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The Seven Most Amazing Trees March 15, 2010

Posted by curiouskids in Plants.
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Over at MNN is a great article about the Seven Most Amazing Trees in the World.  My favorites:

  • The 2,000 year old Montezuma Cypress, a tree that is bigger around than it is tall.
  • The Pirangi cashew tree, which has a weird genetic mutation and sprout roots when one of its branches touches the ground.  Over time it has grown to cover more than 2 acres of land!
  • In Bahrain, in the middle of the desert, hundreds of miles away from any other tree, is the Tree of Life.  Its roots must reach very, very far into the sand to find water deep underground.

Icy comet flying into the sun March 12, 2010

Posted by curiouskids in Outer Space.
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SOHO satellite

SOHO satellite

The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) is a satellite that scientists use for studying the sun.  SOHO has different kinds of telescopes and other measuring tools to observe the sun in different ways.  The telescopes use a special circular disk to block the sun itself, so that things around it can be seen clearer.

Today, observers noticed a tiny little comet headed right into the sun!  This poor little comet is actually a piece of a much bigger comet that broke up over 2,000 years ago.  The pieces of the broken comet keep on flying around our sun, and sometimes a piece will fly into the sun.  Usually the pieces are too small to see, but this piece was big enough to see with the SOHO telescope.

In the image below, you can see the comet just before it hits the sun.

SOHO image of the sun

This star is older than our galaxy March 12, 2010

Posted by curiouskids in Outer Space.
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Astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center have discovered a star in a nearby galaxy that’s almost as old as the universe.  The star’s name is S1020549 and it’s important because it helps us understand how our own galaxy came together.

Our galaxy is the Milky Way, and it is a big spiral galaxy. Many scientists believe that the Milky Way was formed when lots of smaller, older dwarf galaxies combined together.

If this is true, then other dwarf galaxies that are still far outside of the Milky Way should contain some stars that are older than the Milky Way. The problem is, finding these really old stars is hard, because they’re not very bright, and the dwarf galaxies are far away. No one could find any very old stars in a dwarf galaxy, until now.

The astronomers developed a new technique, a new way to measure and look for these very old, very dim stars.  And with enough looking, they finally found one! This means that the idea that our Milky Way was made by combining lots of smaller dwarf galaxies is probably correct.

Our new friend, the amazing wood-eating water worm March 11, 2010

Posted by curiouskids in Animals, Energy.
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Today, most of the energy that people use comes non-renewable sources.  Non-renewable means things that once they’re used up, they’re gone, like the gasoline fuel that we put into our cars.  Once we use up all the gasoline on planet Earth, there won’t be anymore! So we better find some other renewable sources of energy!

Renewable energy comes from things that you can use over and over and never run out, like wind and water. You can also use plants, because you can keep growing them over and over again. When we make a fuel from a plant, it is called a biofuel. Most biofuels are made of sugar, so the plants we use to make biofuels have a lot of sugar in them – plants like sugar cane and corn.

gribbles

cute, aren't they?

Now let me introduce you to the gribble. A gribble is a tiny crustacean that lives in the oceans, like a crab or a lobster, but it’s much much smaller: it is about the size of a grain of rice. What makes gribbles amazing is that they can eat wood, by turning it into sugar in their stomachs.

For a long time many people didn’t like gribbles, because they would nibble away at their wooden boats and piers in the water.

But now some people are thinking differently. They think that the stomach of the gribble might hold an important secret. Since the gribble can turn wood into sugar, and sugar can be made into biofuels, if we understand how the gribble’s stomach works, we could turn just about any plant into a biofuel. We could make lots more biofuels, and we could make them faster and better, and maybe someday we would not need gasoline anymore!

Family values, for burying beetles March 11, 2010

Posted by curiouskids in Animals.
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Burying beetles make cute little families, but the stuff they eat for dinner is pretty gross!

burying beetle on a flower

First, a mom and a dad beetle find a dead bird.  Then they dig out underneath it, so that the dead bird sinks into the ground.  And then they bury the bird with more dirt.  That’s why they are called burying beetles.

Now the fun is just beginning!  The beetles take the feathers off and pad the insides of the hole with it, making a cozy little “room” that they live in with the dead bird.  The mom beetle lays eggs in dirt around the bird.  When the eggs hatch, the babies are little wormy things called larvae.  The larvae crawl over to the dead bird and start eating it!

But sometimes, just like human babies, the baby larvae want more food!  And so they beg their mom and dad for it, by cuddling up to their parents!  And if mom or dad is feeling nice, they will give the baby some more food — by throwing up into the baby’s mouth!

Aren’t you glad dinner at your house is a little different than that?

The tiniest binary star couple March 10, 2010

Posted by curiouskids in Outer Space.
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binary star dance

A binary star is where two stars dance around each other in circles. A team of scientists has discovered the tiniest binary star anyone has seen, it is named HM Cancri.  To find it, they used one of the largest telescopes in the world, at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii.

Keck Observatory

Keck Observatory

The two stars in HM Cancri are very close together – even closer than the Earth and the Moon are to each other [about 1/4 the distance]. And they dance around each other faster than any others – it only takes them about 5 minutes to do one circle.  Remember that it takes the Moon about a month to go around the Earth.

See Saturn tonight! March 10, 2010

Posted by curiouskids in Outer Space.
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SaturnThis week, starting today, the planet Saturn will be in opposition to our Sun. “In opposition” means that when the Sun rises, Saturn sets. And when the Sun sets, Saturn rises. So anyone, anywhere in the world, can see Saturn in the night sky all week long!

To see Saturn’s beautiful rings, you’ll need a good pair of binoculars or a telescope. You can use this handy Saturn observing guide from Sky & Telescope to make things more fun.  Happy Saturn-gazing!

Where did all the dinosaurs go? March 9, 2010

Posted by curiouskids in Animals.
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Dinosaur Skeleton

Tyrannosaurus skeleton (Robert Lawton, 2005)

Scientists finally seem to agree — a super long time ago [65 mya], the dinosaurs died because a giant rock from outer space hit the earth.  The rock was really huge, it was as big as a whole city!  [7.5 miles across]

But the dinosaurs didn’t all die right away when the rock hit the earth.

When the rock hit the earth, it caused lots of earthquakes, it made lots of forest fires, and most of all it made a gigantic explosion.

Tons of dirt flew into the sky from the explosion, and the wind blew the dirt all around the sky, making one huge dirt cloud that covered the earth.  The cloud lasted a long time, so it was really dark for a long time.

Since it was so dark, it got really cold.  Because it was so cold and dark, lots of plants died because they didn’t get enough sunlight, and lots of animals – including almost all the dinosaurs – also died.

But not all the dinosaurs died — somehow, some of the flying dinosaurs did survive and eventually they became the birds we have today.

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