Science & Technology


Sloan Digital Survey captures stunning images

The Sloan Digital survey has put our Universe in a new perspective. The Images are made of more than 1 trillion pixels from at least 7 million Digital images. The Sloan Digital Sky Survey is one of the most ambitious and influential surveys in the history of astronomy.


Invisibility Cloak Hides Objects From Sonar

© Brian Stauffer
Researchers have created an acoustic cloaking material that guides sound waves around the hidden object.
A new material that bends and twists sound waves could allow stealth submarines to evade underwater sonar.

The material essentially tricks the sonar - a system used to identify underwater objects by analyzing the differences between the emitted sound waves and the returning waves, which have bounced off of the submarine, for example.

'Astonishing' rare black penguin living on South Georgia

black penguin
© Andrew Evans/National Geographic/Barcroft
The rare melanistic penguin, photographed by Andrew Evans on the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia
The penguin, believed to be suffering from a condition known as melanism, was spotted on Fortuna Bay, a sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia, about 860 miles off the Falklands.

A group of travellers had travelled to the island to watch local wildlife and one of the group, Andrew Evans, took this picture of the penguin, one of several thousand.

"Observing this black penguin waddle across South Georgia's black sand beach revealed no different behaviour than that of his fellow penguins. In fact, he seemed to mix well," he wrote on a National Geographic blog.

"Regarding feeding and mating behaviour there is no real way to tell, but I do know that we were all fascinated by his presence and wished him the best for the coming winter season."

Biology experts say that because black penguins are particularly rare there is very little research discussing the subject. Melanism is however, common on other animal species such as squirrels.

It is estimated that about one in every 250,000 penguins shows evidence of the condition.

Holes in the Sun's Corona

Hole in Sun's Corona
This Solar Dynamics Observatory image of the Sun taken on January 10 in extreme ultraviolet light captures a dark coronal hole just about at sun center. Coronal holes are areas of the Sun's surface that are the source of open magnetic field lines that head way out into space. They are also the source regions of the fast solar wind, which is characterized by a relatively steady speed of approximately 800 km/s (about 1.8 million mph). As the sun continues to rotate, the high speed solar wind particles blowing from this hole will likely reach Earth in a few days and may spark some auroral activity.

The timelapse video below shows the coronal hole moving into full view.

Jamaica: Bony Wings That Went 'Pow! Smack! Whomp!'

© Nicholas Longrich/Yale University
Xenicibis xympithecus, a flightless bird in Jamaica that belonged to the ibis family, used its wings as a powerful club.
An extinct bird from Jamaica used its wings as a powerful clublike weapon, according to a new study.

Researchers from Yale University and the Smithsonian Institution studied fossils of the flightless prehistoric bird and reported their findings online in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The bird belongs to the ibis family, a group of long-billed, long-legged birds that live in wetlands, forests and plains.

Nearly all other ibises fly. In this particular species, the hand bones are peculiarly elongated and thick, forming a club that the bird could swing forcefully.

"Other birds have weapons, but this is unlike any other," said Nicholas R. Longrich, a paleontologist at Yale and the study's lead author.

Dr. Longrich first encountered the fossil bird, called Xenicibis xympithecus, in 1997 and had been trying to make sense of its anatomical structure. The bird was discovered in the 1970s by Dr. Longrich's co-author, Storrs L. Olson, a scientist at the Smithsonian Institution, who even then was puzzled by its strange wings.

After studying a variety of living birds, as well as other extinct birds, Drs. Longrich and Olson said that the wings were probably used in combat. Certain types of geese and swans are among modern-day birds that use their wings for that purpose, the report says.

Most detailed image of night sky unveiled

© M. Blanton and SDSS-III
Images of the northern and southern hemispheres of our galaxy (bottom) reveal "walls" of galaxies that are the largest known structures in the universe. Zooming in on a patch of sky in the southern hemisphere reveals the spiral galaxy M33 (top left). Zooming in further (top centre) reveals a region of intense star formation known as NGC 604 (green swirls, top right)
It would take 500,000 high-definition TVs to view it in its full glory. Astronomers have released the largest digital image of the night sky ever made, to be mined for future discoveries.

It is actually a collection of millions of images taken since 1998 with a 2.5-metre telescope at Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico. The project, called the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, is now in its third phase, called SDSS-III.

Altogether, the images in the newly released collection contain more than a trillion pixels of data, covering a third of the sky in great detail.

"This is one of the biggest bounties in the history of science," says SDSS team member Mike Blanton of New York University in New York City. "This data will be a legacy for the ages."
Cloud Lightning

Thunderstorms Shoot Antimatter Beams Into Space

"This is a fundamental new discovery about how our planet works," expert says.

© J. Dwyer/FIT, NASA
An illustration shows high-energy electrons and positrons from Earth traveling into space.
Thunderstorms can shoot beams of antimatter into space - and the beams are so intense they can be spotted by spacecraft thousands of miles away, scientists have announced.

Most so-called normal matter is made of subatomic particles such as electrons and protons. Antimatter, on the other hand, is made of particles that have the same masses and spins as their counterparts but with opposite charges and magnetic properties.

Recently, radiation detectors on NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope lighted up for about 30 milliseconds with the distinctive signature of positrons, the antimatter counterparts of electrons.

Scientists were able to trace the concentrated burst of radiation to a lightning flash over Namibia, at least 3,000 miles (5,000 kilometers) away from the Earth-orbiting telescope, which was passing above Egypt at the time.

"This is a fundamental new discovery about how our planet works," said Steven Cummer, a lightning researcher from Duke University who was not part of the study team.

Antimatter caught streaming from thunderstorms on Earth

© National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Artist's conception of rising electrons Electrons racing up electric field lines give rise to light, then particles, then light
A space telescope has accidentally spotted thunderstorms on Earth producing beams of antimatter.

Such storms have long been known to give rise to fleeting sparks of light called terrestrial gamma-ray flashes.

But results from the Fermi telescope show they also give out streams of electrons and their antimatter counterparts, positrons.

The surprise result was presented by researchers at the American Astronomical Society meeting in the US.

It deepens a mystery about terrestrial gamma-ray flashes, or TGFs - sparks of light that are estimated to occur 500 times a day in thunderstorms on Earth. They are a complex interplay of light and matter whose origin is poorly understood.

Hubble Telescope Zeroes in on Green Blob in Space

© Associated Press/Hubble Space Telescope Science Institute
This handout photo provided by NASA, taken April 12, 2010 by the Hubble Space Telescope, shows an unusual, ghostly green blob of gas appears to float near a normal-looking spiral galaxy. NASA released Monday the Hubble Space Telescope’s first picture of the mysterious giant glowing green blob of gas called Hanny’s Voorwerp. The blob is the size of our Milky Way galaxy and is 650 million light years away. Each light year is about 6 trillion miles. The blob was discovered in 2007 by Dutch school teacher Hanny van Arkel.
The Hubble Space Telescope got its first peek at a mysterious giant green blob in outer space and found that it's strangely alive.

The bizarre glowing blob is giving birth to new stars, some only a couple million years old, in remote areas of the universe where stars don't normally form.

The blob of gas was first discovered by a Dutch school teacher in 2007 and is named Hanny's Voorwerp (HAN'-nee's-FOR'-vehrp). Voorwerp is Dutch for object.

NASA released the new Hubble photo Monday at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle.

Parts of the green blob are collapsing and the resulting pressure from that is creating the stars. The stellar nurseries are outside of a normal galaxy, which is usually where stars live.

That makes these "very lonely newborn stars" that are "in the middle of nowhere," said Bill Keel, the University of Alabama astronomer who examined the blob.

The blob is the size of our own Milky Way galaxy and it is 650 million light years away. Each light year is about 6 trillion miles.

The blob is mostly hydrogen gas swirling from a close encounter of two galaxies and it glows because it is illuminated by a quasar in one of the galaxies. A quasar is a bright object full of energy powered by a black hole.
Eye 1

Methane from BP spill goes missing

© Dave Valentine, UCSB

Methane, the predominant hydrocarbon produced by the BP blowout last year, has all but vanished from Gulf of Mexico waters, a new study reports - presumably eaten up by marine bacteria. That hadn't been expected to happen for years.

Two-thirds of the hydrocarbons released by the BP accident were forms of natural gas: largely methane, ethane and propane. While Gulf microbes quickly began devouring the larger gas molecules, they initially left tiny methane - which accounted for an estimated 87.5 percent of the gas initially emitted - largely untouched.

Some of the authors of the new paper had reported in the Oct. 8 Science finding almost no microbial breakdown of BP methane in June, about a month and a half into the 83-day gusher.