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mary caperton morton

Jupiter's shrinking Great Red Spot

Like a kid sitting for her annual school portrait, Jupiter lines up with the Hubble Space Telescope for a series of photographs once a year. The images capture a broad range of features, including winds, clouds, storms and atmospheric patterns, and are used to create yearly maps of the gas giant to study how it changes over time.
 
05 Feb 2016

D.C. wastewater no longer going to waste

D.C. Water & Sewer Authority, which treats sewage from Washington, D.C., as well as from the Maryland and Virginia suburbs ringing the city, is the biggest consumer of electricity in the U.S. capital. But last September, D.C. Water began creating its own power, becoming the first utility in the country to convert sewage into electricity.
 
03 Feb 2016

Fossilized melanin reveals bats' true colors

Studies of pigments preserved in fossil feathers have changed our perception of how colorful dinosaurs were. Now, researchers have revealed the true colors of some of the first flying mammals as well. Two species of bats that lived during the Eocene about 50 million years ago were likely reddish-brown in color, according to a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
 
02 Feb 2016

Rising Star cave hominid walked its own way

After dozens of human-like fossils were discovered in a cave in South Africa last summer, they were declared distinct enough to be classified as a new species: Homo naledi. Two recent studies looking in detail at the new hominid’s hands and feet are revealing how different they were from other early humans.
 
30 Jan 2016

Ancient eggshells may reveal dinosaur body temperatures

Whether dinosaurs had metabolisms more like slow, cold-blooded reptilians or fast, warm-blooded birds has long been a mystery. Fossilized bones, which don’t preserve the delicate cell membranes that facilitate heat production in warm-blooded animals, are not likely to answer the question. Fossilized eggshells, however, might be just the ticket to determining the past body temperatures of egg-laying females, which, scientists say, might help address whether the dinosaurs’ metabolisms were warm or cold.
 
27 Jan 2016

How deep do the Alps go?

Continental crust was long thought to be too buoyant to subduct into the mantle, unlike denser oceanic crust, which descends into the mantle in many locations around the world. But the discovery of coesite — a type of silica formed at the extreme pressures present in subduction zones — in the Alps in 1984 challenged that long-held idea. Seismic evidence backing up claims that continental crust has indeed been subducted beneath the Alps has been scant, however, until now.
26 Jan 2016

Three new species of extinct baleen whales found

The evolution of baleen whales from toothed whales was gradual, with intermediate fossil species found that possess both teeth and baleen. Now, the discovery of three new whale species on New Zealand’s South Island is filling in the evolutionary story of baleen whales.
 
21 Jan 2016

Subducting seamounts blocked a big quake in Chile

Chile, which lies above a massive subduction zone fault, is one of the world’s most earthquake-prone countries, experiencing nine temblors of magnitude 7 or greater since 2010. In April 2014, a magnitude-8.1 earthquake struck 95 kilometers northwest of the city of Iquique, but despite its large size, the event failed to release all the stress thought to have built up along that portion of the fault. A new study reveals that a ridge of ancient underwater volcanoes may have blocked the 2014 earthquake rupture from propagating farther, thus limiting the size of the quake.
 

 

20 Jan 2016

Sierra Nevada snowpack lowest in 500 years

With several ski resorts closing early last winter in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains due to lack of snow, many people suspected the snowpack for the year was on the low side. This suspicion has been confirmed: Snow levels for the winter of 2014–2015 registered as the lowest in the last 500 years.
 
07 Jan 2016

Treated water that's too pure lets arsenic sneak in

With California’s water resources dwindling to alarmingly low levels, the Orange County Water District (OCWD) has pioneered a high-tech approach for recycling wastewater into potable tap water instead of discharging it into the ocean. The purification process is so thorough, however, that it might actually make the water too clean: In a new study, researchers have found that the ultra-purified water is vulnerable to contamination by naturally occurring arsenic in underground storage aquifers.
 
03 Jan 2016

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