NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has spotted an eruption of dust around a sun-like star, possibly the result of a smashup between large asteroids. This type of collision can eventually lead to the formation of planets.
"We are watching rocky planet formation happen right in front of us," said George Rieke, a University of Arizona co-author of the new study. "This is a unique chance to study this process in near real-time."
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artist concept credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
The greatest explorer of recent decades is not even human. It’s the Hubble Space Telescope, which has offered everybody on Earth a mind-expanding window to the cosmos.
Vaccines protect the health of children in the United States so well that most parents today have never seen first-hand the devastating consequences of diseases now stopped by vaccines
MEASUREMENT AT BIG BANG CONDITIONS CONFIRMS LITHIUM PROBLEM
The field of astrophysics has a stubborn problem, and it’s called lithium. The quantities of lithium predicted to have resulted from the Big Bang are not actually present in stars. But the calculations are correct — a fact which has now been confirmed for the first time in experiments conducted at the underground laboratory in the Gran Sasso mountain in Italy. As part of an international team, researchers from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) studied how much lithium forms under Big Bang conditions. The results were published in Physical Review Letters.
Lithium, aside from hydrogen and helium, is one of the three elements that are created before the first stars form. These three elements were — according to the theory — already created early on, through what is known as “primordial nucleosynthesis.” That means that when the universe was only a few minutes old, neutrons and protons merged to form the nuclei of the these elements. At the Laboratory for Underground Nuclear Astrophysics (LUNA), the nucleosynthesis of lithium has now been reproduced by an international team of scientists. Michael Anders, who earned his doctorate in the last year at TU Dresden and HZDR on this very topic, took a leading role on the team. Within the framework of a project that was funded by the German Research Foundation, he was supervised by Dr. Daniel Bemmerer, group leader at HZDR.
In the Italian underground laboratory, the scientists fired helium nuclei at heavy hydrogen (known as deuterium) in order to reach energies similar to those just after the Big Bang. The idea was to measure how much lithium forms under similar conditions to those during the early stages of the universe. The result of the experiment: the data confirmed the theoretical predictions, which are incompatible with the observed lithium concentrations found in the universe.
“For the first time, we could actually study the lithium-6 production in one part of the Big Bang energy range with our experiment,” explains Daniel Bemmerer. Lithium-6 (three neutrons, three protons) is one of the element’s two stable isotopes. The formation of lithium-7, which possesses an additional neutron, was studied in 2006 by Bemmerer at LUNA.
With these new results, what is known as the “lithium problem” remains a hard nut to crack: on the one hand, now all laboratory results of the astrophysicists suggest that the theory of primordial nucleosynthesis is correct. On the other hand, many observations of astronomers show that the oldest stars in our Milky Way contain only half as much lithium-7 as predicted. Sensational reports by Swedish researchers, who discovered clearly more lithium-6 in such stars than predicted, must also likely be checked again based on the new LUNA data. Bemmerer says, “Should unusual lithium concentrations be observed in the future, we know, thanks to the new measurements, that it cannot be due to the primordial nucleosynthesis.”
Further research will soon be carried out in a new underground laboratory in Dresden.
What was important for the studies was the special location of LUNA: in the mountainous Gran Sasso d’Italia, 1,400 meters of solid rock keep the disturbance from cosmic radiation at bay. The experimental setup is additionally enveloped in a lead shell. Only with such good shielding can the rare interactions between the nuclei be precisely determined. But within the next year, similar research will also be possible in Dresden. TU Dresden and HZDR will put the accelerator laboratory “Felsenkeller” into operation. Although the solid rock shielding from natural radiation in this former brewery cellar is only 45 meters, it is already sufficient for many measurements. The new laboratory also possesses a particle accelerator that is more than 12 times as strong: “There we can expand our experiments and study the formation of elements at high energy ranges,” says Bemmerer.
image….Michael Anders beside the LUNA accelerator.
Photo: HZDR/M. Anders
The 3200 year old tree so massive that it had never been captured in a single image until recently.
This giant sequoia stands 247 feet tall and measures 45,000 cubic feet in volume. The trunk alone measures 27 feet and the branches hold 2 billion needles (more than any tree on the planet).
This picture took a team of photographers from Nat Geo, 32 days and stitching together 126 different photos to make.
i love redwoods because they are at the very limit of what the dynamics of capillary action allows to exist i’m glad an evolutionary niche exists for “THE BIGGEST FUCKIN TREE THAT CAN BE”
A fast-sensitive “electronic-nose” for sniffing the highly infectious bacteria C. diff, that causes diarrhoea, temperature and stomach cramps, has been developed by a team at the University of Leicester.
Using a mass spectrometer, the research team has demonstrated that it is possible to identify the unique ‘smell’ of C. diff which would lead to rapid diagnosis of the condition.
What is more, the Leicester team say it could be possible to identify different strains of the disease simply from their smell – a chemical fingerprint - helping medics to target the particular condition.
The research is published on-line in the journal Metabolomics.
Professor Paul Monks, from the Department of Chemistry, said: “The rapid detection and identification of the bug Clostridium difficile (often known as C. diff) is a primary concern in healthcare facilities. Rapid and accurate diagnoses are important to reduce Clostridum difficile infections, as well as to provide the right treatment to infected patients.
"Delayed treatment and inappropriate antibiotics not only cause high morbidity and mortality, but also add costs to the healthcare system through lost bed days.
Different strains of C. difficile can cause different symptoms and may need to be treated differently so a test that could determine not only an infection, but what type of infection could lead to new treatment options.”
The new published research from the University of Leicester has shown that is possible to ‘sniff’ the infection for rapid detection of Clostridium difficile. The team have measured the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) given out by different of strains of Clostridium difficile and have shown that many of them have a unique “smell”. In particular, different strains show different chemical fingerprints which are detected by a mass spectrometer.
The work was a collaboration between University chemists who developed the “electronic-nose” for sniffing volatiles and a colleague in microbiology who has a large collection of well characterised strains of Clostridium difficile.
The work suggests that the detection of the chemical fingerprint may allow for a rapid means of identifying C. difficile infection, as well as providing markers for the way the different strains grow.
Professor Monks added: “Our approach may lead to a rapid clinical diagnostic test based on the VOCs released from faecal samples of patients infected with C. difficile. We do not underestimate the challenges in sampling and attributing C. difficile VOCs from faecal samples.”
Dr Martha Clokie, from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, added: “Current tests for C. difficile don’t generally give strain information - this test could allow doctors to see what strain was causing the illness and allow doctors to tailor their treatment.”
Professor Andy Ellis, from the Department of Chemistry, said: “This work shows great promise. The different strains of C. diff have significantly different chemical fingerprints and with further research we would hope to be able to develop a reliable and almost instantaneous tool for detecting a specific strain, even if present in very small quantities.”