Sci/Tech briefs

Astronomers photograph exoplanets

Two teams of astronomers have obtained the first photographs of planets outside our solar system.

In the photographs, the planets appear as four small, white dots. Three of the planets appear to be circling the same star, while the fourth is orbiting a different star.

Although none of the four planets are habitable, they raise the possibility of finding other planets that could be more similar to Earth.

One of the teams took the photographs using two ground-based telescopes. The other team relied on pictures transmitted from the Hubble Telescope. These findings were published in the journal Science.

Source: Associated Press

Dinosaur nest helps explain evolution

Researchers have discovered the likely owners of a 77-million-year-old dinosaur nest. Scientists from the University of Calgary and Alberta’s Royal Tyrrell Museum in Canada suspect that the nest belonged to either of two carnivorous species of dinosaurs. The nest may have belonged to the ceanagnathid or to the dromaeosaurid. Both of these types of dinosaurs were smaller than most other dinosaurs and seem to be related more to modern day birds.

Nests from carnivorous dinosaurs are extremely rare, with only one other such nest being discovered in North America. The nest could give scientists insights on how the carnivorous dinosaurs reproduced and could explain the evolution of modern day birds’ methods of laying eggs.

Source: Reuters

Efficient solar panel coating created

Researchers from the Future Chips Constellation (FCC) at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York have created a new anti-reflective coating for solar panels that allows sunlight to be absorbed much more efficiently than previous coatings.

The coating was developed using novel nanotechnology methods. A normal silicon solar cell used in such panels absorbs only two-thirds of the incident sunlight; this new coating, however, helps absorb 96.21 percent of the incident sunlight. The new coating is made up seven layers of silicon dioxide and titanium dioxide nanorods. The anti-reflective properties of each of the layers were improved by stacking the coatings on top of one another.


Endeavour heads to space station

The space shuttle Endeavour was launched on a 15-day mission to the International Space Station on Friday. The mission is intended to change the interiors of the space station in preparation for the new crew that will be joining the space station soon.

The equipment on the shuttle includes new toilets, sleeping chambers, and a new exercise machine. The most interesting part of the equipment that the shuttle is carrying is a machine that is capable of recycling water, including urine, to produce purified water for drinking.

This system is worth $250 million and is expected to recycle nearly 93 percent of the water used on the space station.

Source: The New York Times