This week in science: New discoveries on atmospheric holes and advancements in smart glasses technology


This week in science news

SpaceX rockets punching temporary holes in our planet’s atmosphere!

It is heard about new technology for smart glasses that use sonar and learned of the incredible sleeping patterns of chinstrap penguins.

It seems like not a week goes by without another SpaceX launch, but this time, it’s not what goes up but what happens when it comes back down. Deorbiting SpaceX rockets appear to be smashing temporary holes in the upper atmosphere by releasing fuel into the ionosphere​​, creating bright blobs of light in the sky. Scientists now think these “SpaceX auroras”​​ could be causing unrecognized problems. When we’re not punching holes in the atmosphere, Earth is happily making its own in the planet’s crust, with the new “baby volcano” off Japan erupting in spectacular fashion, while a big blob of hot water in the Pacific is making this year’s El Niño act a little weird.

Speaking of blobs, there’s a strange one circling the Milky Way’s central black hole. It’s shooting powerful radiation at Earth every 76 minutes — and we might finally know what it is.

Chinstrap penguins have taken the idea of a breeze snooze to the extreme. They sleep for a perfectly reasonable 11 hours a day, but as their breeding colonies contain tens of thousands of individuals, they must remain constantly vigilant against threats to their nests from predatory skua birds and hostile colony neighbors. So how do they pack in all those hours? Every day, they take 10,000 micro sleeps lasting up to four seconds long.

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Picture of the week

The world’s largest iceberg, A23a, is on the move after being trapped in place off Antarctica’s coastline for almost 40 years. The gigantic “ice island,” which is three times the size of New York City, will likely drift into the “iceberg graveyard,” potentially putting it on a collision course with an important penguin refuge before the ice fractures and melts away.

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