Astronomy

G2: Astronomers Observe Mysterious Dusty Cloud at Milky Way’s Center

This composite image shows the motion of the dusty cloud G2 as it closes in, and then passes, Sagittarius A* - the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole. Image credit: A. Eckart / ESO.

A group of astronomers headed by Dr Andreas Eckart from the University of Cologne, Germany, has made the best observations so far of a dusty red object at the Milky Way’s galactic center, known as G2, using the SINFONI instrument on the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile. According to the group, G2 made its closest approach to the Milky Way’s supermassive black...

Space Exploration

Rosetta Detects Molecular Nitrogen at 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Rosetta NavCam image taken on 14 March 2015 at 85.7 km from the center of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko; it has been cleaned to remove the more obvious bad pixels and cosmic ray artefacts, and intensities have been scaled. Image credit: ESA / Rosetta / NAVCAM / CC BY-SA IGO 3.0.

The Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis (ROSINA) instrument on ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft has made the first measurement of molecular nitrogen at a comet, providing clues about the temperature environment in which this comet formed. Rosetta NavCam image taken on 14 March 2015 at 85.7 km from the center of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko; it has been cleaned to remove the more obvious...

Archaeology

500,000-Year-Old Stone Tools, Butchered Elephant Bones Found in Israel

Straight-tusk elephant rib with cut marks in association with flint tools, including a handaxe. Image credit: Solodenko N et al.

Evidence that human ancestors living 500,000 years ago in what is now the Revadim archaeological site used their stone tools on bones of elephants and other mammals, perhaps to butcher them for food, is being reported in the journal PLoS ONE. Straight-tusk elephant rib with cut marks in association with flint tools, including a handaxe. Image credit: Solodenko N et al. The Acheulian site Revadim...

Biology

New Study Sheds More Light on Secret Life of Giant Pandas

Giant panda cub Xiao Liwu and his mother Bai Yun at the San Diego Zoo.

A new study, led by Dr Vanessa Hull of the Michigan State University’s Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability, has revealed more details on how endangered giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) spend their time in the Chinese bamboo forests. Giant panda cub Xiao Liwu and his mother Bai Yun at the San Diego Zoo. Five pandas – three female adults named Pan Pan, Mei Mei and Zhong Zhong,...

Physics

Physicists Create New Form of Ice: Square Ice

Square ice between two graphene sheets as seen in a transmission electron microscope (TEM); high-contrast dark spots are oxygen atoms that indicate positions of water molecules; hydrogen atoms yield too little contrast to be resolved even by the TEM. The top right inset shows a magnified image of a small area in the centre of the ice crystal. Image credit: University of Ulm.

When water is confined at high pressure between sheets of graphene its molecules adopt a square configuration, says a team of physicists from the University of Science and Technology of China, the University of Manchester, UK, and the University of Ulm, Germany. Square ice between two graphene sheets as seen in a transmission electron microscope (TEM); high-contrast dark spots are oxygen atoms that...

Medicine

Two Lineages of HIV-1 Viruses Originated in Gorillas, New Study Finds

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of HIV-1, grown in cultured lymphocytes; virions are seen as small spheres on the surface of the cells. Image credit: C. Goldsmith.

Two of the four lineages of HIV-1 viruses have originated in western lowland gorillas, a new study reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found. Colorized scanning electron micrograph of HIV-1, grown in cultured lymphocytes; virions are seen as small spheres on the surface of the cells. Image credit: C. Goldsmith. HIV-1, the virus that causes AIDS, has jumped species...

Genetics

Scientists Create Haplotype Map of Wheat Varieties

Wheat fields in Lviv region, Ukraine. Image credit: Raimond Spekking / CC BY-SA 3.0.

An international team of scientists led by Dr Eduard Akhunov of Kansas State University has created the first haplotype map of wheat that provides detailed description of genetic differences in a worldwide sample of wheat lines. Wheat fields in Lviv region, Ukraine. Image credit: Raimond Spekking / CC BY-SA 3.0. Plant scientists often look at the genetic makeup of an organism to breed new varieties...

Geology

Geologists Discover New Layer in Earth’s Mantle

A simplified image of a slab from one of Earth’s tectonic plates sinking through the upper mantle above, through the boundary between the upper and lower mantle 410 miles deep, then stalling and pooling at a depth of 930 miles, where the new study suggests the existence of an extremely viscous layer in Earth. Image credit: Lowell Miyagi / University of Utah.

New research led by Dr Hauke Marquardt of the University of Bayreuth, Germany, suggests the existence of a previously unknown superviscous layer inside our planet: part of the lower mantle where the rock gets 3 times stiffer. Such a layer may explain why tectonic plate slabs seem to pool at 930 miles (1,500 km) under Indonesia and South America’s Pacific coast. A simplified image of a slab from...

Other Sciences

Mathematicians Partially Solve Fermi-Pasta-Ulam Problem

A figure from the original report by Enrico Fermi et al.

The Fermi-Pasta-Ulam problem – first introduced in 1955 by the famed physicist Enrico Fermi and his colleagues – has now been partially solved by a team of mathematicians from the United States, Italy, and the UK, led by Dr Miguel Onorato of the University of Turin. A figure from the original report by Enrico Fermi et al. The Fermi-Pasta-Ulam (FPU) problem is of central importance in...