Those question have now been answered by high resolution images of the six Apollo landing sites taken by the mission’s Narrow Angle Cameras (NAC).
Images captured by the LROC cameras clearly show, not only the flags, but also the LEM descent stage, the lunar rovers and tracks left on the powdery lunar surface. The flags are still standing, casting shadows on the moon.
Apollo 12 landing site. Notice the image also includes the Surveyor 3 unmanned spacecraft which landed on the moon April 20, 1967. (Image: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University)
Only the flag planted by the first men on the moon, Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin , is not erect. Back when the two men took off from the lunar surface, Aldrin noticed the flag was blown over by the exhaust from their spacecraft’s engine during liftoff.
To determine whether the flags were still standing, the LROC team examined a timed series of images taken at different periods of the day, paying close attention to the shadows circling the flags.
The images also captured other signs of the astronauts’ presence on the moon, such as the LEM descent stages of the lunar landers and various pieces of equipment used for experiments or exploration.
Also still there four decades later? Remnants of tracks marking where Armstrong and Aldrin took the first human steps on the moon.
Time lapse movie of a sequence of images highlighting the movement of the flag’s shadow at the Apollo 12 landing site. (Video: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University)
Scientists Discover How Oceans Store Carbon
Study expedition crossing Drake Passage in the Southern Ocean (Photo: British Antarctic Survey (BAS))
Scientists have discovered how carbon dioxide is drawn from the atmosphere and stored deep in the ocean.
According to a new study published in Nature Geoscience, instead of CO2 being evenly absorbed deep into the water over wide areas of the Southern Ocean, it is pulled down and locked away from the atmosphere through localized pathways created by a combination of winds, currents and whirlpools that are 1,000 kilometers wide.
The world’s oceans help ease climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide in a process called carbon sequestration. The Southern Ocean is considered to be one the most important carbon sinks in the world, absorbing around 40 percent of the annual global CO2 emissions.
“The Southern Ocean is a large window by which the atmosphere connects to the interior of the ocean below. Until now we didn’t know exactly the physical processes of how carbon ends up being stored deep in the ocean,” says the paper’s lead author, Dr. Jean-Baptiste Sallée from British Antarctic Survey. “It’s the combination of winds, currents and eddies that create these carbon-capturing pathways drawing waters down into the deep ocean from the ocean surface.”
Because of the Southern Ocean’s size and remoteness, researchers have only just begun to explore the mechanisms of the ocean with the help of small robotic probes called Argo floats.
The robotic probes are just over a meter in length and can dive about two kilometers. Eighty of these floats were set out in the Southern Ocean back in 2002 to collect information on the ocean’s temperature and salinity. Ten years of observations from these probes allowed scientists to study this remote area of the world for the first time.
Australian oceanographer and Southern Ocean specialist Steve Rintoul explains how the ocean absorbs CO2.
(Video: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation)
The researchers were also able to gather further information, such as water temperature, salinity and pressure, by using an instrument called the CTD profiler, a cluster of sensors which records measurements as it is lowered deep into the ocean to depths of more than seven kilometers.
“Now that we have an improved understanding of the mechanisms for carbon draw-down we are better placed to understand the effects of changing climate and future carbon absorption by the ocean,” says Sallée.”
Massive Tsunami Debris Highlights Problem of Trashed Oceans
A man looks at a 70-foot-long dock with Japanese lettering that washed ashore in Newport Oregon more than a year after a tsunami devastated Japan (Photo: AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
An example of marine debris that washed up on a shore (Photo: NOAA Marine Debris Program)
Nancy Wallace, program director and division chief of NOAA’s Marine Debris Program defines marine debris as any solid material that ends up in the marine environment of oceans, lakes and other waterways that shouldn’t be there.
Wallace says marine debris is a serious issue which can impact everything from wildlife and habitat to boater safety. It can also cause economic problems.
For some time now, there have been reports of growing islands of trash and garbage floating around in the ocean. Wallace says NOAA gets questions about this all of the time.
“It’s a good thing to clarify,” she says. “There is no floating island of trash out in the ocean. There are areas where the currents come together and that’s areas where debris can end up, sort of accumulating, but there is not a big land mass of trash out there.”
One of the more infamous accumulations of marine debris is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also known as the Eastern Garbage Patch. This intense concentration of marine debris is located between Hawaii and California.
A seabird dies after getting trapped in marine debris such as these old fishing nets (Photo: Ocean Conservancy)
Wallace describes the debris patches as, “a piece here, a piece a few yards or even miles away and a lot of it’s very, very tiny. A lot of it’s plastics that have broken up in very small pieces.”
Marine debris can do great harm to wildlife. According to Wallace, when fish or birds eat it, the debris can get lodged in their digestive systems, causing a variety of problems. Whales, marine mammals and sea turtles become entangled in debris such as fishing nets and other fishing gear. Coral reefs and other crucial and sensitive habitats can also be harmed by wayward trash, which in turn could harm the marine life that depends on them to order to survive.
Marine trash causes problems for boaters when pieces of it get stuck in the boat’s propeller blades.
Volunteers gather to clean up marine debris that washed up on shore (Photo: Ocean Conservancy)
Wallace also cites the economic impact of marine debris saying that people are often saddled with the costs of having to clean up the trash that washes up onto beaches and shorelines. Tourism, an industry many areas depend upon for income, can drop if too much trash accumulates along the beaches.
Marine debris, Wallace says, is for the most part, preventable. Much of it, she says, comes from people littering, not recycling or not being careful with what they do with their trash.
NOAA’s Marine Debris program, which is trying to raise awareness about the problem, emphasizes that every person can have an impact.
Nancy Wallace talks more about what NOAA is doing to address the problem of marine debris on this week’s radio edition of “Science World.” Check out the right column for scheduled air-times or listen to the interview with Ms. Wallace below.
Other stories we cover on the “Science World” radio program this week include:
“Sally Ride broke barriers with grace and professionalism – and literally changed the face of America’s space program,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “The nation has lost one of its finest leaders, teachers and explorers. Our thoughts and prayers are with Sally’s family and the many she inspired. She will be missed, but her star will always shine brightly.”
Born on May 26, 1951 in Encino, California, Ride developed an early interest in science as well as a passion for sports, especially tennis. She considered becoming a professional tennis player, especially after being encouraged by the famous tennis pro, Billie Jean King, who told Ride she was talented enough to pursue a professional tennis career.
Armed with her degrees in physics, Ride applied to become an astronaut. So did 8,000 other people. In January 1978, NASA selected 35 new astronaut candidates. Ride was part of an historic group which included six women, three African-American men, and an Asian-American man.
Even as she prepared for her first flight aboard the space shuttle, Ride endured sexist comments and questions, including some from members of the press.
According to a June 1983 article in People magazine, the questioning included; “Will the flight affect your reproductive organs?” Ride answered: “There’s no evidence of that.”
“Do you weep when things go wrong on the job?” Her response: “How come nobody ever asks Rick (Frederick Hauck, the mission pilot) those questions?”
“Will you become a mother?” Smiling, Ride responded: “You notice I’m not answering.” Despite the inane and sexist questions, Astronaut Ride, according the article remained calm and unrattled.
Ride later went into space once again aboard the Challenger in October, 1984. In total, according to NASA, she spent more than 343 hours in space.
NASA Video – Sally Ride: First American Woman in Space
They’re hoping their work could one day lead to medical devices, such as pacemakers, which can live independently within the human body, operating without the need for power sources such as batteries.
The jellyfish was selected for this project because it propels itself through water by pumping, which is similar to the way a human heart moves blood throughout the body.
“A big goal of our study was to advance tissue engineering,” says Janna Nawroth, a biology doctoral student at Caltech and lead author of the study.
Top: Comparison of real jellyfish and silicone-based Medusoid. Bottom: Comparison of muscle architecture in the two systems (Image: Janna Nawroth)
In fashioning their faux jellyfish, the researchers replicated the functions of a jellyfish, such as swimming and creating feeding currents, instead of trying to duplicate all of the swimming creature’s biological elements.
The team studied jellyfish propulsion in depth before designing their creation, named “Medusoid,” after the Medusa jellyfish and the snake-haired monster Medusa from Greek mythology.
Researchers discovered a sheet of cultured rat heart muscle tissue would contract when electrically stimulated in a liquid setting, making it ideal raw material for their creation.
They fashioned a silicone polymer into a thin membrane to create the body of their creature, which looked like a small eight-arm jellyfish.
Once the rat heart muscle tissue was incorporated into its body, the artificial jellyfish was placed into a container of electrically charged ocean-like salt water. It was shocked into swimming with synchronized muscle contractions that imitate those of real jellyfish. According to the researchers, the muscle cells began to contract on their own before any electrical power was even applied.
“I was surprised that with relatively few components—a silicone base and cells that we arranged—we were able to reproduce some pretty complex swimming and feeding behaviors that you see in biological jellyfish,” said John Dabiri, a professor of aeronautics and bioengineering at Caltech.
The researchers aren’t done yet. They hope to design a completely self-contained system which would be able to sense and set itself into motion using internal signals, like human hearts do. They also, eventually, would like to see their creation go out and gather food on its own.
Science Photos of the Week
Photo of Aurora Australis, or the Southern Lights, taken from the International Space Station flying at an altitude of approximately 240 miles. The ISS’s Canadarm2 robot arm is in the foreground. (Photo: NASA)
Chemists from New York University and St. Petersburg State University in Russia, have discovered a wholly new phenomenon for crystal growth – a crystal that continually changes its shape as it grows. (Photo: John Freudenthal and Alexander Shtukenberg, New York University)
NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory discovered an extraordinary outburst by a black hole in the spiral galaxy M83, located about 15 million light years from Earth. (Photo: NASA/CXC/Curtin University/R.Soria et al.)
A jeweled beetle Chrysina gloriosa. The enlarged image in the background shows the insect’s light-reflecting structures. (Photo: Georgia Tech; photo by Gary Meek)
A cloud forms as this F/A-18 Hornet aircraft speeds up to supersonic speed. Aircraft flying this fast push air up to the very limits of its speed, forming what’s called a bow shock in front of them. (Photo: Ensign John Gay, USS Constellation, U.S. Navy)
NOAA divers cut a Hawaiian green sea turtle free from a fishing net during a recent mission to collect marine debris in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. (Photo: NOAA)
This image combines two sets of observations of the sun from the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) on July 12, 2012 to give an impression of what the sun looked like shortly before it unleashed an X-class flare (Photo: NASA)
A 3-D nanostructure (between molecular and microscopic in size) as seen through a scanning electron microscope. (Photo: Ghim Wei Ho and Prof. Mark Welland, Nanostructure Center, University of Cambridge)
The Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft is rolled out by train on its way to the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan July 12, 2012. This spacecraft, launched July 15, took astronauts to the International Space Station (Photo: NASA/Carla Cioffi)
This image, snapped by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, reveals a detailed view of part of the disc of the spiral galaxy NGC 4565, nicknamed the Needle Galaxy, because, when seen in full, it looks like a very narrow streak of light on the sky. (Photo: ESA/NASA)
Glove Improves Sensation, Motor Skills for People with Spinal Cord Injuries
The Mobile Music Touch is a wireless, musical glove which may improve sensation and motor skills for people with paralyzing spinal cord injuries. (Photo: Georgia Institute of Technology)
Researchers in Georgia have developed a glove which seems to improve touch sensation and motor skills for people with severe spinal cord injuries.
Along with a piano keyboard, the glove is used to help people with spinal cord injuries learn to play the piano by vibrating the player’s fingers to show which keys they should play.
Some people who used the musical glove for these specialized piano lessons experienced improved sensation in their fingers after their sessions.
Researchers at Georgia Tech – the Georgia Institute of Technology – along with Atlanta’s Shepard Center, worked with volunteers with spinal cord injuries over eight weeks.
The volunteers suffered their injury at least a year before this study and had very little feeling or movement in their hands.
The participants were required to practice playing the piano for a half hour, three times a week for eight weeks. Half of them used the MMT glove to practice and the other half did not.
Researchers also had the participants wear the glove at home after or before practice, for two hours a day, five days a week, feeling only the vibration from the device.
The researchers hoped the volunteers would receive some rehabilitative effects from passively wearing the device while doing regular, everyday activities.
“After our preliminary work in 2011, we suspected that the glove would have positive results for people with SCI,” said Tanya Markow, the project leader. “But we were surprised by how much improvement they made in our study. For example, after using the glove, some participants were able to feel the texture of their bed sheets and clothes for the first time since their injury.”
(Video: Georgia Institute of Technology)
Along with the specially-equipped glove, the Mobile Music Touch system works with a computer, MP3 player or smart phone.
The system is then programmed with a song which is wirelessly linked to the glove. As the song plays, its musical notes are illuminated on the piano keys and the device then sends vibrations to “tap” the corresponding fingers.
After the eight weeks, the researchers had their volunteers perform a number of grasping and sensation tests so they could measure for any improvement.
The researchers found that those who used the MMT system performed significantly better than the others who just learned the piano normally.
“Some people were able to pick up objects more easily,” said Markow. “Another said he could immediately feel the heat from a cup of coffee, rather than after a delay.”
Markow believes the increased motor abilities are due to renewed brain activity that sometimes can become dormant in people with spinal cord injuries.
She thinks that the vibrations produced by the MMT system might trigger activity in the hand’s sensory cortex, which leads to firing in the brain’s motor cortex.
Markow would like to take her research with the MMT further to include functional MRI results.
What They Say, and What You Hear, Can Differ
(Photo: spaceamoeba via Flickr/Creative Commons)
The brain isn’t always entirely accurate when it comes to processing language, according to a new study.
This can mean our brain doesn’t pick up on changes made to key words in a sentence, even if they change its meaning.
Consider this example: “After a plane crash, where should the survivors be buried?”
Many of us pick up on words like “plane crash” and “buried,” so we may think we’re being asked where those who died in the crash should be buried, rather than realizing the question is about those who actually survived the crash.
The study shows that roughly half the people asked this question answer it as if they are being asked about the victims and not the survivors.
Or try this: “Can a man marry his widow’s sister?”
According to the study, most people answer in the affirmative, not realizing they’re agreeing that a dead man can marry his bereaved wife’s sister.
This has something to do with what are known as semantic illusions.
(Photo: Moritz Petersen via Flickr/Creative Commons)
These are words that may fit the general context of a sentence, even though they don’t actually make sense. They can challenge traditional methods of language processing, which assumes we develop our understanding of a sentence by thoroughly weighing the meaning of each word.
Instead, the researchers found these semantic illusions show that, rather than listening and analyzing each word, our language processing is based only on shallow and incomplete interpretations of what we hear or read.
Looking at the EEG patterns of volunteers who read or listened to sentences containing semantic anomalies, researchers found that when volunteers were tricked by the semantic illusion, their brains had not even noticed the unusual words.
Man wired up with electrodes for EEG monitoring (Photo: Douglas Myers via Wikimedia Commons)
The researchers’ analysis also showed that the volunteers used these shallow processing methods even more when they were stressed or faced more difficult or multiple tasks.
If you want to make sure that the correct message gets across to your listener or reader, the study suggests a few tricks.
“We know that we process a word more deeply if it is emphasized in some way. So, for example in a news story, a newsreader can stress important words that may otherwise be missed and these words can be italicized to make sure we notice them when reading,” says Leuthold.
The way we construct sentences can also help reduce misunderstandings.
“It’s a good idea to put important information first because we are more likely to miss unusual words when they are near the end of a sentence,” he says. “Also, we often use an active sentence construction such as ‘Bob ate the apple’ because we make far more mistakes answering questions about a sentence with a passive construction – for example ‘The apple was eaten by Bob’.”
Researchers believe the findings not only offer better insight into the various processes used in our comprehension of language but also, according to Leuthold, knowing what is happening in the brain when mistakes occur can help us to avoid the pitfalls – such as missing critical information in textbooks or legal documents – and to communicate more effectively.
Is There Another Higgs Boson Out There?
Dr. Pierre Savard (Photo: University of Toronto)
Tired, and rushing to meet a looming deadline, Dr. Pierre Savard and his colleagues didn’t realize what they’d found when they first came across a particle that looked a lot like the long-sought-after Higgs boson. But it didn’t take long for them to realize their hard work had paid off.
“When we looked at it, we kind of saw it,” Savard says. “It was unbelievable.”
The team’s excitement about finding the new particle grew when it discovered the second team, CMS, had found virtually the same thing.
“It’s a big thing. Essentially, it’s as if we discovered a new fundamental force of nature,” Savard says. “So we know about, for instance, electromagnetism, electricity and magnetism. We know about gravity… but now we’ve found something new and it also plays a key role in our current theory for how we understand how matter interacts with particles and forces. It’s a big deal.”
The ATLAS detector at the Large Hadron Collider (Photo: CERN)
Despite helping to find the most sought-after particle in modern science, Savard actually hopes the new discovery is not the Higgs boson.
“Many of us are hoping that it’s not exactly the particle that’s predicted by our theory, that it may be something close,” he says.
Since problems have been found with their current theory, if the mystery particle doesn’t turn out to be Higgs boson, Savard hopes the new particle offers hints as to “what’s out there.”
“The ‘Standard Model’ of particle physics explains a lot, but there’s a lot that it does not explain,” Savard says.
Some suggest there might be more than one Higgs boson and that the same theories contained within the Standard Model, could also explain dark matter or dark matter particles.
Dark matter particles are a type of matter which cannot be seen directly but are believed to make up a great part of the total mass in the universe.
Physicist Peter Higgs arrives at a seminar, July 4, at CERN where it was announced that a new subatomic particle, said be consistent with the long-sought Higgs boson, had been discovered. (Photo: AP Photo/Denis Balibouse, Pool)
Even if the find is the Higgs boson, “there are still some big questions out there,” says Dr. Savard.
One problem Savard sees with the Standard Model is that it doesn’t explain the asymmetry between matter and antimatter.
“In our colliders, we produce essentially equal amounts of matter and antimatter but the universe is made up matter and the Standard Model really doesn’t explain why there’s such an asymmetry,” he says.
He’d also like to see more research devoted to exploring dark matter, which he says is “probably carried by a particle that we don’t’ know about.”
With the mysteries of matter, antimatter and dark matter lurking, Savard says the Standard Model explains only about a fraction of the universe. That’s why he hopes new phenomena will be found with the LHC – the world’s largest atom smasher – which would help unlock these many mysteries of the universe.
Listen to Science World’s interview with Dr. Pierre Savard here…
Advanced Telescope Optics Spot Faraway Planets
These two images show HD 157728, a nearby star 1.5 times larger than the sun. Its light has been mostly removed by Project 1640. The left image was made without the ultra-precise starlight control that Project 1640 is capable of, while the right image was made with the starlight control in place. (Images: Project 1640)
Project 1640 is a first-of-its-kind, high-contrast imaging program which combines high-tech instrumentation and software, giving scientists the ability to spot planets orbiting distant suns in star systems outside of our solar system.
Ever since the search for exoplanets began, astronomers have relied on various indirect methods to detect them because the blinding brightness of their stars makes it virtually impossible to observe the planets directly.
Project 1640 uses a new technique which produces extremely precise dark holes around stars of interest. This allows scientists a look at areas surrounding the star which would normally be obscured by its intense light.
“We are blinded by this starlight,” says Ben Oppenheimer, a principal investigator for Project 1640. “Once we can actually see these exoplanets, we can determine the colors they emit, the chemical compositions of their atmospheres, and even the physical characteristics of their surfaces. Ultimately, direct measurements, when conducted from space, can be used to better understand the origin of Earth and to look for signs of life in other worlds.”
Its creators say the system produces some of the highest-contrast images ever made, revealing objects that are one -to-10 million times fainter than the star at the center of the image.
With Project 1640 up and running, researchers searching for extrasolar planets have begun a three-year survey to image hundreds of young stars outside of our solar system.
“The more we learn about them, the more we realize how vastly different planetary systems can be from our own,” says Gautam Vasisht, a Jet Propulsion Laboratory astronomer. “All indications point to a tremendous diversity of planetary systems, far beyond what was imagined just 10 years ago. We are on the verge of an incredibly rich new field.”