ucsdhealthsciences:

Scientists Discover Neurochemical Imbalance in Schizophrenia
Using human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs), researchers at Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at University of California, San Diego have discovered that neurons from patients with schizophrenia secrete higher amounts of three neurotransmitters broadly implicated in a range of psychiatric disorders.
The findings, reported online Sept. 11 in Stem Cell Reports, represent an important step toward understanding the chemical basis for schizophrenia, a chronic, severe and disabling brain disorder that affects an estimated one in 100 persons at some point in their lives. Currently, schizophrenia has no known definitive cause or cure and leaves no tell-tale physical marks in brain tissue.
"The study provides new insights into neurotransmitter mechanisms in schizophrenia that can lead to new drug targets and therapeutics,” said senior author Vivian Hook, PhD, a professor with Skaggs School of Pharmacy and UC San Diego School of Medicine.
In the study, UC San Diego researchers with colleagues at The Salk Institute for Biological Studies and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, N.Y., created functioning neurons derived from hiPSCs, themselves reprogrammed from skin cells of schizophrenia patients. The approach allowed scientists to observe and stimulate human neurons in ways impossible in animal models or human subjects.
Researchers activated these neurons so that they would secrete neurotransmitters – chemicals that excite or inhibit the transmission of electrical signals through the brain. The process was replicated on stem cell lines from healthy adults.
A comparison of neurotransmitters produced by the cultured “brain in a dish” neurons showed that the neurons derived from schizophrenia patients secreted significantly greater amounts of the catecholamine neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine.
Catecholamine neurotransmitters are synthesized from the amino acid tyrosine and the regulation of these neurotransmitters is known to be altered in a variety of psychiatric diseases. Several psychotropic drugs selectively target the activity of these neurotransmitters in the brain.
In addition to documenting aberrant neurotransmitter secretion from neurons derived from patients with schizophrenia, researchers also observed that more neurons were dedicated to the production of tyrosine hydroxylase, the first enzyme in the biosynthetic pathway for the synthesis of dopamine, from which both norepinephrine and epinephrine are made.
This discovery is significant because it offers a reason for why schizophrenia patients have altered catecholamine neurotransmitter levels: They are preprogrammed to have more of the neurons that make these neurotransmitters.
“All behavior has a neurochemical basis in the brain,” Hook said. “This study shows that it is possible to look at precise chemical changes in neurons of people with schizophrenia.”
The applications for future treatments include being able to evaluate the severity of an individual’s disease, identify different sub-types of the disease and pre-screen patients for drugs that would be most likely to help them. It also offers a way to test the efficacy of new drugs.
“It is very powerful to be able to see differences in neurons derived from individual patients and a big accomplishment in the field to develop a method that allows this,” Hook said.
Pictured: Enzymes that biosynthesize the neurotransmitters dopamine (left), norepinephrine (center) and epinephrine (right).
high resolution →

ucsdhealthsciences:

Scientists Discover Neurochemical Imbalance in Schizophrenia

Using human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs), researchers at Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at University of California, San Diego have discovered that neurons from patients with schizophrenia secrete higher amounts of three neurotransmitters broadly implicated in a range of psychiatric disorders.

The findings, reported online Sept. 11 in Stem Cell Reports, represent an important step toward understanding the chemical basis for schizophrenia, a chronic, severe and disabling brain disorder that affects an estimated one in 100 persons at some point in their lives. Currently, schizophrenia has no known definitive cause or cure and leaves no tell-tale physical marks in brain tissue.

"The study provides new insights into neurotransmitter mechanisms in schizophrenia that can lead to new drug targets and therapeutics,” said senior author Vivian Hook, PhD, a professor with Skaggs School of Pharmacy and UC San Diego School of Medicine.

In the study, UC San Diego researchers with colleagues at The Salk Institute for Biological Studies and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, N.Y., created functioning neurons derived from hiPSCs, themselves reprogrammed from skin cells of schizophrenia patients. The approach allowed scientists to observe and stimulate human neurons in ways impossible in animal models or human subjects.

Researchers activated these neurons so that they would secrete neurotransmitters – chemicals that excite or inhibit the transmission of electrical signals through the brain. The process was replicated on stem cell lines from healthy adults.

A comparison of neurotransmitters produced by the cultured “brain in a dish” neurons showed that the neurons derived from schizophrenia patients secreted significantly greater amounts of the catecholamine neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine.

Catecholamine neurotransmitters are synthesized from the amino acid tyrosine and the regulation of these neurotransmitters is known to be altered in a variety of psychiatric diseases. Several psychotropic drugs selectively target the activity of these neurotransmitters in the brain.

In addition to documenting aberrant neurotransmitter secretion from neurons derived from patients with schizophrenia, researchers also observed that more neurons were dedicated to the production of tyrosine hydroxylase, the first enzyme in the biosynthetic pathway for the synthesis of dopamine, from which both norepinephrine and epinephrine are made.

This discovery is significant because it offers a reason for why schizophrenia patients have altered catecholamine neurotransmitter levels: They are preprogrammed to have more of the neurons that make these neurotransmitters.

“All behavior has a neurochemical basis in the brain,” Hook said. “This study shows that it is possible to look at precise chemical changes in neurons of people with schizophrenia.”

The applications for future treatments include being able to evaluate the severity of an individual’s disease, identify different sub-types of the disease and pre-screen patients for drugs that would be most likely to help them. It also offers a way to test the efficacy of new drugs.

“It is very powerful to be able to see differences in neurons derived from individual patients and a big accomplishment in the field to develop a method that allows this,” Hook said.

Pictured: Enzymes that biosynthesize the neurotransmitters dopamine (left), norepinephrine (center) and epinephrine (right).

distant-traveller:

Milky Way over Yellowstone

The Milky Way was not created by an evaporating lake. The colorful pool of water, about 10 meters across, is known as Silex Spring and is located in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming,USA. Illuminated artificially, the colors are caused by layers of bacteria that grow in the hot spring. Steam rises off the spring, heated by a magma chamber deep underneath known as the Yellowstone hotspot. Unrelated and far in the distance, the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy arches high overhead, a band lit by billions of stars. The above picture is a 16-image panorama taken late last month. If the Yellowstone hotspot causes another supervolcanic eruption as it did 640,000 years ago, a large part of North America would be affected.

Image credit & copyright: Dave Lane
high resolution →

distant-traveller:

Milky Way over Yellowstone

The Milky Way was not created by an evaporating lake. The colorful pool of water, about 10 meters across, is known as Silex Spring and is located in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming,USA. Illuminated artificially, the colors are caused by layers of bacteria that grow in the hot spring. Steam rises off the spring, heated by a magma chamber deep underneath known as the Yellowstone hotspot. Unrelated and far in the distance, the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy arches high overhead, a band lit by billions of stars. The above picture is a 16-image panorama taken late last month. If the Yellowstone hotspot causes another supervolcanic eruption as it did 640,000 years ago, a large part of North America would be affected.

Image credit & copyright: Dave Lane

neurosciencestuff:

Device to help people with Parkinson’s disease communicate better now available
SpeechVive Inc. announced Wednesday (Sept. 10) the commercial launch of the SpeechVive device intended to help people with a soft voice due to Parkinson’s disease speak more loudly and communicate more effectively.
The device is now available to try as a demo through the National Parkinson’s Disease Foundation’s Centers of Excellence prior to purchasing. People who suffer from a soft voice due to Parkinson’s disease can make an appointment at any of these centers: the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix; the University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida; University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Struthers Parkinson’s Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Baylor College of Medicine, Waco, Texas.
"We are providing demo units and training at no cost to as many of the National Parkinson’s Centers of Excellence as are interested in offering SpeechVive in conjunction with or as an alternative to speech therapy," said Steve Mogensen, president and CEO of SpeechVive. "We also are offering the SpeechVive units and training to professionals at Veterans Administration Medical Centers across the country. The first VAMC to offer SpeechVive is in Cincinnati, Ohio."
The SpeechVive device also is available to try at the M.D. Steer Speech and Hearing Clinic at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.
The technology was developed over the past decade by Jessica Huber, associate professor in Purdue’s Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences and licensed through the Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization. The focus of Huber’s research is the development and testing of behavioral treatments to improve communication and quality of life in older adults and people with degenerative motor diseases.
SpeechVive reduces the speech impairments associated with Parkinson’s disease, which cause people with the disease to speak in a hushed, whispery voice and to have mumbled speech. People with Parkinson’s disease are commonly affected in their ability to communicate effectively.
"The clinical data we have collected over the past four years demonstrates that SpeechVive is effective in 90 percent of the people using the device," Huber said. "I am proud of the improvements in communication and quality of life demonstrated in our clinical studies. I look forward to seeing the device on the market so that more people with Parkinson’s disease will have access to it."
More than 1.5 million people in the United States are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and it is one of the most common degenerative neurological diseases. About 89 percent of those with the disease have voice-related change affecting how loudly they speak, and at least 45 percent have speech-related change affecting how clearly they speak.
high resolution →

neurosciencestuff:

Device to help people with Parkinson’s disease communicate better now available

SpeechVive Inc. announced Wednesday (Sept. 10) the commercial launch of the SpeechVive device intended to help people with a soft voice due to Parkinson’s disease speak more loudly and communicate more effectively.

The device is now available to try as a demo through the National Parkinson’s Disease Foundation’s Centers of Excellence prior to purchasing. People who suffer from a soft voice due to Parkinson’s disease can make an appointment at any of these centers: the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix; the University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida; University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Struthers Parkinson’s Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Baylor College of Medicine, Waco, Texas.

"We are providing demo units and training at no cost to as many of the National Parkinson’s Centers of Excellence as are interested in offering SpeechVive in conjunction with or as an alternative to speech therapy," said Steve Mogensen, president and CEO of SpeechVive. "We also are offering the SpeechVive units and training to professionals at Veterans Administration Medical Centers across the country. The first VAMC to offer SpeechVive is in Cincinnati, Ohio."

The SpeechVive device also is available to try at the M.D. Steer Speech and Hearing Clinic at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.

The technology was developed over the past decade by Jessica Huber, associate professor in Purdue’s Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences and licensed through the Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization. The focus of Huber’s research is the development and testing of behavioral treatments to improve communication and quality of life in older adults and people with degenerative motor diseases.

SpeechVive reduces the speech impairments associated with Parkinson’s disease, which cause people with the disease to speak in a hushed, whispery voice and to have mumbled speech. People with Parkinson’s disease are commonly affected in their ability to communicate effectively.

"The clinical data we have collected over the past four years demonstrates that SpeechVive is effective in 90 percent of the people using the device," Huber said. "I am proud of the improvements in communication and quality of life demonstrated in our clinical studies. I look forward to seeing the device on the market so that more people with Parkinson’s disease will have access to it."

More than 1.5 million people in the United States are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and it is one of the most common degenerative neurological diseases. About 89 percent of those with the disease have voice-related change affecting how loudly they speak, and at least 45 percent have speech-related change affecting how clearly they speak.

astronomicalwonders:

Spiral Galaxy NGC 1232
This spectacular image of the large spiral galaxy NGC 1232 was obtained on September 21, 1998, during a period of good observing conditions at the European Southern Observatory. The colors of the different regions are well visible : the central areas contain older stars of reddish color, while the spiral arms are populated by young, blue stars and many star-forming regions. Note the distorted companion galaxy on the top side, shaped like the greek letter “theta”.
NGC 1232 is located 20º south of the celestial equator, in the constellation Eridanus (The River). The distance is about 100 million light-years, but the excellent optical quality of the VLT and FORS allows us to see an incredible wealth of details. At the indicated distance, the edge of the field shown corresponds to about 200,000 light-years, or about twice the size of the Milky Way galaxy.
Credit: ESO/VLT
high resolution →

astronomicalwonders:

Spiral Galaxy NGC 1232

This spectacular image of the large spiral galaxy NGC 1232 was obtained on September 21, 1998, during a period of good observing conditions at the European Southern Observatory. The colors of the different regions are well visible : the central areas contain older stars of reddish color, while the spiral arms are populated by young, blue stars and many star-forming regions. Note the distorted companion galaxy on the top side, shaped like the greek letter “theta”.

NGC 1232 is located 20º south of the celestial equator, in the constellation Eridanus (The River). The distance is about 100 million light-years, but the excellent optical quality of the VLT and FORS allows us to see an incredible wealth of details. At the indicated distance, the edge of the field shown corresponds to about 200,000 light-years, or about twice the size of the Milky Way galaxy.

Credit: ESO/VLT

Solar System Simulation Reveals Planetary Mystery
When we look at the Solar System, what clues show us how it formed? We can see pieces of its formation in asteroids, comets and other small bodies that cluster on the fringes of our neighborhood (and sometimes, fly closer to Earth.)
Are the orbits and sizes of the planets a natural byproduct of the formation, or are there features that happened because of rare events? Scientists are focused on answering these questions to better understand how the Earth formed, and what this means for Earth-like planets around other stars.
For example, a new set of simulations showed that Mars is a rare planet. It can happen, but only in certain situations — at least, if the parameters of the simulations are correct. Are these assumptions correct, or do other initial conditions need to be explored?
Continue Reading
high resolution →

Solar System Simulation Reveals Planetary Mystery

When we look at the Solar System, what clues show us how it formed? We can see pieces of its formation in asteroids, comets and other small bodies that cluster on the fringes of our neighborhood (and sometimes, fly closer to Earth.)

Are the orbits and sizes of the planets a natural byproduct of the formation, or are there features that happened because of rare events? Scientists are focused on answering these questions to better understand how the Earth formed, and what this means for Earth-like planets around other stars.

For example, a new set of simulations showed that Mars is a rare planet. It can happen, but only in certain situations — at least, if the parameters of the simulations are correct. Are these assumptions correct, or do other initial conditions need to be explored?

Continue Reading

mindblowingscience:

Interactive dark matter could explain Milky Way’s missing satellite galaxies

Scientists believe they have found a way to explain why there are not as many galaxies orbiting the Milky Way as expected. Computer simulations of the formation of our galaxy suggest that there should be many more small galaxies around the Milky Way than are observed through telescopes.




This has thrown doubt on the generally accepted theory of cold dark matter, an invisible and mysterious substance that scientists predict should allow for more galaxy formation around the Milky Way than is seen.
Now cosmologists and particle physicists at the Institute for Computational Cosmology and the Institute for Particle Physics Phenomenology, at Durham University, working with colleagues at LAPTh College & University in France, think they have found a potential solution to the problem.
Writing in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (MNRAS), the scientists suggest that dark matter particles, as well as feeling the force of gravity, could have interacted with photons and neutrinos in the young Universe, causing the dark matter to scatter.
Scientists think clumps of dark matter — or halos — that emerged from the early Universe, trapped the intergalactic gas needed to form stars and galaxies. Scattering the dark matter particles wipes out the structures that can trap gas, stopping more galaxies from forming around the Milky Way and reducing the number that should exist.
Lead author Dr Celine Boehm, in the Institute for Particle Physics Phenomenology at Durham University, said: “We don’t know how strong these interactions should be, so this is where our simulations come in.”
'By tuning the strength of the scattering of particles, we change the number of small galaxies, which lets us learn more about the physics of dark matter and how it might interact with other particles in the Universe.”
'This is an example of how a cosmological measurement, in this case the number of galaxies orbiting the Milky Way, is affected by the microscopic scales of particle physics.”
There are several theories about why there are not more galaxies orbiting the Milky Way, which include the idea that heat from the Universe’s first stars sterilised the gas needed to form stars. The researchers say their current findings offer an alternative theory and could provide a novel technique to probe interactions between other particles and cold dark matter.
Co-author Professor Carlton Baugh said: “Astronomers have long since reached the conclusion that most of the matter in the Universe consists of elementary particles known as dark matter.
'This model can explain how most of the Universe looks, except in our own backyard where it fails miserably.”
'The model predicts that there should be many more small satellite galaxies around our Milky Way than we can observe.”
'However, by using computer simulations to allow the dark matter to become a little more interactive with the rest of the material in the Universe, such as photons, we can give our cosmic neighbourhood a makeover and we see a remarkable reduction in the number of galaxies around us compared with what we originally thought.”
The calculations were carried out using the COSMA supercomputer at Durham University, which is part of the UK-wide DiRAC super-computing framework.
The work was funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council and the European Union.
Journal Reference:
C. Bœhm, J. A. Schewtschenko, R. J. Wilkinson, C. M. Baugh And S. Pascoli.Using the Milky Way satellites to study interactions between cold dark matter and radiation. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 2014 DOI:10.1093/mnrasl/slu115

mindblowingscience:

Interactive dark matter could explain Milky Way’s missing satellite galaxies

Scientists believe they have found a way to explain why there are not as many galaxies orbiting the Milky Way as expected. Computer simulations of the formation of our galaxy suggest that there should be many more small galaxies around the Milky Way than are observed through telescopes.

This has thrown doubt on the generally accepted theory of cold dark matter, an invisible and mysterious substance that scientists predict should allow for more galaxy formation around the Milky Way than is seen.

Now cosmologists and particle physicists at the Institute for Computational Cosmology and the Institute for Particle Physics Phenomenology, at Durham University, working with colleagues at LAPTh College & University in France, think they have found a potential solution to the problem.

Writing in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (MNRAS), the scientists suggest that dark matter particles, as well as feeling the force of gravity, could have interacted with photons and neutrinos in the young Universe, causing the dark matter to scatter.

Scientists think clumps of dark matter — or halos — that emerged from the early Universe, trapped the intergalactic gas needed to form stars and galaxies. Scattering the dark matter particles wipes out the structures that can trap gas, stopping more galaxies from forming around the Milky Way and reducing the number that should exist.

Lead author Dr Celine Boehm, in the Institute for Particle Physics Phenomenology at Durham University, said: “We don’t know how strong these interactions should be, so this is where our simulations come in.”

'By tuning the strength of the scattering of particles, we change the number of small galaxies, which lets us learn more about the physics of dark matter and how it might interact with other particles in the Universe.”

'This is an example of how a cosmological measurement, in this case the number of galaxies orbiting the Milky Way, is affected by the microscopic scales of particle physics.”

There are several theories about why there are not more galaxies orbiting the Milky Way, which include the idea that heat from the Universe’s first stars sterilised the gas needed to form stars. The researchers say their current findings offer an alternative theory and could provide a novel technique to probe interactions between other particles and cold dark matter.

Co-author Professor Carlton Baugh said: “Astronomers have long since reached the conclusion that most of the matter in the Universe consists of elementary particles known as dark matter.

'This model can explain how most of the Universe looks, except in our own backyard where it fails miserably.”

'The model predicts that there should be many more small satellite galaxies around our Milky Way than we can observe.”

'However, by using computer simulations to allow the dark matter to become a little more interactive with the rest of the material in the Universe, such as photons, we can give our cosmic neighbourhood a makeover and we see a remarkable reduction in the number of galaxies around us compared with what we originally thought.”

The calculations were carried out using the COSMA supercomputer at Durham University, which is part of the UK-wide DiRAC super-computing framework.

The work was funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council and the European Union.

Journal Reference:

  1. C. Bœhm, J. A. Schewtschenko, R. J. Wilkinson, C. M. Baugh And S. Pascoli.Using the Milky Way satellites to study interactions between cold dark matter and radiationMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 2014 DOI:10.1093/mnrasl/slu115
'Venus Zone' Could Aid Search for Earth-Like Alien Worlds
Exoplanet hunters have just made it easier to identify alien Venuses, in the hopes that doing so will lead to the discovery of more alien Earths.
A team of researchers has delineated the “Venus Zone,” the range of distances from a host star where planets are likely to resemble Earth’s similarly sized sister world, which has been rendered unlivably hot due to a runaway greenhouse effect.
Continue Reading
high resolution →

'Venus Zone' Could Aid Search for Earth-Like Alien Worlds

Exoplanet hunters have just made it easier to identify alien Venuses, in the hopes that doing so will lead to the discovery of more alien Earths.

A team of researchers has delineated the “Venus Zone,” the range of distances from a host star where planets are likely to resemble Earth’s similarly sized sister world, which has been rendered unlivably hot due to a runaway greenhouse effect.

Continue Reading

Stringy fields may make the universe swell faster
DARK energy, the mysterious force thought to be responsible for the fact the universe’s expansion is accelerating, might come from a series of exotic fields. This notion, which has its origins in string theory, could explain why it was only after galaxies formed that the rate of expansion began to increase.
Dark energy could simply be a property of space-time, called the cosmological constant, which appears as a term added into the equations of general relativity. But, the trouble is that to make the equations balance, the constant should be 120 orders of magnitude larger than observations of the universe suggested it actually is.
Continue Reading

Stringy fields may make the universe swell faster

DARK energy, the mysterious force thought to be responsible for the fact the universe’s expansion is accelerating, might come from a series of exotic fields. This notion, which has its origins in string theory, could explain why it was only after galaxies formed that the rate of expansion began to increase.

Dark energy could simply be a property of space-time, called the cosmological constant, which appears as a term added into the equations of general relativity. But, the trouble is that to make the equations balance, the constant should be 120 orders of magnitude larger than observations of the universe suggested it actually is.

Continue Reading

science-junkie:

A classification system for science news

Science news and articles are becoming increasingly popular, but with so much being written about so many things, it can be confusing for the beginner science enthusiast to grasp what they’re reading and how to interpret it. A simple classification system could help remedy this…

Read the article by Dean Burnett

Illustrations by Barry Welch.

Hubble Finds an Hourglass Nebula around a Dying Star
This is an image of MyCn18, a young planetary nebula located about 8,000 light-years away, taken with the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) aboard NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope (HST). This Hubble image reveals the true shape of MyCn18 to be an hourglass with an intricate pattern of “etchings” in its walls. This picture has been composed from three separate images taken in the light of ionized nitrogen (represented by red), hydrogen (green), and doubly-ionized oxygen (blue). The results are of great interest because they shed new light on the poorly understood ejection of stellar matter which accompanies the slow death of Sun-like stars. In previous ground-based images, MyCn18 appears to be a pair of large outer rings with a smaller central one, but the fine details cannot be seen.
According to one theory for the formation of planetary nebulae, the hourglass shape is produced by the expansion of a fast stellar wind within a slowly expanding cloud which is more dense near its equator than near its poles. What appears as a bright elliptical ring in the center, and at first sight might be mistaken for an equatorially dense region, is seen on closer inspection to be a potato shaped structure with a symmetry axis dramatically different from that of the larger hourglass. The hot star which has been thought to eject and illuminate the nebula, and therefore expected to lie at its center of symmetry, is clearly off center. Hence MyCn18, as revealed by Hubble, does not fulfill some crucial theoretical expectations.
Hubble has also revealed other features in MyCn18 which are completely new and unexpected. For example, there is a pair of intersecting elliptical rings in the central region which appear to be the rims of a smaller hourglass. There are the intricate patterns of the etchings on the hourglass walls. The arc-like etchings could be the remnants of discrete shells ejected from the star when it was younger (e.g. as seen in the Egg Nebula), flow instabilities, or could result from the action of a narrow beam of matter impinging on the hourglass walls. An unseen companion star and accompanying gravitational effects may well be necessary in order to explain the structure of MyCn18.
Ragvhendra Sahai of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., is the principal investigator of the team who made these observations.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
high resolution →

Hubble Finds an Hourglass Nebula around a Dying Star

This is an image of MyCn18, a young planetary nebula located about 8,000 light-years away, taken with the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) aboard NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope (HST). This Hubble image reveals the true shape of MyCn18 to be an hourglass with an intricate pattern of “etchings” in its walls. This picture has been composed from three separate images taken in the light of ionized nitrogen (represented by red), hydrogen (green), and doubly-ionized oxygen (blue). The results are of great interest because they shed new light on the poorly understood ejection of stellar matter which accompanies the slow death of Sun-like stars. In previous ground-based images, MyCn18 appears to be a pair of large outer rings with a smaller central one, but the fine details cannot be seen.

According to one theory for the formation of planetary nebulae, the hourglass shape is produced by the expansion of a fast stellar wind within a slowly expanding cloud which is more dense near its equator than near its poles. What appears as a bright elliptical ring in the center, and at first sight might be mistaken for an equatorially dense region, is seen on closer inspection to be a potato shaped structure with a symmetry axis dramatically different from that of the larger hourglass. The hot star which has been thought to eject and illuminate the nebula, and therefore expected to lie at its center of symmetry, is clearly off center. Hence MyCn18, as revealed by Hubble, does not fulfill some crucial theoretical expectations.

Hubble has also revealed other features in MyCn18 which are completely new and unexpected. For example, there is a pair of intersecting elliptical rings in the central region which appear to be the rims of a smaller hourglass. There are the intricate patterns of the etchings on the hourglass walls. The arc-like etchings could be the remnants of discrete shells ejected from the star when it was younger (e.g. as seen in the Egg Nebula), flow instabilities, or could result from the action of a narrow beam of matter impinging on the hourglass walls. An unseen companion star and accompanying gravitational effects may well be necessary in order to explain the structure of MyCn18.

Ragvhendra Sahai of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., is the principal investigator of the team who made these observations.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

(Source: jpl.nasa.gov)

humanoidhistory:

The Rosette Nebula spans about 100 light-years across, lies about 5000 light-years away, and can be seen with a small telescope towards the constellation of the Unicorn (Monoceros).
(Brian Lula via NASA)
high resolution →

humanoidhistory:

The Rosette Nebula spans about 100 light-years across, lies about 5000 light-years away, and can be seen with a small telescope towards the constellation of the Unicorn (Monoceros).

(Brian Lula via NASA)

Discovery! First Water Ice Clouds Found Beyond Our Solar System
For the first time, astronomers have detected water ice clouds, like the ones that shroud Earth, around a dim celestial body outside of our solar system.
Scientists discovered evidence of the alien water ice clouds in infrared images of a newly discovered brown dwarf that’s as cold as the North Pole.
Continue Reading
high resolution →

Discovery! First Water Ice Clouds Found Beyond Our Solar System

For the first time, astronomers have detected water ice clouds, like the ones that shroud Earth, around a dim celestial body outside of our solar system.

Scientists discovered evidence of the alien water ice clouds in infrared images of a newly discovered brown dwarf that’s as cold as the North Pole.

Continue Reading

startswithabang:

What is the Big Rip?

"If dark energy is only a constant, than things like our Solar System, our galaxy, and even our local group of galaxies — consisting of the Milky Way, Andromeda, the Triangulum Galaxy, the Magellanic Clouds and a few dozen small, dwarf galaxies — will remain gravitationally bound together for trillions upon trillions of years into the future. But if dark energy is increasing, or getting stronger over time, then that acceleration rate will not only drive distant galaxies away from us, but will cause these structures to become gravitationally unbound as time goes on!"

Now that dark energy is firmly in place as the dominant source of energy in the Universe, the race is on to figure out exactly what its properties are, and what that will mean for the Universe’s fate. If it’s truly a cosmological constant, we’re in for a Big Freeze, as galaxies expand away from one another faster and faster, leaving only our gravitationally-bound local group behind. But if dark energy changes over time, we might yet see a Big Crunch or the most horrifying of all fates: a Big Rip, where galaxy-by-galaxy, star-by-star and eventually atom-by-atom, everything is torn apart!

CERN Tests First Artificial Retina For Spotting High Energy Particles
The human retina is remarkably good at pattern recognition so par
Pattern recognition is one of the few areas where humans regularly outperform even the most powerful computers. Our extraordinary ability is a result of the way our bodies process visual information. But surprisingly, our brains only do part of the work.
The most basic pattern recognition — edge detection, line detection and the detection of certain shapes — is performed by the complex circuitry of neurons in the retina. Long before an image reaches our brain, the eye has already sorted out many of the significant details.
Continue Reading
high resolution →

CERN Tests First Artificial Retina For Spotting High Energy Particles

The human retina is remarkably good at pattern recognition so par

Pattern recognition is one of the few areas where humans regularly outperform even the most powerful computers. Our extraordinary ability is a result of the way our bodies process visual information. But surprisingly, our brains only do part of the work.

The most basic pattern recognition — edge detection, line detection and the detection of certain shapes — is performed by the complex circuitry of neurons in the retina. Long before an image reaches our brain, the eye has already sorted out many of the significant details.

Continue Reading

A Lost-and-Found Nomad Helps Solve the Mystery of a Swimming Dinosaur
The first bones came in a cardboard box. Nizar Ibrahim, a paleontologist, was in the Moroccan oasis town of Erfoud at the edge of the Sahara, returning from a dinosaur dig in the sands. Inside the box, brought to him by a nomad, were sediment-encrusted pieces more intriguing than anything he had found himself, including a blade-shaped bone with a reddish streak running through the cross section. He took the bones to a university in Casablanca.
That was April 2008.
The next year, he was in Italy visiting colleagues at the Milan Natural History Museum who showed him bones that seemed to be from Spinosaurus aegyptiacus, a strange-looking predatory dinosaur larger than Tyrannosaurus rex that lived in northern Africa about 95 million years ago.
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A Lost-and-Found Nomad Helps Solve the Mystery of a Swimming Dinosaur

The first bones came in a cardboard box. Nizar Ibrahim, a paleontologist, was in the Moroccan oasis town of Erfoud at the edge of the Sahara, returning from a dinosaur dig in the sands. Inside the box, brought to him by a nomad, were sediment-encrusted pieces more intriguing than anything he had found himself, including a blade-shaped bone with a reddish streak running through the cross section. He took the bones to a university in Casablanca.

That was April 2008.

The next year, he was in Italy visiting colleagues at the Milan Natural History Museum who showed him bones that seemed to be from Spinosaurus aegyptiacus, a strange-looking predatory dinosaur larger than Tyrannosaurus rex that lived in northern Africa about 95 million years ago.

Continue Reading