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First pictures from the £1bn time machine telescope reveal faraway galaxy forming stars at ‘breathtaking rate’

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, billions of stars were born.

This picture  – one of the first to be taken by  ALMA – the world’s newest and most powerful telescope – shows an ancient galaxy forming stars at a breathtaking rate.

During such ‘starbursts’, hundreds or thousands of stars are born a year. In contrast, our galaxy, the Milky Way only sees around just one new star a year.

 ALMA images of gravitationally-lensed distant star-forming galaxies

The first image from the ALMA telescope

The first image from the ALMA telescope: This montage combines data from ALMA with images from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, for five distant galaxies. The ALMA images, represented in red, show the distant, background galaxies, being distorted by the gravitational lens effect produced by the galaxies in the foreground, depicted in the Hubble data in blue.

THE BEST IS YET TO COME…

The astronomers were using only a partial array of 16 of ALMA’s full complement of 66 giant antennas, as the observatory was still under construction at an altitude of 5000 metres on the remote Chajnantor Plateau in the Chilean Andes.

When complete, ALMA will be even more sensitive, and will be able to detect even fainter galaxies.

For now, astronomers targeted the brighter ones.

They took advantage of a helping hand from nature, too: using gravitational lensing, an effect predicted by Einstein’s general theory of relativity, where light from a distant galaxy is distorted by the gravitational influence of a nearer foreground galaxy, which acts like a lens and makes the distant source appear brighter.

The red arcs in the image represent a distant galaxy rapidly creating stars around 12billion years ago – the light generated has only just reached us on earth.

The central white dot depicts another calmer and closer galaxy.

It was already known that starbursts – bright and brief periods of rapid star formation – were much more common in the early universe than today but scientists had struggled to date them.

The latest images, taken by a stunning series of radio antennae on plateau 16,400ft above the Chile’s Atacama desert, reveal that such intense periods of stellar birth occurred earlier in the universe than thought.

Data from more than two dozen galaxies shows that on average, the starbursts took place 12 billion years ago, when the universe was just under two billion years old.

This is a full billion years earlier than previous studies had indicated.

Two of the galaxies are the most distant of their kind ever seen – so far away that the light in the form of radio waves captured by ALMA started their journey just a billion years after the Big Bang.

In one of these, water was detected- the most distant observation of water in the cosmos to date.

Some of the distant star-forming galaxies are as bright as 40 million million suns, the journal Nature reports.

The picture was taken by capturing light emitted in the form of radio waves by gases in the galaxy and measuring  and warping  the light’s waves.

By taking into account stretching caused by the expansion of the universe, astronomers can work out how long the light’s journey has taken and so place a galaxy at the right point in cosmic history.

How it works:

How it works: This schematic image represents how light from a distant galaxy is distorted by the gravitational effects of a nearer foreground galaxy, which acts like a lens and makes the distant source appear distorted, but brighter, forming characteristic rings of light, known as Einstein rings. An analysis of the distortion has revealed that some of the distant star-forming galaxies are as bright as 40 trillion Suns, and have been magnified by the gravitational lens by up to 22 times.

Lead researcher, Joaquin Vieria, of the California Institute of Technology in the US, said: ‘The more distant the galaxy, the further back in time one is looking, so by measuring their distances we can piece together a timeline of how vigorously the universe was making new stars at different stages in its 13.7billion year history.’

The ALMA observatory, which is part-funded by Britain through the Science and Technology Facilities Council, was officially launched today.#

This picture was taken while it was still under construction and so drew on just 16 of the telescope’s 66 giant radio antennae.

But when operating at full power, the resulting images should be ten times sharper than those of the Hubble space telescope.

To get such pictures from a single land-based radio telescope, it would have to be ten miles wide.

Researcher Carlos De Breuck, of the European Southern Observatory, said the results show that ‘ALMA is a powerful new player in the field’.

Leicester University astronomer Professor Andrew Blain, who wrote an accompanying article for Nature, said: ‘With sharper imaging than the Hubble Space Telescope, and the ability to measure the different parts of a faraway galaxy independently, ALMA is starting to give us a much more complete picture of the growth and formation of our universe.’

The array of 66 telescopes is being built in Chile because it is one of the few places in the world where it is still possible to find a high, dry location unaffected by pollution from artificial light.

Under construction: Four of the first ALMA antennas at the Array Operations Site (AOS), located at 5000 metres altitude on the Chajnantor plateau, in the II Region of Chile

Under construction: Four of the first ALMA antennas at the Array Operations Site (AOS), located at 5000 metres altitude on the Chajnantor plateau, in the II Region of Chile

Radio telescope antennas of the ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) project, in the Atacama desert, some 1500 km north of Santiago, on March 12,2013.

Radio telescope antennas of the ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) project, in the Atacama desert, some 1500 km north of Santiago, on March 12,2013.

How the ALMA telescope works

How the ALMA telescope works

Dryness is particularly important as moisture in the air absorbs the radio waves the dishes are trying to capture.

Speaking at the observatory’s official opening ceremony, Chilean president Sebastián Piñera, said: ‘One of our many natural resources is Chile’s spectacular night sky.

‘I believe that science has been a vital contributor to the development of Chile in recent years. I am very proud of our international collaborations in astronomy, of which ALMA is the latest, and biggest outcome.’

ALMA’s UK project manager, Professor Brian Ellison,  of the STFC’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire, said: ‘The difficulty of constructing an instrument of the scale of ALMA, and that is located in a challenging environment, should not be underestimated.

‘It is a testament to the vision, skill and perseverance of all those involved that not only is construction complete, but early operation is producing outstanding science.

‘I am delighted and proud that the UK, through a variety of institutes and organisations participating at various stages of the project’s development and construction, has made a large and very successful contribution to ALMA, both scientifically and technically.

‘The Apple founder, the late Steve Jobs once said that “….every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything…..and one is very fortunate if you get to work on just one of these in your career’.

‘The advent of ALMA will undoubtedly revolutionise our view of the Universe and for me, it represents working on a revolutionary product 66 times over.’

Dr Thomas Greve, from University College London, and one of two British scientists who contributed to the Nature paper, said: ‘Our study has shown that little more than one billion years after the Big Bang, extreme starburst galaxies in the Universe, forming stars at a rate of more than a thousand per year, were a much more commonplace occurrence than previously thought.

‘This runs counter to the traditional understanding of massive galaxies forming gradually over much longer periods of time.

‘This is a discovery that only ALMA, with its incredible observing capabilities, could have made.’

British science and engineering has benefited from £40million of contracts from ALMA.

Experts at the STFC’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire made the half-ton cooling systems at the heart of each dish, other contributions include vital software for processing the information gathered by the telescope and material for the actual dishes.

ALMA is located 5,000 meters above Andes El Llano de Chajnantors plateau, some 50 km of San Pedro de Atacama in Chiles Second Region, in Antofagasta
ALMA is located 5,000 meters above Andes El Llano de Chajnantors plateau, some 50 km of San Pedro de Atacama in Chiles Second Region, in Antofagasta
Babak Tafreshi, one of the ESO Photo Ambassadors, has captured the antennas of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) under the southern sky in another breathtaking image
Babak Tafreshi, one of the ESO Photo Ambassadors, has captured the antennas of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) under the southern sky in another breathtaking image

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Space

We were wrong-100 billion habitable Earth-like planets in our galaxy alone

Estimates by astronomers indicate that there could be more than 100 BILLION Earth-like worlds in the Milky Way that could be home to life. Think that’s a big number? According to astronomers,  there are roughly 500 billion galaxies in the known universe, which means there are around 50,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (5×1022) habitable planets. That’s of course if there’s just ONE universe.

In fact, just inside our Milky Way Galaxy experts believe are some 400 BILLION STARS, but this number may seem small as some astrophysicists believe that stars in our galaxy could figure the TRILLION. This means that the Milky Way alone could be home to more than 100 BILLION planets.

However, since astronomers aren’t able to see our galaxy from the outside, they can’t really know for sure the number of planets the Milky Way is home to. They can only provide estimates.

To do this, experts calculate our galaxy’s mass and calculate how much of that mass is composed of stars. Based on these calculations scientists believe our galaxy is home to at least 400 billion stars, but as I mentioned above, this number could drastically rise.

There are some calculations which suggest that the Milky Way is home on an average between 800 billion and 3.2 trillion planets, but there are some experts who believe the number could be as high as eight trillion.

Furthermore, if we take a look at what NASA has to say, well find out how the space agency believes there are at least 1,500 planets located within 50 light years from Earth. These conclusions are based on observations taken over a period of six years by the PLANET—Probing Lensing Anomalies NETwork—collaboration, founded in 1995. The study concluded that there are way more Earth-sized planets than Jupiter-sized worlds.

So much space, so little information.

In 2013, Dr. Phil Yock, from the department of physics at the University of Auckland said how: “Kepler finds Earth-sized planets that are quite close to their host stars, and astronomers estimate that there are around 17 billion such planets in the Milky Way. These worlds are hotter than our planet, although some could be of a comparable temperature (and  could, therefore, be habitable) if they are orbiting a cool star called a red dwarf.”

“Our proposal is to measure the number of Earth-mass planets orbiting stars at distances typically twice the Sun-Earth distance. Our planets will, therefore, be cooler than the Earth. By interpolating between the Kepler and MOA results, we should obtain a good estimate of the number of Earth-like, habitable planets in the Milky Way. We predict a number in the order of 100 billion.”

“Of course, it will be a long way from measuring this number to actually finding inhabited planets, but it will be a step along the way.”

The number seems to be increasing every year.

If we take a peek at the data provided by the Kepler space mission, we’ll find how astronomers believe approximately 40 BILLION Earth-sized planets orbiting habitable zones of Sun-like stars and red dwarfs in the Milky Way galaxy alone.

Since Kepler was launched in 2009, the space telescope has discovered a total of 4,034 potential alien planets, of which 2,335 are verified exoplanets.

Interestingly, some astronomers say that around 11 billion planets may be orbiting Sun-like Stars, while other believe this number is more like 100 billion.

In 2017 NASA made great progress in the search for alien planets. Their most noteworthy discovery was the solar system Trappist-1, home to SEVEN Earth-like planets who may even be home to alien life.

In June of 2017, NASA revealed a statement saying that they had discovered ten new planets outside of our solar system that are very likely of similar size and temperature as Earth and may even have life developed on their surface.

Source

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Space

Scientists Found 234 Alien Civilizations

Aliens are like buses, you spend ages waiting for one and then 234 come along at once. Or at least, that’s what two astronomers from the Laval University in Quebec are suggesting.

Ermanno Borra and his graduate student Eric Trottier have analyzed over 2.5 million stars and galaxies for pulses of light emitted at regular intervals and discovered it in 234 stars similar in size to our Sun. The team believes that alien civilizations are behind those signals.

The researchers looked at the Fourier Transform (FT) of the light spectrum. The FT is a mathematical tool that allows us to work out where the components of a signal come from. If the light is a milkshake, by using the FT you get the recipe.

The FT analysis has found periodic modulated components which, according to the scientists, are caused by the super quick light pulses (less than a trillionth of a second) generated by Extraterrestrial Intelligence (ETI).

In the paper, available from the Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, they discard every other explanation such as instrumental effects, rotation of molecules, rapid stellar pulsations, and peculiar chemistry.

“We find that the detected signals have exactly the shape of an ETI signal predicted in the previous publication and are therefore in agreement with this hypothesis,” the researchers wrote in the paper.

“The fact that they are only found in a very small fraction of stars within a narrow spectral range centered near the spectral type of the Sun is also in agreement with the ETI hypothesis.”

These superfast pulses will have to be generated by incredibly powerful lasers, like the one at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Interestingly, in previous publications Borra has stated that this area of astronomy is the least explored, which raises the question on why these aliens would all decide to communicate in such a complicated and energy-consuming way.

The researchers admit that although they believe aliens is the most likely explanation, this is yet to be confirmed.

The Stephen Hawking-backed project Breakthrough Listen will conduct follow-up observations of these 234 stars, but the team at UC Berkeley, where the project’s science program is based, invite people to be skeptical.

“The one in 10,000 objects with unusual spectra seen by Borra and Trottier are certainly worthy of additional study. However, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

It is too early to unequivocally attribute these purported signals to the activities of extraterrestrial civilizations,” the Breakthrough Listen team said in a statement.

Source iflscience.com

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Space

Don’t Panic but There’s an 11% Chance Elon Musk’s Tesla Is on a Collision Course With Earth

I guess 11% is fairly low but then again any percentage is still a chance…the risk of satellites and other launched objects crashing back to Earth with potentially deadly consequences are becoming too regular now and not to mention the natural threats we already face from asteroids, comets etc..

via Science Alert:

It’s the darnedest thing, guys. Remember that Tesla owned by Elon Musk that SpaceX cavalierly launched into space last week? Well, it turns out that might not be the last we see of it.

In fact, according to a new analysis of the Roadster’s orbital trajectory, that stylish hunk of red metal, rubber, ‘Starman’, and other cool stuff is on track to make a number of close encounters with Earth – and ultimately, one day, it could even hit us.

That’s the assessment of Canadian astrophysicist Hanno Rein from the University of Toronto Scarborough, who, with fellow researchers, ran the numbers on what the Tesla’s invisible highway through space might look like, given what we know about orbital dynamics.

“We have all the software ready, and when we saw the launch last week we thought, ‘Let’s see what happens.’” Rein told Science.

“So we ran the [Tesla’s] orbit forward for several million years.”

Over that epic expanse of time (and space), it’s fair to say that a lot of things could happen – and the further ahead we estimate, the fuzzier the picture becomes, given how many gravitational factors could affect the overall trajectory of the vehicle (and the second stage of the Falcon Heavy rocket, to which it remains attached).

Nonetheless, the team’s simulations suggest the Tesla’s elliptical orbit around the Sun – which sees it repeatedly cross the orbits of Mars, Earth, and Venus – will make for several close encounters with Earth in the future, the first of which is expected to take place in 2091.

Looking further ahead, the good news is the researchers don’t foresee any possible impacts with Earth for the next thousand years at least – but they’re not offering any kind of firm guarantee on that.

125-spacex-musk-tesla-earth-1

125-spacex-musk-tesla-earth-1

“The bottom line is we can’t predict with certainty what’s going to happen after just a few hundred years, because it’s a chaotic orbit and we can only draw conclusions in a statistical sense,” Rein told CBS News.

Still, across some 240 simulations tracing the long-term dynamical evolution of the car’s possible orbital destinies, “roughly 50 percent are going to hit a planet in the next few tens of millions of years,” Rein figures.

To the extent their approach can quantify risk of a collision, the researchers say there’s a 6 percent chance the Tesla will collide with Earth within the next million years, and a 2.5 percent chance Venus will get clipped over the same time frame.

As time goes on – looking 3 million years ahead – the probability of a collision with Earth increases to 11 percent.

Mars got off scot-free in all the test runs with no impacts, and only in one simulation did the Tesla collide with the Sun – sometime within the next 3 million years.

It’s worth pointing out that these calculations haven’t yet been peer-reviewed by other scientists, but as the researchers themselves freely acknowledge, there’s a great deal of mathematical unknowns in these orbital scenarios.

But given the Roadster is estimated to have a virtually immortal half-life of some 20 million years (as it ever-so-slowly erodes into nothingness in space), the team ultimately “expect collision probabilities with the Earth to be substantial”, they write in their paper.

In any case, if the worst happens, there’s really no need to be worried. Not now, nor much, much, much later.

“It will either burn up [in the atmosphere] or maybe one component will reach the surface,” Rein told Science.

“There is no risk to health and safety whatsoever.”

Phew.

The findings are available on the pre-print website arXiv.org.

PETER DOCKRILL
Science Alert

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