Right now, 500 light years away from Earth, there’s a planet that looks a lot like our own. It is bathed in dim orangeish light, which at high noon is only as bright as the golden hour before sunset back home.
NASA scientists are calling the planet Kepler-186f, and it’s unlike anything they’ve found. The big news: Kepler-186f is the closest relative to the Earth that researchers have discovered.
It’s the first Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of another star—the sweet spot between too-hot Mercury-like planets and too-cold Neptunes— and it is likely to give scientists their first real opportunity to seek life elsewhere in the universe. “It’s no longer in the realm of science fiction,” said Elisa Quintana, a researcher at the SETI Institute.
But if there is indeed life on Kepler-186f, it may not look like what we have here. Given the redder wavelengths of light on the planet, vegetation there would sprout in hues of yellow and orange instead of green.
Read more. [Image: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech]
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Source: The Atlantic
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Climate change is already having sweeping effects on every continent and throughout the world’s oceans, scientists reported, and they warned that the problem was likely to grow substantially worse unless greenhouse emissions are brought under control.
The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations group that periodically summarizes climate science, concluded that ice caps are melting, sea ice in the Arctic is collapsing, water supplies are coming under stress, heat waves and heavy rains are intensifying, coral reefs are dying, and fish and many other creatures are migrating toward the poles or in some cases going extinct.
Credit Kadir van Lohuizen for The New York Times
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Why the Zebra Has Its Stripes
Zebras’ bold striped patterns have puzzled scientists for nearly 150 years. Researchers have offered a lengthy list of possible explanations, from confusing predators by creating a distracting dazzle when a herd gallops away, to helping the animals avoid biting flies. Support for the dazzler hypothesis comes from computer tests using people, who have trouble tracking striped, moving objects on a computer; while other studies have shown that the flies prefer to land on uniformly colored, not striped, surfaces.
Now, a team of scientists reports online today in Nature Communications that it has tested these hypotheses—as well as suggestions that the stripes might cool zebras down or make them more attractive to mates—to see which one makes the most ecological sense. The winner: those pesky, blood-sucking, disease-carrying (such as parasitic trypanosomiasis) biting flies.
The team discovered that the ranges of the horse fly and tsetse fly species and the three most distinctively striped zebra species (Equus burchelli, E. zebra, and E. grevyi) overlap to a remarkable degree. They did not find a similar ecological match for any of the other hypotheses, not even those involving predators. Instead, the researchers argue that biting flies are the most likely reason that zebras, such as those shown above grazing in Tanzania’s Katavi National Park, evolved their distinctive ornamentation.
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