From discovering polar cyclones on Uranus to turning on the gravitational wave detector LIGO, this week has been full of new discoveries and findings. Read about the most recent news from the field of science here.
Astronomers find new clue about mysterious radio flashes in space
Since its discoveries, fleeting flurries of radio waves called fast radio bursts (FRBs) reaching Earth from faraway galaxies have been puzzling scientists. Now, scientists are trying to figure out what produces an FRB by studying its local environment to determine the sources that could exist in, or create, such environments. They targeted a repeating FRB, called FRB 20190520B, using telescopes in the U.S. and Australia. They discovered that the FRB’s Faraday rotation measure – an indicator of its magnetic field strength – was highly variable and that it reversed direction twice. This magnetic reversal, they believe, has to do with the FRB source orbiting a binary star system where the companion star is probably a massive star or a black hole.
Scientists identify polar cyclone swirling on mysterious Uranus
New observations from a telescope located in New Mexico are providing a fuller understanding of Uranus’s atmosphere, including the detection of a polar cyclone whose centre measures a quarter of Earth’s diameter, swirling near its north pole. Scientists were able to gaze more deeply into the atmosphere of Uranus - a planet classified as an ice giant, like its planetary neighbour Neptune - than ever before. The research confirmed that polar cyclones are present on every body in our solar system with a substantial atmosphere - all the planets but Mercury and even Saturn’s moon Titan.
NASA spacecraft documents how Jupiter’s lightning resembles Earth’s
Hidden below the brownish ammonia clouds blanketing Jupiter are clouds that like on Earth are made of water. And like on Earth, lightning often is generated within these clouds - an eerie sight spotted by various spacecraft that have visited our solar system’s largest planet, including NASA’s Juno probe. Data obtained by Juno is providing fresh information on how the lightning processes on Jupiter are similar to those on Earth despite the dramatic differences between the two planets.
Scientists to step into ‘Martian’ habitat in Houston for experiments
Four volunteers will be entering a ‘Martian’ habitat in Houston, Texas at the end of June where they will live there for the next 12 months. These long-term trials allow NASA to assess the behaviour of a crew in a solitary and constrained setting in advance of a potential actual flight. The habitat named Mars Dune Alpha is a 1,700 square foot (160 square metres) habitat that was 3D printed. It has a vertical farm to generate food, as well as bedrooms, a gym, communal areas and other amenities. It is an enclosed area filled with red sand rather than being open air, and is divided by an airlock.
Gravitational wave detector LIGO is back online after 3 years of upgrades
After a three-year hiatus, scientists in the U.S. have just turned on detectors capable of measuring gravitational waves – tiny ripples in space itself that travel through the universe. The Laser Interferometric Gravitational-Wave Observatory – commonly known as LIGO – has been sitting dormant while it underwent some exciting upgrades. These improvements will significantly boost the sensitivity of LIGO and should allow the facility to observe more-distant objects that produce smaller ripples in spacetime.
Archaeologists find neolithic stone tools in Hyderabad
Archaeologists in Hyderabad have recently found rare stone tools, belonging to the Neolithic age, with the findings indicating that the city’s history goes back to about 6,000 years. The Neolithic age relates to the period when humans used tools and weapons made of stone and had just developed farming. Archaeologists recently visited a natural rock formation at BNR Hills in the city, locally known as ‘tortoise rock’, to explore if there were any prehistoric rock paintings when they stumbled upon the said discovery. They closely looked at a gap between two rocks and found as many neolithic stone tools.
Cheetahs introduced without considering spatial ecology
Almost 70 years after the Asiatic cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus) went extinct in India, eight cheetahs from Namibia and 12 from South Africa were introduced into the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh in September 2022 and February 2023. Now, three scientists from Germany, have pointed out serious shortcomings in the reintroduction plan. Using only the prey density in the national park, the carrying capacity for cheetahs was calculated to be 21, which translates into three cheetahs per 100 sq km. Researchers have pointed out that such “high cheetah densities have not been recorded for other free-ranging African cheetah population roaming in unfenced areas”.