Space

NASA satellite captures comet plunging into Sun at a mind-boggling 373 miles per second!

A sungrazer comet (technically known as Kreutz sungrazers) crashed into the sun on August 4, 2016 and lucky for us, the entire event was captured on video by NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO). Analysis of the video shows the comet plunged into the sun at a mind-boggling 373 miles per second! That’s million miles per hour! At that speed, you could drive completely around the earth in about a minute. Kreutz sungrazers are fragments of larger comets, called Kreutz comets, that have broken apart as they neared the sun. When the sun pulls these smaller fragments toward it, they accelerate until eventually, they are vaporized by the intense forces near the sun. Kreutz comets travel around the sun on a path called the Kreutz…
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Animal Kingdom

Algae invasion! Sea Ghosts create beautiful light show on China’s beach

China's Xiangbi'ao beach shone with a majestic sparkling glow-in-the-dark blue hue last week after a natural phenomenon called "Sea Ghosts" invaded the waters.  Sea Ghost or "Sea Sparkle" is created by the growth of an algal bloom called Noctiluca scintallans, a type of single-cell animal that loves to munch on plankton.  The organisms multiply when nitrogen and phosphorus from farm fertilizer run-off enters the water.  Beautiful, yes - but harmful to the ecosystem.  When the blooms die, they sink to the bottom of the sea where they decompose, consuming huge amounts of oxygen and killing other marine life. Check out the Sea Sparkle on China's Xiangbi'ao beach in the pictorial gallery below.  
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Geology

Check out the “dirty thunderstorm” raging inside the mouth of erupting Mount Sakurajima

Mount Sakurajima, a 3,665-foot high volcano in Japan, erupted this week sending a plume of smoke more than 3 miles into the air. Even better, all the flying ash and rock created a static electricity storm inside the mouth of the volcano. A photographer captured a picture of the storm which raged within the Showa crater on the southeastern side of the volcano. Storms such as this are called “dirty thunderstorms”. They are rare in general but fairly common at Mount Sakurajima. So far Mount Sakurajima has seen 50 eruptions this year.
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Technology

Meet the new Atlas robot and see how well it reacts to bullying

Boston Dynamics continues to blow us away with its amazingly lifelike robots and such is the case with the newest version of the Atlas robot. Atlas is a humanoid robot made by Boston Dynamics (the makers of the ever-popular BigDog military robot). Atlas can walk on two legs and use its “arms” to lift, carry, and climb (and maybe one day, fight back against robot bullies).  Atlas is even sophisticated enough to adjust and navigate through tight, cluttered places. Atlas features 28 hydraulically-actuated degrees of freedom and a sensor head with cameras and a laser range finer (LIDAR). It stands 5 feet 9 inches and weighs 180 pounds (compared to its 330-pound predecessor, that’s lightweight). There are several Atlas robots being manufactured. Check out the…
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Space

Amazing gravitational waves discovery – what they are and why they’re so important

In 1916, Albert Einstein predicted that any event that disturbs spacetime will produce ripples that spread throughout the entire Universe. He called these ripples gravitational waves. This week, one hundred years after Einstein’s prediction, scientists revealed they had finally detected gravitational waves. The discovery being called the greatest scientific advance this century.  Here’s how they did it and why the discovery is such a big deal. What’s all this mumbo-jumbo about gravitational waves and spacetime? In scientific geek-speak, gravitational waves are disturbances in the fabric of spacetime. If you drag your finger through a bowl of water, you will notice waves follow the path of your finger and ripple outward towards the edge of the bowl. Einstein predicted that the same thing happens when a heavy object…
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Physics and math

Get the thought that all tiny particles in our universe are shaped like little round balls out of your head!

Scientists have worked for a very long time trying to figure out a theory called quantum field theory. Quantum field theory is a body of laws that describe how the tiny little particles all around us interact – particles tinier than atoms, protons, electrons, and neutrons. We’re talking super tiny particles with names like baryons, quarks, muons, and likely many more that we don’t know about yet. Whatever the particle, we tend to think of these objects as little dots, spheres, or tiny circles. Even the models in books illustrate these particles as tiny little balls. Turns out that scientists thought of them that way too – and when they looked at these in a different perspective, suddenly their work in quantum field theory became…
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Space

The Mars Curiosity rover happily whiling away its time working in the sand

This past week, NASA's Curiosity rover spent quite a bit of its time happily playing in the sand – on Mars.  In December 2016, Curiosity reached a new frontier on Mars – the Bagnold Dunes.  The dunes are located on the northwestern flank of Mount Sharp (officially given the rather geeky name, Aeolis Mons), a mountain at the center of the Gale Crater, and feature a landscape unlike anything Curiosity has come across before.  In fact, in some photos, the sandy dunes and mountainous Mars terrain in the background look quite earthly.   Here is Curiosity earlier in the year.  You can see the dunes in the distance as Curiosity makes it way toward them.   The dune to the left of Curiosity is Namib…
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Space

China’s Yuto rover sends back remarkable hi-def, full color pictures from Moon

China's Chang'e 3 lander and its little companion rover, Yutu, have sent back a set of truly remarkable pictures of the Moon's surface – all in full color and hi-def resolution!  These are the first photos taken from the surface of the moon in nearly 40 years. On December 23, 2013, the Chang'e 3 lander sent back this four-segment mosaic of Yutu (which means "Jade Rabbit" in Chinese) as it set off to study the Moon.   Chang'e 3 landed in a lava-filled crater, Mare Imbrium, the largest basin on the moon's near side.  In 2014, Chang'e 3 sent back this mosiac showing Yutu's seemingly willy-nilly tracks as it trekked across the surface of moon.   Here's what the rocks on the moon look like up…
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Geology

This is what Niagara Falls looks like when all the water is shut off

Would you believe the millions of gallons of water that rush over Niagara Falls can be turned off? It’s happened before and is about to happen again. All the water from the American side of Niagara Falls (the American Falls) will be rerouted in order to allow repairs to infrastructure. When that happens, we’ll see the bone-dry cliff where the water previously roared. The last time the falls were shutoff was 1969 (see photo above and pictorial gallery below). The Army Corps of Engineers stopped the flow in order to see how the rushing water was eroding the falls. To do this, the 60,000 gallon-per second flow was diverted to Horseshoe Falls and the Robert Moses generating plant upriver. Now the parks department once again wants to…
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Science Photos

Look how cute giraffes are when they sleep (hint: they use their butt for a pillow)

They tower nearly two stories tall (up to 20 feet), weigh well over 2,000 pounds, and stand on long, lanky legs that let them reach speeds up to 40 mph. But with such a massive, gangly frame, how do they lay down to sleep? First, to lie down, the giraffe kneels on its front legs, folding them under its body, and then lowers its body to the ground, sort of like an accordion. Getting back up is pretty much the opposite process – the giraffe first gets on its knees and then spreads its hind legs to raise its back-end to full height. Then they straighten their front legs and viola, they’re back upright again. Luckily giraffes don’t have to do this awkward routine very…
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