North America's relatively calm summer weather ended last week when a powerful derecho swept across the Midwest — from South Dakota to Ohio — on August 10, 2020, and a rare firenado struck Northern California on August 15, 2020. If you are like most people, you have probably never heard of either of the rare natural phenomena. Here is a brief explanation of the incredible extreme weather events.
While astronomers have discovered evidence of thousands of exoplanets, obtaining direct images of the distant worlds has always been a challenge. That's because the planets tend to huddle close to the star they orbit and often get concealed by their star's dazzling light. Of the handful of images captured, most are of a single planet orbiting a Sun-like star. The only two multi-planet systems photographed feature brown dwarfs, or "failed stars," which are radically different in nature from the Sun. Now, an international team of scientists may have finally captured a young, Sun-like star with two giant Jupiter and Saturn-like planets in orbit.
The San Francisco Zoo's annual "March of the Penguins," to celebrate the graduation of their Magellanic penguin chicks from "fish school," is usually attended by hundreds of cheering fans. Unfortunately, COVID-19 restrictions forced this year's ceremony, held on August 8, 2020, to be limited to a handful of lucky guests and officials. However, the lack of fanfare did not appear to bother the six adorable graduates proudly waddling over to their permanent home on Penguin Island.
Summer 2020 has been exciting for stargazers. They have been treated to a once-in-a-lifetime visit from comet NEOWISE and had the rare opportunity to observe five planets and a full moon simultaneously, among other celestial events. Now, to top it all off, come the Perseids — the biggest and most spectacular meteor showers of the year.
SpaceX's first-ever passenger flight to the International Space Station (ISS) ended successfully on August 2, 2020, when Crew Dragon Endeavour splashed into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida. After a series of safety checks, the recovery teams unlocked the capsule's hatch and quickly whisked the spacecraft's precious cargo — NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley — to shore. During their total 64 days in space, the astronaut duo completed 1,024 orbits around Earth and traveled 27,147,284 miles.
Male birds typically sing the same tunes as the rest of their species because an unrecognizable song defeats the two primary reasons for their crooning — to establish and defend their territory and to attract mates. While the songs, which are passed down from generation to generation, may vary slightly by region, any new compositions are typically limited to the local environment. However, for reasons unknown to scientists, white-throated sparrows across Canada are abandoning their classic song for a catchy new tune "written" by their peers in British Columbia.
Scattered across the ocean bed, and often hidden from the human eye, are hundreds, or perhaps even thousands, of "blue holes." The massive underwater sinkholes, which host a diverse biological community — ranging from coral to sponges to sharks to sea turtles — were formed thousands of years ago when groundwater dissolved karst, a type of porous limestone rock found on ocean floors.
Over the years, there have been numerous attempts to create "glow-in-the-dark" plants. However, none of the approaches — which included infusing plants with nanoparticles of the luciferins and enzymes needed for the phenomenon to occur, or incorporating them with bacterial bioluminescence genes – proved feasible.