Readers ask about life on Venus and high-energy cosmic rays

Venusian recollection

Phosphine gas detected in the clouds of Venus could be a sign of life or some strange unknown chemistry, Lisa Grossman reported in “Possible sign of life is found on Venus” (SN: 10/10/20 & 10/24/20, p. 6).

The story brought back memories for reader Bruce Hapke, a professor of planetary science at the University of Pittsburgh.

“In 1975, my colleague Robert M. Nelson and I published the first high-quality, broadband spectrum of the clouds of Venus … which we obtained using the 106-inch telescope at McDonald Observatory in Texas,” Hapke wrote. “This spectrum turned out to be identical to that of a form of elemental sulfur, and we suggested that tiny particles of sulfur in the clouds are responsible for their yellowish color. The sulfur comes from volcanic eruptions.”

By then, “Russia had launched several unmanned spacecraft that had successfully landed on the surface of

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A possible way to measure ancient rate of cosmic ray strikes using ‘paleo-detectors’

A possible way to measure ancient rate of cosmic ray strikes using 'paleo-detectors'
Relentless barrage. Cosmic rays collide with molecules in Earth’s atmosphere, creating showers of particles that include neutrinos. The neutrinos can penetrate deep within Earth’s surface, where they may leave a cosmic-ray record in buried rocks. Credit: NSF/J.Yang/via Physics

An international team of researchers has proposed a way to indirectly measure the rate of cosmic rays striking the Earth over millions of years. In their paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters, they suggest using the imprints made by atmospheric neutrinos in so-called “paleo-detectors”—natural minerals expressing damage tracks resulting from nuclear recoils.


Every moment of every day, the Earth is bombarded by cosmic rays—most of them are light nuclei and protons. And as those cosmic rays pass through the atmosphere, some of them collide with atoms, smashing them apart and resulting in the production of neutrinos, which rain down on the planet. Astrophysicists have noted that a method to

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Listen To A Trio Of Cosmic Bodies ‘Sing’ From Space [VIDEO]

KEY POINTS

  • With its data sonification project, NASA is offering people a unique way of experiencing space
  • Sonification takes places when data from space are assigned sounds based on how events might have taken place
  • NASA then generates a piece of audio that represents how fast or slow the celestial events unfold

Hearing the cosmic bodies “sing” is an entirely new way to experience space, and this is exactly what NASA wanted people to try when the agency first introduced its data sonification project in September 2020.

On Monday, the space agency released three videos boasting the pieces of music produced by a trio of significant celestial events namely the Bullet Cluster, the Crab Nebula and the Supernova 1987A. 

The Bullet Cluster, officially known as 1E 0657-56, is an important celestial milestone because it offered the world the first direct proof of the dark matter, NASA explained in a press

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The Arrow Of Cosmic Time And Space Remains Vital To Our Sanity

To those who saw it in its very first theatrical run, the opening crawl at the very top of the original 1977 “Star Wars” film automatically dispelled any notions about cosmic civilizations and a linear march of time. We all got the reference to a “galaxy far, far away” at the outset, but “a long time ago” was all at once brilliant and mind-blowing. 

Inherent in that notion is the idea that civilizations outside our own solar system have been living and dying since time immemorial. And the civilizations depicted in this bit of space cinema also appear to have become masters of their own

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NASA Hubble Snaps ‘Cosmic Cinnamon Bun’ In Andromeda Constellation [Photo]

KEY POINTS

  • NASA shared an image of a cinnamon bun-shaped galaxy snapped by the Hubble telescope
  • UGC 12588 is located 31 million light-years away in the constellation of Andromeda
  • It is considered a spiral galaxy despite its peculiar shape

NASA has shared a stunning new image of a galaxy resembling a “cosmic cinnamon bun” that lies in the constellation of Andromeda in the Northern Hemisphere.

A galaxy called UGC 12588 has a peculiar yet enticing shape in a photo snapped by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Astronomers revealed on the NASA website that unlike most spiral galaxies, UGC 12588 doesn’t have a line of stars across its center. Neither does it boast the classic prominent spiral arm pattern usually seen in other galaxies in this category.

UGC 12588 instead is composed of a white and mostly unstructured center, making it more reminiscent of a cinnamon bun than a megastructure composed

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Astronomers’ success: Seven new cosmic masers

Astronomers' success: seven new cosmic masers
Dr Paweł Wolak at the radio telescope RT-4 in Piwnice Credit: Andrzej Roma?ski

A group of astronomers from Toruń in Poland have successfully completed a survey of the Milky Way plane. They searched for gas clouds, where there was a maser reinforcement of the OH molecule. They saw seven new sources – each of them brings scientists closer to the process by which massive stars are born. “It is like listening to the buzzing of a mosquito during a loud concert,” backstage observations are recapitulated by Prof. Anna Bartkiewicz.


The success of the Toruń-based group of astronomers is described in the prestigious Astronomy and Astrophysics. The article “A search for the OH 6035 MHz line in high-mass star-forming regions,” prepared by Prof. dr. habil. Marian Szymczak, dr. Paweł Wolak, dr. habil. Anna Bartkiewicz, NCU Prof. from the Faculty of Physics, Astronomy and Informatics and doctoral students: Michał Durjasz and

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16-year-old cosmic mystery solved, revealing stellar missing link — ScienceDaily

In 2004, scientists with NASA’s space-based Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) spotted an object unlike any they’d seen before in our Milky Way galaxy: a large, faint blob of gas with a star at its center. Though it doesn’t actually emit light visible to the human eye, GALEX captured the blob in ultraviolet (UV) light and thus appeared blue in the images; subsequent observations also revealed a thick ring structure within it. So the team nicknamed it the Blue Ring Nebula. Over the next 16 years, they studied it with multiple Earth- and space-based telescopes, including W. M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea in Hawaii, but the more they learned, the more mysterious it seemed.

A new study published online on Nov. 18 in the journal Nature may have cracked the case. By applying cutting-edge theoretical models to the slew of data that has been collected on this object, the authors posit

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Cosmic flashes come in all different sizes — ScienceDaily

By studying the site of a spectacular stellar explosion seen in April 2020, a Chalmers-led team of scientists have used four European radio telescopes to confirm that astronomy’s most exciting puzzle is about to be solved. Fast radio bursts, unpredictable millisecond-long radio signals seen at huge distances across the universe, are generated by extreme stars called magnetars — and are astonishingly diverse in brightness.

For over a decade, the phenomenon known as fast radio bursts has excited and mystified astronomers. These extraordinarily bright but extremely brief flashes of radio waves — lasting only milliseconds — reach Earth from galaxies billions of light years away.

In April 2020, one of the bursts was for the first time detected from within our galaxy, the Milky Way, by radio telescopes CHIME and STARE2. The unexpected flare was traced to a previously-known source only 25 000 light years from Earth in the constellation of

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A cosmic amethyst in a dying star

A cosmic amethyst in a dying star
Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/UNAM/J. Toalá et al.; Optical: NASA/STScI

On Earth, amethysts can form when gas bubbles in lava cool under the right conditions. In space, a dying star with a mass similar to the Sun is capable of producing a structure on par with the appeal of these beautiful gems.


As stars like the Sun run through their fuel, they cast off their outer layers and the core of the star shrinks. Using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, astronomers have found a bubble of ultra-hot gas at the center of one of these expiring stars, a planetary nebula in our galaxy called IC 4593. At a distance of about 7,800 light years from Earth, IC 4593 is the most distant planetary nebula yet detected with Chandra.

This new image of IC 4593 has X-rays from Chandra in purple, invoking similarities to amethysts found in geodes around the globe. The bubble detected

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Astronomers probe black hole origins after 39 new cosmic collisions detected

The number of gravitational wave events, caused by massive collisions between black holes and neutron stars, has quadrupled. In a suite of new papers, researchers from the LIGO and Virgo collaborations cataloged 39 “new” events, adding to the 11 already detected since the LIGO and Virgo gravitational wave detectors were switched on in 2015. 



An animation displaying all 50 gravitational wave events detected since 2015.


© Zoheyr Doctor/University of Oregon/LIGO-Virgo Collaboration

An animation displaying all 50 gravitational wave events detected since 2015.


Gravitational waves are ripples in space-time caused by collisions between black holes and other extreme cosmic phenomena. When massive cosmic bodies merge, they release exceptional amounts of energy, causing a wave to ripple out from their location. Eventually, that wave washes over the Earth, pinging detectors in the US (LIGO) and Italy (Virgo). Gravitational wave detections have revolutionized the way we see the universe, helping scientists to understand some of the most mystifying objects in space.

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