Big Crunch: How will our universe end?

Big Crunch: How will our universe end?

Assuming the standard model is true, our universe’s end will likely all come down to one of three theories, each of which depends upon three things: the shape of the universe, how much dark energy is contained within it, and how the densities of dark energy will respond to the expansion of the universe.

There are believed to be three possible shapes of the universe: an open universe, a flat universe, and a closed plane of space-time.

In an open universe (think of a gigantic, saddle-shaped object), the universe is likely to experience the Big Freeze. In this scenario, the universe will continue to expand until matter has stretched incredibly thin, the stars have all burnt out, galaxies have ceased creating new stars to replace them, and all mass as we know it has ceased to exist. Everything will become dark and cold. The universe won’t so much as end as it will simply fizzle out, settling into a silent and lonely slumber at absolute zero.

Another possibility for universal armageddon is the Big Rip. Not as dependent on the shape of the universe as much as the amount of dark energy contained within it, this model implies that the acceleration of the universe will continue to increase without slowing, and the dark energy will become so strong that it will overwhelm the other elemental forces. Galaxies, suns, and planets alike will begin tearing themselves apart, all ending in a gravitational singularity — a place in which the standard rules of physics and relativity no longer apply.

Somewhat less unsettling is the theory of the Big Crunch, in which the universe will continue to expand until matter begins to slow the rate of expansion. Once slowed enough, the expansion will eventually come to a halt and begin to retract. Everything — planets, suns, galaxies, black holes, even the indestructible iPad 7000 — will all come crashing back together, culminating in a Big Crunch: essentially the opposite of the Big Bang that kicked our universe off in the first place. The bright side here is that the crunch is thought to be succeeded by yet another Big Bang and the creation of a whole new universe. Unfortunately, of the three, the Big Crunch is currently the least favored hypothesis within the physics community — meaning our dreams of an endlessly cycling universe of birth, destruction, and rebirth may end up being relegated to the realm of science fiction.

Dark matter arises questions about creation of universe

Dark matter arises questions about creation of universe

Dark matter continues to confound astronomers, as NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory demonstrated with the detection of an extensive envelope of dark matter around an isolated elliptical galaxy. This discovery conflicts with optical data that suggest a dearth of dark matter around similar galaxies, and raises questions about how galaxies acquire and keep such dark matter halos.

Dark matter is a mysterious kind of glue that holds not only the mysterious together, but is theoretically responsible for their creation. It was originally suggested in 1933 to explain discrepancies math by calculating the mass of galaxies, essentially, more material is needed to keep the galaxies together, we can see. Since then, we have not learned a whole hell of a lot more about dark matter.

In fact, we seem to know more about this itisn’t than it is. We know there is no antimatter. We also know that there is no dark clouds of normal matter. Many physicists believe that it represents about 83% of matter in the universe – even if we still have to prove that it exists!

The tricky thing with the dark matter is that we can not be detected directly, it is invisible. Dark matter is revealed by its severity, so we have, instead of measuring it through its interaction with normal matter. Currently, there are two contradictory experiments conducted in an attempt to confirm the existence of dark matter.

The Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS) detector Sudan mine in Minnesota is the search for weakly interacting massive particles, or WIMPs, whose discovery could resolve the problem of dark matter. Although the dark matter should be everywhere, it is estimated that some WIMPs can pass through the galaxy without interacting with normal matter, making it very difficult to discover. Although scientists have not yet detected WIMPs directly, they found significant evidence that they exist.

In direct conflict with these results, the XENON100 experience in Gran Sasso Laboratory in Italy has so far yielded negative results with respect to the WIMP. This does not mean that WIMPs exist, but simply that they are harder to detect than scientists had previously assumed.

Apollo 18 mission still being denied by NASA!

Apollo 18 mission still being denied by NASA!

Apollo 18 movie which The Weinstein Company has been touting as a “found footage” thriller, which consists of “actual footage” from a mysterious moon mission that never ‘officially’ took place, although many conspiracy theorists believe it did.

NASA has now taken its official stance, insisting Apollo 18 is a work of fiction. Here’s what NASA spokesperson Bert Ulrich had to say below.

“Apollo 18 is not a documentary. The film is a work of fiction, and we always knew that. We were minimally involved with this picture. We never even saw a rough cut. The idea of portraying the Apollo 18 mission as authentic is simply a marketing ploy. Perhaps a bit of a Blair Witch Project strategy to generate hype.”

However, Bert Ulrich does believe that NASA’s exposure in projects like Apollo 18 are beneficial for the agency, even if fictional. “It’s a wonderful way to reach the public through these huge media means like feature films and television shows, and it can inspire people in an interesting way, and it also can instruct people about what space exploration is all about.”

Apollo 18 was released September 2nd, 2011 and stars Warren Christie, Lloyd Owen. The film is directed by Gonzalo López-Gallego.

Apollo 18

Directed by: Gonzalo López-Gallego
Starring: Warren Christie, Lloyd Owen
Screenplay by: Brian Miller, Cory Goodman
Studio: The Weinstein Company
Release Date: September 2nd, 2011

Officially, Apollo 17, launched December 17th, 1972 was the last manned mission to the moon. But a year later, in December of 1973, two American astronauts were sent on a secret mission to the moon funded by the US Department of Defense. What you are about to see is the actual footage which the astronauts captured on that mission. While NASA denies its authenticity, others say it’s the real reason we’ve never gone back to the moon.

Everything you want to know about Apollo 18 Movie

Apollo 18: The story of secret mission to the moon

Apollo 18: The story of secret mission to the moon

There’s a reason we’ve never gone back to the moon.

Officially, Apollo 17, launched December 17th, 1972 was the last manned mission to the moon. But a year later, in December of 1973, two American astronauts were sent on a secret mission to the moon funded by the US Department of Defense. What you are about to see is the actual footage which the astronauts captured on that mission. While NASA denies its authenticity, others say it’s the real reason we’ve never gone back to the moon.

Apollo 18 is a found-footage style film set in December 1974, about a post-Apollo 17 mission to the Moon that takes on a premise of why NASA discontinued the Apollo Moon missions. The plot involves a government coverup of the Apollo 18 mission after parasitic lifeforms on the Moon discovered the crew and began to attack them. Much of the back-story remains unknown; however, the movie posters in English indicate the KGB’s role in Soviet lunar conspiracy and the Russian movie posters show inscriptions in English suggesting an American government cover up in lunar conspiracy. In the trailer, an American astronaut discovers the foot prints made by the Soviet cosmonaut and also found a helmet, a dead cosmonaut, and a Soviet LK Lander on the lunar surface.

The film was shot in Vancouver, British Columbia and stars actors Lloyd Owen and Warren Christie. However it has been promoted as a “found footage” film that does not use actors. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Dimension Films head Bob Weinstein denied the film was a work of fiction, stating that “We didn’t shoot anything, we found it. Found, baby!” The film will be distributed by Dimension Films.

Apollo 18: The story of secret mission to the moon

Apollo 18

Directed by: Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego
Starring: Lloyd Owen, Warren Christie, Ryan Robbins, Michael Kopsa, Ali Liebert, Erica Carroll, Kim Wylie, Andrew Airlie
Screenplay by: Brian Miller
Production Design by: Andrew Neskoromny
Cinematography by: José David Montero
Film Editing by: Patrick Lussier
Costume Design by: Kate Main, Cynthia Ann Summers, Beverley Wowchuk
Set Decoration by: Erik Gerlund, Oliver Zentner, Ugo Serrano
Art Direction by; Peter Bodnarus, Tyler Bishop Harron
Film Editing by: Patrick Lussier
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some disturbing sequences, and language.
Studio: Dimension Films
Release Date: September 2, 2011

Related Link: View the Froduction Notes for Apollo 18

Is there running water on Mars?

Is there running water on Mars?

NASA scientists find evidence suggesting salty water may flow on the planet’s slopes.

Scientists have found evidence of flowing salt water on steep Martian slopes, which if confirmed would be the first discovery of active liquid water on the red planet, NASA has said.

The data gathered by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has given new focus to the hunt for life forms and scientists hope that in the coming years lab experiments and new space missions may shed more light on what they have seen.

“We have found repeated and predictable evidence suggesting water flowing on Mars,” Michael Meyer, lead scientist for the Mars Exploration program, told reporters.

The US space agency said the orbiter circling Mars since 2006 had monitored numerous instances of what appeared to be water flows occurring in several locations during the Martian spring and summer.

Time-sequence imagery of the Newton crater in the southern mid-latitude region showed finger-like markings spreading along several steep slopes and then fading again once colder temperatures move in.

“The best explanation we have for these observations so far is flow of briny water, although this study does not prove that,” said Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.

“It’s a mystery now, but I think it’s a solvable mystery with further observations and experiments,” said McEwen, lead author of a study explaining the findings in the journal Science.

No liquid water has been found on Mars, though ice has been discovered at the poles. All life forms need water to survive, so the existence of a water source could point to a haven for primitive life.

“I really think this is a very exciting discovery because it is our first chance to see an environment on Mars that might allow for the expression of an active biological process if there is present day life on Mars,” said Lisa Pratt, professor of geological sciences at Indiana University.

“The next big question is to try to understand the origin and the source of these flows… (and) whether or not they may provide a conduit or a connectivity to a larger deeper brine pool or if in fact these fluids are just isolated patches or pockets.”

McEwen, principal investigator for the orbiter’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) that captured the images, said the orbiter recorded “thousands” of the flows over the past three years at seven locations. It had identified 20 other possible sites of similar flows, he said.

McEwen cautioned that the water flows remained “circumstantial,” and said scientists “lack that direct confirmation of water” from other instruments studying the planet, but hope it will be confirmed in future missions and lab experiments.

In any case, it does not appear that scientists are seeing anything akin to a gushing river on Mars, but more likely a subterranean movement.

“The flows are not dark because of being wet,” McEwen said. “They are dark for some other reason,” possibly because the briny water runs below the surface and is altering the land’s appearance in a way that makes it look dark.

“By comparison with Earth, it’s hard to imagine they are formed by anything other than fluid seeping down slopes,” said Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter project scientist Richard Zurek of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “The question is whether this is happening on Mars and, if so, why just in these particular places.”

Frozen water has been detected in some of Mars’s higher latitudes, and other evidence has suggested that water interacted with the Martian surface throughout the planet’s history.

NASA has placed a renewed focus on Mars, with the 30-year space shuttle program now over and efforts under way to build a spacecraft capable of carrying humans to the red planet by 2030.

The space agency’s unmanned Curiosity rover, also known as the Mars Science Laboratory, is due to explore a mountain inside the Gale Crater on Mars that should reveal whether signs of life ever existed on the red planet.

The largest US rover ever, built at a cost of $2.5 billion dollars, it is set to launch later this year and land in August 2012.

However, the area it will explore is far from the briny water slopes, so Curiosity is not expected to be able to confirm the latest findings.

Atlantis blasts off on historic flight

NASA launches Space Shuttle Atlantis on historic final mission

NASA’s final shuttle astronauts begin their journey into space — following a dramatic last-second delay.

The space shuttle Atlantis soared into the heavens and the history books Friday (July 8, 2011), kicking off the last-ever mission of NASA’s storied shuttle program.

Despite a bleak forecast of thunderstorms and clouds, the shuttle beat the weather in a stunning midday launch, sailing into the sky on one final voyage. The coutndown toward liftoff took a dramatic pause at T minus 31 seconds while ground crews verified that a vent arm at the top of the shuttle was fully retracted. NASA was quickly able to push on toward liftoff.

Atlantis blasted off just after 11:26 a.m. EDT (1526 GMT) from Launch Pad 39A here at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, thrilling huge throngs of spectators who had descended on Florida’s Space Coast to see the swan song of an American icon. NASA estimated that between 750,000 and 1 million people turned out to watch history unfold before their eyes.

“Good luck to you and your crew on the final flight of this true American icon. Good luck, god speed, and have a little fun up there,” shuttle launch director Mike Leinbach told the astronauts just before launch.

“Thanks to you and your team, Mike,” Atlantis’ commander Chris Ferguson replied. “We’re completing a chapter of a journey that will never end. The crew of Atlantis is ready to launch.”

After 135 launches over 30 years, the space shuttle will never streak into the sky again. [Video: Want to Feel a Shuttle Launch?]

Atlantis and its four-astronaut crew are headed for a rendezvous with the International Space Station. The main goal of the shuttle’s 12-day flight — Atlantis’ 33rd mission after nearly 26 years of flying — is to deliver a year’s worth of supplies and spare parts to the orbiting lab.

But the world’s attention is fixed more on what Atlantis’ last mission means than on what it will accomplish in orbit.

“For an entire generation who grew up with the space shuttle, this is a moment that won’t be appreciated for some time to come,” said space history expert Robert Pearlman, editor of collectSPACE.com and a SPACE.com contributor. “People have taken it for granted; I don’t think its absence is going to be immediately felt.”

A skeleton crew

Commander Chris Ferguson is leading a skeleton crew of four on Atlantis’ STS-135 flight. He’s joined by pilot Doug Hurley and mission specialists Rex Walheim and Sandy Magnus. Other shuttle missions over the years have typically carried six or seven spaceflyers, but NASA wanted to use every bit of available space to pack extra cargo on this last drop-off mission to the station.

The astronauts will deliver about 9,500 pounds (4,318 kilograms) of cargo to the station. Atlantis is also delivering several different science experiments, one of which — the Robotic Refueling Mission — is an attempt to demonstrate a way to refuel satellites robotically on orbit.

In addition, Atlantis is also carrying two iPhone 4 smartphones loaded with apps to help astronauts perform experiments in space. This represents the first time iPhones have ever gone to space.

Atlantis will chase the station down for a while, finally docking with the $100 billion orbiting lab on Sunday (July 10). The shuttle is scheduled to return to Earth for the final time on July 20.

Until Atlantis rolls to a stop on the runway, the astronauts plan to focus on the tasks they have to perform over the next 12 days, putting off meditations on their mission’s historic significance as much as possible.

“We’re not going to dwell on it too much until after landing,” Ferguson said before launch in a recent NASA video. “Then we’ll get a chance — hopefully following a great, successful mission — to kind of bask in the achievements of the program overall, and really reflect.” [NASA’s Space Shuttle Program In Pictures: A Tribute]

The end of an era

NASA’s space shuttle program was born in January 1972, when President Richard Nixon announced its existence to the nation. Back in those days, the shuttle was billed as a breakthrough vehicle that could enable safe, frequent and relatively cheap access to space.

“The shuttle era really was an effort to do a whole new kind of spaceflight,” Valerie Neal, curator of human spaceflight at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., told SPACE.com. The shuttle program, she added, “held with it the promise of making space just a normal part of human endeavor.”

The first flight took place on April 12, 1981. Since then, the shuttle — the world’s first and only reusable spacecraft — has become NASA’s workhorse vehicle, with the five-shuttle fleet making 135 flights over three decades.

Some of these flights have deployed or repaired important pieces of scientific hardware, such as the Hubble Space Telescope. And many missions since 1998 have helped build the International Space Station, which is now nearly complete.

In addition to these hardware accomplishments, shuttle missions have carried 355 different individuals from 16 different countries into low-Earth orbit, according to NASA officials. So the shuttle delivered on part of its promise, experts say, opening space up to many more people than had been possible previously and helping humanity develop its nascent capabilities in low-Earth orbit.

But the space shuttle didn’t turn out to be cheap or completely safe. NASA once estimated launches could cost as little as $20 million; they’ve turned out to run nearly $1.6 billion each. And two shuttle missions — Challenger’s STS-51L flight in 1986 and Columbia’s STS-107 mission in 2003 — ended in tragedy, killing a total of 14 astronauts.

Ultimately, historians will likely debate the shuttle program’s legacy for years to come.

Retirement awaits

When Atlantis touches down later this month, its flying days will be over. But the orbiter will still have to be prepped for one final mission: educating the public about spaceflight, and perhaps inspiring youngsters to become astronauts themselves someday.

Like the two other remaining shuttles — Endeavour and Discovery — Atlantis will become a museum showpiece. Atlantis won’t have to go far; it will assume a place of pride in the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex here.

Discovery is headed for the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, while Endeavour will make the trip west to the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

Without the space shuttles, NASA will rely on Russian Soyuz vehicles to ferry astronauts to and from the space station, which is slated to operate until at least 2020. The agency wants private American craft to take over this taxi service eventually, but that probably won’t happen for at least four or five years.

For its part, NASA has begun shifting its focus beyond low-Earth orbit. Last year, President Barack Obama charged the space agency with sending astronauts to an asteroid by 2025, and then on to Mars by the mid-2030s.

As exciting as both of these exploration prospects are, they remain far off, both in space and time. Right now, most thoughts are with Atlantis as it streaks toward the space station, its final mission closing out the life of a spacecraft that came to represent a nation in many ways.

Over the years, the space shuttle became a symbol of America, its ambitious goals and its technological know-how, experts say.

“The shuttle became a very powerful icon,” Roger Launius, space history curator at the National Air and Space Museum, told SPACE.com, “just as serviceable an icon as the astronauts landing on the moon, in terms of national prestige abroad and pride at home.”

Buzz over new planet Tyche claims

Buzz over new planet Tyche claims

Claims about a possible ninth planet in our solar system are being met with curiosity and skepticism.

Forget the “Sputnik moment.” If two astrophysicists are correct, we may be having a “Tyche moment” — a ninth planet to add to our solar system. But that’s a big “if.”

The two scientists who make the claim, Daniel Whitmire and John Matese from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, say a planet they named Tyche — that is four times the size of Jupiter — may be lurking in the outer solar system.

The pair says that the NASA Wise telescope may already have data to prove its existence, but that the planet, if it exists, won’t reveal itself for another two years.

Two astronomers have been saying there is a planet called Tyche in our solar system, four times larger than Jupiter. However, as reports on Tuesday say, other astronomers say it probably does not exist.

Tyche exists in the outer solar system in a region called the Oort, the two astronomers said, according to the Independent newspaper. The Oort is a hypothesized cloud of comets nearly one light-year from the sun. Oort’s outer regions correspond to the outer boundary of the solar system.

“There’s evidence that some Oort cloud comets display orbital peculiarities,” astrophysicist John Matese told Life’s Little Mysteries, adding that Tyche’s existence would explain the strange orbits of comets in the cloud. “We’re saying that perhaps the pattern is indicative that there’s a planet there.”

Matese and fellow University of Louisiana-Lafayette colleague Daniel Whitmire told the newspaper they believe the mysterious planet will reveal itself in around two years. Since 1999, the two have maintained Tyche does exist and is within the solar system.

“If it does, John and I will be doing cartwheels,” Professor Whitmire told the newspaper. “And that’s not easy at our age.”

However, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) would decide Tyche’s status as a planet in our solar system. In recent years, the IAU demoted Pluto to a dwarf planet.

Matthew Holman, a planetary scientist at the Harvard Smithsonian Institute of Astrophysics, says Tyche probably does not exist, or at least within our solar system.

“Based on past papers that I’ve seen looking at where long-period comets came from in the sky, and finding signatures of large perturbers of the Oort cloud, I was not persuaded by the evidence,” he told Life’s Little Mysteries.

Planetary scientist Hal Levison with Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., made a similar statement.

“What Matese claims is that he sees an excess of comets coming from a particular place, which he attributes to the gravitational effects of a large planet in the Oort cloud,” he told the website. “I have nothing against the idea, but I think the signal that he claims he sees is very subtle, and I’m not sure it’s statistically significant.”

The Independent noted that the planet, which would likely comprise hydrogen and helium gases, should push comets from the inner Oort cloud, but this has not been observed.

NASA discovers unique new life form

NASA discovers unique new life form

A bacterium found in a California lake is unlike any other living thing on Earth.

A strange, salty lake in California has yielded an equally strange bacterium that thrives on arsenic and redefines life as we know it, researchers reported on Thursday. The bacteria do not merely eat arsenic — they incorporate the toxic element directly into their DNA, the researchers said.

The finding shows just how little scientists know about the variety of life forms on Earth, and may greatly expand where they should be looking for life on other planets and moons, the NASA-funded team said.

“We have cracked open the door to what is possible for life elsewhere in the universe,” Felisa Wolfe-Simon of the NASA Astrobiology Institute and U.S. Geological Survey, who led the study, told a news conference.

The study, published in the journal Science, demonstrates that one of the most notorious poisons on Earth can also be the very stuff of life for some creatures.

Wolfe-Simon and colleagues found the strain of Halomonadaceae in California’s Mono Lake, formed in a volcanic region and very dense in minerals, including arsenic.

The lake is teeming with life, but not fish. It also contains the bacteria.

“Life is mostly composed of the elements carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, sulfur and phosphorus,” the researchers write in Science.

These six elements make up the nucleic acids — the A, C, T and G of DNA — as well as proteins and lipids. But there is no reason in theory why other elements should not be used. It is just that science never found anything alive that used them.

The researchers grew microbes from the lake in water loaded with arsenic, and only containing a little bit of phosphorus.

Scientists Amazed

The GFAJ-1 strain of the Halomonadaceae grew when arsenic was in the water and when phosphorus was in the water, but not when both were taken away. And it grew even with “double whammy” of arsenic.

“It grew and it thrived and that was amazing. Nothing should have grown,” Wolfe-Simon told a news conference.

“We know that some microbes can ‘breathe’ arsenic, but what we’ve found is a microbe doing something new — building parts of itself out of arsenic.”

Paul Davies of NASA and Arizona State said the bacterium is not a new life form.

“It can grow with either phosphorous or arsenic. That makes it very peculiar, though it falls short of being some form of truly ‘alien’ life belonging to a different tree of life with a separate origin,” he said.

But it does suggest that astrobiologists looking for life on other planets do not need to look only for planets with the same balance of elements as Earth has.

“Our findings are a reminder that life-as-we-know-it could be much more flexible than we generally assume or can imagine,” said Wolfe-Simon.

“If something here on Earth can do something so unexpected, what else can life do that we haven’t seen yet? Now is the time to find out.”

James Elser, an expert on phosphorus at Arizona State University, said such bacteria may be useful for generating new biofuels that do not requite phosphate fertilizers, treating wastewater or cleaning up toxic waste sites.

NASA lets you go to the moon… for free

NASA lets you go to the moon... for free

If you’ve ever dreamed of being an astronaut, you’ve probably idly checked out the price of one of those private rocket flights into orbit. And you’ve probably compared them unfavorably to a nice five-bedroom house in a fashionable urban area, and decided you didn’t want to go into space quite that badly after all. But courtesy of NASA, now you can take a trip all the way to the moon — for free.

OK, so there’s a catch. NASA’s moon “trip” is probably a little more virtual than you might have had in mind. Moonbase Alpha challenges gamers to step into the oversized moon-boots of an astronaut stationed on a fictional (but plausible) moon base. Your mission (should you choose to accept it) is to restore life support to base, after a meteor strike cripples a solar panel.

It’s available for free over digital delivery system Steam, and you can either play it on your own or as part of a six-strong team. Available base-fixing resources include a fully stocked equipment shed, robotic repair units, and a totally sweet lunar rover.