Astronomers say they’ve found the biggest structure in the universe and they named it the BOSS

The BOSS is big. Really big. Yuuuuuge.

So big that when a star is born on one side of the BOSS, it takes a billion years for the light to reach the other side.

So big that comparing the BOSS to the next biggest thing like it is like comparing Andre the Giant to your 3-year-old nephew.

What is the BOSS? It’s a wall. A Great Wall. It makes other walls — you know which ones — look like, well, nothing, because the BOSS Great Wall is an immense complex comprising more than 800 galaxies and weighing 10,000 times as much as the Milky Way and other walls are just a measly pile of rocks on an insignificant planet in a remote part of space.

 

Anyway, scientists working for the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey— the international galaxy-mapping effort from which the BOSS gets its truly spectacular acronym — say that the newly discovered cosmic feature is the largest structure in the universe. Or at least, as much of the universe as they’ve mapped so far.

In a study published in the newest issue of the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, the scientists describe the BOSS Great Wall (BGW) as an enormous collection of galaxies more than one billion light-years across.

“It was so much bigger than anything else in this volume,” Heidi Lietzen of the Canary Islands Institute of Astrophysics, a lead author on the study, told the New Scientist.

“Walls” like the BGW are part of the underlying structure of the universe. Most of space is a vast empty void, and all the stuff that astronomers look for — stars, planets, the galaxies they constitute — is threaded through that nothingness. Pulled together by gravity, galaxies coalesce into clusters, which in turn form larger structures called superclusters, as explained by PBS. Those are then corralled into “walls” — the coronary arteries of this giant system of matter, and the biggest things in space.

Researchers for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (the BOSS survey is one of its projects) have been trying to map that web in order to better understand the universe’s history, size and speed of expansion. Using a dedicated telescope located in the remote desert scrubland of Sunspot, N.M., they scan huge swaths of the sky for distant galaxies, brilliant quasars and other celestial objects.

In the process, they’ve found some pretty enormous things. Like the “Sloan Great Wall,” which Lietzen and her co-authors say is the closest system of superclusters comparable to the BGW.

But even that is dwarfed by the Sloan survey’s newest find. The BOSS Great Wall has ten times the volume of the Sloan wall and is almost 70 percent larger in diameter. It comprises four superclusters containing 830 galaxies, and it looms in space some 5 billion light-years away from Earth. (For what it’s worth, the biggest thing in our neck of the woods, the Laniakea supercluster that includes our own Milky Way galaxy, is less than half the size of the BGW.)

“I don’t entirely understand why they are connecting all of these features together to call them a single structure,” Allison Coil, an astrophysicist at the University of California at San Diego, told the New Scientist. “There are clearly kinks and bends in this structure that don’t exist, for example, in the Sloan Great Wall.”

But size isn’t really the point, Smithsonian Magazine noted. The discovery of the BOSS Great Wall is just one part of a larger survey that will — astronomers hope — reveal not just what the universe looks like, but how it’s evolved and how it continues to change.

Which is a very nice sentiment. But the BOSS Great Wall is still biggest. And you know what that makes it.

A winner.

Sarah Kaplan is a reporter for Morning Mix.

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China aims to be first to land probe on moon’s far side

Image result for far side of the moon

BEIJING (AP) — China’s space program says it plans to attempt the first-ever landing of a lunar probe on the moon’s far side.

 

Zou Yongliao from the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ moon exploration department told state broadcaster CCTV on Wednesday that the Chang’e 4 mission is planned for sometime before 2020.

 

Zou said the objective of the mission would be to study geological conditions on the moon’s far side, also known as the dark side. Radio transmissions from Earth are unable to reach the far side, making it an excellent location to place a radio telescope for use by astronomers.

 

China’s next lunar mission is scheduled for 2017, when it will attempt to land an unmanned spaceship on the moon before returning to Earth with samples..

 

Nasa’s Europa Mission take another step toward reality

 

NASA’s current plan for exploring Europa has just passed its first major review, proving that it’s feasible, unlike any of the previous ideas the agency’s scientists cooked up. America’s space agency has been developing mission ideas for Jupiter’s moon for years and even considered sending a lander to the satellite as recently as a year ago. Its scientists also once thought of sending a spacecraft to orbit Europa, but they ended up having to scrap that plan: the moon is bathed in Jupiter’s radiation, which would quickly kill any vessel that’s constantly exposed to it. So, instead of a lander or a Europa orbiter, NASA will send out a spacecraft in the 2020s designed to orbit Jupiter itself.

As the agency revealed in May, that spacecraft will be equipped with nine imaging, radar, magnenometry and spectometry tools to study the moon’s ice crust and the subsurface ocean that’s likely underneath it. The vehicle will fly by Europa 45 times during its mission period, and it will use every chance it gets to know more about the natural satellite. It’ll even be equipped to gather liquid/gas samples, in case the moon really does erupt plumes of water into space. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has been studying the mission formally known as the Clipper concept since 2011, with help from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). Now, that concept is ready to enter development phase, and if all goes well, we’ll finally know if there’s life on Jupiter’s moon.

 

 

 

 

Jupiter’s Watery Moon Europa

NASA is plotting a daring robotic mission to Jupiter’s watery moon Europa, a place where astronomers speculate there might be some form of life.FILE - This Feb. 13, 1979 photo released by NASA's …

The space agency set aside $15 million in its 2015 budget proposal to start planning some kind of mission to Europa. No details have been decided yet, but NASA chief financial officer Elizabeth Robinson said Tuesday that it would be launched in the mid-2020s.

Robinson said the high radiation environment around Jupiter and distance from Earth would be a challenge. When NASA sent Galileo to Jupiter in 1989, it took the spacecraft six years to get to the fifth planet from the sun.

Last year, scientists discovered liquid plumes of water shooting up through Europa’s ice. Flying through those watery jets could make Europa cheaper to explore than just circling it or landing on the ice, said NASA Europa scientist Robert Pappalardo .Past NASA probes have flown by Europa, especially Galileo, but none have concentrated on the moon, one of dozens orbiting Jupiter. Astronomers have long lobbied for a mission to Europa, but proposals would have cost billions of dollars.

NASA will look at many competing ideas for a Europa mission, so the agency doesn’t know how big or how much it will cost, Robinson said. She said a major mission goal would be searching for life in the strange liquid water under the ice-covered surface.

Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb said going to Europa would be more exciting than exploring dry Mars: “There might be fish under the ice.”

___

 

Wanna go live on Mars? Better get in line!

Mars

Wanted: Brave earthlings willing to take a one-way trip to the Red Planet

When: Take-off is scheduled for 2025

Requirements: No Earth-bound emotional connections that might interfere with the move to outer space; an openness to living basically only on water (assuming water is found on Mars) and whatever food scraps can occasionally be delivered from Earth; a willingness to take part in the most spectacular reality-TV show the Universe (as we know it) has ever seen, with cameras hung from balloons high above the planet’s surface, watching your every move.

Where to apply: You can join the 200,000 other prospective space travelers who have already paid fees of as much as $75 per application to the Mars One foundation, the Dutch company which announced this week that it’s moving ahead with contracts to first build an unmanned spacecraft, whose 2018 mission to Mars will be followed a few years by the first group of four Earthlings making the big move out of town.

Waaaaaay out of town.

Forever.

The idea is that the space pioneers would basically colonize Mars, settling in for the long haul since there is currently no launchpad up there to get them back to Earth.

As reported by The Guardian, Mars One “has lined up two major companies to work on a robotic mission to the planet. Slated for launch in 2018, the Mars One mission aims to pave the way for the volunteer crew by testing technology they will need should they reach the red planet in good enough shape to start the first human space colony.”

And the companies Mars One is working with are no slouches in the field of high-altitude extravaganzas:

The US aerospace company, Lockheed Martin, which has worked on scores of NASA missions, has agreed to draw up plans for a lander based on the US space agency’s Phoenix probe that touched down on Mars in 2008.

And CNN reports that  Mars One has a deal in place to put together “a robotic lander and a communications satellite. Lockheed Martin has been contracted to study building the lander, and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. will develop a concept study for the satellite, Mars One said.

This first mission will demonstrate technology that would be involved in a permanent human settlement on Mars. If all goes well — and that’s still very much an “if” — the first pioneers could land on Mars in 2025.

Credit NASA

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