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Scientists simulate creation of a galaxy; junk and tracks remain on the moon

By Aaron Leitko,

Space: Cosmic quickie

Discover magazine, 80beats blog

It took roughly 13.2 billion years for our galaxy to get to where it is today, but you can get the highlights in just three minutes. Researchers at the University of California at Santa Cruz and the Institute for Theoretical Physics in Zurich have created a computer simulation that illustrates the formation of a spiral galaxy like our own, the Milky Way. The spacey-looking clip, which Discover magazine has posted to its 80beats blog, took nine months of number-crunching on three supercomputers. This allowed scientists to track the motion of 60 million particles of gas and dark matter for more than 13 billion simulated years. For entertainment’s sake, the scientists added a groovy electronic soundtrack and some “Star Wars”-style scrolling text to explain what’s going on. So what does it look like? A little bit like a lava lamp, actually. Pink splotches swirl together, gradually coagulating into a single burbling mass. In other words, pretty cosmic.

Space: Apollo 17 revisited

Wired Science blog

Man has left his mark on the moon and, also, a mess. NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has captured a few high-resolution fly-by images of the landing site for Apollo 17, the final moon mission, which Wired magazine has uploaded to its science blog, alongside then-and-now juxtapositions. In the past 39 years, not a lot has changed. Look closely and you can glimpse the tracks left by astronauts while they were bopping around back in the early ’70s. Keep watching and you see the junk that’s still there, too — including the remains of the landing module’s descent stage, the moon buggy and assorted science gadgets. NASA’s LRO Web site has less-detailed snaps from the landing areas of Apollos 11, 12, 14, 15 and 16, which are all still pretty much how we left them.

— Aaron Leitko

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