Science isn't all about examining graphs and charts. In this weekly column, staff writer Andrea Alfano puts together the most striking science images from the past week's news for your viewing pleasure. Scroll down to find phenomenal images and fascinating facts about the science behind them.
From the enormous scale of two cosmically intertwined stars to the extremely tiny scale of intricately folded strands of DNA, this week's science news revealed a diverse array of amazing images. We also got an update on the famous "Blue Marble" photo, and learned the science behind the mysterious phenomenon of hair ice.
On Wednesday, NASA announced that engineers at its Jet Propulsion Laboratory recently started developing a robotic probe that they call a "windbot." Working under a $100K grant from NASA's Innovative Advanced Concept program, the team is working to determine the feasibility of a robot that would be able to float atop the clouds of planets like Jupiter. The idea is that the turbulent winds of the gas planet would supply the windbot's energy.
The black-and-white images here show super tiny objects made out of DNA. Using 3D modeling to guide them, researchers were able to devise DNA sequences that self-assemble into these shapes. Aside from being great for making fun little shapes out of DNA, this technology could be used as a tool in biological research and potentially even drug delivery.
American astronaut Scott Kelly tweeted this breathtaking photo of the Bahamas from the International Space Station on Sunday. "Bahamas, the strokes of your watercolors are always a refreshing sight," he said. Kelly has been living at the ISS since March, and isn't scheduled to return until spring of 2016.
This is an artist's impression of what it might have looked like when a tiny pulsar in a distant galaxy punched through the gaseous stellar disk of its giant companion star. Pulsars are tiny, ultra-dense neutron stars – so dense that a single teaspoon would weigh a billion tons – that emit pulses of light.
As this pulsar was speeding around its companion star – which is about 30 times as massive as our sun – it blasted through the stellar disk, sending a fragment of it hurtling through the universe at four million miles per hour. NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory is now tracking this cosmic shrapnel, and reported that is seems to be picking up even more speed.
Amazingly, the hairlike, silvery-white strands growing out of these logs are made of ice. Known very appropriately as hair ice, the phenomenon has captured the curiosity of scientists for decades. This week, a group of researchers finally confirmed its cause: a fungus called Exidiopsis effusa.
This image of Australia's coastline was featured as the NASA Earth Observatory photo of the day earlier this week. The rows of white rectangles in the center are salt ponds from the region's salt extraction industry.
NASA released a new photo of our "Blue Marble" of a planet, fully illuminated in just a single shot, this week.
"In order to view the Earth as a fully illuminated globe, a person (or camera) must be situated in front of it, with the sun directly at his or her back," astronaut Scott Kelly wrote in an essay on Medium. "Not surprisingly, it can be difficult to arrange this specific lighting scheme for a camera setup that's orbiting in space at speeds approaching thousands of miles per hour." The image above compares the new photo to the original "Blue Marble" photo that Apollo 17 astronauts took during the last moon mission in 1972.