Science this week – October 14, 2011

Some of the week’s top science news from EarthSky

Here’s a Friday recap of some of the top science news stories this week from EarthSky.

Series of small bumps might have knocked Uranus sideways
On October 6, 2011, an international team of researchers presented new findings about the planet Uranus, and how it got it’s “tilt.” The scientists announced their findings at a meeting of planetary astronomers France. Most planets in our solar system spin nearly upright with respect to the plane of their orbits around the sun. But Uranus spins sideways – it has a spin axis of 98 degrees. Using simulations, the team figured out that at least two small collisions with space debris might have knocked Uranus into its current orientation, billions of years ago. Previous research suggested the sideways tilt of the planet Uranus had been the result of a single collision, only. Here’s more …

First ever Arctic ozone hole: How it formed and what it may mean
Earlier this month, an international team of researchers announced in the science journal Nature an ozone hole opened up in the northern Arctic in spring 2011. Although researchers have been observing an annual ozone hole in the southern Antarctic since the mid-1980s, 2011 marks the first known ozone hole for the region above Earth’s north pole. Earth’s protective ozone has been threatened for decades and is expected to recover, but warming temperatures on Earth are thought to be slowing its recovery. Here’s more …

Moon map reveals titanium treasure troves
On October 7, scientists from Arizona State University and Johns Hopkins University presented a new map of the moon made with images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC). They say the map reveals the presence of titanium on the moon, which may give us more clues about the composition of the moon’s interior. Researchers revealed this map at a joint meeting of the European Planetary Science Congress and the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences, where they called it “a treasure trove of new information.” Here’s more …

Volcanic threat eases in Canary Islands, officials say
More than 600 people were evacuated from the Canary Islands, off the coast of north Africa, on October 11 and 12 after two undersea volcanic eruptions near a populated coastline. The eruptions occurred near Spain’s El Hierro island – the smallest and most volcanically active island in the Canaries. By October 13, local geophysicists in the Canary Islands were saying the threat had eased, and they were determining whether the undersea volcanic vent was widening – and, if so, whether it was widening in the direction of land. Here’s more …

Surveillance shows crickets’ gentlemanly side
On October 6, scientists from the University of Exeter revealed in the online journal Current Biology that male and female crickets work cooperatively, after mating. After viewing around 200,000 hours of footage of crickets in the wild, the researchers found that male crickets stick around after mating with females. Until now, researchers believed male crickets were simply trying to stop females from taking more partners. But this new evidence caused them to believe males hang around after mating to protect females from predators. Experts say this lends credence to the notion that there’s more cooperation – and perhaps less competition – between male and females in the insect kingdom than previously thought. Here’s more …

Two companies win awards for the X Prize oil cleanup challenge
On October 11, the X Prize Foundation awarded $1.3 million dollars to two companies, Elastic/American Marine and NOFI, for developing new technology to clean up oil spills. The foundation had launched an Oil Cleanup Challenge in July 2010 in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Contestants were challenged to create technology that could recover oil at a rate greater than 2,500 gallons per minute. That’s 9,464 liters per minute. The technology also had to have a recovery efficiency greater than 70 percent. That is, it had to scoop up lots of oil from a given area. Both winners met the contest’s stringent requirements for speed and efficiency. They were selected from 350 entries submitted from around the world. Here’s more …

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