Researchers using data from the European Space Agency's Cluster spacecraft have found evidence that a “plasmaspheric wind” is releasing a kilogram (over two pounds) of plasma from the plasmasphere into the magnetosphere every second.
I swear you’re not reading an X-Men comic. Supervillains do not appear to be involved. Yet.
The plasmasphere is a region of dense, cold plasma that surrounds the Earth. Filled with charged particles, it’s shaped like a donut and forms the inner part of the magnetosphere, the area around our planet controlled by the magnetic field.
The existence of plasmaspheric wind was theorized over two decades ago, but it’s difficult to detect. It requires fancy instrumentation and detailed measurements of moving particles in the plasmasphere. Now, the four Cluster spacecraft have provided ion measurements from the plasmasphere that support the plasmaspheric wind theory.
We need to understand what’s going on in the plasmasphere because of its effect on things like satellites, GPS and traveling astronauts. Presumably, we also need to keep one step ahead of Magneto.
An active year in the astronomy world has yielded plenty of eye-popping images and conversation pieces, so the folks at New Mexicans for Science and Reason are having an "Astronomy Show 'n' Tell." At 7 p.m. today at the Museum of Natural History and Science (1801 Mountain NW), hear from speakers Dave Thomas, John Geohegan and Rocky Stone as they share pictures, insight and little-known facts about the 2012 annular eclipse and the Transit of Venus. Even you can have the floor with a story or photograph pertaining to recent cosmic happenings. All NMSR meetings are free and open to the public. For more, visit nmsr.org or call 268-3772.
A skeptic’s cosmic quest for a reason to believe in astrology
By Damon Orion
Astrology itself has never made a lick of sense to me. I’ve looked at this thing a million different ways, and I still can’t get my head around the notion that the planets are doing some kind of cosmic dance that eerily mirrors the fact that I just stepped in cat poop. As for the idea that the human personality is linked to the positions of the planets at the moment of a person’s birth ... well, I think I’d have an easier time swallowing a thumbtack milkshake.
No matter what you do or don't know about the Very Large Array, you knows it's large. Very large.
I picture ’70s-era scientists with wire-frame glasses and high-waisted bellbottoms throwing their hands in the air and proclaiming, “Screw it, I can't think of a name either. Let's just call it the Very Large Array.”
Now these scientists have another shot, with inspiration from a public contest. A decade-long restoration of the astronomical radio observatory facility is nearing completion, and it’s decided to throw out the old moniker for a newer, sleeker version worthy of 21st century technology.
Although the VLA will appear the same, the expanded capabilities will allow scientists to observe previously undetectable cosmic objects. A new radio telescope will be more sensitive and increase resolution and imaging abilities, according to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.
Scientists and astronomers from around the world use the VLA to peer into the cosmos and see things such as a star exploding. While the expansion wont be completed until 2012, astronomers have already used new equipment to watch a black hole devouring a star last spring. Yes, they used the word “devouring.”
The total cost of the expansion was $97.99 million and came from the U.S., Canadian and Mexican governments as well as the National Science Foundation. Eight radio-telescope dish antennas will join the 27 existing dishes outside of Socorro.
Name suggestions will be accepted until Dec. 1 and winners will be announced on Jan. 10, 2012.