X Marks the Spot; New Radiation Monitor on ISS; 3D Astronomical Map

Posted July 20th, 2016 at 3:22 pm (UTC-5)
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NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission observed and gathered data of the entire sky twice in 2010. Astronomers then used the data to find the X-shaped structure in the bulge of the Milky Way. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/D.Lang)

NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission observed and gathered data of the entire sky twice in 2010. Astronomers then used the data to find the X-shaped structure in the bulge of the Milky Way. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/D.Lang)

X Marks the Center of the Milky Way

When we hear “X marks the spot,” many of us might think of old pirate maps and where treasure is supposedly buried.

But “X marks the spot” could also have more of a cosmic meaning, thanks to a new study published in the Astronomical Journal.

The study’s two authors say that the X, in this case, marks the center of the Milky Way galaxy.

Using data from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE space telescope, a configuration of stars forming the letter X was could be seen within the galactic bulge located at the heart of the galaxy.

NASA describes this bulge as a round structure of tightly packed material that includes old stars, gas, and dust. The space agency says the Milky Way’s bulge is about 10,000 light years across.

While previous reports have mentioned the central X structure, the authors say data gathered for their study provides the clearest indication of the X shape so far.

Grooves and gashes near the moon's Imbrium Basin have long stumped astronomers. New research examined these features to estimate the size of the object whose impact created this lunar feature. Researchers found that it was big enough to be considered a protoplanet. (NASA/Northeast Planetary Data Center/Brown University)

New research examined grooves and gashes found near the moon’s Imbrium Basin  to estimate the size of the object whose impact created this lunar feature. (NASA/Northeast Planetary Data Center/Brown University)

Lunar Impact Basin Created by Huge Asteroid

Researchers have recently determined an asteroid that smashed into the moon some 3.8 billion years ago to form the Imbrium impact basin was more than 241 kilometers across, which is much larger than thought.

Previous estimates, based solely on computer models, have indicated the asteroid was only about 80 kilometers in diameter.

Sizable areas of the huge crater formed by the impact were later filled with basaltic lava and other materials.

Writing in the journal “Nature,” the scientists from Rhode Island’s Brown University suggest that the asteroid that formed the Imbrium basin was so enormous that it could have been classified as a protoplanet, an object that later can become a planet.

Based on the sizes of other impact basins, not only on the moon but also the planets Mars and Mercury, the scientists say their findings also suggest that the early solar system was full of protoplanet-sized asteroids.

The researchers made their findings after conducting experiments at NASA’s Vertical Gun Range at the Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California.

Wearable units of the new European Crew Personal Active Dosimeter – EuCPAD – system for active radiation monitoring of astronauts in orbit. ((c) ESA)

Wearable units of the new European Crew Personal Active Dosimeter (EuCPAD) system for active radiation monitoring of astronauts in orbit. ((c) ESA)

New ESA Radiation Monitoring Tool Sent to ISS

Radiation is among the many health dangers that humans face in outer space.

For crewmembers aboard the International Space Station radiation exposure is currently monitored with a number of instruments.

Individual radiation doses are also measured with a device called the crew passive dosimeter (CPD), which is carried by each ISS crewmember for the duration of their time in space.

But these devices are only read and processed after the astronaut returns to Earth.

A more sophisticated personal monitoring instrument developed for the European Space Agency has been included in the recent shipment to the ISS.

Called the European Crew Personal Active Dosimeter (EuCPAD), this new device will provide crewmembers with a real-time picture of their radiation exposure.

The new system, which can distinguish radiation from the sun, the Van Allen belts or from the far reaches of the galaxy, will also help scientists prepare for deep space travel.

This is one slice through the map of the large-scale structure of the Universe from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and its Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey. (Daniel Eisenstein and SDSS-III)

This is one slice through the map of the large-scale structure of the Universe from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and its Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey. (Daniel Eisenstein and SDSS-III)

1.2 Million Galaxies in New 3D Astronomical Map

A research team, made-up of hundreds of physicists and astronomers from throughout the world, have built the largest 3D map of distant galaxies that has been created so far.

They claim the map has allowed them to precisely measure of dark energy, a mysterious force that scientists say is behind the current accelerated expansion of the universe.

To produce the map, the team took measurements over a five-year period of some 1.2 million galaxies that reside in one quarter of the sky or about 650 cubic billion light-years of the universe.

The measurements used to construct the map came from the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey or BOSS, which is a program of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey-3.

The researchers say their new map allows scientists to measure just how fast the universe is expanding, which will help them to figure-out the amount of matter and dark energy that makes up our Universe.

Hops on the Vine in Oregon (Visitor7 via Wikimedia Commons)

Hops on the Vine in Oregon (Visitor7 via Wikimedia Commons)

Key Beer Ingredient May Someday Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

Among the important ingredients used to make beer are hops, the seed cones of the hop plant. They’re also used in the manufacture of dietary supplements to help women relieve post-menopausal symptoms.

Now, lab tests conducted by a research team at the University of Illinois at Chicago has found that an enhanced hops extract could also someday be used to ward off breast cancer.

Researchers created compounds from the fortified hops extracts and then applied them to two different breast cell lines.

They wanted to see if any of the compounds had an effect on the metabolism of estrogen, something that’s considered a key process in breast cancer.

A compound, called 6-PN was created from the fortified hops extract and preliminary test results are suggesting that it could have anti-cancer effects.

But additional research must be conducted to further investigate possible helpful effects of the hops-based compound.

Rick Pantaleo
Rick Pantaleo maintains the Science World blog and writes stories for VOA’s web and radio on a variety of science, technology and health topics. He also occasionally appears on various VOA programs to talk about the latest scientific news. Rick joined VOA in 1992 after a 20 year career in commercial broadcasting.

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