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Sunday, January 27, 2013

BEST SCIENCE PHOTOS OF THE WEEK XXXVI


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Best Science Photos of the Week
By
Live Science, 26 January 2013.

1. Strange star outbursts

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Scientists have detected what appears to be a stellar outburst from a pair of stars locked in a cosmic tryst within a shared veil of gas, a find that marks the first discovery of a long-sought type of space eruption.

Most outbursts from stars are lumped into two categories - novas or supernovas. A nova is a thermonuclear explosion from a white dwarf star driven by fuel piled on from a companion star. Novas do not result in the destruction of their stars, but supernovas do.


2. Mummy faces revealed

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Nearly 2,000 years ago, at a time when Egypt was under the control of the Roman Empire, a young woman with an elaborate hairstyle was laid to rest only yards away from a king's pyramid, researchers report.

She was 5 feet 2 inches in height, around age 20 when she died, and was buried in a decorated coffin whose face is gilded with gold. A nearby pyramid, at a site called Hawara, was built about 2 millennia before her lifetime. The location of her burial is known from archival notes.


3. Stargazing dung beetles

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Despite having tiny brains, dung beetles are surprisingly decent navigators, able to follow straight paths as they roll poo balls they've collected away from a dung source. But it seems the insects' abilities are more remarkable than previously believed. Like ancient seafarers, dung beetles can navigate using the starry sky and the glow from the Milky Way, new research shows.

"This is the first time where we see animals using the Milky Way for orientation," said lead researcher Marie Dacke, a biologist at Lund University in Sweden. "It's also the first time we see that insects can use the stars."


4. New panda pic!

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Earlier this month, the San Diego Zoo's adorable giant panda cub Xiao Liwu made his debut in a habitat on view to the public. Keepers said this week that the baby bear is getting comfortable in his new home, climbing branches and taking naps in the sun.

"Since the five-month-old panda cub has gone on exhibit, there have been some new adventures for him, such as climbing trees and exploring the hay-lined moat and shallow pond," zoo officials said in a statement.


5. Sun's magnetic braids

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A small NASA space telescope has revealed surprising magnetic braids of super-hot matter in the sun's outer atmosphere, a find that may explain the star's mysteriously hot corona, researchers say.

The discovery, made by NASA's High-Resolution Coronal Imager, or Hi-C, also may lead to better space weather forecasts, the scientists added.


6. 4-Stranded DNA

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Sixty years after scientists described the chemical code of life - an interweaving double helix called DNA - researchers have found four-stranded DNA is also lurking in human cells.

The odd structures are called G-quadruplexes because they form in regions of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) that are full of guanine, one of the DNA molecule's four building blocks, with the others being adenine, cytosine, thymine. The structure comprises four guanines held together by a type of hydrogen bonding to form a sort of square-like shape. (The DNA molecule is itself a double strand held together by these building blocks and wrapped together like a helix.)


7. Alien auroras

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Scientists have kept a close watch on the dazzling northern lights on Earth and other planets in our solar system, but now they have the chance to explore the auroras of alien planets orbiting distant stars, a new study suggests.

Auroras on Earth occur when charged particles from the sun are funnelled to the planet's poles and interact with the upper atmosphere, sparking spectacular light shows. Similar processes have been observed on other planets in the solar system, with Jupiter's auroras more than 100 times brighter than those on Earth, scientists said.


8. It's a girl!

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An ancient, beaked bird that lived in what is today northeastern China was ovulating when she, yes "she," perished some 125 million years ago, suggests new research that can reveal the gender of bird fossils.

Scientists investigated the ancient, beaked bird Confuciusornis sanctus. Hundreds of fossils of the extinct, crow-sized species are found in lake deposits in northeastern China. The area back then was "a seasonal forest that surrounded small lakes, a very rich ecosystem with a great variety of animals and plants," said researcher Luis Chiappe, palaeontologist and director of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County's Dinosaur Institute.


9. Arctic melt ponds

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During the Arctic spring and summer, ponds of freshwater appear on the melting ice, dotting the landscape with a dazzling range of blues.

Despite their beauty, these melt ponds are a harbinger of climate change in the Arctic, according to a new study by researchers at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany. The pools form more easily on young ice, and young ice now accounts for more than 50 percent of the Arctic sea ice cover. The ponds also absorb more of the sun's heat, helping ice melt faster, the study finds.


[Source: Live Science. Edited.]


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