Oct. 21, 2019, 8:35 a.m.View more articles
Did you know there are bears on the Moon?! No, not the kind of bear you’re thinking of! These are “water bears”, microscopic animals whose scientific name is “tardigrades”. They were on board an Israeli spacecraft that crash-landed on the Moon earlier this year.
Tardigrades are no wider than a human hair, have eight legs, and are probably the toughest animals on Earth. They can be found in rainforests, the deep sea, the Antarctic, and even in mud volcanoes!
They can also survive being dehydrated, meaning having all the water removed from their bodies. That would kill most animals, but it sends tardigrades into a kind of long hibernation. If water is reintroduced – even years later – they spring back into action.
On the Moon, that’s unlikely to happen any time soon – so these little “bears” will keep hibernating for now.
Scientists are preparing to spend a year on a ship trapped in Arctic sea ice. They’re part of an expedition named MOSAiC, which stands for Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate. The expedition will study how climate change is affecting the Arctic.
An icebreaker ship named Polarstern will embed itself in sea ice and drift wherever the winds take it, with its crew venturing out to take samples and measurements.
By trapping themselves in the sea ice as it freezes after summer, the MOSAiC team will be able to study the Arctic up close during winter. Getting there in winter is normally very difficult, because the ice gets too thick to sail through – and this limits our understanding of how climate change is impacting the region.
Satellites can help us to make phone calls, take pictures of other planets, and track the weather, but launching them is expensive and uses a lot of resources.
Now, a company called World View has developed what it says is a cheaper, more environmentally-friendly option: enormous balloons! Called the Stratollite, the balloon is filled with helium, which is lighter than air, causing it to rise up.
Like a satellite, it can carry equipment such as telescopes, sensors, or cameras. Unlike a satellite, however, it doesn’t go into space. Instead, it uses the wind to travel high above the Earth, in part of the atmosphere called the stratosphere.
The team behind Stratollite think it could help to track severe weather and monitor natural disasters. They’re also developing another balloon, which could one day take people into the stratosphere!
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