The Cosmetic Ultralounge

Space – Part Two

By Gunner Glam

Earthlings have made several discoveries over the years which lead to more answers about with all the mysteries of the universe.

The energy that charges Studio Brow comes from the excitement of exploring the world in a new way. We would like to share some more discoveries of outer space according to Discovery Space News.

PERPETRATOR OF GALACTIC HIT-AND-RUN FOUND

Scientists have discovered why the irregularly shaped and hydrogen-shrouded starburst galaxy known as NCG 4449, located 12.4 million light years away, is so weird. It bears scars from a past close encounter with a newly discovered companion dwarf galaxy.

The evidence exonerates another previously known companion galaxy, DDO 125, which is located about 130,000 light years away from NCG 4449. Instead, new observations of NGC 4449 taken between May 29 and June 1, 2011 (made in the course of commissioning a new 0.7-meter telescope at Saturn Lodge Observatory, Calif.) turned up what scientists call “a profoundly tidally distorted” dwarf galaxy NGC 4449B.

The new companion lies about 29,000 light years from the center of NGC 4449. Computer models show the contorted shapes of the two galaxies fit.

“We speculate that NGC 4449B is on its first encounter with NGC 4449 and experienced a close passage near the nucleus of NGC 4449,” lead researcher Michael Rich, with the University of California, Los Angeles, writes in this week’s Nature.

“This conclusion is supported by the morphology of NGC 4449B, the plume pointing at the nucleus, and the approximate agreement with the structure and timescales of the simulation,” Rich wrote.

Scientists believe the encounter played a role in igniting the present burst of star formation in NGC 4449.

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OUR PLANET, TANGLED IN MAGNETIC SPAGHETTI

OK, so it’s not real spaghetti — it’s a computer visualization of the complex magnetic field that creates Earth’s magnetosphere — but it sure looks tangled.

Using the awesome power of a Cray XT5 Jaguar supercomputer, a team of space physicists are unlocking some of the biggest mysteries surrounding how the sun’s magnetic field interacts with our planet’s magnetosphere. They basically want to understand what happens when global magnetic fields become tangled to the extreme.

Space physicists categorize these interactions under “space weather,” and they are responsible for some of the Earth’s most powerful (and beautiful) atmospheric events.

“When a storm goes off on the sun, we can’t really predict the extent of damage that it will cause here on Earth. It is critical that we develop this predictive capability,” said Homa Karimabadi, a space physicist at the University of California-San Diego (UCSD).

Computer simulations are a critical tool for space weather prediction, and with the help of one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world (that is capable of a peak performance of 2.33 petaFLOPS), the complex magnetohydrodynamics of a geomagnetic storm can be better understood.

Put very simply, the tough physics behind “magnetohydrodynamics” can be split into three parts: magneto = magnetic, hydro = fluid, dynamics = motion. Each part represents complex calculations of how space plasma — from the hot, glowing, turbulent plasma on the solar surface, to the tenuous, wispy, high-energy ions that makes up the solar wind — acts.

So, should the sun unleash a coronal mass ejection (CME) in the direction of Earth, it would be useful to model the impact of this magnetic bubble of high-energy plasma before it hits our magnetosphere. Such an event involves a lot of magnetic-fluid-motion!

“With petascale computing we can now perform 3D global particle simulations of the magnetosphere that treat the ions as particles, but the electrons are kept as a fluid,” said Karimabadi. “It is now possible to address these problems at a resolution that was well out of reach until recently.”

With all this computing power, Karimabadi and his team have been able to simulate the phenomenon of “magnetic reconnection” — a phenomenon that can occur when two magnetic fields are forced together. The physics are hard to interpret, so the plasma needs to be simulated as a fluid and individual particles, all responding to the presence of a magnetic field.

Should the conditions be “just right” during a solar storm, for example, the magnetic field of an incoming CME and the magnetosphere may be aligned — or “geo-effective” — so that the two fields snap and reconnect, creating an entry point for energetic solar particles to flood into the outer layers of the Earth’s magnetic field. Geomagnetic storms are often the result, generating stunning aurorae at high latitudes and powerful electrical currents through the atmosphere.

These electrical currents can cause problems on the ground, especially if we are caught unprepared. Predicting the occurrence of these currents are very useful to power companies, say. Should a “geo-effective” CME thump the magnetosphere, they’ll know a geomagnetic storm is coming and managers may decide to take measures to avoid power outages.

Key to understanding how the plasma and magnetic field from the sun interacts with our magnetosphere is to understand the amount of turbulence generated during a CME impact. “One of the surprising outcomes of our research is the ubiquity and nature of turbulence in the magnetosphere,” said Karimabadi. “This is important since turbulence implies more efficient mixing of the plasma and fields, and after all, space weather arises because the plasma and fields emanating from the sun can penetrate and mix with the plasma and fields of Earth’s magnetosphere.”

And therein lies the power of the supercomputer and its ability to visualize dynamic 3D magnetic structures. “By color coding the magnetic field lines in our visualizations of the solar wind and the magnetosphere, we can track the level of (turbulent) mixing,” he added.

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DO ALIENS GO INVISIBLE BY ‘GOING GREEN’?

As we discover more and more planets around other stars, the Fermi Paradox is becoming, well, more paradoxical.

The Fermi Paradox simply asks the question “where are they?” Our Milky Way galaxy is so big and so old — and we are estimated to be accompanied by at least 100 billion planets — that aliens should have visited us by now.

Instead, when we peruse the heavens, we are faced with the Great Silence, which is one of the biggest challenges to modern astronomy.

There have been numerous solutions to the Fermi paradox, but none of them are satisfactory.

Instead, when we peruse the heavens, we are faced with the Great Silence, which is one of the biggest challenges to modern astronomy.

There have been numerous solutions to the Fermi paradox, but none of them are satisfactory.

Picking up on this idea, Canadian science fiction writer Karl Schroeder has come upon a novel solution to the failure of astronomical observations to solve the Fermi Paradox. He proposes: “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from nature.” (This is a takeoff on Arthur C. Clarke’s posit: “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”)

In other words, smart aliens have “gone green” and generate no waste products that we could detect. They therefore blend into the galaxy. Therefore, “artificial and natural systems are indistinguishable,” writes Schroeder.

This implies that no astronomical observations could offer convincing evidence for the handiwork of E.T. The principle of Occam’s Razor will insist that we stick with a natural explanation for space phenomena.

This undermines an extraterrestrial search strategy called SETT (Search for Extraterrestrial Technology). The idea is that we might pick up the spectral signature of nuclear fission waste that extraterrestrials dump into their star, or the leakage of tritium from alien fusion powerplants.

However, “green aliens” have reached a Utopian state of being in balance with nature. Short of finding a directed message, or a leaked radio signal, we could be surrounded by advanced societies that are camouflaged within our galaxy. Maybe only ecologically-balanced civilizations survive in the long run.

Another Fermi Paradox solution is that intelligent life might be inherently unstable and destroys itself in any number of doomsday scenarios: nuclear war, bioterrorism, or nanotechnology run amok. But even if that is the case, their technological progenies should survive forever.

This is not science fiction, we have already done this. Long after the human race has gone extinct, there will still be five artifacts drifting though the galaxy: NASA’s two Pioneer probes (pictured here), two Voyager probes, and the Pluto-bound New Horizons probe. Imagine, the Pioneer plaque, Voyager record, and Clyde Tombaugh’s (discoverer of Pluto) ashes aboard New Horizons, are the only lasting manifestations of Homo sapiens.

It’s a comparatively small step for a society — say, one only a few hundred years more advanced than us — to pepper the galaxy with interstellar probes. This approach is vastly cheaper that any attempt to send living explorers to other stars.

The probes could easily be mass-produced at a fraction the cost of building a passenger starship. Once launched, they are self-repairing and immortal — a concept proposed by mathematician John von Neumann and astrophysicist Freeman Dyson, among others. For economy this approach would favor small devices that through nanotechnology grow and modify themselves for the mission at hand.

One paradox here is the question of why such probes wouldn’t mutate, mass produce, and take over the galaxy. We can only surmise that their duplication process is perfect, and there is a built-in “circuit breaker” algorithm that instructs the probes not to self-replicate forever — like those walking brooms in Paul Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice from Disney’s 1940 feature-length animation “Fantasia.”And besides, that would be thegreen thing to do.

What is especially sobering is that this means there should have been a lot of robotic alien visits to our solar system. In a recent paper (PDF) astronomer Keith Wiley of the University of Washington estimates there could be innumerable alien Von Neumann machines scattered among the planets and asteroids. And, Earth certainly would be a prime target of interest.

At this point I’d say it would be a bigger shock if we never find such artifacts, than if we actually do someday.

But if the alien robotic visitors were built with “green technology,” finding any trace of them would especially be a needle-in-haystack search. They would blend in with the natural tapestry of the solar system.

I wonder if they like getting their eyebrows done? Do they even have eyebrows?

-More coming soon from Studio Brow-

9 responses

  1. Thanks for the information and the scifi abstract…I enjoyed this post. Keep up the great and informative posts. Jay

    February 23, 2012 at 4:38 PM

  2. Most definitely! Jay

    February 23, 2012 at 5:37 PM

  3. Alimba

    Really interesting post! I’m waiting for more posts like this one…

    February 23, 2012 at 9:28 PM

  4. mommywritervkent

    Reblogged this on TRUnique News & Matters and commented:
    Great information

    February 24, 2012 at 12:43 AM

  5. Very interesting! 🙂

    February 24, 2012 at 6:35 AM

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