Europa is Jupiter's 6th closest moon and is the 6th largest moon in our solar system. It is considered relatively young at only 600 million years old.

It has a thick surface of ice that is about 15 miles thick. The ice is constantly being flexed by Jupiter's intense gravitational pull creating huge, deep cracks in the surface ice.  Jupiter's flexing pull influence creates the necessary heat that is the reason why it is suspected at having an enourmous ocean of water beneath this surface of ice. 

Europa's ocean is suspected to be considerably larger than all of oceans on planet Earth.

Europa also a moon that (unusually) has an atmosphere composed of oxygen, likely because it was created like a planet orbiting a potential sun, which Jupiter almost became.

This is why Europa is considered the best place to look for life within our solar system.

Al Maddalena

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Check out the future of smart phone batteries. (This image is courtesy of National Geographic Magazine, July 2014). It is a mini-turbine that could be the next possible method to power smart phones. It is compared next to an ant and the actual size is shown in the bottom left hand corner.

This is just another example of amazing advances in technology.

Al Maddalena

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(image of Kepler's Supernova Remnant above is compliments of

When a large star reaches the end of it's life it explodes in what is called a Supernova. This immense explosion causes the star to become brighter than an entire galaxy for a short period of time when viewing the star through a telescope.

But why does the star explode when it runs out of fuel? What causes the immense explosion that releases such incredible energy that it can be seen millons of light years away?

It all starts with nuclear fusion, the basic process that begins when large volumes gas come together and are compressed combining lighter atoms into heavier ones. Each time fusion occurs large amounts of energy are released in the form of heat and light. 

A young star fuses hydrogen into helium. Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe and most stars have so much hydrogen, that they spend most of their lives performing this form of nuclear fusion.  Our Sun has spent half of its lifetime (5 billion years) so far in this stage. It is estimated that our Sun will continue to fuse hydrogen to helium for another 5 billion years before reaching the end of its hydrogen fuel.

However when most of the hydrogen has run out, the star begins fusing other heavier elements. It starts to fuse helium into carbon releasing energy in the process of fusion. (By the way, energy released through fusion is several times greater than the energy released through nuclear fission-splitting the atom).

When most of the helium is used up, the star begins to fuse carbon into oxygen. When most of the carbon is used up, the star begins fusing oxygen into neon, then into magnesium, then into silicon. When most of these elements are fused, the star begins fusing silicon into iron and this is where the process of nuclear fusion stops. 

When a star develops a solid iron core, it has left-over layers of remnant elements that it has fused. Below is a cross-section of what an old star might look like just before it dies. You can see the layers of elements (some still burning) around the central iron core.

 (image compliments of

Eventually, the amount of fusion taking place becomes insufficient to counteract the immense gravity of the star, and the iron core implodes, together with all the outer layers of lighter elements.  When layers of lighter elements implode toward the central core, they essentially bounce off the core, sending out an immense shock wave explosion. The blast is a supernova explosion that drives off all the lighter elements into the universe.

The above process describes a Type II Supernova, involving hydrogen and an imploding star.

(above is the Crab Nebula viewed from the Hubble Space telescope-This is a remnant of a Supernova 1st detected by Chinese astronomers in the year 1054)-(image compliments of NASA and STScI) 

What happens next depends on the size of the original star.  In a star about 3 times the size of our sun, implosion of the iron core fuses protons and electrons creating a core composed almost entirely of neutrons, a neutron star, the densest objects in the Universe. Supernovas of stars that are 3-10 times the size of our Sun can create massive singularities of gravity called Black Holes.  Supernovas of stars that are greater than 10 times the size of our Sun can create such immense singularities of gravity (Super Massive Black Holes) that entire galaxies revolve around them.

Here is a good overall video on supernovas. 

So you see, supernova explosions are essentially result in the transformation of a dying star into another form and disperse elements into the universe to be collected again to form other stars and even planets.

Isn't our universe amazing!

Al Maddalena

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When a star about 1- 3 times the size of our Sun reaches the end of its life, it has the mass large enough that it explodes in a super nova, blowing off the lighter elements and the atoms of heavier elements remain behind. (The above picture is from

The remaining mass of heavy atoms is under such huge gravitational force that the protons and electrons "melt" or fuse together. The protons are positive and the electrons are negative, so when they combine, they create neutrally charged particles, neutrons.

Accumulation of a huge amount of neutrons can actually stabilize and prevent further collapse under gravity, assuming its mass was not greater than about 3 solar masses. (If a star has more than 3 solar masses, it has sufficient mass to go beyond a neutron str and collapses to form a black hole. When a Star is not quite large enough to create a black hole, (less than 3 solar masses) the neutron Star is born. 

(The above picture is from neutron stars are only about 10-12 miles in diameter however, it is estimated that neutron stars are so dense that a teaspoon of neutron star matter, can weigh 100,000,000 tons! (yes, that is not a mistake. It is 100 Million Tons).

In addition, neutron stars spin incredibly fast because of their immense mass and conservation of angular momentum. Some Neutron Stars actually send out radio waves! We measure them on Earth and the signal can be turned on if the star is tilted torward Earth or off iff the Star is tilted away from Earth....very cool. 

Can you believe the Universe contains such amazing things?

It is the Universe,as usual, that never dissappoints.

Al Maddalena

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According to Einstein, massive objects have imense gravity that actuall warp space and time.  If you consider our Earth, which is a massive object in space, its gravity is not a "force that acts to pull on objects" but rather, it actually warps the surrounding space and time. The moon actually orbits the earth because it is following the curvature of space around the Earth created by the Earth's warping of space. Watch the video below that explains this phenomenon.

So the massive Earth affects its surrounding space to such an extent that smaller objects can get caught within the warping of space and continue to orbit. Here is a diagram of the Earth warping space-time with an orbiting satellite following the curvature of space created by the Earth.

In the diagram above, the curvature of space-time created by the Earth is represented by the blue lines creating sort of a "distorted web".

Now consider, a larger object such as our Sun which is thousands of times larger than our Earth. The Sun's gravity is thousands of times larger than the Earth's so its radius of influence is larger, which means the distance that it warps space and time is thousands of times larger than the Earth's. That is why so many planets orbit the Sun.

In the image above, you can see the warping of space associated with the Earth and a much larger warping of space caused by the Sun, in which the Earth is caught.  Therefore the Earth continues to orbit the Sun, following the space warped by the Sun's gravity.

Now consider even larger objects. We know there are stars many thousands of times larger than our Sun. Therefore, their gravity is many thousands of times stronger and they warp space-time much more, and their influence extends many thousands, if not millions of times greater than our Sun.

Let us extend this idea to center of a galaxy, where all calculations indicate there is a massive distortion of space-time. An area of space where gravity is so intense, that nothing can escape it, not even light. Here there is a "singularity" where gravity is so immense, that it exerts a massive distortion of space.  Below is an image of a singularity that depicts this massive distortion of space shown by the extreme, sharp "cone" structure.

Now imagine the extreme influence and warping of space created by a black hole, which distorts space so much that it is orbited by an entire galaxy thousands of light-years in diameter. Such is the power and strength of gravity exerted by a super massive black hole at the center of each galaxy! 

In summary, here is a diagram that depicts the progressive warping of space caused by progressively larger objects that have progressively larger gravity. 

The ultimate object, is of course a singularity or black hole, the largest of which, are supper massive black holes at the center of every galaxy.

How cool is that.

Al Maddalena

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