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Space-based particle detector hints at dark matter

The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02) experiment is a state-of-the-art particle physics detector that is constructed, tested and operated by an international team composed of 60 institutes from 16 countries and organized under United States Department of Energy (DOE) sponsorship. It is attached to the International Space Station and has been in operation since 2011.  Image via NASA

The hint of dark matter came from this instrument, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02) aboard the International Space Station. Image via NASA

One of the great discoveries of the coming century will be the direct detection of dark matter. This mysterious substance, thought to compose some 23% of the mass of our universe, is currently one of the most-sought substances in existence, the source of thousands of scientific papers and endless hours of speculation over the last half of the last century, despite the fact that it has not yet been directly detected. Now an analysis of 41 billion cosmic rays striking a state-of-the-art instrument called the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) particle detector aboard the International Space Station (ISS) may have come close to detecting dark matter.

Chimpanzee wars not due to human influence, says study

The Ngogo males have just killed a male from a neighboring group. After the male is dead, one of the Ngogo males leaps on the body of the dead animal. Image courtesy of John Mitan

Ngogo male chimps have just killed a male from a neighboring group. After the male is dead, one of the Ngogo males leaps on the body of the dead animal. Image courtesy of John Mitan

Lethal aggression is something that chimpanzees naturally do, the study says, regardless of whether human impacts are high or low

Why am I the one mosquitos always bite?

Photo credit: Macroscopic Solutions

Photo credit: Macroscopic Solutions

Here’s a Friday FAQ in honor of the passing of the summer.

Moon and Jupiter spectacular before dawn September 20

2014-sept-19-moon-jupiter-regulus-night-sky-chart

The waning crescent moon and the brilliant planet Jupiter still adorn the eastern predawn and dawn sky on September 20. If you’re up before dawn, you should be able to spot the star Regulus below the moon and Jupiter. Will you also see Venus? Maybe.

Dawn spacecraft to Ceres recovers after malfunctions

Artist's concept of Dawn spacecraft at asteroid Ceres.  Due to this setback, the craft is now scheduled to arrive at Ceres in April 2015, a month later than planned.  Image via NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

Artist’s concept of Dawn spacecraft at dwarf planet Ceres. Image via NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft – now in route to the dwarf planet Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt – unexpectedly went into safe mode on September 11, 2014, but it has now recovered. It is now due to reach Ceres in April 2015. That’s a month later than originally scheduled, thanks to this month’s setback.

Top 10 things you might not know about stars

The sun in extreme ultraviolet, false color green

The sun in extreme ultraviolet, false color green

Here’s a collection of 10 unexpected, intriguing facts about the stars of our universe – including our sun – that you probably didn’t know!

A first glimpse of Earth and moon as worlds in space

Here is the first-ever photo of the Earth and moon in a single frame.  Voyager 1 took the photo on September 18, 1977, when it was 7.25 million miles (11.66 million kilometers) from Earth.   Image Number: P-19891 via NASA/JPL

Here is the first-ever photo of the Earth and moon in a single frame. Voyager 1 took the photo on September 18, 1977, when it was 7.25 million miles (11.66 million kilometers) from Earth. Via NASA/JPL

September 18, 1977. Previous images had shown a part of the Earth, and a part of the moon, together. But – until this image by Voyager 1, taken on today’s date 37 years ago – we had never seen the Earth and moon as whole worlds in space, in the same frame and in color.

Kilauea volcano lava continues to advance

The lava from Kilauea volcano burns through vegetation in its path.  Photo via USGS

The lava from Kilauea volcano burns through vegetation in its path. Officials say residents will be given adequate notice to evacuate should that be necessary. Photo via USGS

Officials from the U.S. Geological Survey and Hawaii’s Civil Defense Agency flew over the new lava flow at Kilauea – Hawaii’s largest volcano – on September 15 and 16, 2014 to get a close up view of the eruption. Their observations have confirmed that the lava flow from Kilauea, which began on June 27, 2014, is continuing to advance in the northeast direction across the Big Island of Hawaii and has now entered a vacant portion of the Kahoe Homesteads.

Fogbow over Massachusetts

Our friend Eileen Claffey captured this fogbow over a field in Massachusetts yesterday (September 17, 2014). She said it appeared as the fog was lifting over a field. Fogbows and rainbows are made from the same configuration of sunlight and moisture. That is, you see a fogbow in the direction opposite the sun. But fogbows are caused by the small droplets inside a fog or cloud rather than the larger raindrops that cause rainbows.

Moon and Jupiter before dawn September 19

2014-sept-18-moon-jupiter-night-sky-chart

Watch for the waning crescent moon near the dazzling planet Jupiter during the predawn and dawn hours on Friday morning – September 19, 2014 – and for a morning or two after that. Simply look eastward to behold these two glorious worlds reflecting the light of the sun.