Giant Radio Jet Coming From Wrong Kind of Galaxy

Giant jets of subatomic particles moving at nearly the speed of light have been found coming from thousands of galaxies across the Universe, but always from elliptical galaxies or galaxies in the process of merging — until now. Using the combined power of the Hubble Space Telescope, the Very Large Array (VLA) and the 8-meter Gemini-South Telescope, astronomers have discovered a huge jet coming from a spiral galaxy similar to our own Milky Way.

When self-image takes a blow, many turn to television as a distraction

Whether you fancy yourself a jet-setting sophisticate or a down-to-earth outdoorsy type, a fast-track corporate star or an all-around nice guy, new research indicates that you probably tune out information that challenges your self-image by tuning in to television. “We each have ways in which we like to perceive ourselves,” said one of the lead researchers. “In many cases self-image is carefully constructed and zealously guarded, and it’s difficult to experience a conflict between who we are and who we would like to be. Television appears to be an effective means of reducing awareness of how we are falling short of our own standards.”

Black holes form first, galaxies follow

A new study has uncovered more evidence that black holes form before the galaxies that contain them. The finding could help resolve a long-standing debate, says the study’s lead scientist. Marianne Vestergaard, a postdoctoral fellow in astronomy at Ohio State, came to this conclusion when she studied a collection of very energetic, active galaxies known as quasars as they appeared some 12 billion years ago, when the universe was only one billion years old. While the quasars were obviously young — they contained large stellar nurseries in which new stars were forming — each also contained a very massive, fully formed black hole.

Astronomers identify new type of star

A new type of star has been discovered lurking as a low mass component in a very compact binary star system. Astronomers announced today at the American Astronomical Society Meeting in Seattle, Wash., that they have confirmed the existence of a new variety of stellar end-product. This previously unknown type of star has some properties similar to brown dwarf stars and may help astronomers understand some of the recently discovered extra-solar planets in close proximity to their suns.

NASA technology could help treat anxiety, migraine and hypertension

An technology developed by NASA to help its astronauts combat motion sickness during space flight will be available in March for a much wider range of human health and performance uses. The technology, which helps an individual control aspects of their autonomal nervous system — which regulates involuntary bodily functions, such as breathing, heartbeat, sweating, blood vessel dilation and glandular secretions — could have use in treating conditions as varied as migraine headache, high blood pressure and panic attacks.

Astronomers Detect a Faint Debris Trail in the Andromeda Galaxy

The discovery of a faint trail of stars in the nearby Andromeda galaxy offers new evidence that large spiral galaxies have grown by gobbling up smaller satellite galaxies. Andromeda (also known as M31) is the nearest large galaxy to our own Milky Way and is very similar to it in appearance. Studying Andromeda gives astronomers an external perspective on a galaxy much like our own–it’s like looking at a bigger sibling of our galaxy.

Astronauts to fight fire with fog during Space Shuttle flight

During a January flight of Space Shuttle Columbia, astronauts will test a new commercial fire-fighting system that puts out blazes with a fine water mist — instead of using harmful chemicals or large quantities of water that damage property. “The fire-fighting industry is in search of a new tool that doesn’t use dangerous chemicals or douse fires with huge quantities of water that cause extensive property damage,” said Mark Nall, director of the Space Product Development Program at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. “By flying this commercial experiment on the STS-107 Columbia mission, NASA is helping industry design a cost-effective, environmentally friendly system for putting out fires.”

Extrasolar meteors hint at distant planet formation

Candian astronomers say that detecting microscopic meteors from other solar systems could provide clues about the formation of planets like Earth. Dust streams from our sun’s stellar neighbours consist of tiny grains of pulverized rock ejected from a disk of dust and debris that commonly surrounds young stars, says Joseph Weingartner, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Toronto’s Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics. According to Professor Norman Murray, associate director of CITA and co-author of the study, “if we can detect these grains and trace them back to the star system that they came from, we’d have very good evidence of planet formation going on in that system.” Weingartner presented the study Jan. 6 at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle, Wash.

Distant Ring of Stars Found Around the Milky Way

A previously unseen band of stars beyond the edge of the Milky Way galaxy has been discovered by a team of scientists from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). The discovery could help to explain how the galaxy was assembled 10 billion years ago.

Planet-Hunting Machine is Getting Even Better

The world’s best planet-hunting machine, the Keck High Resolution Echelle Spectrometer, will be getting even better this year with an advanced imaging array that will improve efforts to detect extra-solar planets, examine distant quasars, measure extragalactic stars and do other research requiring very precise wavelength measurements of thousands of color channels with one exposure. HIRES, a visible-wavelength spectrometer responsible for 20 percent of the science on the Keck I telescope, will be getting an advanced new detector that will increase photon detection rates at ultraviolet wavelengths by a factor of 8 (at 3200 ?), expand single-exposure wavelength coverage, provide finer sampling of spectral features, and allow faster readout rates to provide higher-quality science in less time.

Scientists catch their first elusive ‘dark’ gamma-ray burst

Scientists racing the clock have snapped a photo of a gamma-ray burst event one minute after the explosion, capturing for the first time a particularly fast-fading type of “dark” burst, which comprises about half of all gamma-ray bursts. A gamma-ray burst announces the birth of a new black hole; it is the most powerful type of explosion known, second only to the Big Bang in total energy release. This latest finding may double the number of gamma-ray bursts available for study and rattle a few theories as well, said scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, based on an X-ray image taken by the MIT-built High Energy Transient Explorer (HETE) satellite, the first satellite dedicated to spotting gamma-ray bursts.