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We’re Living Next Door To A Cannibal Galaxy Whose Violent Past Has Been Revealed

A study of the small galaxies swallowed by our nearest large galactic neighbor has revealed something of how galaxies grow. In the process, it has hinted at something that, if true, would change the way we see the universe in profound ways.

All galaxies, including our own Milky Way, grow by consuming smaller ones. Inevitably, the nearest large galaxy to our own, M31, also known as Andromeda, has eaten many small neighbors. Our first insight into the nature of these events is useful because Andromeda and the Milky Way are on course to meet. That’s 4 billion years away, but it’s good to be prepared.

Dr Dougal Mackey of the Australian National University and Professor Geraint Lewis from the University of Sydney analyzed streams of stars within Andromeda’s halo and identified some as the remnants of galaxies, even gaining approximations of when this occurred. Rather than a steady process, they identified two bursts separated by billions of years. The galaxies in the two rounds arrived at right angles to each other and maintained that motion even after being pulled apart.

“We are cosmic archaeologists, except we are digging through the fossils of long-dead galaxies rather than human history,” Lewis said in a statement.

Mackey told IFLScience the consumed galaxies contained globular clusters, groups of stars bound so closely together that only the most powerful gravitational disruptions pull them apart.

Individual stars in Andromeda’s halo are usually too distant and faint for us to track their movements, but the clusters are a different matter, allowing the pair to identify in Nature the streams whose shared movements pin them as past galaxies.

“Once you get below a certain mass, galaxies don’t contain globular clusters,” Mackey said, so the smallest are currently untraceable. However, he added that the contribution of these to Andromeda’s growth was minor.

One day, Andromeda will swallow the Milky Way as well. However, Mackey acknowledged to IFLScience this will be a very different process. The galaxies Andromeda has eaten up until now have masses a tenth of its total at most, usually much smaller. The Milky Way, on the other hand, is at least half Andromeda’s size.

The merger of the two will destroy the spiral structure of each, creating an egg-like elliptical galaxy. By then, the Sun will have burned the Earth beyond recognition, but if humanity somehow survives elsewhere, consequences will be limited. Our view of the night sky will change utterly, but the space between the stars is so great that even when stars from Andromeda become mixed among our nearest neighbors, it is unlikely any will pass close enough to disrupt orbits within the inner solar system.

One feature of the pair’s work is still tentative but could turn out to be awe-inspiring. Around a decade ago astronomers noticed a curious pattern in the dwarf galaxies that surround Andromeda. Around half these galaxies orbit in a specific plane, something astronomers had not expected and struggled to explain. We now know this pattern is unstable, and can neither have been in place for a long time (astronomically speaking) or have lasted that far into the future.

This study found that some of the swallowed galaxy remnants conform to the same pattern, but surprisingly, it is the much older set that do this, rather than the more recent arrival. This suggests these long-lost galaxies also once lay in a similar plane, indicating an abiding underlying structure to the local area of the universe. The most likely explanation is the universe is made up of a web of dark matter filaments and Andromeda lies on one of these, with gravity so powerful it aligns the movement of clusters of small galaxies.

Source www.iflscience.com

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Space

NASA proposes to build mushroom houses on Mars and the Moon

In science fiction, human settlements on Mars and other planets are often presented as futuristic buildings made of metal and glass. However, in reality, the habitat of future colonists may be more “green”, NASA experts believe.

They are developing a technology for growing various structures from fungi, or rather, from mycelium. This is a vegetative body of mushrooms, consisting of thin branched threads.

The principal investigator of the project, astrobiologist Lynn Rothschild notes that for the existing, proposed design solutions for future colonists, transportation of building materials and necessary equipment from Earth will require fabulous costs.

Mushroom houses grown right on the spot are a promising and low-cost alternative.

According to experts, under certain conditions, “colonies” of the thinnest filaments of mycelium are able to be combined into larger structures and create complex structures. For example, fruit bodies of mushrooms or … building blocks .

Petri dish with mycelium growing on artificial soil imitating Martian soil.Photo by NASA / Ames Research Center / Lynn Rothschild.

During a space flight, the mycelium will be “inactive”, and upon arrival to the moon or Mars, it will be possible to literally grow houses, as well as furniture and other necessary items, from it. To do this, mushroom preparations will just need to be filled with water.

Bricks made from mycelium with the addition of wood chips.Photo 2018 Stanford-Brown-RISD iGEM Team.

By the way, back in 2018, the authors of the project demonstrated one of the first prototypes – a mushroom stool. It was grown from mycelium for two weeks, after which it was baked to make a dry and durable piece of furniture.

A stool grown from mycelium in two weeks.Photo 2018 Stanford-Brown-RISD iGEM Team.

As Lynn Rothschild explains, the key to the success of this project was the use of cyanobacteria , which in the process of photosynthesis release oxygen and substances necessary for the growth of mycelium.

According to the researchers, future homes will have a three-layer structure. The outer layer will consist of water ice, which can be mined on the Moon or Mars . It will protect against radiation.

The second layer – from cyanobacteria – will absorb the light passing through the ice. Microorganisms will produce oxygen for humans and nutrients for the last layer – mycelium.

This inner layer will serve as a framework for the “living house”. First, the mycelium will need to be activated for growth in a closed environment (inside the frame), and then bake building blocks.

At the same time, even if some strands of mycelium somehow “escape”, they will not be able to grow. To prevent this, there will be genetic changes introduced by the creators. That is, the mycelium will be viable only in certain conditions created by people.

It is important to note that mycelium can also be used to filter water, extract minerals from wastewater, regulate humidity and even bioluminescent lighting . In addition, houses that can self-heal in case of damage can be created from it.

So far, however, these possibilities are only theoretical: scientists intend to study them in future works.

Also, the authors of the project do not exclude the possibility that one day “mushroom” houses may appear on Earth. This approach will reduce the carbon emissions generated by the construction industry.

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Elon Musk: ‘I will take a million people to Mars by 2050’

Elon musk, the tycoon and businessman, has surprised once again by tweeting that he will take a million people to Mars by 2050.

In several tweets released on Thursday night, the CEO of Spacex, the company that develops cutting-edge rockets, disclosed more details of its plan to colonize Mars.

As previously indicated, Musk said that in theory, 1,000 spaceships could possibly carry 100,000 people in each orbital synchronization of Earth with Mars.

Elon Musk: «I will take a million people to Mars by 2050»
Artistic representation of a city on Mars. Credit: Max Horbatiuk / artstation.com

According to Musk, the ships would depart from Earth following an orbit in a period of 30 days, taking advantage of the moment when the Earth and Mars are better aligned to make the trip, that is every 26 months.

Musk imagines that these ships will depart from Earth’s orbit for a period of 30 days, the time window when Earth and Mars are better aligned to make the trip, every 26 months.

One million people to Mars

One of the users of Twitter asked Musk, if he thinks he could take a million people to Mars, taking into account the equivalence of years and possible trips; Musk simply answered with a “yes”.

Musk said he will need his rockets to have a large load capacity to meet the goal of building a colony on Mars or on another planet.

Calculations indicate that each ship could support more than 100 tons per flight, resulting in the need that each ship might need one megaton per year in orbit, Musk indicated.

But overcoming the difficult and long journey, and once humans reach the red planet, Musk says that the work will begin.

Musk tweeted:

There will be many jobs to do. ”

Although for now, everything is based on theories and calculations, the engineers of Spacex They must work hard in these missing decades to achieve Elon Musk’s dream goal: colonize Mars.

Source: cnet


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‘A world with two stars’: a teenager discovers an unusual planet while doing internships at NASA

A 17-year-old teenager from New York (USA) discovered a planet while searching for stars as an intern at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the space agency reported this week.

Wolf Cukier, a junior in high school, had received the task of examining variations in the brightness of the stars captured by the Traffic Exoplanet Inspection Satellite (TESS). While exploring a star system located 1,300 light years from Earth, he observed what appeared to be a slight spot on one of the suns of the system called TOI 1338.

“At first I thought it was a stellar eclipse, but the timing was wrong. It turned out to be a planet, ”said Cukier.

“The planet blocked the light of those two stars, which caused a small decrease in the amount of light that reached the telescope. That was what I noticed at the beginning, ”he explained later to CBS.

Difficult to detect

Once he communicated the discovery to his mentors, they spent several weeks verifying his observation. They finally concluded that what he had discovered was a planet 6.9 times larger than ours that orbits around two stars, in what is known as a circumbinary planet.

Because these binary stars orbit each other every 15 days, it was not an easy task to distinguish the transit events from the only known planet in such a system, dubbed TOI 1338-b. Planets that orbit two stars are harder to detect than those that orbit only one.

In this case, the largest star is approximately 10% larger than our Sun, while the smallest, approximately one third of that mass, is colder and dimmer.

rt

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