Wednesday, 1 April 2015

NASA’s MAVEN spots auroras, dust at high altitudes above Mars

NASA has announced a pair of unusual findings made by its MAVEN mission, which is meant to sample Mars' atmosphere in order to help us understand its evolution. But, by orbiting through the outer edges of the atmosphere, the mission has identified some unexpected features of the area above the red planet.

The first, and easiest to understand, is the auroras. Dubbed the "Christmas Lights" because of their appearance in December of last year, the glow was in the ultraviolet range and spanned the entire Northern Hemisphere of Mars. The source of the energy was electrons accelerated out from the Sun, which were detected by another instrument on MAVEN. Because Mars lacks a magnetic field, the electrons also made it deep into the atmosphere, producing a light show that was close to the surface relative to Earth's auroras.

The dust, however, is not as easy to explain. It's been a constant, present since MAVEN first entered orbit, and ranges between 150 and 300km above the surface, with the density of particles increasing at lower altitudes. Much like the recent dust plume observed above the planet, it's not clear what could be lofting the particles from Mars' surface. "If the dust originates from the atmosphere, this suggests we are missing some fundamental process in the Martian atmosphere," said Laila Andersson of the University of Colorado.

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A Black and Blue Life: A Coal Miner Becomes a Photographer of Exquisite Waves and Seascapes

Convection - Ray Collins

Australian photographer Ray Collins first picked up a camera in 2007 and used it to photograph his friends surfing around his home after long shifts working in a nearby coal mine. His attention quickly shifted from his friends to patterns and forms he noticed in the waves. Collins, who is colorblind, was also drawn to the interplay of light and water, perhaps more attune to contrast than the nuance of color. He poetically refers to this switch from coal miner to fine art photographer as a balance between his “black life and blue life.”

The accolades, awards, and sponsorships have been heaped on Collins leading to the publication of his first book, Found at Sea, he also has a wide variety of prints on his website, and you can follow his photography day-to-day on Instagram. (via Laughing Squid)

Underwater - Ray Collins

Fury - Ray Collins

Ominous - Ray Collins

Beneath The Vortex - Ray Collins

Viscous - Ray Collins

Ripples - Ray Collins

Rainbow - Ray Collins


Sunburst - Ray Collins

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Expanding the cosmic search at the South Pole

Down at the South Pole, where temperatures drop below negative 100 degrees Fahrenheit and darkness blankets the land

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Simulating superconducting materials with ultracold atoms

Using ultracold atoms as a stand-in for electrons, a Rice University-based team of physicists has simulated superconducting materials

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Exploratory survey digs into the lived experience of “hearing voices”

Auditory hallucinations—commonly referred to as "voices in your head"—are a common symptom of some mental illnesses. There’s a widely understood and stereotypical picture of what it means to “hear voices,” but many common perceptions about these experiences don’t hit on the truth. Preconceived ideas such as these are an especially important problem in psychiatric research. It’s difficult to figure out why people hear voices if we don’t really understand what these voices are like in the first place.

Hearing the Voice, a research group at Durham University in England, designed an exploratory survey to figure out where current research might be making incorrect assumptions. The group, which is home to a team of cognitive neuroscientists, psychologists, psychiatrists, medical humanities specialists and others, aims to explore the causes and treatment of auditory verbal hallucinations.

They created a survey that was aimed at anyone who reports hearing voices, whether or not they've received a clinical diagnosis. Participants were recruited through clinical networks, support groups, and mental health forums. The results, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, included both statistical analyses and descriptions of participant responses, highlighting some potentially important departures from conventional wisdom, as well as some promising avenues for further research.

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How many forces?

If you’ve read many of my columns, you know quite a bit about the Standard Model. You know

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Rosetta blog: CometWatch 14 March – 6 hours later

This single frame NAVCAM image was taken on 14 March at a distance of 81.4 km from the

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