We all know the dangers of getting too much sun: things like sunburn and heat stroke can really ruin a summer day. But did you realize that activity on the sun's roiling surface can also cause us a lot of grief? "Sunspots," which look like black holes in the sun's surface, are where bundles of magnetic fields cross the surface of the Sun from the solar interior to the solar atmosphere and back. Hot gas from below bubbles up to the surface (also called the photosphere); the sunspots look dark because they are cooler than their surrounding area. Eruptions from sunspots often shoot X-Rays and high-energy particles our way. Even though the sun is 150 million km (93 million miles) away, solar activity can endanger the International Space Station and the astronauts inside, as well as aircraft flying at high-altitude or high-latitude. X-Rays and high-energy particles can mess up GPS signals and our electrical grid.
Buried under miles of ice, astronomers have detected a liquid water sea on one of Saturn's moons, Enceladus. The sea is about the size of Lake Superior and it touches Enceladus' silicate core… which means it could have minerals dissolved in it that are necessary for life. "It makes, in fact, the interior of Enceladus a very attractive potential place to look for life," Jonathan Lunine, a Cornell University astronomer who worked on the study determining Enceladus has an ocean, said during a teleconference for reporters.
A team of scientists working at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii has solved one of the vital inconsistencies in the Big Bang theory, reconciling observed data with our current theoretical models of how the birth of the universe went down 13.8 billion years ago. The discovery was published in the June 6 edition of Astronomy and Astrophysics.
Remember last week when PopSci told you about a "people's choice" contest to name the planet orbiting the Alpha Centauri star system? And the International Astronomical Union had cried foul, saying the paid contest had no bearing on the names? Well, it's not really that simple. You can call a star or a planet whatever you want, and even pay to nominate your favorite; it just might not matter to anyone else.
Maybe it's because Jurassic Park is in theaters again, but we at Universe Today sometimes worry about how one person can mess up an otherwise technologically amazing system. It took just one nefarious employee to shut down the dinosaur park's security fences in the movie and cause havoc. How do we ensure science can fight against that, especially when everyday citizens are getting more and more involved in the scientific process?