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Gaia telescope's 'book of the heavens' takes shape

Gaia telescope's 'book of the heavens' takes shape

Science
The Gaia observatory has released a second swathe of data as it assembles the most precise map of the sky. The European Space Agency telescope has now plotted the position and brightness of nearly 1.7 billion stars. It also has information on the distance, motion and colour of 1.3 billion of these objects. Gaia's "book of the heavens" will not be complete until the 2020s, but when it is the map will underpin astronomy for decades to come. It will be the reference frame used to plan all observations by other telescopes. It will also be integral to the operation of all spacecraft, which navigate by tracking stars. But beyond that, Gaia promises a raft of new discoveries about the properties and structure of our Milky Way Galaxy, its history and evolution into the future. It will enable scien...
Record concentration of microplastics found in Arctic

Record concentration of microplastics found in Arctic

Science
Record levels of microplastics have been found trapped inside sea ice floating in the Arctic.Ice cores gathered across the Arctic Ocean reveal microplastics at concentrations two to three times higher than previously recorded.As sea ice melts with climate change, the plastic will be released back into the water, with unknown effects on wildlife, say German scientists.Traces of 17 different types of plastic were found in frozen seawater.Microplastics are tiny plastic pieces under five millimetres long. They can be eaten by filter-feeding animals and passed up the food chain. A considerable amount of microplastic is released directly into the ocean by the gradual breakdown of larger pieces of plastic. But microplastics can also enter the sea from health and beauty products, washing synthetic...
NASA satellite spots northern lights from above

NASA satellite spots northern lights from above

Science
April 24 (UPI) -- On Tuesday, NASA's Earth Observatory shared an image of the aurora borealis, or northern lights, captured by the Suomi NPP satellite's VIIRS instrument.The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite's day-night band, or DNB sensor, is designed to observe a range of wavelengths from green to near-infrared. The instrument and the satellite's software uses filtering techniques to isolate different sources of low light, including auroras, wildfires, city lights and even reflected moonlight.Over the weekend, VIIRS picked up the glow of the northern lights. The aurora was spotted swirling across northern Canada.When enough high-energy particles from the sun collide with Earth's magnetosphere, some of the particles already trapped in the magnetosphere get knocked into the upper a...
Hubble telescope has helped scientists better understand the cosmos

Hubble telescope has helped scientists better understand the cosmos

Science
April 20 (UPI) -- Today, astronomers know the age and size of the universe with greater certainty and precision than they did 28 years ago -- and it's all thanks to the Hubble Space Telescope."When I was a grad student 30 years ago, we were arguing about the size and scale of the universe," NASA scientist Dr. Jeff Hayes told UPI.Hayes has said those arguments featured estimates differing by a factor of two."Today, thanks to Hubbles' observations, we are down to a couple of percent," he said.Hubble was designed to measure the size and age of the universe, as well as the rate of its expansion, and it succeeded in doing just that. According to Hayes, this was Hubble's biggest breakthrough.Hubble was launched on April 19, 1990. The telescope celebrated its 28th anniversary, or birthday, on Thu...
New nanoparticle could help solar panels convert unseen light into energy

New nanoparticle could help solar panels convert unseen light into energy

Science
April 23 (UPI) -- Scientists have developed a new nanoparticle that can absorb near-infrared light and reemit it as visible light, which could allow solar panels to convert unseen light into usable energy.Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory coated tiny particles in organic dyes. The dyes work like antennae, which allowed scientists to fine-tune the nanoparticle's light-converting properties."These organic dyes capture broad swaths of near-infrared light," Bruce Cohen, a scientist at Berkeley Lab's Molecular Foundry, said in a news release.Most solar technologies that focus on visible light fail to absorb near-infrared light, allowing a solid chunk of the solar spectrum to go to waste. Roughly 44 percent of all light that hits Earth's surface...