MI weekly selection #429

Northern gannets (Morus bassanus) in flight in Force 8 gales above raging seas. Shetland Islands, Scotland, UK, September.

Ancient star yields new idea about origin of heavy elements

A magnetorotational hypernova explosion, rather than a neutron star merger, probably created SMSS J2003-1142, an ancient star in the halo of the Milky Way, according to David Yong and Gary Da Costa, who published their team’s findings in Nature. “[N]eutron star mergers, together with magnetorotational supernovae, could in unison explain how all the heavy elements in the Milky Way were created,” they write.

The Conversation

Zoonotic disease risk factors identified

The consumption of exotic wild animals, wildlife farming and trade, livestock management practices, keeping exotic animals as pets and human encroachment on wildlife habitats all put humans at risk for zoonotic diseases, researchers reported in Biological Reviews. A separate study in Current Biology identified primates and hoofed animals such as deer and antelope as more likely vectors than rodents and bats.

The Guardian

Why dark wing tips help birds fly better

Scientists stuffed northern gannet wings with cotton and placed the wings in a wind tunnel to determine that birds with darker wing tips are more efficient flyers than other birds, according to findings published in Journal of the Royal Society Interface. The darker wings, which got 20% hotter than the lighter wings, turned out to be more aerodynamic.


Methane shown in data from Enceladus

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft recorded high amounts of methane coming from Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons, which begs the question of whether there are microbes “eating” the dihydrogen and producing methane there. “Searching for such microbes, known as methanogens, at Enceladus’ seafloor would require extremely challenging deep-dive missions that are not in sight for several decades,” says Roger Ferriere, co-author of a study about the findings that was published in Nature Astronomy.


Microlensing helps detect rogue planets in the Milky Way

Astronomers detected microlensing events using the Kepler Space Telescope in 2016 that led to the discovery of four free-floating planets, also known as rogue planets, near the Milky Way’s Galactic Bulge.


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