Dinosaur Blood Cells, The Microbes On A Handprint, And Other Amazing Images Of The Week

Plus, glass on Mars

I Believe I Can Fly

After a bit of a bumpy ride, Bill Nye tweeted that LightSail, his large sail-like spacecraft that runs on solar power, was finally able to deploy its sails. However, the mylar sheets didn’t extend into their full 344 square-foot configuration, so we’ll have to wait and see if the sails will deploy fully before LightSail’s orbit deteriorates completely. If they don’t fully deploy, the spacecraft will fall. This picture might just be beautiful enough to make up for all the trouble it’s been causing though.

Bloody Hell

When scientists decided to peer into the bones of some 75 million-year-old dinosaurs that weren’t even very well preserved, they didn’t expect to see anything too extraordinary. Instead, they found the first evidence of fossilized dinosaur blood cells. In fragments of a dinosaur’s claw, the scientists found blood cells that were almost chemically identical to emu blood cells (emus are thought to be close relatives of dinosaurs). As if that discovery wasn’t exciting enough, the scientists also found evidence of collagen (complete with preserved amino acids), cartilage, tendons, and other connective tissue.

Better Luck Next Time, Hubble

Using a technique called gravitational lensing, the Atacama Large Millimeter Array may have just one-upped the Hubble Space Telescope. The Hubble was able to make out the basic structure of a galaxy lovingly called HATLAS J090311.6+003906, which also goes by the nickname SDP.81. Despite the fact that another galaxy distorts our view of SDP.81, ALMA was able to generate a high-resolution image of the galaxy, which is 12 billion light years away. From this image, astronomers were also able to identify star formation activity within the galaxy. These two images show the difference between the Hubble’s view of the galaxy (left) and ALMA’s view (right), which has a resolution that’s six times higher than Hubble’s picture. But don’t cry, Hubble, we still love you.

Guiding Light Through Glass

You’re looking at the world’s first functioning single crystal waveguide in glass. Using femtosecond lasers, researchers produced this three-dimensional single crystal, which can guide light waves through glass with little loss of light. A femtosecond is one-quadrillionth of a second, and femtosecond lasers emit pulses that last between a few and hundreds of femtoseconds. According to researchers, this will advance efforts to develop photonic integrated circuits, or PICs, which can better transport optical signals.

Pitch A Tent On The Moon

The next time you go camping, how about instead of spending a night under the stars, you spend a night amongst them? Thanks to aerospace engineers at MIT, future moon men and women might just be able to do that with this lightweight, packable, inflatable moon habitat. According to one of the engineers, it takes up half the space of an average refrigerator when packed. This tent provides two guests with a shield from the sun’s rays and a solar array to provide power and recharge the rover’s batteries. The rover will provide lunar travelers with food, water, and oxygen, and it will maintain the habitat’s temperature and scrub out carbon dioxide. Sounds heavenly!

A Vibrant Map

This interferogram of the Danube River Delta in Romania is part of the European Space Agency’s Hydro-SAR project, which uses satellite radar data to monitor wetlands for sustainable water management. The Danube River Delta, which covers more than 4,000 square kilometers, has around 30 different types of ecosystems, and it also offers a water supply to locals. Interferograms like this one provide insight into changes in the water surface, levels, and flow.

Spooky Spacecraft

Photographer Ralph Mirebs recently took this picture of one of the Soviet Union’s abandoned Buran shuttles in the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch complex. During the 1980s, the Soviet Union tried to build their own version of NASA’s space shuttle. After one flight in 1988, the Buran program was scrapped after the USSR ended. The shuttle that went to space was later destroyed when a roof collapsed. Its two sister shuttles, however, still exist, and here you can see the dusty remains of one of those abandoned shuttles.


Typically when you think of lassoing an animal, you think of horses, but this new octopus-inspired robot can lasso ants–like the unfortunate critter you see above. Engineers at Iowa State University have developed a centimeter-wide robot with tentacles so delicate, they can precisely and carefully pick up tiny objects. These tentacles are made from a stretchy polymer called an elastomer, and they can curl up to just 200 microns in diameter. Since lassoing creepy-crawlies isn’t at the top of most people’s bucket list, scientists could instead use this technology in microsurgery, because blood vessels require gentle handling and precision.

Glass On Mars

Eureka! NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has found glass in craters on Mars. The deposits–which you can see in green–might help scientists discover if there was ever life on the red planet, since traces of that life might be preserved in the glass. Unless some bumbling Martian left his glasses behind, these deposits are likely the results of meteorites hitting Mars with enough force to melt rocks. When the melted rocks cool, they form a type of glass called impact glass.