December 13, 2013
Hubble Sees Evidence Of Water Vapor Plumes On Europa – On Science
What’s Europa showing us now?
A noble find in outer space…
The secret’s out about DNA…
And what’s lies beneath the Utah ground? Coming up today… On Science!
Hello and welcome to the Daily Orbit. I’m Emerald Robinson.
Europa just keeps getting our attention. For a long time scientists have suspected the presence of liquid water under the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa, and now Hubble is seeing water vapor from that other world. Scientists suspect that it erupted from plumes on the surface of Europa. If so, this makes it easier for future missions to investigate the chemical make-up of Europa because it means they won’t have to drill. This isn’t the first observation of water vapor on a moon. Saturn’s moon Enceladus showed signs of water vapor back in 2005. Scientists say that long fissures on Europa’s surface, known as linae, might be releasing the water vapor into space. NASA says, if confirmed, this just goes to further prove the power of the Hubble Telescope.
Water vapor may not be a first but noble gas in space is! Astronomers in the UK have, for the first time ever, detected noble gas molecules in space. Using the Herschel telescope to survey the dust in several bright supernova remnants, they discovered the chemical fingerprint of argon hydride ions. They didn’t expect to find these molecules in such a harsh environment. While observing the Crab Nebula, they realized that it provides exactly the right conditions for noble gas molecules to form.
In our DNA lies a mysterious secret—a code. Although it sounds like something in a Dan Brown novel, it’s true. Researchers at the University of Washington have discovered a “second code” hiding within our DNA. Since the 60s when the first code was discovered, scientists assumed it was only used to write information about proteins. But the new study showed that genomes actually use the genetic code to write two separate languages – one describing how proteins are made and the other instructing the cell on how genes are controlled. One language is written on top of the other which is why the second code could remain hidden so long. Scientists say this new information is a game change in understanding health and disease.
When you think supervolcano, you think Mars….Yellowstone… Utah? Really, Utah? Yep! Geologists form Brigham Young University in Utah have found evidence of a massive supervolcano near the Utah-Nevada border. They say it erupted around 30 million years ago at some 5,000 times greater than the Mount S. Helens eruption in 1980. They measure deposits from the eruption at 13,000 feet thick. Talk about leaving a mark! They used several techniques to confirm its existence including radiometric dating and chemical analysis of minerals. They say it was such a large eruption that it would have blocked out the sun for a while and had a catastrophic impact on the mammals, reptiles, and plant life living on Earth at that time. The volcano had been hidden by millennia of erosion, but now we’ve found you!
We’re just finding all kinds of things lately. Here’s another first ever discovery! Researchers from Australia’s University of New England and the University of Bologna in Italy have discovered the first evidence ever that dinosaurs had flashy head ornaments similar to a rooster’s comb. They discovered this soft tissue head crest on a rare, mummified specimen of a duck-billed dinosaur. While uncovering the fossil of the dinosaur, a paleontologist said that the head crest was so unexpected that he put a chisel right through it! He was expecting only rock and all of a sudden there was skin underneath. Just goes to show that you never know what you’re going to find! I love happy accidents!
And that’s it for On Science. Don’t forget to check out the Geminid meteor shower tonight and tomorrow night!