Amateur astronomer discovers supernova
When observing the night sky with a telescope, the chances of witnessing the beginning of a supernova are between 1 in 10 million and 1 in 100 million. Amateur astronomer and locksmith Víctor Buso beat the odds when, while trying out a new camera, he captured a photo of a gigantic star beginning to die.
Buso was photographing the galaxy NGC 613 on September 20, 2016, in Rosario, Argentina, when he noticed that a dot of light had appeared in one of the photos. He checked the rest of the photos and realized that the dot was growing brighter.
According to the Smithsonian Magazine, this might be the first time a photograph of the early phases of a supernova have been taken. Previous phtographs document the few minutes right after a supernova formation, but never the early moments.
When astronomer Melina Bersten of the Instituto de Astrofísica de La Plata learned of Buso's photographs, she contacted astronomers around the world to make sure that the supernova was properly documented, and helped organize a coherent study. The official description of the supernova, dubbed SN 2016gkg, was published this week in Nature.
SN 2016gkg was classified as a Type II supernova and determined to have originated from a star roughly 20 times the mass of the Sun.
“Observations of stars in the first moments they begin exploding provide information that cannot be directly obtained in any other way, “ said UC Berkeley astronomer Alex Filippenko. “It’s like winning the cosmic lottery.”
Chameleons have fluorescent heads
Scientists have discovered that many chameleons have fluorescent bumps on their heads that glow under ultraviolet light.
David Prötzel, a herpetologist at Zoologische Staatssammlung München in Germany, investigated the odd fluorescent bumps after seeing a picture on Flickr of a chameleon under UV light. In the photo, taken by photographer Paul Bertner, three tiny bumps on the chameleon's head were glowing.
Though scientists have long known that chameleon heads often have bony bumps, “we were always wondering about [their function],” says Prötzel. He and his colleagues shone ultraviolet (UV) light on hundreds of chameleons, and most of them had fluorescent bumps. “We found that many species fluoresce with even larger pattern on their heads” than the chameleon in Bertner's photo, Prötzel says.
The bony bumps on the chameleons' heads aren't bioluminescent — the light doesn't come from chemical reactions within the chameleon's body. Instead, it comes from the fact that the bone is naturally fluorescent. The chameleons only have a single extremely thin layer of skin on top of the bony bumps, letting the bone's natural fluorescence shine through.
Chameleons from forests were more likely to have the bumps than chameleons in open areas. Prötzel and his colleagues believe this is because shaded forests have more ambient UV light, making the bumps more visible to other chameleons. Their function is unknown.
Though humans usually cannot see the fluorescence, the researchers believe that other chameleons can, as chameleons are able to perceive UV light.
Neanderthals capable of making art
A recent report published in Science, claims that the art discovered in the caves of Spain dates back to 64,800 years ago which was at least 20,000 years before early humans reached Europe. This means that the art was produced by Neanderthals — which means that they were far more intelligent than previously believed.
Recent discoveries of surprisingly sophisticated tools and ideas that were used by Neanderthals such as, medicinal plants, burial rites and stone tools - have already reframed preconceived notions about Neanderthals’ mental capacity. However, the ability to make art is indicative of a new cognitive milestone — the ability to understand and have symbolic thought.
The art found in the Spanish caves comprise of some crudely outlined hands, series of lines, pigment stained and pierced shells. The shells’ holes seemed to suggest that they were worn as body ornaments — which makes the Neanderthals capable of first, deciding to make art and then, mixing pigments and crafting shells. João Zilhão — a researcher at the University of Barcelona in Spain, who is an author of the paper, sees Neanderthals as the full mental equivalent of humans. While scientists remain divided on that claim, there is little doubt in attributing the art to Neanderthals.