Friday, July 2, 2021

Supermassive black holes could host giant, swirling gas 'tsunamis'


Visualization shows a supermassive black hole surrounded by dust and gas forming tsunamis on its outer edges.  (Image credit:, Nima Abkenar)


Could gas escaping the gravitational grasp of supermassive black holes be forming "tsunamis" in space? 


In a new, NASA-funded study, astrophysicists used computer simulations to model the environment around supermassive black holes in deep space. They found that there could be massive, tsunami-like structures forming near these black holes that are essentially massive, swirling walls of gas that have narrowly escaped the intense gravitational pull of the black hole. They even think that supermassive black holes could host the largest tsunami-like structures in the universe. 


"These clouds are 10 times hotter than the surface of the sun and moving at the speed of the solar wind, so they are rather exotic objects that you would not want an airplane to fly through," lead author Tim Waters, a postdoctoral researcher at UNLV who is also a guest scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, said in the same statement. (Full Story)



Mapping the world’s longest lightning bolts


Megaflashes can now be identified across the globe with the use of geostationary satellites.


As the summer skies start to roil with thunderstorms, New Mexicans get a front-and-center seat to some spectacular lightning displays. We may even count the time between spotting the flash and hearing the roar, a means to calculate the distance of the lightning that ensures we’re a safe distance from the strike.


In most cases, if the flash of light and clap of thunder are more than 30 seconds apart, it usually indicates enough distance from the storm to avoid being struck. But this applies only to normal thunderstorms that are small and send bolts vertically from the cloud directly to the ground. For one in ten lightning flashes, globally, this is not the case. (Full Story)



Also from the Albuquerque Journal:


LANL working on ‘Million Mile’ truck


LANL scientists are working to improve hydrogen cell technology in a bid to boost efficiency.


The technology is not particularly new, and neither is the idea.


But, using hydrogen as an alternative fuel source via a proton-exchange membrane fuel cell, also known as a polymer electrolyte membrane, is quickly gaining traction. It is something scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory are looking to make efficient and cost-effective enough to see it used on a large-scale basis, first with long-haul 18-wheelers and eventually with everyday vehicles.


Estimates show that simple conversion of the country’s transportation fleet could cut related greenhouse gasses in the United States by 20 percent. (Full Story)




Why "nuclear batteries" offer a new approach to carbon-free energy


Cut-away rendering of the MIT nuclear battery concept. Courtesy photo.


How do we know that these new kinds of reactors will work, and what would need to happen for such units to become widely available?


NASA and Los Alamos National Laboratory demonstrated a microreactor for space applications in three years (2015-2018) from the start of design to fabrication and testing. And it cost them $20 million, leveraging the available Department of Energy nuclear technology infrastructure. This cost and schedule are orders of magnitude smaller than for traditional large nuclear plants that easily cost billions and take between five years and a decade to build. (Full Story)




NASA marks 60 years of nuclear 

power in space

Image credit: NASA


NASA has marked the 60th anniversary of the launch into space of its first nuclear-powered satellite. Transit IV-A - an experimental navigational satellite with a radioisotope-powered generator - was launched by Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory from Cape Canaveral on 29 June 1961, and NASA has since flown more than 25 missions carrying a nuclear power system.


The plutonium-238 fuel used in NASA's radioactive power systems is provided through a partnership with the US Department of Energy (DOE). The isotope is made by irradiating neptunium-237, and is currently produced by Oak Ridge National Laboratory in partnership with Idaho and Los Alamos National Laboratories. (Full Story)