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Fri, 24 Feb 2017
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Rare nebula, ELAN discovered - No obvious source of power for the light it is emitting

© Figure 2 of Cai et al., Astrophysical Journal
MAMMOTH-1 is an extended blob of gas in the intergalactic medium called an enormous Lyman-alpha nebula (ELAN). The color map and contours denote the surface brightness of the nebula, and the red arrows show its estimated spatial extent.
Astronomers have found an enormous, glowing blob of gas in the distant universe, with no obvious source of power for the light it is emitting. Called an "enormous Lyman-alpha nebula" (ELAN), it is the brightest and among the largest of these rare objects, only a handful of which have been observed.

ELANs are huge blobs of gas surrounding and extending between galaxies in the intergalactic medium. They are thought to be parts of the network of filaments connecting galaxies in a vast cosmic web. Previously discovered ELANs are likely illuminated by the intense radiation from quasars, but it's not clear what is causing the hydrogen gas in the newly discovered nebula to emit Lyman-alpha radiation (a characteristic wavelength of light absorbed and emitted by hydrogen atoms).

The newly discovered nebula was found at a distance of 10 billion light years in the middle of a region with an extraordinary concentration of galaxies. Researchers found this massive overdensity of early galaxies, called a "protocluster," through a novel survey project led by Zheng Cai, a Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Santa Cruz.

"Our survey was not trying to find nebulae. We're looking for the most overdense environments in the early universe, the big cities where there are lots of galaxies," said Cai. "We found this enormous nebula in the middle of the protocluster, near the peak density."

Info

Fructose is generated in the human brain

© Yale News
Fructose, a form of sugar linked to obesity and diabetes, is converted in the human brain from glucose, according to a new Yale study. The finding raises questions about fructose's effects on the brain and eating behavior.

The study was published on Feb. 23 by JCI Insight.

Fructose is a simple sugar found in fruits, vegetables, table sugar, and many processed foods. Excess consumption of fructose contributes to high blood sugar and chronic diseases like obesity. The Yale research team had demonstrated in a prior study that fructose and another simple sugar, glucose, had different effects on brain activity. But it was not known whether fructose was produced in the brain or crossed over from the bloodstream.

To investigate, the research team gave eight healthy, lean individuals infusions of glucose over a four-hour period. They measured sugar concentrations in the brains of the study participants using magnetic resonance spectroscopy, a noninvasive neuroimaging technique. Sugar concentrations in the blood were also assessed.

The researchers found cerebral fructose levels rose significantly in response to a glucose infusion, with minimal changes in fructose levels in the blood. They surmised that the high concentration of fructose in the brain was due to a metabolic pathway called the polyol pathway that converts glucose to fructose.

"In this study, we show for the first time that fructose can be produced in the human brain," said first author Dr. Janice Hwang, assistant professor of medicine.

Laptop

Israeli researchers have found a way to hack isolated computers by taking control of LED indicators

© Getty
Israeli researchers have found a way to attack isolated computers by taking control of their LED indicators, which are forced to blink up to 6,000 times a second to send a signal containing data to a camera mounted on a drone near the targeted computer.

The technique specifically targets so-called "air-gapped" computers, which are cut off from the Internet and company networks, making them the most challenging targets for hackers. Consequently, they typically carry the most sensitive information.

The LED control method, which makes it possible to steal data from isolated computers while raising minimum suspicion, was devised by researchers of the Negev (BGU) Cyber Security Research Center at Ben-Gurion University.

Sun

Annular solar eclipse February 26, 2017

© Toshiyuki Imai
An annular solar eclipse will take place on February 26, 2017, creating a ring of light around the darkened Moon as the Moon will be too far away from the Earth to completely cover the Sun. This is the first of two eclipses in 2017 and comes just 7 months before the first transcontinental American eclipse in a century.

The path of this month's eclipse will begin off the coast of Chile and pass through southern Chile and southern Argentina, across the southern Atlantic Ocean, and into Angola and Congo in Africa. A partial eclipse will be visible throughout parts of southern South America and southwestern Africa.

Fireball 4

Asteroid 2017 DG16 to fly by Earth at 0.34 LD - 5th known NEA to flyby Earth within 1 lunar distance since January 8, 2017

© Minor Planet Center
The green line indicates the object's apparent motion relative to the Earth, and the bright green marks are the object's location at approximately one hour intervals. The Moon's orbit is grey. The blue arrow points in the direction of Earth's motion and the yellow arrow points toward the Sun.
A newly discovered asteroid named 2017 DG16 will flyby Earth at a very close distance of 0.34 LD (130 560 km / 81 126 miles) from the surface of our planet at 21:08 UTC on February 23, 2017. This is the fifth known near-Earth asteroid to flyby Earth within 1 lunar distance since January 8, 2017.

2017 DG16 was first observed by Mt. Lemmon Survey on February 21. The estimated size of this asteroid is between 2 and 8 m (6.5 - 26.2 feet). It will flyby Earth at a speed (relative to the Earth) of 6.91 km/s.

This object belongs to the Apollo group of asteroids, Earth-crossing asteroids that have an orbital semi-major axis greater than that of the Earth (> 1 AU) but perihelion distances less than the Earth's aphelion distance (q < 1.017 AU).

Attention

HAARP lives! US military weapon reactivated 'for experiment to create and study artificial auroras'

© KTUU
This week at the High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) about a half dozen scientists are running experiments, including Chris Fallen, Assistant Research Professor with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute.

Over the course of four nights, Fallen has been attempting to create and study the artificial aurora.

"The more we understand about the artificial aurora, it helps us understand the natural aurora and vice versa," says Fallen.

Natural aurora occurs because high speed electrons hit the upper atmosphere and collide with gases there. The resulting light appears as aurora to the human eye and camera lens.

Fallen is trying to reproduce that using radio waves from HAARP as the energy source. "We're accelerating the electrons with radio waves through processes that are not fully understood and those electrons are accelerated to high velocities and collide with the gases in the atmosphere and create air-glow in basically the same colors as the natural aurora."

Comment: Uhm, didn't they say they were shutting down HAARP in 2014?

So now it's in civilian hands. Or so they say...


Galaxy

NASA announces discovery of 'Earth-sized' planets habitable enough to support life

© AFP
The newly-discovered 'exoplanets' could have life-supporting liquid water under the right atmospheric conditions, according to the space agency, but the chances of finding water in its liquid state are highest with the three in their star's 'habitable zone'.

NASA revealed the new findings about the exoplanets, meaning planets outside our solar system, at a special press event in Washington, DC.

The exoplanets circle the star TRAPPIST-1, which lies just 39 light-years from Earth. The discovery sets a new record for the greatest number of habitable-zone planets found around a single star outside our solar system.

"This discovery could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conducive to life," Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said in a statement.

"Answering the question, 'Are we alone?' is a top science priority and finding so many planets like these for the first time in the habitable zone is a remarkable step forward toward that goal."

Jupiter

Mars collapsing moons could form rings, research claims

© NASA / Reuters
New research suggests that Mars has begun building Saturn-like rings using the destroyed fragments of two of its moons.

In a new paper published in the journal Icarus, researchers from the Physical Research Laboratory in India put forward the idea that some of the dust that surrounds Mars may one day accumulate into a set of rings encircling the Red Planet.

Astronomers have long speculated that Mars will one day be encircled by rings made of bits of rock from its two moons, Phobos and Deimos, similar to how Saturn is now.

Galaxy

Tune your radio: Galaxies sing when forming star

© Credit: Maud Galametz.
The compilation shows composite infrared images of these galaxies created from Spitzer (SINGS) and Herschel (KINGFISH) observations.
A team led from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) has found the most precise way ever to measure the rate at which stars form in galaxies using their radio emission at 1-10 Gigahertz frequency range.

Galaxy

NASA to unveil new exoplanet discovery at news conference

© NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle
This artist's concept depicts one possible appearance of the planet Kepler-452b, the first near-Earth-size world to be found in the habitable zone of a star that is similar to our sun.
NASA is holding a news conference tomorrow (Feb. 22) to discuss "new findings on planets that orbit stars other than our sun, known as exoplanets," according to a statement from the agency.

The news conference begins at 1 p.m. EST (1800 GMT). No other specifics about the "new findings" have been made public, but "details ... are embargoed by the journal Nature" until 1 p.m. EST, according to the statement.

The news conference will feature five speakers: Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters; Michaël Gillon, astronomer at the University of Liège in Belgium; Sean Carey, manager of NASA's Spitzer Science Center at Caltech/IPAC in Pasadena; Nikole Lewis, astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore; and Sara Seager, professor of planetary science and physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Sara Seager is a leading exoplanet scientist who, among other things, is working on the problem of how to identify bio signatures in exoplanet atmospheres. The Space Telescope Science Institute is an astronomical research center as well as the mission operations center for the Hubble Space Telescope and NASA's planet-hunting Kepler telescope.