Best Science Photos of the Week
Mars’ Whopping Scars
Credit: Robbins and Hynek 2012/American Geophysical UnionThe surface of Mars is pocked by more than 635,000 impact craters at least 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) wide, a new study reports.
The new Martian crater atlas is the largest single database ever compiled of impacts on a planet or moon in our solar system, researchers said. It highlights the violent history of Mars and could also help scientists address a number of questions about the Red Planet.
[Full Story: Mars Surface Scarred by 635,000 Big Impact Craters]
The squat lobster is orange and a little over 2 inches (5 centimeters) long. Squat lobsters are more closely related to porcelain and hermit crabs than true lobsters.
[Full Story: New Crustacean Species Discovered Off Spain]
[Full Story: Penguins’ Explicit Sex Acts Shocked Polar Experts]
By measuring vortexes as they moved across heated soap bubbles, the researchers were able to develop a model to predict where they’d end up. The same principles hold for hurricanes and tropical storms, the scientists told LiveScience’s sister site OurAmazingPlanet. Nevertheless, the model is best at predicting early storm tracks, not the late-in-the-game swerves made by many big storms.
The oldest image, a large red disk on the wall of El Castillo cave in northern Spain, is more than 40,800 years old, according to an advanced method that uses natural deposits on the surfaces of the paintings to date their creation. The new findings, detailed in the June 15 issue of the journal Science, make the paintings the oldest reliably dated wall paintings ever.
[Full Story: Were Neanderthals Europe’s First Cave Artists?]
The type of carnivorous plant, the pitcher plant of the species Nepenthes gracilis, lines the underside of its lid with aspecial waxy coating, which makes sure ants and flies will lose their grip when a raindrop falls and shakes the lid they are clutching. (The ants and flies walk upside-down on the underside of this lid.) The plant gets its name from its pitcher, the large empty structure that holds the digestive enzymes that churn up its fly meals and is covered by the waxy lid.
Astronomers had previously noticed that huge, Jupiter-like exoplanets tend to be found around stars with high concentrations of so-called “metals” — elements heavier than hydrogen and helium. But smaller, terrestrial alien planets show no such loyalty to metal-rich stars, the new study found.
[Full Story: Alien Earths May Be Widespread in Our Milky Way Galaxy ]
Hippie Ape Secrets
Credit: Michael Seres
Ulindi, a female bonobo at the Leipzig Zoo in Germany, has had her genome sequenced, researchers report today (June 13), making bonobos the last of the great apes to have their genomes mapped. The resulting genetic code may help unlock the secrets that separate humans — physically, intellectually and behaviorally — from our closest primate relatives. Bonobos are often seen as the chimpanzee’s peaceful cousin. The two primates look very similar and are very closely related, but for some reason chimps resolve conflicts with war while bonobos prefer sex to resolve arguments. Previous studies have also shown that bonobos are more generous with food than chimps are.
[Full Story: Unraveling the Bonobo’s Genome, and its Secrets ]
Snake’s Scale-y Trick
Credit: Tim Nowak and Hamidreza MarviWithout legs, snakes must get creative to slither up trees, and new research suggests they use the scales covering their bodies to make such climbs.
Their scales and body muscles work together to push against the bark on the tree as they inch upward, the researchers said.
“An important and surprising finding of our study was that snakes can double their friction coefficients … by active control of their scales,” the researchers write in their research paper, published in the June 13 issue of the journal Royal Society Interface.
[Full Story: Snakes’ Scales Propel Them Up Tree Trunks]
“The new reserve is coming in at a ‘Gold’ level status,” said the International Dark-Sky Association’s executive director Bob Parks in a statement. “That means the skies there are almost totally free from light pollution. To put it simply, it is one of the best stargazing sites on Earth.”
[Full Story: Stargazers, Rejoice! Largest ‘Dark Sky’ Reserve Named]