Bright Spots of Ceres; Rotten Tomatoes Produces Energy; Black Hole Flashes Red

Posted March 16th, 2016 at 1:58 pm (UTC-4)
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New image of Ceres' Occator crater with mysterious bright spots take by NASA's Dawn spacecraft (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI)

New image of Ceres’ Occator crater with mysterious bright spots take by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI)

Earth Based Telescope Provides New Insight on the Bright Spots of Ceres

The dwarf planet Ceres is the largest body in the asteroid belt, which is a large collection of small to very large space rocks between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

Among the features of the dwarf planet that’s fascinated a lot of people are several bright spots on its surface.

Some scientists think that this might suggest Ceres is more active than any neighbors in the asteroid belt.

The most noticeable spots are located within Ceres’ Occator crater.

Scientists think that the bright spots may be collections of brine that contain magnesium sulfate hexahydrate.

Now, astronomers using the HARPS spectrograph at the European Southern Observatory’s La Silla Observatory in Chile have found that these bright spots go through some surprising changes.

While the spots have been known to change as Ceres rotates, the scientists also found that they also vary and brighten during the day.

The scientists say that their observations suggest that the bright spots may be made up of volatile substance and that solar radiation make cause it to evaporate.

NASA’s DAWN spacecraft has been circling and studying Ceres and its mysterious bright spots since arriving there a year ago.

Overripe tomatoes on a compost heap. (Paul Glazzard/Wikimedia Commons)

Overripe tomatoes on a compost heap. (Paul Glazzard/Wikimedia Commons)

Rotten Tomatoes Produce Renewable Energy

About 21-percent of world electricity generation is estimated to be from non-fossil fuels such as the wind or sun.

But scientists hope to boost that number by looking at new ways to create it – one of which involves spoiled fruit.

A team of researchers found that damaged or spoiled tomatoes can be turned into a unique and powerful source of renewable energy when fed to biological and microbial electrochemical cells.

And the good news is, there seems to be a nearly endless supply of damaged and rotten tomatoes.  Florida alone generates 396,000 tons of tomato waste every year.

The scientists admit that right now the power produced by their tomato fueled energy cells is quite small.

But they’re quite optimistic that with continued research they’ll be able to greatly increase the electrical output of their energy cells.

Image shows an artist's impression of a black hole, similar to V404 Cyg, devouring material from an orbiting companion star. (ESO/L. Calçada)

Image shows an artist’s impression of a black hole, similar to V404 Cyg, devouring material from an orbiting companion star. (ESO/L. Calçada)

Black Hole Discharges Light with the Power of a Thousand Suns

Black holes aren’t usually visible since material surrounding them, even light, is devoured by their intense gravity.

But occasionally a black hole can draw in material, such as a star, so rapidly that it spits some of it out, producing a powerfully bright light in the process.

Last June, astronomers noticed that a black hole called V404 Cygni, some 7,800 light years from Earth, became very bright for about a two week period.

As they observed this phenomena, they noticed the black hole also produced very bright flashes of red light that lasted only fractions of a second.

The astronomers say that each of these flashes produced light so intense it had the equivalent power of about 1,000 suns.

Poshak Gandhi, lead author of a study detailing the astronomer’s discovery, says that the red flashes seem to have been produced when the black hole was at the peak of its feeding frenzy.

ExoMars 2016 lifted off on a Proton-M rocket from Baikonur, Kazakhstan at 09:31 GMT on 14 March 2016. ((c)ESA–Stephane Corvaja)

ExoMars 2016 lifted off on a Proton-M rocket from Baikonur, Kazakhstan at 09:31 GMT on 14 March 2016. ((c)ESA–Stephane Corvaja)

First of Two European/Russian Probes Heads to Mars

The first of two ExoMars missions took off for the Red Planet from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on Monday, March 14th.

ExoMars is joint project between the European Space Agency and the Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos.

The purpose of ExoMars is to find out if life ever existed on Mars.

The two spacecraft now being sent to Mars are the Trace Gas Orbiter and its attached Schiaparelli EDM lander.

Once they arrive at the Red Planet sometime in October the lander will be sent from the orbiter to the surface.

The orbiter will circle Mars and will sniff out the sources of methane and other gases in the Martian atmosphere.

The lander will monitor various weather conditions on Mars and gather information that will be used in the second ExoMars probe, which will be launched in 2018.

Methane has been seen as a possible sign of life since the gas is produced here on Earth by living organisms.

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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