Saturday, September 5, 2015

River Dolphins and Other Amazing Things

Smithsonian scientists have discovered the fossils of a new species of river dolphin that lived more than 5.8 million years ago."While whales and dolphins long ago evolved from terrestrial ancestors to fully marine mammals, river dolphins represent a reverse movement by returning inland to freshwater ecosystems," said study co-author Aaron O'Dea in a statement. "As such, fossil specimens may tell stories not just of the evolution [of] these aquatic animals, but also of the changing geographies and ecosystems of the past."

The light-colored heart-shaped Tombaugh Regio on the lower right is clearly shown here to be divisible into two regions that are geologically different, with the leftmost lobe Sputnik Planum also appearing unusually smooth.

Nebulae have a lot of funny names. Here's the Prawn Nebula:
A large portion of the ionization in the nebula is done by two O-type stars, which are hot blue-white stars, also known as blue giants. This type of star is very rare as the very large mass of blue giants means that they do not live for long. After only roughly a million years these stars will collapse in on themselves and end their lives as supernovae, as will many of the other massive stars within the nebula.

The Milky Way Framed by Airglow:

Originating at an altitude similar to aurorae, the luminous airglow is instead due to chemiluminescence, the production of light through chemical excitation. Commonly captured with a greenish tinge by sensitive digital cameras, this reddish airglow emission is from OH molecules and oxygen atoms at extremely low densities and has often been present in southern hemisphere nights during the last few years.

Today's Moment of Primordial Goo!
A US-based laboratory has produced tiny droplets of a state of matter that existed in the first few milliseconds after the Big Bang after slamming particles together at close to the speed of light.
The matter, known as a quark-gluon plasma (or QGP), is predicted to exist when temperatures and densities are so extreme that regular matter cannot exist. Instead, a “perfect liquid” exists for a short time before it cools and condenses into the regular stuff that forms the building blocks of matter.

... This is the first time that helium-3, a light ion, has been collided with heavy ions (gold), producing the signature of quark-gluon plasma. This indicates that the stuff can be produced at lower energies, opening a fascinating opportunity to study this quantum ‘goo’ that last existed in nature in the first moments of the birth of our universe, some 13.8 billion years ago.

And the initial results seem to show these tiny droplets act as predicted — like a perfect, frictionless liquid.

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