Showing posts with label News. Show all posts
Showing posts with label News. Show all posts

First Images From NASA's Webb Telescope Revealed

first image nasa james webb telescope hubble deep field image

First image (credit: NASA, ESA, CSA) by the Webb Telescope is of galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 as it appeared 4.6 billion years ago, the time when our planet Earth just began to form. Surrounding the cluster are tiny unseen objects of the universe as they were 13 billion years ago, shortly after the Big bang.

SMACS 0723, a massive object, is bending the light rays coming from the distant galaxies behind it. The Webb telescope has brought those galaxies into sharp focus. This phenomenon is called gravitational lensing and is based on Einstein's theory of relativity.

The image was taken by Webb's near-infrared camera and took about 12.5 hours to be assembled from a collection of images taken at various wavelengths. When the Hubble Space Telescope took a similar deep field image it took several weeks!

The first deep field was unveiled by the president of the United States Joe Biden during a White House event. “It’s hard to even fathom,” he commented.. “It’s astounding. It’s an historic moment for science and technology, for America and all of humanity.”

Thousands of galaxies that have come into Webb's infrared view for the first time would fit in a single grain of sand held at arm's length by someone on the ground. These images will help astronomers to calculate the compositions of the earliest galaxies.

The telescope, named after the longest serving NASA administrator, took over 30 years for completion and could revolutionize our understanding of the universe. Its infrared capabilities will allow humans to see back in time to the first galaxies and study their evolution.

hubble vs webb telescope first image deep field nasa

Webb is the official successor of the Hubble space telescope. Its operations are led by NASA with its partners: ESA (European Space Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency). The camera that took this image was built by the University of Arizona and Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Center.

4 Unsolved Mysteries About The Higgs Boson

higgs boson god particle 10 years higgs LHC cern

On July 4, 2012 the Higgs Boson particle was discovered at the Large Hadron Collider that is operated by CERN, the European organization for nuclear research. It took 60 years to first detect the elusive particle and there is still a lot to learn about it, scientists say.

CERN closed the largest particle accelerator for maintenance work that was extended due to delays caused by the pandemic. In 2022, scientists celebrated the 10th anniversary of Higgs Boson discovery. They now hope to uncover more as LHC has gotten back in action after 3-year hiatus.

1. Is the Higgs connected to dark matter?

Since dark matter makes up about 30% of the universe's mass and considering Higgs boson's relation to mass, scientists want to find if the two are connected somehow. They may explore, for example, whether or not the Higgs boson particle decays into a dark matter particle.

As of current understanding, scientists know that the Higgs boson particle can decay into boson, fermion and muon. The goal is to see which other kind of mysterious particle the Higgs boson particle can decay into. So far no unusual particles have been detected in collider experiments.

2. Does the Higgs boson interact with itself?

Matter particles (such as electron) move through the Higgs field and acquire their characteristic mass. More interaction means more the mass attained by the particle. Scientists hope to run experiments to find if the Higgs boson particle interacts with itself as predicted by the standard model.

This is the main question about the Higgs particle right now, say scientists working at the council for nuclear research. According to the standard model, when the Higgs particle self-interacts, it would create pairs or triplets of Higgs bosons, that are yet to be detected in the experiments.

3. Are there other Higgs particles?

The Higgs boson is an excitation of the all-pervading Higgs field that helps other particles pass through it and acquire mass. For this reason, it was nicknamed the God particle by the media, although some scientists refer to it as the Goddamn particle as it took so long and multi-billion dollars to find it.

The particle which was found in 2012 has zero spin and no electric charge. Theories alternate to the standard model predict the presence of more than one kind of God particle. Detection of additional Higgs particles in the collider experiments would mean that there must be new physics out there.

4. How does the Higgs interact with matter?

One thing scientists know for sure is that the more massive a given particle, the greater its interaction with the Higgs field must be. The nuances of this are yet to be understood even though the measurements thus far match the predictions of the standard model, the precision of these measurements isn’t great enough.

Models other than the standard model propose the existence of one kind of Higgs particle that interacts only with heavy particles and another that interacts with only lighter particles. Similar exciting challenges in particle physics await scientists working at the large hadron collider.

5 Major Differences Between Sgr A* and M87*

 black hole comparison difference between black hole images m87* and sgr a*

Take a close look at the two black hole images and you can ascertain a few differences by your own. Notice the speed of accretion disk, which is a gas-like flow around the black hole. Or the size of dark spots in the center that give you a faint idea of the black hole event horizon.

The latest image by event horizon telescope is that of Sagittarius A*, a black hole in the center of our Milky Way galaxy. That this is a supermassive black hole was first recognized by physicists Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez, for which they won the Nobel Prize in 2020.

Event horizon telescope or EHT is a worldwide network of radio telescopes that took the first ever picture of a black hole in 2019. It was that of M87*, an enormous supermassive black hole in the heart of Messier 87 galaxy in the constellation Virgo.

While the two black hole pictures look almost similar, for the laws of physics that govern their behavior are the same, the new image is more exciting than before. For one, it is located in our neighborhood; and second, it was way too difficult to catch a glimpse of.

1. Schwarzschild radius: It is the size of the sphere from which even light will fail to escape. For supermassive M87* this is 18 billion km, four times the radius of our solar system! For Sgr A*, Schwarzschild radius is only 12 million km.

2. Relative size: Our black hole is 31 times wider than the Sun, as shown in the figure below. Whereas the black hole in Messier 87 is 27,000 times wider than the Sun. If Sgr A* was the size of a doughnut, then M87* would be the size of a football stadium.

comparison size sun and sgr a* black hole

3. Distance: Our neighborhood black hole Sagittarius A* is obviously closer, located 25,000 light years away from the earth. Whereas M87* is 55 million light years away! So if it took 1 hour to get to Sgr A*, then it would take 91 days to reach M87*.

Despite being closer, observing Sgr A* was more challenging than expected. Scientists had to look through the galactic plane and filter out the noise from intermediate stars and dust clouds in their data, collected across continents.

4. Mass: M87* is 6 billion times more massive than the Sun whereas Sgr A* weighs 4 million Suns. Thus, our black hole Sgr A* is 1500 lighter in comparison.

5. Speed: Around the black hole is a bright ring of materials that swirl at great velocities. The material disk of M87* rotates over a course of many days at roughly 1,000 km/s, while it takes only a few minutes for material to move around Sagittarius A* because it is much smaller.

Why is the picture of our black hole kind of blurry? One of the reasons is that we don't have a direct view of the object while sitting on one of the arms of the galaxy and secondly, its accretion disk is spinning very fast compared to M87* so it's like taking a picture of a toddler who cannot stand still.

Deepak Dhar First Indian To Win Boltzmann Medal

indian physicist deepak dhar boltzmann medal

Austrian physicist Ludwig Boltzmann (1844-1906) who is well known for presenting the logarithmic connection between entropy and probability in his kinetic theory of gases, was never properly recognized during his lifetime.

In celebration of his ground-breaking work, Boltzmann medal is awarded once every three years by IUPAP in the field of statistical mechanics. In 2022, Deepak Dhar became the first Indian physicist to win the Boltzmann medal, sharing it with American physicist John Hopfield.

Deepak Dhar is famous among his students as a loveable science teacher. He was also a teaching assistant to Nobel laureate Richard Feynman when he completed his PhD from Caltech in 1978.

Deepak was born in Oct, 1951 to an average Indian household in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh and showed proficiency in mathematics from an early age. He completed his bachelor degree from the prestigious Allahabad University in 1970.

Deepak moved to the US after getting master's degree in physics from IIT-Kanpur in 1972. He returned to India the same year he completed his PhD from Caltech, where he held Richard Feynman fellowship. This shows his undying love for the motherland and a desire to teach in India.

Deepak became a full-time research fellow at TIFR, Mumbai where he was later promoted as an associate professor in 1991. He also served as visiting professor at the University of Paris during this time.

Post retirement, Deepak Dhar is a distinguished visiting faculty member at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune. After winning Boltzmann medal, Deepak said: It is always nice to win but the award was never the driving force.

Quoting Isaac Newton, Dhar added: I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.

Dhar was previously honored with Satyendra Nath Bose medal by the government in 2001. He feels that much work can still be done in statistical mechanics, a field pioneered by Bose in India. Science needs to be loved, Dhar feels, and not something students are afraid of.

Deepak is known for his research on stochastic processes or random systems, that are part and parcel of day to day life. Examples include stock market, blood pressure, movement of a gas molecule, etc.

Deepak Dhar feels that physics has a lot new opportunities that are screaming for attention. But we are short-changing younger generation with low quality education, he says. Why would students pursue career in physics if their interest is killed at early stage?

Big Breakthrough In Fusion Energy - The Power of Sun

Nuclear fusion energy how soon Einstein

UK-based JET laboratory created a world record when they generated 22 megajoules of fusion energy in 1997. Now nearly 25 years later JET have more than doubled the previous record by creating 59 megajoules of fusion energy over five seconds.

While 5 seconds may not sound impressive on ordinary timescale but on a nuclear timescale it is a very long time indeed. The achievement by JET also restores faith in human research and endeavor into replicating the power of Sun on earth.

Practically, this much fusion energy can only run a 32 inch LED TV for 15 days but it's a great beginning towards clean energy future. Nuclear fusion is the potential of virtually unlimited supplies of low-carbon and low-radiation energy.

Dr Joe Milnes, head of operations at the JET lab said: We have demonstrated that it is possible to create a mini star inside of our machine and hold it there for five seconds, which really takes us into a new realm.

In a nuclear fusion, two light nuclei combine to form a single heavier nucleus. The process releases energy because mass of the resulting nucleus is less than total mass of the two original nuclei. The leftover mass gets converted into energy by Einstein's energy-mass equivalence.
In the Sun's core, fusion is possible at around 10 million degrees Celsius. However, at the much lower pressures that are on Earth, the temperature required to produce nuclear fusion need to be above 100 million degrees!

And there is not a single material on earth that can withstand direct contact with that amount of heat. Which is why, to achieve fusion in a laboratory scientists use thousands of tons of magnet to hold in place super heated gas, or plasma.

JET labs CEO Professor Ian Chapman said: These experiments just had to work because if they didn't then we'd have real concerns about whether ITER could meet its goals.

breakthrough in nuclear fusion ITER in france
ITER construction in 2018

ITER in Southern France is the largest nuclear fusion reactor with 10 times more plasma than any other fusion reactors today. Over 30 countries are participating in this long term project of generating clean electricity. ITER will power 200,000 homes once it becomes operational.

Because controlled nuclear fusion releases nearly four million times more energy than a chemical reaction such as the burning of coal, oil or gas, it might be possible to even reverse climate change if we can switch to carbon-free energy. How soon it will be no one can say but the future sure looks promising.

Google Honors Stephen Hawking With New Doodle

stephen hawking happy birthday google doodle stephen hawking quotes

Renowned astrophysicist, Stephen Hawking was nicknamed Einstein at school because he did fairly well in scientific subjects. He was inspired by his maths teacher Dikran Tahta to pursue a degree in mathematics.

However, Hawking's father Frank (who was a medical researcher) advised his son to study medicine instead, as jobs were very few for maths graduates. Stephen showed no interest in biology and so he found a middle ground...
Hawking graduated with a bachelor degree in physics from Oxford University in 1962. This feat was overshadowed by the diagnosis of Lou Gehrig's disease, a condition in which motor neurons get damaged leading to paralysis.

The crippling disease did not dishearten Stephen Hawking for long – not when he completed his doctorate in physics from Cambridge University, 1966. Or when later in life he went on a zero gravity flight:

stephen hawking quotes happy birthday stephen hawking google doodle stephen hawking zero gravity flight

Hawking authored several best-selling books on physics and astronomy. His most successful written work A brief history of time sold more than 25 million copies, making him an international celebrity. In 2014, a film depicting hawking's battle with the Lou Gehrig's disease was also released.
Hawking said: The downside of my celebrity is that I cannot go anywhere in the world without being recognized. It is not enough for me to wear dark sunglasses and a wig. The wheelchair gives me away.

Because of his excellent sense of humor, Hawking starred on such TV shows as Futurama, The Simpsons and The big bang theory as himself. Hawking said: Humor is what keeps me going, and life would be tragic if it weren’t funny.

In 2022, on Hawking's 80th birthday, Google has honored the legendary astrophysicist with a doodle on their homepage and a heartwarming video to top it off.

stephen hawking 80th birthday google doodle stephen hawking best quotes

The doctor had given Stephen just a few years to live in his twenties credit to the life threatening disease. Not only did Hawking beat the odds but also revolutionized physics for next half a century.

His work with mathematician Roger Penrose about the universe's origins and the theorems on black holes made Hawking an undeniable force in the field of physics.
Following are 5 motivational Stephen Hawking quotes:

  1. Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious.

  2. However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don't just give up.

  3. One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn't exist.....Without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist.

  4. We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.

  5. It surprises me how disinterested we are today about things like physics, space and philosophy of our existence. I am just a child who has never grown up. I still keep asking these 'how' and 'why' questions. Occasionally, I find an answer.

When Stephen Hawking abruptly passed away in 2018, he left a many in tears... an aching void in the scientific world that still needs to be filled. Because, Hawking was the most beloved scientist of this generation, rightly on par with Einstein.

Why James Webb Telescope Is Better Than Hubble

james webb space telescope launch 22 december successor of Hubble telescope

The James Webb space telescope (JWST) is named after the longest serving NASA administrator and is the official successor to the Hubble space telescope. JWST is the costliest astronomy project having spent nearly three decades in the making.

The largest and the most powerful telescope in the world is scheduled to be launched in December 2021 after many delays since completion. The JWST will be able to look back in time closer to the Big Bang than ever before.


JWST was built by NASA in collaboration with European Space Agency and Canadian Space Agency. It will explore the universe in the infrared region, something that Hubble space telescope is incapable of doing. The mirror size is 6.5 meters - three times the size on the Hubble telescope but it weighs half of Hubble.


To make observations in the infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum, JWST must be kept under 50K or −223°C which is extremely cold. It uses a cryocooler and a large five-layer sunshield to block light and heat from the Sun, Earth and Moon to maintain a stable temperature.


The objectives of JWST include detecting clues to the origins of the universe, like observing infant galaxies and their evolution. As well as locating earth like planets outside the solar system and study the origins of life.
Hubble space telescope is capable of observing events that happened in space some 500 million years after the Big Bang, whereas Webb telescope can go back even further to around 100 million years after that event.


JWST has a near infrared camera for observation of faint extrasolar planets very close to the bright stars. It also has a near infrared spectrograph capable of measuring spectrum of faint stars and galaxies. A fine guidance sensor helps the telescope stay pointed at whatever it is commanded to look at.


It was scheduled to launch before but accidental tears in the delicate sunshield in 2018 delayed the project. Controversy also erupted over naming of the telescope as activists alleged that James Webb had discriminated against LGBTQ scientists during his term.

james webb telescope big bang hubble telescope

The mirror in JWST will be folded before launch. It is made up of 18 hexagonal segments - shaped so to join without gaps in between them. The mirror will unfold after the launch and it will take at least two weeks before the telescope becomes operational in orbit.

How it works

When picture of a galaxy is taken we see it the way it was millions of years ago because light takes time to travel. It is like finding a picture of a child dated from 1900 but if that child was still alive, they would be among the oldest people on the planet.

As the light travels, it becomes red-shifted due to expansion of the universe. So, objects at extreme distances are easier to see in the infrared. We can see these objects the way they were millions of years ago, that is, when that galaxy was fairly young.
JWST's infrared capabilities will allow humans to see back in time to the first galaxies for the first time. Infrared astronomy will also help us to learn how stars and galaxies have evolved over time. By overcoming all the challenges, JWST is set to launch in December 2021.

Climate Scientists Win Nobel Prize In Physics

climate science physics nobel prize 2021 georgio parisi syukuro manabe klauss hasselmann

In 2020, mathematician Roger Penrose was bestowed upon the most prestigious honor in science along with Andrea Ghez, who became only the fourth woman laureate in physics and Reinhard Genzel of the Max Planck Institute, for furthering our understanding of the black holes.

This year, the Nobel Prize foundation has again elected three joint winners. One half of the Nobel prize to climate scientists Syukuro Manabe of U.S.A and Klaus Hasselmann of Germany and the other half to Italian physicist Georgio Parisi.

We have all read about the global warming in our school textbooks, that humans are influencing the climate and the earth's temperature by burning fossil fuels. But how did the scientific community arrive at that conclusion in the first place?

The answer is, works of notable scientists like Syukuro Manabe, who is a senior meteorologist at the Princeton University, have helped establish humanity's increasing role in much of everything that is gone wrong with this planet.

Starting in the 1960s, Manabe pioneered the use of computers to simulate climate change. He demonstrated in 1970 that increase in the amount of carbon dioxide levels will rise global temperatures by 0.57°C by 2000. He was spot on as the earth had warmed by 0.54°C.

Klaus Hasselmann, leading oceanographer in Germany and the then director of the Max-Planck-Institute of Meteorology, also arrived at the same conclusion. He showed that despite short term weather fluctuations, climate models are reliable in long term.

Their studies further revealed that the global temperature is projected to increase by an additional 2°C – 3°C during the 21st century. So, we may take climate change lightly today but in the future its dangers will be observable in day to day life as the scientists have warned.

The third winner is Geogio Parisi whose research areas include statistical mechanics and complex systems. He has developed a mathematical model in order to understand complex systems such as the earth's global climate, the human brain and ultimately the entire universe.

Did you know that total 115 Nobel prizes in physics have been awarded since 1901? The winners this year include some of the oldest awardees. Manabe and Hasselmann are 90 and 89 respectively, while Parisi is relatively younger at 73 years.

Their recognition by the Nobel Prize committee shows that our knowledge about the climate change is built upon strong scientific foundations. Thus, no matter how much the politicians, the industrialists or the others deny climate change, it is happening at every moment.

After the announcement, Giorgio Parisi said in relation to climate change: “It is very urgent that we take strong decisions and move at a very strong pace. It is clear for future generations that we have to act now to tackle the climate change."

Hawking's black hole theorem confirmed by gravitational waves

stephen hawking was right about black holes gravitational waves

A black hole has often been portrayed as the ultimate villain in sci-fi movies due to its mysterious nature. From the death of a large-enough star it emerges with such a strong gravitational field that not even light can escape from within its grasp.

However, in spite of its wildly mysterious behavior, the black hole obeys certain simple rules. One of those rules, first proposed in 1971 by English physicist Stephen Hawking, has been proven correct by the help of gravitational waves.

The area law, derived from Einstein's general relativity, states that it is impossible for a black hole to decrease in size, at least in the short term. Mathematically:

stephen hawking was right about black holes

Recently, a team led by astrophysicist Maximiliano Isi from Massachusetts Institute of Technology studied the gravitational wave data released by the merger of two black holes.

Their calculations show that the total surface area of the resulting black hole is greater than the combined areas of the two smaller black holes. Therefore, Stephen Hawking was right.

However, while black holes cannot shrink according to Einstein's general relativity, they can do so as per the quantum mechanics.

Hawking worked that out too in 1974 – a concept known as Hawking radiation, which is predicted to emit because of strange quantum effects near the black hole's event horizon.

In his 1988 book A Brief History of Time, Hawking thus wrote: Black holes ain't so black. The release of these radiations would cause the black hole to shrink over longer time period and evaporate eventually.

Hence, theoretically speaking, both general relativity and quantum mechanics hold true. Maximiliano Isi said: "I am obsessed with these objects because of how paradoxical they are."

Now that the area law has been established for short to medium time frames, the researchers' next step would be to detect Hawking radiation by observing older black holes; no substantial evidence has been recorded so far.

Isi concludes: Black holes are those phenomena where gravity meets quantum mechanics, which makes them the perfect playgrounds for our understanding of reality.

Einstein's letter sold for $1.2 million at auction

Einstein's handwritten letter with E=mc² fetches 1.2 million at auction

Set up at a base price of $400,000, the letter containing Einstein's most well known formula has sold for $1.2 million at an auction conducted by RR Auction.

The letter is said to be one of the three written records of Einstein's famous equation. It was sent to Polish-American physicist Ludwik Silberstein in 1946.

In this equation, energy is equal to mass, multiplied by the square of the velocity of light. It shows that very small amounts of mass may be converted into a very large amount of energy and vice versa.

For example: In an atomic bomb, uranium is transformed into krypton and barium. Their combined mass is slightly less than the mass of the original uranium. Though the difference is small, by virtue of speed of light, the energy which is released is enormous.

During the Second World War, Einstein feared that Germans might develop an atomic weapon based upon his groundbreaking discovery.

So, despite being a long-time pacifist, Einstein wrote a letter to Franklin Roosevelt, the then President of the United States, to urge him to develop the atomic bomb before the Germans.

Thus, today, the equation is dear to not only physicists but also to history lovers. Auction of the letter began on 13 May and its rarity set off a bidding war among five parties.

Sold for more than $1.2 million, the letter has garnered about three times more money than it was expected to get.

Fourth Woman To Win Nobel Prize In Physics

fourth woman to win nobel prize physics 2020 andrea ghez

In 1903, Marie Curie won the Nobel Prize in physics for research on spontaneous radiation as discovered by Professor Henri Becquerel in 1896.

It took 60 years, in 1963, for another woman to win the most coveted prize in physics. Maria Goeppert Mayer was awarded for discoveries concerning nuclear shell structure.

Another 55 years later, in 2018, Donna Strickland received the award for her 1985 discovery, chirped pulse amplification, a technique which is used to make cellphone screens.

Cut to 2020, we have another woman Nobel laureate in physics, her name Andrea Ghez, who has been awarded the top honor for the discovery of a supermassive black hole in the Milky Way's center!

She shared the prize with colleague Reinhard Genzel. The other half of it went to Sir Roger Penrose.

When asked to comment on it, Andrea said: "I'm grateful, I'm thrilled. You know I work for the science and I'm just glad that it is recognized."

One might ask, "Why do we care about supermassive black holes, like, why is that so important to know about?

Andrea says: "They represent the breakdown of our understanding of the laws of physics. It's transformed our knowledge of these objects that we didn't really have proof existed in the universe."

By picturing the center of Milky Way galaxy at infrared wavelength, Ghez and her team were able to peer through heavy dust that blocked visible light, and produced images of the Black Hole, Sagittarius A*.

By using Kepler's third law, she showed that its mass was 4.1 million solar masses. Based on its mass and radius calculations, astronomers concluded that Sagittarius A* was a supermassive black hole.

Andrea has appeared on many black hole physics documentaries for BBC and Discovery Channel. When asked about her role as a science comunicator, she replied: "We all must step up to talk about the role of science and that is, I think, more important than ever."

She stayed up many nights at the Keck telescope photographing the center of Milky Way and then superimposed each still photograph on top of the other to make a film showing how stars around the center behaved due to Sag A*. In 2020, we celebrate her brilliance and dedication.

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