Zinnia flowers are starting to grow in the International Space Station's Veggie facility as part of the VEG-01 investigation. Veggie provides lighting and nutrient supply for plants in the form of a low-cost growth chamber and planting "pillows” to provide nutrients for the root system. These plants appear larger than their ground-based counterparts and scientists expect buds to form on the larger plants soon.
Since time immemorial, philosophers and scholars have sought to determine how existence began. With the birth of modern astronomy, this tradition has continued and given rise to the field known as cosmology. And with the help of supercomputing, scientists are able to conduct simulations that show how the first stars and galaxies formed in our Universe and evolved over the course of billions of years.
Some might say it’s paranoid to think about an asteroid hitting Earth and wiping us out. But the history of life on Earth shows at least 5 major extinctions. And at least one of them, about 65 million years ago, was caused by an asteroid.
Mathematical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking was best known for his work exploring the relationship between black holes and quantum physics. A black hole is the remnant of a dying supermassive star that’s fallen into itself; these remnants contract to such a small size that gravity is so strong even light cannot escape from them. Black holes loom large in the popular imagination – schoolchildren ponder why the whole universe doesn’t collapse into one. But Hawking’s careful theoretical work filled in some of the holes in physicists’ knowledge about black holes.
Astronomers have made the most precise measurement to date of the rate at which the universe is expanding.But there’s also some unsettling news: The new number remains at odds with independent measurements of the early universe’s expansion, which could mean that there is something unknown about the makeup of the universe.
For decades, ever since the Pioneer and Voyager missions passed through the outer Solar System, scientists have speculated that life might exist within icy bodies like Jupiter’s moon Europa. However, thanks the Cassini mission, scientists now believe that other moons in the outer Solar System – such as Saturn’s moon Enceladus – could possibly harbor life as well.
In 2006, Nature published a paper describing how stem cells could be used to restore sight in blind mice. This study, and similar subsequent studies, created a lot of excitement about the potential of stem cells to cure blindness in humans. Fast forward 12 years and we still don’t seem to be quite there – one notable human clinical trial in Japan was stopped in 2015 due to a risk of tumour development in a patient’s eye. So are we any closer to using stem cell therapies to treat blindness, or will we always be “ten years away”?
Enceladus, one of Saturn's moons, is currently a leading candidate for scientists searching for the ingredients for extraterrestrial life. One new study shows how microorganisms could survive there, living off of methane.
When we finally find life somewhere out there beyond Earth, it’ll be at the end of a long search. Life probably won’t announce its presence to us, we’ll have to follow a long chain of clues to find it. Like scientists keep telling us, at the start of that chain of clues is water.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket is scheduled for launch on February 6, and the entire space industry is watching with anticipation
Using data collected from their network of telescopes, the Event Horizons Telescope team hopes to produce the first ever image of a black hole in 2018.