Science

Colorful Hot Springs

August 6, 2016 // 0 Comments

The iconic image of Yellowstone is an expansive spring with rainbow-like colors radiating from its center, dominated by a fiery orange hue at its edges. Though these dazzlingly painted hot springs seem fit only for picture books, their colors come from very real, and very earthly, microscopic creatures. Hiding out in the park’s hot springs — where temperatures are high enough to blister your skin and as acidic as liquid in a car battery — are heat-loving microbes. And they’re thriving. Where you see rings of color, there are, most of the time, rings of different bacteria, each group adapted to the conditions, such as temperature and pH (how acidic a solution is) of their environments, according to the National Park Service. Take Grand Prismatic Spring, the park’s largest hot spring and the one whose rainbow colors make it so iconic. Its diverse hues can be explained by the ways temperature and light affect microbes. Aquamarine to dark blue Let’s start at [...]

Hypercarnivore Unearthed

August 6, 2016 // 0 Comments

A newfound extinct marsupial “hypercarnivore” from Australia — one that researchers say looked like a cross between a Tasmanian devil and a hyena — was about twice as big as Australia’s largest living flesh-eating marsupials, a new study finds. Named Whollydooleya tomnpatrichorum, the predator is just one of a bevy of what scientists said were “strange, new animals”found in a fossil-rich site Down Under. Although scientists have so far discovered only a single lower molar tooth of this predator, they deduced from the animal’s tooth that “almost certainly it was a very active predator with an extremely powerful bite,” said study lead author Mike Archer, a paleontologist at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. [Image Gallery: 25 Amazing Ancient Beasts] Judging from the size and shape of this fossil molar, the researchers suggest W. tomnpatrichorum was what scientists call a hypercarnivore. This term “generally refers to a [...]

Ancient Habitat for Life

May 21, 2015 // 0 Comments

By The Daily Galaxy Wide view of sunset over Gusev Crater taken by NASA’s Spirit Rover in 2005. Both blue aureole and pink sky are seen. Because of the fine nature of Martian dust, it can scatter blue light coming from the Sun forward towards the observer. The “Pot of Gold” rock outcrop inGusev Crater that Spirit Mars Rover examined in late 2005 revealed high concentrations of carbonate, which originates in wet, near-neutral conditions, but dissolves in acid. The ancient water indicated by this find was not acidic; hence, it was favorable as a habitat for life.”This is one of the most significant findings by the rovers,” said Steve Squyres of Cornell University a principal investigator for the Mars twin rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. “A substantial carbonate deposit in a Mars outcrop tells us that conditions that could have been quite favorable for life were present at one time in that place.” Spirit inspected rock outcrops, striking a bonanza at [...]

Building Blocks

May 7, 2015 // 0 Comments

By The Daily Galaxy DNA is synonymous with life, but where did it originate? One way to answer this question is to try to recreate the conditions that formed DNA’s molecular precursors. These precursors are carbon ring structures with embedded nitrogen atoms, key components of nucleobases, which themselves are building blocks of the double helix. Now, researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (Berkeley Lab) and the University of Hawaii atManoa have shown for the first time that cosmic hot spots, such as those near stars, could be excellent environments for the creation of these nitrogen-containing molecular rings.In a new paper in the Astrophysical Journal, the team describes the experiment in which they recreate conditions around carbon-rich, dying stars to find formation pathways of the important molecules. “This is the first time anyone’s looked at a hot reaction like this,” says Musahid Ahmed, scientist in the Chemical Sciences [...]

Extremely Rare

May 7, 2015 // 0 Comments

By The Daily Galaxy Oxygen is the third most common element in the universe, after hydrogen and helium, and in the 1970s astronomers predicted that molecular oxygen would be the third most common interstellar molecule, after molecular hydrogen (H2) and carbon monoxide (CO). In fact, astronomers have detected interstellar molecular oxygen in only two places: the Orion Nebula and the Rho Ophiuchi cloud (above). But even there the molecule is much rarer than theory predicts. For example, hydrogen molecules in the Orion Nebula outnumber oxygen molecules a million to one. In 1998, NASA even launched a satellite that was supposed to find lots of molecular oxygen but never did—except when scientists, worried that the instrument was faulty, aimed it at Earth. Now, a ground-based experiment has revealed why this life-giving molecule is so rare in the cosmos: because oxygen atoms cling tightly tostardust, preventing them from joining together to form oxygen molecules. The discovery should [...]

Diamond Planet

May 6, 2015 // 0 Comments

By The Daily Galaxy Astronomers have detected wildly changing temperatures on a super Earth – the first time any atmospheric variability has been observed on a rocky planet outside the solar system – and believe it could be due to huge amounts of volcanic activity, further adding to the mystery of what had been nicknamed the ‘diamond planet’. “This is the first time we’ve seen such drastic changes in light emitted from an exoplanet, which is particularly remarkable for a super Earth,” said Dr Nikku Madhusudhan of Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy, a co-author on the new study. “No signature of thermal emissions or surface activity has ever been detected for any other super Earth to date.”For the first time, researchers led by the University of Cambridge have detected atmospheric variability on a rocky planet outside the solar system, and observed a nearly threefold change in temperature over a two year period. Although the researchers are quick to point out that [...]