversal to occur, the magnetic field needs to weaken by about 90% to a threshold level. This process can take thousands of years, and during this time, the lack of a protective magnetic shield around our planet allows more cosmic rays – high-energy particles from elsewhere in the universe – to hit us.

When this happens, these cosmic rays collide with more and more atoms in our atmosphere, such as nitrogen and oxygen. This produces variants of elements called cosmogenic isotopes, such as carbon-14 and beryllium-10, which fall to the surface. And by studying the quantities of these in cores, we can see when polarity reversals took place.

FULL ARTICLE – CLICK HERE

Scientists Theorize New Origin Story For Earth’s Water

Earth’s water may have originated from both asteroidal material and gas left over from the formation of the Sun, according to new research. The new finding could give scientists important insights about the development of other planets and their potential to support life.

In a new study in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, researchers propose a new theory to address the long-standing mystery of where Earth’s water came from and how it got here.

The new study challenges widely-accepted ideas about hydrogen in Earth’s water by suggesting the element partially came from clouds of dust and gas remaining after the Sun’s formation, called the solar nebula.

To identify sources of water on Earth, scientists have searched for sources of hydrogen rather than oxygen, because the latter component of water is much more abundant in the solar system.

Many scientists have historically supported a theory that all of Earth’s water came from asteroids because of similarities between ocean water and water found on asteroids. The ratio of deuterium, a heavier hydrogen isotope, to normal hydrogen serves as a unique chemical signature of water sources. In the case of Earth’s oceans, the deuterium-to-hydrogen ratio is close to what is found in asteroids.

But the ocean may not be telling the entire story of Earth’s hydrogen, according to the study’s authors.

“It’s a bit of a blind spot in the community,” said Steven Desch, a professor of astrophysics in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona and co-author of the new study, led by Peter Buseck, Regents’ Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and School of Molecular Sciences at Arizona State University. “When people measure the [deuterium-to-hydrogen] ratio in ocean water and they see that it is pretty close to what we see in asteroids, it was always easy to believe it all came from asteroids.”

More recent research suggests hydrogen in Earth’s oceans does not represent hydrogen throughout the entire planet, the study’s authors said. Samples of hydrogen from deep inside the Earth, close to the boundary between the core and mantle, have notably less deuterium, indicating this hydrogen may not have come from asteroids. Noble gases helium and neon, with isotopic signatures inherited from the solar nebula, have also been found in the Earth’s mantle.

In the new study, researchers developed a new theoretical model of Earth’s formation to explain these differences between hydrogen in Earth’s oceans and at the core-mantle boundary as well as the presence of noble gases deep inside the planet.

Modeling Earth’s beginning

According to their new model, several billion years ago, large waterlogged asteroids began developing into planets while the solar nebula still swirled around the Sun. These asteroids, known as planetary embryos, collided and grew rapidly. Eventually, a collision introduced enough energy to melt the surface of the largest embryo into an ocean of magma. This largest embryo would eventually become Earth.

Gases from the solar nebula, including hydrogen and noble gases, were drawn in by the large, magma-covered embryo to form an early atmosphere. Nebular hydrogen, which contains less deuterium and is lighter than asteroidal hydrogen, dissolved into the molten iron of the magma ocean.

Through a process called isotopic fractionation, hydrogen was pulled towards the young Earth’s center. Hydrogen, which is attracted to iron, was delivered to the core by the metal, while much of the heavier isotope, deuterium, remained in the magma which eventually cooled and became the mantle, according to the study’s authors. Impacts from smaller embryos and other objects then continued to add water and overall mass until Earth reached its final size.

This new model would leave Earth with noble gases deep inside its mantle and a lower deuterium-to-hydrogen ratio in its core than in its mantle and oceans.

The authors used the model to estimate how much hydrogen came from each source. They concluded most was asteroidal in origin, but some of Earth’s water did come from the solar nebula.

“For every 100 molecules of Earth’s water, there are one or two coming from solar nebula,” said Jun Wu, assistant research professor in the School of Molecular Sciences and School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University and lead author of the study.

An insightful model

The study also offers scientists new perspectives about the development of other planets and their potential to support life, the authors said. Earth-like planets in other solar systems may not all have access to asteroids loaded with water. The new study suggests these exoplanets could have obtained water through their system’s own solar nebula.

“This model suggests that the inevitable formation of water would likely occur on any sufficiently large rocky exoplanets in extrasolar systems,” Wu said. “I think this is very exciting.”

Anat Shahar, a geochemist at the Carnegie Institution for Science, who was not involved with the study, noted the hydrogen fractionation factor, which describes how the deuterium-to-hydrogen ratio changes when the element dissolves in iron, is currently unknown and difficult to measure. For the new study, this property of hydrogen had to be estimated.

The new model, which fits in well with current research, could be tested once experiments reveal the hydrogen fractionation factor, Shahar said.

“This paper is a very creative alternative to what is an old problem,” Shahar said. “The authors have done a good job of estimating what these different fractionation factors would be without having the experiments.”

(NEW) Cosmic Ray Radiation Increasing in Earth’s Atmosphere to Its Core

This article as well as one I published on October 22nd titled: Cosmic Ray Particles That Tunnel Through Earth , tell the story of how legitimate research makes its way through the enormous pressure of peer review, ridicule, occasional self-questioning – and perhaps most of all, the 50-50 possibility that I will not get credit for my presented hypotheses first published in 2012.

This article as well as one I published on October 22nd titled: Cosmic Ray Particles That Tunnel Through Earth , tell the story of how legitimate research makes its way through the enormous pressure of peer review, ridicule, occasional self-questioning – and perhaps most of all, the 50-50 possibility that I will not get credit for my presented hypotheses first published in 2012.

My last point presented does indeed reflect ego, can’t sidestep this certitude, however they do tell me there is such a thing as ‘healthy ego’; so I hope my analogy reflects such. The facts have been provided in published papers and in two of my books “Solar Rain; The Earth Changes Have Begun” (2005) and “Global Warming; A Convenient Disguise” (2007).

You might remember my mentioning the term “space weather” – and perhaps more importantly – as it is defined today, began in the late 1990’s when both Mitch Battros and Tony Phillips (NASA contractor) launched our websites in 1997. My original site was www.earthchangestv.com and his is www.spaceweather.com. The Wayback Machine records indicate we both launched our site at the same time….December 1998. However, I know we both set up in 1997 and it may be that the Wayback Machine did not start recording until 1998.

Before my research and hypothesis was published, scientific disciplines spoke in terms of ‘climate’ which is measured in decades, centuries, and millennium. My studies highlighted the fact that symbiotic casual interaction perpetrated by various forms of charged particles. The actions and reactions of these storms would occur within minutes, hours, and days. This form of interaction is known as “weather.” Hence, space weather was born…..

The research below addresses the region of the United States; however, similar findings have been noted around the world except for one region. It is an area known as the South Atlantic Anomaly.  A region that worries scientists at the moment is the South Atlantic Anomaly – a vast area stretching from Chile to Zimbabwe.

Here, the magnetic field is so weak that it is dangerous for the Earth’s satellites to pass through it because the high cosmic radiation in this area can destroy the electronics. Now a team of American researchers has found a possible reason for this anomaly, which, among other things, can pave the way for a better understanding of the weakening and reversal of magnetic poles.

High-altitude balloon flights conducted show that atmospheric radiation is intensifying from coast to coast over the USA, which would appear counter-intuitive as it directly corresponds with a decrease in solar activity during a cycles solar minimum.

Since 2015, we have been monitoring X-rays, gamma-rays and neutrons in the stratosphere, mainly over central California, but also in a dozen other states (NV, OR, WA, ID, WY, KS, NE, MO, IL, ME, NH, VT). Everywhere we have been there is an upward trend in radiation–ranging from +20% in central California to +33% in Maine. The latest points circled in red, were gathered during a ballooning campaign in August-October 2018.

How does Solar Minimum boost radiation? The answer lies in the yin-yang relationship between cosmic rays and solar activity. Cosmic rays are the subatomic debris of exploding stars and other violent events. Normally, the Sun’s magnetic field and solar wind hold cosmic rays at bay, however, during Solar Minimum these defenses weaken allowing a flood of galactic cosmic rays into the solar system.

Cosmic rays crashing into our plane’s atmosphere produce a spray of secondary particles and photons. That secondary spray is what we measure. Each balloon flight, which typically reaches an altitude greater than 100,00o feet, gives us a complete profile of radiation from ground level to the stratosphere. Our sensors sample energies between 10 keV and 20 MeV, spanning the range of medical X-ray machines, airport security devices, and “killer electrons” in Earth’s radiation belts.

Cosmic radiation at aviation altitudes is typically 50 times that of natural sources at sea level. Pilots are classified as occupational radiation workers by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) and, according to a recent study from researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, flight attendants face an elevated risk of cancer compared to members of the general population.

They listed cosmic rays as one of several risk factors. Weather and climate may also be affected, with some research linking cosmic rays to to the formation of clouds and lightning. Finally, there are studies (one recently published in Nature) asserting that heart rate variability and cardiac arrhythmia are affected by cosmic rays in some populations. If true, it means the effects reach all the way to the ground.

 

Comet Tails Blowing In The Solar Wind

Engineers and scientists gathered around a screen in an operations room at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., eager to lay their eyes on the first data from NASA’s STEREO spacecraft. It was January 2007, and the twin STEREO satellites — short for Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory — which had launched just months before, were opening their instruments’ eyes for the first time. First up: STEREO-B. The screen blinked, but instead of the vast starfield they expected, a pearly white, feathery smear — like an angel’s wing — filled the frame. For a few panicky minutes, NRL astrophysicist Karl Battams worried something was wrong with the telescope. Then, he realized this bright object wasn’t a defect, but an apparition, and these were the first satellite images of Comet McNaught. Later that day, STEREO-A would return similar observations.

Comet C/2006 P1 — also known as Comet McNaught, named for astronomer Robert McNaught, who discovered it in August 2006 — was one of the brightest comets visible from Earth in the past 50 years. Throughout January 2007, the comet fanned across the Southern Hemisphere’s sky, so bright it was visible to the naked eye even during the day. McNaught belongs to a rarefied group of comets, dubbed the Great Comets and known for their exceptional brightness. Setting McNaught apart further still from its peers, however, was its highly structured tail, composed of many distinct dust bands called striae, or striations, that stretched more than 100 million miles behind the comet, longer than the distance between Earth and the Sun. One month later, in February 2007, an ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA spacecraft called Ulysses would encounter the comet’s long tail.

“McNaught was a huge deal when it came because it was so ridiculously bright and beautiful in the sky,” Battams said. “It had these striae — dusty fingers that extended across a huge expanse of the sky. Structurally, it’s one of the most beautiful comets we’ve seen for decades.”

How exactly the tail broke up in this manner, scientists didn’t know. It called to mind reports of another storied comet from long ago: the Great Comet of 1744, which was said to have dramatically fanned out in six tails over the horizon, a phenomenon astronomers then couldn’t explain. By untangling the mystery of McNaught’s tail, scientists hoped to learn something new about the nature of comets — and solve two cosmic mysteries in one.

A key difference between studying comets in 1744 and 2007 is, of course, our ability to do so from space. In addition to STEREO’s serendipitous sighting, another mission, ESA/NASA’s SOHO — the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory — made regular observations as McNaught flew by the Sun. Researchers hoped these images might contain their answers.

Now, years later, Oliver Price, a planetary science Ph.D. student at University College London’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory in the United Kingdom, has developed a new image-processing technique to mine through the wealth of data. Price’s findings — summarized in a recently published Icarus paper — offer the first observations of striations forming, and an unexpected revelation about the Sun’s effect on comet dust.

Comets are cosmic crumbs of frozen gas, rock and dust left over from the formation of our solar system 4.6 billion years ago — and so they may contain important clues about our solar system’s early history. Those clues are unlocked, as if from a time capsule, every time a comet’s elliptical orbit brings it close to the Sun. Intense heat vaporizes the frozen gases and releases the dust within, which streams behind the comet, forming two distinct tails: an ion tail carried by the solar wind — the constant flow of charged particles from the Sun — and a dust tail.

Understanding how dust behaves in the tail — how it fragments and clumps together — can teach scientists a great deal about similar processes that formed dust into asteroids, moons and even planets all those billions of years ago. Appearing as one of the biggest and most structurally complex comets in recent history, McNaught was a particularly good subject for this type of study. Its brightness and high dust production made it much easier to resolve the evolution of fine structures in its dust tail.

Price began his study focusing on something the scientists couldn’t explain. “My supervisor and I noticed weird goings-on in the images of these striations, a disruption in the otherwise clean lines,” he said. “I set out to investigate what might have happened to create this weird effect.”

The rift seemed to be located at the heliospheric current sheet, a boundary where the magnetic orientation, or polarity, of the electrified solar wind changes directions. This puzzled scientists because while they have long known a comet’s ion tail is affected by the solar wind, they had never seen the solar wind impact dust tails before.

Dust in McNaught’s tail — roughly the size of cigarette smoke — is too heavy, the scientists thought, for the solar wind to push around. On the other hand, an ion tail’s miniscule, electrically charged ions and electrons easily sail along the solar wind. But it was difficult to tell exactly what was going on with McNaught’s dust, and where, because at roughly 60 miles per second, the comet was rapidly traveling in and out of STEREO and SOHO’s view.

“We got really good data sets with this comet, but they were from different cameras on different spacecraft, which are all in different places,” Price said. “I was looking for a way to bring it all together to get a complete picture of what’s happening in the tail.”

His solution was a novel image-processing technique that compiles all the data from different spacecraft using a simulation of the tail, where the location of each tiny speck of dust is mapped by solar conditions and physical characteristics like its size and age, or how long it’d been since it’d flown off the head, or coma, of the comet. The end result is what Price dubbed a temporal map, which layers information from all the images taken at any given moment, allowing him to follow the dust’s movements.

The temporal maps meant Price could watch the striations form over time. His videos, which cover the span of two weeks, are the first to track the formation and evolution of these structures, showing how dust fragments topple off the comet head and collapse into long striations.

But the researchers were most excited to find that Price’s maps made it easier to explain the strange effect that drew their attention to the data in the first place. Indeed, the current sheet was the culprit behind the disruptions in the dust tail, breaking up each striation’s smooth, distinct lines. For the two days it took the full length of the comet to traverse the current sheet, whenever dust encountered the changing magnetic conditions there, it was jolted out of position, as if crossing some cosmic speed bump.

“It’s like the striation’s feathers are ruffled when it crosses the current sheet,” University College London planetary scientist Geraint Jones said. “If you picture a wing with lots of feathers, as the wing crosses the sheet, lighter ends of the feathers get bent out of shape. For us, this is strong evidence that the dust is electrically charged, and that the solar wind is affecting the motion of that dust.”

Scientists have long known the solar wind affects charged dust; missions like Galileo Cassini, and Ulysses watched it move electrically charged dust through the space near Jupiter and Saturn. But it was a surprise for them to see the solar wind affect larger dust grains like those in McNaught’s tail — about 100 times bigger than the dust seen ejected from around Jupiter and Saturn — because they’re that much heavier for the solar wind to push around.

With this study, scientists gain new insights into long-held mysteries. The work sheds light on the nature of striated comet tails from the past and provides a crucial lens for studying other comets in the future. But it also opens a new line of questioning: What role did the Sun have in our solar system’s formation and early history?

“Now that we see the solar wind changed the position of dust grains in McNaught’s tail, we can ask: Could it have been the case that early on in the solar system’s history, the solar wind played a role in organizing ancient dust as well?” Jones said.

JUST IN: Newly Detected Gamma-Rays From Milky Way

The first-ever detection of highly energetic radiation from a microquasar has astrophysicists scrambling for new theories to explain the extreme particle acceleration. The team’s observations led by Hui Li, Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Theoretical Division says; “”What’s amazing about this discovery is that all current particle acceleration theories have difficulties explaining the observations.”

A microquasar is a black hole that gobbles up debris from a nearby companion star and blasts out powerful jets of material. The team’s observations, described in the Oct. 4 issue of the journal Nature, strongly suggest that particle collisions at the ends of the microquasar’s jets produced the powerful gamma rays. Scientists think that studying messages from this microquasar, dubbed SS 433, may offer a glimpse into more extreme events happening at the centers of distant galaxies.

The team gathered data from the High-Altitude Water Cherenkov Gamma-Ray Observatory (HAWC), which is a mountain-top detector in Mexico that observes gamma ray emission from supernova remnants, rotating dense stars called pulsars, and quasars. Los Alamos, funded by Department of Energy Office of High-Energy Physics, helped build HAWC, which was completed in 2015.

Based on their analysis, the researchers concluded that electrons in the jets attain energies that are about 1,000 times higher than can be achieved using earth-bound particle accelerators, such as the Large Hadron Collider. The jet electrons collide with the low-energy microwave background radiation that permeates space, resulting in gamma ray emission. This is a newly observed mechanism for getting high-energy gamma rays out of this kind of system and is different from what scientists have observed when the jets are aimed at Earth.

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Alexa’s and Sophia’s Kids Heart Challenge Fundraiser (American Heart Association)

At my school, I’m learning how I can help make a difference by raising lifesaving donations to help kids with heart disease.  I’m also learning about my own heart, and how to keep it healthy. And I’m getting active!

I’m excited about raising money for other kids – kids with hearts that don’t exactly work right and to help fund new medicines and treatments to be discovered.                     Please help me make a difference!  Thank you!

Alexa’s Link: http://bit.ly/2y1xSV5

Sophia’s Link: http://bit.ly/2PgnhfK