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Brown Dwarfs Have Stormy Skies – On Science

January 8, 2014

What did the pros miss but the students get?

Whose ancestor behaved like a salmon but in reverse?

Are we still a little grade school when it comes to having friends?

And check out the top diets for 2014! Coming up …. On Science!

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

One of Jupiter’s most iconic traits is its “Great Red Spot,” but the giant storm that creates it is not unique to our 7th planet from the Sun. New findings using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope found that most brown dwarf stars could have cloud cover and storms. Brown dwarfs are kind of like a cross between a Jupiter-sized gas planet and a star, lacking the mass to fuse atoms to become a full-fledged star. Astronomers think the brightness variation they can observe by the telescope, as the stars spins, are signs of patchiness in the cloud cover. They say these cloudy regions take the form of torrential storms, which could include winds, lightning and rain. But these aren’t just rain clouds; they say these clouds could be made up of hot sand, molten iron or salt. All sound miserable!

You’ve heard of binary stars, but how about binary asteroids? An undergraduate class for non-astronomy majors at the University of Maryland has made a rare discovery that even the pros missed: a pair of asteroids that orbit and regularly eclipse each other located in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The rocky duo – collectively known as 3905 Doppler – is one of less than 1000 known eclipsing binary asteroids. The object was first found in 1984 but given little thought until this classroom of students chose it and a couple other asteroids to monitor. That’s when they realized that one was actually two sometimes eclipsing one another. One student said it was “extremely frustrating” at first because they couldn’t figure out why the asteroid’s light curve didn’t look right. As it turns out it was the two asteroids orbiting one another, and occasionally blocking the each other’s light. Great find, future scientists!

And a team of researchers has been busy at work detailing an ancient shark that behaved like a salmon but in reverse. The new study found that the long-snouted Bandringa, from 310 million years ago, shows the earliest evidence of shark migration. But unlike salmon, it went from freshwater to saltwater to spawn. Thought to be one of the earliest relatives of the modern shark, Bandringa spent most of its time in freshwater, definitely not like its modern counterpart. The team studying the long-extinct Bandringa first thought there were two types—one saltwater and one freshwater—until they realized they had been thrown off by a single species with different preservation processes in both ecosystems. Way to keep researchers on their toes.

Remember in third grade when your best friend said you couldn’t be friends anymore because she had found another friend. Sounds so elementary school doesn’t it? But we still do it in adulthood. A new study from the University of Oxford and University of Chester reveals that we have a “one-in, one-out” policy when it comes to friends. Even though social media makes it easier for us to communicate with more people, researchers say we have a finite emotional capacity. They used students that were transitioning from high school to college to conduct their study. They found that even if participants made new friends, their social signatures – like number of phone calls – remained the same. Researchers believe this occurs because of a limited amount of time to communicate as well as the immense cognitive and emotional effort required to sustain close relationships. But the more the merrier!

So if you haven’t quite gotten with your New Year’s resolution to drop the holiday weight, here’s a little added info that might help you out. U.S. News and World Report released its Best Diets list this week. Topping the list is the DASH Diet, which is the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension that was developed to fight high blood pressure and emphasizes foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy. Looking for weight loss? Then the report says Weight Watchers is your best bet. Dead last on the list? The Paleo Diet—based on the diets of our Paleolithic era ancestors, consuming lots of produce and protein. Let’s be real…no one wants to look like a caveman.

And that’s what’s happening On Science. See you tomorrow!



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