Curiosity’s Latest Selfie Is an Instant Classic

Post 7994

 Curiosity’s Latest Selfie Is an Instant Classic

Yesterday 9:40am

NASA’s Curiosity rover has completed its survey of “Murray Buttes,” and is now set to venture even higher along the slopes of Mount Sharp. The intrepid rover took the opportunity to snap a selfie as it proudly stood in front of some rather dramatic Martian features.

This striking image, taken on September 17, 2016, is actually a composite of 60 individual pictures taken by the rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI). The camera and the arm are not included in the composite, which is why it looks as though a Martian inhabitant took the time to snap a pic of the four-wheeled exploratory vehicle.

The dark mesa in the background is called “M12,” and upper Mount Sharp can be seen at the top right. M12 stands about 23 feet (7 meters) above the base of the sloping rocks seen just behind the rover. For the past several weeks, Curiosity has been drilling and collecting rock powder samples in the region. Many of the pictures taken during this phase of the mission have been some of the best we’ve ever seen, revealing intricate eroded rock formations.

Click here to download wallpaper versions of the top pic.

With the Murray Buttes region conquered, NASA scientists have set their sights to a destination that’ll require the rover to do some further climbing. Curiosity is scheduled to make a 1.5-mile (2.5-km) uphill trek where it will explore a ridge rich in iron-oxide-rich hematite. Beyond that, the rover will investigate an exposure of clay-rich bedrock.

The route driven by Curiosity from the location where it landed four years ago to its current location at Murray Buttes, and the path planned for reaching destinations at “Hematite Unit” and “Clay Unit” on lower Mount Sharp. (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

Both of these areas likely originated from different environmental conditions, but the mission scientists are eager to see if either of them might have once hosted a habitable environment; both hematite and clay typically form in soggy conditions.

 “We continue to reach higher and younger layers on Mount Sharp,” noted Curiosity Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada in an agency release. “Even after four years of exploring near and on the mountain, it still has the potential to completely surprise us.”

In addition to the selfie, NASA has also released a stunning 360-degree interactive panorama. Using your mouse, you can manually steer Curiosity’s camera and investigate the barren Martian landscape.

[NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory]

George is a contributing editor at Gizmodo and io9.

Exotic ‘Twilight Zone’ Reef Is Brimming With Unique Forms of Life

Post 7993

 Exotic ‘Twilight Zone’ Reef Is Brimming With Unique Forms of Life

Yesterday 4:18pm
All Images Courtesy Richard Pyle.

We tend to think of coral reefs as luminous, undersea jungles that pepper the shallow, scuba-friendly tropics. But deeper down, in a region about as bright as Pluto on a sunny day, there lie vast reef ecosystems unknown to science.

Richard Pyle, a zoologist at the Bishop Museum, has spent the last twenty years surveying one of these landscapes—the so-called “twilight zone” coral beds that encircle the Hawaiian archipelago at depths of 30 to 150 meters (100 to 500 feet), where light is perpetually dim. His extensive findings aresummarized today in the journal Peer J, in the most comprehensive study of low-light coral reefs ever conducted. And they reveal a world far stranger and more complex than we imagined.

Pisces V submersible on the seafloor.

Using a range of high-tech gadgets and vehicles—ROVs and submersibles, drop-down cameras and environmental sensors—Pyle and his colleagues have documented vast, poorly-lit areas of complete coral cover, spanning tens of square kilometers at depths of 90 meters (300 feet) or more off the islands of Maui and Kaua’i. Interspersed alongside these reefs are thick green “meadows,” home to dozens of species of never-before-described algae. Both corals and algae require sunlight for photosynthesis, leading Pyle to suspect they can only exist here due to the exceptional clarity of Hawaii’s waters.

One of the most intriguing discoveries to come out of Pyle’s survey is that mesophytic reefs are hotbeds for endemic fish—species found nowhere else on Earth. While only 17 percent of fish species in Hawaii’s shallow reefs are unique to the archipelago, that number jumps to over 50 percent when you plunge below 70 meters.

Algae beds like this one play a critical role in deep coral reef ecosystems.

“The extent of fish endemism on these deep coral reefs, particularly in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, is astonishing,” study co-author Randall Kosaki said in a statement. “We were able to document the highest rates of endemism of any marine environment on Earth.”

One theory is that these reefs represent a refuge, where numerous lineages have have survived for millions of years even as ice ages rework Earths’ surface over and over.

Perhaps most importantly, the study highlights highlights just how little we know about life in Earth’s dark biosphere—which is a problem, because we can’t easily protect what we don’t understand. Then again, a couple ofenormous new marine national monuments is a great start.

Swimming along a mesophytic coral bed.
Pisces V submersible on the seafloor.
A scientist places an acrylic dome over the coral to be used in the staining experiment.
A scientist explores a mesophytic reef.
A mesophytic reef filled abuzz with fish.
Two humpback whales encountered during the exploration.
A scientist and submersible collect samples and explore the seafloor.
A scientist rises to the surface after completing decompression.

[Peer J]

Maddie is a staff writer at Gizmodo

The Process of Making These Rare Traditional Noodles Is Fascinating

Post 7992

The Process of Making These Rare Traditional Noodles Is Fascinating

Yesterday 7:25pm

These traditional Chinese Suomian noodles have been made in Nanshan Village for over 300 years, and supposedly there are only 300 people left in the world who know how to make them. That’s because the process of making these noodles is a little bit more unique than making your typical noodles—it can sometimes look more like doing laundry or weaving tapestry than making food.

This portrait of a man who makes Suomian noodles is fascinating because you get to witness a master craftsman doing his thing. And that thing just happens to be a little bit quirky, because it involves stuff like hanging noodles outside like rope and tying the noodles around two sticks 60 times. But still, he carries a certain amount of respect for the work that only years and years experience can teach (he’s been making these noodles for over 30 years), and it’s a joy to see.