Upstairs ...

24 Jun 2011

It seems that elliptical galaxies are not spherical as once thought but disc shaped and resemble spiral galaxies. This result came from Atlas 3D and was published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (in June) (see

Meanwhile, at it seems that particle accelerator beams are being developed to produce nuclear energy via thorium. Interestingly, thorium is a material that is common in various parts of the world, unlike uranium, and thorium is slighly radioactive and therefore not as dangerous to handle as uranium. Thorium is also clean in contrast, in that it decays much quicker than uranium, leaving far less radioactive waste. However, it requires a constant bombardment of particles to keep it reacting and is therefore incapable of meltdown - unlike uranium once again. Thorium has been known since the 1950s, and the advantages it had over uranium in the production of electricity. What stopped its development in those far off days was the desire of politicians to have a source of uranium for atomic bombs - which meant thorium took a back seat. Now, the technology developed for the Large Hadron Collider could be used in conjunction with thorium to produce a new clean energy source - but it won't of course be cheap.

NASAs Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has beamed 2 years of data back to earth and scientists have been able to construct a data led elevation map of the moon's surface. See where a map of the moon can be seen.

At it is said astronomers have found a very young star that shoots colossal jets of water from its poles - in bullet like pulses. Astronomers now think all nascent stars go through this process as they form - and water is distributed through the universe. That leads to the idea that our own Sun may have done the same thing billions of years ago - distributing water around the solar system, presumably. The stream however is 180,000 degrees Fahrenheit, they say, so the water is not a liquid but atoms of hydrogen and oxygen (the building blocks of water).

At there is some hype about the 1859 giant solar flare, a blast that peppered the earth with protons and induced electronic currents that set telegraph offices on fire. Aurora were seen from Cuba and Hawaii. Modern society is reliant on high tech systems and satellite communications - and GPS guides planes, and all these things are vulnerable it seems, to a big flare of the kind that struck in 1859. It took place during an otherwise quiet solar cycle somewhat like the present one. It seems the reality of the power of the Sun may overwhelm us long before the vagaries of co2 have the slightest chance of bringing disaster upon the wicked people of the earth. Be not alarmed as there are a number of supercomputers out there - our defence mechanism. They are suitably charged up with models that will predict the eye of the storm, so cunning they can predict electrical currents flowing in the soil of the earth when a solar storm strikes. Do you feel safe? The idea is to shut down transformers in the path of such currents - before they are blitzed.

Meanwhile, at we learn that large scale structures in the universe, vast hyperclusters of galaxies, dominate whole chunks of the upstairs. This means, according to some scientists, that gravity or dark energy or something unknown is behaving strangely. 'We know the universe was smooth just after its birth ...' an idea deduced from measurement of the cosmic microwave background radiation, the light emitted 370,000 light years after the Big Bang. Yet, today's galaxies and galaxy clusters are arranged in clumps, or big strings and knots known as superclusters with empty void between them. On the other hand, as another scientist pointed out, all this may be imaginary and a reflection produced by the instruments (somewhat like oddities on a photograph).