The same phenomenon that creates the Northern Lights might also be confusing male sperm whales. In case you've forgotten already (really, how could you?), early 2016 brought a veritable tidal wave of beached spermaceti in the North Sea. No one could figure out why at the time, but thanks to a study in the International Journal of Astrobiology, we now have a working hypothesis: it was those gosh darned solar storms at it again.
“Dragon boogers” go by many names. “Moss animals,” for one, and “bryozoans,” for another. They're also known as “ectoprocta,” meaning “anus outside.” If you're unfamiliar with the phylogeny of aquatic invertebrates, it might seem unnecessary to distinguish creatures with anuses outside from creatures with anuses inside. And yet, it is necessary—which is the beauty of water-dwelling blobs.
What happens to aquatic life along the Antarctic seabed when the surrounding waters warm by a degree or two? Researchers spent six years developing a heating device capable of heating the ocean—while surviving the region's cutting climate—in an attempt to find out. Their findings were released today in the journal Current Biology, and suggest that even this tiny shift could have a big impact on the local ecosystem.
Life on Earth has survived vast changes in climate, from a warm period 450 million years ago, when most of the present-day United States was underwater, to the last ice age 20,000 years ago, when New England was buried beneath a mile-thick glacier. Though climate change triggered mass extinctions, life went on.
That's a wrap on another total solar eclipse. And while the coincidental geometry and views of the phenomenon are certainly awe-inspiring, it's worth noting it's not that hard to see a total eclipse. Yes, it's a rare scenario—the last time the path of totality swept across the entire nation was in 1918—but a smaller swath of the country will be hit with totality in 2024, and 2045 will usher in a path almost as nation-wide as the one we were treated to this year. If you're willing and able to travel a smidgen further, South America is set to see total eclipses in 2019 and 2020.
Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is a barred-spiral, making its way through space like a twirling baton with streamers on each end, carefree. It's a shape that we all know and love. Nothing wrong with that, barred spirals are great. But other galactic shapes are far more mysterious and intriguing to astronomers.