Mars panorama from Curiosity shows petrified sand dunes

I love thinking about how martian research can help us better understand our own planet

QuantumBits

Some of the dark sandstone in an area being explored by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows texture and inclined bedding structures characteristic of deposits that formed as sand dunes, then were cemented into rock.

A panorama from Curiosity’s Mast Camera (Mastcam) that includes a ridge made of this sandstone is online.

This sandstone outcrop—part of a geological layer that Curiosity’s science team calls the Stimson unit—has a structure called crossbedding on a large scale that the team has interpreted as deposits of sand dunes formed by wind. Similar-looking petrified sand dunes are common in the U.S. Southwest. Geometry and orientation of the crossbedding give information about the directions of the winds that produced the dunes.

The Stimson unit overlies a layer of mudstone that was deposited in a lake environment. Curiosity has been examining successively higher and younger layers of Mount Sharp, starting with the mudstone at the mountain’s…

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Mars panorama from Curiosity shows petrified sand dunes

Gamma-Ray Bursts and the Cosmological Principle

In the Dark

There’s been a reasonable degree of hype surrounding a paper published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (and available on the arXiv here). The abstract of this paper reads:

According to the cosmological principle (CP), Universal large-scale structure is homogeneous and isotropic. The observable Universe, however, shows complex structures even on very large scales. The recent discoveries of structures significantly exceeding the transition scale of 370 Mpc pose a challenge to the CP. We report here the discovery of the largest regular formation in the observable Universe; a ring with a diameter of 1720 Mpc, displayed by 9 gamma-ray bursts (GRBs), exceeding by a factor of 5 the transition scale to the homogeneous and isotropic distribution. The ring has a major diameter of 43° and a minor diameter of 30° at a distance of 2770 Mpc in the 0.78 < z < 0.86 redshift range, with a…

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Gamma-Ray Bursts and the Cosmological Principle

Stellar discovery: Massive binary star with unique properties

pretty cool discovery

QuantumBits

PhD candidate Matt Shultz has discovered the first massive binary star, epsilon Lupi, in which both stars have magnetic fields. A binary star is a star system consisting of two or more stars, orbiting around their common centre of mass.

For the past few years, the BinaMIcS (Binarity and Magnetic Interactions in various classes of Stars) collaboration, formed to study the magnetic properties of close binaries, has been trying to find such an object. They have now discovered one using the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope.

“The origin of magnetism amongst massive stars is something of a mystery,” says Mr. Shultz (Physics, Engineering Physics and Astronomy), “and this discovery may help to shed some light on the question of why these stars have magnetic fields.”

In cool stars, such as the Sun, magnetic fields are generated by a convection in the outer portion of the star. However, there is no convection in the…

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Stellar discovery: Massive binary star with unique properties

The Lords of the Rings among centaurs

Astounding! Thanks for sharing

QuantumBits

Artist’s impression of the rings around Chariklo

Chariklo, the largest known centaur object, orbiting in a region between Saturn and Uranus, is a very intriguing celestial body that surprised astronomers last year. This remote minor planet has unveiled the existence of its rings during a stellar occultation, when it passed in front of a star UCAC4 248-108672. Astronomer José Luis Ortiz from the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia in Spain, who was a member of the team that made the discovery, assumes that the ring systems on other minor objects in the solar system could be more common than we think.

“There is the possibility that other centaurs and trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) might have rings, so it may be too premature to call Chariklo the ‘Little Lord of the Rings’, as there may be other systems with similar or more remarkable features,” Ortiz told Phys.org.

Chariklo, about 250 kilometers in diameter, has two rings, one about…

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The Lords of the Rings among centaurs

Antigua and Barbuda: PetroCaribe supports social development and renewable energy projects

Repeating Islands

Antigua-and-Barbuda

Antigua and Barbuda’s Minister of Tourism, Economic Development & Energy, the Honourable Asot Michael, recently spoke at the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela marking the 10th year of the relationship between PetroCaribe (PDV CAB) with the twin island country. He emphasized that the company affords participating countries the opportunity to purchase fuel from Venezuela under highly concessionary financing terms, thus allowing “to utilize these ‘savings’ to fund social programs designed to improve the quality of life with particular emphasis on the vulnerable.” A large part of the text below underlines the impressive initiatives on renewable energy that the government has been able to undertake, keeping Antigua and Barbuda as “the greenest islands of the West Indies.” Below are excerpts of the PM’s statement.

[. . .] We have all gathered to mark the significant milestone of the 10th anniversary of Petróleos de Venezuela Caribe Antigua & Barbuda Ltd…

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Antigua and Barbuda: PetroCaribe supports social development and renewable energy projects