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First-seen Neutron Star Collision Crashes So Hard The Whole Universe Wobbles and Flings Out Gold 

Two stars slammed into each other sending out ‘huge amounts of gold’ in an alchemical explosion causing the universe to ‘wobble’ scientists said. 

On 17th August, the neutron stars collided 130 million light years away, expelling ‘precious metals’ and elements such as ‘platinum and uranium’, in turn creating a ‘new chapter in astrophysics’, scientists said. 

According to a report in <em>the Independent</em>, the crash has ‘confirmed theories about the origin of the mysterious neutron stars’. 

The gravitational wave signal, which has been named GW170817, was detected at 1.41pm UK time on 17th August, marking only the fifth time this type of wave have been spotted on Earth. 

Scientists say they not only ‘heard’ this phenomenon by measuring vibrations in space-time, they used telescopes to ‘see light and radiation pouring out of the stellar fireball, called a kilonova’. 

Every other wave detection in history has been ‘traced to black holes’ colliding in more than ‘a billion light years away’. 

The Independent writes the two stars, ‘each about 12 miles in diameter, stretched and distorted space-time as they spiralled towards each other and finally collided’. 

Adding, like ‘ripples from a stone thrown in a pond, the gravitational waves fanned out across the universe at the speed of light’. 

The ripples were picked up on Earth by detectors in Washington and Louisiana, which are operated by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). 

British LIGO scientist Professor BS Sathyaprakash, from the University of Cardiff, said: 

"The 12 hours that followed are inarguably the most exciting hours of my scientific life. This event marks a turning point in observational astronomy and will lead to a treasure trove of scientific results." 

The origins of gold, along with many heavy elements has been a mystery for a long time, but recent evidence suggests colliding neutron stars could well be involved in their creation. 

LIGO’s detectors, consisting of L-shaped tunnels with arms 2.5 miles (4km) long, use laser beams bouncing off mirrors to measure movement across a distance 10,000 times smaller than the width of a proton, the kernel of an atom. 

Dr Samantha Oates, also from the University of Warwick, said: 

"This discovery has answered three questions that astronomers have been puzzling for decades: what happens when neutron stars merge? What causes the short duration gamma-ray bursts? Where are the heavy elements, like gold, made? 

In the space of about a week all three of these mysteries were solved." 

The discovery has also ‘solved the mystery of what creates short wave gamma ray bursts which are picked up on Earth and could help pinpoint how fast the universe is expanding’, according to The Telegraph. 

Her colleague Dr Danny Steeghs said it is a ‘new chapter in The new findings were published in research papers in the journals Nature, Nature Astronomy and Science. 

And professor Laura Cadonati, from Georgia Institute of Technology, US, said: 

"This detection has genuinely opened the doors to a new way of doing astrophysics. 

I expect it will be remembered as one of the most studied astrophysical events in history." 

It is being hailed as the first known instance of multi-messenger astrophysics: one source in the universe emitting two kinds of waves, gravitational and electromagnetic. 

To learn more about the event, check out this PBS video below:


Can Silence Heal Your Brain? Science Says Yes 

In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.” 

Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”. 

Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think. 

Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence. 

 A 2013 study on mice  published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice. The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning. 

The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons. 

“We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.” 

In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain. 

The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence 

A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information. 

Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.” 

When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues. 

When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world. 

The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way. 

As Herman Melville once wrote, “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.” 

Silence relieves stress and tension. 

It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones. 

A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

“This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says. 

Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain. 

Silence replenishes our cognitive resources. 

The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving. 

Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills. 

But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise. 


Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good. 

What do you think? Will you be practicing silence? Let us know in the comments!

A New Type of Galaxy has Been Discovered, and it's Very Different from Ours! (Video) 

Credit: Ryan Beauchemin; The newfound ringed galaxy PGC 1000714, seen here in a telescope image, is one of the rarest types of galaxies ever observed. The left panel shows a false-color image of PGC 1000714, while the right panel highlights the galaxy's outer ring (blue) and diffuse inner ring (light green).

In November, astronomers Mutlu-Pakdil, Mangedarage, Seigar and Trueuthardt published a paper in the monthly notices of the Royal Astronomical Society where they stated that they had discovered an extremely rare galaxy. In the paper they presented a photometric study of PGC 1000714, a galaxy that resembles Hoag's Object because it has a complete detached outer ring, which has not yet been described in the literature. 

This rare galaxy is located about 359 million light years from Earth. As the images show, it has a core of older stars that are then surrounded by a completely detached outer ring of newer stars. The older stars are differentiated from the newer stars by their color - they appear red whereas newer stars appear as blue. This unique structure suggests that this particular galaxy went through two different formation periods. At this time, it is not possible to know how this galaxy was formed exactly. The current theories about Hoag-type galaxies postulate that they form when two different galaxies collide. Because of the collision, a ring of gas, dust and stars forms and slowly begins to spread outward, like ripples in a pond.

This discovery is so exciting because, at this moment, only about 0.1% of galaxies that have been discovered thus far have this structure. As one of the authors of the study stated: "Whenever we find a unique or strange object to study, it challenges our current theories and assumptions about how the universe works. It usually tells us that we still have a lot to learn." 

Here's a video in which two of the main authors of the study discuss this new, exciting discovery:

Article by Rajmani Sinclair, January 12, 2017

Don't Miss the November Supermoon; We Haven't Seen a Moon this Big in 70 Years! 

All eyes to the skies on the night of November 14th! That's right, we're in for another supermoon, But this time, the moon will be the closest it has been to Earth since 1948. That's 70 years! 

On the night of Monday, November 14th, the moon will appear 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than usual. Make sure not to miss it, as the next time the moon will be this close to the Earth will be in November of 2034. 


Supermoon of June 23, 2013 at Umaid Bhawan Palace, India 

But what is a supermoon, you ask? 

"Supermoon" has become a popular word to describe a lunar phenomenon otherwise known as a "perigee moon". In the moon's elliptical orbit around our planet, one side of this orbit, know as the "perigee", is about 30,000 miles closer to Earth than the other side (known as the "apogee"). 

When the moon, Earth and sun line up (with the sun and moon on opposite sides of the Earth) and the moon's perigee side is facing us, we get what is called a perigee-syzygy, or, in Layman's terms, a moon that looks much brighter and larger than usual. 

Believe it or not, supermoons are not super rare. We had a more subtle perigee moon on October 16th of this year, and will have another on December 14th to hail in the holiday season. November 14th's, however, will be the most notable. 

"The full moon of November 14 is not only the closest full moon of 2016, but also the closest full moon to date in the 21st century," says NASA. 

 Check out the video below to learn more about what's to come.


If you plan on viewing the supermoon, try to catch it when it's close to the horizon- that's when it appears to be the largest. When the moon is higher in the sky without buildings or landmarks to compare it to, it can be more difficult to discern it's increased size. According to NASA, "When the moon is near the horizon, it can look unnaturally large when viewed through trees, buildings, or other foreground objects... The effect is an optical illusion, but that fact doesn’t take away from the experience." 

Tips for viewing 2016's November supermoon: 

  • Catch the moon when it's still close to the horizon. 
  • Get away from city lights; you'll want a clear, dark sky for optimal viewing. 
  • If you want to try a morning viewing, the moon is actually expected to reach it's peak fullness at 8:52am EST on the 14th. However, visibility is not guaranteed. 

**Note to Australians!** Your supermoon will occur on November 15th and will reach its full phase at about 12:52am AEST. 

So, will you viewing the supermoon? Let us know in the comment section below! 

Author: Nate Morgan

This Month, 2 Eclipses and an Extra-Bright Jupiter will Grace Our Skies 

Skywatchers rejoice! We're in for a busy month. 

An eclipse is usually a notable moment of any year. Our superstitious relatives call us with warnings, many gather outdoors to watch the phenomenon, and some pay heed to the "energetic shifts" that occur around these celestial events. Well, you can expect a lot of that this month, as we are due for two eclipses (one partial lunar, one total solar), as well as an extra-bright Jupiter! Here's everything you need to know: 

March 8th: Jupiter In Opposition 

On Tuesday, March 8th, Jupiter will be "in opposition," which means that the Earth will be located directly between Jupiter and the sun. At this time, Jupiter will be at its closest distance from Earth (about 413 million miles away). According to EarthSky “Jupiter comes to opposition about every 13 months. In other words, that’s how long Earth takes to travel once around the sun relative to Jupiter.” 

If you plan on gazing up at jupiter on the night of the 8th, whip out your telescope (if you're hardcore) and watch for its ascension in the east at dusk. 

March 8-9: Total Solar Eclipse 

Depending on your location, the total solar eclipse will take place between Tuesday the 8th and Wednesday the 9th. Indonesia and other parts of the Pacific will enjoy a full solar eclipse on the 9th shortly after 6pm, while Malaysia, Southeast Asia, and Australia will see a partial solar eclipse. A partial eclipse will be visible as far East as Hawaii on the 8th, before the shadow finally slides off the edge of our horizon. For those of us not located anywhere near the eclipse path, Exploratorium will be live streaming it on March 8th, starting at 8 PM. 

In case your wondering "what the heck is a total solar eclipse?", it is the phenomenon that occurs when the moon comes directly between the sun and the Earth, temporarily blocking the sun in our sky as the moon's shadow (or umbra) is cast on Earth's surface. NASA's Sarah Jaeggli describes what it's like to witness a total solar eclipse: 

“You notice something off about the sunlight as you reach totality. Your surroundings take on a twilight cast, even though it’s daytime and the sky is still blue. The moon blocks the light of the sun’s surface very, very precisely. You can see all the way down to the roots of the corona, where the atmosphere meets the sun’s surface.” 

*If you are planning to watch the eclipse live and in person, make sure to wear protective eyewear and never stare directly at the sun!* 

March 23rd: Penumbral Lunar Eclipse 

A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth's orbit brings us directly between the sun and the moon. This month, on Wednesday the 23rd, we will have a penumbral lunar eclipse, which is the subtlest type of lunar eclipse. 

Beginning at around 5:40 AM EST (2:40 AM PST), the penumbral eclipse will be visible in North America, most of South America, much of Asia, Australia, as well as in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. As this is the slightest category of lunar eclipse, it will not be a very dramatic viewing. The Earth’s shadow will obscure the moon’s disc, giving the moon a slightly darker appearance. 

Please feel free to share you eclipse experiences with us in the comment section below. We'd love to hear from you!

Author: Nate Morgan

Nasa Recorded The Sounds of Planets, and the Results Were Breathtaking 

Just because space is a vast vacuum does not mean there's no sound out there. In fact, Nasa developed instruments designed specifically to record the sounds that exist in space as electromagnetic vibrations.

This haunting, ambient orchestra is comprised of electromagnetic vibrations from different stars, planets, their moons, and their rings. And it makes sense that there would be "celestial music" out there- there's so much going on! Radio waves bounce between the surface and atmosphere of each planet, planetary rings release charged particle emissions, not to mention particle interactions of planets, moons and solar wind. All of this creates sound.

Thankfully we can hear some of these sounds for ourselves! Check out the video below:

Author: Nate Morgan

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