Did Asteroid Impact or Volcanic Eruption Kill the Dinosaurs?

Compelling new evidence supports the hypothesis that the Chicxulub asteroid off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico 66 million years ago ignited volcanoes around the globe, most catastrophically in India, and that, together, these two planet-wide catastrophes caused the extinction of many land and marine animals, including the dinosaurs.

See more at: http://drexel.edu/now/archive/2015/October/Volcano-Asteroid/#.dpuf

Primordial O2 perhaps incorporated into comet during formation

The European Space Agency (ESA) announced today that its Rosetta spacecraft has made the first in situ detection of oxygen molecules outgassing from a comet, a surprising observation that suggests they were incorporated into the comet during its formation.

“We weren’t really expecting to detect O2 at the comet – and in such high abundance – because it is so chemically reactive, so it was quite a surprise,” says Kathrin Altwegg of the University of Bern, and principal investigator of the Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis instrument, ROSINA.

Photolysis and radiolysis of water ice rejected

Her team explored various possibilities to explain the presence and consistently high abundance of Oand its relationship to water, as well as the lack of ozone. They first considering whether processes called photolysis and radiolysis of water ice could have converted ice into oxygen. They seemed the most likely sources, but finally they rejected these mechanisms.

“The instantaneous generation of O2 also seems unlikely, as that should lead to variable O2 ratios under different illumination conditions. Instead, it seems more likely that primordial O2 was somehow incorporated into the comet’s ices during its formation, and is being released with the water vapour today.”

Oxygen dissolved in water ice rejected

In one scenario, gaseous O2 would first be incorporated into water ice in the early protosolar nebula stage of our Solar System. Chemical models of protoplanetary discs predict that high abundances of gaseous O2 could be available in the comet forming zone, but rapid cooling from temperatures above –173ºC to less than –243ºC would be required to form water ice with O2 trapped on dust grains. The grains would then have to be incorporated into the comet without being chemically altered.

Possible warm molecular cloud

“Other possibilities include the Solar System being formed in an unusually warm part of a dense molecular cloud, at temperatures of 10–20ºC above the –263ºC or so typically expected for such clouds,” says Ewine van Dishoeck of Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands, co-author of the paper cited below.

“This is still consistent with estimates for the comet formation conditions in the outer solar nebula, and also with previous findings at Rosetta’s comet regarding the low abundance of N2.”

Radiolysis on dust grains also possible

Alternatively, radiolysis of icy dust grains could have taken place prior to the comet’s accretion into a larger body. In this case, the O2 would remain trapped in the voids of the water ice on the grains while the hydrogen diffused out, preventing the reformation of O2 to water, and resulting in an increased and stable level of O2 in the solid ice. Incorporation of such icy grains into the nucleus could explain the observed strong correlation with H2O observed at the comet today.

“Regardless of how it was made, the O2 was also somehow protected during the accretion stage of the comet: this must have happened gently to avoid the O2 being destroyed by further chemical reactions,” adds Kathrin.

“This is an intriguing result for studies both within and beyond the comet community, with possible implications for our models of Solar System evolution,” says Matt Taylor, ESA’s Rosetta project scientist.


Abundant molecular oxygen in the coma of 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko,” by A. Bieler et al is published in the 29 October 2015 issue of the journal Nature.


Hadza people – Last living hunter-gatherers

The Hadza, or Hadzabe are an indigenous ethnic group in north-central Tanzania, living around Lake Eyasi in the central Rift Valley and in the neighbouring Serengeti Plateau. The Hadza number just under 1,000. Some 300–400 Hadza live as hunter-gatherers, much as their ancestors have for tens of thousands of years. They are among the last hunter-gatherers in the world. The Hadza are not closely genetically related to any other people. While traditionally classified with the Khoisan languages,

Source: Hadza people – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Charting the slow death of the universe — ScienceDaily

Charting the slow death of the universeDate:August 10, 2015Source:European Southern Observatory – ESOSummary:Astronomers studying more than 200,000 galaxies have measured the energy generated within a large portion of space more precisely than ever before. This represents the most comprehensive assessment of the energy output of the nearby Universe. They confirm that the energy produced in a section of the Universe today is only about half what it was two billion years ago and find that this fading is occurring across all wavelengths from the ultraviolet to the far infrared. The Universe is slowly dying.

Source: Charting the slow death of the universe — ScienceDaily

Wandering Jupiter accounts for our unusual solar system

Wandering Jupiter accounts for our unusual solar systemScientists say Jupiter swept clear the inner solar system, resulting in the formation of a planetary system unlike any other astronomers have yet found

Source: Wandering Jupiter accounts for our unusual solar system

DESY publishes new precise picture of the proton

Phe proton not only consists of three quarks (green) being held together by gluons (springs), but is a sizzling place of gluons and pairs of quarks and antiquarks (orange) interacting with each other.

After 15 years of measurement and another eight years of scrutinizing and calculation, the particle physics collaborations H1 and ZEUS have published the most precise results about the innermost structure and behaviour of the proton. The two experiments which took data at DESY´s particle accelerator HERA from 1992 to 2007 have combined their data of over a billion collisions of protons with electrons or positrons, antiparticles of the electrons. About 300 authors of 70 institutions have contributed to the analysis.

“This publication is the culmination of HERA´s scientific programme and will be the most precise picture of the proton for a long time,” says DESY research director Joachim Mnich. “This legacy is not only important for the understanding of the very basic properties of matter but also an essential basis for experiments at proton colliders like the LHC at CERN in Geneva.”
Protons are in the core of each single atomic nucleus in the universe. Their composition of three quarks – two up and one down quark – which are held together by so-called gluons, carrier particles of the strong force, is well known since decades and taught in schools. However, the real picture of the proton is much more complicated: the proton is a sizzling soup where gluons can produce more gluons and can also split into pairs of quarks and antiquarks – the so-called sea quarks – all of them interacting again very quickly.

Source: DESY News: The most precise picture of the proton – Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY

The Cliff – Fascinating 15 minute talk about Geology by Zoe Shipton on BBC Radio

“Most people look at a cliff and just see a pile of rocks. But when I look at a cliff I see millions of years of geological time.” says Zoe Shipton, Professor of Geology at Strathclyde University.

She explains what a geologist can read in the rocks of a cliff in this 15 minutes talk.

“In cliffs made up of sedimentary rocks, each layer of rock contains clues to how that layer was laid down millions of years ago, and what has happened to it since – we can read those layers like pages in a book”. Trying to unpick the geological story of the earth though is far from simple, after all “The Earth is nearly 13,000km across. Geologists are approximately 1.6m tall, trying to unpick the story of a complicated 4D puzzle – ie one varying in space and changing in time. But we are doing this to decipher the history of a planet that is 1023 times larger than we are”. Undaunted, she takes three cliffs; The Book Cliffs in central Utah, the Grand Canyon and Nanga Parbat in the Himalayas to explain how geologists decipher the clues left in the rocks. But rocks are subject to the weather, and so to study them in their natural habitat, geologists use underground rock laboratories. To extend the depths to which we can observe the Earth even further, geologists use geophysical tools such as seismic surveys. But because we can’t produce signals strong enough to penetrate into the very centre of the Earth, geologists use natural signals as well. Listening to earthquakes from the other side of the planet provides information which can be used to map the topography at the outside of the Earth’s core. “With modern technology we are learning to read the complete atlas of Earth’s history.”

Written and presented by Zoe Shipton, a Professor of Geological Engineering in the Department of Civil Engineering at Strathclyde University. She works on the link between faulting and fluid flow in applications such as hydrocarbons, CO2 and radioactive waste storage, and geothermal energy, as well as the structure of modern and exhumed earthquake faults. She also conducts research into quantifying geological uncertainties and the perception and communication of risk and uncertainty.

With readings by David Acton. Additional sound recordings by Chris Watson. Producer Sarah Blunt.

Listen to the program here.



ALMA Telescope Delivers Astonishing Image of Planet Formation

ALMA image of the protoplanetary disc around HL Tauri

ALMA image of the young star HL Tau and its protoplanetary disk. This best image ever of planet formation reveals multiple rings and gaps that herald the presence of emerging planets as they sweep their orbits clear of dust and gas. Credit: ALMA (NRAO/ESO/NAOJ); C. Brogan, B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF)

Stars form within clouds of gas and dust as they collapse under gravity. Over time, the surrounding dust particles acquire icy mantles which stick them together, forming icy snowballs which gradually grow to form larger-size rocks. Due to the rotation of the gas around the newly forming star, the gas and dust is flung out into a thin “protoplanetary” disk where asteroids, comets, and planets form.

Here gravity collects the protoplanets together into clumps which grow larger, sweeping up all the other dust close to them as they orbit the new star. Once these planets leave gaps in the disc, seen as dark rings, and collect the dust and gas into tighter and more confined zones.

Astronomers testing new high-resolution capabilities at the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have recently captured the best image ever of planet formation around an infant star. This revolutionary new image reveals in astonishing detail the planet-forming disk surrounding HL Tau, a Sun-like star located approximately 450 light-years from Earth in the constellation Taurus. Other astronomers had already discovered this system, but HL Tau is not observable in visible light because of the huge envelope of dust and gas which surrounds it.

But ALMA observes at much longer wavelengths than visible light, so it is able to see through the intervening dust to study the processes right at the core of this cloud. ALMA revealed never-before-seen features in this system, including multiple concentric rings separated by clearly defined gaps. These structures suggest that planet formation is already well underway around this remarkably young star.

“This is truly one of the most remarkable images ever seen at these wavelengths. The level of detail is so exquisite that it’s even more impressive than many optical images. The fact that we can see planets being born will help us understand not only how planets form around other stars but also the origin of our own Solar System,” said NRAO astronomer Crystal Brogan.

“These features are almost certainly the result of young planet-like bodies that are being formed in the disk,” said ALMA Deputy Director Stuartt Corder. “This is surprising since HL Tau is no more than a million years old and such young stars are not expected to have large planetary bodies capable of producing the structures we see in this image.”

“This new and unexpected result provides an incredible view of the process of planet formation. Such clarity is essential to understand how our own Solar System came to be and how planets form throughout the Universe,” said Tony Beasley, director of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Charlottesville, Virginia, which manages ALMA operations for astronomers in North America.


National Radio Astronomy Observatory


Tickets Available for Universe Story Event 2015

Tickets are now available for the Universe Story Event which will take place at 10:00 to 17:00 on Saturday 14 March 2015.


During the day delegates will hear the complete history of the universe, from its origin 13.8 billion years ago, through the creation of the stars, planets, our planet Earth, the evolution of life and finally our human story on this Earth.
They we also will see how they can align ourselves with the evolutionary processes for the benefit of all humans, all living beings and the planet itself.
And finally they will hear ways in which we can be empowered to ground the ideas in their everyday lives and help bring into being the ‘Ecozoic Era’.

The event will be held at:
City of London School for Girls
St. Giles’ Terrace
London, EC2Y 8BB


  • A brief history of everything, from the origin of the Universe to the present day, in six surprising steps by Greg Morter
  • The Evolution of Cooperation and Transformation by Elisabet Sahtouris
  • Transformational Heresy – permaculture and beyond by Maddy Harland

The event will be chaired by Chris Clarke, Emeritus Professor of Applied Mathematics and author of “Weaving the Cosmos”.

Other activities

  • World Café, ask questions and discuss ideas in informal groups.
  • Creative Activities, a chance to be creative, drawing inspiration from the Universe Story.
  • Stalls from participating organisations.

More information from


Tickets cost £43.05 and can be purchased from


The event is organised by Green Spirit (http://www.greenspirit.org.uk/), which is
“a network of people who celebrate the human spirit in the context of our place in the natural world and Earth’s own evolutionary journey. Our radical vision brings together the rigour of science, the creativity of artistic expression, the passion of social action and the wisdom of spiritual traditions of all ages. Attracting those of many faith traditions, we are a body of people who believe that human life has both an ecological and a spiritual dimension.”