Close Call for ISS; Threat to Polar Bears; Binary System Cannibal

Posted July 18th, 2015 at 1:00 am (UTC-4)
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ISS Crewmembers Back to Work after Close Call with Space Junk

Fear that a floating piece of space junk could impact the ISS sent astronauts the station’s crew scrambling onto a docked Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft on Friday (07/17). Luckily, the debris passed the station harmlessly, and the crew was back at work.

Houston’s Mission Control was tracking a chunk of what used to be a weather satellite when they noticed that it was headed to toward the space station for possible impact Thursday (07/16) at 1201 UTC.

Loss of Sea Ice Poses Serious Threat to Polar Bears

Food has always been scarce for polar bears, but the quickening loss of sea ice during the summer months could lead to even less food available.

While the bears have certain amount of stored energy, a new study suggests they may not be able to rely on that reserve to get them through the melt season. The bears also can reduce the amount of energy they use to help prolong their supply of stored energy, but the study indicates it isn’t enough to make up for any food shortages they experience during the summer.

It May be Harder to Avoid Mosquito Bites than Thought

A new study from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has found that blood-feeding mosquitoes have evolved to where they can use three senses to zero-in on the human or animal host for their next meal.

Many insects, including mosquitoes, are drawn in by the odor of carbon dioxide released by humans and other animals when they exhale.  But, the study found mosquitoes can also use their vision to see their host and detect body heat with their thermal sensory abilities.

Study: Oceans Reduced the Rise of Global Surface Temperatures

Climate scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and UCLA, who studied ocean temperatures, have found that some of the heat generated by greenhouse gases has been trapped and held beneath the surface of the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

The researchers suggest this may explain the slowdown in the rise of global surface temperatures that have been observed over the past decade.

They found a layer beneath the surface Pacific and Indian Oceans, located between 91 and 305 meters, is gathering more heat than previously observed.  According to the researchers, movement of the warm subsurface ocean water has produced an unusually cooler surface which in turn has also cooled the air temperature above.

Astronomers Discover a Cannibal in a Dual-Star System

Professional astronomers with help from amateur stargazers have discovered a fascinating binary star system containing a very hot and dense white dwarf that is actually devouring its larger companion star.

Named Gaia-14aae, the rare star system is located some 730 light years away from Earth in the Draco constellation.

Another factor that sets this star system apart from others is that it contains a large amount of helium but no hydrogen, which is very strange since hydrogen is the most common element in the Universe.

Rick Pantaleo
Rick Pantaleo maintains the Science World blog and writes stories for VOA’s web and radio on a variety of science, technology and health topics. He also occasionally appears on various VOA programs to talk about the latest scientific news. Rick joined VOA in 1992 after a 20 year career in commercial broadcasting.

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