Physics & Astronomy News

<p>Close-up of Sputnik Planum shows the slowly overturning cells of nitrogen ice. Boulders of water ice and methane debris (red) that have broken off hills surrounding the heart have collected at the boundaries of the cells. (Photo: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)</p>
Pluto’s ‘heart’ renews itself
Like a cosmic lava lamp, a large section of Pluto’s icy surface is renewed by a process called convection that replace older ices with fresher material.
<p>This illustration depicts the view from outside of a rapidly-accreting black hole. The bright light toward the center represents the super-heating of gas as it falls onto the black hole. Emanating from the center is a jet of accelerated particles moving near the speed of light. Surrounding the black hold is cool, clumpy gas and dust, which are falling inwards and will eventually join the material accreting onto the black hole.</p>

<p>Image: NRAO/AUI/NSF and Dana Berry/SkyWorks</p>
Supermassive Black Hole Feeding On Cold Gas Observed
For the first time, astronomers have detected billowy clouds of cold, clumpy gas streaming toward a black hole, at the center of a massive galaxy cluster.

<p>A public comment period has opened for the recommended names of new elements 115, 117 and 118. Moscovium (Mc) is recommended for element 115; Tennessine (Ts) is proposed for element 117; Oganesson (Og), in recognition of the pioneering contributions of Yuri Oganessian (pictured), is proposed for element 118.</p>
Three New Element Names Proposed
The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) opened a public comment period for the recommended names of elements 115, 117 and 118.
<p>NIST physicists have built a quantum simulator made of trapped beryllium ions (charged atoms) that are proven to be entangled, a quantum phenomenon linking the properties of all the particles. The spinning crystal, about 1 millimeter wide, can contain anywhere from 20 to several hundred ions.</p>

<p>Credit: NIST</p>
Super Quantum Simulator Entangles Hundreds of Ions
Physicists have “entangled” or linked together the properties of up to 219 beryllium ions (charged atoms) to create a quantum simulator.

Three Potentially Habitable Worlds Found
Astronomers have discovered three potentially habitable planets orbiting an ultracool dwarf star just 40 light-years from Earth.
Planet Nine: A World That Shouldn't Exist
Researchers examines a number of scenarios for Planet Nine existence and find that most of them have low probabilities.
Little ANTs
Researchers have built a nano-engine that could form the basis for future applications in nano-robotics, including robots small enough to enter living cells.

Science Facts

Tick-Tock Atomic Clock

by NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and

24 GPS satellites orbit Earth.: Image Courtesy NASA Modern navigators rely on atomic clocks. Instead of old-style springs or pendulums, the natural resonances of atoms -- usually cesium or rubidium -- provide the steady 'tick' of an atomic clock. The best ones on Earth lose no more than one second in millions of years. Sailers, truck drivers, soldiers, hikers, and pilots ... they all rely on atomic clocks, even if they don't know it. Anyone who uses the Global Positioning System (GPS) benefits from atomic time. Each of the 24 GPS satellites carries 4 atomic clocks on board. By triangulating time signals broadcast from orbit, GPS receivers on the ground can pinpoint their own location.

Tiny instabilities in those orbiting clocks contribute at least a few meters of error to single-receiver GPS measurements. Making the clocks smaller (so that more of them can fit on each satellite) and increasing their stability could reduce such errors to fractions of a meter. Pilots landing on narrow airstrips at night would appreciate the improvement. So would surveyors, prospectors, search and rescue teams ... and farmers. 'Precision farmers' already use GPS-guided tractors to dispense custom-doses of water, fertilizer and pesticides over garden-sized plots. Better GPS data could guide those tractors to individual rows or perhaps even to individual plants for special care.

What Is An Atom?

Atoms are the extremely small particles of which we, and everything around us, are made. A single element, such as oxygen, is made up of similar atoms. Different elements, such as oxygen, carbon, and ...
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Image of the Sun
Will the Sun Shine Forever?

The Sun is a huge nuclear furnace. It operates by converting hydrogen into helium. In this process, which is called nuclear fusion, it loses mass and produces energy according to Einstein's famous equ ...
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An artist
Ancient Planet

Long before our Sun and Earth ever existed, a Jupiter-sized planet formed around a sun-like star. Now, almost 13 billion years later, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has precisely measured the mass of t ...
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Science Quote

'If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.'

René Descartes

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