Spare a thought for taxonomists. Their job is to separate life into groups, from the great kingdoms of plants to animals, all the way down to individual species. Sometimes they have an easy job. For example, brown bears are easy to distinguish from polar bears. Other times, the differences are harder to find, such as spotting the difference between giraffe species. Continue Reading →
This bright flower can tell what time it is! By Peter Heeling (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
If you’ve ever flown overseas, you might have experienced jetlag. For example, daytime in London is night in Sydney, so your body can get very confused on a journey between the two. But jetlag isn’t just a human phenomenon, or even just an animal phenomenon. Turns out sunflowers can get jet lag too!Continue Reading →
An artists impression of Philae (left) and Rosetta’s Philae photo (right). Images: ESA–J. Huart, 2013, ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA
It’s been a wild ride through space for the Philae lander. Two years ago, Philae hitched a ride aboard the European Space Agency spacecraft Rosetta. Together they took a one-way trip to a comet known as 67P. This little lander became the first spacecraft to touchdown on a comet.
Unfortunately, Philae’s harpoons didn’t fire properly during landing, and it bounced into the shade. Without sunlight to charge its batteries, Philae shut down after only 64 hours of experiments. Continue Reading →
ANU’s solar dish has a new top hat. Image: Stuart Hay, ANU
Perched high atop a giant shiny dish, sits a strange top hat. This hat is filled with high pressure steam, and it’s the secret to efficient solar power that can work even after the Sun sets. Welcome to the world of concentrated thermal energy.
For several years, scientists from the Australian National University (ANU) have been harvesting heat energy from the Sun. Their big dish collects sunlight over a huge area and focuses it on a very small target. All that sunlight makes the target very hot – and that’s exactly what they want. Continue Reading →
450 million years ago, Venus may have been habitable Image: NASA
In some ways, Venus is Earth’s twin – it’s the closest planet to Earth, and it’s almost exactly the same size. But poor Venus flies too close to the Sun. Brighter sunlight and a runaway greenhouse effect makes Venus unbearably hot, with temperatures averaging more than 450 degrees Celsius. But recent climate simulations suggest that Venus wasn’t always a terrifying hellscape. About 750 million years ago, it might have been just as mild and pleasant as Earth!
So how do we know what Venus’ weather was like? Scientists have developed complex computer programs to simulate the Earth’s atmosphere. These models are very useful in forecasting the weather, and also for predicting climate change. Recently, a team of NASA scientists adapted one of these models to look at the weather systems on Venus. Continue Reading →