In 2018, astronomers discovered several bizarre objects at the Galactic Center using 12 years of data taken from W. M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. The objects are concealing their true identity behind an opaque screen of dust; they look like gas clouds, but behave like stars. “These compact dusty stellar objects move extremely fast and close to our Galaxy’s supermassive black hole. It is fascinating to watch them move from year to year,” said astronomer Anna Ciurlo at UCLA. “How did they get there? And what will they become? They must have an interesting story to tell.” (more…)
“We use special telescopes to catch X-ray light in the sky, and while looking at these X-rays, the telescopes noticed an unexpected feature and captured a spectrum of light, which is not produced by any known atomic emission,” said University of Miami astrophysicist Nico Cappelluti about a signal first detected in 2014. “This emission line is now called the 3.5 kiloelectron volt (keV). One interpretation of this emission line is that it’s produced by the decay of dark matter.”
“This is a great discovery!” said ESO team member Themiya Nanayakkara in fall of 2018 about the discovery that almost all of the sky is invisibly glowing with Lyman-alpha emission from the early Universe. “Next time you look at the moonless night sky and see the stars, imagine the unseen glow of hydrogen: the first building block of the universe, illuminating the whole night sky.”
“I spent an hour just staring at this image,” lead researcher, astronomer Pieter van Dokkum of Yale University says as he recalls first seeing the Hubble image of NGC 1052-DF2, a galaxy completely void of dark matter. “This thing is astonishing, a gigantic blob so sparse that you see the galaxies behind it. It is literally a see-through galaxy. It’s so rare, particularly these days after so many years of Hubble, that you get an image of something and you say, ‘I’ve never seen that before.”
Carl Sagan observed that the frontal lobe of the human brain, comprising more than two-thirds of our brain mass, is where “matter is transformed into consciousness.” Maybe, suggest scientists, we’ve had the story of human evolution wrong: that language evolved before our brains started getting larger (we have brains 3x the size of apes), and language led to brain size increase instead of being a result of it?
If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water, underscoring the fact that Earth is the only planet known to have liquid water on its surface –a fundamental characteristic when it comes to explaining the emergence of life. “We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one,” said scientist and explorer, Jacques Cousteau. Which raises a fascinating question: was Earth’s water always present in the rocks that made up our planet, despite its formation in a region of the Solar System where temperatures were too high for water to condense and clump together with other solids as ice? Or, as some scientists have suggested, delivered later by asteroids and comets that bombarded the Earth?