When drilling a deep lead and silver mine in Naico, Mexico, drillers accidentally drilled into a cavern. What they found was simply extraordinary.

Watch this incredible documentary by National Geographic.

These enormous crystals are extraordinary and extremely rare, growing underwater under unique conditions.  Draining the caves provided researchers a brief and rare opportunity to sample and analyze the hostile environment for signs of life. Millions of viruses where discoverd in the water at the base of these caves.

What an awesome documentary by National Geographic.

As usual, National Geographic does it best.

Al Maddalena

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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 en.wikipedia.org)

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 imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov)

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 spacedaily.com)

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 www.universetoday.com).Most 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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