Much of the time, popular stories about science emphasize the broader impact, the implications for the field, what it might mean for our lives. But in reality, science is often about finding that some detail of the universe works the way we had already predicted, and for scientists that’s pretty cool too.
In one such discovery, UC Davis physicists have for the first time seen the signature of neutrinos spreading through the hot plasma of the early universe, at a time when light itself was still trapped in the plasma. The work is published in the journal Physical Review Letters.
Full post: Neutrinos leave mark on early universe
(482 words, 2 images, estimated 1:56 mins reading time)
By Kat Kerlin
Using more than a decade’s worth of daily satellite images, researchers have determined ecosystems of South Africa’s Cape Floristic Region bounce back from wildfires much more quickly in warmer winter weather.
However, there is an important caveat for other areas with Mediterranean climates at high risk of fires, such as drought-stricken California: The rate of recovery also depends on sufficient rainfall, especially in summer.
Data from South Africa shows how climate influences recovery from wildfire and could be generally applied to similar regions in California and Australia. (Andrew Latimer/UC Davis)
Every day, thousands of researchers rely on robust data networks to share petabytes of data with their colleagues around the world. A new $5 million, five-year National Science Foundation grant, awarded to Indiana University, the University of California, Davis and the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, seeks to bolster these networks by enabling unprecedented measurement and analysis.
The grant will fund NetSage, a network measurement, analysis and visualization service designed to address the needs of today’s international networks. The principal investigators are: Jennifer Schopf at Indiana University; Sean Peisert, assistant professor of computer science at UC Davis; and Jason Leigh at the University of Hawaii.
Galaxies are often found grouped into clusters, which contain many ‘red and dead’ members that stopped forming stars in the distant past. Now astronomers have found that when galaxy clusters collide, the resulting shockwave can “wake up” these dormant galaxies and drive a new generation of star formation.
The international team that made the discovery is led by Andra Stroe of Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands and David Sobral of Leiden and the University of Lisbon, Portugal, and researchers Will Dawson and James Jee from UC Davis and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and David Wittman, associate professor of physics at UC Davis. The work is published April 24 in two papers in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Full post: Cosmic collisions wake up snoozing galaxies
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A new map of the heavens took a big step forward last week as scientists and dignitaries, including Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, laid the first stone for the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope on the 8900-foot summit of Cerro Pachón in northern Chile.
Michelle Bachelet, President of Chile, speaking at the first stone ceremony for the LSST. NSF photo
Among those present was UC Davis physicist J. Anthony (Tony) Tyson, who originally conceived the LSST system (which includes a giant camera, novel telescope design and supercomputer) and lead the project from the 1990s to 2013. He now serves as Chief Scientist for the telescope.
Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have for the first time spotted four images of the same distant exploding star, arranged in an “Einstein’s Cross,” a cross-shape pattern created by the powerful gravity of a foreground galaxy embedded in a massive cluster of galaxies.
Distant supernova split into four images by massive galaxy cluster in the four ground. Because light is taking different paths through the cluster, other images of the supernova may appear later.
First predicted by Albert Einstein, gravitational lensing is similar to a glass lens bending light to magnify and distort the image of an object behind it.
By Kat Kerlin
Recreating the violent conditions of Earth’s formation, scientists are learning more about how iron vaporizes and how this iron rain affected the formation of the Earth and Moon. The study is published March 2 in Nature Geoscience.
“We care about when iron vaporizes because it is critical to learning how Earth’s core grew,” said co-author Sarah Stewart, UC Davis professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences.
Shock and release
By Kat Kerlin
Researchers digging deeper into the origins of the Sutter’s Mill meteorite, which exploded over California’s Gold Country in 2012, have found diamonds and other “treasures” that provide important new insight into the early days of our solar system. They report their results in 13 papers in the November issue of Meteoritics & Planetary Science.
UC Davis scientists Akane Yamakawa and Qing-Zhu Yin in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences studied the different forms of the element chromium, called isotopes. They found that at least five different stellar sources composed of mixtures of 54-chromium-rich and -poor materials must have contributed matter to the nascent solar system four and half billion years ago. Some of these materials remained in the Sutter’s Mill meteorite.
About one-fifth of the Earth’s atmosphere is oxygen, pumped out by green plants as a result of photosynthesis and used by most living things on the planet to keep our metabolisms running. But before the first photosynthesizing organisms appeared about 2.4 billion years ago, the atmosphere likely contained mostly carbon dioxide, as is the case today on Mars and Venus.
Over the past 40 years, researchers have thought that there must have been a small amount of oxygen in the early atmosphere. Where did this abiotic (“non-life”) oxygen come from? Oxygen reacts quite aggressively with other compounds, so it would not persist for long without some continuous source.
Full post: Making oxygen before life
(454 words, 1 image, estimated 1:49 mins reading time)
Earlier this year, physicists celebrated results from the BICEP2 experiment which reported evidence of gravitational waves, a signature of cosmic inflation immediately after the Big Bang.
But earlier this week, results from the Planck space telescope cast doubt on the BICEP2 findings. Instead of showing gravitational waves at the beginning of time, BICEP2 might actually have picked up interstellar dust within our own galaxy.