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Mon, 20 Feb 2017
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Science & Technology

Cloud Lightning

'THOR experiment' captures rare footage of electrical 'blue jets' in space

© Geophysical Research Letters
Rare footage of a thunderstorm filmed from onboard the International Space Station (ISS) has raised more questions than answers for scientists, according to a new study.

Described as a first of its kind, footage of "elusive blue jets" was filmed in 2015 over the Bay of Bengal by European Space Agency astronauts using the most sensitive camera on the space station.

Gigantic electrical discharges and jets can be seen in the footage with numerous flashes visible within the storm clouds. A number of blue-purple discharges are followed by a "pulsating blue jet" shooting up out of the cloud.

"The blue discharges and jets are examples of a little-understood part of our atmosphere," the ESA said in a statement. "Electrical storms reach into the stratosphere and have implications for how our atmosphere protects us from radiation."


Look up tonight! Stunning 'Snow moon' eclipse and a mysterious green comet are set to appear in the night sky

© NASA Jet Propulsion Lab/California Institute of Technology
Along with the lunar eclipse, Comet 45P will make its closest approach to Earth this weekend. The comet makes its way back to the inner solar system roughly every 5 years, and has a bright bluish-green 'head'
It's almost time to get your binoculars at the ready, as this evening looks set to offer some stunning astronomical events to viewers around the world. A lunar eclipse is forecast to appear on a snow moon - a full moon that occurs in February - casting a shadow across the lunar surface.

And just a few hours later, Comet 45P - also known as the New Year comet - will make its closest approach to the Earth.

The full event will be live streamed on Slooh, who will be filming the skies from the Canary Islands.

An eclipse of the moon occurs when the sun, Earth and moon line up, with Earth in the middle.

This alignment causes the Earth's shadow to fall on the moon, creating a lunar eclipse.

Ice Cube

Algae 'chill' in space for two years and live to tell the tale

© Pixabay
Algae have joined bacteria and lichens as the latest form of Earth life to show they can survive in space.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology in Potsdam, Germany and their international counterparts have made a discovery, after conducting a long-term experiment which took place on the International Space Station (ISS), that algae can survive extreme conditions in outer space. The research findings could benefit industrial applications and perhaps, even a mission to Mars.

The experiment looked to see if algae could spend two years on the outside of the ISS. The algae, which were of the Sphaerocystis species, spent 530 days on a panel outside the space station.

Comet 2

Hubble finds big brother of Halley's Comet ripped apart by white dwarf

Comet falling into white dwarf (artist's impression)
Scientists using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have observed, for the first time, a massive, comet-like object that has been ripped apart and scattered in the atmosphere of a white dwarf. The destroyed object had a chemical composition similar to Halley's Comet, but was 100,000 times more massive than its famous counterpart.

The international team of astronomers observed the white dwarf WD 1425+540, about 170 light-years from Earth in the constellation Boötes (the Herdsman) [1]. While studying the white dwarf's atmosphere using both the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and the W. M. Keck Observatory the team found evidence that an object rather like a massive comet was falling onto the star, getting tidally disrupted while doing so.

The team determined that the object had a chemical composition similar to the famous Halley's Comet in our own Solar System, but it was 100 000 times more massive and had twice the proportion of water as its local counterpart. Spectral analysis showed that the destroyed object was rich in the elements essential for life, including carbon, oxygen, sulphur and even nitrogen [2].


Russian scientists to test liquid breathing techniques with mice, hamsters and dogs

© Get Up And Do Something
C'mon in...it's breathtaking!
Russia's Foundation for Advanced Research (FAR) is opening a laboratory in Moscow to conduct 'liquid breathing' tests with animals, in the hope of applying the results to human medicine and the development of emergency evacuation technology for submarine crews.

Liquid breathing involves using biomedical technology to ventilate the lungs of air-breathing organisms with an oxygen-rich liquid. The technology "allows the animals to breathe underwater and stay there for long periods of time," the Foundation for Advanced Research (FAR) press service told Izvestia newspaper.

Mice, hamsters and dogs will become test subjects during the study, the scientists told the paper. During the liquid breathing experiments, "the lungs of the animal are filled with a special liquid, after which it's immersed in water for a period of time. After the test, the animal is examined and then it remains under supervision for prolonged periods of time" to study the long-term effects of the technology, FAR said.

Such tests have already been carried out successfully, with a dachshund that experienced liquid breathing two years ago still alive and well, and being looked after by one of the foundation's employees.


Move over Jupiter: Saturn acts equally as Earth's bodyguard from planetoids

© NASA / JPL-Caltech / Space Science Institute
New research has found that Saturn may play a crucial role in shielding the Earth from asteroids, challenging the theory that Jupiter acts as our sole protector by steering scuttling planetoids off-course and into the far reaches of the galaxy.

Experiments conducted by planetary physicist Kevin Grazier of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory suggest Saturn plays an equally important role in shielding Earth from harmful asteroids.

Grazier's findings also suggest that Jupiter, previously considered to be the Earth's only shield, could have played a part in the formation of all life on our blue planet by aiding the delivery of the building blocks for organic existence.


Russian scientists developing best ever invisibility cloak

© Flickr/ Bill Smith
Russian scientists have developed a unique membrane that will keep out tiny harmful particles, including viruses, and will also make people invisible, Future Research Fund's general director Andrei Grigoryev told Sputnik.

"The obtained filter material by far exceeds all existing analogues in its ability to stop the most dangerous aerosol particles such as viruses, toxins, allergens. This technology could usher in a wide variety of protective materials for medical, military and other purposes," Grigoryev explained.


Study identifies a key to preventing disruptive behavior in preschool classrooms

Curry Professor Amanda Wiliford says preschoolers whose teachers used better classroom management practices at the beginning of the year experienced the most significant reduction in disruptive behavior.
Young children who display disruptive behavior reduce those behaviors when their teacher spends extra time playing individually with them, according to a new University of Virginia study published in December in the journal Child Development.

Children who display early disruptive behaviors such as being impulsive, oppositional and/or aggressive are at risk for short- and long-term negative outcomes - even being expelled from preschool. According to the study's lead author, Amanda Williford, a research associate professor at UVA's Curry School of Education, research has shown that if these children can form a strong, positive relationship with their teachers, they tend to show better social-emotional and behavioral skills over time. The reality, however, is that children who are disruptive are much more likely to have conflictual teacher-child interactions.


Red dwarf flares jeopardize habitability of planet Proxima b

The habitability of planets orbiting young red dwarf stars is threatened by frequent stellar eruptions that likely deplete atmospheric oxygen levels, according to new NASA research.

The findings, published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, concern 'habitable zones', the region around a star where conditions could potentially allow life-sustaining liquid water.

The research has implications for the recently-discovered Proxima b planet in the "habitable zone" of red dwarf, Proxima Centauri. Proxima b, which is 1.3 times the size of Earth, was previously found to be the planet most likely to harbor life.


Stargazer's triple treat: Eclipse, comet, full moon all coming Friday night

Skywatchers will enjoy a rare space triple-header Friday night and early Saturday morning: A "penumbra" lunar eclipse during the full "snow" moon — and the flyby of a comet.
© NASA/USA Today
Here's a look at what you will see if you set your eyes to the night sky: