Weather

Largest solar flare since 2017 has scientists excited that maybe the Sun is entering a new, active cycle.

The Sun has been really quiet lately. In fact, since late in 2017, the Sun's activity seems to have slowed down. That changed this week when scientists spotted the largest solar flare since October 2017. A solar flare is a burst of radiation coming from sunspots (relatively cool patches on the surface of the Sun). The solar flare occurred on May 29 and was rated a M-class. Flares are rated as A, B, C, M, or X. An M-class flare is a medium sized flare and is not big enough to cause problems such as radio interference. The flare has scientists excited that maybe the Sun is moving back to a more active phase of its normal 11-year cycle. The Sun's cycles can range from…
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Space

Crew Dragon launches today! For the first time in nearly a decade, the US will launch 2 passengers into space from US soil.

It's really happening! Today NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will board a SpaceX capsule named Crew Dragon. The capsule will be carried from Florida into orbit by a Falcon 9 rocket. They will travel to the International Space Stations (ISS) as a major test of SpaceX's new Dragon 2 spacecraft. The event is historic for various reasons. It's the first time since 2011 that the US launched astronauts from its own soil. Also, this historic flight is a new type of partnership between a public entity (NASA) and a private aerospace firm (SpaceX). If all goes well, we can expect much more from these guys in the future. The flight is currently targeted for 4:33PM ET on Wednesday, May 27th. That may change…
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Science News

Ultra-rare metallic blue bee spotted for first time in years in Florida.

Researchers in Florida have spotted a rare bee that has been missing for so long, it was feared to be extinct. The Blue Calamintha Bee was spotted on March 9 by a researcher from a Florida museum. It was the first time one has been seen since 2016. The shiny little blue bee was observed on a flower "rubbing its head on the top portion of the flower". This sort of behavior is unusual for most bees but a common characteristic of the blue calamintha bee. It has unusual facial hairs that it uses to collect pollen. Sources: USA Today
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Biology

This new scientifically accurate 3D model of the SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) is the most detailed 3D model yet – and it’s a beauty!

Visual Science has done it again creating the most detailed and scientifically accurate 3D model of the full coronavirus (officially named SARS-CoV-2) to date. Scientists created the model using the latest scientific research into the structure of the coronavirus. Ivan Konstantinov, CEO, and founder of Visual Science, said, "The model reflects scientists' current understanding of the virus's architecture. It includes surface protein spikes that interact with the receptors on the surface of the human cell to get inside, lipid envelope with an integrated layer of matrix proteins, and a genome assembly, reconstructed based on the available scientific data" You can check out an animated model of the coronavirus on their website.
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Physics and math

Nuclear bomb testing in the 1950’s charged the atmosphere and caused changes in weather patterns thousands of miles from the test sites.

Scientists say that nuclear bomb testing during the 1950's and 1960's Cold War changed rainfall patterns thousands of miles from the detonation sites. The electric charge released by nuclear radiation impacted rainclouds, causing them to thicken and produce 24% more rain. Radioactivity ionizes the air and releases an electric charge. The massive electric charge created by an atomic bomb causes water droplets in the atmosphere to collide and combine making even larger water droplets. Scientists were able to confirm this by studying historical weather patterns compared to nuclear testing activities. Sources: Eurekalert
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Animal Kingdom

With climate change, US ecosystems have shifted hundreds of miles north.

Researchers in Nebraska analyzed 46 years’ worth of bird data collected for the North American Breeding Bird Survey, a program designed to track bird populations. The survey discovered the areas where specific species of birds lived had changed across the United States. Researchers found that coinciding with climate change, the habitats of birds have shifted. The northernmost ecosystem shifted more than 366 miles north – the length of an entire state. The southernmost boundary moved about 160 miles northward. The northernmost ecosystem shifted more than the southernmost area because of a well-known phenomenon known as Arctic amplification. Arctic amplification, or polar amplification, is a phenomenon that any change in the balance of solar radiation across the plant tends to produce a larger change near the…
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Weather

How does global warming cause changes to our normal weather patterns?

The jet stream drives weather patterns The jet stream is a strong wind current flowing about 10 miles above the ground. In the Northern Hemisphere, it almost always blows from west to east and always in a fairly straight line. The jet stream is extremely important to weather systems – it drives the weather patterns throughout the year. The strength of the jet stream, and to what degree it impacts our weather, is determined by the temperature difference between the Arctic and the southern half of the world. CO2 causes temperatures to rise The level of CO2 in our atmosphere has been measured atop the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii since around 1958. At the time measurements began, the CO2 measured 315 parts per million…
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Archeology

Neanderthals weren’t as dumb as scientists thought – they could make fire and used resin ‘glue’ to craft their stone tools.

Oh, no. Stay calm, stay calm. He think's the answer on the test was 7, and he thinks it was 8, and I thought it was 5,627. It seems as if Neanderthals were not as dumb as scientists thought. Archaeologists rummaging around in a cave in Italy found some of the oldest known evidence of the Neanderthals using glue on their stone tools. The process is called “hafting” and it wasn’t believed the slope-headed cousins of Homo sapiens knew how to do it. The tools the scientists found were dated to about 40 to 50 thousand years ago. Scientists thought Neanderthals lacked intelligence and were surprised to find they could fashion sophisticated weapons. “We continue to find evidence that the Neanderthals were not inferior primitives…
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Technology

Solar power scientists are now using molten salt to store the sun’s energy. Here’s the science of how it works.

Wind energy may have lots of fans but solar energy, we love you watts and watts! In June 2019, China’s Dunhuang molten salt solar thermal power plant hit 100MW, its maximum power levels. The plant will provide 390 million kWh of clean power each year and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 3500 tons. And it can run 24-hours a day, even when the sun does not shine. It does this by storing energy in a molten salt solution for later use. More and more solar power plants are turning to molten salt to solve solar energy’s number one problem – where to get energy at nighttime or when the sun is behind clouds. Solar energy could be stored in normal batteries but batteries…
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Space

The American flags on the moon – are they still standing?

We’ve all seen the pictures of astronauts triumphantly placing an American flag on the surface of the moon, evidence of mankind’s excursion to a heavenly body far from home. But flag planting wasn’t as easy as the astronauts made it seem. American flags on the moon Apollo 11, the first mission to land on the moon, learned an important lesson about the moon’s surface when they tried to plant the American flag. It has been supposed that the dirt on the moon would be similar to earth’s. It was not and its unusual composition made the flag impossible to plant deeply into the soil. Unlike dirt granules on earth which are roundish, moon dirt is flattened with sharp edges. The granules tend to lock into…
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