Saturday, December 6, 2014

Analysis of Higg's Boson Decay Now Shows no Suggestion of Additional Particles (Still no particles that explain dark matter).

Update on the blog post of Friday, January 11, 2013

Shortly after the discovery of the Higgs Boson two years ago, physicists suspected that a new particle lurked in the data (new particles such as this could lead to an explanation for dark matter).

The Higgs Boson is unstable and rapidly decays into other particles. It does so through several different "channels", one  is the gamma gamma channel where the Higgs Boson decays into two gamma particles. This decay cannot occur in one step, it must occur through intermediate particles. The percentage of decays that goes through each decay is called the yield. The yield in turn is based on the available particles. If there are unknown particles available, this will affect the yield.

There was an anomoly in the yield of the gamma gamma channel (the yield was higher than expected) which suggested the existance of a previously undiscovered particle or particles. Such particles might be the components of dark matter.

However based on more careful analysis, this anomoly has disappeared and now there is no suggestion of additional particles.

That doesn't rule out future experiments finding new particles. The LHC (Large Hadron Collider) where the Higgs Boson was discovered is currently undergoing renovations. It will restart at higher energy in 2015. When it restarts, it will be looking for new particles as well as exploring the properties of existing particles, especially the Higgs Boson.

For more information see: (to read the entire article requires a subscription to Science News).

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Gravitational Wave Discovery Looks Doubtful In New Analysis

Update on the blog post of Wednesday, March 19, 2014 (

In March gravitational waves were discovered from the early universe (moments after the big bang). This discovery is now in doubt. New analysis suggests that dust within our own galaxy is responsible for much if not all of the signal. While it doesn't completely rule out the presence of gravitational waves, it is a significant setback.

For more information see:

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Rosetta spacecraft expected to land on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko

This Wednesday Morning (November 12) at 10:30AM Eastern Standard Time the Rosetta spacecraft is expected to land on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. If successful, this will be the first time any spacecraft has landed on a comet.

See these links for more information...

To watch the landing on streaming video, go to either of these sites (note there is a 30 minute delay, if the landing occurs at 10:30AM, we will see the landing at 11:00AM).,2817,2471982,00.asp

Sunday, November 9, 2014

November Meteor Showers

On the night of November 17-18, you can observe the annual Leonid Meteor Shower.

While in previous years, the Leonids have produced outbursts of thousands of meteors per hour, that is highly unlikely this year. We expect a modest meteor shower. However the Leonids do have a tendency to produce more bright meteors (fireballs) than some other showers.

Usually the best advice for observing meteor showers is to look after midnight. If you live in North America, that isn't the best approach for this year's Leonids. Instead it is best to start looking after it gets dark Monday night (on the 17th).

The number of meteors you will see is difficult to predict. It partly depends on the Leonids themselves, but also on the amount of light pollution and the latitude/longitude of your observing location. Also if it is cloudy that will reduce what you see. As an educated guess, an observer located at a dark site in Europe might see about 15 an hour. An observer at a dark site in North America, might see 10 an hour.

Note that the Leonid Meteor Shower overlaps two weak meteor showers, the Southern Taurids and the Northern Taurids. While both are weak, they are each active over a period of about 15 days.

Most the activity of the Leonids occurs on a single day (but weaker activity will occur for a period of about 3 weeks). Basically the entire month is covered by one or more of these showers and all three frequently produce fireballs. Unfortunately predicting when the fireballs will occur is impossible.

To observe a meteor shower, you only need your eyes. No binoculars or telescopes are needed. Make sure you have comfortable clothing, a comfortable chair and be patient. As explained above, the best bet is to observe on the evening of November 17-18, but other nights in November can be expected to produce perhaps 5 an hour and if you are lucky the occasional fireball.

For more information see:

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Water in Your Bottle Might Be Older Than the Sun

"Up to half of the water on Earth is likely older than the solar system itself, University of Michigan astronomers theorize."

The age of the water is counted from the time that oxygen and hydrogen atoms combined to form a water molecule. You might naively think that this combination occurred after formation of our solar system. But Ilse Cleeves (doctoral student in astronomy) and Ted Bergin (professor of astronomy) estimate that between 30 and 50% of the water formed a million years before the solar system formed, when there was only a molecular cloud of gas, but no sun or planets.

This estimate was obtained by looking at the ratio of hydrogen isotopes within water. The hydrogen atoms in water come in three forms, hydrogen-1, hydrogen-2 (known as deuterium) and hydrogen-3 (known as tritium). Tritium is radioactive and decays into helium-3; it is virtually non-existent in the solar system except on the surface of the earth. But hydrogen-1 and hydrogen-2 are common. Comparing the ratio of hydrogen-1 and hydrogen-2 within samples of water, hydrogen gas or other compounds tells scientists about how these materials were formed. For example we find the ratio within comets and water in the Earth's ocean is higher than the ratio found in hydrogen atoms in the sun.

For more details see....

New Lowbrow Facebook Page

The University Lowbrow Astronomers have a new Facebook page.....

Follow us on Facebook: Get information about the club, events, photos, and more.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Partial Solar Eclipse

Later today there will be a partial Solar Eclipse. This will be visible from extreme eastern part of Russia and most of North America.

Depending on where you live you might see the whole eclipse or just part of it. For details on timing go to....

As added bonus there is currently a very large sunspot visible on the sun.

Warning: Always use proper protection when looking at the sun (both to protect your eyes and to prevent damage to equipment like cameras, telescopes, binoculars).

Looking at the sun near sunrise and sunset, when the sun is red is safe. It is not safe at other times, especially when using optical devices like telescopes.


To see photos of this Solar Eclipse see:

Addendum 2:

The Sunspot mentioned above was responsible for Solar Flares. See this Article from the Wall Street Journal: "Solar Flares From Sunspot Hamper Pilots, Satellites: AR 12192 Has Launched Six Major Solar Flares Toward Earth, Disrupting Navigation Systems and Radio Communications." See: