Friday, February 19, 2016

Starry Skies and Other Wonders

Crazy times, these. Elections. Zika. You name it. And yet this is an awesome and beautiful universe we live in. Here are some things that lifted my spirits:

Milky Way over the Pinnacles in Australia , Image Credit: Michael Goh. Made of ancient sea shells (limestone), how these human-sized picturesque spires formed remains unknown. In the background, just past the end of the central Pinnacle, is a bright crescent Moon. The eerie glow around the Moon is mostly zodiacal light, sunlight reflected by dust grains orbiting between the planets in the Solar System.

Meditation and aerobic exercise done together helps reduce depression, according to a new study. The study, published in Translational Psychiatry this month, found that the mind and body combination – done twice a week for only two months – reduced the symptoms for a group of students by 40 percent. ... "We are excited by the findings because we saw such a meaningful improvement in both clinically depressed and non-depressed students," says Brandon Alderman, lead author of the research study. "It is the first time that both of these two behavioral therapies have been looked at together for dealing with depression."

Star Forming Region S106, Image Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble Legacy Archive; A large disk of dust and gas orbiting Infrared Source 4 (IRS 4), visible in brown near the image center, gives the nebula an hourglass or butterfly shape. S106 gas near IRS 4 acts as an emission nebula as it emits light after being ionized, while dust far from IRS 4 reflects light from the central star and so acts as a reflection nebula. Detailed inspection of a recent infrared image of S106 reveal hundreds of low-mass brown dwarf stars lurking in the nebula's gas.

Prehistoric Asterid Flowers Found Perfectly Preserved in Amber. “The specimens are beautiful, perfectly preserved fossil flowers, which at one point in time were borne by plants that lived in a steamy tropical forest with both large and small trees, climbing vines, palms, grasses and other vegetation,” said team member Prof. George Poinar, Jr., from Oregon State University. ... “They show that the asterids, which later gave humans all types of foods and other products, were already evolving many millions of years ago.”

Pleistocene Mammal Rusingoryx atopocranion Had Dinosaur-Like ‘Nose’ This wildebeest like bovid with characteristics of a hadrosaur: “It appears that both Rusingoryx atopocranion and hadrosaurs evolved their nasal domes in a similar way and that it also developed in the same way as the animals aged from juveniles to adults,” they said.

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