Observing animals in the wild while not disturbing them is a classic challenge for behavioral ecologists. But as a new study shows, the use of remotely operated robots to observe penguins and seals in their natural habitats can result in significantly lower and shorter stress responses.
For the new study, Yvon Le Maho of the University of Strasbourg in France and colleagues sought to find out if remote-controlled rovers could substitute for intrusive human observers. Indeed, efforts to study these sensitive creatures have never been more important. The latest research suggests that global warming will reduce Antarctica's emperor penguin population by nearly 20% over the next 80 years.
Today Mars is an arid, frigid desert, suggesting that the mother of all climate changes happened there, about four billion years ago or so. The question that haunts planetary scientists is why? And could it happen here?
"I think the short story is the atmosphere went away and the oceans froze but are still there, locked up in subsurface ice," said Chris McKay, an astrobiologist and Mars expert at NASA's Ames Research Center.
In September a new spacecraft known as Maven, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission, swung into orbit around the planet. Its job is to get a longer answer to one part of the mysterious Martian climate change, namely where the planet's atmosphere went.
Behold the glory that is the first rainbow image obtained from Venus. This rainbow is a type of glory, formed by light passing through cloud droplets. Glories are formed when light bounces off spherical cloud particles in the same direction from which it came, creating a ring of light only visible if you (or a spacecraft) are directly between the center of the glory and the sun. That's what happened here--the image below was captured by the European Space Agency's Venus Express...
"A full glory has never been seen before outside of the terrestrial environment," Wojciech Markiewicz, at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research...
In February of 2012, astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope discovered a cluster of young, blue stars in the spectacular edge-on galaxy (ESO 243-49 above), encircling the first intermediate-mass black hole ever found. The presence of the star cluster suggests that the black hole was once at the core of a now-disintegrated dwarf galaxy.