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A hidden treasure in the Large Magellanic Cloud

NASA, ESA. Acknowledgement: Josh Lake

Nearly 200,000 light-years from Earth, the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, floats in space, in a long and slow dance around our galaxy. Vast clouds of gas within it slowly collapse to form new stars. In turn, these light up the gas clouds in a riot of colours, visible in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is ablaze with star-forming regions. From the Tarantula Nebula, the brightest stellar nursery in our cosmic neighbourhood, to LHA 120-N 11, part of which is featured in this Hubble image, the small and irregular galaxy is scattered with glowing nebulae, the most noticeable sign that new stars are being born.
The LMC is in an ideal position for astronomers to study the phenomena surrounding star formation. It lies in a fortuitous location in the sky, far enough from the plane of the Milky Way that it is neither outshone by too many nearby stars, nor obscured by the dust in the Milky Way's centre. It is also close enough to study in detail (less than a tenth of the distance of the Andromeda Galaxy, the closest spiral galaxy), and lies almost face-on to us [1], giving us a bird's eye view.
LHA 120-N 11 (known as N11 for short) is a particularly bright region of the LMC, consisting of several adjacent pockets of gas and star formation. NGC 1769 (in the centre of this image) and NGC 1763 (to the right, see heic1011) are among the brightest parts.
In the centre of this image, a dark finger of dust blots out much of the light. While nebulae are mostly made of hydrogen, the simplest and most plentiful element in the Universe, dust clouds are home to heavier and more complex elements, which go on to form rocky planets like Earth. Much finer than household dust (it is more like smoke), this interstellar dust consists of material expelled from previous generations of stars as they died.
The data in this image were identified by Josh Lake, an astronomy teacher at Pomfret School in Connecticut, USA, in the Hubble's Hidden Treasures image processing competition. The competition invited members of the public to dig out unreleased scientific data from Hubble's vast archive, and to process them into stunning images.
Josh Lake won first prize in the competition with an image contrasting the light from glowing hydrogen and nitrogen in N11. The image above combines the data he identified with additional exposures taken in blue, green and near infrared light.

Source: ESA/Hubble Information Centre


font- � : 1 P� O� -family:"Arial","sans-serif";color:#222222'>Importantly, the results give scientists a peek into the subtleties of ecological change in response to climate change. Flowering of native plants, a harbinger of spring in the world's temperate regions, signals the start of the growing season. Changes in the timing of flowering have broad implications for the animals and insects that depend on the plants.
"Earlier blooming exposes plants to a greater risk of experiencing cold snaps that can damage blossoms and prevent fruiting," says Temple. "The Door County (Wisconsin) cherry crop was ruined in 2012 because the trees bloomed very early in response to record-breaking warmth only to be hit by subsequent frost."
"The Door County cherry crop was ruined in 2012 because the trees bloomed very early in response to record-breaking warmth only to be hit by subsequent frost."
The new study keyed on the detailed phenological records of 32 native plant species in Concord, Mass., kept between 1852 and 1858 by Thoreau, a pioneering naturalist best known as the author of "Walden," as well as later records. A second data set of flowering times for 23 species in southern Wisconsin was compiled by Leopold, a renowned wildlife ecologist at the University of Wisconsin and author of "A Sand County Almanac." Leopold and his students gathered their data in Dane and Sauk Counties between 1935 and 1945. From 1977 until she died in 2011, Aldo Leopold's daughter Nina Leopold Bradley resumed the collection of phenological records near the Leopold Shack.
"Both Thoreau and Leopold were part of the 19th century naturalist movement in which individuals often kept meticulous daily journals recording the things they observed in nature," notes Temple. "Most of those journals have been lost over time, but Thoreau and Leopold were famous writers, and their journals have been preserved, providing us with unparalleled historical data."
Comparing modern observations with those gathered by Leopold shows that in 1942, when the mean spring temperature in southern Wisconsin was 48 degrees Fahrenheit, black cherry bloomed on May 31. In 2012, with a mean spring temperature of 54 degrees Fahrenheit, black cherry blooms were observed as early as May 6. In 1942, Leopold's notes show the woodland wildflower bloodroot blooming on April 12. In 2012, bloodroot was first observed blossoming March 17.
Together, these two data sets provide a unique record of flowering trends in the eastern United States over a 161-year period, says Temple.
"Leopold and Thoreau had no idea their observations would help us understand responses to human-caused climate change," says Temple. "But Leopold knew his records might be useful in retrospect when he wrote: 'Keeping records enhances the pleasure of the search, and the chance of finding order and meaning in these events.'"

Source: University of Wisconsin-Madison



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Posted by Omkarr singh on Saturday, January 19, 2013. Filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0

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