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Wed, 31 Aug 2016
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NASA's Juno spacecraft releases trove of images from Jupiter

NASA's Juno spacecraft has released its latest dispatch of images of Jupiter. The pictures were snapped at a time when the stormy planet is not visible to astronomers on Earth, making them a unique addition to the gallery.

NASA's release of the so-called "marble movie" shows that Jupiter is such a pretty planet, it doesn't need a filter other than for methane. The phrase "marble movie" refers to the size of Jupiter in the images and how small it looks.

The timing of these images is also unique as they show Jupiter during a time when it would normally be invisible to NASA's ground support. During a period of the year, Jupiter's orbit brings it too close to the sun to be visible from Earth, leaving astronomers in the dark. However, JunoCam continued to take a picture every 15 minutes.


Two of Pluto's mountains could be ice-spewing volcanoes

© abdulazez-dukhan
This past January NASA released an up-close image (shown below) of what may be one of the strangest features on Pluto: a massive volcano that spewed ice instead of lava. "This feature is enormous," NASA said on its website. "If it is in fact a volcano, as suspected, it would be the largest such feature discovered in the outer solar system."

"It's a huge finding that small planets can be active on a massive scale, billions of years after their creation," said New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute (SWRI).

"The New Horizons mission has taken what we thought we knew about Pluto and turned it upside down," said Jim Green, director of planetary science at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "It's why we explore - to satisfy our innate curiosity and answer deeper questions about how we got here and what lies beyond the next horizon."

Comment: See also:New Horizons: NASA 'amazed' by the most detailed images of Pluto yet
Pluto Has "Upside Down" Atmosphere
Hi-res photos taken by 'New Horizons' of Pluto show elaborate "snakeskin" surface of diverse terrain similar to Earth

Microscope 2

Study finds cancer drug given to pregnant women may reduce fertility in unborn daughters

© Alvin Baez / Reuters
A chemotherapy drug prescribed to moms-to-be fighting cancer may reduce the fertility of their unborn daughters, researchers say. Their findings result from the first study into the long-term effects of chemotherapy during pregnancy.

"This is an issue that has not been explored until now," the study's lead researcher, Professor Norah Spears, from Edinburgh University's Center for Integrative Physiology, said in a statement. Spears said previous studies, looking at chemotherapy drugs' effects during pregnancy, focused exclusively on the immediate effects, such as "increased miscarriage rates or severe foetal abnormalities.

A team of scientists at Edinburgh University have found that a drug called etoposide can damage the development of ovarian tissue in mice. Given that 95 percent of their genes are the same as those of humans, this could have the same impact on humans, researchers say.

Around one in 1,000 pregnant women are diagnosed with cancer.

Etoposide use involves a low risk of miscarriage and birth defects, and is considered safe for use in the second and third trimester of pregnancy. Little is known, however, about the longer-term effects of the drug on the unborn baby, researchers say.

Blue Planet

NASA researchers suggest Venus once had an ocean, atmosphere and supported life

Observations suggest Venus may have had water oceans in its distant past. A land-ocean pattern like that above was used in a climate model to show how storm clouds could have shielded ancient Venus from strong sunlight and made the planet habitable
Venus may have once had a shallow ocean and habitable temperatures, allowing it to support life for up to two billion years of its early history, according to NASA researchers.

Using a model similar to what is used to study climate change on Earth, scientists at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) concluded that the planet may have once been an entirely different place than modern-day Venus, which is a "hellish place" with a carbon dioxide atmosphere 90 times as thick as Earth's and almost no water vapor, and temperatures that reach 864 degrees Fahrenheit (462 degrees Celsius).

"Many of the same tools we use to model climate change on Earth can be adapted to study climates on other planets, both past and present," Michael Way, a researcher at GISS and the paper's lead author, said in a statement.

The research, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, was made possible by using previous data and applying it to a new hypothesis of what ancient Venus was really like.


They're here! Animal inspired biohybrid robots being created in labs

© Dr. Andrew Horchler, CC BY-ND
Biohybrid sea slug, reporting for duty.
Think of a traditional robot and you probably imagine something made from metal and plastic. Such "nuts-and-bolts" robots are made of hard materials. As robots take on more roles beyond the lab, such rigid systems can present safety risks to the people they interact with. For example, if an industrial robot swings into a person, there is the risk of bruises or bone damage.

Researchers are increasingly looking for solutions to make robots softer or more compliant - less like rigid machines, more like animals. With traditional actuators - such as motors - this can mean using air muscles or adding springs in parallel with motors. For example, on a Whegs robot, having a spring between a motor and the wheel leg (Wheg) means that if the robot runs into something (like a person), the spring absorbs some of the energy so the person isn't hurt. The bumper on a Roomba vacuuming robot is another example; it's spring-loaded so the Roomba doesn't damage the things it bumps into.

Comment: Next on the list: Robots made with human parts.


Mummified 'monster' unearthed by Siberian miners may be lost species of dinosaur

© Yakutian-Sakha Inform Agency / ysia.ru
An ancient mummified 'monster' unearthed in a diamond pit by Siberian miners could be a previously undiscovered species of dinosaur.

Russia's northern region is known to be a veritable ice box of discovery, hosting the remains of countless prehistoric animals in a natural deep freeze.

But researchers are understood to be baffled at the latest creature pulled from sands near the town of Udachny, located in the Sakha Republic, according to the Siberian Times.


Extremely rare sapphire-blue lobster caught off Cape Cod

© Jan Nickerson / Facebook
A Cape Cod fisherman got an exciting surprise in his catch earlier this week when he found a 2-pound lobster in his trap, the color of a sapphire. According to experts his catch is an extreme rarity, occurring in about one in two million.

Wayne Nickerson, owner and captain of FV Windsong in Plymouth, was the lucky fisherman who has been fishing for lobster for over 35 years. He told ABC this was only the second one he has caught.

"He let out a loud exclamation of excitement," Jan, his wife, told ABC News. "He was very clear about how excited he was."

Jan posted a photo of the blue lobster on a Facebook page on Monday. Since then the photo has been liked by over 1,800 people and shared by over 2,000 others.

Eggs Fried

Researchers shed light on toddlers' picky eating

The food preferences of toddlers are a mind-boggling enigma. On the one hand, kids under two years old are the most likely age group to accidentally poison themselves—by deciding it's a great idea to guzzle detergent, for instance. Yet, when parents try to coax them into ingesting nutritious, non-lethal options, tots may cook up a fit.

According to a new study, toddlers may actually have some logic to their apparent dietary madness—at least a little logic, that is. By watching toddlers react to people's food preferences, researchers found that the little ankle-biters seem to make generalizations about good eats and who will like them based on social identities. Toddlers expected people in the same social groups to like the same foods and appeared puzzled if that wasn't the case. But if one person expressed a dislike for a food first, toddlers seemed to expect that everyone would follow suit regardless of social identities.


Mysterious supernovas explode twice, giving birth to powerful magnets

This artist's illustration of a supernova shows a shell of material being expelled from the dying star, as well as a burst of bright light.
A mysterious kind of supernova that appears to explode twice may be giving birth to some of the most powerful magnets in the universe, a new study finds.

Supernovas are explosions that occur when certain types of stars run out of fuel and "die." These outbursts can briefly outshine all of the millions of other stars in their galaxies.

Recently, scientists detected a very rare class of supernova, known as superluminous supernovas. These star explosions are up to 100 times brighter than other supernovas. The superluminous variety account for less than a thousandth of all supernovas, and only about 30 examples have been studied well.

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Evil Rays

Mama dolphins sing their name to babies in the womb

© vkilikov | Shutterstock.com
Humans aren't the only species whose members speak to their babies in the womb. Dolphin mamas appear to sing their own name to their unborn calves.

New research suggests that dolphin mothers teach their babies a "signature whistle" right before birth and in the two weeks after. Signature whistles are sounds that are made by individual dolphins, which the animals use to identify one another. Calves eventually develop their own signature whistle, but in the first few weeks of life, mothers seem focused on teaching their offspring their signature sound, the scientists said.

"It's been hypothesized that this is part of an imprinting process," Audra Ames, a doctoral student at the University of Southern Mississippi, said here on Friday (Aug. 5) at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association.

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