Category Archives: Research

Global Warming


If you thought the outer atmospheres of the giant planets: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune are cold think again. You are not unfounded, models suggest a temperature of -73 C would exist, but Voyager found temperatures of + 700 C (1000 K)!

We now know the atmosphere of Uranus has changed from 750 K to 550 K in 20 years and since the year 2013 the temperature as rebounded by 50 kelvin per year.

Recent studies may have found an answer. Could it be storms?

The image is from the Voyager 2 spacecraft snapped these (left) true-color and (right) false-color images of Uranus in 1986. Credit: NASA/JPL

ALMA Sees Einstein Ring



About the image:
ALMA/Hubble composite image of the gravitationally lensed galaxy SDP.81. The bright orange central region of the ring (ALMA’s highest resolution observation ever) reveals the glowing dust in this distant galaxy. The surrounding lower-resolution portions of the ring trace the millimeter wavelength light emitted by carbon monoxide. The diffuse blue element at the center of the ring is from the intervening lensing galaxy, as seen with the Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: ALMA (NRAO/ESO/NAOJ); B. Saxton NRAO/AUI/NSF; NASA/ESA Hubble, T. Hunter (NRAO)

From the NRAO press release:

Astronomers have discovered that a distant galaxy — seen from Earth with the aid of a gravitational lens — appears like a cosmic ring, thanks to the highest resolution images ever taken with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA).

Forged by the chance alignment of two distant galaxies, this striking ring-like structure is a rare and peculiar manifestation of gravitational lensing as predicted by Albert Einstein in his theory of general relativity.

Gravitational lensing occurs when a massive galaxy or cluster of galaxies bends the light emitted from a more distant galaxy, forming a highly magnified, though much distorted image. In this particular case, the galaxy known as SDP.81 (its formal name is HATLAS J090311.6+003906) and an intervening galaxy line up so perfectly that the light from the more distant one forms a nearly complete circle as seen from Earth.

Discovered by the Herschel Space Observatory, SDP.81 is an active star-forming galaxy nearly 12 billion light-years away, seen at a time when the Universe was only 15 percent of its current age. It is being lensed by a massive foreground galaxy that is a comparatively nearby 4 billion light-years away.

“Gravitational lensing is used in astronomy to study the very distant, very early Universe because it gives even our best telescopes an impressive boost in power,” said ALMA Deputy Program Scientist Catherine Vlahakis. “With the astounding level of detail in these new ALMA images, astronomers will now be able to reassemble the information contained in the distorted image we see as a ring and produce a reconstruction of the true image of the distant galaxy.”

Read the rest and see more images at the NRAO site.

Martian Glaciers


Most of us are familiar with the ice caps on Mars. Now research is pointing to glaciers on the Red Planet.

Researchers at the Niels Bohr Institute used radar observations and ice flow modeling to show the shape of the glaciers which occur in both hemispheres just below the surface.

It is not known if the glaciers are made of frozen water (H2O) or carbon dioxide (CO2) or even if it mud.

“We have looked at radar measurements spanning ten years back in time to see how thick the ice is and how it behaves. A glacier is after all a big chunk of ice and it flows and gets a form that tells us something about how soft it is. We then compared this with how glaciers on Earth behave and from that we have been able to make models for the ice flow,” explains Nanna Bjørnholt Karlsson, a postdoc at the Centre for Ice and Climate at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen.

The researchers calculate the volume of the glaciers could be equivalent to the amount needed to cover the entire planet with 1.1 meters if ice!

This is a huge discovery if it turns out to be accurate.  Read the details at the Niels Bohr Institute.

The image depicts the glacial regions as blue dots. Image Credit: Mars Digital Image Model, NASA/Nanna Karlsson