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Mars Express' webcam helps ESA scientists study high-altitude clouds

Mars Express' webcam helps ESA scientists study high-altitude clouds

Science
Oct. 17 (UPI) -- A new survey of high-altitude clouds on Mars marks the first time researchers have used the webcam on the European Space Agency's Mars Express probe for scientific purposes.Until now, the webcam was mostly used for science outreach and education. But last year, ESA scientists upgraded the webcam with new software and began capturing images of the clouds and dust storms forming atop the Red Planet's edge -- the planet's "limb."The probe's other cameras are mostly designed to make high-resolution observations of small targets, but the webcam is ideal for wide-angle views of Mars' distant horizon."For this reason, limb observations in general are not so numerous, and this is why our images are so valuable in contributing to our understanding of atmospheric phenomena," Agustin...
Study reveals secrets of planet formation

Study reveals secrets of planet formation

Science
Oct. 13 (UPI) -- Scientists have discovered a new explanation for how young stars and their newborn planets avoid "radial drift," a phenomenon that can rob stellar systems of their planet-forming material.Most planets form as material coalesces in a star's circumstellar disk of dust and debris. But debris disks can also diffuse or be eaten up by their host star, and researchers have struggled to figure out why this doesn't happen more often.Gas in a circumstellar disk should exert a drag force on debris, pulling the dust inward where it is consumed by the host star. The process, called radial drift, can deplete the material a young stellar system needs to form and grow planets.But new images of the debris disk surrounding the star V1247 Orionis has offered scientists insights into how youn...
Study reveals importance of hydrogen atoms for star formation

Study reveals importance of hydrogen atoms for star formation

Science
Oct. 10 (UPI) -- Until recently, astronomers assumed hydrogen molecules fueled star formation in young galaxies. But new research suggests atomic hydrogen may be equally important to star formation.In the local universe, most hydrogen found inside galaxies exists as individual atoms. Scientists assumed younger galaxies would host less atomic hydrogen and more molecular hydrogen. But cosmic surveys suggest even the earliest galaxies were rich in atomic hydrogen.Now, new analysis by researchers at the University of Western Australia and the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research confirms even galaxies featuring intense rates of star formation host large amounts of atomic hydrogen.Previous studies of "cosmic noon" galaxies have revealed massive reservoirs of molecular hydrogen. Cos...
Scientists study whale's blow hole microbes with the help of a drone

Scientists study whale's blow hole microbes with the help of a drone

Science
Oct. 10 (UPI) -- Scientists have for the first time surveyed the unique community of microorganisms -- the microbiome -- living inside the blowhole of a humpback whale. They did so with the help of a six-rotor hexacopter.Researchers with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution used a custom-built drone to collect blow samples, the moist breath exhaled by whales, from 17 humpbacks off the coast of Cape Cod and from nine humpbacks swimming near Canada's Vancouver Island. The scientists sequenced the genetic material found in the blow samples to identify the microbes living in each whale's respiratory tract."We were using the drone to take aerial images of the whales, so that we could assess body conditions," NOAA researcher John Durban said in a news release. "Because of the stable flight p...
Study: Genetics explain most cases of autism

Study: Genetics explain most cases of autism

Health
TUESDAY, Sept. 26, 2017 -- Heredity contributes to about 83 percent of the risk of autism in children with the disorder, a new study suggests.The estimate, from a re-analysis of a previous study, adds a new wrinkle to the ongoing debate over how much autism is inherited from parents. Essentially, the findings suggest that rare genetic traits combine in parents and explain about eight in 10 cases of the neurodevelopmental disorder in children.However, study author Sven Sandin cautioned that "our results do not give any information about specific genes or other direct causes. It only informs us that genes are important."Sandin, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, noted that the findings also don't reflect anything about the re...