A river in Southern Tasmania put on its own fireworks show as a bloom of Noctiluca scintillans (also known as “sea sparkle”) washed into the region. The bioluminescent plankton light up when disturbed, so people showed up to splash in the beautiful waters as news of the bloom spread. Unfortunately, this light show is likely a sign of global warming, because Noctiluca scintillans thrive in warmer waters. But that doesn’t make the sight any less gorgeous.
NASA’s Vacuums Aren’t Like Ours
NASA has many vacuum chambers that act as testing beds, but Vacuum Chamber 5 is extra special. Its pumps inject cryogenically cold gases into the chamber at the highest speeds of any electric propulsion test facility in the world–something NASA says is important for maintaining a space-like environment. A helium-cooled panel that’s about -440 degrees Fahrenheit freezes any air in the chamber, creating a vacuum. NASA uses the VF-5 to see if hardware designed to operate in space can withstand the extreme environment.
The Circles Of Life
When the first astronauts reach Mars, they may want to plant a special flag to represent Earth. Swedish artist Oskar Pernefeldt has designed the “International Flag of Planet Earth” for the occasion as a part of his college thesis project. With a plain blue background and seven overlapping rings, the flag for one of the most epic events in space history is a little … womp-womp. Pernefeldt had a nice idea though: the rings are supposed to form a flower, which symbolizes life on Earth, and the rings are linked to represent how we are all connected, with the blue hue representing water.
A Colorful Zebra(fish)
This bright image reveals what the inside of a five-day-old zebrafish’s head looks like (after fluorescent staining, of course). The little striped fish aren’t very big, so this image has been magnified 20 times. Neuroanatomist Hideo Otsuna made transgenic zebrafish, “which express fluorescent protein randomly with neurons.” He tagged these randomly expressed proteins in red, and you can see fine neuronal fibers in red, green, and blue. In the past, scientists have also studied the zebrafish’s brain in action, since the fish’s transparency allows them to actually watch neurons firing.
Blue Orchard Bee (Osmia lignaria)
Blue Orchard Bees are one of the wild bees that are just now beginning to be used to augment, or even replace, pollination by honeybees in North American fruit orchards. Each female visits an average of 60,000 flowers per season, making them efficient and welcome pollinators in orchards. Because fruit trees are in bloom for only short periods of time, managed orchard bees do not easily build up sustainable populations. Planting lupines and other native flowers around the orchard provides the bees with additional sources of food before and after the bloom is complete, resulting in more offspring and larger population sizes.
Black-Bottomed Osmia (Osmia atriventris)
Blue is not a color normally associated with bees, but in the genus Osmia, blues and azures are the norm. This is one of a large number of species that prefers to collect blueberry pollen as food for its offspring. Unlike honeybees, which are poor pollinators of blueberry crops, this bee and other native blueberry lovers, hold the primary-pollination responsibility for putting blueberries on your table.