Now Everyone Can Help Astronomers Hunt Down Supernovae

The Australian National University has issued a singular call to arms: Help astronomers discover more supernovae. The goal is as simple as it is profound. Supernovae are used as cosmic milestones and by measuring their distances, researchers hope to understand the accelerated expansion of the universe.

The project is part of the citizen science portal Zooniverse. People interested in the subject will be asked to look at old and new images from the SkyMapper Transient Survey in the hopesto spot differences. A supernova canoutshine its host galaxy for a few weeks.

Researchers are particularly interested in Type Ia supernovae. These are formed in a binary system when a white dwarf steals so much material from a companion that it collapses under its own mass. These objects always have the same true luminosity, and by measuring how bright they appear to us, astronomers can work out how far they are.

This is why they are called standard candles. By knowing the distance, scientists can better understand where galaxies are located in the cosmos and evenanswer some fundamental questions about the universe thatare yet to be settled.

Using exploding stars as markers all across the Universe, we can measure how the Universe is growing and what its doing, said Brad Tucker from the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics in a statement.We can then use that information to better understand dark energy, the cause of the Universes acceleration.

Dark energy is the mysterious force that’s causingthe universe to expand. We dont know what it is (it’s yet to be confirmed) and we only see its effects, namely the accelerated expansion of the cosmos, so we need to get as many supernovae measured as possible.

There are about three supernovae per galaxy per century and they stay in their brightest phase for just a handful of weeks. However,there are billions of galaxies out there. The easier option is an automatic survey thattakes pictures, but there are too many images (thousands every month) for any single group of scientists to go through thats why they need your help.

Thousands of passionate people can achieve things that would take scientists working alone years to do, Tucker added.With the power of the people, we can check these images in minutes and get another telescope to follow up.

There are many different transient events that might be recorded by SkyMapper, beyond Type Ia supernovae. And you can still do it for the glory.

The first people who identify an object that turns out to be a supernova will be publicly recognized as co-discoverers, said Anais Mller, also from ANU.

What are you waiting for? Astronomy needs you!

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/now-everyone-can-help-astronomers-hunt-down-supernovae/

Barack Obama Impersonator Raps 99 Problems Parody

The Internet’s original Barack Obama imitator  has been seemingly hiding under the carpet for awhile, but he’s back with another great Obama imitation song parody

Spoofing Jay-Z‘s now timeless hip hop classic, 99 Problems, Alpha Cat drops some serious rhymes as POTUS brushing Mitt Romney off his shoulder

“Campaign problems? I feel bad for you son. I got 99 problems, but Mitt ain’t one!”

 

Read more: http://www.viralviralvideos.com/2012/07/11/barack-obama-sings-99-problems-parody/

If Life Gives You Lemons, Give Them to This Beagle

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Dog licks lemon. Dog freaks out. Dog walks away knowing better. Dog comes back for more.

We’ve all been there; we know what’s best, but that lemony-fresh goodness just keeps calling our name. Then the lemon-sour-sucky face follows. This poor beagle learns that lesson the hard way — not once, not twice, but a few dozen times.

We’ll call it perseverance though, because he refuses to just let that lemon get the best of his taste buds. So even though he nearly attacks his own tounge after biting into that yellow devil, he returns.

Someone get this dog a palette cleanser ASAP.

What’s your favorite cute animal YouTube video? Share in the comments below.

BONUS: Check out our top 5 viral videos of the week:

NASA Has Mapped Out Pluto’s Geological Jigsaw

Pluto is a medley of geological textures. In order to gauge the numerous processes that have operated on Pluto, NASA has created a geological map of the dwarf planets rugged terrain.

A compilation of 12 images were used to create this map, which were gathered during New Horizons fleeting but fruitful passing of Pluto last year on July 14.

The imageswere taken by the spacecraft’sLong Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), 77,300 kilometers (48,000 miles) away from the icy surface. To give you a sense ofscale, one pixel accounts for around390 meters (1,280 feet).

In the center of the image, you can see Sputnik Planum (in pale blue-green),the icy plain surrounded by a hotchpotch of geological textures and morphologies.The black lines that web the icy plaindepictthe boundaries of cellular regions in the nitrogen ice.

Other interesting features include the yellow blobs on the left, which represent large impact craters, and the swath of red in the bottom-left corner that illustrates a potentially cryovolcanic mound known as Wright Mons.

As NASA explains, the information can also be used to work out when these geological processes occurred relative to each other,giving some sense of history to this far-out loner.

For a close-up view of the map, click here.

Image credit:NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Photo Gallery

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/nasa-has-mapped-out-plutos-geological-jigsaw

Astronomers Have Discovered The First Known White Dwarf Pulsar

The end is not really the end, at least if youre a star. When their life comes to an end, stars simply change into something else. Supernovae, black holes, and white dwarfs are all well known final stages of stars, but the universe can still surprise us.

Astronomers using the South African Large Telescope(SALT) were able to observe a rare pulsating white dwarf. The unusual object, called Te 11, is the result of a stellar explosion thathappened 1,500 years ago, and it has been going through periodic “hiccups” after stealing material off its companion star. Such an object is called a dwarf nova.

“Pairings in astronomy as found in Te 11 are exceedingly rare, but it is anticipated that planned studies of the night sky will find a whole lot more,” said Professor Patrick Woudt, head of astronomy at the University of Cape Town andco-author of the study, in a statement.

Te 11 is located about 1,070 light-years away in the constellation of Orion. It is a binary system made of awhite dwarf 1.2 times more massive than our Sun,and a larger but lighter companion orbiting about twice the Earth-Moon distance. A paper highlighting the findings was published inMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The connection between Te 11 and the nova explosion 1,500 years agowas possible thanks toprecise archives from Chinese astronomy. According to historical records, a new star (nova) appeared in 483 CE near the positionof Te 11, making it for a short time brighter than any other star in the night sky.

Astronomer thinks these objects are not as rare as we think, and they planto use a wide-field study of the southern sky in optical and radio waves, such as MeerLICHT and MeerKAT, to find more.

“Planned surveys with MeerKAT and MeerLICHT will scan the southern skies for more of these unusual objects, which can tell us more about the formation and the evolution of these compact binaries in the Milky Way,” said Woudt.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/rare-pulsating-white-dwarf-nova-remnant

Timeline: The History Of Gravity

Our understanding of gravity has gone through a few permutations, from Newtons equations through to Einsteins general relativity. With todays discovery of gravitational waves, we look back on how our grasp of gravity has evolved over the centuries.

1687: Newtonian Gravity

Isaac Newton publishes Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, giving a comprehensive account of gravity. This gave astronomers an accurate toolbox for predicting the motions of planets. But it was not without its problems, such as calculating the precise orbit of the planet Mercury.

All planets’ orbits precess with the closest point of their orbit moving slightly with each revolution due to the gravitational tugs from other planets.

Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

The issue with Mercurys orbit was that the amount of precession did not match what Newtons theory predicted. It was only a small discrepancy, but big enough for astronomers to know it was there!

Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

1859: Planet Vulcan

To explain Mercurys odd behaviour, Urbain Le Verrier proposed the existence of an unseen planet called Vulcan, which orbited closer to the sun. He suggested that the gravity from Vulcan was influencing Mercurys orbit. But repeated observations revealed no signs of Vulcan.

Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

1905: Special relativity

Albert Einstein shakes up physics with his special theory of relativity. He then started incorporating gravity into his equations, which led to his next breakthrough.

1907: Einstein Predicts Gravitational Redshift

What we now call gravitational redshift was first proposed by Einstein from his thoughts in the development of general relativity.

Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Einstein predicted that the wavelength of light coming from atoms in a strong gravitational field will lengthen as it escapes the gravitational force. The longer wavelength shifts the photon to the red end of the electromagnetic spectrum.

1915: General Relativity

Albert Einstein publishes general theory of relativity. The first great success was its accurate prediction of Mercurys orbit, including its previously inscrutable precession.

The theory also predicts the existence of black holes and gravitational waves, although Einstein himself often struggled to understand them.

Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

1917: Einstein Theorises Stimulated Emission

In 1917, Einstein publishes a paper on the quantum theory of radiation indicating stimulated emission was possible.

Einstein proposed that an excited atom could return to a lower energy state by releasing energy in the form of photons in a process called spontaneous emission.

In stimulated emission, an incoming photon interacts with the excited atom, causing it to move to a lower energy state, releasing photons that are in phase and have the same frequency and direction of travel as the incoming photon. This process allowed for the development of the laser (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation).

1918: Prediction Of Frame Dragging

Josef Lense and Hans Thirring theorise that the rotation of a massive object in space would drag spacetime around with it.

1919: First Observation Of Gravitational Lensing

Gravitational lensing is the bending of light around massive objects, such as a black hole, allowing us to view objects that lie behind it. During a total solar eclipse in May 1919, stars near the sun were observed slightly out of position. This indicated that light was bending due to the suns mass.

Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

1925: First Measurement Of Gravitational Redshift

Walter Sydney Adams examined light emitted from the surface of massive stars and detected a redshift, as Einstein predicted.

1937: Prediction Of A Galactic Gravitational Lensing

Swiss astronomer Fritz Zwicky proposed that an entire galaxy could act as a gravitational lens.

1959: Gravitational Redshift Verified

The theory was conclusively tested by Robert Pound and Glen Rebka by measuring the relative redshift of two sources at the top and bottom of Harvard Universitys Jefferson Laboratory tower. The experiment accurately measured the tiny change in energies as photons travelled between the top and the bottom.

Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

1960: Laser Invented Using Stimulated Emission

Theodore H. Maiman, a physicist at Hughes Research Laboratories in California, builds the first laser.

1960s: First Evidence For Black Holes

The 1960s was the beginning of the renaissance of general relativity, and saw the discovery of galaxies that were powered by the immense pull of black holes in their centres.

There is now evidence of massive black holes in the hearts of all large galaxies, as well as there being smaller black holes roaming between the stars.

1966: First Observation Of Gravitational Time Delays

American astrophysicist Irwin Shapiro proposed that if general relativity is valid, then radio waves will be slowed down by the suns gravity as they bounce around the solar system.

Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

The effect was observed between 1966-7 by bouncing radar beams off the surface of Venus and measuring the time taken for the signals to return to Earth. The delay measured agreed with Einsteins theory.

We now use time-delays on cosmological scales, looking at the time differences in flashes and flares between gravitationally lensed images to measure the expansion of the universe.

1969: False Detection Of Gravitational Waves

American physicist Joseph Weber (a bit of a rebel) claimed the first experimental detection of gravitational waves. His experimental results were never reproduced.

Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

1974: Indirect Evidence For Gravitational Waves

Joseph Taylor and Russell Hulse discover a new type of pulsar: a binary pulsar. Measurements of the orbital decay of the pulsars showed they lost energy matching the amounts predicted by general relativity. They receive the 1993 Nobel Prize for Physics for this discovery.

Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

1979: First Observation Of A Galactic Gravitational Lens

The first extragalactic gravitational lens was discovered, when observers Dennis Walsh, Bob Carswell and Ray Weymann saw two identical quasi-stellar objects, or quasars. It turned out to be one quasar that appears as two separate images.

Since the 1980s, gravitational lensing has become a powerful probe of the distribution of mass in the universe.

1979: LIGO Receives Funding

US National Science Foundation funds construction of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).

1987: Another False Alarm For Gravitational Waves

A false alarm on direct detection from Joseph Weber (again) with claimed signal from the supernova SN 1987A using his torsion bar experiments, which consisted of large aluminium bars designed to vibrate when a large gravitational wave passed through it.

1994: LIGO Construction Begins

It took a long time, but the construction of LIGO finally began in Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana.

2002: LIGO Starts First Search

In August 2002, LIGO starts searching for evidence of gravitational waves.

2004: Frame Dragging Probe

NASA launches Gravity Probe B to measure the spacetime curvature near the Earth. The probe contained gyroscopes that rotated slightly over time due to the underlying spacetime. The effect is stronger around a rotating object which drags spacetime around with it.

Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

The gyroscopes in Gravity Probe B rotated by an amount consistent with Einsteins theory of general relativity.

Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

2005: LIGO Hunt Ends

After five searches, the first phase of LIGO ends with no detection of gravitational waves. The sensors then undergo an interim refit to improve sensitivity, called Enhanced LIGO.

2009: Enhanced LIGO

An upgraded version called Enhanced LIGO starts new hunt for gravitational waves.

2010: Enhanced LIGO Hunt Ends

Enhanced LIGO fails to detect and gravitational waves. A major upgrade, called Advanced LIGO begins.

2014: Advanced LIGO Upgrade Completed

The new Advanced LIGO has finished installation and testing and is nearly ready to begin a new search.

2015: False Alarm #3 For Gravitational Waves

The indirect signature of gravitational waves in the early universe was claimed by the BICEP2 experiment, looking at the cosmic microwave background. But it looks like this was dust in our own galaxy spoofing the signal.

2015: LIGO Upgraded Again

Advanced LIGO starts a new hunt for gravitational waves with four times the sensitivity of the original LIGO. In September, it detects a signal that looks likely to be from the collision between two black holes.

2016: Gravitational Wave Detection Confirmed

After rigorous checks, the Advanced LIGO team announce the detection of gravitational waves.

Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND

Geraint Lewis, Professor of Astrophysics, University of Sydney

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/physics/timeline-history-gravity

What’s The Most Dangerous Volcano In The World?

Say the word supervolcano and youll immediately think of Yellowstone and its violent past but what about its future? When will the next super-eruption be?

The thing is, this is far from the only supervolcano on Earth, and many of them could easily rival the power of Wyomings own. So where are these supervolcanoes and which one of them really is the most dangerous in the world?

Lets take a look, but heres a spoiler for you it’s probably not Yellowstone.

What the Heck is a Supervolcano Anyway?

Spoiler alert theres no such thing as a supervolcano.

Supervolcanoes, as we colloquially know them, normally have a few common characteristics, including a massive cauldron-like crater (a caldera) and a vast magma source. Generally speaking, this moniker is casually attached to volcanoes that produce highly infrequent and intensely explosive blasts registering at the upper end of the Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI).

And what, pray tell, is the VEI? Devised by a pair of inventive volcanologists back in 1982, its the only numerically standard way to define how explosive an eruption was by looking at a few criteria, including the ash plume height, the amount of volcanic material ejected, and how often this type of eruption occurs.

Its not a perfect scale, but basically, VEI 0-1 events happen continuously all the time (see: Hawaiis Kilauea) and produce lava slowly over time. They are almost never explosive. On the other end of the scale, VEI 7-8 events produce city-to-country-sized amounts of volcanic debris, very rapidly, once every 1,000 to 50,000 years.

In the last 36 million years, there have been 42 VEI 8 eruptions. Of these, some are considered to be super-eruptions made by supervolcanoes, whileprolonged, continental outbursts of lava (see: Deccan Traps) do not seem to make the cut with most volcanologists.

So, yeah pretty vague. Its a term thats essentially been popularized by both the media and organizations like the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

The Great Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park. Lorcel/Shutterstock

Hide and Seek

All things considered, heres a rough list of the worlds potentially dormant (not extinct) supervolcanoes:

1 Yellowstone Caldera, Wyoming

2 Lake Toba, Indonesia

3 Taupo, New Zealand

4 Campi Flegrei, Italy

5 Long Valley Caldera, California

6 Valles Caldera, New Mexico

7 Aira caldera, Japan

So if youre based in the US, your descendants might be in a spot of bother.

The Classic Caldera

Now comes the tricky part of working out which one is more likely to destroy the world or get near enough. Place your bets now!

In order to do this, we need to look at the eruption history of these monsters. So lets start with the classic, Yellowstone. This caldera is 72 kilometers (45 miles) across so large that you can only really see it from space.

The three eruptions at Yellowstone 2.1 million, 1.3 million, and 640,000 years ago formed distinct, interwoven calderas, with the latest being named the Yellowstone Caldera. The most powerful of the three was the first, registering at a VEI 8, which produced 2,500 times the volume of volcanic debris as the 1980 cataclysm at Mount St. Helens.

The least powerful blast, still a VEI 6-7, was the second, with the most recent being the second-most powerful, another VEI 8. Smaller, crater-forming, and lava-effusing blasts have happened, but one day, at some point, another super-eruption will likely take place.

Speaking of which, if youll peek at those dates, you might have noticed that it erupts once every 660,000-800,000 years, which suggests that the next blast will take place around 50,000 years from now. Some scientists, however, think Yellowstones already overdue for another blast by around 20,000 years, but theres not enough data to say either way.

Today, the magma source under Yellowstone is unbelievably massive. For years, geophysicists thought there was just a shallow, fairly sizable magma cache under the National Park but theres actually another, deeper one that was discovered in 2015. In total, theres enough molten rock down there to fill up to 14 Grand Canyons right up to the brim.

When it erupts, pretty much the entire chamber will empty out onto the surface in an explosive decompression event. Pyroclastic flows will essentially wipe out anything in the National Park, but the real danger to the nation and the world is the ash fallout.

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Yellowstone’s former ash fallouts, mapped. USGS

Based on the ancient eruptions, thousands upon thousands of cubic kilometers of ash will blanket about 60-70 percent of the US within a day or two, with much of this area ending up smothered in a layer of ash 1 meter (3.3 feet) thick. This will bring agriculture to a grinding halt, cause millions of buildings to collapse under the weight, and cause millions of people to suffer from respiratory problems, perhaps fatally.

It will be a disaster for the US, a near-apocalyptic catastrophe. Theres also a good chance that wed lose a few years or decades of summer, as the sulfur particles emitted during the eruption will block out the Sun to some degree for as long as they linger in the once-blue skies.

However, as the USGS note, the last 20 eruptions have been lava effusions, which will only reach the boundaries of the National Park. In fact, the yearly probability of anothercaldera-forming eruption can be approximated as one in 730,000 or 0.00014 percent. Thats really quite low.

A super-eruption is likely to be tens of thousands of years away yet, and even a lava flow will not take place for several centuries. Theres just no sign that the magma chamber is restless right now its still slowly just filling up, and biding its time.

Home of the Brave

The sky above supervolcanoes often turn red for days or weeks after they unleash their fury. R.T.Wohlstadter/Shutterstock

So what of the others?

Lets stick to the US for now. The Long Valley Caldera super-erupted and formed its caldera 760,000 years ago. It was less powerful than the Yellowstone event, and its since been involved in plenty of major eruptions, but not anything like its original explosion.

Although another super-eruption is possible as the magma system beneath it is still definitely active the chances are that there will be smaller eruptions taking place here in the next few hundred years or so, but nothing major.

Valles is similar, having super-erupted 1.25 million years ago, formed a caldera, and experienced some concerning activity, but it has not super-erupted since. Despite the fact that theres clearly an active magma source beneath it, its likely to be a shadow of its former self, and theres no sign of an impending super-eruption in the future.

So in terms of the US, Yellowstones the Big Bad its the most likely to super-erupt next, while the other two may never reach VEI 7-8 ever again. But what about the rest of the world?

We can take the beautifully viridian Aira caldera out of the equation straight away. Although this vast ancient bowl did change the world when it erupted, all evidence points towards Mount Sakurajima, a stratovolcano nested within it, as the sole source of its output these days and although this will one day cause trouble for the nearby, moderately-sized Kagoshima City, it will never change the world.

So what about Taupo? Now a gorgeous crater lake, it is also responsible for two of the worlds most violent eruptions. Around 1.25 to1 million years ago, it erupted so powerfully that much of New Zealands North Island was completely covered in hot ash.

Unusually for supervolcanoes, though, its most powerful eruptions took place after its initial formation. Around 26,500 years ago, the so-called VEI 8 Oruanui eruption produced pyroclastic flows so extensive that they buried the North Island beneath 200 meters of it (about 660 feet). Significant ash fallout spread around much of the regional Pacific Ocean.

If the same happened again today, it would kill most of the 3.6 million people that live there.

Lake Taupo, as seen from space. NASA

Then, another blast during the year 180, although just a VEI 7 blast, produced similarly violent pyroclastic flows that covered an area equivalent to 25 New York Cities. The eruption produced so much ash, the skies over Italy and China turned red.

There have been plenty of blasts in between these dates, and the next eruption at the site is expected to be mildly explosive, but itll likely only harm those in the region of the lake. New Zealand authorities note that only three eruptions since the Oruanui event have produced pyroclastic flows.

There is no simple pattern to these eruptions that can give volcanologists any idea as to when it will erupt or even super-erupt again, if at all. Taupo is just too unpredictable, but if it did induce another caldera-forming eruption, it would essentially be the Yellowstone of the Southern Hemisphere in terms of its destructive ability.

The Final Two

Indonesias Toba made its debut 1.5 million years ago, but thats not the eruption were interested in here.

Around 73,000 years ago, a colossal blast produced a caldera 100 kilometers (62 miles) long. This eruption manufactured so much volcanic material that the world was thought to have been plunged into a six-year-long volcanic winter.

Within days, South Asia was smothered by an ash layer 15 centimeters (6 inches) deep, with closer areas being buried in ash and pyroclastic flow deposits hundreds of meters deep.

Resurgence at Toba. OregonStateCEOAS via YouTube

This was not just a VEI 8 event. This was the largest volcanic eruption in the last 2.5 million years, and for some time it was thought that it almost brought humanity to the point of extinction although this has since been questioned.

Worryingly, there is a magma source beneath Toba today thats the same size as the one beneath Yellowstone, and its clearly dynamic the center of Lake Toba is rising skywards, indicating that the magma beneath is expanding outwards.

Around 100,000 people live on the island at the heart of Lake Toba, and a super-eruption would doom them and be a long-term disaster for the wider region. However, as there has only been one super-eruption at the site, scientists cant predict when or if it will super-erupt again.

Still, theres been no activity in modern times to suggest the magma is about to burst forth, so it probably isnt worth worrying about at the moment.

Then, theres Campi Flegrei, under the Bay of Naples. Its a bit of a baby, having carved out its caldera 40,000 years ago during a VEI 6-7 blast. By the USGS definition, this barely makes it on the list as a supervolcano. Nowadays, the magma beneath this beast seems to mostly come out of Vesuvius, which hasnt killed many people since 1631.

If you think this one is an underdog, though, you might want to think again.

Firstly, a million people live inside its crater, so any super-eruption would instantly kill them. The surrounding region is also densely packed with people, so any massive eruption would quickly bury a good chunk of Italys population, while the ash cloud would likely suffocate a good portion of Europe.

Secondly, the entire caldera keeps swelling up and deflating, and scientists cant be sure why. Currently, the ground is rising upwards at a noticeable tick, but between 1982 and 1984, the ascension rate was 24 times that of the present. Back then, volcanologists thought it was magma pushing at the roof of the chamber, but its likely this was expanding gas instead.

Either way, something is going on down there that indicates an active magmatic system exists. A recent study noted that its entering a critical state where it could be ready for an eruption. With only one caldera-forming event to base this on, no one can say for sure when it will super-erupt again but its likely that it will.

The Final Countdown

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Campi Flegrei is hidden beneath the Bay of Naples, pictured here. Right at the center of this image, you can see the much more famous Vesuvius. NASA/JPL-Caltech

Predicting when the world will experience another super-eruption is near-impossible thanks to their rarity. Even those with patterns of eruption may not obey them in the future.

However, if we had to pick the most dangerous supervolcano on the planet, wed have to say Campi Flegrei. Despite its less violent rsum, any eruption there would be a true calamity of the highest order. Ultimately, its not about size after all.

As for the rest, consider them wildcards.

Remember, boys and girls, that there is also a chance that the next super-eruption will be the one to form a brand new caldera somewhere else in the world. Maybe, just maybe, the most dangerous supervolcano in the world doesnt even exist yet.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/environment/whats-the-most-dangerous-volcano-in-the-world/

President Trump Has Some Very Curious Thoughts About A Mission To Mars

President Donald Trump called the International Space Station (ISS) yesterday to chat to the astronauts up there about various things, including how happy he was that he didnt have to drink his own recycled urine. While congratulating ISS commander Peggy Whitson for her record-setting number of days in low-Earth orbit, he also asked her a rather curious question that, bizarrely, only he could answer:

Tell me, he began. Mars: What do you see a timing for actually sending humans to Mars? Is there a schedule and when would you see that happening?

Well, I thinkas your bill directed, it’ll be approximately in the 2030s, Whitson pointed out.

Following on from an Obama-era commitment to get a manned mission to Mars by the 2030s, Trump recently signed a temporary $19.5 billion NASA funding bill for 2018, which also included the goal of getting humans to at least orbit the Red Planet by 2033. So really, he should know when theyll perhaps be getting to Mars its his decision, and that of his as of yet unappointed NASA administrator.

That, however, was not the most bizarre part of his astronomically strange exchange with the ISS. In response to Whitson explaining that itll be a difficult endeavor, and one that requires both decent amounts of funding and support from other countries around the world, Trump said this:

Well, we want to try and do it during my first term or, at worst, during my second term, so we’ll have to speed that up a little bit, okay?

Hopefully, hes not being serious here but then again, who knows?

No single space agency on Earth is ready for a manned mission to Mars right now, not NASA, not SpaceX nobody. Even if they suddenly left right this very moment, it would take eight months to get there, before spending several months in orbit or at the surface, and then eight months back again.

Trumps first term will end in just over three years, and his hypothetical second in seven. A mission planned and launched in even as many as seven years would almost certainly send its astronauts to a very distant, cold, and dusty grave.

Sure, JFK famously declared that NASA would go to the Moon in 1961, and eight years later Armstrong and Aldrin were bouncing across the surface. Mars, however, is a lot further away and its a far harsher environment to explore.

A recent Jet Propulsion Laboratory study claims that we could get to Mars by 2039, provided NASA builds a base on the moon of Phobos by 2033 and thats certainly ambitious.

To her credit, Whitson gave as best an answer as she could to the odd request. We’ll do our best, she said.

[H/T: Washington Post]

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/president-trump-curious-thoughts-mission-mars/

10 Greatest Unsolved Mysteries In Physics

It can seem like an uphill challenge to try to understand the universe around us. We have found many answers to the mysteries in our world: how planets orbit the Sun, why an apple falls from a branch to the ground, and why the sky appearsblue. The quest to uncover all ofthe secrets of the universe is guaranteed to be filled with difficult challenges, unimaginable problems and a mountain of ingenuity neededto overcome them.

Many physicists have already wrestled with the riddles of existence, but there are many more conundrums to solve. Get ready for the ten greatest unsolved mysteries of physics… the enigmas that have evaded the most eminent mindsthe world has ever known.

Dark energy

We can’t see it andwe can’t feel it, but we can test for it, and nobody knows what it is. In spite of this, scientists think that dark energy makes up around 70% of the universe. It was imagined to explain why galaxies don’t just drift apart but instead accelerate away from each other. You can think of it as a repulsive gravity that pushes matter apart. How it works, however, is still a mystery.

Dark matter

The other “dark” substance in our universe. Dark matter, like dark energy, cannot be seen or felt. This elusive substance has some differences to dark energy though; the only way that we have observed it is indirectly. We know that there must be more matter in the universe than we can see becausewe can measure its gravitational effects, but no one knows exactly what makes up this mysterious stuff.

It’s a wave… it’s a particle!

Rays of light have a split personality. They create interference patterns that are typical of waves. They reflect offsurfaces, suggesting that they could be a wave or a particle, or both at the same time. They can also be used to liberate electrons from their shells: something that indicates that they are particles. But how does light determine whether it acts as a particle or a wave?

Time, the onwardmarch

We only get older, not younger. Trees only get taller; they don’t return to acorns. Our Sun only ever uses up its fuel, never returning to a coolball of hydrogen gas. Time only goes in one direction…but why is it impossible for us to reverse the clocks?

We are living in a hologram

This one boggles the mind. The universe, everything we see and feel and experience, may actually have two spatial dimensions. Think of a 2D hologram, like the one on the back of a credit card: it can have all of the information of a 3D image but in only two dimensions. Some scientists have postulated that our universe is like the hologram on your credit cards: space seems like it has three dimensions, but it may turn out that all we are seeing is a projection from a 2D universe outside of our perception.

Matter and antimatter

There is a definite discrepancy between the ratios of these two substances. There was supposed to be an equal amount of ordinary matter and antimatter particles with the same mass but opposite chargein the early universe, but now the universe is overwhelmed with regular matter. Many theories have been thrown around, for examplethat particle genesis favored one way of creating matter, but nothing conclusive has popped up. The mystery of how matter “won” over antimatter may be revealed in the newly-upgradedLarge Hadron Colliderat CERN.

The lifetime of the universe

This mystery,the endof the universe,might not keep you up at night, but it will certainly be of concern to beings alive far into the future.This epiceventispredicted to occur inabout 10 billion years. Two opposing theories are the Big Crunch and the Big Rip. Neither of these outcomes sound terribly fun. The big crunch is the opposite of the Big Bang all of the pieces of matter in the universe will stop accelerating away from each other and start accelerating towardeach other. A boiling collision of all ofthe matter in the universe ensues (and mankind is unlikely to survive that). The Big Rip is where all of the pieces of matter in the universe continue to accelerate away from each other, faster and faster until eventually space-time moves so fast that it rips atoms apart(mankind is also unlikely to survive that one).

These two possibilities aren’t the only possible outcomes for the universe sadly it seems unlikely that our generation will ever know its fate.

Why can’t we imagine four dimensions?

We little humans struggle to envision a world with four spatial dimensions. Some theories (such as string theory) need as many as eleven dimensions to be hypothetically possible. If string theory turned out to be correct, we’d have to figure out how there are sixmissing dimensions tangled up in our reality. I can feel a headache coming on…

Why does light have a universal speed limit?

c, the speed of light constant, is valued at 3×108meters persecond. But whythis figureand not, for example,4×1020m/s?Is it a random digit pulled out of a bag of numbers when a new universe explodes into existance? It’s currently impossible to know why the speed of light is the speed that it is… all we know is that our universe couldn’t exist without this limit.

Unifying the big and the small

Everything big, like stars and black holes, is made up of small things: particles. Einstein’s laws of relativity govern the very big, while quantum mechanics is king in the realm of the very small. But physicists can’t seem to jam the two theories together. The trouble is that gravity just doesn’t appear to work on the nanoscopic scale. And bizarrequantum effects, like quantum tunneling (whereby an atom can “tunnel” through an otherwise impenetrable boundary), can’t be applied to planets or stars. Your eyes would likely pop if the Moon suddenly “tunneled” through the Earth. It seems barmy that there would be one theory for everything big and another for everything small. Some scientists are trying to tackle this problem, and even making headway, but the missing link is still incredibly elusive.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/physics/greatest-mysteries-physics