Beautiful Orion Nebula

An amazing photo of the Orion Nebula. Details from NASA:

Few cosmic vistas excite the imagination like the Orion Nebula, an immense stellar nursery some 1,500 light-years away. This stunning false-color view spans about 40 light-years across the region, constructed using infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope. Compared to its visual wavelength appearance, the brightest portion of the nebula is likewise centered on Orion’s young, massive, hot stars, known as the Trapezium Cluster. But the infrared image also detects the nebula’s many protostars, still in the process of formation, seen here in red hues. In fact, red spots along the dark dusty filament to the left of the bright cluster include the protostar cataloged as HOPS 68, recently found to have crystals of the silicate mineral olivine within its protostellar envelope.

(via APOD: 2011 September 17 – Spitzer’s Orion.)

Gamers solve puzzle that stumped scientists for decade

An article published in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology described how gamers playing an online game called Foldit deciphered a puzzle that stumped scientists and automated computers working on the problem for over a decade. In three weeks!

They figured out the protein structure of a monomeric protease enzyme, which is “a cutting agent in the complex molecular tailoring of retroviruses, a family that includes HIV”. The understanding of this structure is an important step towards discovering the causes of many diseases related to this enzyme and coming up with treatments for them.

Gamers solve puzzle in 3 weeks that stumped scientists for a decade (The Next Web)

Timelapse of Earth from Space Station

So cool!

James Drake used 600 photos from the Gateway to Astronomy Photograph of Earth archive to create this timelapse video of Earth from the International Space Station.

If you love astronomy images, be sure to view his blog — lots of amazing photos.

(via Universe Today)


“This movie begins over the Pacific Ocean and continues over North and South America before entering daylight near Antarctica. Visible cities, countries and landmarks include (in order) Vancouver Island, Victoria, Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Fransisco, Los Angeles. Phoenix. Multiple cities in Texas, New Mexico and Mexico. Mexico City, the Gulf of Mexico, the Yucatan Peninsula, Lightning in the Pacific Ocean, Guatemala, Panama, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, and the Amazon. Also visible is the Earths ionosphere (thin yellow line) and the stars of our galaxy.”

Weekend Links – 9/16

Each Friday we’ll post a collection of links for you to check out over the weekend — posts from around the web that didn’t quite make the cut for the week. Not saying these aren’t cool, by any means — they’re just older or not as exciting as the links we decided to post.


Have a good weekend!

Star Wars in Real Life? Exoplanet Discovered Orbiting Two Stars

Binary Star Exoplanet Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA astronomers, using the Kepler space telescoped, recently discovered an exoplanet that orbits around two stars, instead of one. The Saturn-sized planet is about 200 light-years away and orbits stars that are “roughly three-quarters and one-fifth the mass of the sun.”

You may remember that Luke Skywalker grew up on a planet called Tatooine, that also orbited two stars. The astronomers believe the planet is probably closer to Star Wars’ cold planet Hoth, though, since the stars are both relatively cool. They estimate the temperature on the planet to be minus 100 to minus 150 degrees Fahrenheit. The planet is also similar to Saturn in that it’s a gas giant, meaning no place to stand and watch that amazing double sunset Luke watched in A New Hope.

The full report will appear in the September 16th issues of Science.

Source: New Exoplanet Discovery Is Life Imitating Star Wars | Wired Science

Dinosaur Feathers Found in Amber Reinforce Evolution Theories

Researchers led by University of Alberta paleontologist Ryan McKellar discovered protofeather fossils encased in amber from the Late Cretaceous era. The latest issue of the journal Science includes their findings, which support theories of dinosaur and avian evolution.

Click through for more detail and an amazing photo gallery: Dinosaur Feathers Found in Amber Reinforce Evolution Theories – The Atlantic.

NASA Ready to Move Forward with Space Launch System

Artist concept of SLS launching. (NASA)

Artist concept of SLS launching. (NASA)

NASA announced they are ready to move forward with the development of the Space Launch System (SLS) in a news release yesterday. SLS is “an advanced heavy-lift launch vehicle that will provide an entirely new national capability for human exploration beyond Earth’s orbit.”

The Space Launch System, or SLS, will be designed to carry the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, as well as important cargo, equipment and science experiments to Earth’s orbit and destinations beyond. Additionally, the SLS will serve as a back up for commercial and international partner transportation services to the International Space Station.

Below is a NASA video showing the SLS concept, including a virtual launch:

Read more: Meet NASA’s Space Launch System, 50 Years In The Making (Fast Company) & NASA Announces Design for New Deep Space Exploration System (NASA)