An artist's impression of ESA's Solar Orbiter. | Photo: ESA/ATG medialab
An artist's impression of ESA's Solar Orbiter. | Photo: ESA/ATG medialab
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New Delhi: The European Space Agency has released the closest pictures ever taken of the Sun captured by the Solar Orbiter that was launched in February this year.

The spacecraft completed its first close pass of the Sun in mid-June, when it flew within 48 million miles of the Sun with 10 instruments turned on to snap the closest pictures of the giant star to date.

Among the many novel insights from these images are views of mini-flares that the scientists are calling “camp fires”. These are millionths of the size of the Sun’s massive flares that are routinely observed by Earth telescopes. These small flares could have something to do with the heating process that makes the corona, the Sun’s outer atmosphere, far hotter than its surface. More on the BBC.

Global methane emissions hit record high levels

Global emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, have been driven up to record levels, which puts the world on track for the ‘worst case scenario’ for global heating. Over the last 20 years, methane emissions have risen by more than 50 million tonnes a year.

The findings show that more than half of the methane in the atmosphere now comes from human activities. Animal farming, agriculture and landfills account for about two-thirds of the emissions, while the fossil fuel industry makes up the rest. More on The Guardian.

Siberian heatwave would have been impossible without human induced climate change

The recent prolonged Siberia heatwave, that lasted from January to June 2020 and caused wildfires and a permafrost thaw, would have been almost impossible without the influence of human beings on climate change, say researchers.

Siberia’s overall temperatures were more than 5°C above average from January to June. Researchers also found that temperatures were more than 2°C hotter than they would have been if humans had not influenced the climate by releasing greenhouse gas emissions. Computer simulations show that without human influence, there would be about 1°C of global warming.

This kind of prolonged heatwave would only happen less than once in every 80,000 years without human-induced climate change — making it almost impossible in a climate that had not been warmed by greenhouse gas emissions. More on New Scientist.

Scientists reveal the mystery behind near-invisible ultra-black fish

In the depths of the ocean, where sunlight barely reaches, scientists have discovered one of the blackest materials known: the skin of a certain kind of fish. Researchers have found how a unique arrangement of pigment-packed granules enables some fish to absorb nearly all of the light that hits their skin. Even in bright light, they appear to be silhouettes with no discernible features, and when surrounded by bioluminescent light, they seem to disappear. This can improve their odds of survival.

Mimicking this texture could help engineers develop less expensive, flexible and more durable ultrablack materials for use in optical technology, such as telescopes and cameras, and even for camouflage. More on the New York Times.

Scientists accidentally discover bacteria that feed on metal 

Scientists have discovered bacteria that feed on manganese and use the metal as their source of calories. While such microbes were suspected to exist more than a century ago, none had been found or described until now.

Researchers at Caltech found the bacteria by accident. After performing unrelated experiments using a light, chalk-like form of manganese, an environmental biology professor had left a glass jar soiled with the substance to soak in tap water, which ended up being left there for several months.

When he returned, he found the jar coated with a dark material that turned out to be oxidised manganese generated by newfound bacteria that had likely come from the tap water itself.

Upon performing some tests, researchers found that the bacteria can use manganese to convert carbon dioxide into biomass. The findings may further our understanding of how elements like manganese may have shaped evolution on our planet. More on CNN.

Also read: Mystery gel-like substance on Moon that puzzled scientists solved. It’s not what you’d expect


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2 Comments Share Your Views


  1. Those so-called ‘camp fires’ are just na other redundant terminology that the scientists are using. Not sure why. But maybe because they want something ‘new’ out of the observations. The technology of being able to take closest pics is in itself the most unique thing. Cannot understand why they need a new name. What the scientists are observing is already well documented and is known as ‘nanoflares’.


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