Earth detectors haven’t yet detected dark matter. We know it’s there only because dark matter interacts, gravitationally, with visible matter and radiation. Modern theories suggests that dark matter makes up a substantial portion of the mass of our universe, and the inner part of our galaxy, where our solar system resides, is thought to contain dark matter. This month – in a paper published February 18, 2015 in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society - a New York University (NYU) professor cites dark matter as the cause for earthly catastrophes, specifically mass extinctions and geologic upheavals. The idea seems far-fetched, but has an easy-to-visualize logic behind it.
No leap year in 2015. The next leap day will be February 29, 2016. The reason for leap years explained here.
The U.S. Southwest and Central Plains are at high risk for a megadrought later this century if greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise, says a new study.
Astronomers announced this week that they’ve now identified the closest known flyby of a star, really two stars, to our solar system. The culprit is a binary system consisting of a low-mass red dwarf star (with a mass about 8% that of our sun) and a brown dwarf companion (with a mass about 6% that of the sun). This pair passed through our solar system’s outer Oort comet cloud some 70,000 years ago. No other star is known to have ever approached our solar system this close – five times closer than the current closest star, Proxima Centauri.
Filmmakers Josh Zeman and Adrian Grenier are trying to raise funds toward bringing a whale known as 52 – sometimes called the world’s loneliest whale – to a movie theater near you. They want to mount a small oceanographic expedition to the North Pacific to find, track, tag and follow 52, last heard in 2012 but still thought to be out there.
February 20, 1962: John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth. He made three turns around the planet before returning safely in his spacecraft, Friendship 7.
February 19, 1473. Nicolaus Copernicus was born on this date, 541 years ago. Copernicus was a Renaissance astronomer and mathematician. He lived at a time when people believed Earth lay enclosed within crystal spheres at the center of the universe. Can you picture the leap of imagination required for him to conceive of a sun-centered universe? The publication of Copernicus’ book – De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres) – just before his death in 1543, set the stage for all of modern astronomy. Today, people speak of his work as the Copernican Revolution.
Over a billion people in China and millions around the world are celebrating the first day of the Chinese New Year on February 18-19, 2015. It’ll be February 18 according to U.S. calendars, and February 19 in Asia. It’s the most important of Chinese holidays, kicking off a celebration that lasts for 15 days. Each year is associated with one of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. For 2015, it’s the Year of the Sheep (Goat, Ram).
New maps from the Planck mission support the theory of cosmic inflation, the idea that, in the moments following the Big Bang, space expanded faster than the speed of light. George Efstathiou – a leader in the Planck mission – explains more to the Kavli Institute’s Kelen Tuttle.
I’ve been living in Texas for over six years now and blogging about animals for four of those years. And yet not once have I written about armadillos, a shameful omission which I will remedy today in this latest installment of Lifeform of the Week. Join me, dear reader, as there is much to learn…