Category Archives: science

Extreme weather: you’ll be glad you lived on Earth

Winds on Neptune

Neptune’s roaring winds blow many times stronger than the worst hurricanes on Earth, reaching 1,500 mph (2,414 kph). Scientists think that heat escaping from the planet’s rocky interior could cause convection in the atmosphere. Along with the planet’s rapid rotation (roughly 16 hours), this spreading of heat could spawn the record-breaking winds and giant storms on the blue planet.

Lightning on Saturn

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has spotted an electrical storm as large as the continental United States on Saturn, with lightning bolts that are 1,000 times stronger than those on Earth. They detected the charged
storm in Saturn’s southern hemisphere, an area labeled “storm alley.” The storm stretches 2,175 miles (3,500 kilometers) from north to south.

Storms on Jupiter

The biggest storm in the solar system is the Great Red Spot, a hurricane that’s more than double the width of Earth with 350-mph (563 kmh) winds.

Rain on Venus

In Venus, it rains sulphuric acid

Strangest cloud formation

Of all cloud formations, a fallstreak hole (hole punch cloud / punch hole cloud / skypunch / canal cloud / cloud hole) could well be the strangest of them all because it’s rarely seen, hardly ever reported, and looks very unusual – so much so that when people see them, they’d immediately think they’ve seen a UFO.

fallstreak hole 2

fallstreak hole 1

fallstreak hole 3

They come into being when water temperature in the clouds is cold enough to freeze water, yet water there has not frozen yet because ice nucleation particles are still not enough. When ice crystals start to form, what’s called the Bergeron effect starts off a domino effect, where water droplets around the crystals evaporate, hence the hole.


Only person living without a heart

Jakob Halik, 37 of the Czech Republic, did not have a heart. Literally. For more than 6 months – the longest any human being has lived without a real heart, in history.

That calls for a celebration, but perhaps this is one of those cases where it’s not appropriate to ask him to light al capone cigars.

Cancer caused him to replace his own heart with 2 mechanical pumps on 3rd April 2012, in an operation which had only been successfully implemented once before on another man (Craig Lewis, then 55) – who lived for a month (another report said a week).

The operation took 8 hours, where they took out his heart and replaced it with 2 modified Heartmate 2 pumps measuring 8 inches in length each, made by US company Thoratec Corp. It has a propeller inside that spins at 10,000 rpm.

The pumps are made of plastic, one functions as the left side of the heart, and the other handles the right side.

What it looks like under X-Ray

That means he did not have a pulse, and had to carry a battery pack powering the pumps. But he still managed to live an active life – even used the hospital gym. 4 months after the operation to install the pumps, Halik said he felt very good physically.

Halik’s artificial heart was only supposed to be a temporary fix, while he waits for a suitable donor.

Unfortunately, finding a suitable heart proved a step too far, and in the last few weeks of his life his liver and kidneys were failing. he died 6 months after the pumps were installed, but not due to it failing, but rather liver failure.

Most famous astronomical image of the 20th century: Pillars of Creation

In 1995, the Hubble Space Telescope took an image of the “Pillars of Creation” of the Eagle Nebula, located 6,500 light-years away in the Serpens constellation. It contains NGC6611, a young hot star cluster that sculpts and illuminates the surrounding gas and dust, consequently causing a large hollowed-out hole and pillars.

The tallest pillar is around 4 light-years high!

It was probably the most iconic image of space in the 20th century.

Recently, the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory and X-ray readings from the XMM-Newton probe has produced the 21st century version of the image, showing the pillars (actually towers of gas and dust) dwarfed by the full majesty of the nebula, hence showing the Eagle Nebula as they’ve never seen before.

Can you see the pillars?

Best photo of an aurora ever taken

Photographer: Sebastian Voltmer (Germany)

Date taken: December 2011

Place: eastern Norway

Description: wide angle & horizontally compressed

Auroras happen due to ionised solar particles thrown at us by the sun’s flares becoming trapped by the earth’s magnetism, agitating atmospheric gases into producing energy in the form of light.

Now getting this kind of photo is probably not as rare as nailing The Man on the Flying Trapeze trick if you used one of those henrys yoyos.

First humans to spend Christmas in space

Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell and Lunar Module Pilot William Anders were the first humans to spend Christmas in space.

They were the crewmembers aboard Apollo 8 which launched on 21st December 1968 and entered the moon’s orbit on Christmas Eve.

To mark the special occasion, they sent greetings and photos, and read from the Book of Genesis.

Commander Borman ended the message with the words:

Good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you — all of you on the good Earth.

About a billion people watched or listened to the broadcast.

They safely returned to Earth on 27th December.

Blackest planet

TrES-2b, also known as Kepler-1b is an exoplanet orbiting the star GSC 03549-02811.

A gas giant with a similar bulk composition to Jupiter, it is the darkest known planet, reflecting less than 1% of sunlight, meaning it reflects even less light than coal. While it has not been determined why it’s so dark, scientists suspect this is due to lack of reflective clouds. Another reason could be its light-absorbing atmosphere.

An artist’s impression: