ALMA spots newly forming triple star system

Astronomers using the ALMA telescope have snapped a clearer picture of a triple star system still beginning to form.

Gizmodo explains that the developing star system, named L1448 IRS3B, is no older than 150,000 years, which makes the system a newborn in its cosmic time frame.  The protostar system is made up of three developing stars embedded in a disk of gas and dust.

The image captured by ALMA is the best image yet taken of a developing triple star system.  The newly detailed look at L1448 IRS3B is allowing astronomers to determine that the system contained two stars at first which were later joined by a quickly forming third star.

It has been noted that multi-star systems can contain stars that form in their own protostellar disks.  In the case of L1448 IRS3B, all three stars are drawing off a shared disk of material.

The diameter of the entire triple system is about 800 astronomical units (AU), encompassing a space about eight times the diameter of our solar system.

“Large-scale fragmentation refers to multiple stars that form more or less independently from each other with thousands of AU separation,” John Tobin of the University of Oklahoma said.  “Small-disk fragmentation happens on a few hundreds of AU scales in a disk of material that is orbiting around a young star that has already formed.”

One star, thought to be the system’s newest member, lies at a distance of about 183 AU from the others and appears to shine more brightly.

It appears that instability overtook the system at some point and caused fragmentation in the protostellar disk, causing the outlying star to form.

Further study of the triple star system will help astronomers understand more about how star systems form and evolve.

The study was published in the journal Nature.


‘Alien signals’ from stars may be chemical signatures

Researchers from Université Laval in Quebec claim to have detected stellar signals that they believe are most likely from intelligent extraterrestrials.  Other astronomers point to the likelihood that the signals are caused by the stars’ chemical composition or by equipment malfunction.

Astronomy Magazine reports that the new study considered data collected by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey which revealed a number of stars emitting rapid light bursts.  The study team believes that such signals are most likely caused by some form of extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI).

“We find that the detected signals have exactly the shape of an ETI signal predicted in the previous publication and are therefore in agreement with this hypothesis,” the paper reads.  “The fact that they are only found in a very small fraction of stars within a narrow spectral range centered near the spectral type of the sun is also in agreement with the ETI hypothesis.”

Another explanation for the stars’ bursts is that the signals may be caused by uncommon chemical compositions in a handful of stars.

The readings could also have been caused by instrumental optics or introduced to the data files during data reduction.  Minute flaws in detectors, telescope movements, atmospheric interference and the process of wavelength calibration can all produce unwanted signals.

More study of the light bursts will need to be conducted to draw further conclusions.  One source of scrutiny will be the Breakthrough Listen initiative, a worldwide survey hunting for signs of alien life.

Breakthrough Listen released a statement noting that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. It is too early to unequivocally attribute these purported signals to the activities of extraterrestrial civilizations.”

The study has been accepted into Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.


New study says universe expands at constant rate

A new study challenges the idea that dark energy is causing the universe to expand at an accelerating rate.

Tech Times reports that a group of researchers studying supernovae found evidence that the universe is expanding at a constant rate.

Evidence for an accelerated expansion surfaced in 1998 when scientists looked at the light emitted by Type 1a supernovae.  It was widely accepted that the light of such supernovae is constant within Type 1a events, and analysis of the light given from different distances showed a universe expanding so rapidly that scientists assumed something undetected was causing the accelerated expansion.  Dark energy has since been thought to be the cause of the unexplained expansion.

For the new study, researchers looked at data concerning 740 Type 1a supernovae.  Scrutiny of the data led the team to conclude that the universe is not expanding at an accelerating rate after all, but is instead expanding at a steady pace.  In this scenario, no dark energy would be needed to drive the expansion.

The team argues that the previous study which resulted in the dark energy theory used outdated models unsuited to the analysis of today’s collection of data.

“There exists now a much bigger database of supernovae so we can perform rigorous statistical tests to check whether these ‘standardiable candles’ indeed indicate cosmic acceleration,” the study authors wrote.  “Taking account of the empirical procedure by which corrections are made to their absolute magnitudes to allow for the varying shape of the light curve and extinction by dust, we find, rather surprisingly, that the data are still quite consistent with a constant rate of expansion.”

The idea that the universe is expanding at a constant rate was widely accepted before the introduction of the dark energy theory.

The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.


Barbie unveils new body types

Barbie is trying to get with the times, this time by offering different body types including “tall” and “curvy.”

In the past, Barbie has been a one size fits all doll, which was fine during the peak of its popularity in the latter half of the 20th century, but as the public has gotten more diverse, so have tastes in dolls. Now, Mattel is offering a number of different versions to counter criticisms that the company holds up an unrealistic body image for girls, according to a New York Times report.

In addition, the new body types of curvy, tall, and petite will also come with different skin tones, hair styles, and eye colors.

Mattel has been struggling with plummeting sales for Barbie, its iconic brand, and is trying to make the doll more relevant. Mattel is trying to draw from a wider demographic than it has in the past.

The efforts to do so began last year when Mattel unveiled more skin tones and facial structures for its Fashionistas line.

But the writing may be on the wall for the company. Barbie has been around for 57 years and sales have continued to dive year after year. Third-quarter sales in 2015 were down 14 percent from the same period last year.

Barbie may be past its due date, with kids increasingly turning to electronics and games and away from traditional toys like dolls.

Mattel has been taking a stab at the electronics market, creating “Hello Barbie,” an interactive talking doll.

Mattel has been working on marketing too, creating an “Imagine the Possibilities” ad that shows little girls picturing themselves in various professions.

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Thousands of sharks arrive at Florida beaches

It’s enough to make one cancel a vacation early: the sight of thousands of sharks swimming about near the beach in Florida. But there’s no need to be alarmed, as it happens every year.

Blacktip sharks swarmed the shallow waters near West Palm Beach, and photos have been circulating on social media from high above looking down on the crystal blue waters swarming with little black dots, according to a report.

This is not unusual. Blacktip sharks typically migrate in large groups to the Florida coast. They’ll start arriving in December and then head back north in April.

It represents a good opportunity to tag the sharks and conduct aerial surveys so scientists can watch any changes in the migration patterns and general population of blacktips, helping us learn more not just about the sharks themselves, but about the ecosystem they populate.

Researchers have found that in the past when the sharks eventually go north, they stop at the Carolinas. But that’s changed lately, with some blacktips reaching as far as Long Island. Scientists think this may be due to climate change.

Also, the blacktips have been arriving later. The sharks hadn’t started arriving in huge numbers until this month, when usually they arrive in mid-January at the latest.

Blacktip sharks subsist on a diet of small fish. They probably go to the beach to keep away from larger sharks that prey on them.

Blacktip sharks have been responsible for a number of attacks on humans, most likely because of the presence of food making them aggressive. The blacktip shark has been declared a near-threatened species by the IUCN because it is caught by fisheries for its meat, skin, fins, and liver oil.


Ronaldo storms out of Real Madrid press conference

If you’re going to come at Christiano Ronaldo, expect some attitude in return. According to a BBC report, the footballer stormed out of a news conference after a reporter asked him about his record in away games so far this season.

Ronaldo has scored 32 goals so far this season, but has failed to put one behind the net in any away matches since November 29. Ronaldo snapped back at the reporter, demanding that he name a player who has scored more goals away from home during his time with Real Madrid. Ronaldo, 31, is the all-time top scorer in the Champions League.

Ronaldo didn’t even wait for an answer from the reporter before he left the news conference. He was appearing before the press ahead of the first run of Real Madrid’s Champions League last-16 tie against Roma on Wednesday.

In addition to being the top scorer in the Champions League, Ronaldo became the first player to score ten goals in the group stage of the competition. So far, Ronaldo has scored eleven goals in away games, but has failed to score any in the last four.

Ronaldo was clearly shaken by the comments, acknowledging peoples’ doubts about his performance as a top athlete while comparing the reporter to a child that cries when he has something taken away. He then sarcastically said that he hoped he could keep up his “bad form” until the season was over and left.

Did the reporter go too far in questioning Ronaldo’s record? He sure thinks so.


Doc Rivers – “We’re not trading Blake Griffin”

LA Clippers forward Blake Griffin will serve a four game suspension plus a fifth game without pay as punishment for a recent incident involving a team staff member, but coach Doc Rivers recently confirmed that Griffin would not be traded to another team, dispelling rumors suggesting otherwise. According to a report from CBS, the Clippers have no intention of getting rid of the All-Star forward.

Griffin recently broke his hand while punching a LA Clippers equipment manager while on the road in Toronto. Rumors that Griffin would be cut from the team following the incident surfaced, but there is currently no evidence that would support this claim.

In a media address on Tuesday, Doc Rivers dispelled the rumors and assured fans that Blake Griffin would not be traded. Griffin also appeared, apologizing to Clippers fans and expressing regret for the altercation with the equipment manager in Toronto.

Matias Testi, the staffer who Griffin knocked, received a personal apology from the forward, who says their relationship was strained but salvageable. Testi and Griffin have been friends for sometime outside of a work setting, and had even been on vacations together in the past.

Speculation about a Griffin trade included rumors that the team may have gone after Kevin Durant this summer, but this doesn’t seem plausible given the extended trade deadline. Griffin will nurse his broken hand and his reputation, and return to the court with the Los Angeles Clippers in the near future.

In what could have proven to be a nightmare for the team, cooler heads prevailed and everyone seems to have moved on.


NFL Commissioner made $34 million in 2014

The NFL just released its tax filing on Tuesday, and some of the league’s expenditures were mind-boggling. Among them was the Commissioner, Roger Goodell’s salary. According to a report from the Washington Post, the commissioner pulled in a staggering $34 million in 2014.

If this seems like a lot, you may be surprised to learn that in 2013 and 2012, when Goodell brought in $35 million and $44.2 million, respectively. These figures include bonuses and deferred pension.

2014 was a tough year for the NFL, which may have contributed to the Commissioner’s slightly lower take-home. There were a number of high-profile misconduct cases involving NFL athletes, which prompted the league to fully revamp their conduct policy. The payments still included a $26.5 million bonus, which was negotiated the year before.

Goodell came under fire for the way he handled these misconduct cases, most notably the case of Ray Rice. Fans and players alike questioned the commissioner’s ability to perform his duties, but 32 team owners stood behind the commissioner, who has held his post for 10 years.

2015 saw fewer scandals than the year before, so it’s likely that Goodell’s pay cut was just a hiccup in the league’s plan for long-term growth.

The NFL brings in a significantly larger amount of money than other professional sports leagues, and the commissioner is the top-paid in his field. The PGA commissioner Tim Finchem made $11.2 million in 2014, the NFL commissioner Gary Bettman’s most recent public earnings totaled $9.6 million, and the NBA commissioner Adam Silver nets about $10 million per year.



Jerod Mayo announces retirement with Instagram post

Patriots star defender Jerod Mayo, a member of the team since 2008, announced that he would retire this Tuesday. According to an NFL report, Mayo played in two Pro Bowls and was awarded 2008 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Mayo was happy to spend his entire career playing for New England, proudly announcing that he is “RETIRING A PATRIOT.”

The move was a bit unexpected, as Mayo is only approaching his 30th birthday next week. Despite his age, Mayo has suffered a laundry list of injuries over the years, including a torn pectoral muscle in 2013, a torn patellar tendon in 2014, and an injured shoulder during his part-time stint in 2015.

Mayo wrote that he was extremely grateful to “Thundercat,” Jonathan, the Kraft family, Coach Belichick, the Pats organization, and all of his fans in his announcement. Mayo was a surprise pick in the tenth round of the 2008 draft, and came onto the field with a bang. A world-class inside linebacker, Bill Belichick’s gamble during the draft certainly paid off.

Despite injuries in 2009, Mayo was back on the field for the first-team All Pro season in 2010. He signed a $25 million contract in 2011, but competed against talent from teammates Devin McCourty, Dont’a Hightower, Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins.

Many expect Mayo to continue his career in football from a position off the field. Hightower said he wouldn’t be surprised if Mayo became the Patriots’ defensive coordinator, but there is no evidence of such a move at this point.


Toe bone of giant vegan bird found in Arctic

The icy cold landscape of Ellesmere Island, located in northern Canada to the west of Greenland, dips to as low as minus 40 degrees today — but 53 million years ago, a giant vegan bird roamed its lush landscape.

A new study has confirmed that the 6-foot-tall flightless bird Gastornis was once a resident of the island after examination of a toe bone found there, which matched that of other Gastornis toe bones found elsewhere, according to a CBS News report.

The study was performed by scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and the University of Colorado-Boulder, and was published in Scientific Reports. The toe bone was actually found back in the 1970s, but it has been confirmed to be the toe bone of a Gastornis, which has also been found in Europe and Asia.

Scientists believe the bird was vegan and have a large beak meant for breaking open tough nuts and fruits.

In addition, the study described another bird found on Ellesmere Island called Presborynis. This bird would have been much smaller and comparable to a duck or a goose, although it had long flamingo-like legs.

Scientists were surprised to find the bones to be so similar to other known specimens of the same species despite being found thousands of miles apart.

Ellesmere Island is a harsh landscape today, but back during the birds’ time it would have been more like Florida. As a result, the study could also shed new light on how the Earth’s landscapes will change as global warming sets in.