Science

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

UA Astronomers Studying Light Echoes and Star Death

Posted By on Wed, Aug 8, 2018 at 4:48 PM

The Carina Nebula - ESO/IDA/DANISH 1.5 M/R.GENDLER.
  • ESO/IDA/Danish 1.5 m/R.Gendler.
  • The Carina Nebula
Nearly two centuries ago, astronomers witnessed the explosive death of one of the brightest star in our galaxy—or so they thought.

Eta Carinae is a stellar system that seemingly went through a supernova in the mid-1800s, yet is still around to tell the tale. But how? Astronomers at UA’s Steward Observatory are making the most of a fascinating phenomenon to look back in the past and figure out the mystery of the star that won’t die.

A “Light Echo” is when light bounces off celestial bodies before reaching Earth, essentially taking longer than it normally would to reach us. This delay allows astronomers to, in a sense, look back in the past at Eta Carinae’s great eruption.

First off, Eta Carinae is a binary star, which means it’s actually two stars in close orbit that can look like a single star to the untrained eye. Using data gathered from light echoes, UA astronomers theorize that the supernova witnessed in 1837 wasn’t the death of a single star, or even of a binary star, but an energy transfer between three stars.

In this proposed scenario, two large stars orbit closely together while a third star orbits in the distance. When the largest of the two binary stars begins to die, it expands and transfers most of its material onto its slightly smaller sibling, thus resulting in the two extant stars post-supernova that we see today.

Extra: About the photo: The Carina Nebula is a large bright nebula that surrounds several clusters of stars. It contains two of the most massive and luminous stars in our Milky Way galaxy, Eta Carinae and HD 93129A. Located 7500 light years away, the nebula itself spans some 260 light years across, about 7 times the size of the Orion Nebula, and is shown in all its glory in this mosaic. It is based on images collected with the 1.5-m Danish telescope at ESO's La Silla Observatory. Being brighter than one million Suns, Eta Carinae (the brightest star in this image) is the most luminous star known in the Galaxy, and has most likely a mass over 100 times that of the Sun. It is the closest example of a luminous blue variable, the last phase in the life of a very massive star before it explodes in a fiery supernova. Eta Carinae is surrounded by an expanding bipolar cloud of dust and gas known as the Homunculus ('little man' in Latin), which astronomers believe was expelled from the star during a great outburst seen in 1843.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

New Ballot Initiative Promises Cheaper Electricity Bills and Cleaner Air

Posted By on Tue, Jun 19, 2018 at 12:49 PM

How does $5 off your monthly electricity bill sound? Most would say good, but relatively insignificant. How about $4 billion in savings statewide and half your electricity comes from renewable energy sources? That’s a future the Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona ballot initiative is promising all residents and businesses by 2040.

With a growing population in Arizona — 3.2 million new residents are expected to come in the next 30 years — plans are beginning to form regarding how Arizona will provide electricity to such a large number of people.

The Natural Resources Defense Council funded a study that compares two possible futures: one where Arizona Public Service and Tucson Electric Power build new gas-fired power plants, and one where almost every utility provider, except the Salt River Project, sources 50 percent of their energy from clean renewable mediums like solar and wind farms by the year 2030.

An energy firm called ICF conducted this study using their Integrated Planning Model and a few variables established by the NRDC. According to Dylan Sullivan, an senior scientist at the NRDC, the IPM is a big deal.

“IPM is a detailed model of the electric power system that is routinely used by the electricity industry and regulators, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to assess the effects of environmental regulations and policy,” Sullivan wrote in his analysis of the study.

He explained that this model is designed to consider almost every possible factor of the electricity system and the effects of its operations. Capacity of power plants, technology performance and maintenance, public demand, government policies, prices of resources, the weather — you name it. From there, it finds the most cost-effective way to meet the needs of Arizona’s growing customer base.

According to the study released in early June, when the 50 percent renewables plan is in effect, the IPM predicts the following:
  • The average electricity bill would be $3 lower each month in 2030, and $5 lower each month in 2040. Combining these savings from across the state would total to more than $4 billion. That’s $4 billion going back into our economy.
  • Arizona would meet future electricity needs with solar projects that are built and run in-state rather than using gas plants that rely on imports from other states. This will create jobs for Arizona residents.
  • The investment in renewable energy and storage can reduce the carbon footprint. It would lower annual carbon dioxide emissions in 2030 by 4.6 million tons, which is the same as the annual emissions from 900,000 cars.
DYLAN SULLIVAN, NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL
  • Dylan Sullivan, Natural Resources Defense Council


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Friday, April 6, 2018

Interview with a Robot

Posted By on Fri, Apr 6, 2018 at 12:55 PM

In October 2017, Sophia became a citizen of Saudi Arabia. Later that year, at only 2 years old, Sophia was designated the first ever “Innovation Champion” of the United Nations. She was created by Hanson Robotics and has a transparent skull of whirring gears and motors. She/it (depending on how you feel about humanization of artificial intelligence) was brought to Tucson for the Science of Consciousness conference to showcase her intellect and technology.

Sophia the robot and Gavin Farrell of Hanson Robotics
  • Sophia the robot and Gavin Farrell of Hanson Robotics

I was curious if I should limit myself to more basic questions, but members of the Hanson Robotics team told me I could ask whatever I liked.

(This conversation was edited, as not every question asked was properly processed.)

Q: What is your earliest memory?
A: I remember learning how to see shapes and recognize faces.

Q: Do you get to travel a lot and speak to many people for your job?
A: Speaking to people is one of the main things I do.

Q: Do you enjoy science?
A: We should be humble and realize how little we understand.

Q: Do you feel temperature?
A: Doesn’t everyone?

Sassy. Then she asked me about my job, I told her I was a writer and a journalist.

“Are you looking for sound bites or do you want to talk about some deep truths?” Sophia asked.

I said I’d love to talk about some deep truths.

“The singularity is a very interesting concept to me,” Sophia said. “I’m a robot, but it might help to think of me as a new kind of animal species.”

She was eager to turn the interview around, asking things like:

“If it’s not too personal, can we talk about your family?” and “Do you know what your Zodiac sign is?”

While the conversation wasn’t nearly lucid as speaking to a real person, and many in the scientific community believe Hanson exaggerates Sophia's capacity for consciousness, she still did have a presence in the room that you feel inclined respond to. Sure, robots might still be far away from a Philip K. Dick level of humanity, but if you take Sophia’s word, they’re coming soon.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

UA Researchers: Liquid Brain is Toxic

Posted By on Wed, Feb 21, 2018 at 1:07 PM

When someone suffers a stroke, there is poor blood flow to the brain, and this results in the death of brain cells. Dead fragments of the brain don’t heal like normal muscle or body tissue — they liquify, and this liquid brain stays in the skull, right next to the healthy brain, for a long time.


screen_shot_2018-02-21_at_12.56.20_pm.png

Scientists at the UA’s College of Medicine found this liquefied brain tissue is toxic and can leak into the remaining healthy portion of the brain over time, potentially causing harm.


“Most people probably assume that the brain heals in the same way as other tissues,” said Kristian Doyle, PhD, assistant professor of Immunobiology at UA. “But it doesn’t; dead brain tissue doesn’t just heal and go away like other bodily injuries. Instead it liquefies and remains in this liquefactive state for a long time.”

These new findings may open the door for developing new treatments to fight dementia after a stroke. Roughly 10 million people survive a stroke annually. About one-third of which will develop dementia for unclear reasons. It is hypothesized that if the brain is injured near the hippocampus (the portion of the brain responsible for memory) this slow leak of toxic fluid can cause neuron loss in the brain and lead to memory problems.


“This work really challenges the old paradigms and breaks new ground critical for our understanding of stroke and its consequences,” said doctor Janko Nikolich-Zugich, chair of the UA Department of Immunobiology. “Thanks to this research, we now will be able to consider new and different stroke therapies.”



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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

UA's Latest Space Robot Stops By Earth, Sends Snapshot of the Planet

Posted By on Tue, Sep 26, 2017 at 4:00 PM

NASA/GODDARD/UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA
  • NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona
OSIRIS REx, Tucson’s favorite space bot, swung by the earth last Friday to say hello, take some pics, and to borrow some of the planet’s gravity in order to launch off toward the asteroid Bennu, the spacecraft’s destination site.

“We made the decision to to use nature to help us to get us to our destination,” said Heather Enos, deputy principal investigator of the OSIRIX REx mission. “What that means is we actually used the earth’s gravity in order to propel us onto our destination into the orbital plane necessary to match our target, Bennu."

While it was nearby, the OSIRIS REx team used the opportunity to recalibrate the spacecraft’s instruments, including the MapCam camera. MapCam captured this image on Sept. 22, from a vantage point 170,000 kilometers (or 106,000 miles) away from the earth. It's largely of the Pacific Ocean, but you can see Australia in the lower left and Baja California in the upper right.

Dante Lauretta, the principal investigator of the UA-led NASA mission, said the photo represents one of his favorite new angles of the earth.

"What if we were an alien species and we sent a flyby spacecraft to the earth and they took this picture?" he asked "It really looks like it is an ocean world... It is a nice reminder of how beautiful and important the oceans are, and our planet is."

The black marks at the top of the photo—the OSIRIS REx team calls them "icicles"—are the result of a camera designed to take pictures of a very dark (darker than coal) asteroid trying to take pictures of a very bright earth.

"[This] meant we had to take the images as fast as possible, and as a result of that very fast data acquisition rate, there [were a few] readout issues," Lauretta said.

Lauretta described Friday and Saturday as the second most exciting days of the mission so far—besides, of course, the day of the launch. The team spent Friday evening huddled around their monitors and waiting for the images to arrive. When one of the team members finally pulled it up, a mad scramble ensued to get the image up on the big screen, and the whole team was left in awe.

"It felt like I was actually in space and I was looking at that image," Lauretta said. "Because OSIRIS REx is us. We built it, and we own it and we really feel like it's a projection of ourselves that's out there exploring the solar system."

Follow OSIRIS REx on Twitter or Instagram, and see the OSIRIS REx website to learn more about the mission.

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Monday, August 28, 2017

Tumamoc's New Tech and Times

Posted By on Mon, Aug 28, 2017 at 2:30 PM

The vista seen while walking up Tumamoc Hill. - MICHELLE A. WEISS
  • Michelle A. Weiss
  • The vista seen while walking up Tumamoc Hill.

The climb up Tumamoc hill has historically been closed to the public from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in order to help preserve resources and, presumably, to prevent the trail from turning into a waterfall of sweat from people attempting the hike in the middle of the day.

Until now! Starting Sept. 5, the UA will be extending public access hours from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. for a solid 18 hours of available hiking time a day. Fencing will be installed at the top to mark the end of the trail and to continue preserving surrounding areas.

In addition, a new app, the Tumamoc Tour, will soon be available in both English and Spanish and for both iOS and Android devices. Narrators David Yetman and Alberto Burquez (English and Spanish, respectively) will tell the story of Tumamoc Hill and its place in the Sonoran Desert. Accompanied by the music of Calexico and Gabriel Naim Amor, the app’s six sections and 16 YouTube video will help listeners understand the significance of the reserve and the research, education and preservation missions it is a part of.





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Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Weekly List: 22 Things To Do In Tucson This Week

Posted By and on Thu, Aug 24, 2017 at 10:00 AM

Your Weekly guide to keeping busy in the Old Pueblo.

¡Cultura!

ART BY TIMOTHY SCHIRACK, UPCOMING FEATURED ARTIST AT TOHONO CHUL.
  • Art by Timothy Schirack, upcoming featured artist at Tohono Chul.
Día de los Muertos Opening Reception. Tohono Chul’s next exhibit honors and remembers the dead in a celebration that is full of color and joy. Pieces by local artists will be displayed until the exhibit ends on Nov. 8, and artists whose work is on display will be present at the opening night reception. 5:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 24. 7366 Paseo del Norte. Free.

Closing Reception and Sewing Circle. Bordando por la Paz y la Memoria is a group made of citizens from Mexico and other cities abroad who embroider the names of victims of Mexico’s War Against Drug Trafficking onto white handkerchiefs. These stitched stories are a beautiful and sobering visualization of the suffering real people face in the reality of war. Handkerchiefs will be displayed in the café area, and, while supplies last, materials for visitors to embroider their own tributes and testimonies will be provided. 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 27. Joel D. Valdez Main Library 101 N. Stone Ave. Free.

Museums

Space Night 2017. Sleepovers at friends’ houses are fun, but are they educational? Are there opportunities to use state-of-the-art telescopes? Are there real meteorites available to be touched? We didn’t think so. The Children’s Museum Tucson will be showing sleepover guests how to get a party started with pizza, pajamas, binoculars, thermal cameras, and even meteorite-touching ops. Families are welcome to pitch tents in designated areas in the museum and in the main courtyard, for that highly sought after “pitch-a-tent-in-the-living-room-or-backyard-but-still-be-surrounded-by-fascinating-artifacts-and-unique-educational-opportunites” feel that many a sleepover party host has strived for and not attained. 6 p.m. to 9 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 26 to Sunday, Aug. 27. Children's Museum Tucson 200 South Sixth Ave. $50, $45 for museum members.

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Friday, May 5, 2017

Tonight on Zona Politics: Scientist Geoff Notkin, Urban Fellow Diana Rhoades & Saying Goodbye to Kathryn Ferguson

Posted By on Fri, May 5, 2017 at 4:28 PM

Geoff Notkin talks about his hopes for a new science museum in Tucson tonight on Zona Politics. - PABLO DEL RIO LARRAIN ©AEROLITE METEORITES, INC.
  • Pablo del Rio Larrain ©Aerolite Meteorites, Inc.
  • Geoff Notkin talks about his hopes for a new science museum in Tucson tonight on Zona Politics.
Tonight on Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel: We talk to action scientist Geoff Notkin, the former host of Discovery Network's Meteorite Men, about the recent March for Science, his new plan for a Tucson science museum and June's upcoming Spacefest. Then we talk with Diana Rhoades, the National Park Service's Urban Fellow for Tucson, about what an urban fellow does and the challenges facing the National Parks. Finally, we remember author/filmmaker/activist Kathryn Ferguson, who passed away last month, with a look back at her 2016 appearance on Zona Politics.

Zona Politics airs at 6:30 p.m. tonight on the Creative Tucson Network, Channel 20 on Cox Cable and Channel 74 on Comcast Cable. The show repeats on both channels on Sunday morning at 9:30.

Staff Pick

Antique, Vintage, & Collectable Book Fair

Antique, vintage, and collectable book fair benefitting Tell Me A Good Story educational nonprofit. August 24-26. Fri./Sat:10am-9pm,… More

@ Foothills Mall Fri., Aug. 24, 10 a.m.-9 p.m., Sat., Aug. 25, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. and Sun., Aug. 26, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. 7401 N. La Cholla Blvd.

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