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Since ancient times, astronomers have looked up at the night sky and seen the Andromeda galaxy. As the closest galaxy to our own, scientists have been able to observe and scrutinize this giant spiral galaxy for millennia. By the 20th century, astronomers realized that Andromeda was the Milky Way’s sister galaxy and was moving towards us. 

In 4.5 billion years, it will even merge with our own to form a supergalaxy. However, it seems astronomers were wrong about the Andromeda galaxy in one major respect. According to recent study led by a team of French and Chinese astronomers, this giant spiral galaxy formed from a major merger that occurred less than 3 billion years ago. This means that Andromeda, as we know it today, is effectively younger than our very own Solar System, which has it beat by about 1.5 billion years!

The study, titled “A 2-3 billion year old major merger paradigm for the Andromeda galaxy and its outskirts“, recently appeared in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Led by Francois Hammer, the Principle Investigator of the Galaxies, Etoiles, Physique et Instrumentation (GEPI) department at the Paris Observatory, the team included members from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the University of Strasbourg.

For the sake of their study, the relied on data gathered by recent surveys that noted considerable differences between the Andromeda and Milky Way galaxies. The first of these studies, which took place between 2006 and 2014, demonstrated all Andromeda has a wealth of young blue stars in its disk (less than 2 billion years old) that undergo random motions over large scales. This is contrast to the stars in the Milky Way’s disk, which are subject only to simple rotation.

In addition, deep observations conducted between 2008 and 2014 with the French-Canadian telescope in the Hawaiian Islands (CFHT) indicated some interesting things about Andromeda’s halo. This vast region, which is 10 times the size of the galaxy itself, is populated by gigantic currents of stars. The most prominent of which is called the “Giant Stream”, a warped disk that has shells and clumps at its very edges.

Using this data, the French-Chinese collaboration then created a detailed numerical model of Andromeda using the two most powerful computers available in France – the Paris Observatory’s MesoPSL and the National Center for Scientific Research’s (CNRS) IDRIS-GENCI supercomputer. With the resulting numerical model, the team was able to demonstrate that these recent observations could be explained only by a recent collision.

Basically, they concluded that between 7 and 10 billion years ago, Andromeda consisted of  two galaxies that had slowly achieved a encountering orbit. After optimizing the trajectories of both galaxies, they determined that they would have collided 1.8 to 3 billion years ago. This collision is what gave birth to Andromeda as we know it today, which effectively makes it younger than our Solar System – which formed almost 4.6 billion years ago.

What’s more, they were able to calculate mass distributions for both parent galaxies that merged to formed Andromeda, which indicated that the larger galaxy was four times the size of the smaller. But most importantly, the team was able to reproduce in detail all the structures that compose Andromeda today – including the bulge, the bar, the huge disk, and the presence of young stars.

The presence of young blue stars in its disk, which has remained unexplained until now, is attributable to a period of intense star formation that took place after the collision. In addition, structures like the “Giant Stream” and the shells of the halo belonged to the smaller parent galaxy, whereas the diffuse clumps and the warped nature of the halo were derived from the larger one.

Their study also explains why the features attributed to the smaller galaxy have an under-abundance in heavy elements compared to the others – i.e. it was less massive so it formed fewer heavy elements and stars. This study is immensely significant when it comes to galactic formation and evolution, mainly because it is the first numerical simulation that has succeeded in reproducing a galaxy in such detail.

It is also of significance given that such a recent impact it could have left materials in the Local Group. In other words, this study could have implications that range far beyond our galactic neighborhood. It is also a good example of how increasingly sophisticated instruments are leading to more detailed observations which, when combined with increasingly sophisticated computers and algorithms, are leading to more detailed models.

One can only wonder if future extra-terrestrial intelligence (ETI) will draw similar conclusions about our own galaxy once it merges with Andromeda, billions of years from now. The collision and resulting features are sure to be of interest to anyone advanced species that’s around to study it!

If science fiction’s to be believed, humans are going to absolutely freak out when we first encounter extraterrestrials — we’re talking pandemonium, nothing short of out-and-out hysteria. From Independence Day to Alien, your average human in a movie doesn’t take well to meeting our newly-discovered alien neighbors, who, to be fair, are usually threatening the widespread elimination of humans in some way.
But if you talk to the average person, you might get a different picture of what a reaction to first contact might look like. Most people aren’t so alarmed. In fact, they’re pretty optimistic about what meeting aliens might mean. Most of us are like the kids in E.T., rather than the terrified adults: A reaction that’s less reflexive hostility, more peaceful curiosity.
A new study suggests that, in the event of an extraterrestrial encounter, the rioting and looting would be kept to a minimum — humans would actually react pretty positively to the news.

Michael Varnum, assistant professor of psychology at Arizona State University, took several different approaches in his study, which he presented during a press briefing at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Austin, Texas.
For the first part, he and his team used a computer program to analyze the language used in news articles about discoveries that indicated the possibility of alien life. The program focused on the emotional timbre of the articles and found that the media coverage was generally positive. The researchers also made a (hypothetical) announcement that humans had detected extraterrestrial microbial life, and asked more than 500 people to offer their written responses. Again, the language the authors used was largely positive.

As for something that feels a bit more real? In the final part of the study, the researchers asked 500 people to respond to one of two articles in the New York Times about real scientific discoveries: evidence of microbial life on a Martian meteorite and the creation of synthetic life in a lab. 

Interestingly, participants reacted more positively to the possibility of alien life than the human capacity to create life. “[T]aken together, this suggests if we find out we’re not alone, we’ll take the news rather well,” said Varnum in a press release.

Varnum’s studies, it should be noted, only took American perspectives into account. First contact would affect the entire human population (and probably some other types of organisms, too), and different cultures might respond to the news very differently.

Plus, it’s easy to be optimistic about something that you know hasn’t happened. Many of us are simply rosy about going to the gym, but hate it once we’re actually there (or, conversely, we hate the idea of going to the gym, but love it once we’re actually exercising). After all, we are humans, and we do tend to do a great job of tricking ourselves into looking forward to things.

If scientists have their way, the question of whether extraterrestrials exist won’t be hypothetical for long — increasingly sophisticated technology will help us detect aliens, if in fact they’re out there. Playing out possible scenarios and getting a sense for how humanity would react to such a discovery could help governments come up with better-informed policies for how to handle first contact, when and if it arises.

Ultimately, we can at least hope that humans would have an upbeat reaction to the discovery of alien life. We can test the waters, make policies, or play out different scenarios in the fictional space all we like.

But the best way to figure out how humans will react to extraterrestrials? Find the aliens. Then we’ll really get to see if humans are as upbeat as researchers predict.

The Tesla Roadster that was recently shot into space as part of SpaceX's rocket test flight will likely collide with Earth or Venus eventually, according to new University of Toronto research. "It will likely end up colliding with Earth or Venus, but there's no need to panic since the probability of that happening even within the next million years is very small," says the research's author Hanno Rein, an assistant professor of physics at U of T Scarborough and director of the Centre for Planetary Sciences.

The car was sent into space as part of the payload for SpaceX's Falcon Heavy test flight on Feb. 6. While rocket test flights usually have a dummy payload, SpaceX founder Elon Musk sent up his personal Tesla Roadster instead.

Though it's mostly a publicity stunt – the car doesn't have any scientific instruments on board – it's now classified as a near-earth object, meaning it is catalogued and being tracked by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory along with other objects that will travel relatively close to Earth.

What motivated Rein and his team was the question of what will be the car's long-term fate. After running a series of simulations using sophisticated software that can track the motion of objects in space, they determined the probability of it colliding with Earth and Venus over the next one million years to be six per cent and 2.5 per cent, respectively.

They also determined that the first close encounter the Tesla will have with us will be in 2091, when it will pass within a few hundred thousand kilometres of Earth.

The car is currently on a Mars and Earth crossing orbit, meaning it will travel on an elliptical path that repeatedly carries it beyond Mars and then back to Earth's orbital distance from the sun. How the car's orbit evolves over time will depend a lot on its encounters with Earth, especially how close it will get to Earth since any small change in its trajectory could have a large effect on its orbit.

While the path of the Tesla can be accurately predicted in terms of years, after hundreds of years and many close encounters with Earth it becomes impossible to predict the object's precise orbit.

By studying a large number of orbital simulations, however, the researchers were able to arrive at a statistical distribution of possible outcomes.

"Each time it passes Earth, the car will get a gravitational kick," says Dan Tamayo, a postdoctoral fellow at U of T Scarborough who is a co-author on the paper that has yet to be published. "Depending on the details of these encounters, the Tesla can be kicked onto a wider or smaller orbit, so it's random. Over time the orbit will undergo what's called a random walk, similar to the fluctuations we see in the stock market, that will allow it to wander the inner solar system."

While they only ran simulations for the first three million years of its space journey, Rein says the most likely outcome for the Tesla is for it to crash into Earth or Venus in the next 10 million years or so.

"Although we are not able to tell on which planet the car will ultimately end up, we're comfortable saying it won't survive in space for more than a few tens of millions of years," he says.

While the car's likely final destination is Earth, they note there's nothing to fear since much or all of it will likely burn up in the atmosphere.

A preprint of the paper is available online.

Astrophysicist, cosmologist and Nobel Prize winner George Smoot explains the cosmic microwave background radiation — the afterglow of the Big Bang. His ground-breaking study into deep space and time is revealing the structure of the cosmos itself. He has also made a role entrance (as himself) in an episode of the 'Big Bang Theory.' Below in the video he tries to explain why and how you are a Simulation & Physics Can Prove It :

Much of the preceding foray into the counterculture and its reflections on the evolution of mind, human biocomputers, and the neurological revolution easily glides into one of the more hotly contested debates in contemporary physics, that of “simulation theory.”

It is certainly the case, as Foucault’s archaeological examination of epistemological formations have shown, that any self-proclaimed “objective” science operates within the enclosures of imagination at a given time and space within civilizational history provides.

Descartes’ dualistic separation of the mind and body went hand in hand with the collective social unconscious of an emergent capitalism, which, as both Silvia Federici and Georges Canguilhem have argued, needed to separate souls from the flesh in order to employ a disposable workforce and recalibrate space-time to the demands of production, resulting in a “bare life” of human automatons. 

Concordantly, that today’s physics is charting out territories of inquiry for examining the emergence of consciousness, that it is informed by the language of virtual reality to articulate theories of simulation and holography—all of this demonstrates the ways in which “science” is always, to use a term proposed by science historian John Tresch, a cosmogrammatical apparatus.

That is, science captures the world-making forces within which it finds itself originally located, whilst simultaneously recodifying these worldings into an order that aspires to “objectively” describe a world, a kind of cosmological thermometer that displays the sensibilities of an age.

This lighthearted presentation by astrophysicist and Nobel Prize recipient George Smoot gives an interesting layman’s overview of simulation theory and the “holographic universe” as it has been put forth in quantum physics.

Though Smoot jokes throughout the talk that perhaps the majority of humans are simulations, “philosophical zombies” that only pretend to feel pain and pleasure, with only a few of us actually being “real,” this backhanded humor results in a sinister undertone of dire interpretative possibilities.

From the commodification of the “imagination,” the materialization of mind (as in the more recent proposition of “perceptronium” as an elementary particle), and the eventual trademarking and privatization of consciousness itself as a good or a service, simulation theory is not only a trendy conversation piece from popular physics, its speculative interest lies in the avenues it opens up for developments in informatics and communication commerce.

Indeed, Smoot draws our attention to one Google expert who stated that by 2045, humans will be uploading entire minds to computers. 

Naturally, if one has scanned someone’s mind, a logical step would be to create an environment for the scan to live in, thus necessitating a whole market for artificial reality design and post-human transformations via technological disembodiment.

Seen from a biopolitical point of view, if one pushes the argumentation of simulation theory so far as to deny the “reality” of other humans, suggesting they are mere avatars whose affective expressions are simply the result of complex programming, then how far are we from eradicating any ethical difference between the boundaries separating life and death, between taking life and giving life?

If early capitalism ensnared the body beyond its “natural” tendencies towards an exhaustion of physical labor, will advanced capitalism annihilate the body altogether, in favor of a hyper-simulated consciousness, freed from the spatiotemporal limitations of the organism?

NASA's ground-breaking voyager 2 probe is more than 3 decades into its epic journey towards unknown deep space. On April 22nd, 2010 just as the spacecraft prepares to cross the boundary to enter into interstellar space, it suddenly malfunctions without any warning. As NASA’s planetary scientist, Kevin Baines said:

“Just about 10 billion miles away from the Earth and all of the sudden it starts sending data in the language we don’t understand. It can be called as an alien language”

Someone or something had altered Voyager 2’s communication system. Kevin continued:

“Checking the systems with another data link that they have, they (Voyager 2 team) can tell nothing else is wrong on the spacecraft. It’s just one system”

Later results revealed that a single digit in the binary code of command system on Voyager 2; ‘0’ was flipped to a ‘1’. Flipping of one bit of data suggest that some unknown party intentionally interfered with Voyager 2’s on-board computers.

Binary bit flipping is trick used by several hackers. Bit flipping can actually shut down a computer or even corrupt data. Investigators started to look for the source of possible hack and they first looked at Earth. But as the distance is involved so this makes it highly unlikely.

As we all know that Voyager 2 is carrying a message by humanity into space. The message encoded abroad Voyager 2 is for intelligent civilizations it may encounter in future. So could bit flipping be a response to our message?

Some researchers say that bit flipping could be an obvious response by Aliens. After 3 weeks of this anomaly researcher were successful in restoring the communication system. But who or what caused the anomaly is still a question. The exact cause of bit flipping still stays unknown.

Could it be Aliens?

In absolutely serious (pun intended) breaking news, here's some of the valid proof offered as presented by 'Flat Earthers' explaining why we must overlook the facts, leave genuine science, and avoid those awful, awful liars at NASA and other space agencies. Bear in mind, these are just some of their reasons.

If you're searching for an real challenge to hard science, from the fact that different points on the planet experience day and night at the same time, or the Coriolis effect, to the round shadow of Earth on the Moon, well you've come to the wrong place. Funnily enough, these guys have neglected to explain these things.

Neil Degrasse Tyson blames schools for this. The whole education system too. Tyson said this in a tweet, which had more than 72,000 retweets and more than 188,000 “likes”. Tyson was expressing alarm at “flat-Earthers,”.

Flat-Earthers believe NASA is part of a broad conspiracy to fake the evidence of a spherical Earth, and there are societies of people, such as this Flat Earth Society, that produce materials “proving” the conspiracy. Watch the video below for Flat  Earther’s evidence.

Have you seen any other fun theories recently? Let us know!  

A new research has pinpointed a nursery of young stars some 2.4 billion light years away as the cause of strange fast radio bursts detected on Earth. These fast radio bursts - which each lived just a few milliseconds - come from thick neutron stars just 20 kilometers (12 miles) in size in the constellation Auriga.

Originally researchers were puzzled where these bizarre bursts of energy were originating from with some guessing it could be a sign of alien life trying to make contact.

Scientists now consider the young stars are 6,200 light years from the center of the small galaxy called FRB 121102.

Scientists from the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy in Dwingeloo have used the Hubble Space Telescope to sobserve the small galaxy in detail never seen before.

Astronomer Shriharsh Tendulkar of McGill University in Montreal told New Scientist. 'The Hubble observations allow us to get a very sharp image. There is a very bright spot of star formation, and this FRB [fast radio burst] lies bang inside it.'

Astronomers consider the nursery of stars lies on the brink of the galaxy, which has a diameter of around 20,000 light years.

The massive nursery is itself 4,400 light years across, astronomers believe.

They think these FRBs are triggered by flares from the dense core of a young neutron star left behind when the mother star explodes.

In their paper, issued in The Astrophysical Journal, the astronomers, led by Paul Scholz, wrote: 'We have detected six additional radio bursts from this source: five with the Green Bank Telescope at 2 GHz, and one at 1.4 GHz with the Arecibo Observatory, for a total of 17 bursts from this source.'

The previous 11 FRB’s are also believed to be coming from the same location in the small FRB 121102 galaxy.

Some researchers still believe that this repetitions could be something else probably aliens or something way beyond our understanding.

If there are any intelligent alien life forms out there, Stephen Hawking thinks we're playing a dangerous game by trying to contact them. 

There are many breath-taking NASA-provided "Blue Marble" images of Earth, but recently we experienced a different perception thanks to pictures taken by the Elektro-L No.1 Russian weather satellite. This perspective is quite different from NASA's pictures, Elektro-L No.1 Russian weather satellite generated 121-megapixel images that seize spectacular view of Earth.

It captured the spectacular view of Earth in one shot instead of a collection of images from numerous flybys stitched together. The outcome is the highest-resolution solitary portrait of Earth yet.

Russia Elektro-L No.1 Earth image

The image definitely appears different than what we're used to seeing, and the reason behind this is the sensor added to the weather satellite chains data from three observable and one infrared wavelengths of light, a technique that turns vegetation into the rust color that overlooks the shot.

The satellite took images from a single point over 35,000 kilometers over the Indian Ocean every 30 minutes, which was then combined to create videos by educator James Drake  to show a day in the life of the planet. He used 350 full-resolution images taken from the Russian Research Center for Earth Operative Monitoring.

Watch more of this amazing picture in the video below:

There are sections in Pluto where enormous ice structures occur. Researchers finally consider they know how they are made.

Researchers have cracked one of Pluto's most puzzling mysteries. In 2105, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft flew by Pluto. What it witness near Pluto's equator has puzzled researchers ever since: Huge spikes of methane ice that stand as high as a NYC skyscraper.

"We asked ourselves why it forms all of those ridges as opposed to just being big blobs of ice on the ground."

-Jeffrey Moore, NASA Ames Research Center

The answer discloses that Pluto's weather is more active than previously thought.

Minor types of these icy forests exist on Earth. The structures are called penitentes. They form near Earth's equator on top of tall mountains. Up there, circumstances are right to turn snow straight to water vapor. This procedure — called sublimation — generates hard, sharp spikes of snow.

NASA researchers believe the similar procedure happens on Pluto. But this could only be possible if Pluto had been warmer in the past. Otherwise, the methane ice couldn't sublimate away. Researchers say this is evidence of Pluto's composite climate.

The planet marginally cools, warms, and cools again over millions of years.

Turns out, Pluto isn't just a ball of ice after all. You can read the whole research here.

NASA has got some very high quality photos of the fifth planet from sun, Jupiter. As NASA's Juno probe just passed closer to Jupiter than any human-made craft ever. It looks pretty huge in the photos. It’s 2.5 times the mass of all other planets in the solar system combined and it's so huge, in fact, that it doesn't actually orbit the sun. Actually, it's big enough that the center of gravity between Jupiter and the sun doesn't actually reside inside the sun rather, at a point in space just above the sun's surface.

As Earth orbiting the much-larger sun and we are very much familiar with this situation. The center of gravity resides so close to the center of the larger object that the impact of this phenomenon is negligible. The bigger object doesn't really move and the smaller one starts orbiting around it.

But when a small object orbits a big object in space, the less massive one doesn't really travel in a perfect circle around the larger one. In fact, both objects orbit a combined center of gravity.

To elaborate this situation more clearly we’ll take the example of ISS. When the International Space Station (ISS) orbits the Earth, both the Earth and the space station orbit around their combined center of gravity.

But that center of gravity is so ridiculously close to the center of the Earth that the planet's motion around the point is impossible to spot, and the ISS made a near-perfect circle around the whole planet. Same thing happens when most of the planets orbit the sun.

Both the sun and the Jupiter orbit around a specific point. The gas giant is so big that its center of mass with the sun, actually lies 7% of a sun-radius above the sun's surface.

If we just see the sizes of both, Jupiter is still only a fraction of the sun's size. That is, in essence, how Jupiter and the sun move through space together.

But this is an interesting thing to say that Jupiter is so massive, it doesn't orbit the sun.

Richard Feynman was a Nobel Prize-winning American physicist, particularly known for his contributions to quantum physics, quantum electrodynamics and particle physics, as well as quantum computing and nanotechnology. During his lifetime, he was one of the best-known scientists in the world, and was a great popularizer of physics through his books and lectures. 

He was also regarded as something of an eccentric and free spirit, and brought a wicked sense of humour to his work, as exemplified by his well-known quote “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics”.

The well-known Nobel Prize winning physicist, Richard Feynman, is enquired how magnets work. As an answer, you might assume him to maybe talk about the magnetic field or Maxwell’s equations … but nope … instead what he does is to disclose something pretty remarkable that cuts straight to the heart of what is being asked and how significant any answer might or might not be … for a “why” question. Why would he be asked this exact question? Well essentially because he won the Nobel Prize for coming up with the current mathematical explanation of the electromagnetic force, and this has turn out to be one of the most precise models in the history of physics, agreeing with all acknowledged experiments to an unbelievable degree of correctness. The following 7 minute video clip has been watched over one million times …

When someone mentions "different dimensions," we tend to think of things like parallel universes – alternate realities that exist parallel to our own, but where things work or happened differently. However, the reality of dimensions and how they play a role in the ordering of our Universe is really quite different from this popular characterization.

To break it down, dimensions are simply the different facets of what we perceive to be reality. We are immediately aware of the three dimensions that surround us on a daily basis – those that define the length, width, and depth of all objects in our universes (the x, y, and z axes, respectively).

Beyond these three visible dimensions, scientists believe that there may be many more. In fact, the theoretical framework of Superstring Theory posits that the universe exists in ten different dimensions. These different aspects are what govern the universe, the fundamental forces of nature, and all the elementary particles contained within.

Did you know that the universe has 10 dimensions? That's the recent leading model amongst the big-brain set. But, the main question is, what do they look like? Well, this amazing video might be able to help.

Stephen Hawking may be the most famed for his work on black holes and gravitational singularities, but the Prof. Stephen Hawking has also turn out to be known for his straightforward ideas about things that could put an end to human civilization. Hawking suffers from a motor neuron disease related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, which left him paralyzed for several years now and unable to speak without specific a voice synthesizer. But that still hasn't stopped the University of Cambridge professor from making announcements about the extensive range of dangers humanity faces — counting ourselves. Here are a three things Hawking has said might bring about the end of human civilization as we know it.

Credit: Flickr/NASA HQ PHOTO.
Artificial intelligence(AI)

Hawking is part of a small but rising group of researchers who have stated concerns about "strong" artificial intelligence (AI) — intelligence that could compete or surpass that of a human. Here is what Hawking told the BBC in December 2014 “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race,". The statement was in a reply to a query about a new AI voice-synthesizing system that Hawking has been using at the moment. Hawking's warnings echo those of well-known billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and also Tesla Motors, who has entitled AI humanity's "major existential threat." Just Last month, Hawking, Musk and lots of other scientific bigwigs signed an open letter unfolding the dangers, along with the benefits, of AI.

Here is what they mentioned in the letter "Because of the great potential of AI, it is important to research how to reap its benefits while avoiding potential pitfalls," The letter was issued online on Jan. 11 by the Future of Life Institute, a volunteer society that targets to alleviate existential dangers to humanity. But several AI researchers say humanity is nowhere close of being able to produce strong AI.

Human aggression

Hawking also considers that human aggression might put an end to civilization. He said this while giving a tour of the London Science Museum to Adaeze Uyanwah, a 24-year-old teacher from California who won a competition from When Uyanwah asked Hawking, "What human shortcomings would you most like to alter?" Hawking replied: "The human failing I would most like to correct is aggression. It may have had survival advantage in caveman days, to get more food, territory or partner with whom to reproduce, but now it threatens to destroy us all," The Independent stated. For instance , a major nuclear war would possibly end civilization, and might wipe out the human race, Hawking added. When questioned which human quality he would most like to magnify, Hawking selected empathy, because "it brings us together in a peaceful, loving state."

Hawking also mentioned tha space exploration will be significant to guaranteeing the survival of humanity. Cambridge News reported "I believe that the long-term future of the human race must be space, and that it represents an important life insurance for our future survival, as it could prevent the disappearance of humanity by colonizing other planets,"

Alien life

Back in 2010, Hawking said that, if intelligent alien life exists in the cosmos, it may not be that welcoming toward humans. Hawking in an episode of "Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking," a show presented by the Discovery Channel, said "If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn't turn out very well for the Native Americans," Advanced alien civilizations might become travelers, considering to defeat and colonize whatever planets they might land on, Hawking also said. "If so, it makes sense for them to exploit each new planet for material to build more spaceships so they could move on. Who knows what the limits would be?"

From the threat of Artifical Intelligence (AI), to intelligent aliens, to aggressive humans, Hawking's point of view for humanity is looking quite ugly.

A massive solar storm is making its way towards Earth, and it's likely to hit today. The storm was created by a solar flare - a large explosion in the sun's atmosphere - which generated charged particles earlier this week. The charged particles from the sun are moving towards Earth, and they could disrupt power grids, spacecraft and satellite operations.

 The solar particles are expected to hit Earth either today or tomorrow, and they will also likely trigger auroras for people living in higher latitudes.  'Aurora may be visible at high latitudes,' the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wrote in a statement.  This may include the 'northern tier' of the US, with affected states including parts of Michigan and Maine.

The NOAA says that the forecast suggests the solar storm will be a G-1 or 'minor' storm, which could become a G-2 'moderate storm' depending on how the charged particles hit Earth.  Geomagnetic storms are ranked on a severity scale, with G at the bottom, R in the middle and S at the top.

The particles, which came from the sun after a solar flare took place on February 12, could cause 'weak power grid fluctuations' and a 'minor impact on satellite operations,' according to the NOAA.

NASA and the NOAA keep a track of solar events using many different telescopes which help generate geomagnetic weather forecasts.

Researchers also study the sun to learn more about its structure as well as obtain data to make predictions about different types of solar events, such as solar flares and Coronal Mass Ejections, which are large clouds of plasma and magnetic field that erupt from the sun. Solar flares and particles ejected via coronal mass jections are associated with dark spots on the sun's surface.

These are areas of intense magnetic activity, and when the magnetic fields in a sunspot cross each other, it can result in an energy explosion, known as a solar flare, which sends radiation into space. Solar flares only impact Earth when they occur on the side of the sun facing the Earth. 

Sometimes, these massive explosions can eventually send out coronal mass ejections - large clouds of plasma and magnetic field that erupt from the sun. These massive clouds can erupt in any direction, and then continue on in that direction, plowing through solar wind, but they only cause impacts to Earth when they're aimed at Earth.

Forecasters monitor these events, and when a storm looks likely to have a significant impact, engineers can shut down certain systems on satellites, or prepare for impacts on the power grid. The sun has an 11-year cycle of sunspot activity, with the last maximum having taken place in April 2014.

This summer, NASA is set to launch a spacecraft called Parker Solar Probe, which will travel closer to the sun than any other previous mission. 

It will fly by Venus and travel into the corona - the sun's upper atmosphere, with the aim of learning more about the particles that are ejected by the sun.

Via Dailymail 

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