Astronomy

500 Exocomets Found Orbiting Nearby Star Beta Pictoris

This artist’s impression shows exocomets orbiting Beta Pictoris. Image credit: ESO / L. Calçada.

French astronomers using the HARPS instrument on the ESO 3.6-m telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile have discovered nearly 500 comets around the nearby star Beta Pictoris and have found that they belong to two distinct families: old comets that have made multiple passages near the star, and younger comets that probably came from the recent breakup of one or more larger objects. This artist’s...

Space Exploration

NASA’s HI-SEAS Team Training in Hawaii for Manned Mars Mission

HI-SEAS team members will stay in a dome on the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii. Image credit: Sian Proctor / University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Six astronaut-like members of NASA’s Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) team have embarked on the longest dedicated space travel simulation ever conducted in the United States. HI-SEAS team members will stay in a dome on the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii. Image credit: Sian Proctor / University of Hawaii at Manoa. On October 15, 2014, HI-SEAS members closed the door to their...

Archaeology

6,000-Year-Old Temple Unearthed in Ukraine

Location of the remains of a 6,000-year-old temple. Image credit: Nataliia Burdo / Mykhailo Videiko.

A team of archaeologists led by Dr Mykhailo Videiko of the Kyiv Institute of Archaeology has discovered the remains of a 6,000-year-old temple at a Trypillian culture village near modern-day Nebelivka, Ukraine. A 6,000-year-old temple found at the Trypillian mega-site of Nebelivka in Kirovograd region, Ukraine. Image credit: Nataliia Burdo / Mykhailo Videiko. Trypillian culture derives its name from...

Paleontology

Brazil’s First Fossil Bird Egg Discovered

LPRP USP-0359, a near-complete fossilized egg of a Mesozoic bird. Image credit: Júlio Cesar. de A. Marsola et al.

A near-intact fossilized egg of a Mesozoic bird recently discovered in the Sao Paulo State of Brazil is the first ever found in the country. LPRP USP-0359, a near-complete fossilized egg of a Mesozoic bird. Image credit: Júlio Cesar. de A. Marsola et al. The Mesozoic fossil record includes more than 120 species of birds found worldwide. Over the last three decades, paleontologists have made important...

Biology

Ornithologists Map Family Tree of Mysterious Cotinga Birds

The Andean cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruviana), a species in the family Cotingidae. Image credit: Jerry Thompson / CC BY 2.0.

Yale University ornithologists Prof Richard Prum and Jacob Berv have mapped out the first large-scale evolutionary family tree for the Neotropical cotingas – some of the brightest, loudest, oddest-looking birds in the world. The Andean cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruviana), a species in the family Cotingidae. Image credit: Jerry Thompson / CC BY 2.0. There are more than 60 species of the cotingas,...

Physics

Scientists Build ‘Long-Distance’ Optical Tractor Beam

Australian National University scientists adjusting the hollow laser beam. Image credit: Stuart Hay.

A team of researchers led by Dr Vladlen Shvedov of the Australian National University’s Laser Physics Center in Canberra, Australia, has built what they say is the first long-distance optical tractor beam. Australian National University scientists adjusting the hollow laser beam. Image credit: Stuart Hay. “Demonstration of a large scale laser beam like this is a kind of holy grail for laser physicists,”...

Medicine

Scientists Discover First ‘Virological Penicillin’

Leaves and flowers of the honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) are used in Traditional Chinese Medicine; G6PD deficient patients should avoid consuming this plant. Image credit: Mokkie / CC BY-SA 3.0.

Chinese researchers have discovered what they say is the first ‘virological penicillin’ – MIR2911, a molecule found naturally in a Chinese herb called honeysuckle. Leaves and flowers of the honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) are used in Traditional Chinese Medicine; G6PD deficient patients should avoid consuming this plant. Image credit: Mokkie / CC BY-SA 3.0. Honeysuckle (Lonicera...

Genetics

It’s in Genes! Scientists Identify Six New Genetic Variants Associated with Habitual Coffee Drinking

Consuming the equivalent caffeine intake of four cups of coffee or tea a day may be beneficial in preventing and protecting against the progression of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in humans. Image credit: University of Maryland.

A large team of researchers who are part of the Coffee and Caffeine Genetics Consortium has identified six new genetic variants associated with habitual coffee consumption. Coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages worldwide. Knowledge of factors contributing to coffee’s consumption and physiological effects may greatly advance the design and interpretation of population and clinical...

Geology

Tasmania, Western North America were Once Neighbors, Finds New Research

Mount Wellington and Hobart Town from Kangaroo Point (Tasmania), by John Glover, 1834.

According to a new study led by Dr Joanne Whittaker of the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, the Australia’s island state, Tasmania, and the U.S. states of Idaho, Montana, the Canadian province of British Columbia, were close geographical neighbors about 1.4 billion years ago in the Mesoproterozoic supercontinent Columbia (also known as Nuna or Hudsonland). Mount...

Other Sciences

1934 Drought was Driest, Most Widespread in Past Millennium, Scientists Find

A ‘black blizzard’ dust storm in South Dakota, 1934. Image credit: National Archives FDR Library Public Domain Photographs.

Using a reconstruction of North American drought history over the past millennium, a team of researchers from NASA and the Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory has found the Dust Bowl drought of 1934 was the worst – about 30 percent more severe than the runner-up drought (in 1580) and extended across 71.6 percent of western North America. A ‘black blizzard’ dust storm in...