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NASA/ESA Missions Witness a Neutron Star Merger!
"This is the one we've all been waiting for."

This is just fantastic. We've detected gravitational waves from merging black holes a few times in the past two years since LIGO went online, but that's all we've picked up - minute ripples in the fabric of space itself. The black holes consumed all other emissions. Now, though, scientists have actually seen the aftermath of the collision of two super-dense neutron stars using a multitude of instruments and observatories, including gravitational wave detectors, gamma-ray detectors, x-ray detectors, and terrestrial and orbiting telescopes operating in the optical, infrared, and ultraviolet spectrums. This sort of instrumentation convergence is really exciting as it provides us with way more information about this type of event than we would be able to gather using just a single type of instrument.

Shortly after 8:41 a.m. EDT on Aug. 17, NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope picked up a pulse of high-energy light from a powerful explosion, which was immediately reported to astronomers around the globe as a short gamma-ray burst. The scientists at the National Science Foundation’s Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detected gravitational waves dubbed GW170817 from a pair of smashing stars tied to the gamma-ray burst, encouraging astronomers to look for the aftermath of the explosion. Shortly thereafter, the burst was detected as part of a follow-up analysis by ESA’s (European Space Agency’s) INTEGRAL satellite.

NASA's Swift, Hubble, Chandra and Spitzer missions, along with dozens of ground-based observatories, including the NASA-funded Pan-STARRS survey, later captured the fading glow of the blast's expanding debris.

"This is extremely exciting science," said Paul Hertz, director of NASA’s Astrophysics Division at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. "Now, for the first time, we've seen light and gravitational waves produced by the same event. The detection of a gravitational-wave source’s light has revealed details of the event that cannot be determined from gravitational waves alone. The multiplier effect of study with many observatories is incredible."

Read more:
https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-missions-catch-first-light-from-a-gravitational-wave-event

And be sure to check out this video about the event from Veritasium:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAyk2OsKvtU
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Sixty years ago today, at 22:28:34 Moscow time, 4 October 1957, an R-7 rocket carrying Sputnik-1 launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome, and the age of space began.

58 centimeters across, carrying a 1-watt transmitter which sent steady beeps at 20.005 and 40.002MHz for the next three weeks, the little ball was Earth's first artificial companion.

Happy 60th birthday, Sputnik!
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Scientists at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) have announced the detection of a another set of gravitational waves caused by the merger of two black holes - but what makes this announcement particularly interesting is that the same detection was also made at the Virgo observatory in Italy.

The detected gravitational waves—ripples in space and time—were emitted during the final moments of the merger of two black holes with masses about 31 and 25 times the mass of the sun and located about 1.8 billion light-years away. The newly produced spinning black hole has about 53 times the mass of our sun, which means that about 3 solar masses were converted into gravitational-wave energy during the coalescence.

While previous detections, using the two LIGO sensors in the US, were able to measure the slight delay in detection between the two sites to determine roughly which half of the sky contained the source of the gravitational waves, adding a third site to the mix narrows the source to just 60 square degrees - much the same way that 3 GPS satellites are needed in order to accurately triangulate the location of a receiver on Earth.

“As we increase the number of observatories in the international gravitational wave network, we not only improve the source location, but we also recover improved polarization information that provides better information on the orientation of the orbiting objects as well as enabling new tests of Einstein’s theory,” says Fred Raab, LIGO associate director for observatory operations.

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That's it. No alien tractor beams. No Atlantean High Technology. Boats, water, and skilled workers was really all the magic they needed. They were forced by necessity to solve problems with the tools and materials available in their own time and place, by treating what in retrospect looks like an impossibly grand undertaking as a series of smaller, more manageable steps, taking advantage of things like gravity and buoyancy to make things easier.
Archaeologists Find Lost Scroll Explaining Construction of Great Pyramid

The pyramids of Egypt were among the most remarkable construction projects ever undertaken by humankind. From our modern perspective, accustomed as it is to thinking of such problems as being solved by large machines, it can seem inconceivable that ancient humans pulled it off.

But they did, and as luck would have it, they left behind a written account of how they did it, or specifically how they built the Great Pyramid of Giza. An overseer of one of the elite workcrews, Merer, left behind a papyrus scroll containing the only known firsthand account of the construction project, which archaeologists have discovered and translated.

The juicy part is that the Egyptians didn't spend nearly as much time dragging the stones over sand as you might imagine. Instead, they transported the two-and-a-half ton limestone blocks by boats through a series of canals to a port near the base of the pyramid. Archaeologists have also found the remains of these ancient waterways, confirming the details given by Merer in the papyrus.

That's it. No alien tractor beams. No Atlantean High Technology. Boats, water, and skilled workers was really all the magic they needed. They were forced by necessity to solve problems with the tools and materials available in their own time and place, by treating what in retrospect looks like an impossibly grand undertaking as a series of smaller, more manageable steps, taking advantage of things like gravity and buoyancy to make things easier.

#BlindMeWithScience #Giza #Egyptology

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Sleep is one of the great mysteries of biology. It's obviously dangerous to do it – you're unaware of both predators and potential food going by – and yet it's been observed in everything down to roundworms, and without it, we die. Clearly it does something extremely important.

A discovery by three Caltech grad students adds another layer to this: Cassiopea jellyfish, also known as "upside-down jellyfish," sleep – even though they don't have brains at all, just a diffuse network of neurons. They show the same symptoms that more complex animals do: reversible quiescence (they can be woken up), increased arousal threshold, (they don't jump at things they would normally notice), and homeostatic regulation of sleep (they have trouble if they don't do it regularly).

Apparently, whatever sleep does, it's so basic to survival that even diffuse neural networks need to do it.

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It's sad to bid Cassini a very fond farewell, but I'm excited to see what new discoveries are made from the spacecraft's final data transmission as it directly sampled Saturn's atmosphere.

What a remarkable send-off for an incredible mission!

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These are some stunning images and animations to commemorate the end of Cassini's mission. Seriously, click through: https://nasa.tumblr.com/post/165331742919/cassini-spacecraft-top-discoveries

(H/t +Paul Gatling)
Our Cassini spacecraft has been exploring Saturn, its rings and strange moons for more than a decade! From seas of liquid methane on the moon Titan, to auroras at Saturn’s poles, the mission has made some amazing discoveries. Take a look at some of the mission’s top findings ahead of Cassini’s #GrandFinale dive into Saturn tomorrow: https://nasa.tumblr.com/post/165331742919/cassini-spacecraft-top-discoveries
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Space is hard - but it's not just about getting there!

+SpaceX released a compilation video showing some of their failures leading up to their first successful landing of an orbital booster in December of 2015.

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The mission only has two more days remaining, but Cassini's latest photos just keep on being incredible.

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This view from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows a wave structure in Saturn's rings known as the Janus 2:1 spiral density wave. Resulting from the same process that creates spiral galaxies, spiral density waves in Saturn’s rings are much more tightly wound. In this case, every second wave crest is actually the same spiral arm which has encircled the entire planet multiple times.
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