Sunday, 20 January 2013


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Best Science Photos of the Week
Live Science, 19 January 2013.

1. Freefall in 3D

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A gadget that can snap photos of individual snowflakes in free fall could lead to more accurate weather predictions.

Researchers at the University of Utah have developed the Multi Angle Snowflake Camera (MASC), which uses three high-speed cameras triggered by infrared sensors to shoot flakes as they float to the ground, with exposures as quick as 1/25000 of a second. The device also measures the flakes' fall speed, all without touching them, which would disturb the measurements.

2. Space clouds

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A jaw-dropping new photo from a telescope in South America has revealed a smoke-black cloud in deep space hiding a bustling nursery of baby stars.

The new image, captured by a telescope at the European Southern Observatory in Chile, is the best view ever of the dark space cloud Lupus 3. The cosmic cloud is about 600 light-years from Earth in the constellation Scorpious (The Scorpion).

3. Manatee's missing link

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A fossil found in 2008 may be the missing link - for manatees, that is.

Modern manatees and their lookalike relatives, the dugongs, are close relatives of elephants, yet no trace of their ancestry had ever been found in Africa, where elephants evolved.

4. A Moon flower?

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An odd flower-like feature spotted on Mars by NASA's Curiosity rover continues to perplex researchers, who nevertheless stress that its origins are not biological.

The object garnered a lot of attention after Curiosity photographed it last month, with many Internet users quickly dubbing it the "Mars flower." The feature is actually a rounded, light-coloured pebble slightly larger than a grain of sand, but determining its precise mineralogical makeup would require more information, researchers said.

5. New pics of the Universe

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The Hubble Space Telescope's iconic "Deep Field" photo wowed the world in 1996 by revealing a huge collection of galaxies hiding inside a patch of the sky that looked like nothing more than blank space. Now NASA plans to image six more "empty" bits of sky for a whole new set of deep fields that could revolutionize astronomy once again.

Hubble captured the Deep Field by staring at the same point over many hours, letting particles of light from extremely distant objects slowly pile up to reveal celestial bodies that would otherwise be too faint to see.

6. Sizing up landslides

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In the summer of 1995, the sleepy Soufrière Hills volcano on the Caribbean island of Montserrat awoke. The volcano has been erupting ever since, and its lava flows and ash falls have destroyed the capital city of Plymouth and what was, at the time, Montserrat's only airport.

As lava flows like these move toward the ocean, they can build up and cause massive landslides. Those landslides are, of course, dangerous to the communities and structures in their paths, but they also pose other, less direct dangers.

7. Call of the wild

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An archive of tens of thousands of animal sounds has just gone online.

The searchable Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology boasts nearly 150,000 digital audio recordings, covering about 9,000 noisy species, with a total run time of 7,513 hours. Though there's an emphasis on birds, the collection contains sounds from across the animal kingdom, from elephants to elephant seals.

8. Don't flush that fish!

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In the film "Finding Nemo," a plucky clownfish escapes an aquarium tank thanks to some sage advice: "All drains lead to the ocean."

But in real life, flushing Nemo wouldn't end happily. Aquarium species are some of the hardiest fish and plants in the world, and tank owners and importers who dump unwanted marine life are introducing tough, non-native species to California waters, says a new report on the state's aquarium trade.

9. A Green ring nebula

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This glowing emerald nebula seen by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope is reminiscent of the glowing ring wielded by the superhero Green Lantern. In the comic books, the diminutive Guardians of the Planet "Oa" forged his power ring, but astronomers believe rings like this are actually sculpted by the powerful light of giant "O" stars. O stars are the most massive type of star known to exist. Named RCW 120, this region of hot gas and glowing dust can be found in the murky clouds encircled by the tail of the constellation Scorpius. The ring of dust is actually glowing in infrared colours that our eyes cannot see, but show up brightly when viewed by Spitzer's infrared detectors. At the centre of this ring are a couple of giant stars whose intense ultraviolet light has carved out the bubble, though they blend in with other stars when viewed in infrared.

[Source: Live Science. Edited.]

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