A giant spinning wheel of ice on the surface of the Presumpscot River has enthralled crowds in Westbrook, Maine since Monday, January 14, 2019. Many locals have likened it to crop circles –strange patterns that appear mysteriously overnight in farmers' fields, which have long been theorized to be markers of extraterrestrial communication – and speculated that the icy ring is a landing site for an alien ship. Unfortunately for UFO enthusiasts, experts say that the rare winter phenomenon is a natural occurrence.
In addition to providing us with delicious honey, the hardworking honey bees also pollinate about a third of food crops and almost 90 percent of wild grasses, like alfalfa, used to feed livestock. Hence, it is not surprising that their declining population, caused by climate change, habitat loss, and deadly microbial diseases, has researchers scrambling to find ways to protect the vulnerable insects, which are so crucial to our existence. Now, scientists from the University of Helsinki in Finland have found a way to help honey bees fight off infectious diseases with a sweet, edible vaccine!
A thrilling polar competition between two adventurers to cross Antarctica solo, unsupported, and unassisted had a happy ending with both explorers achieving the unprecedented feat back-to-back. American professional endurance athlete Colin O’Brady and British Army Captain Louis Rudd set off November 3, 2018, a mile apart, from the Atlantic coast with the aim to become the first person to ski across the remote, inhospitable continent alone.
While visiting the North Pole in winter may not be at the top of your bucket list, the ever-changing ICEHOTEL, which opened its doors to visitors on December 14 this year, may change your mind. Located 200 km north of the Arctic Circle in the Swedish village of Jukkasjärvi, the hotel, which is carved entirely from ice, is rebuilt annually, with each iteration getting increasingly beautiful and impressive.
While elephants born without tusks are not unheard of, they normally comprise just 2 to 6 percent of the herd population. However, that is not the case at Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park, where an astounding 33 percent of female elephants born after the country’s civil war ended in 1992, are tuskless. While that may appear to be just a coincidence, Joyce Poole, an elephant behavior expert and National Geographic Explorer, has another theory. The researcher thinks we may be witnessing an unnaturally induced evolution of the species due to the incessant poaching of the mighty mammals for their valuable tusks.
Though we are treated to several meteor showers throughout the year, most pale in comparison to the grand finale – the Geminids. Expected to be at their peak on Thursday and Friday night (Dec. 13-14, 2018), the dependable meteors rank high in both quantity and quality. Nicknamed the “900-pound gorilla of meteor showers” by NASA, they outweigh other dust streams by factors of between 5 to 500! The shooting stars are also easier to spot because they streak through the skies at a noticeably slower pace, encountering Earth at about 22 miles (35 kilometers) per second, or about half the speed of the Perseids meteors’ 37 miles (60 kilometers) per second.
At the tender age of seven, while his friends were spending their allowances on “frivolous” things like candy and toys, Jose Adolfo Quisocola was busy saving money for more essential purchases. To try to get his peers to do the same, the youngster from Arequipa, Peru came up with the innovative idea of an eco-bank, which allows kids of all ages to become economically independent and financially savvy – while also helping the environment.
On November 26, 2018, scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California held their breath as the InSight spacecraft attempted the most challenging part of its 300 million-mile-long journey to Mars – landing. At 2:53 p.m. EST, following a few nail-biting moments, the room erupted in joy at the sound of the official “beep,” and the grainy photo of the Red Planet which confirmed that the lander had not only touched down but was functioning as expected.