Seeing Photosynthesis from Space
NASA scientists have established a new way to use satellites to measure what’s occurring inside plants at a cellular level.
Plants grow and thrive through photosynthesis, a process that converts sunlight into energy. During photosynthesis, plants emit what is called fluorescence – light invisible to the naked eye but detectable by satellites orbiting hundreds of miles above Earth. NASA scientists have now established a method to turn this satellite data into global maps of the subtle phenomenon in more detail than ever before.
Variable Neon Slug (Nembrotha kubaryana)
…a species of polycerid nudibranch that occurs in the tropical Indo-West Pacific. Like other nudibranchs this species typically inhabits coral reefs where they feed on sessile invertebrates. Variable neon slugs have an affinity for sea squirts (mainly S.signigera) as they make up most of their diet. Nembrotha kubaryana’s coloration is used as a warning signal as it is toxic. It gets steals toxins from its tunicate prey and stores them in its tissues, releasing them if threatened.
Fireflies talk to each other with light.
Fireflies emit light mostly to attract mates, although they also communicate for other reasons as well, such as to defend territory and warn predators away. In some firefly species, only one sex lights up. In most, however, both sexes glow; often the male will fly, while females will wait in trees, shrubs and grasses to spot an attractive male. If she finds one, she’ll signal it with a flash of her own.
Fireflies produce “cold light.”
Firefly lights are the most efficient lights in the world—100% of the energy is emitted as light. Compare that to an incandescent bulb, which emits 10% of its energy as light and the rest as heat, or a fluorescent bulb, which emits 90% of its energy as light. Because it produces no heat, scientists refer to firefly lights as “cold lights.”
In a firefly’s tail, you’ll find two chemicals: luciferase and luciferin. Luciferin is heat resistant, and it glows under the right conditions. Luciferase is an enzyme that triggers light emission. ATP, a chemical within the firefly’s body, converts to energy and initiates the glow. All living things, not just fireflies, contain ATP.
Firefly eggs glow.
Adult fireflies aren’t the only ones that glow. In some species, the larvae and even the eggs emit light. Firefly eggs have been observed to flash in response to stimulus such as gentle tapping or vibrations.
Fun Fact: Light Organs
The glow from fireflies or lightning bugs comes from photic organs, or organs that produce light.
Fun Fact: Making Light
Fireflies combine three special substances in their photic organs to make light. The three substances are:
luciferin (a pigment),
luciferase (an enzymatic catalyst),
and ATP (nucleotide that provides energy to cells).
How to Catch Lightning Bugs
Tips on how best to catch lightning bugs or fireflies. | More
Creating Firefly Habitats
What kind of habitat do fireflies like? Why do they like standing water? | MoreCredit: Firefly.org
Tourmaline var. Cuprian Tourmaline on Quartz
Paraiba Mine, Brazil
A dirty thunderstorm (also, Volcanic lightning) is a weather phenomenon that occurs when lightning is produced in a volcanic plume. A study in the journal Science indicated that electrical charges are generated when rock fragments, ash, and ice particles in a volcanic plume collide and produce static charges, just as ice particles collide in regular thunderstorms.
Effects of Zero G on Cosmonauts
Anyone unfamiliar with the biology of the venomous Portuguese man-of-war would likely mistake it for a jellyfish. Not only is it not a jellyfish, it’s not even an “it,” but a “they.” The Portuguese man-of-war is a siphonophore, an animal made up of a colony of organisms working together.
The man-of-war comprises four separate polyps. It gets its name from the uppermost polyp, a gas-filled bladder, or pneumatophore, which sits above the water and somewhat resembles an old warship at full sail. Man-of-wars are also known as bluebottles for the purple-blue color of their pneumatophores.
The tentacles are the man-of-war’s second organism. These long, thin tendrils can extend 165 feet (50 meters) in length below the surface, although 30 feet (10 meters) is more the average. They are covered in venom-filled nematocysts used to paralyze and kill fish and other small creatures. For humans, a man-of-war sting is excruciatingly painful, but rarely deadly. But beware—even dead man-of-wars washed up on shore can deliver a sting.
Muscles in the tentacles draw prey up to a polyp containing the gastrozooids or digestive organisms. A fourth polyp contains the reproductive organisms.
Man-of-wars are found, sometimes in groups of 1,000 or more, floating in warm waters throughout the world’s oceans. They have no independent means of propulsion and either drift on the currents or catch the wind with their pneumatophores. To avoid threats on the surface, they can deflate their air bags and briefly submerge.
first photo from wiki commons, second photo source
Green World | Arild Heitmann
The aurora borealis traces the shifting patterns of the Earth’s magnetic field, creating a spectacular midwinter show in Nordland Fylke, Norway. The green light in this image comes from oxygen atoms high in the atmosphere, which have been energised by subatomic particles from the Solar Wind.
The periphyton community (sessile organisms that live attached to surfaces projecting from the bottom of freshwater aquatic environments) in Lake Hovsgol contains hundreds of diatom species. Diatoms are a large group of microscopic algae that grow as single cells or small colonies. This sample was taken as part of a Mongolian-American international partnership to survey the diatom flora of Hovsgol National Park in north-central Mongolia.
image credit: Mark B. Edlund, PhD
(via: National Science Foundation)
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has discovered a new moon orbiting the distant blue-green planet Neptune, the 14th known to be circling the giant planet.
The moon, designated S/2004 N 1, is estimated to be no more than 12 miles across, making it the smallest known moon in the Neptunian system. It is so small and dim that it is roughly 100 million times fainter than the faintest star that can be seen with the naked eye. It even escaped detection by NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft, which flew past Neptune in 1989 and surveyed the planet’s system of moons and rings.
Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., found the moon July 1, while studying the faint arcs, or segments of rings, around Neptune. “The moons and arcs orbit very quickly, so we had to devise a way to follow their motion in order to bring out the details of the system,” he said. “It’s the same reason a sports photographer tracks a running athlete — the athlete stays in focus, but the background blurs.”
The method involved tracking the movement of a white dot that appears over and over again in more than 150 archival Neptune photographs taken by Hubble from 2004 to 2009.
On a whim, Showalter looked far beyond the ring segments and noticed the white dot about 65,400 miles from Neptune, located between the orbits of the Neptunian moons Larissa and Proteus. The dot is S/2004 N 1. Showalter plotted a circular orbit for the moon, which completes one revolution around Neptune every 23 hours.
The Hubble Space Telescope is a cooperative project between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Md., conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy Inc., in Washington.
For images, video, and more information Neptune’s new moon, visit: http://hubblesite.org/news/2013/30