German scientists creating artificial Sun

Scientists in Germany are turning on what is being described as ‘the world’s largest artificial sun.’

Scientists in Germany are turning on what is being described as ‘the world’s largest artificial sun.’

The massive honeycomb-like structure, known as the ‘Synlight’, uses 149 large spotlights typically employed in cinemas, to simulate sunlight.

The scientists will focus the enormous array of xenon short-arc lamps on a single 8/8 inch spot.

The scientists from the German Aerospace Centre hope that by doing so, they will be able to reproduce the equivalent of 10,000 times the solar radiation that would normally shine on a surface the same size.

“If you went in the room when it was switched on, you would burn directly,” said Professor Bernard Hoffschmidt, a research director at the DLR, where the experiment is sheltered in a protective radiation chamber.

The experiment consumes as much electricity in four hours as a four-person household would in a year.

The furnace-like conditions that will be created by this energy will reach up to 5,432 Fahrenheit (3,000 degrees Celsius.)

The German government is one of the world’s biggest investors in renewable energy.

The scientists will attempt to find ways of tapping the vast amount of energy that hits the earth in the form of light from the sun.

One of the primary areas of research will be on how to produce hydrogen efficiently. This will be the first step towards creating artificial fuel for airplanes.

According to Professor Hoffschimdt, billions of tons of hydrogen would be needed to drive airplanes and cars on CO2-free fuel.

Hydrogen is considered a promising future source of fuel. This is because it does not produce carbon emissions, therefore not contributing to global warming.

Dark matter particles may come from decaying neutrons

Scientists measuring the lifetime of neutrons believe that the remaining particles could be dark matter.

Physicists studying decaying neutrons believe that the death of these particles may be a source of dark matter in the universe. By probing the lifetime of neutrons, researchers now suggest that about 1 percent of the time that neutrons decay—along with breaking down into a few known particles—also produce dark matter particles, writes Charles Q. Choi for

There are two different ways to measure the lifetime of neutrons. In the experiment that some believe produces dark matter particles, researchers place ultracold neutrons in a bottle and see how many are left after a certain amount of time. “It would be truly amazing if the good old neutron turned out to be the particle enabling us to probe the dark matter sector of the universe,” says Bartosz Fornal, a theoretical physicist at the University of California. Fornal and Benjamin Grinstein conducted the bottle experiment and explored different scenarios of “dark decay” for neutrons, where neutrons break down into both dark matter particles and ordinary components such as gamma rays or electrons.

Grinstein explains that their proposed new particles are “dark in that, like dark matter, they interact feebly with normal matter.” Theoretical physicist Jessie Shelton, studying neutron decay in neutron stars, notes that if neutrons indeed decay into dark matter, they will not give rise to just one kind of particle, but at least two. However, as researchers continue to study exotic neutron dark decays, future experiments may prove that this anomaly has nothing to do with dark matter at all.

Scientists conduct experiments to explain the origins of our Universe

Experiments searching for a solution to one of physics’ biggest mysteries have delivered their first rounds of results.

Right now there are four major experiments being conducted around the world, hunting for signs of barely-detectable particles undergoing rare changes. In an article for Science Alert, Mike Mcrae explains why matter shouldn’t exist based on our current understanding of physics.

As subatomic particles cooled out of the radiation following the first moments of Universe, they took one of two forms—matter and antimatter. Therein lies the paradox, however, because these mirror-opposite objects also cancel out in a flash of energy when they meet again. So, if both types of particles are created next to one another in equal amounts, the math says we should have nothing left over. However, most visible objects are made from just one kind of particle—matter.

Neutrinos (a type of neutrally charged particle) may provide answers to this paradox. Neutrinos are a million times lighter than an electron, meaning they barely interact with other particles. Properties of these ‘ghost particles’ may mean that neutrinos are matter and anti-matter in one. Exploring neutrinos may be the pathway to explaining why our universe didn’t immediately cancel itself out.

Experiments are taking place to explore this mystery. The Cryogenic Underground Observatory for Rare Events (CUORE) at Gran Sasso Laboratory in Italy is based on just a flash in one of 1,000 crystals of tellurium dioxide to advertise the moment of neutrinoless double beta decay. They expect to see only five decays in the next five years. CUORE member, Lindley Winslow told Jennifer Chu at MIT News that it’s a very rare process.   “If observed, it would be the slowest thing that has ever been measured,” she said. A second experiment at Gran Sasso is using isotope germanium-76 instead. They have less material to catch the decay, but the whole set-up is proving to be extremely sensitive, reducing the risk of missing the event if it happens.

In the U.S. at the Sanford Underground Research Facility, collaborators are working on an experiment called the MAJORANA Demonstrator. All of these experiments are looking for the conservation of a particular quantum number as pairs of neutrons decay within certain isotopes. To-date, the results from these experiments have narrowed the field of places to search for neutrinos.

Ammonia clouds, jet streams cause Jupiter’s swirling colors

Pressurized magnetic fields 1,800 feet below the surface abruptly cut off the planet’s jet streams.

Jupiter’s iconic horizontal bands and color swirls are caused by strong jet streams or bands of wind that push colorful ammonia clouds across the planet, according to a new study published in The Astrophysical Journal.

The horizontal colored bands for which the giant planet is famous are made up of ammonia in Jupiter’s upper atmosphere, which gives them a variety of colors, including white, yellow, orange, red, and brown.

Unlike Earth, Jupiter has no known solid surface, resulting in the bands diving deeply into its gaseous subsurface of hydrogen and helium.

According to researcher Navid Constantinou of the Australian National University (ANU) Research School of Earth Sciences, Jupiter’s jet streams, which drive the flow of gases around the giant planet’s outer atmosphere, are influenced and shaped by magnetized gases far below the planet’s surface.

NASA’s Juno spacecraft, which has been orbiting Jupiter since July 2016, recently found that the planet’s jet streams extend to a depth of 1,800 miles (3,000 km) before coming to a sudden end.

Without solid geography such as mountains and large landmasses, Jupiter’s jet streams are never modified and therefore stay straight and regular, as opposed to Earth’s jet streams, which are obstructed by surface features that make them wavy and irregular.

Working with Jeff Parker of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California, Constantinou created a mathematical model of planetary jet streams based on those of Earth, which drive its climate and weather. They found that Jupiter’s atmosphere, which is composed largely of hydrogen and helium, undergoes heavy pressure beneath the surface that strips electrons from hydrogen and helium molecules, generating electric and magnetic fields.

Pressure from these electric and magnetic fields begins approximately 1,800 miles (3,000 km) beneath the surface, exactly where the jet streams abruptly end.

Movements and patterns seen in surface horizontal bands are influenced by these intense subsurface magnetic fields.

“We think our new theory explains why the jet streams go as deep as they do under the gas giant’s surface but don’t go any deeper,” Parker said.

Studying Jupiter’s atmosphere gives scientists important insights into the general atmospheric flows of planets, Constantinou noted.

Jupiter’s moons emit extremely powerful waves

Jupiter’s moons Europa and Ganymede have extremely powerful chorus waves that are much stronger than any other ones found in our solar system.

A team of international astronomers have found that the chorus waves around Jupiter’s moons Ganymede and Europa are much more powerful than the waves around other planets in our solar system, a new study published in Nature Communications reports.

Chorus waves are electromagnetic waves that emit out from planets and cause different phenomena in their atmosphere. For instance, Earth’s waves cause the Northern Lights and generate extremely high-energy electrons.

In the new study, scientists analyzed such waves around the planets in our solar system and then used data gathered by the Galileo space to match that against Jupiter’s moons. That revealed the waves of Europa are 100 times more intense than average planetary waves, and the ones around Ganymede are 1 million times stronger than that.

“It’s a really surprising and puzzling observation showing that a moon with a magnetic field can create such a tremendous intensification in the power of waves,” said lead author Yuri Shprits, a professor at GFZ/ University of Potsdam, according to

While scientists are not sure why the natural satellites have such strong waves, they believe it could be partly due to the fact that they orbit within Jupiter’s magnetic field. That region is the largest field in the solar system, and it measures 20,000 times stronger than Earth’s.

At that power range, Ganymede would be able to accelerate particles to extremely high speeds and energies.

That is important because, as Earth’s chorus waves can create so-called “killer” electrons that severely damage spacecraft, there is a chance that Jupiter’s moons can generate them as well.

More research is needed, but such insight will give scientists a chance to understand the core processes that drive acceleration and loss around planets in our solar system. That may then allow them to gain new information about exoplanets as well as potential energy sources down the line.

“It’s a really surprising and puzzling observation showing that a moon with a magnetic field can create such a tremendous intensification in the power of waves,” added Shprits, in a statement.

The universe appears to expand at different rates, study reports

New measurements show that modern physics cannot succinctly understand the rate at which the universe expands.

Astronomers from John Hopkins University have found new evidence that furthers the idea that the universe expands at different speeds depending on what part is observed, according to new research in The Astrophysical Journal. 

Many recent studies on the topic have found numerous discrepancies in how fast the universe moves out to distant locations.

In fact, the “tension” could reveal that scientists need to revise the modern understanding of how physics structures the universe and change ideas surround dark matter and dark energy.

Measurements gathered from the Hubble and Gaia space telescopes revealed that the universe expands at a rate of 45.6 miles per second per megaparsec. In other words, every 3.3 million light-years a galaxy is away from Earth, it appears to move 45 miles faster.

However, previous research from the Planck telescope shows that the more distant background universe moves at a slower 41.6 miles per second per megaparsec.

The difference between both of those measurements continues to grow as researchers refine measurements over time. In fact, the data from the new study reveals a gap that is four times the size of their combined uncertainty — a value that reflects researchers’ level of confidence in the results of a trial.

“At this point, clearly it’s not simply some gross error in any one measurement,” said lead author Adam Riess, an astronomy and physics professor at Johns Hopkins University, in a statement. “It’s as though you predicted how tall a child would become from a growth chart, and then found the adult he or she became greatly exceeded the prediction. We are very perplexed.”

Nobody can explain why the universe accelerates as it expands. Some believe it may be the result of dark matter or dark energy, while others suggest that it may be the result of a yet undiscovered particle.

While researchers are still analyzing the measurements from the recent study, they will likely help scientists better predict how the early universe have evolved into the expansion rate noted today.

“The tension seems to have grown into a full-blown incompatibility between our views of the early and late time universe,” added Riess, according The Independent“At this point, clearly it’s not simply some gross error in any one measurement.

Cosmic rays traced back to massive black hole

For the first time ever researchers have found an origin of the mysterious cosmic rays that come to Earth from outer space.

A team of international scientists have confirmed the source of ultra high-energy cosmic rays that beam to Earth from space, according to a new study published in the journal Science

Occasionally, our planet gets hit with protons and atomic nuclei that shoot out of space with energy so high that scientists cannot replicate it. Researchers first discovered those “cosmic rays” over 100 years ago, but they never knew where they came from until now.

In the new study, the team combined data from light and a single high-energy neutrino particle and found that the rays originate from a blazar — a supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy.

That discovery could open up new insight into the universe and provide a brand new way to study the cosmos.

“We have been looking for the sources of cosmic rays for more than a century, and we finally found one,” study co-author Francis Halzen, lead scientist at the IceCube Neutrino Observatory and a professor of physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told

This finding came about when the IceCube detector at the South Pole spotted a neutrino particle that had an incredible amount of energy. The detector’s computers quickly calculated where it came from and sent the coordinates to astronomers across the globe.

Six days later, the Fermi Large Area Telescope found a distant blazer known as TXS 0506+056 in the same spot.

Further research showed the blazar is able to produce high-energy protons and nuclei, which then creates neutrinos. In that way, it can create the ultra high-energy cosmic rays that have eluded astronomers for the past century.

That is an exciting discovery, but it is just one source. As a result, more research needs to be done to explain all cosmic rays and how they get made.

“We clearly need more data. One source is not enough,” study co-author Spencer Klein, a physicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, told Gizmodo. “Now that we found one accelerator, we’d like to find more and find out how they work.”