New Study of Coronal Mass Ejection and Galactic Cosmic Rays

This newly published study has quite a bit of what I call “scientificeez” making it a little difficult to read and understand. Therefore, I am going to give you a short surmise. The study shows that during times of solar minimum, a greater number of galactic cosmic rays are bombarding the Earth. During times of solar maximum, the amount of charged particles emitted by coronal mass ejections, solar flares, and coronal holes buffet or blowout harmful GCRs.

The understanding of which is worse… “solar minimum or solar maximum” is still undecided. However, I thought I would toss you another factor that has yet made the headlines. The Earth’s magnetic field continues to weaken. This ongoing natural occurring cycle is quietly being closely monitored analyzing the effect of rising count of galactic cosmic rays and the weakening of Earth’s magnetic field.

Galactic cosmic ray observation data is closely related to space weather research and to atmospheric phenomena such as sudden stratospheric temperature rise, and is expected to be used in a wide range of fields in the future.

Professor Chihiro Kato of Shinshu University took the lead in acquiring simultaneous observations of the neutron monitor and muon detector at Syowa Station in the Antarctic in order to acquire bridging data. In the polar regions, unlike low latitude regions on Earth, it is possible to observe galactic cosmic rays coming from the same direction with a neutron monitor and a muon detector due to the weaker deflection by geomagnetism.

Space weather research of galactic cosmic rays using ground based observational data from neutron monitors and multi-directional muon detectors, may be missing relative and corresponding data. Since the phenomenon of space weather is on a short-term, days and hours-long time frame; it is meaningful to investigate changes in the flow of galactic cosmic rays for several hours, which requires a total-sky monitor of galactic cosmic rays.

Normally, when the Magnetic Flux Rope (MFR) arrives on Earth, galactic cosmic rays (GCR) density at ground level decreases rapidly, and then turns to increase recovery to the original level during impact on Earth by the MFR. This is known as a *Forbush Decrease . However, during our studies observation the GCR exceeded the original level before the Earth exited the MFR.

By analysis of the Global Muon Detector Network (GMDN) and solar plasma data, the team concluded the high-speed solar wind causes the unusual enhancement of GCR density by compressing the rear part of the MFR locally.

 During cycles of high solar activity such as coronal mass ejections (CME), solar flares and coronal holes, a burst of charged particles spew outward into our solar system; continue through the heliosphere into interplanetary space. In the case of such events, a huge amount of charged particles release along magnetic field lines and twist into tubular-like formation described as a Magnetic Flux Rope (MFR).

*A Forbush decrease is a rapid decrease in the observed galactic cosmic ray intensity following a coronal mass ejection (CME). It occurs due to the magnetic field of the plasma solar wind sweeping some of the galactic cosmic rays away from Earth.

Stay Tuned For More Latest Research and Development

NEW: Boundary of Heliosphere Mapped for First Time

For the first time, the boundary of the heliosphere has been mapped, giving scientists a better understanding of how solar and interstellar winds interact.

Dan Reisenfeld, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and lead author on the paper, said; “Physics models have theorized this boundary for years, but this is the first time we’ve actually been able to measure it and make a three-dimensional map of it.” Reisenfeld’s paper was published in the Astrophysical Journal today.

The heliosphere is the vast, bubble-like region of space created by the influence of our Sun and extends into interstellar space. The two major components to determining its edge are the heliospheric magnetic field and the solar wind from the Sun.

Three major sections from the beginning of the heliosphere to its edge are the termination shock, the heliosheath, and the heliopause. A type of particle called an energetic neutral atom (ENA) has also been observed to have been produced from its edges.

They did this by using IBEX satellite’s measurement of energetic neutral atoms (ENAs) that result from collisions between solar wind particles and those from the interstellar wind. The intensity of that signal depends on the intensity of the solar wind that strikes the heliosheath. When a wave hits the sheath, the ENA count goes up and IBEX can detect it.

Stay Tuned For More Latest Research and Development

ALMA Discovered a Titanic Galactic Wind

Researchers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) discovered a titanic galactic wind driven by a supermassive black hole 13.1 billion years ago. This is the earliest example yet observed of such a wind to date and is a telltale sign that huge black holes have a profound effect on the growth of galaxies from the very early history of the universe.

At the center of many large galaxies hides a supermassive black hole that is millions to billions of times more massive than the Sun. Interestingly, the mass of the black hole is roughly proportional to the mass of the central region (bulge) of the galaxy in the nearby universe. At first glance, this may seem obvious, but it is actually very strange.

The reason is that the sizes of galaxies and black holes differ by about 10 orders of magnitude. Based on this proportional relationship between the masses of two objects that are so different in size, astronomers believe that galaxies and black holes grew and evolved together (coevolution) through some kind of physical interaction.

Stay Tuned For More Latest Research and Development

Putting The ‘Bang’ In The Big Bang

 

As the Big Bang theory goes, somewhere around 13.8 billion years ago the universe exploded into being, as an infinitely small, compact fireball of matter that cooled as it expanded, triggering reactions that cooked up the first stars and galaxies, and all the forms of matter that we see (and are) today.

Just before the Big Bang launched the universe onto its ever-expanding course, physicists believe, there was another, more explosive phase of the early universe at play: cosmic inflation, which lasted less than a trillionth of a second. During this period, matter — a cold, homogeneous goop — inflated exponentially quickly before processes of the Big Bang took over to more slowly expand and diversify the infant universe.

Recent observations have independently supported theories for both the Big Bang and cosmic inflation. But the two processes are so radically different from each other that scientists have struggled to conceive of how one followed the other.

Now physicists at MIT, Kenyon College, and elsewhere have simulated in detail an intermediary phase of the early universe that may have bridged cosmic inflation with the Big Bang. This phase, known as “reheating,” occurred at the end of cosmic inflation and involved processes that wrestled inflation’s cold, uniform matter into the ultrahot, complex soup that was in place at the start of the Big Bang.

“The postinflation reheating period sets up the conditions for the Big Bang, and in some sense puts the ‘bang’ in the Big Bang,” says David Kaiser, the Germeshausen Professor of the History of Science and professor of physics at MIT. “It’s this bridge period where all hell breaks loose and matter behaves in anything but a simple way.”

Kaiser and his colleagues simulated in detail how multiple forms of matter would have interacted during this chaotic period at the end of inflation. Their simulations show that the extreme energy that drove inflation could have been redistributed just as quickly, within an even smaller fraction of a second, and in a way that produced conditions that would have been required for the start of the Big Bang.

The team found this extreme transformation would have been even faster and more efficient if quantum effects modified the way that matter responded to gravity at very high energies, deviating from the way Einstein’s theory of general relativity predicts matter and gravity should interact.

“This enables us to tell an unbroken story, from inflation to the postinflation period, to the Big Bang and beyond,” Kaiser says. “We can trace a continuous set of processes, all with known physics, to say this is one plausible way in which the universe came to look the way we see it today.”

The team’s results appear today in Physical Review Letters. Kaiser’s co-authors are lead author Rachel Nguyen, and John T. Giblin, both of Kenyon College, and former MIT graduate student Evangelos Sfakianakis and Jorinde van de Vis, both of Leiden University in the Netherlands.

“In sync with itself”

The theory of cosmic inflation, first proposed in the 1980s by MIT’s Alan Guth, the V.F. Weisskopf Professor of Physics, predicts that the universe began as an extremely small speck of matter, possibly about a hundred-billionth the size of a proton. This speck was filled with ultra-high-energy matter, so energetic that the pressures within generated a repulsive gravitational force — the driving force behind inflation. Like a spark to a fuse, this gravitational force exploded the infant universe outward, at an ever-faster rate, inflating it to nearly an octillion times its original size (that’s the number 1 followed by 26 zeroes), in less than a trillionth of a second.

Kaiser and his colleagues attempted to work out what the earliest phases of reheating — that bridge interval at the end of cosmic inflation and just before the Big Bang — might have looked like.

“The earliest phases of reheating should be marked by resonances. One form of high-energy matter dominates, and it’s shaking back and forth in sync with itself across large expanses of space, leading to explosive production of new particles,” Kaiser says. “That behavior won’t last forever, and once it starts transferring energy to a second form of matter, its own swings will get more choppy and uneven across space. We wanted to measure how long it would take for that resonant effect to break up, and for the produced particles to scatter off each other and come to some sort of thermal equilibrium, reminiscent of Big Bang conditions.”

The team’s computer simulations represent a large lattice onto which they mapped multiple forms of matter and tracked how their energy and distribution changed in space and over time as the scientists varied certain conditions. The simulation’s initial conditions were based on a particular inflationary model — a set of predictions for how the early universe’s distribution of matter may have behaved during cosmic inflation.

The scientists chose this particular model of inflation over others because its predictions closely match high-precision measurements of the cosmic microwave background — a remnant glow of radiation emitted just 380,000 years after the Big Bang, which is thought to contain traces of the inflationary period.

A universal tweak

The simulation tracked the behavior of two types of matter that may have been dominant during inflation, very similar to a type of particle, the Higgs boson, that was recently observed in other experiments.

Before running their simulations, the team added a slight “tweak” to the model’s description of gravity. While ordinary matter that we see today responds to gravity just as Einstein predicted in his theory of general relativity, matter at much higher energies, such as what’s thought to have existed during cosmic inflation, should behave slightly differently, interacting with gravity in ways that are modified by quantum mechanics, or interactions at the atomic scale.

In Einstein’s theory of general relativity, the strength of gravity is represented as a constant, with what physicists refer to as a minimal coupling, meaning that, no matter the energy of a particular particle, it will respond to gravitational effects with a strength set by a universal constant.

However, at the very high energies that are predicted in cosmic inflation, matter interacts with gravity in a slightly more complicated way. Quantum-mechanical effects predict that the strength of gravity can vary in space and time when interacting with ultra-high-energy matter — a phenomenon known as nonminimal coupling.

Kaiser and his colleagues incorporated a nonminimal coupling term to their inflationary model and observed how the distribution of matter and energy changed as they turned this quantum effect up or down.

In the end they found that the stronger the quantum-modified gravitational effect was in affecting matter, the faster the universe transitioned from the cold, homogeneous matter in inflation to the much hotter, diverse forms of matter that are characteristic of the Big Bang.

By tuning this quantum effect, they could make this crucial transition take place over 2 to 3 “e-folds,” referring to the amount of time it takes for the universe to (roughly) triple in size. In this case, they managed to simulate the reheating phase within the time it takes for the universe to triple in size two to three times. By comparison, inflation itself took place over about 60 e-folds.

“Reheating was an insane time, when everything went haywire,” Kaiser says. “We show that matter was interacting so strongly at that time that it could relax correspondingly quickly as well, beautifully setting the stage for the Big Bang. We didn’t know that to be the case, but that’s what’s emerging from these simulations, all with known physics. That’s what’s exciting for us.”

This research was supported, in part, by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.

Site Of Biggest Ever Meteorite Collision In The UK Discovered

Scientists believe they have discovered the site of the biggest meteorite impact ever to hit the British Isles.

Evidence for the ancient, 1.2 billion years old, meteorite strike, was first discovered in 2008 near Ullapool, NW Scotland by scientists from Oxford and Aberdeen Universities. The thickness and extent of the debris deposit they found suggested the impact crater — made by a meteorite estimated at 1km wide — was close to the coast, but its precise location remained a mystery.

In a paper published today in Journal of the Geological Society, a team led by Dr Ken Amor from the Department of Earth Sciences at Oxford University, show how they have identified the crater location 15-20km west of a remote part of the Scottish coastline. It is buried beneath both water and younger rocks in the Minch Basin.

Dr Ken Amor said: ‘The material excavated during a giant meteorite impact is rarely preserved on Earth, because it is rapidly eroded, so this is a really exciting discovery. It was purely by chance this one landed in an ancient rift valley where fresh sediment quickly covered the debris to preserve it.

‘The next step will be a detailed geophysical survey in our target area of the Minch Basin.’

Using a combination of field observations, the distribution of broken rock fragments known as basement clasts and the alignment of magnetic particles, the team was able to gauge the direction the meteorite material took at several locations, and plotted the likely source of the crater.

Dr Ken Amor said: ‘It would have been quite a spectacle when this large meteorite struck a barren landscape, spreading dust and rock debris over a wide area.’

1.2 billion years ago most of life on Earth was still in the oceans and there were no plants on the land. At that time Scotland would have been quite close to the equator and in a semi-arid environment. The landscape would have looked a bit like Mars when it had water at the surface.

Earth and other planets may have suffered a higher rate of meteorite impacts in the distant past, as they collided with debris left over from the formation of the early solar system.

However, there is a possibility that a similar event will happen in the future given the number of asteroid and comet fragments floating around in the solar system. Much smaller impacts, where the meteorite is only a few meters across are thought to be relatively common perhaps occurring about once every 25 years on average.

It is thought that collisions with an object about 1 km (as in this instance) across occur between once every 100,000 years to once every one million years — but estimates vary.

One of the reasons for this is that our terrestrial record of large impacts is poorly known because craters are obliterated by erosion, burial and plate tectonics.

Star Formation Burst In The Milky Way 2-3 Billion Years Ago

A team led by researchers of the Institute of Cosmos Sciences of the University of Barcelona (ICCUB, UB-IEEC) and the Besançon Astronomical Observatory have found, analysing data from the Gaia satellite, that a severe star formation burst occurred in the Milky Way about 2 to 3 billion years ago. In this process, more than 50 percent of the stars that created the galactic disc may have been born. Their results come from the combination of the distances, colors and magnitude of the stars that were measured by Gaia with models that predict their distribution in our Galaxy. The study has been published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Just like a flame fades when there is no gas in the cylinder, the rhythm of the stellar formation in the Milky Way, fuelled by the gas that was deposited, should decrease slowly and in a continuous way until it has used up the existing gas. The results of the study show that, although this was the process that took place over the first 4 billion years of the disc formation, a severe star formation burst, or “stellar baby boom” — as stated in the article published in the Nature Research Highlights –, inverted this trend. The merging with a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, which was rich in gas, could have added new fuel and reactivated the process of stellar formation, in a similar way to when a gas cylinder is changed. This mechanism would explain the distribution of distances, ages and masses that are estimated from the data taken from the European Space Agency Gaia satellite.

“The time scale of this star formation burst together with the great amount of stellar mass involved in the process, thousands of millions of solar mass, suggests the disc of our Galaxy did not have a steady and paused evolution, it may have suffered an external perturbation that began about five billion years ago,” said Roger Mor, ICCUB researcher and first author of the article.

“We have been able to find this out due having — for the first time — precise distances for more than three million stars in the solar environment,” says Roger Mor. “Thanks to these data, we could discover the mechanisms that controlled the evolution more than 8-10 billion years ago in the disc of our Galaxy, which is not more than the bright band we see in the sky on a dark night and with no light pollution.” As in many research fields, these findings have been possible thanks to the availability of the combination of a great amount of unprecedented precision data, and the availability of many hours in computing in the computer facilities funded by the FP7 GENIUS European project (Gaia European Project for Improved data User Services) -in the Center for Scientific and Academic Services of Catalonia (CSUC).

Cosmologic models predict our galaxy would have been growing due the merging with other galaxies, a fact that has been stated by other studies using Gaia data. One of these mergers could be the cause of the severe star formation burst that was detected in this study.

“Actually, the peak of star formation is so clear, unlike what we predicted before having data from Gaia, that we thought necessary to treat its interpretation together with experts on cosmological evolution of external galaxies,” notes Francesca Figuerars, lecturer at the Department of Quantum Physics and Astrophysics of the UB, ICCUB member and author of the article.

According to the expert on simulations of galaxies similar to the Milky Way, Santi Roca-Fàbrega -from the Complutense University of Mardid and also author of the article, “the obtained results match with what the current cosmological models predict, and what is more, our Galaxy seen from Gaia’s eyes is an excellent cosmological laboratory where we can test and confront models at a bigger scale in the universe.”

Gaia mission until 2020

This study has been conducted with the second release of the Gaia mission, which was published a year ago, on April 25, 2018. Xavier Luri, director of ICCUB and also an author of the article states: “The role of scientists and engineers of the UB has been essential so that the scientific community enjoys the excellent quality of data from the Gaia release.”

More than 400 scientists and engineers from around Europe are part of the consortium in charge of preparing and validating these data. “Their collective work brought the international scientific community a release that is making us rethink many of the existent scenarios on the origins and evolution of our galaxy,” notes Luri.

In one year, more than 1,200 peer review articles published in journals show the before and after Gaia in almost all fields of astrophysics, from the recent detection of new stellar clusters, new asteroids, to the affirmation of the star extragalactic origin in our Galaxy, going through the calculus of the Milky Way mass and the findings that show compact stars end up slowly solidified.

Cosmic Dust Forms On Supernovae Blasts

Scientists claim to have solved a longstanding mystery as to how cosmic dust, the building blocks of stars and planets, forms across the Universe.

Cosmic dust contains tiny fragments or organic material and is spread out across the Universe. The dust is primarily formed in stars and is then blown off in a slow wind or a massive star explosion.

Up until now, astronomers have had little understanding as to why so much cosmic dust exists in the interstellar medium, with theoretical estimates suggesting it should be obliterated by supernova explosions.

A supernova is an event that occurs upon the violent death of a star and is one of the most powerful events in the Universe, producing a shockwave which destroys almost anything in its path.

Yet new research published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society has observed the survival of cosmic dust around the closest supernova explosion detected to us, Supernova 1987A.

Observations using NASA’s research aircraft, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), have detected cosmic dust in a distinctive set of rings that form part of Supernova 1987A.

The results seem to suggest that there is rapid growth of cosmic dust within the rings, leading the team to believe that dust may actually be re-forming after it is destroyed in the wake of a supernova blast wave.

This immediacy – that the post-shock environment might be ready to form or re-form dust – had never been considered before, and may be pivotal in fully understanding how cosmic dust is both created and destroyed.

“We already knew about the slow-moving dust in the heart of 1987A,” said Dr. Mikako Matsuura, lead author on the paper from the School of Physics and Astronomy.

“It formed from the heavy elements created in the core of the dead star. But the SOFIA observations tell us something completely new.”

Cosmic dust particles can be heated from tens to hundreds of degrees causing them to glow at both infrared and millimeter wavelengths. Observations of millimeter-wave dust emission can generally be carried out from the ground using telescopes; however, observations in the infrared are almost impossible to interference from the water and carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere.

By flying above most of the obscuring molecules, SOFIA provides access to portions of the infrared spectrum not available from the ground.