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Last updated on April 17, 2014 at 15:43 EDT

Gamma Rays Used To Study Gravitational Lens – On Science

January 7, 2014

What’s sprinkling dust all over our universe?

How do astronauts keep an out-of-this world sleep schedule?

What’s going to be the latest addition to your dashboard in 2014?

And does living longer mean living better? Coming up today…On Science!

Hello and welcome to On Science. I’m Emerald Robinson.

NASA has conducted the first ever gamma-ray study of a gravitational lens. This phenomenon is created when a galaxy or other massive object bends and amplifies light heading toward an observer from a more distant source. Researchers used NASA’s Fermi gamma-ray observatory in low-Earth orbit to collect data by observing gamma ray flares from a source 4.35 billion light years away from Earth. The source, known as B0218+357, is an active galaxy known as a blazar, that has a supermassive black hole in the middle, spirals inward and occasionally blasts billions of jet particles traveling close to the speed of light. Before the light reaches the Earth, it travels through a spiral galaxy about 4 billion light years away and bends into different paths. Scientists had to use radio and optical telescopes to monitor these dual images, as Fermi’s LAT could not. Through their observations, they found that gamma ray waves lasted one day longer than the one seen for radio observations and that gamma-ray flares and their playback show brightness, unlike the radio waves. The study provided new details on the workings of black hole jets and could help to establish new guidelines on important cosmological measures in the future.

Tell me…how does one get to sleep when there are 16 sunrises and sunsets every 24 hours? That could definitely pose a problem for your circadian rhythm. ESA is working on helping astronauts at the International Space Station get a good night’s sleep. Here are the three keys for an out-of-this-world night’s sleep in space. Number 1-scheduling. Crew members keep a tight schedule of 10 working hours max followed by 8 hours of sleep. Secondly, they abide by a regular eating schedule and relaxation periods. And finally, they work a Monday through Friday week with maintenance Saturdays and rest on Sundays. Sounds like it’s all about scheduling! But in the event that they do get off schedule, they go for nature’s sleep aid—melatonin. Go to sleep, go to sleep, go to sleep little astronaut.

There’s a lot of space news today! And I love it. New observations from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array telescope, or ALMA, might explain why galaxies are so dusty. Seems like supernovas could be to blame. Observations of a supernova explosion 168,000 light-years from Earth show freshly formed dust in its remains. Astronomers say if this dust is able to make it out to interstellar space, then it may explain how galaxies become dusty. This is the first time researchers have really been able to image where the dust has formed. They believe that gas cooling after the explosion forms large amounts of molecules and dust as atoms of oxygen, carbon and silicon. With this particular supernova, it now contains 25% of the mass of our Sun in newly formed dust. These findings could help explain the formation of galaxies.

And here’s the latest in the evolution of automobile technology. Google is teaming up with General Motors, Audi, Honda and Hyundai to bring Android operating systems to cars in 2014. The partnership is called the Open Auto Alliance and they say their goal is to make driving “safer, easier and more enjoyable.” The dashboard Android-powered computer would allow drivers to access email, apps, and music from their smartphone directly from their dashboard with most likely a voice recognition system to allow hands-free control. The system will also feature GPS navigation. Though Google made the announcement at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas this week, they’re not the only ones trying to get in on the car-software action. Apple has already announced deals with BMW, Daimler, Mercedes and Honda, while Microsoft and Ford have had a close partnership for years.

And does living longer, mean living better as well? Not necessarily says the CDC. Federal health officials recently reported that Americans are living longer than ever and that life expectancy is increasing every year. People born in 2009 can expect to live 78.5 years thanks to better treatment of cardiovascular disease says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report also revealed that life expectancy has risen across gender and race for the last 50 years. But one expert said there are “some dark clouds swirling around the silver lining of data.” A recent analysis by the Institute of Medicine suggests that this increase in life span is not matched by an increase in “health span”—the time living in good health. A long life could mean a long time living with illness and disease so the next chapter in medical advance according to experts is to focus on lifestyle as much as medicine.

And that’s what’s up today On Science! Live long and prosper