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Celestial Mandrill Is A Cosmic Ghost


Two of ESO's telescopes captured various stages in the life of a star in a single image - a cosmic ghost.

ESO PR Photo 42a/05 shows the area surrounding the stellar cluster NGC 2467, located in the southern constellation of Puppis ("The Stern"). With an age of a few million years at most, it is a very active stellar nursery, where new stars are born continuously from large clouds of dust and gas.

The image, looking like a colorful cosmic ghost or a gigantic celestial Mandrill [1] , contains the open clusters Haffner 18 (center) and Haffner 19 (middle right: it is located inside the smaller pink region - the lower eye of the Mandrill), as well as vast areas of ionized gas.

See the eyes of the Celestial Mandrill? Credit: ESO

IC 10 X-1 Black Hole Is The New Heavyweight Champion


Fame was fleeting for the 16-solar-mass black hole in the galaxy M33, announced on October 17 as the record holder for the heaviest black hole orbiting a star.

A new black hole, with a mass 24 to 33 times that of our Sun, is more massive than scientists have detected - or expected - for a black hole that formed from a dying star.

The newly discovered object belongs to the category of "stellar-mass" black holes. Formed in the death throes of massive stars, they are smaller than the monster black holes found in galactic cores.

"We weren’t expecting to find a stellar-mass black hole this massive," says Andrea Prestwich of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., lead author of the discovery paper in the November 1 Astrophysical Journal Letters. "It seems likely that black holes that form from dying stars can be much larger than we had realized."

Arp 87: The Graceful Dance Of Interacting Galaxies


A pair of galaxies, known collectively as Arp 87, is one of hundreds of interacting and merging galaxies known in our nearby Universe. Arp 87 was originally discovered and catalogued by astronomer Halton Arp in the 1970s. Arp’s Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies is a compilation of astronomical photographs using the Palomar 200-inch Hale and the 48-inch Samuel Oschin telescopes.

The resolution in the Hubble image shows exquisite detail and fine structure that was not observable when Arp 87 was first discovered in the 1970’s.

Panning on the interacting galaxies Arp 87. Credit: ESA/Hubble (M. Kornmesser & L. L. Christensen)

Bella Abramovna Subbotovskaya: Heroine, Mathematician, Soviet Martyr?


Bella Abramovna Subbotovskaya is a little-known heroine of 20th century mathematics who died under mysterious circumstances at the age of 44.

She was a mathematician who founded the "Jewish People's University" to help talented young Jews who had been prevented from studying mathematics due to the anti-Semitic policies of the Soviet government.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Jewish students in the Soviet Union were routinely denied admission to advanced study in many institutions of higher education. In mathematics, one of the best places for advanced study in mathematics was---and still is---the department of mathematics and mechanics (called "Mekh-Mat") at Moscow State University.

Before Perestroika, Jewish students applying to Mekh-Mat were routinely subjected to unfair examination practices, such as "killer questions" that required far too much time to solve or had no correct answer. Even those who managed to clear these hurdles could still be kept out by a poor grade on the compulsory essay on Russian literature with the stock phrase "the theme was not sufficiently developed".

Recent articles

Colliding White Dwarf Stars Created Supernova 2006gz


Astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) have found that a supernova discovered last year was caused by two colliding white dwarf stars. The white dwarfs were siblings orbiting each other. They slowly spiraled inward until they merged, touching off a titanic explosion. CfA observations show the strongest evidence yet of what was, until now, a purely theoretical mechanism for creating a supernova.

"This finding shows that nature may be richer than we suspected, with more than one way to make a white dwarf explode," said Harvard graduate student and first author Malcolm Hicken.

Supernova 2006gz, marked in this photo, shows the strongest evidence yet that it was caused by the merger of two white dwarfs. It was located in spiral galaxy IC 1277, located approximately 300 million light-years away in the constellation Hercules. Credit: J.L. Prieto & M. Hicken (CfA)

Electrons In Some Compounds 'Gain Weight' At Cold Temperatures


Rutgers University physicists have performed computer simulations that show how electrons become one thousand times more massive in certain metal compounds when cooled to temperatures near absolute zero – the point where all motion ceases. The models may provide new clues as to how superconductivity works and how new superconducting materials could be fabricated.

In a paper posted to Science Express, the researchers describe how electrons interact with other particles in these compounds to morph into what physicists call a fluid of “heavy quasiparticles” or a “heavy fermion fluid.” While this effect has been previously observed in some materials, the Rutgers work employs new materials to provide a level of detail that has eluded scientists so far.

“In this paper, we essentially track the fate of electrons as we lower the temperature,” said Gabi Kotliar, Board of Governors Professor of Physics in the School of Arts and Sciences. “Experimental physicists may have seen different aspects of this behavior, or they may have seen behaviors they did not understand. Our calculations reconcile what they’ve seen.”

A molecular model of the material studied by Rutgers physicists. In this representation of the crystal structure of CeIrIn5, the red, gold and gray spheres correspond to cerium, iridium and indium. Credit: Rutgers University

BMW Sauber F1 Team Races to the Front After Increased Emphasis on CFD


SOUTHPOINTE, Pennsylvania, November 1 /PRNewswire/ --

ANSYS, Inc. (Nasdaq: ANSS), a global innovator of simulation software and technologies designed to optimize product development processes, today announced that ANSYS engineering simulation software assisted the BMW Sauber F1 Team, who has more than double last year's points total in the 2007 Constructors' Championship.

Prior to the season, the BMW Sauber F1 Team signed an extended agreement with Fluent Deutschland, a subsidiary of ANSYS, Inc., to use FLUENT(R) computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software to run powerful engineering simulations on its new supercomputer -- one of the largest in Europe -- rather than invest in a second wind tunnel. This investment in CFD has allowed the team to run increasingly complex simulations of race car aerodynamics, far quicker than was previously possible. This has enabled the BMW Sauber F1 Team to analyze and implement design changes more quickly, which combined with other advances the team has made, has delivered the team's best performance in the Constructors' Championship to date.

Refining The Metric System For More Accuracy


The running joke in science has always been that the metric system was invented by the French to combat English predominance culturally - and they got the measurement wrong.

Still, it caught on ( though the French calendar didn't ) and that International System of Units (SI) is used on everything from beer cans to Olympic races. But some of it still isn't entirely accurate, as discussed in Making A More Accurate Kilogram ( along with that same poke at the French ) because man-made objects can change.

The English could have the last laugh. U.K. Scientists from the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) have released new research results that could affect how we measure a kilogram – the last SI unit based on a manufactured object.

SI units are defined by the General Conference on Weights and Measures. The next meeting of the conference, in November 2007, will consider a range of issues related to the maintenance of the SI, including an initial proposal to prepare for the redefinition of several of the base units.

This could include redefining mass relying on a physical constant - a physical quantity that is universal in nature and constant in time - rather than the less accurate current means, a man-made object.

PG 1700+518 Study Confirms Supermassive Black Holes Produce Galaxy-Shaping Winds


Supermassive black holes can produce powerful winds that shape a galaxy and determine their own growth, confirms a group of scientists from Rochester Institute of Technology.

The RIT team has, for the first time, observed the vertical launch of rotating winds from glowing disks of gas, known as accretion disks, surrounding supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies. The findings are reported in the Nov. 1 issue of Nature.

Gas flowing into a supermassive black hole first accumulates in a rapidly spinning accretion disk, which forms the engine of a quasar, a type of active galactic nucleus found in some galaxies and an extremely powerful source of radiation.

Discovery: New Way To Make Water


In a familiar high-school chemistry demonstration, an instructor first uses electricity to split liquid water into its constituent gases, hydrogen and oxygen. Then, by combining the two gases and igniting them with a spark, the instructor changes the gases back into water with a loud pop.

Scientists at the University of Illinois have discovered a new way to make water, and without the pop. Not only can they make water from unlikely starting materials, such as alcohols, their work could also lead to better catalysts and less expensive fuel cells.

“We found that unconventional metal hydrides can be used for a chemical process called oxygen reduction, which is an essential part of the process of making water,” said Zachariah Heiden, doctoral student and lead author of the paper.

The Ghost Universe That Mirrors Our Own


The "dark matter" that comprises a still-undetected one-quarter of the universe is not a uniform cosmic fog, says a University of California, Berkeley, astrophysicist, but instead forms dense clumps that move about like dust motes dancing in a shaft of light.

In a paper from Physical Review D, Chung-Pei Ma, an associate professor of astronomy at UC Berkeley, and Edmund Bertschinger of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), prove that the motion of dark matter clumps can be modeled in a way similar to the Brownian motion of air-borne dust or pollen.

Their findings should provide astrophysicists with a new way to calculate the evolution of this ghost universe of dark matter and reconcile it with the observable universe, Ma said.

The Secret Of Mummy Embalming


Some Texas A&M University researchers examining ancient Egyptian mummies may have unwrapped – literally – some of the mysteries that embalmers used to preserve bodies more than 3,000 years ago.

Mahlon "Chuck" Kennicutt II, MoonKoo Kim and Yaorong Qian of Texas A&M's College of Geosciences, along with colleagues from the University of Alexandria, have discovered that tar originating from natural oil seeps in the Middle East area was used in the preservation and mummification process by Egyptians thousands of years ago.

Examining areas near the Suez Canal, Kennicutt and the team also learned that tar fueled fires in glass factories used by the surrounding communities.

Stellar Vampires Unmasked


Astronomers have found possible proofs of stellar vampirism in the globular cluster 47 Tucanae. Using ESO's Very Large Telescope, they found that some hot, bright, and apparently young stars in the cluster present less carbon and oxygen than the majority of their sisters. This indicates that these few stars likely formed by taking their material from another star.

"This is the first detection of a chemical signature clearly pointing to a specific scenario to form so-called 'Blue straggler stars' in a globular cluster", said Francesco Ferraro, from the Astronomy Department of Bologna University (Italy) and lead-author of the paper presenting the results.

Oxygen abundance as a function of Carbon abundance (both with respect to Iron and in a logarithmic scale) for the Blue straggler stars observed in the globular cluster 47 Tuc. Normal Blue straggler stars are marked with empty circles, while the 6 Carbon and Oxygen-deplete Blue Straggler stars are marked with red squares. Their names are also indicated. The yellow region correspond to the location of other stars in 47 Tuc previously studied. Credit:ESO

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