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Jan 232015

Boris Morukov, a Russian cosmonaut and physician who conducted simulation experiments for a human mission to Mars, died unexpectedly on Thursday, January 1, 2015 at the age of 64, announced the Institute of Biomedical problems (IBMP) in Moscow.

“We announce with deep sorrow that Boris Morukov died suddenly on the New Year’s Day”, the Moscow Institute wrote on its website. Boris Moroukov “will always remain in our hearts as a talented scholar, a brilliant organizer and a friendly and helpful man,” said IBMP in a statement.

Boris Morukov

Boris Morukov, a cosmonaut for Russian Space Agency (RSA) and mission specialist on NASA STS-106 mission (public domain)

Morukov, a former cosmonaut for Russian Federal Space Agency, coordinated the project Mars-500, a psychosocial isolation experiment held from 2007 to 2011 and during which an international team of six people spent 520 days in isolation to simulate a trip to Mars.

This experiment, conducted by Russia in collaboration with the European Space Agency and China, allowed the simulation of a round trip to the red planet and the study of the isolation effects on humans from absence of daylight to that of fresh air.

During the tests, the astronauts were subjected also to restrictions to make contacts with other humans, a situation which is crucial for a long trip to Mars even if such a space mission is scheduled to take place over 20 or 30 years from now.

Boris Vladimirovich Morukov was a Russian physician at the State Research Center RF-Institute for Biomedical Problems (IBMP). He trained with the Russian Federal Space Agency as a research-cosmonaut and flew aboard NASA Space Shuttle mission STS-106 as a mission specialist.

Jan 232015

Scientists at NASA have discovered a huge coronal hole at the south pole of the Sun, a mysterious phenomenon that gave rise to appearance of dark spots on the solar surface, according to an article published by the American space agency.

The causes of such coronal holes are yet unknown, but researchers believe that such phenomena are triggered by dispersion of particles that travel at high speeds of over 800 km/h across the surface of the Sun.

sun coronal hole

Solar Disk with Coronal Hole spotted by NASA STEREO Observatory (public domain)

The shiny color of the sun is given by the condensed particles at its surface. The coronal holes feature far less such particles and these areas are darker and colder.

When they occur, the coronal holes may remain in the Sun for up to 5 years and during this time they may change their shape and size.

Furthermore, NASA say that coronal holes can have a direct impact on the Earth. The dispersion of particles in these regions can set off the northern lights (aurora borealis) or southern lights (aurora australis) on Earth but also geomagnetic storms.

The coronal hole recently discovered is much larger than those seen so far, a fact surprising the scientists and reminding us of our limited knowledge about the cosmic bodies in our neighborhood.

Nov 222014

Spacecrat Philae made a stunning discovery during the 57 hours of operation on the surface of the Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko before before its main battery discharged entirely making the systems shut down.

As part of ESA’s Rosetta space mission, robotic lander reportedly detected organic molecules containing the chemical element carbon, which is at the origin of life on Earth.

Comet 67PC-G Philae Rosetta

Comet 67P/C-G imaged by Rosetta’s OSIRIS camera on 7 August from a distance of 104 km. (Credit: ESA/Wikimedia Commons)

German researchers at the European Space Operations Center in Darmstadt, Germany, announced that Philae, which made the first-ever successful landing on a comet nucleus on November 12, 2014, was able to detect the presence of carbon-based organic compounds before losing communication and entering a sleeping state on November 15 at 0:36 UTC.

Scientists said that it is yet unclear whether the complex organic molecules include compounds that form proteins. One of the purposes of the Rosetta mission is to discover whether the life was brought to Earth by comets, via carbon-based organic chemical compounds.

Philae achieved the final touchdown on 67P/G-C comet’s surface after a 10-year-long journey on board Rosetta spacecraft, as part of a mission that aims at finding out more about how planets formed and even how life began.

Before running out of energy last Saturday, the robot sent out scientific data from a series of experiments that we performed automatically on comet’s surface.

DLR’s lander manager Stephan Ulamec said:
“Prior to falling silent, the lander was able to transmit all science data gathered during the First Science Sequence. … This machine performed magnificently under tough conditions, and we can be fully proud of the incredible scientific success Philae has delivered.”

Comets date back to formation of the Solar System and contain extremely old organic molecules, like a time capsule.

COSAC, a scientific instrument on board Philae, was able to “smell” comet’s atmosphere and detect the first organic molecules shortly after the lander reached the surface, according to the German Aerospace Center DLR.

Accordinto to Wikipedia, the COSAC instrument, whose name comes from the “COmetary SAmpling and Composition”, is a combined gas chromatograph and time-of-flight mass spectrometer to perform analysis of soil samples and determine the content of volatile components.

Philae conducted also a 25-cm-deep drill in search for organic molecules, but for now it is unclear whether it managed to provide COSAC with a sample of matter for analysis.

Reawakening perspectives!
Despite losing all communication capability, Philae has the chance to wake up by August 2015 as the comet flies much closer to the Sun in its orbit. During this time, lander’s solar panels might receive enough solar energy to allow ESA to reawaken it.

As the primary battery wound down “the European Space Agency decided to attempt to tilt the lander’s biggest solar panel toward the sun — a last effort that researcher believe may have paid off.” Philae project manager Stephan Ulmanec said a few days of sun on the solar panels is all it would need to resume collecting information.”
Credit photo: By European Space Agency (Comet 67P on 7 August (b)) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Nov 202014

Two new particles were discovered in experiments that made use of the particle accelerator LHC (Large Hadron Collider) , announced on Wednesday researchers at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research headquartered in Geneva.

CERN Higgs event

CERN makes another breakthrough as 2 new particles are spotted (pic: CERN/Wikimedia)

The existence of two particles – called “Xi_b” and “Xi_b *” – was already predicted by theoretical models, but they have not been seen before.

The new particles are baryons, known as part of a family of subatomic particles who are best represented by famous protons and neutrons .

Baryons are made up of three quarks, elementary constituents bound together by “strong nuclear force”, one of the four fundamental interactions.

The existence of two new particles was highlighted thanks to experiments conducted in 2011 and 2012 with LHC particle accelerator , located at the border between Switzerland and France.

The study was made by Matthew Charles , a researcher at the Laboratory of Nuclear Physics of the CNRS – UPMC – Université Paris Diderot , in collaboration with a US researcher.

Measuring properties of the two new particles would “contribute to a better understanding of the strong force theory in the Standard Model of particle physics,” said CNRS ( National Center of Scientific Research in France ), in a statement.

Strong interaction or strong nuclear force is responsible for the cohesion of the nuclear matter .
Theoretical description of these interactions was a challenge for physicists for a long time.

Then, a breakthrough was achieved when scientists realized that they are associated with a geometric principle. Around 1970, Standard Model’s theoretical schema came out describing the fundamental particles of matter, the way they interact, and the forces that are exerted between them.

A particle of the same family, called “Xi_b*0″ was already spotted in 2012 by LHC – the largest particle accelerator in the world.

The same LHC alllowed the observations of the famous Higgs boson, which physicists see as the keystone to the fundamental structure of matter, an elementary particle that gives mass to a large number of other particles, according to the Standard Model theory.

LHC is currently in a preparation phase to operate with higher energy and more intense beams. Restarting particle accelerator is scheduled for Spring 2015.
Credit photo: By Lucas Taylor source file [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Apr 142014
Tetraquark: New matter discovered in Large Hadron Collider experiments at CERN

Particle physics researchers working on CERN’s Large Hadron Collider revealed the finding of a new type of matter called Tetraquark. Large Hadron Collider, world’s largest and most powerful particle smasher, examined the existence of a new particle dubbed Z(4430) a few days ago, according to New Scientist. Physicists had claimed that the particle might exist […]

Mar 192014
Apocalyptic prophecies for 2014: World War 3 and other catastrophes predicted

2014 vows to bring the hardest times for mankind. The predictions are terrifying as the world would allegedly be shocked by natural disasters, president assassinations and incurable diseases. 2014 is believed to be a turning point in humanity’s history. Plagues, wars and disasters threaten the world according to one of the most dreadful predictions that […]

Dec 302013
Thomas Kast's spectacular photo of light pillars in Oulu, Finland posted by NASA as picture of the day

A series of photos taken ​​by the Finnish photographer Thomas Kast and featuring street light pillars apparently descending from the sky, reached the website of the American Space Agency NASA. Thomas Kast managed to capture on tape the light beams apparently coming down from the sky of Oulu, Finland, and one of the snaps was […]

Nov 242013
Black Beauty meteorite discovered in North Africa. Scientists claim space rock came from Mars

A novel discovery was made in North Africa where researchers found a meteorite apparently originating on the planet Mars. Experts say that the stunning space stone, called “Black Beauty”, is four and a half billion-year-old. The object contains 30 times more water than any other Martian meteorite ever discovered, and was formed in the first […]

Sep 182013
Mysterious horizontal tornado appeared in the sky of Virginia VIDEO

A rare phenomenon appeared in the sky of the U.S. State of Virginia on Tuesday: a cloud that looked like a giant tornado horizontal astonished inhabitants (scroll down for video). The unusual weather phenomenon, known as arcus cloud appeared rolled in over the sky at around 7:30 p.m. Such a stunning cloud forms so rarely […]

Aug 282013
Mendeleev's periodic table to be enriched by new chemical element

Mendeleev’s periodic table will soon have a new chemical element that has been discovered recently. However, researchers are meanwhile looking for a suitable name for the new element. Experts at the Lund University in Sweden say they have discovered clear evidence of a super-heavy element with atomic number 115. The element is highly radioactive and […]