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What Are Stars?

This month on Newsdesk: weather sensors inspired by dandelions, NASA tests a new spacesuit, and stargazing in the center of the city.

Weather Sensors Inspired by Dandelions

Dandelion seeds can float for a long time in the breeze.

Now, through a process of biomimicry, in which the movement of dandelion seeds is mimicked, or copied, scientists are developing tiny electronic sensors that can drift in the air.

The extremely lightweight sensors have been designed to drop very slowly to the ground. In a test, a sensor was dropped from a drone above a parking lot, and as the red circle highlights, it successfully drifted through the air. Able to float for long periods of time, the sensors could help gather useful information about the weather, such as temperature and air pressure. Farmers could then use this information to track weather conditions and better care for their crops.

Technology inspired by nature that can help us thrive alongside the natural world.

NASA Tests New Spacesuit Technology

In space, temperatures can become dangerously hot, so astronauts rely on spacesuits to keep cool.

Astronauts working on the International Space Station are connected via a tube. Water is pumped along the tube, and runs through flexible pipes in the spacesuit to keep the astronauts cool.

Now, in preparation for future missions to the moon, NASA is testing a spacesuit cooling system that can operate without being connected to a larger spaceship.

The system's water pumps, temperature sensors, and tubes are all being tested before being fitted into a real-life spacesuit. If the tests prove successful, the system could help future astronauts keep cool for longer as they explore the surface of the moon!

Stargazing in the Center of the City

Stargazing is usually carried out far away from cities, where light doesn't interfere with views of the sky.

However, a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is successfully stargazing in the city of Boston! Evan Kramer is using a specialised camera to take photos of the night sky, a process known as astrophotography. His stunning images show the city at nighttime, and the stars overhead.

“Originally I thought I wanted to be an astronomer, because I loved looking for things in the night sky, but quickly I realised that I mostly enjoyed making the instruments that enable one to observe the night sky.So instead of being an astronomer I realised that maybe aerospace engineering was the right thing for me.”

Evan's instruments will help scientists take clearer photos of the stars, hopefully inspiring more people to take up stargazing themselves!

Learn more about stars with Twig film: What are stars?