“The Galaxy Report” provides summaries and links to headline news by leading science journalists about the amazing discoveries, technology, people, and events changing our knowledge of Planet Earth and the Cosmos beyond. Our caffine-inspired curation team scours the world, doing your work for you –all in one place.
The Ultralight Dark Universe –According to the hypothesis, axionic dark matter, provoking structural rearrangement in compact stars with a strong magnetic field, can protect them from a catastrophic loss of magnetic energy, but at the same time allows such objects to rotate abnormally fast. “Dark matter is a cosmic substance that does not directly interact with photons, and all information about it was obtained by astronomers only indirectly, as a result of gravitational lenzing of light from distant galactic sources,” comments one of the co-authors, Professor at the Department of Relativity Theory and Gravitation Alexander Balakin. “It is believed that the total mass of dark matter is 23% of the total mass of the Universe. The particles that form dark matter are apparently axions – hypothetical ultralight pseudo-Goldstone bosons.”
The Age of Interstellar Visitors –As astronomers get better at finding the comets and asteroids of other stars, they’ll learn more about the universe and our place in it. It sounds almost like science fiction, writes Michele Bannister for Quanta, a skyscraper-size tiny world with a reddish exterior that formed around another star, visiting our cosmic neighborhood for us to study. And yet that’s exactly what has happened, twice now as of the last few months. It will only happen more often this decade. The first known interstellar object — meaning it formed outside of our solar system — dropped by in late 2017. Named 1I/ʻOumuamua, scientists weren’t sure what to make of it at first. They didn’t have much time with the object, only two weeks of detailed observations as it raced away from Earth, before it became too faint.
Earth Is About To Enter A 30-Year ‘Mini Ice Age’ –Our planet is bracing for a solar minimum: a dormant period in which the Sun radiates less energy or heat at our planet than usual, reports Mashable Scientists have warned that as a result of the Sun’s inactivity, Earth is likely to witness a ‘mini ice age’ that could bring extreme winters and chilly cold storms over the next 30 years. According to NASA, the Sun will reach its lowest activity in over 200 years in 2020. As it further goes into its natural hibernation phase, Earth will experience extremely cold spells which will trigger food shortages across the planet. The average temperatures could drop as much as one degree Celsius in a period lasting about 12 months. That might not sound a lot but a whole degree fall would have a significant impact on global average temperatures. Solar minimums are part of the Sun’s natural life cycle and occur once every 11 years. However, 2020’s minimum is going to be a special case. That’s because it marks the start of a rare event known as a Grand Solar Minimum, in which energy emitted from the Sun plummets down even more than usual. These only occur once every 400 years or so.
How Ancient Light Reveals the Universe’s Contents –A photograph of the infant cosmos reveals the precise amounts of dark matter and dark energy in the universe, leaving precious little room for argument. In early 2003, Chuck Bennett learned the precise contents of the cosmos, writes Charlie Wood for Quanta. By then, most cosmologists had concluded that the universe contains much more than meets the eye. Observations of pinwheeling galaxies suggested that scaffolds of invisible matter held their stars together, while a repulsive form of energy drove galaxies apart. To learn more, Bennett and his Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) team had spent a year collecting microwaves coming from all directions in the sky — light rays that left their source long ago, when the universe was just 380,000 years old. By snapping this photograph of the young cosmos, the WMAP team could pin down its age and shape and determine exactly how much so-called dark matter and dark energy it contains.
A star exploded into a supernova but it weirdly isn’t very bright –The dimmest ever exploding star has been spotted by the twin ATLAS telescopes in Hawaii. Solving the mystery of how the explosion happened could have implications for how we measure the expansion rate of the universe. One theory for the origin of this peculiar astronomical event – 150 million light years away – is that it is a failed or incomplete detonation of a small, very dense star called a white dwarf. Stars of low to medium mass like the sun become white dwarfs after they have burned all their fuel.
NASA Reveals What Earth Would Look Like If The Oceans Dried Up
Weird clumps of air that disrupt radio signals found on Mars –Earth’s upper atmosphere has strange dense layers of ions that are constantly appearing and disappearing and which can hamper radio communication. Now, writes Leah Crane for New Scientist, the same thing has now been found on Mars, offering a new chance to crack understand this poorly studied phenomenon. The ionosphere is the layer of the atmosphere about 60 to 1000 kilometers up that is full of charged particles. When those particles are temporarily blown into clumps by the wind, they form what researchers call sporadic E layers in the lower reaches of the ionosphere. “They act like a mirror in the sky, and radio signals bounce off of them,” says Glyn Collinson at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. “When you turn on your favorite radio station and it’s jammed by another station, you have probably been the victim of a sporadic E layer.”
The Secrets Uncovered by Mars Rovers--Red Planet Ride-Along on the hunt for water and life. For human travelers, writes Corey Powell for Nautil.us, the iconic moment of space exploration occurred a half-century ago, when Neil Armstrong planted the first human boot-print on the moon. But if you don’t mind using robots as our stand-ins, the greatest era is unfolding right now on Mars, where NASA’s Curiosity rover is rolling across the rusty, dusty surface and leaving behind tread marks that spell out the letters “J-P-L” in Morse code. JPL stands for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, that designed and built Curiosity along with three earlier Mars rovers. Collectively, these machines have racked up 46.4 miles of travel, tremendously expanded our understanding of the Martian environment, and energized the search for life in the universe.
Artificial Intelligence Will Do What We Ask. That’s a Problem —By teaching machines to understand our true desires, one scientist hopes to avoid the potentially disastrous consequences of having them do what we command, wrotes Natalie Wolchover for Quanta. The danger of having artificially intelligent machines do our bidding is that we might not be careful enough about what we wish for. The lines of code that animate these machines will inevitably lack nuance, forget to spell out caveats, and end up giving AI systems goals and incentives that don’t align with our true preferences. A now-classic thought experiment illustrating this problem was posed by the Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom in 2003. Bostrom imagined a superintelligent robot, programmed with the seemingly innocuous goal of manufacturing paper clips. The robot eventually turns the whole world into a giant paper clip factory.