Astronomers discover black hole with 140 trillion times more water than Earth

Two teams of astronomers have discovered the largest and farthest reservoir of water ever detected in the universe. The water, equivalent to 140 trillion times all the water in the world’s ocean, surrounds a huge, feeding black hole, called a quasar, more than 12 billion light-years away.

“The environment around this quasar is very unique in that it’s producing this huge mass of water,” said Matt Bradford, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “It’s another demonstration that water is pervasive throughout the universe, even at the very earliest times.”

A quasar is powered by an enormous black hole that steadily consumes a surrounding disk of gas and dust. As it eats, the quasar spews out huge amounts of energy. Both groups of astronomers studied a particular quasar called APM 08279+5255, which harbors a black hole 20 billion times more massive than the sun and produces as much energy as a thousand trillion suns.

Astronomers expected water vapor to be present even in the early, distant universe, but had not detected it this far away before. There’s water vapor in the Milky Way, although the total amount is 4,000 times less than in the quasar, because most of the Milky Way’s water is frozen in ice.

 

And, the instruments they used:

Bradford’s team made their observations starting in 2008, using an instrument called “Z-Spec” at the California Institute of Technology’s Submillimeter Observatory, a 33-foot (10-meter) telescope near the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Follow-up observations were made with the Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-Wave Astronomy (CARMA), an array of radio dishes in the Inyo Mountains of Southern California.

The second group, led by Dariusz Lis, senior research associate in physics at Caltech and deputy director of the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory, used the Plateau de Bure Interferometer in the French Alps to find water.

 

Source: NASA – Astronomers Find Largest, Most Distant Reservoir of Water

 

 

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Coursera adds 12 more prestigious universities – free online education grows

As we wrote back in April, there’s no doubt that the Internet is revolutionizing education, as more and more companies continue to emerge and alter the way we learn. We’ve kept a close eye on edX, Khan Academy, Academic Earth, P2PU, Skillshare and Codecademy, and rounding out that list is Coursera, one of the youngest of the bunch, which recently raised $16 million to launch with 37 undergraduate and graduate-level courses.

Now, since starting off with the likes of Princeton and Stanford, Coursera is announcing 12 new university partnerships, $3.7M in equity investments from Caltech, Penn and existing investors, and a total of 1.5M student users from 190 different countries.

More specifically, here’s a list of the company’s 12 new partnering universities, following Coursera’s original four launch partners (Stanford, Princeton, University of Michigan and University of Pennsylvania):

  • Georgia Tech
  • Duke University
  • University of Washington
  • Caltech
  • Rice University
  • University of Edinburgh
  • University of Toronto
  • EPFL – Lausanne (Switzerland)
  • Johns Hopkins University (School of Public Health)
  • UCSF
  • University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • University of Virginia

 

If you’re interested, these courses are free and here’s a list of all the new classes available:

The Next Web – Education startup Coursera partners with 12 new universities, raises $3.7M and hits 1.6M enrollments

 

 

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Science fiction is now science fact – spacecraft Curiosity on its way to Mars

A signal from NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft, including the new Curiosity rover, was received by officials on the ground shortly after spacecraft separation. The spacecraft is flying free and headed for Mars.

The journey will take eight months before its innovative and futuristic landing on Mars.

“Our spacecraft is in excellent health and it’s on its way to Mars,” said Pete Theisinger, Mars Science Laboratory Project Manager from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. He thanked the launch team, United Launch Alliance, NASA’s Launch Services Program and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center for their help getting MSL into space.

Interesting that the brainpower behind NASA resides in Virginia, California, and Florida.

John Grotzinger of CalTech: “I think this mission will be a great one. It is an important next step in NASA’s overall goal to address the issue of life in the universe.”

Doug McCuisition, director of the program: “Science fiction is now science fact.”

Takeoff
Leaving the planet.