Lightning research sparks new discovery
Date: Wednesday, November 02, 2005 @ 22:41:36 GMT
Topic: Science

MELBOURNE, Nov. 1 (UPI) -- A Florida Institute of Technology study has discovered laboratory-generated sparks can make X-rays.

Joseph Dwyer, an associate professor of physics and space sciences, is noted for previous discoveries related to X-ray emission from natural and triggered lightning.

"We know that X-rays are made in outer space -- in exotic places like the center of the sun and supernovae -- but we didn't think they could be made so easily in the air," said Dwyer.

Dwyer and his team set up their equipment next to a Marx spark generator just to see what would happen. Half the team guessed they would see X-rays, half thought not.

What they found was 14 tests of 1.5- 2.0 million-volt sparks in the air produced X-ray bursts similar to X-ray bursts previously observed from lightning.

"This amazed us," said Florida Tech Professor Hamid Rassoul, a co-author of the study. "It opens the door to answering really big questions about lightning by generating it in the lab. It also tells us that we have a lot to learn about how even small sparks work."

The study appears in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Physicist Sees Terahertz Imaging As Ultimate Defense Against Terrorism

John Federici, PhD, professor, department of physics, New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) and other physicists at NJIT recently received a U.S. Patent for a Teraherz imaging system and method. Since 1995, Terahertz imaging has grown in importance as new and sophisticated devices and equipment have empowered scientists to understand its potential.

I see the Terahertz spectrum as one of the critical technologies for defense against suicide bombers and other terrorist activities," Federici said.

Federici's research has focused on the potential applications of Terahertz rays for directly detecting and imaging concealed weapons and explosives. Another application is the remote detection of chemical and biological agents in the atmosphere...

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Super-massive black hole in center of Milky Way

LONDON (Reuters) - Chinese scientists said on Wednesday they had gathered evidence that shows a giant object in the center of our galaxy is a super-massive black hole.

Zhi-Qiang Shen and researchers at the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory captured radio waves emitted just beyond the edge of the mysterious object, known as Sagittarius A, with a system of 10 radio telescopes spread across the United States.

In a report in the science journal Nature they said it "provides strong evidence that Sgr A is a super-massive black hole."

The celestial objects that suck in everything around them including light are among the most mysterious objects in the universe. They are formed when matter from a dying star collapses under its own gravity.

Black holes have been described as the ultimate victory over gravity because of their ability to suck in stars and other galactic features.

Scientists have long suspected the presence of a black hole in the center of the Galaxy. Astronomers believe it is four million times more massive than our Sun.

The research reported in Nature suggests the black hole is as wide as the radius of the Earth's orbit.

"These observations provide strong evidence that Sgr A is indeed a black hole, and afford a glimpse of the behavior of the matter that is about to flow into it," said Christopher Reynolds, of the University of Maryland in the United States, in a commentary in the journal.

He described the findings as a further step toward capturing an image of the shadow around the edge of a black hole, which would be a classic test of Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity.

The theory predicts that massive bodies -- planets, stars or black holes -- actually twist time and space around as they spin.

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