Time to engage your brain with Science Friday’s news of happenings in the scientific community. The LHC deals with some first beam glitches, a spacecraft captures some neat movies of solar activity, scientists get the first direct images of an alien world, and water bears in space!. All this plus our gadget of the week: the cute and functional Rovio.
Glitch Shuts Down Large Hadron Collider
The “Big Bang Machine” malfunctioned within hours of its launch. Thursday it was reported that a 30-ton transformer that cools part of the collider broke, forcing physicists to stop using the atom smasher just a day after starting it up last week. The faulty transformer has been replaced and the ring in the 17-mile circular tunnel under the Swiss-French border has been cooled back down to nearly zero Kelvin — minus 459.67 degrees Fahrenheit — its most efficient operating temperature. But never fear, science fans! With a contraption this large and complex, it was totally expected to hit a few minor snags.
Check out the interactive feature Inside the Big Bang Machine
Hinode Spacecraft Captures Cool Movies of the Sun
Japan’s Hinode spacecraft is beaming back movies that astonish even seasoned investigators. The movie shown below is of a polar crown prominence, a curved wall of 10,000° plasma about 90,000 km long and 30,000 km tall. A stack of planets three Earths high would barely make it to the top. Solar astronomers have seen prominences like this before, thousands of them, but never so clearly. The new view is challenging long-held ideas: In the past, researchers thought of prominences as mainly static structures, held motionless above the surface of the sun by magnetic force fields. “Now we know those ideas are too simple. Just watch the movie!”
Scientists Take First Image of Alien Planet Around Sun-Like Star
Take a look at this: Encircled in the picture below is the first planet from an alien solar system ever seen by humans. Located 500 light years from Earth, it’s a planet eight times bigger than Jupiter. While it looks close to this sun-sized star in the picture, it’s actually 11 times farther away from it than Neptune is from our sun. This planet and the star it seems to orbit are located in our Milky Way galaxy about 500 light years from Earth. Before this, the only planets or similar objects that have been directly imaged outside of the solar system were either free-floating in space and not orbiting a star, or orbiting a brown dwarf, a failed star that did not reach the mass necessary to spark the nuclear fusion typical of a star.
Star 1RSX J160929.1-210524 and its likely ~8 Jupiter-mass companion
Tiny Creatures Brave the Vacuum, Become First To Ever Survive Open Space
Tardigrades, also known as “water bears,” are hardy creatures ranging from below 0.1 mm to 1.5 mm. Seemingly against all logic, they can survive temperatures as cold as near absolute zero to over 300 °F, go for a decade without water and withstand almost 1,000 times more radiation than the rest of the creatures on the earth. So what do scientists do with these invincible little marvels? Toss them into space. They spent 10 days in the vacuum of space and were sent back for study. Congratulations, water bears, you are now the first creature ever known to be able to survive in open space!
Kind of cute, aren’t they?
Gadget of the Week: Rovio Now Navigating To A Store Near You
Rovio, is cute and extremely functional. His three roving wheels let him move in pretty much any direction. Using an indoor GPS system, Rovio is able to, quite impressively, find his way around the house. His Wi-Fi-enabled Webcam lets you see whatever Rovio sees from anywhere in the world. You can access Rovio via a compatible cell phone or your PC from the Web. Let’s say you’re on vacation and you want to make sure your cats have enough food in their bowl. You can remotely send Rovio over to their kettle–no doubt, horrifying them–and get a streamed MPEG-4 video and audio feed. You can even take pictures and e-mail them. The official release date is September 26th.
Like having a mars rover in your living room!
Here’s a warp-speed look at science tid-bits that didn’t quite make the cut, but nonetheless merit mention.
- Astronauts get down to Earth
- NASA’s spooky hurricane science
- Improving our ability to peek inside molecules
- Scientists find black hole “missing link”