Saturday, May 19, 2018

Whirlpool Galaxy Gives Insight into Black Hole Behaviour

Recently, a team of researchers led by Case Western Reserve University astronomers have found a brand-new cloud of ionized gas associated with the Whirlpool Galaxy, also known as Messier 51a, M51a and NGC 5194.

The cloud is about 26 million light-years away, and may give insight into the behavior of a supermassive black hole and how it consumes and ‘recycles’ hydrogen gas.

The cloud itself is around 81,500 by 24,460 light-years in size and is located 104,370 light-years north of Whirlpool Galaxy’s center. It was seen using the Burrell Schmidt Telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory.

Quote from Professor Chris Mihos, Case Western Reserve University, “The discovery’s role in more clearly understanding how galaxies eject and ‘recycle’ their gas and stars will be determined in the coming years as more researchers dig into information that had been there all along — even if unseen until now.”

Read more about this fascinating story at:

Friday, May 18, 2018

Photo of the Week

 This week for Photo of the Week, we would like to feature a stunning photo of the Milky Way over Glacier National Park in Montana. Taken last summer over Lake McDonald, this lovely composition is unique in that not only does it feature the faint Milky Way, but it is also accompanied with the shining lights of the Northern Lights.

 For more fantastic photos, be sure to check out Diana Robinson on Flickr at:

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Astronomers Spot Fastest-Growing Black Hole Ever Found

 Astronomers using recently released data from the European Space Agency's Gaia spacecraft have discovered the fastest-growing black hole ever found. At the time, the black hole was seen devouring a mass equivalent to Earth's sun every two days.
 The brightly shining object was identified as a black hole. This black hole appeared to have a mass of about 20 billions suns when light was released and was found to be growing by 1 percent every million years.
 In the end though, the black hole is far enough away that it likely released its light over 12 billion years ago. Although the light began in ultraviolet light and x-rays, this light has shifted into the near-infrared during its long journey to Earth. This light was detected by researchers using the SkyMapper telescope at the Australian National University. They then used data collected by Gaia to confirm that the wavelengths being detected were truly the composition of a black hole.
 "This black hole is growing so rapidly that it's shining thousands of times more brightly than an entire galaxy, due to all the gases it sucks in daily that cause lots of friction and heat," said Christian Wolf, an astronomer at the Australian National University and first author on the new research.

Read more about this fascinating story at:
Or read the full study at:

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

New Whale Discovery Shows Insight to Baleen Whale Past 

Recently in the journal Current Biology, the discovery of the Llanocetus denticrenatus has introduced new knowledge about the evolution of the baleen whales (Mysticeti).

Baleen whales contain baleen in their mouths, which act as a comb to filter out small prey from the seawater. However, new evidence shows early whales had well-developed gums and no baleens.

Not long ago, it was thought that filter feeding had emerged from whales which had teeth. Llanocetus denticrenatus had distinctive grooves on the roof of its mouth, which usually contained blood vessels that supply the baleen. Yet, in ancient whales those grooves cluster around tooth sockets. Thus, the baleen would have been useless and at risk of being crushed.

As a result, the evolutionary transition most likely happened when the teeth had already been lost and whales had switched from biting to sucking in small prey.

Quote from Dr. Felix Marx, paleontologist, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, “Instead of a filter, it seems that Llanocetus denticrenatus simply had large gums and, judging from the way its teeth are worn, mainly fed by biting large prey. Even so, it was huge: at a total body length of around 8 m, it rivals some living whales in size.”

Read more about this fascinating story at:

Monday, May 14, 2018

$5 Million Award to Answer the Origin of Life

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Recently, the Evolution 2.0 contest has launched and will continue until 2026. This competition asks the age-old question: how was DNA created and how can laboratories recreate this process?

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) forms the building blocks needed for life. Divided into four bases (adenine [A], thymine [T], cytosine [C], and guanine [G]), the DNA molecules form 64 codon triplets with one of 20 amino acids. These structures then join as proteins.

Competition entries will be judged by Harvard biologist George Church and Oxford University’s Denis Noble. Perry Marshall, contest organizer and founder of Natural Code, created the contest in hopes of inspiring a discovery that could revolutionize research in biology and artificial intelligence.

Through a further understanding of DNA, humanity could finally being to gain insight on how consciousness is created. Furthermore, the discovery would impact studies in artificial intelligence, allowing the potential for evolving, naturally-occurring code.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

This Week in Science History: Dvorak Keyboard

On May 12, 1936, the patent application for the Dvorak keyboard was granted. The idea came to August Dvorak (a University of Washington education professor) when he acted as an adviser to a student writing a master's thesis about typing errors. Dvorak realized that a more efficient keyboard layout could be created in order to better serve people with high words-per-minute rates. In Dvorak’s view, the predominant QWERTY key layout had a number of flaws. He calculated that over half of all keystrokes occurred on the top row, which required typists to constantly move their fingers off the home row. In addition, he found that most key presses were performed by the left hand, which is typically non-dominant. Dvorak and his brother-in-law John Dealey aimed to design a keyboard that would decrease typos and increase speed. They researched the science of motion and even analyzed the most commonly used letters and letter combinations in order to create the keyboard.

Read more at:

Friday, May 11, 2018

Photo of the Week

 This week for Photo of the Week, we would like to feature magnificent photo of the Milky Way taken by talented photographer Shayne Shaw. Continuing our Utah series from last week, this wonderful photo was captured at the Little Sahara Recreation Area. Known for its large area of sand dunes, hills and sagebrush flats, the Little Sahara is the remnants of a large river delta that existed in the region over 12,500 to 20,000 years ago.

 For more fantastic photos, be sure to check out Shaw's Instagram @beyondinfinityphoto at