Where did the Sun form?

2012-04-16 21:01:41
Every morning we open the curtains, the comforting glow of a yellow-burning star awaits us. All life on Earth thanks its existence to the Sun – without it, there would be no plants, no air to breathe, no animals. No us. It is almost as if the Sun has always been there. But everywhere else in the Universe, we see stars being born and passing away. Clearly, there must have been a time that the Sun came into existence too. This leads to a mind-boggling question: what did the formation of the Sun look like?

Do we await the same massacre as the dinosaurs?

2012-03-06 19:45:59
Although nothing can be said with certainty, it is very likely that the dinosaurs got extinct after an asteroid impacted on Earth. Around 65 million years ago an object with the size of about 10 kilometers crashed into the Earth near the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. Any such event destroys most life on Earth and has a massive impact on Earth’s climate. Fortunately, the chances of such a disaster are very small, but impact chances of much smaller asteroids with sizes of 150 meters are higher. Such an asteroid could already destroy regional human settlements. Should this information worry us?

Globular clusters survived a 13 billion year-old massacre

2012-02-14 20:07:02
 The Galactic globular cluster M80 in the constellation Scorpius contains several hundred thousand stars. Credit: HST/NASA/ESA.Our Milky Way galaxy is surrounded by some 200 compact groups of stars, containing up to a million stars each. At 13 billion years of age, these globular clusters are almost as old as the universe itself and were born when the first generations of stars and galaxies formed. Now a team of astronomers from Germany and the Netherlands have conducted a novel type of computer simulation that looked at how they were born - and they find that these giant clusters of stars are the only survivors of a 13 billion year-old massacre that destroyed many of their smaller siblings. The new work is led by Dr Diederik Kruijssen, co-founder of Project Collision and astronomer at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Garching, Germany. The results appears in a paper in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The quest for Einstein’s missing waves

2012-01-14 10:38:01
Ever since Einstein came up with general relativity, researchers have been looking for evidence for this theory. The problem with the theory is that it predicts some events that we cannot observe (yet). Over the years, increasing detector quality resulted in more and more evidence that Einstein's theory is at least partially correct. However, one of the theory’s predictions that so far has only been detected indirectly are the so-called gravitational waves.

Hubble is getting a successor

2011-12-12 21:30:06
Perhaps it is the best thing that ever happened to astronomy, the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990. Not only did it collect a gigantic amount of data for astronomers, it also opened up the world of astronomy to the public. What astronomers had long known, could now be seen by everybody: the immense beauty of the universe. Probably everyone has at least once been amazed by a photo made with the Hubble Space Telescope. But of course the main goal of the telescope was to help astronomers understand the secrets of the universe, and it succeeded with flying colours. Last year Hubble has regrettably received its final servicing mission and will not undergo any more assistance until the Earth’s atmosphere destroys it in a year or five from now. Fortunately, its successor has been on the drawing tables for while now. Although the astronomical world is still skeptical about the actual realization of these plans, good news came from the US senate a few weeks ago. They officially secured the founding of Hubble's successor, known as the James Webb Space Telescope.

The golden era of exoplanet discoveries

2011-11-25 11:48:24
Artist's impression of the exoplanetary system HD10180 (credit: ESO/L. Calçada).Like the great explorers did on Earth five hundred years ago when they set foot on unknown continents, astronomers are currently discovering alien worlds. Contrary to the likes of Columbus and Marco Polo, astronomers are not able to set foot on these worlds in person. Instead, they use their telescopes to look for unknown planets around other stars in the vicinity of the Sun. The number of discoveries increases at a steady rate – in many ways we are living at a unique moment in time, which marks the onset of a golden era. We are witnessing how a new generation of explorers leads the way to a wealth of exoplanet discoveries.

Trusting the laws of physics

2011-11-10 18:03:34
A few weeks ago, the news was dominated by a discovery made by scientists at the CERN institute. They performed a series of measurements in which they wanted to calculate the velocity of neutrinos (very small, almost non-interacting particles). Just an everyday experiment, you may think, but the results were shocking. They measured that the neutrinos moved faster than the speed of light, something that is thought to be impossible. Recently, another discovery also seemed to disagree with the leading laws of physics. In this case, astronomers discovered that the electromagnetic force may not be equal throughout the universe. Again, this runs against everything that is known in physics. What do these discoveries tell us? And can we still rely on the laws of physics?

Understanding the nature of dark matter

2011-10-25 18:59:57
The large-scale structure of dark matter in the Millennium Simulation (credit: MPA Garching, V. Springel, S. White et al.)Ask an astrophysicist about the biggest challenges the field is facing and undoubtedly they will mention the elusive dark matter that takes up most of the mass in galaxies – among which is our own Milky Way. Some people consider the current mystery of dark matter an embarrassment to science. But if that were true, science would not exist. It needs mysteries to be solved. And an understanding of dark matter is coming ever closer.

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What is Project Collision?

A blog on the Universe, its secrets, and our place among the stars. You can read the blog posts on new, exciting discoveries, or play the iPhone app Collision - Travel to the Moon. If you'd like to propose a blog topic, feel free to contact me using the contact form at the bottom of the screen!

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