“The first galaxies in the early universe may illuminate what type of dark matter we have today,” says Mark Vogelsberger, associate professor of physics in MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research about one of the great mysteries of modern physics. “Either we see this filament pattern, and fuzzy dark matter is plausible, or we don’t, and we can rule that model out. We now have a blueprint for how to do this.”
What is so special about carbon is that it’s doubtful (although possible) that life could have used something other than carbon. Each carbon atom can form four strong bonds that allow for an extraordinary variety of long-chain molecules, notably proteins, lipids, sugars and DNA, according to evolutionary biologist, Anthony Lane in The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origin of Complex Life. Silicon, for example, can’t manage anything close to this complexity.
At present, our Solar System is in its twentieth orbit of the Milky Way near the inner edge of a spiral feature known as the Orion Arm or, less poetically, the Local Arm. The ghostly arms are not permanent features of a disc galaxy like the Milky Way. Rather, they are concentrations of gas and dust where stars form, produced by disturbances within the Milky Way, or on occasions by a jolt from outside, such as a supernova or the passage of the Solar System through one of the dusty gas clouds that congregate in spiral arms.
Our understanding of the first seconds of our Universe’s existence is little more than an informed guess, based on inference and extrapolation. “Yet these first moments are the key to many of our most urgent and enduring cosmic mysteries,” cosmologist Dan Hooper at the University of Chicago told The Daily Galaxy. “Understanding this era,” he adds, “is essential to understanding our universe.”
“We always thought of our Galaxy as an inactive galaxy, with a not so bright center,” said Magda Guglielmo from the University of Sydney about 2019 Hubble Space Telescope data showing that a titanic, expanding beam of energy sprang from close to the SgrA*, the supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way, 3.5 million years ago, shooting a cone-shaped burst of radiation through both poles of the Galaxy and beyond into deep space.
During a keynote speech at a NASA conference a decade ago on the search for extraterrestrial life an attendee shouted out: “We have no idea what’s out there!” One of NASA’s goals is to search for life on other planets like Mars, where there was once flowing water and a thick atmosphere, or moons of the outer solar system like Europa and Enceladus, where vast water oceans churn under thick layers of ice. But what if life on those worlds doesn’t use our DNA? How could we recognize it? A 2019 DNA breakthrough may be the key to answering these questions and many more.