Kligat writes: The brownsnout spookfish in the Pacific is the first known vertebrate to use mirrors to focus light into its eyes. Despite being a species known for 120 years, this was not known until a live specimen was caught between New Zealand and Samoa last year. The fish lives over 1,000 meters below the ocean's surface, so the light focused by the mirrors' perfectly curved surfaces provides a major advantage over other fish.
I didn't see a category for biology or general science, so I submitted this to "upgrades" because the fish has better hardware? Sorry.
Kligat writes: Two asteroid belts have been found around the star Epislon Eridani, the ninth closest star to our solar system. Epsilon Eridani also possesses an icy outer ring similar in composition to our Kuiper belt, but with 100 times more material, and a Jovian mass planet near the edge of the innermost belt. Researchers believe that two other planets must orbit the 850 million year old star near the other two belts. Terrestrial planets are possible, but not yet indicated.
Kligat writes: The International Astronomical Union has renamed the dwarf planet Haumea and its two moons Hi'iaka and Namaka, after the Hawaiian fertility goddess, the patron goddess of Hawaii, and a water spirit. The cigar-shaped body is speculated to have resulted from its short rotational period of only four hours. Holding up the reclassification of the body as a dwarf planet was a dispute over its discovery between the groups of José Luis Ortiz Moreno and Michael E. Brown.
Maybe it's time to split off the dwarf planets into their own mnemonic.
Kligat writes: Today while defending running mate Gov. Sarah Palin over requesting $200 million in earmarks in 2009, Sen. John McCain attacked Sen. Barack Obama over requesting $900 million in earmarks of his own. "That's nearly a million every day, every working day he's been in Congress," McCain said. "And when you look at some of the planetariums and other foolishness that he asked for, he shouldn't be saying anything about Governor Palin."
Kligat writes: A new study published this month in Astrophysics finds that some exoplanets discovered using the Doppler effect to find variances in the radial motion of a star may actually be two smaller bodies instead of one. Instead of two exoplanets where one makes two orbits for every orbit the other makes, with both being nearly circular, what is misinterpreted is a single exoplanet in an eccentric orbit.
The study concludes that half of known exoplanets may fall under this category, and "hot Neptune" exoplanets may be the most probable for yielding bodies only several times the size of Earth. Coincidentally, another study published this month in Astrophysics finds two exoplanets with eccentric orbits of 0.61 and 0.27. The Exoplanet Encyclopedia manages to keep an up-to-date count and catalog (we're at 309 now).
Kligat writes: For the first time in five years, the International Space Station has utilized the rockets on the European Space Agency's Automated Transfer Vehicle to dodge leftover remnants of a defunct satellite. The Russian Cosmos-2421 was launched in June 2006 to track Western Navy vessels and is believed by NASA to have exploded, leaving 500 pieces of space debris.
Usually, the rockets on the ATV are used to take the ISS away from Earth's atmosphere and reduce drag. In this case, it had to take it downward because the ISS was already near the top of the acceptable range. Estimated probability of impact was 1 in 72, and an avoidance maneuver is called for if probability is greater than 1 in 10,000. It was predicted to pass the ISS within just a mile.
Kligat writes: A study by the published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found that cattle tend to face magnetic south or magnetic north, with some exceptions for days with strong wind or cold, sunny days. 8,510 cows were examined in 310 locations using satellite imagery from Google Earth, and 2,974 deer were examined using direct ground observations and photos.
Kligat writes: A trans-Neptunian, comet-like object has been discovered that possesses an aphelion of nearly 1,600 AU. The 50-to-100 kilometer object passed perihelion in 2006 and is currently 25 AU from the Sun, as opposed to Sedna's 88, but it shatters the old record by over a 50% margin. The object was found using a computer searching algorithm to comb through the supernova-seeking Sloan Digital Sky Survey II's data.
Kligat writes: Back in January, it was reported that the youngest planet ever to be discovered, about ten times the mass of Jupiter and orbiting the eight to ten million year old 0star TW Hydrae. Now a Spanish research team has concluded that TW Hydrae b doesn't exist, and that cold spots on the star's surface actually produced the dip in brightness instead of a transiting planet.
Not as cool as if a planet had actually been there, but refutations are science, too, right?
Kligat writes: It turns out that not only were the fireworks at the 2008 Olympic Games edited for television viewers, but at the behest at the top levels of Chinese government, the government replaced the voice of a third grade singer with that of a seven-year-old girl that had been judged as "not cute enough" to sing on stage.
Kligat writes: Radio astronomers have discovered that the asteroid 2001 SN63 is actually a trio, with the main body being 2 km in diameter. The two fragments orbiting it are 1km and 400m in diameter. When sunlight hits a near-Earth asteroid that isn't a perfect sphere, it increases its spin, and if it rotates too fast, it breaks apart and sometimes forms natural satellites that orbit the main body.
Kligat writes: The Kuiper belt object formerly known as (136472) 2005 FY9 has been rechristened Makemake and classified as a dwarf planet and plutoid by the International Astronomical Union, according to the United States Geological Survey. The reclassification occurs just a month after the latter category was created.
The object was referred to by the team of discoverers by the codename Easterbunny, and the name Makemake comes from the creation deity of Easter Island, in accordance with IAU rules on naming Kuiper belt objects.
Kligat writes: Researchers working to recreate the sounds of ancient Aztec and Mayan instruments have blown into a clay, skull-shaped "whistle of death" for the first time. Discovered in each hand of a human skeleton in an Aztec temple, mechanical engineer Roberto Velazquez believes they were used during Aztec sacrifices to the gods. Velaquez has created countless replicas of pre-Columbian instruments and experimented in how one was intended to play them.
Kligat writes: The International Astronomical Union has decided that Pluto and Eris should be classified as plutoids alongside their 2006 classification as dwarf planets. Under the definition, the self-gravity of a plutoid is enough for it to achieve a near-spherical shape, but not enough for it to clear its orbit of its rocky neighbors, and the plutoid orbits the Sun beyond Neptune.
Kligat writes: The COROT project of the French Space Agency has detected an object described as defying categorization as a planet, star, or brown dwarf. Although only 0.8 times the radius of Jupiter, it is over 20 times as massive, giving it a density twice that of the metal platinum. If it is a star, it would be the smallest of those ever discovered.