Meatballs Of The Future, A Two-Tailed Comet, And Other Amazing Images Of The Week

Plus, what dolphins think you look like

Holiday Lights For The International Space Station

Unmanned cargo spacecraft Cygnus successfully made it to the International Space Station this week to deliver 7,745 pounds of supplies, station hardware, research materials, and holiday gifts for the crew. As it arrived to the ISS lit up, astronaut Scott Kelly snapped this picture and tweeted that the spacecraft looked like “a delivery in time for Christmas.” Holiday cheer from space!

How To Photograph An Invisible Gas

Scientists from Linköping University and Stockholm University in Sweden have created a camera that can see methane, a greenhouse gas that is more than 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Their camera, which uses infrared spectroscopy, could help scientists study climate change. The image above shows methane in red, emanating from a lake named Lillsjön in Stockholm.

Imagining Future Meatballs

Tomorrow’s Meatball is a visual project that’s meant to provoke thought about the increasing need for more sustainable, efficient food production. The project came out of Ikea’s Space10, an interdisciplinary lab and exhibition space in Copenhagen that explores the challenges and possible solutions of future living. The creators of the project produced a hypothetical menu of future meatballs, which included morsels made from algae, 3D-printed ingredients, insects, and lab-grown meat. They chose the meatball because they wanted to make people feel “familiar with the unfamiliar,” said Kaave Pour of Space-10 in a post on the group’s website. “There’s hardly any culture that does not cook meatballs — from the Swedish meatball, to the Italian/American spaghetti meatballs to spiced up Middle Eastern kofta.”

When A Comet Plays With Fire

Comets that come close to the sun’s surface are poetically named sungrazers. When they get too close, they burst into vapor. The photo above, from the Solar & Heliospheric Observatory, captures a sungrazer getting annihilated by this process. This particular comet belonged to the Kreutz family, a group of sungrazing comets that’s thought to have formed from the explosion of a single giant comet many centuries ago.

Through The Looking Lake

Visitors to the aptly-named Clear Lake in Canada’s Riding Mountain National Park can walk out on the lake’s frozen surface and see all the way to the bottom this winter. It’s a rare sight — for the lake to have frozen the way it did, the winds had to be perfectly calm and it couldn’t have snowed. “If you’re in a shallow area, you can see the sand, the rocks, even sometimes fish,” Richard Dupuis, the park’s visitor experience manager told CBC News.

Dynamic Dunes On Mars

Curiosity is exploring sand dunes that surround Mars’s Mount Sharp, marking the first time we’ve ever investigated active dunes on another planet. The rover is analyzing samples from the dunes. Its findings could provide NASA scientists with clues about Mars’s winds, which shift the dunes by as much as three feet per year.

Human Or Machine?

A research team from the US and Canada trained computers to recreate handwritten characters. The image above shows side-by-side comparisons of characters created by human and machine subjects, based on the character presented at the top. Can you guess which were made by human and which by machine? ANSWERS: Top left (B), top right (A), bottom left (A), bottom right (B).

A Dolphins-Eye-View

Researchers from a Miami-based nonprofit research project called SpeakDolphin have created a 3D model of a human diver based on image renderings from a dolphin’s sonar. The researchers used an instrument called the CymaScope to capture 2D images of the vibrations coming from the dolphin’s echolocation. They then converted the 2D images into 3D-printed models. “Seeing the 3D print of a human being left us all speechless,” said Jack Kassewitz of SpeakDolphin in a news release. “For the first time ever, we may be holding in our hands a glimpse into what cetaceans see with sound.”

Diagnosis In A Box

Researchers from ETH Zurich, a university in Switzerland, have developed a new test that can rapidly detect malaria parasites, viruses such as HIV and Ebola, bacteria, and biomarkers such as glucose and cholesterol. The device uses polarized light to screen a drop of blood for a particular pathogen and give an immediate “yes or no” diagnosis. This image shows a sample that screened positive for Ebola. The device costs around $20 and comes with a smartphone app.

Two-Tailed Catalina

This month, if you’re up before dawn and have access to binoculars or a telescope, you can try to spot Comet Catalina in the eastern sky. Most comets have two tails — a dust tail and a tail made of ionized gas. You can see both of Catalina’s tails in this photo from December 6, taken by space photographer Brian Ottum on his telescope in New Mexico. Meteorologists say the comet won’t be back for centuries.