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Earth is surrounded by a 'bubble' of live bacteria - at 33 000 feet

Earth is surrounded by a 'bubble' of live bacteria - at 33 000 feet | SpaceCowboy | Scoop.it

Earth’s upper atmosphere—below freezing, nearly without oxygen, flooded by UV radiation—is no place to live. But last winter, scientists from the Georgia Institute of Technology discovered that billions of bacteria actually thrive up there. Expecting only a smattering of microorganisms, the researchers flew six miles above Earth’s surface in a NASA jet plane. There, they pumped outside air through a filter to collect particles. Back on the ground, they tallied the organisms, and the count was staggering: 20 percent of what they had assumed to be just dust or other particles was alive. Earth, it seems, is surrounded by a bubble of bacteria.

 

Scientists don’t yet know what the bacteria are doing up there, but they may be essential to how the atmosphere functions, says Kostas Konstantinidis, an environmental microbiologist on the Georgia Tech team. For example, they could be responsible for recycling nutrients in the atmosphere, like they do on Earth. And similar to other particles, they could influence weather patterns by helping clouds form. However, they also may be transmitting diseases from one side of the globe to the other. The researchers found E. coli in their samples (which they think hurricanes lifted from cities), and they plan to investigate whether plagues are raining down on us. If we can find out more about the role of bacteria in the atmosphere, says Ann Womack, a microbial ecologist at the University of Oregon, scientists could even fight climate change by engineering the bacteria to break down greenhouse gases into other, less harmful compounds.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Ed Rybicki's comment, June 25, 2013 3:39 AM
Hey, it's a microbial world - literally! From way above our heads, to way below our feet.
Dmitry Alexeev's curator insight, June 27, 2013 1:21 AM

we are everywhere)

Dmitry Alexeev's curator insight, July 28, 2013 7:31 AM

we'll have that one in our book as well

 

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NASA - Mars Soil Sample Delivered

NASA - Mars Soil Sample Delivered | SpaceCowboy | Scoop.it
NASA's Curiosity rover delivers its first soil sample to its chemistry and mineralogy instrument.
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Dark matter filament studied in 3D for the first time

Dark matter filament studied in 3D for the first time | SpaceCowboy | Scoop.it

Astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have studied a giant filament of dark matter in 3D for the first time. Extending 60 million light-years from one of the most massive galaxy clusters known, the filament is part of the cosmic web that constitutes the large-scale structure of the Universe, and is a leftover of the very first moments after the Big Bang. If the high mass measured for the filament is representative of the rest of the Universe, then these structures may contain more than half of all the mass in the Universe. The theory of the Big Bang predicts that variations in the density of matter in the very first moments of the Universe led the bulk of the matter in the cosmos to condense into a web of tangled filaments. This view is supported by computer simulations of cosmic evolution, which suggest that the Universe is structured like a web, with long filaments that connect to each other at the locations of massive galaxy clusters. However, these filaments, although vast, are made mainly of dark matter, which is incredibly difficult to observe.

 

The first convincing identification of a section of one of these filaments was made earlier this year. Now a team of astronomers has gone further by probing a filament's structure in three dimensions. Seeing a filament in 3D eliminates many of the pitfalls that come from studying the flat image of such a structure.

 

"Filaments of the cosmic web are hugely extended and very diffuse, which makes them extremely difficult to detect, let alone study in 3D," says Mathilde Jauzac (LAM, France and University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa), lead author of the study.

 

The team combined high resolution images of the region around the massive galaxy cluster MACS J0717.5+3745 (or MACS J0717 for short), taken using Hubble, NAOJ's Subaru Telescope and the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, with spectroscopic data on the galaxies within it from the WM Keck Observatory and the Gemini Observatory. Analysing these observations together gives a complete view of the shape of the filament as it extends out from the galaxy cluster almost along our line of sight.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Skydiver to Attempt Record-Breaking Supersonic 'Space Jump' Oct. 8

Skydiver to Attempt Record-Breaking Supersonic 'Space Jump' Oct. 8 | SpaceCowboy | Scoop.it
If all goes according to plan, Felix Baumgartner will jump from nearly 23 miles above the Earth.
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Lasers, Cameras and Particle Detectors: Mars Rover's Super High-Tech Science Gear

Lasers, Cameras and Particle Detectors: Mars Rover's Super High-Tech Science Gear | SpaceCowboy | Scoop.it

Curiosity represents a scientific and engineering leap over the previous rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, and its nuclear-powered battery will allow it to rove day and night. Over the course of its two-year initial mission, the probe will climb up a 3-mile-high mountain in the middle of Gale Crater, poking, prodding, and drilling into the soil and rocks. Studded in 14 locations around the probe’s heat shield are devices known as the Mars Science Laboratory Entry Descent and Landing Instrument (MEDLI). This equipment will provide information about Mars’ atmosphere and the dynamics of the rover’s descent, analyzing Curiosity’s trip to the surface and providing information helpful in designing future Mars missions.

 

Possibly the coolest Curiosity instrument is the ChemCam, which uses a laser beam to shoot rocks (and maybe a Martian or two) in order to vaporize a small sample. A spectrograph will then analyze the vapor, determining the composition and chemistry of the rocks. Situated on Curiosity’s head, ChemCam can shoot up to 23 feet and should provide unprecedented detail about minerals on the Martian surface.

 

The Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument will look at various minerals on the Martian surface. Specific minerals form in the presence or in the absence of water, revealing the history of an area and helping scientists to understand whether or not liquid existed there. Curiosity will drill into rocks to obtain samples for CheMin, pulverizing the material and transporting it into the instrument’s chamber. CheMin will then bombard the sample with X-rays to determine its composition.

 

Future Mars missions may rely on data from the Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD). The first instrument that Curiosity fires up when it lands on Mars, RAD will measure radiation at the Martian surface, determining how plausible it is that microbes exist there. One of RAD’s main selling points is its ability to assess how safe or dangerous the Martian surface would be to future human explorers, calculating the radiation dose future astronauts may receive.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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NASA - Engineers Test Rotor Landing for Capsules

NASA - Engineers Test Rotor Landing for Capsules | SpaceCowboy | Scoop.it
Equipping capsules with rotor blades instead of parachutes would give a returning capsule a softer, more precise landing, engineers said.
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Take 100 NASA Photos, Stir, Make Van Gogh's 'Starry Night'

Take 100 NASA Photos, Stir, Make Van Gogh's 'Starry Night' | SpaceCowboy | Scoop.it
An astronomy major has recreated Van Gogh's "Starry Night" painting in perhaps the most apt way: with NASA photos of the cosmos.
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ChronoZoom - The Arrow of Time Visualized

ChronoZoom - The Arrow of Time Visualized | SpaceCowboy | Scoop.it

ChronoZoom is an open-source community project dedicated to visualizing humanity, human prehistory, life, earth and the cosmos.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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