Inside the rings of Saturn

Worth a look on the internet, as footage of Saturn’s rings are revealed when Nasa’s  Cassini spacecraft plunges inside the planet’s rings.


Planes made of graphene?

Remember graphene, the single layer of carbon atoms forming a regular hexagonal pattern, which is very light but extremely strong? Richard Branson believes that aircraft could be made entirely of graphene in 10 years time.

Single atoms used to store information

Scientists have manage to use a single atom to store two bits of data, whereas today’s  technologies need at least 10,000 atoms to store one bit of information. Atoms of holmium (a metal in the lanthanide series) were used, and by flipping the atom’s magnetic orientation so that it aligned with or against the Earth’s magnetic field, it was able to switch a bit from 0 to 1.


Sentinel-2B launched

Sentinel-2B, Europe’s new satellite, has just been launched to join an identical spacecraft, Sentinel-2A, which is already in orbit. Between them they will photograph all land surfaces and coastal waters in visible and infrared light to provide a complete map of the Earth every 5 days.

The images will be used  for, amongst other things, urban planning, air-quality monitoring, tracking deforestation and glacier retreat.

Trump and Global Warming

One hundred researchers, including many of the most prominent climate scientists in Britain, have written to Theresa May to warn her of the potential threats posed by Donald Trump, who has made it clear he does not accept that human activities contribute to global warming.

The letter warns that Trump’s administration may severely weaken climate change research. If the world class climate science now performed in the US is wound down under Trump, the UK must be ready to respond decisively, the letter states. One response would be to rapidly expand British climate science by offering jobs to disaffected US researchers.

More climate change effects

Something is happening to the floating sea ice of the Arctic; scientists are finding that Arctic sea ice is getting younger and thinner, which is set to continue in March, when US research reveals the winter maximum, and September, when it reveals the summer minimum, making it more vulnerable to a catastrophic and unprecedented break-up.

Nasa researchers have found that the thicker multi-year ice, which has survived several summer melt seasons, is being rapidly replaced by thinner one-year ice formed over a single winter. This change makes the polar region increasingly vulnerable to storms that could smash their way through the final remnants of thinner, one-year sea ice, making a completely ice-free summer in the Arctic increasingly likely.

Birth of the ‘Boom Star’!

1795 years ago two rather dim stars, in the constellation Cygnus, collided creating a Red Nova (dubbed the ‘Boom Star). Light from this new star is travelling towards us and we will be able to view the birth of this star with the naked eye. Unfortunately we will have to wait until the summer of 2022 to see this phenomena!


Genetically modified mosquitoes to combat Zika?

Genetically modified mosquitoes could be released in the Florida Keys as early as this spring, an official said, after voters in Monroe County, Florida, approved the experiment. This could be the first time a genetically modified animal is released into the wild in the United States.

The male mosquitoes modified by Oxitec are designed to control Aedes aegypti mosquito populations by mating with wild females, and passing a gene to their offspring that stops them from reaching maturity. Only male mosquitoes are to be released (one out of every 1,000 could be female). Male mosquitoes do not bite.

The mosquitoes are meant to undermine the same mosquitoes that spread Zika.

Extraordinarily hot Arctic

The Arctic is experiencing extraordinarily hot sea surface and air temperatures, which are stopping ice forming and could lead to record lows of sea ice at the north pole next year.

Danish and US researchers monitoring satellites and Arctic weather stations are surprised and alarmed by air temperatures peaking at what they say is an unheard-of 20C higher than normal for the time of year. In addition, sea temperatures averaging nearly 4C higher than usual in October and November.

Let’s hope the new president elect is taking serious notice.