Researchers from extraterrestrial research initiative Breakthrough Listen, the SETI Institute, and UC Berkeley used machine learning to detect mysterious repeating radio bursts from a galaxy 3 billion light years from Earth. As of now, the source of the fast radio bursts (FRBs) is unknown and, yes, the bursts "could be the signatures of technology developed by extraterrestrial intelligent life," according to the scientists. From the SETI Institute:
In August of 2017, the Listen science team at the University of California, Berkeley SETI Research Center observed FRB 121102 for five hours, using digital instrumentation at the GBT. Combing through 400 TB of data, they reported (in a paper [pdf] led by Berkeley SETI postdoctoral researcher Vishal Gajjar, recently accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal) a total of 21 bursts. All were seen within one hour, suggesting that the source alternates between periods of quiescence and frenzied activity.
Now, (UC Berkeley doctoral student Gerry) Zhang and collaborators have developed a new machine learning algorithm, and reanalyzed the 2017 GBT dataset, finding an additional 72 bursts that were not detected originally...
Additional FRB research may provide clues about whether or not they are signatures of extraterrestrial technology.
More at UC Berkeley news: "AI helps track down mysterious cosmic radio bursts" Read the rest
A gray area exists between stars and planets, and what was thought to be a failed brown dwarf star has now been determined to be a massive rogue planet with an enormous gravity field. Read the rest
The European Southern Observatory (ESO) got this cool shot of Venus by using new adaptive optics that ignore earth's atmosphere while imaging celestial phenomena.
Via Universe Today:
In astronomy, adaptive optics refers to a technique where instruments are able to compensate for the blurring effect caused by Earth’s atmosphere, which is a serious issue when it comes to ground-based telescopes. Basically, as light passes through our atmosphere, it becomes distorted and causes distant objects to become blurred (which is why stars appear to twinkle when seen with the naked eye).
Head over to the article to see a remarkable before and after shot.
• This is a photo of Neptune, from the ground! ESO's new adaptive optics makes ground telescopes ignore the earth's atmosphere (Universe Today)
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Over the weekend, Arizona's Catalina Sky Survey spotted a near-earth asteroid just a few hours before its impact trajectory took it right into our atmosphere. Luckily, it burned up before impact. Read the rest
I'm obsessed with Manhattanhenge, the two nights a year when the sunset aligns with the prevailing east-west streets of the New York City grid, a phenomenon that Neil deGrasse Tyson named in 1992.
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NASA posted this high-definition tour of the Moon, a perfectly serene antidote to the noise here on Earth.
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Take a virtual tour of the Moon in all-new 4K resolution, thanks to data provided by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. As the visualization moves around the near side, far side, north and south poles, we highlight interesting features, sites, and information gathered on the lunar terrain. Music Provided By Killer Tracks: "Never Looking Back" - Frederick Wiedmann. "Flying over Turmoil" - Benjamin Krause & Scott Goodman. This video is public domain and along with other supporting visualizations can be downloaded from the Scientific Visualization Studio at: http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/4619 Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/David Ladd
IllustrisTNG, a next-gen simulator for cosmological events, created this beautiful animation of a "late-type" star-forming galaxy. It's fascinating to watch how mind-boggling mass and energy on a mind-boggling time scale looks familiar to observable phenomena on earth. Read the rest
Xiaohan Wang was driving near Keluke Lake in Qinghai Province in China, but stopped to snap this lovely image of airglow bands framing the Milky Way. Read the rest
The Giant Magellan Telescope is a marvel of engineering, and Dr. Patrick McCarthy explains the years-long process to make an optic mirror that costs over $20 million. Read the rest
Illustris TNG is a theoretical astrophysics project that created the most detailed simulation of the universe to date, and it turns out that black holes influence the distribution of dark matter. Read the rest
Libyan desert glass is a material of unknown origin scattered across a large swath of the Sahara. Among it, scientists found Hypatia stones, a strange phosphorous-nickel alloy recently determined to be extra-terrestrial. Read the rest
The Pale Blue Dot was made as a tribute to Carl Sagan "as the final project for the Animation 01 course at Ringling College of Art and Design." Read the rest
Using a Google Maps overlay, Solar System Maps shows how large the solar system would be if Earth or other celestial bodies were much smaller than the are. Here's "Earth the size of a basketball," centered on SFO. The outermost ring is Pluto's orbit.
If Jupiter were the size of a tennis ball, Pluto's orbit could still encompass the British Library, the Tower of London and the Houses of Parliament.
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Is there anybody out there? If we don't listen for the answer, we certainly won't hear it. Over at the Planetary Society, Jason Davis posted an excellent survey of the past, present, and future of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. It begins in 1959 with Giuseppe Cocconi and Philip Morrison's historic paper "Searching for Interstellar Communications" and Frank Drake's Project Ozma, the first scientific SETI search:
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One year later, the National Academy of Sciences hosted an invitation-only meeting at Green Bank to discuss how to go about conducting further SETI research. The eclectic, interdisciplinary group included Drake, Cocconi, Morrison, the biochemist Melvin Calvin (who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry during the meeting), Bernard Oliver, who was the vice president of research and development at Hewlett-Packard, the young Carl Sagan, and the scientist John Lilly, who had recently published a controversial book arguing dolphins were an intelligent species.
With a nod to Lilly's book, the participants dubbed themselves "The Order of the Dolphin." One product of the meeting was the Drake equation, which attempts to predict the number of advanced civilizations in the Milky Way able to contact Earth. The equation includes variables such as average star formation rate, the number of habitable planets per star, and the number of planets where intelligent life could evolve.
For the rest of the 1960s, SETI research remained mostly dormant, aside from a few searches in the Soviet Union. Starting in 1971, two Project Ozma follow-ups named Ozpa and Ozma II used bigger dishes and listened to more stars.
You are no doubt aware that models of our solar system are not to scale. These guys went to Black Rock Desert to create a scale model of our solar system, starting with an Earth the size of a marble. This required seven miles of empty desert to add the other planets (not including Pluto). There's an awful lot of space between these little spheres.
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Teun van der Zalm developed an algorithm for creating nebulae in games, VR, and film. This showcase of the results, set to a lovely free track by Lee Rosevere, hints at the beauty that emerges from math. Read the rest
As NASA continues to examine the treasure trove of data from the New Horizons project, one interesting phenomenon at Pluto's equator has been identified as massive ice blades made of methane. Read the rest