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How Do Monster Black Holes Form? New Find May Provide ‘Missing Link’

Tanya Lewis | LiveScience

The recent finding of an intermediate-mass black hole provides evidence that could support some theories of how supermassive black holes form. Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

The recent finding of an intermediate-mass black hole provides evidence that could support some theories of how supermassive black holes form.
Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

Black holes are some of the strangest objects in the universe, and they typically fall into one of two size extremes: “small” ones that are dozens of times more massive than the sun and other “supermassive” black holes that are billions of times larger than our nearest star. But until now, astronomers had not seen good evidence of anything in between.

A recent discovery of an intermediate-mass black hole in the nearby galaxy Messier 82 (M82) offers the best evidence yet that a class of medium-size black holes exists. The finding may provide a missing link that could explain how supermassive black holes — which are found at the centers of most, if not all, galaxies — come to be, researchers say.

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Life in space? Sea Plankton Discovered Attached to ISS Outer Hull

RT

AFP Photo / NASA / Handout

AFP Photo / NASA / Handout

Russian scientists say they made a “unique” discovery while analyzing samples from the exterior of the International Space Station – traces of tiny sea creatures on the station’s windows and walls. It remains unclear how marine plankton ended up in space.

The results of the recent experiments prove that that some organisms are capable of living on the outer surface of the International Space Station (ISS), Vladimir Solovyev, head of the Russian segment of the ISS, has revealed.

Some studies suggest that these organisms may even develop in the hostile conditions of spaceflight, which include vacuum, low temperatures, radiation and others, he added.

“The results of the so-called ‘Test’ experiment are unique. On the surface of the [ISS] windows we found traces of marine plankton – the microparticles – that will become the subject of further studies,” Solovyev was quoted as saying by Itar-Tass.

While the experiments on the matter were finalized last year, it is still unclear how the microparticles could get all the way to the ISS, Solovyev said.

“[Plankton in] such phases of development is found on the surface of the ocean. It isn’t characteristic to Baikonur,” he explained, referring to Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan from where crew and cargo deliveries to ISS are launched.

“It turns out that there are some rising air currents, which settle on the surface of the station,” Solovyev added.

The former cosmonaut, who spent nearly a year in orbit back in the 1980s, said that outer surface of ISS is “heavily contaminated” by the waste products from engines of the arriving spacecraft, atmospheric discharges from the station during spacewalks by the crew and other factors.

“We are currently conducting special operations to be able to somehow to polish and clean up the windows [at the ISS]. This is especially important during long space flights,” Solovyev concluded.

The assembly of the International Space Station began in 1998. Since then it has spent nearly 6,000 days in Earth orbit.

Russia says it has no plans to continue its partnership in the station after 2020, while the US segment of the station is financed until 2024.

Russian space agency Roscosmos has proposed using the ISS to commission modules for a new space station, called OPSEK (Orbital Piloted Assembly and Experiment Complex)

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Could Mystery Signal be First Detection of Dark Matter?

IAN O’NEILL | Discovery

An X-ray image of the hot gas in the central region of the Perseus Cluster of galaxies, taken by the Chandra X-ray Observatory. CHANDRA/NASA/ESA

An X-ray image of the hot gas in the central region of the Perseus Cluster of galaxies, taken by the Chandra X-ray Observatory.
CHANDRA/NASA/ESA

Through the analysis of light from distant galactic clusters, astronomers have detected a mysterious signal that they’re having a hard time explaining. Although the signal is weak, could it be the much sought-after direct evidence for dark matter?

Dark matter pervades the entire universe and makes up for the bulk of its mass, but what is it? We know it’s out there and oodles of indirect evidence for its presence, but seeing a direct signal has so far proven elusive.

NEWS: Vast Web of Dark Matter Mapped

When observing a galactic cluster, for example, we can gauge how much mass it contains by how much light is bent around the cluster. The greater the effect on passing light beams, the greater the space-time warping, the greater the cluster’s mass. When astronomers estimate the cluster’s mass, they tally up all the visible matter (i.e. stars), but the amount of visible mass comes way short of the cluster’s space-time-warping mass. There’s therefore mass locked up in “invisible” matter called, simply, “dark matter”.

The bulk of dark matter is thought to be composed of non-baryonic matter. As opposed to baryonic matter — matter that we know and love like protons, neutrons and all the quarks in between — non-baryonic matter does not interact with electromagnetic radiation. In other words, we can’t directly see it. It does, however, interact gravitationally with normal matter, hence why we can see its gravitational effects on galactic clusters.

But in a newly published study, astronomers analyzing X-ray radiation from distant galactic clusters have spotted a signal, with a specific energy, that doesn’t seem to be associated with any known element or chemical reaction.

Galactic Clusters = Dark Matter Hunting Grounds

Galaxies can become gravitationally bound, creating clusters of galaxies. Our Milky Way, for example, is one member of the aptly-named “Local Group” of galaxies, which also includes the neighboring heavyweight Andromeda. Though the Local Group contains around three dozen other galaxies, as far as galactic clusters go, it’s actually quite dinky. Many clusters contain thousands of galaxies that have immense gravitational dominance over their surroundings.

ANALYSIS: Is Earth Surrounded by Dark Matter?

It is therefore believed that these massive gravitational islands “pool” dark matter, causing the clusters to pack on the pounds, making them prime focal points for the search for direct evidence of dark matter.

In these clusters, the space between the galaxies is not empty, it’s actually filled with hot gases that have accumulated from billions of years of supernova explosions. These gases generate X-rays that can be readily studied by space-based X-ray telescopes. The elements oxygen, neon, magnesium, silicon, sulfur, argon, calcium, iron, nickel, chromium and manganese have all been identified via their X-ray signals, but Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics astronomershave found an X-ray signal detected by the European XMM-Newton space observatory that doesn’t fit in.

Although more work is needed to tease the signal from the background noise, after analysis of 73 clusters, the same signal keeps appearing in observational data. A few of the clusters have also been studied by NASA’s Chandra X-ray observatory, which has also identified the signal at varying strengths. One explanation could be that they have detected the specific X-ray emission from the decay of the hypothesized “sterile neutrino” — a type of non-baryonic particle that could be a significant dark matter candidate.

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Our Universe May Have Emerged From a Black Hole In a Higher-Dimensional Universe

Phys

Our universe may have emerged from a black hole in a higher-dimensional universe, propose a trio of Perimeter Institute researchers.The Birth of Universe.

The  poses a big question: if it was indeed the cataclysm that blasted our  into existence 13.7 billion years ago, what sparked it?

Three Perimeter Institute researchers have a new idea about what might have come before the big bang. It’s a bit perplexing, but it is grounded in sound mathematics, testable, and enticing enough to earn the cover story in Scientific American, called “The Black Hole at the Beginning of Time.”

What we perceive as the big bang, they argue, could be the three-dimensional “mirage” of a collapsing star in a universe profoundly different than our own.

“Cosmology’s greatest challenge is understanding the big bang itself,” write Perimeter Institute Associate Faculty member Niayesh Afshordi, Affiliate Faculty member and University of Waterloo professor Robert Mann, and PhD student Razieh Pourhasan.

Conventional understanding holds that the big bang began with a singularity – an unfathomably hot and dense phenomenon of spacetime where the standard laws of physics break down. Singularities are bizarre, and our understanding of them is limited.

“For all physicists know, dragons could have come flying out of the singularity,” Afshordi says in an interview with Nature.

he problem, as the authors see it, is that the big bang hypothesis has our relatively comprehensible, uniform, and predictable universe arising from the physics-destroying insanity of a singularity. It seems unlikely.

So perhaps something else happened. Perhaps our universe was never singular in the first place.

Their suggestion: our known universe could be the three-dimensional “wrapping” around a four-dimensional black hole’s event horizon. In this scenario, our universe burst into being when a star in a four-dimensional universe collapsed into a black hole.

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Rosetta Spacecraft Orbits Comet After 10-Year Journey [1-min video]

The “Rosetta” spacecraft has arrived at and orbited comet 67P – located more than 250 million miles away – bringing a 10-year journey across the solar system to an end.

The 2nd video above shows the celebration from the space operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany of the European Space Agency (ESA) after receiving a signal from their “Rosetta” spacecraft. One of the scientists leading this ESA venture described it as “the sexiest, most fantastic mission ever”.

The 3rd video shows a cool image of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko taken by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on 3 August that looks like a face.

Operating on a tiny amount of solar energy alone, Rosetta spent 31 months in a deep space slumber, cruising out to a distance of nearly 800 million kilometres from the warmth of the Sun.
This brings forth the next stage in Rosetta’s decade-long journey through space, a historic rendezvous with a comet – named Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko – on 6 August 2014.




Siberian Crater Mystery Continues: Two NEW Holes Appear

Siberiantimes

The funnel is a perfectly formed cone, say locals who are mystified at how it was formed. Its depth is estimated at between 60 and 100 metres and its diameter - more than four metres. Picture: Local residents

The funnel is a perfectly formed cone, say locals who are mystified at how it was formed. Its depth is estimated at between 60 and 100 metres and its diameter – more than four metres. Picture: Local residents

Millions of people around the world glimpsed the first giant hole after it was revealed by The Siberian Times hereand on The Siberian Times TV here.

Now news has emerged of two new similar formations in the permafrost, prompting more intrigue about their creation.

Theories range from meteorites, stray missiles, a man-made prank, and aliens, to an explosive cocktail of methane or shale gas suddenly exploding. The version about melting permafrost due to climate change, causing a release of methane gas, which then forces an eruption is the current favorite, though scientists are reluctant to offer a firm conclusion without more study.

Crater near Bovanenkovo gas field


Yamal crater near Bovanenkovo from above


Sides of Yamal crater near Bovanenkovo

First pictures from the big crater near Bovanenkovo gas field. Theories range from meteorites, stray missiles, a man-made prank, and aliens, to an explosive cocktail of methane or shale gas suddenly exploding. Pictures: Andrey Naumenko, ‘Yamal-Region’

The second is in the Yamal Peninsula – known to locals as ‘the end of the world’ – like the first. It is some hundreds kilometres from the first, which is close to a huge gas extraction plant at Bovanenkovo. This new crater in the Taz district, near the village of Antipayuta, has a diameter of about 15 metres.

A deputy of the regional parliament – or duma – Mikhail Lapsui has examined this latest phenomenon.

‘I flew by helicopter to inspect this funnel on Saturday 19 July,’ he said. ‘Its diameter is about 15 meters. ‘There is also ground outside, as if it was thrown as a result of an underground explosion.

‘According to local residents, the hole formed on 27 September 2013. Observers give several versions. According to the first, initially at the place was smoking, and then there was a bright flash. In the second version, a celestial body fell there.’

The Chief Scientist of the Earth Cryosphere Institute, Marina Leibman, told URA.RU website: ‘I have heard about the second funnel on Yamal, in Taz district, and saw the pictures.

‘Undoubtedly, we need to study all such formations. It is necessary to be able to predict their occurrence. Each new funnel provides additional information for scientists.’

Yamal holes on the map


Crater near Antipayuta on the map


View of the crater in Antipayuta

This new crater in the Taz district, near the village of Antipayuta, has a diameter of about 15 metres. Pictures: Google maps, press service of the Governor YaNAO

The third crater and hole is in the Taymyr Peninsula, to the east of Yamal, in Kransoyark region. It was accidentally discovered by local herders, inhabitants of the northern village of Nosok.

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Mysterious Signal From the Center Of the Perseus Cluster Unexplained By Known Physics

Adonai| Thewatchers

Perseus Cluster. Image credit: Credit: NASA / Chandra

Perseus Cluster. Image credit: Credit: NASA / Chandra

Astronomers using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory to explore the Perseus Cluster, a swarm of galaxies approximately 250 million light years from Earth, have observed the spectral line that appears not to come from any known type of matter. The signal they received can not be explained by known physics but they say it shifts suspicion to the dark matter.

Perseus Cluster a collection of galaxies and one of the most massive known objects in the Universe, immersed in an enormous ‘atmosphere’ of superheated plasma. It is approximately 768 000 light years across.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes,” says Esra Bulbul of the Harvard Center for Astrophysics.  “What we found, at first glance, could not be explained by known physics.”

“The cluster’s atmosphere is full of ions such as Fe XXV,  Si XIV, and S XV.  Each one produces a ‘bump’ or ‘line’ in the x-ray spectrum, which we can map using Chandra. These spectral lines are at well-known x-ray energies.”

Yet, in 2012 when Bulbul added together 17 day’s worth of Chandra data, a new line popped up where no line should be.

“A line appeared at 3.56 keV (kilo-electron volts) which does not correspond to any known atomic transition,” she says.  “It was a great surprise.”

The spectral line appears not to come from any known type of matter. Image credit: NASA / Chandra

“It took a long time to convince myself that this line is neither a detector artifact, nor a known atomic line,” Bulbul said. “I have done very careful checks.  I have re-analyzed the data; split the data set into different sub groups; and checked the data from four other detectors on board two different observatories. None of these efforts made the line disappear.”

In short, it appears to be real.  The reality of the line was further confirmed when Bulbul’s team found the same spectral signature in X-ray emissions from 73 other galaxy clusters. Those data were gathered by Europe’s XMM-Newton, a completely independent X-ray telescope.

Moreover, about a week after Bulbul team posted their paper online, a different group led by Alexey Boyarsky of Leiden University in the Netherlands reported evidence for the same spectral line in XMM-Newton observations of the Andromeda galaxy.  They also confirmed the line in the outskirts of the Perseus cluster.

“After we submitted the paper, theoreticians came up with about 60 different dark matter types which could explain this line. Some particle physicists have jokingly called this particle a ‘bulbulon’,” she laughs.

The menagerie of dark matter candidates that might produce this kind of line include axions, sterile neutrinos, and “moduli dark matter” that may result from the curling up of extra dimensions in string theory.

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Close Encounters Of The Radio Kind? Mystery Bursts of Radio Waves Baffle Astronomers

Joe Palca | NPR

Scientists say a brief burst of radio activity has been detected at the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. This new report resembles previous activity detected in Australia, which has scientist debating possible causes, including solar flares, blitzars, or something even more mysterious.

Scientists say a brief burst of radio activity has been detected at the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. This new report resembles previous activity detected in Australia, which has scientist debating possible causes, including solar flares, blitzars, or something even more mysterious.

Astronomers have a mystery on their hands. Two large radio telescopes, on opposite sides of the planet, have detected very brief, very powerful bursts of radio waves.

Right now, astronomers have no idea what’s causing these bursts or where they’re coming from. And nothing has been ruled out at the moment — not even the kind of outrageous claims you’d expect to see in tabloid headlines.

Australian Recordings Inspire Curiosity And Doubt

The Parkes Observatory, in New South Wales, Australia, first detected the brief, intense bursts of radio waves in 2007.

The first report of these “fast radio bursts” appeared in 2007. Duncan Lorimer and his colleagues had found the signal buried in recordings made at the Parkes radio telescope in Australia.

Lorimer argued at the time that the source of the burst came from way beyond our galaxy. But then the same telescope recorded more bursts that were similar, but clearly coming from something much closer by.

“They cast a lot of doubt on the original detection that we made,” Lorimer says; something nearby would probably have a much more pedestrian explanation.

Other astronomers began to suspect Lorimer’s extra-galactic detection was a fluke — but that changed last year, when a significant paper in Science announced the discovery of four more bursts.

That paper convinced most astronomers that something real, far away and still very mysterious was happening.

But there was one lingering doubt. All of the detections were made by one radio telescope, the Parkes telescope. Some astronomers wondered if the bursts might not be an astronomical event at all, but some problem with the electronics in the telescope.

But now, Lorimer says, “It’s clearly not.”

In Puerto Rico, Fresh Reports Renew Speculation

There’s a report of a burst detected at the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. Lorimer says several more reports of detections will soon be showing up in the scientific literature.

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Stunning Crop Circle: Ammersee,Bavaria, Germany – Reported July 18, 2014

Source: Joan Wheaton

The amazing crop circle appeared in Raisting near the Ammersee, Bavarian, Germany, 50 kilometres from Munich on July 18, 2014, and next to a satellite ground station for the US-firm “Emerging Markets Communications Inc. (EMC)”. On July, 24 many people arrived at the crop circle. They chanted and meditated together.  Read more at the Crop Circle Connector…

The crop circle images in video are from Crop Circle Connector

 




Full Moon Looms Large Over Your Sleep

Agata Blaszczak-Boxe | CBSNews

super moonSome folk stories and superstitions hold that a full moon affects people’s sleep, and new research lends support to this idea.

In the study, researchers found that people slept for 20 to 25 minutes less on average on nights with a full moon, compared with how long they slept on nights with a quarter moon.

The people in the study also said they had more trouble falling asleep during the full moon than the quarter moon, according to the results, published July 8 in the journal Current Biology.

The researchers stressed that further studies are needed to confirm whether there is a relationship between moon phases and sleep duration. But there are ways to explain a link, they said. [5 Things You Must Know About Sleep]

One explanation for a relationship between sleep patterns and moon phases “could be that we have a built-in biological lunar clock, similar to our circadian clock that regulates our daily rhythms,” said study author Michael Smith of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

“An alternative explanation is that increased light during the evening, before participants arrived at the laboratory, somehow impacted upon their wake behavior, which then had carry-over effects on their sleep,” Smith said.

In the study, the researchers looked at sleep data from 47 healthy people ages 18 to 30. The data were collected during a separate sleep study, which was done to analyze how noise can disturb sleep. Participants slept in a sleep lab designed to resemble an apartment, the researchers wrote in the study.

The new results are in line with findings from another Current Biology study on the relationship between sleep patterns and the full moon published last year. In that study, researchers found that people slept for 20 minutes less, and took longer to fall asleep, during a full moon compared with other moon phases.

However, other research has shown no link between sleep and moon phases. For instance, a study also published in the current issue of Current Biology did not find a correlation between people’s sleep duration and moon phases.

Smith noted that all the three studies were retrospective analyses of data from previous studies that had been designed to examine other research questions.

What’s needed are trials done that track sleep in the same people over the lunar cycle, Smith told Live Science.

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Giant Siberian Crater at ‘World’s End’ (Video)

RT.com | July 16 2014

A mysterious giant crater has been discovered in a remote part of Siberia, dubbed by locals ‘the end of the world’, and is now puzzling scientists. An urgent expedition was sent to the far-northern peninsula to try and solve the mystery.

The team arrives on Wednesday to survey the seemingly bottomless pit, located in one of Russia’s northernmost points, at a latitude closer to that of Greenland than Canada.

The hole is about 80 meters wide and apparently had some extreme thermal event contributing to its formation, according to scarce detail gleaned from video footage, Rossiyskaya Gazeta reported. It wasn’t until that footage started to make the rounds that the media and the scientific community woke up to the possibility of surveying its origins.

The crater is believed to have been formed two years ago. No one knows how.

The seriousness of the find is evidenced by Russia’s Emergencies Ministry being present among the expedition. The Russian Academy of Sciences is also on board, planning to take samples of the soil, air and water from the area, which is big enough to fit several MI-8 helicopters.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kMs05VaOfE

Yamal, the peninsula where the spooky hole is located, is far up in the northern-Russian steppes. The precise location of the crater is some 30km from the gas field of Bovanenkovo. The whole area is within Russia’s key strategic oil and gas region – the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug.

The 700km area is a huge stretch of ancient permafrost otherwise known for its variety of animal species and is renowned as an archaeological goldmine where wooly mammoth skeletons have been discovered.

YamalPeninsula

While some of the more absurd theories about the hole’s origins have been readily dismissed – chief among them that it was caused by a UFO – others see a potential relationship with global warming, believing that salt and gas were mixed underground, causing a subterranean explosion.

The one thing everyone agrees on is that the soil found around the crater was thrown out of it.

When asked if it’s possible that the hole was caused by a meteorite, a spokesman for the Yamal branch of the Emergencies Ministry said “we can definitely say that it’s not a meteorite. No details yet.”

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ScienceCasts: One Year to Pluto

Source:ScienceAtNASA

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is only a year away from Pluto. Researchers are buzzing with anticipation as NASA prepares to encounter Pluto for the first time.




Where Has All The Light In The Universe Gone?

The Telegraph

Galaxies like M106 are not emitting enough light to produce the levels of ionised hydrogen that scientists have spotted Photo: REUTERS/Nasa

Galaxies like M106 are not emitting enough light to produce the levels of ionised hydrogen that scientists have spotted Photo: REUTERS/Nasa

The universe is a pretty dark place – but according to astrophysicists it is much too dark.

Scientists have been left scratching their heads after noticing there is a huge deficit of light.

The amount of light in the universe can be measured accurately by studying tendrils of hydrogen which become ionised, or charged, when they encounter ultraviolet light.

The more ionised hydrogen you can spot, the more light should exist.

But, according to a new study in Astrophysical Journal Letters, the hydrogen tendrils suggest there is far more ultraviolet light around than is being emitted by galaxies and quasars.

An astonishing five times too much, in fact, and it is leading astrophysicists to speculate that the photons could be coming from an “exotic new source”, or even decaying dark matter.

It means that 80 per cent of light in the universe is effectively missing.

“It’s as if you’re in a big, brightly-lit room, but you look around and see only a few 40-watt light bulbs,” noted Carnegie’s Juna Kollmeier, lead author of the study. “Where is all that light coming from? It’s missing from our census.”

Intriguingly, the mismatch only appears in the nearby, relatively well-studied cosmos.

When telescopes focus on galaxies billions of light-years away (and therefore are viewing the universe billions of years in its past), everything seems to add up.

The fact that this accounting works in the early universe but falls apart locally has scientists puzzled.

The light in question consists of highly energetic ultraviolet photons that are able to convert electrically neutral hydrogen atoms into electrically charged ions.

The two known sources for such ionizing photons are quasars – powered by hot gas falling onto supermassive black holes over a million times the mass of the Sun – and the hottest young stars.

Observations indicate that the ionizing photons from young stars are almost always absorbed by gas in their host galaxy, so they never escape to affect intergalactic hydrogen. But the number of known quasars is far lower than needed to produce the required light.

“Either our accounting of the light from galaxies and quasars is very far off, or there’s some other major source of ionizing photons that we’ve never recognized,” Kollmeier said.

“We are calling this missing light the photon underproduction crisis. But it’s the astronomers who are in crisis — somehow or other, the universe is getting along just fine.”

The anomaly emerged from comparing supercomputer simulations of intergalactic gas to the most recent analysis of observations from Hubble Space Telescope’s Cosmic Origins Spectrograph.

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Earth’s Magnetic Field in Trouble – Flip Could Happen Sooner Than Expected

Kelly Dickerson | Scientificamerican

Changes measured by the Swarm satellite over the past 6 months shows that Earth's magnetic field is changing. Shades of red show areas where it is strengthening, and shades of blue show areas that are weakening.  Credit: ESA/DTU

Changes measured by the Swarm satellite over the past 6 months shows that Earth’s magnetic field is changing. Shades of red show areas where it is strengthening, and shades of blue show areas that are weakening.
Credit: ESA/DTU

Earth’s magnetic field, which protects the planet from huge blasts of deadly solar radiation, has been weakening over the past six months, according to data collected by a European Space Agency (ESA) satellite array called Swarm.

The biggest weak spots in the magnetic field— which extends 370,000 miles (600,000 kilometers) above the planet’s surface — have sprung up over the Western Hemisphere, while the field has strengthened over areas like the southern Indian Ocean, according to the magnetometers onboard the Swarm satellites — three separate satellites floating in tandem.

The scientists who conducted the study are still unsure why the magnetic field is weakening, but one likely reason is that Earth’s magnetic poles are getting ready to flip, said Rune Floberghagen, the ESA’s Swarm mission manager. In fact, the data suggest magnetic north is moving toward Siberia.

“Such a flip is not instantaneous, but would take many hundred if not a few thousand years,” Floberghagen told Live Science. “They have happened many times in the past.”[50 Amazing Facts About Planet Earth]

Scientists already know that magnetic north shifts. Once every few hundred thousand years the magnetic poles flip so that a compass would point south instead of north. While changes in magnetic field strength are part of this normal flipping cycle, data from Swarm have shown the field is starting to weaken faster than in the past. Previously, researchers estimated the field was weakening about 5 percent per century, but the new data revealed the field is actually weakening at 5 percent per decade, or 10 times faster than thought. As such, rather than the full flip occurring in about 2,000 years, as was predicted, the new data suggest it could happen sooner.

Floberghagen hopes that more data from Swarm will shed light on why the field is weakening faster now.

Still, there is no evidence that a weakened magnetic field would result in a doomsday for Earth. During past polarity flips there were no mass extinctions or evidence of radiation damage. Researchers think power grids and communication systems would be most at risk.

Earth’s magnetic field acts like a giant invisible bubble that shields the planet from the dangerous cosmic radiation spewing from the sun in the form of solar winds. The field exists because Earth has a giant ball of iron at its core surrounded by an outer layer of molten metal. Changes in the core’s temperature and Earth’s rotation boil and swirl the liquid metal around in the outer core, creating magnetic field lines.

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A Summer of Super Moons Begins on July 12

Source: ScienceAtNASA

The summer of 2014 will be bathed in moonlight as three perigee “supermoons” occur in consecutive months: July 12August 10, and September 9.