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| The New Search for Alien Intelligence



The Hole in our SUN Astronomers look closer into the “blue sphere” in the sun



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Is there alien life on mars? PAGE 13


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Astronomers find the 18th discovery of a Fast Radio Bursts. Where did it come from? What does it mean?

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TABLE OF CONTENTS Fast Radio Burst 3 Pluto Globe, 1st Edition 5 The Hole in Our Sun 6 How Solar Systems Begin 9 NASAs Spirit Rover 13


Astronomers Report Most Luminous ‘Fast Radio Burst’ Ever Observed A research team led by California Institute of Technology astronomer Vikram Ravi and Curtin University research fellow Ryan Shannon has detected the brightest fast radio burst (FRB) to date, called FRB 150807. FRBs are powerful radio flashes lasting just milliseconds, with mysterious origins that continue to be a matter of debate. Only 18 FRBs have been detected to date. Most give off only a single burst and do not flash repeatedly. Additionally, most FRBs have been detected with telescopes look the same,” Dr. Shannon that observe large swaths of added. the sky but with poor resolution, making it difficult to pinpoint the “FRB 150807 is the first detected exact location of a given burst. to date to contain detailed information about the cosmic web The unprecedented brightness — regarded as the fabric of the of FRB 150807 allowed the Universe — but it is also unique astronomers to localize it much because its travel path can be more accurately, making it the reconstructed to a precise line of best-localized FRB to date. sight and back to an area of space about a billion light years away “We estimate that there are that contains only a small number between 2,000 and 10,000 FRBs of possible home galaxies.” occurring in the sky every day. One in 10 of these are as bright The astronomers observed as FRB 150807,” said Dr. Ravi, FRB 150807 while monitoring first author of a paper published a nearby pulsar in our Galaxy recently in the journal Science. using the Parkes radio telescope in Australia. They leveraged the “FRBs are extremely short but brightness of the flash, and the intense pulses of radio waves, fact that it was observed by two of each only lasting about a their detectors simultaneously, to millisecond. Some are discovered more accurately pinpoint where it by accident and no two bursts may have occurred. (cont. pg. 4)

The location of the FRB 150807. The yellow circle shows the typical location of an FRB. There are thousands of stars and galaxies in this direction. Because FRB 150807 was very bright the astronomers were able to locate it to a small region near the edge of that circle, shown as the pink banana-shaped region in the inset. In this region there are only six detected galaxies. The position of the most likely host galaxy, VHS7, is highlighted on the plot. Image credit: Vikram Ravi, California Institute of Technology / Ryan Shannon, ICRAR-Curtin & CSIRO. 3

These measurements narrowed down the flash to “Nearly half of all visible matter is thought to be thinly several possible sites, with the most likely one being spread throughout intergalactic space. Although this matter is not normally visible to telescopes, it can be a galaxy called VHS7. studied using FRBs.” ----FRB 150807 appears to only be weakly distorted by material within its host galaxy,which shows that the intergalactic medium in this direction is no more V. Ravi et al. The magnetic field and turbulence of the cosmic web measured using a brilliant fast radio burst. Science, turbulent than theorists originally predicted. This is published online November 17, 2016; doi: 10.1126/science. the first direct insight into turbulence in intergalactic aaf6807 medium. “Because FRBs like the one we discovered occur billions of light-years away, they help us study the Universe between us and them,” Dr. Ravi said.

FRB 140514 found in 2015. The burst was up to 5.5 billion light years from Earth.


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Mystery of the sun’s strange ‘blue sphere’ is solved: NASA says there IS a hole in our star...but it’s not what conspiracy theorists think combination of 2 NASA STEREO images (1 onspiracy theorists across the world have of sun, 1 of space) caused by computer error. been let down after Nasa scientists have Happens sometimes.’ offered a clear explanation for a mysterious ‘blue sphere’ in front of the sun. Conspiracy There is a coronal hole on the surface of the theorists said the bizarre sphere could sun at the moment, but it was not captured in be anything from a wormhole to a rogue the Nasa images. The hole that was facing planet. But the strange sight was caused Earth in October, causing an increase in solar by a combination of two images being put activity, is now back. ‘At the end of October, together, according to a Nasa scientist. a hole in the sun’s atmosphere lashed Earth’s There is a hole in the sun at the moment, and magnetic field with solar wind, sparking it is turning towards Earth again, but it looks moderately-strong geomagnetic storms and nothing like the blue dot floating in front of almost a full week of Arctic auroras,’ says the images that surfaced recently. SpaceWeather. ‘News flash: It’s back. ‘The same “coronal hole” is turning toward Earth Facebook user Pamela Jonhson, who lives again.’ in Mexico, shared the mysterious images from a link to Nasa’s website, claiming the sun ‘reacted’ to the object. The images, WHAT ARE AURORAE? taken from Nasa’s STEREO satellites which There are two types of auroras orbit the sun, appeared to show the large spectacle in clear view - before it goes - Aurora Borealis, which means missing from other frames. The images left ‘dawn of the north’, and Aurora internet users divided about whether or not Australis, ‘dawn of the south.’ The this was anything exceptional. A YouTube lights are created when charged account named mrfaithandphysics said: particles from the sun enter Earth’s ‘It certainly does look exceptional and I’m atmosphere. Usually the particles stumped. ‘I’d say rouge planet, but we don’t are deflected by the Earth’s see it moving and then it’s gone.’ Another YouTube user called Matt Scarcella said it magnetic field, but some enter the was a wormhole. Wormholes are the stuff of atmosphere and collide with gas science fiction, with theorists describing them particles. These collisions emit as a tunnel through space-time which could light, in many colours although connect two distant points in the universe. But pale green and pink are common. Alex Young, a physicist at Nasa’s Goddard Space Centre has now offered a simple explanation. ‘No mystery!’ he said. ‘Just



Coronal holes are regions of the corona where the magnetic field reaches out into space rather than looping back down onto the surface. Particles moving along those magnetic fields can leave the sun rather than being trapped near the surface. In the parts of the corona where the particles leave the sun, the glow is much dimmer and the coronal hole looks dark. Coronal holes can cause a stream of fast solar wind to hit the Earth’s magnetic field and cause an increase in geomagnetic activity. In recent weeks this geomagnetic activity has seen an increase in chances for people to spot the northern lights in places where it is not usually possible. There are two types of auroras - Aurora Borealis, which means ‘dawn of the north’, and Aurora Australis, ‘dawn of the south.’ The lights are created when charged particles from the sun enter Earth’s atmosphere. (Solar Wind cont. pg. 8)

A huge blue sphere seen in front of the sun by Nasa cameras (zoomed out, top right, and shown in more detail on the bottom right) mystified conspiracy theorists and sent UFO hunters into uproar. The strange sight was caused by a combination of two images being put together.


There is a coronal hole on the surface of the sun at the moment, but it not what was shown in the Nasa images that had been under question. Nasa’s Solar Dynamics Observatory photographed the structure on 20 November (pictured).

How Solar Wind is Formed The sun and its atmosphere are made of plasma – a mix of positively and negatively charged particles which have separated at extremely high temperatures, that both carries and travels along magnetic field lines. Material from the corona streams out into space, filling the solar system with the solar wind. But scientists found that as the plasma travels further away from the sun, things change. The sun begins to lose magnetic control, forming the boundary that defines the outer 8

corona – the very edge of the sun. The breakup of the rays is similar to the way water shoots out from a squirt gun. First, the water is a smooth and unified stream, but it eventually breaks up into droplets, then smaller drops and eventually a fine, misty spray. A recent Nasa study captured the plasma at the same stage where a stream of water gradually disintegrates into droplets. If charged particles from solar winds hit Earth’s magnectic field, this can cause problems for satellite and communication equipment. ----Abigail Beall. Mystery of the sun’s strange ‘blue sphere’ is solved. Published online November 22, 2016.

This artist’s impression of the Solar System shows the sizes, but not the distances, of the planets to scale. Image credit: The International Astronomical Union/Martin Kornmesser.


Deep inside star-forming nebulae, dense regions of gas collapse to become hot and dense at their centers.

These central regions first glow in infrared light, while the material surrounding the center “pancakes� into a disk shape.

The disk rotates, and tiny densities imperfections form within it. In the densest regions, mass begins to clump together, creating the first protoplanets.


As more time passes, these infant planets accrue more and more matter, clearing their orbits and creating large “gaps” in the protoplanetary disk. Meanwhile, gravitational collapse causes the central protostar to heat up. Once a critical threshold is reached, nuclear fusion begins in the stellar core, and the protostar becomes a full-fledged star. It’s then a race for the protoplanets to grow as quickly as possible and hang onto the material they’ve accrued, while the central star’s radiation works to burn it all off and eject it. 11

Meanwhile, gravitational interactions cause ejections or mergers, leaving only a few planets.

By time the present day arrives, all we can see are the solar system’s survivors. ----Ethan Siegal for Forbes. The science of how solar systems begin. November 21, 2016.