The elusive harp sponge dwells nearly two miles below the surface of the ocean, far deeper than humans are able to explore. No one even knew they existed before scientists off California’s Monterey Bay used a remote control vehicle to spy on the meat-eating sponge from afar. Their findings, published Oct. 18 in Invertebrate Biology, reveal the secrets of this slow-motion hunter.
Golden and gleaming, this convex mirror arrived last week at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., where it will be mounted on the much-anticipated Webb telescope. When the telescope is up and running, sometime later this decade, the Webb will take the title of the most powerful space telescope ever built, ousting even the Hubble. The Boulder-built mirror’s color comes from a microscopic layer of gold, 1,000 times thinner than a human hair. The gold will help the telescope better reflect infrared light, making distant planets and the universe’s first galaxies easier to see.
Image Credit: Chris Gunn, NASA
When water flows over stones, it smooths them out and carries them in its path. Even when the steam has long since dried up, the gravel it leaves behind provides distinct evidence of the water’s former presence. And now the Curiosity rover has found tell-tale gravel embedded in the Martian bedrock, small stones rounded by water and too large for wind to have transported—rocky proof of water’s presence on the Red Planet. Although previous photos suggested that water once flowed on Mars, the rocks in outcrops like the one pictured here, dubbed “Hottah” after Canada’s Hottah Lake, are the most definitive evidence of water on Mars that we have ever found.
We’ve come a long way from the first glass-and-light optical microscopes. These days, scientists can focus on individual molecules using advanced methods like atomic force microscopy (AFM), where a miniscule probe feels out the details of a surface. And in this AFM image of a nanographene molecule, the resolution is so high that for the first time, we can see the individual bonds between atoms, shown here as green lines.
In a new paper in the journal Science, IBM researchers used the same imaging technique to measure the length and relative strength of individual bonds in the spherical carbon molecules called buckyballs. Their method can not only improve our intimate understanding of these and other molecules—it also lets us get up close and personal with the building blocks of all matter.
Image courtesy of IBM Research – Zurich / Flickr
Under normal light, this roach looks normal enough. But under a fluorescent light, its three spots—two large ones and one very tiny one just visible under the right spot—light up like a Christmas tree.
This remarkable species of South American cockroach, Lucihormetica luckae, owes its fluorescence to bacteria. The spots on the dark brown area of its carapace are pits inhabited by microbes that glow under fluorescent light.
Before Curiosity sets off across the Martian landscape, it needs a chance to catch its (metaphorical) breath. As the rover performs health checks on its systems to ensure that everything is working properly, the robot’s cameras are also checking out its surroundings. This panoramic view, showing Gale Crater and its rim, is a combination of two images taken by the navigation cameras on Curiosity’s mast. Click on it to see the Martian surface in full-resolution glory.
In the wee hours after midnight on Monday, the Mars Science Laboratory, known to its many admirers as “Curiosity,” touched down on Mars—and ever since, photos have been trickling in from the Red Planet.
This image isn’t just a great shot of Curiosity’s shadow; it also shows us the rover’s goal: Mount Sharp, that great big mountain in the middle of Gale Crater. Curiosity will trundle up to the mountain and probe its strata to uncover the past and present Martian environment.
First, there is only a blur of shifting gray fragments. Shapes that look like they’ve been scissored out by a hyperactive two-year old spiral around the screen. Then, pieces start to fall into place. There’s something there: an eye, a crook of a mouth, a sea captain’s hat, a beard…a pair of full lips, no, a chin…
Mars Science Laboratory descending
to the surface, as seen by Mars
It has been quite a morning, science fans.
In the wee hours, after traveling Mars-ward for months, the Mars Science Laboratory executed its nail-biting landing maneuver, nicknamed by NASA engineers “Seven Minutes of Terror.” The $2.5 billion craft, bearing the largest-ever Mars rover, Curiosity, autonomously sped into the Martian atmosphere, threw out a parachute, blew off its heat shield, blasted rockets downwards to slow itself, split in two, and lowered one half of itself, the rover, down to the surface, where Curiosity opened its camera eyes and began sending pictures back to Earth.
The Crusades were a time of religious conflict, when territory and castles were won with bloody battles and then quickly lost again—and with all that brouhaha, who had time to make new coins? When the Christian Knights Hospitaller buried a jug of 108 gold coins at the castle of Apollonia, a now-deserted stronghold north of modern-day Tel Aviv, they were probably hoping to preserve their hoard from the Egyptian soldiers then besieging the fortress. Although they never returned for their money, its recent discovery is telling researchers a lot about Crusader economics and raising new questions—like why the Christians used primarily gold dinars forged by the Fatimids hundreds of years earlier, rather than minting their own currency, something that would have demonstrated their wealth, power, and cultural identity. Many of the coins found in the crusader castle, oddly enough, are emblazoned with the names of Muslim sultans.
Image courtesy of the American Friends of Tel Aviv University