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Which is the main culprit for the terminal Cretaceous extinction: the Chicxulub impact or Deccan Traps volcanism? Upper Image: Donald Davis, NASA JPL Lower Image: USGS

Which is the main culprit for the terminal Cretaceous extinction: the Chicxulub impact or Deccan Traps volcanism? Upper Image: Donald Davis, NASA JPL
Lower Image: USGS

About sixty five and a half million years ago, the Earth suffered its largest known cosmic impact. An asteroid or comet nucleus about 10 km in diameter slammed into what is now the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. It gouged out a crater 180 to 200 km in diameter; nearly twice as large as the prominent crater Copernicus on Earth’s moon. But did this impact really cause the extinction of the dinosaurs and many other forms of life? Many earth scientists are convinced that it did, but some harbor nagging doubts. The doubters have marshaled a growing body of evidence for another culprit; the enormous volcanic eruptions that produced the Deccan Traps formation in India. The skeptics recently presented their case at a meeting of the Geological Society of America in Vancouver, Canada on October 19. [click to continue…]

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Technicians complete final assembly of NASA’s first Orion spacecraft with installation of the  close out panels on the Launch Abort System that smooth airflow. Credit: Photo credit: Kim Shiflett

Technicians complete final assembly of NASA’s first Orion spacecraft with installation of the close out panels on the Launch Abort System that smooth airflow. Credit: Photo credit: Kim Shiflett

Technicians at the Kennedy Space Center have completed the final major assembly work on NASA’s maiden Orion crew module slated to launch on its first unmanned orbital test flight this December, dubbed Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1)

After first attaching the Launch Abort System (LAS) to the top of the capsule, engineers carefully installed a fairing composed of [click to continue…]

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Is Dark Matter Coming From The Sun?

A huge filament erupts from the Sun in 2012. Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

A huge filament erupts from the Sun in 2012. Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

For decades, astronomers and cosmologists have postulated that the Universe is filled with an invisible, mysterious mass known as “dark matter.” For decades, the search for this elusive matter has dominated the field of cosmology. Precise measurements were obtained over 20 years ago when dark matter was first mapped in galaxy halos. Only recently has the existence of dark matter over much larger scales than even galaxy clusters been detected.

Recently, a group of physicists analyzed over 12 years’ worth of telescope data, and have found a signal that some think could be the first detection of a source of dark matter.

And it appears to be coming from … our Sun.

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Ron Cottrell captured the sunspot group 2192 in all its swirly magnetic goodness in hydrogen-alpha light on October 19. To appreciate its size, he included the Earth (lower left) for reference. Credit: Ron Cottrell

Ron Cottrell captured the sunspot group 2192 in all its swirly magnetic goodness in hydrogen-alpha light on October 19. To appreciate its size, he included the Earth (lower left) for reference. Credit: Ron Cottrell

That’s one big, black blemish on the Sun today! Rarely have we been witness to such an enormous sunspot. Lifting the #14 welder’s glass to my eyes this morning I about jumped back and bumped into the garage. [click to continue…]

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Six images that combine Chandra data with those from other telescopes. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO, Optical: NASA/STScI, Radio: NSF/NRAO/VLA).

Six images that combine Chandra data with those from other telescopes. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO, Optical: NASA/STScI, Radio: NSF/NRAO/VLA).

What a gem! This huge black hole in the middle of Hercules A is making gas around it super-heated to millions of degrees, making it shine brightly in X-Rays. The Chandra X-Ray Telescope captured the scene and in a new data release this week, telescope officials cracked open the archives to give us gems such as this.

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