The skies declare His handiwork
Scientists make amazing new discoveries about our galaxy
Scientists keep discovering new wonders in outer space that defy human understanding of the universe. Three recent discoveries beyond the boundaries of Earth testify to the magnificence of creation.
Excuse me? Two gigantic bubbles tower more than 25,000 light-years above and below the central region of the Milky Way galaxy. Scientists first discovered the bubbles in 2010, and they still don’t know what they are or how they formed, according to Live Science. In a study published in Nature last month, astronomers said they conducted radio imaging of the bubbles and found they contain more than 100 magnetized filaments that emit high levels of radiation.
Some researchers speculate the black hole at the center of the galaxy went on a feeding frenzy, ingesting massive clumps of galactic dust and gas and burping up the two bubbles. Others think the bubbles formed through a violent eruption, perhaps when the black hole shredded a wandering star or a massive burst of star formation sent shockwaves hurtling through the center of the Milky Way. Other experts say the bubbles could have formed if hundreds of dense stars died at the same time, producing supernovas that ejected the large balloons of gas.
Meteorite mineral: A never-before-seen mineral turned up inside a meteorite discovered nearly 70 years ago in central Victoria in Australia. Scientists recently identified its crystal structure and received approval to classify it as a new mineral. The findings appeared in the journal American Mineralogist.
The researchers named the new mineral edscottite after Edward Scott, the cosmochemist at the University of Hawaii who first found it in the meteorite, Australia’s The Age reported. Edscottite is made of iron and carbon atoms combined in a unique pattern. Under the microscope, it looks like tiny white crystals.
When the red-and-black, lemon-sized meteorite struck the Earth, it weighed about 7.4 ounces. Scientists believe it originated from the molten core of a planet that hurled it Earthward when the planet collided with another planet, a moon, or even a large asteroid. Although scientists have found many meteorites, it is extremely rare to find one from the core of a planet.
Moon glass: A shiny substance on the moon puzzles astronomers who discovered it in July. China’s lunar rover sent photos of the substance sitting inside a crater. Chinese media described it as gel-like, but recent photo enhancements suggest it might be glass produced when a high-energy meteorite hit the lunar surface and melted rock, MIT Technology Review reported.
Ancient church unearthed
Archaeologists have discovered a 1,500-year-old church in Israel with a Greek inscription dedicating it to an unnamed “Glorious Martyr.”
The site, located in the town of Beit Shemesh, about 29 miles outside of Jerusalem, appears in the Old Testament as the location of the ark of the covenant when the Philistines returned it to Israel (1 Samuel 6).
Floor mosaics intricately designed with leaves, fruit, and birds, walls with colorful paintings, and large decorative pillars adorn the church, which spreads over about one-third of an acre.
Built basilica-style, the church contained an elongated section divided by two rows of columns that split it into one nave flanked by two halls. Archaeologists also found a cross-shaped stone baptismal font in one of the rooms. The church had a spacious courtyard just outside the entrance.
Workers built the church in A.D. 543 during the reign of Emperor Justinian. An inscription at the site indicates that a few years later Emperor Tiberius II Constantine financed the expansion of the church and the addition of a chapel. The image of a large eagle with outspread wings, a symbol of the Byzantine Empire, in one of the mosaics suggests imperial involvement in the expansion. —J.B.
A chemical attraction
It’s deer rutting season in the Northern Hemisphere, and many young bucks are busy competing for the attention of their favorite does. Researchers from the University of Cordoba in Spain just discovered a secret way Spanish red deer stags can attract females, or hinds: a dark belly.
Biologists have long known that stags with large antlers, sturdy builds, seductive scents, and loud roars tend to entice the hinds. But researchers just discovered the female deer find the chemical composition of the darkened area on the stag’s belly alluring, as well.
The dark spots, enhanced by secretions and urine, appear on the deer’s abdomen during mating season and get increasingly bigger as the season progresses. The dark patch can reach up to 27 inches long on a mature male.
In a highly competitive situation in which males outnumber females, the chemicals in the splotches become more potent to indicate age, dominance range, and physical condition. In less competitive situations, the spots’ chemical profiles are subtler and similar to those found on young stags. —J.B.
Quick with the Cube
Researchers at the OpenAI technology firm just developed a robot that can solve a Rubik’s Cube puzzle one-handed in about three minutes.
The researchers used visual sensors and cube-solving computer algorithms to program the robot to move the cube. Then they awarded it points for good moves and programmed it to improve its score. The robot worked by trial and error, losing points for mistakes like rotating the face of the cube too far.
The researchers hope to improve the dexterity of the robot’s hand to perform tasks such as painting or making origami. —J.B.
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