CLOSE
Original image

The Last Mission To Save Hubble

Original image

Today, seven astronauts left Earth in one last attempt to save the Hubble Space Telescope. At nineteen years old, Hubble is aging and in need of major repairs. It's also dying a slow death -- at some point around 2015, Hubble's electrical system will fail for good, and then we'll finally have to let go. Today the New York Times has an article about the mission, and the various contingency plans that have been laid in case of (another) space shuttle disaster. The article explains the poignant reality of repairing the Hubble -- we need the space shuttle to get there, and the shuttles are all themselves reaching the end of their useful lives. Here's a snippet:

So if it is the beginning of the last act for the Hubble, the flight Monday also marks the beginning of the end for the space shuttle, whose greatest legacy might very well be the role it played in the repair and maintenance of the Hubble, what Commander Altman recently called "an incredible example of how humans and machines can work together."

Dr. Grunsfeld, who has earned the sobriquet of "Hubble repairman" for his previous exploits in space with the telescope, said: "The only reason Hubble works is because we have a space shuttle. And of all things we do, I think Hubble is probably the best thing we use it for."

As Mario Livio, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute, put it, "It's not just a telescope, it's the people's telescope."

For lots of great Hubble photos, check out Boston's Big Picture blog from December: Hubble Space Telescope Advent Calendar 2008. For more on the telescope's history, see Wikipedia's excellent Hubble Space Telescope article.

Original image
Sylke Rohrlach, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0
arrow
Animals
These Strange Sea Spiders Breathe Through Their Legs
Original image
Sylke Rohrlach, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

We know that humans breathe through their lungs and fish breathe through their gills—but where exactly does that leave sea spiders?

Though they might appear to share much in common with land spiders, sea spiders are not actually arachnids. And, by extension, they don't circulate blood and oxygen the way you'd expect them to, either.

A new study from Current Biology found that these leggy sea dwellers (marine arthropods of the class Pycnogonida) use their external skeleton to take in oxygen. Or, more specifically: They use their legs. The sea spider contracts its legs—which contain its guts—to pump oxygen through its body.

Somehow, these sea spiders hardly take the cake for Strangest Spider Alive (especially because they're not actually spiders); check out, for instance, our round-up of the 10 strangest spiders, and watch the video from National Geographic below:

Original image
iStock
arrow
Food
How to Make Perfect Fried Chicken, According to Chemistry
Original image
iStock

Cooking amazing fried chicken isn’t just art—it’s also chemistry. Learn the science behind the sizzle by watching the American Chemical Society’s latest "Reactions" video below.

Host Kyle Nackers explains the three important chemical processes that occur as your bird browns in the skillet—hydrolysis, oxidation, and polymerization—and he also provides expert-backed cooking hacks to help you whip up the perfect picnic snack.

SECTIONS

More from mental floss studios