Scientific discoveries this week: 3/17/14

Garching, Germany – The European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) has spotted the largest known yellow star, which has been named HR 5171 A. This star is among the ten largest stars discovered and is more than 1300 times the diameter of the sun. The star is a part of a binary star system where the second star touches the main star. Observations from the past sixty years show that this is a rapidly changing star system. The star is 12000 light-years from Earth and has been growing for the past forty years. Scientists used interferometry to study the star. This technique combines the light collected from many telescopes, which effectively created a telescope 140m in size.

Edmonton, Canada – A team of scientists led by Graham Pearson from the University of Alberta have found the first water-rich gem which provides new evidence of large amounts of water deep within the Earth. This gem, made of a mineral called ringwoodite, shows that water is 1.5% of the sample’s weight. This finding helps to confirm theories that a large amount of water exists between the upper and lower mantle. Ringwoodite is a form of peridot that, until now, had not been found on Earth. The mineral had previously been found in meteorites.

St. Lucia, Australia – Scientists at the University of Queensland and the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Vision Science have found that budgeridars have a predisposition to favor the left- or right-hand side. This allows flocks of birds to better navigate around obstacles. Researchers flew the birds through a tunnel with an obstacle. There were paths on both the left and right sides, and thus researchers could then see a bird’s preferences. While some birds always flew through the wider opening. others always selected the path on one side.

Ann Arbor, Michigan – Ecologists at the University of Michigan have found that malaria becomes more prevalent at higher elevations during warmer years. The study analyzed malaria cases in Ethiopia and Colombia and suggests that global warming may result in more cases of malaria in densely populated areas of Africa and South America. The study also suggests that climate change explains the changes in malaria trends in the highlands. Malaria was identified as a disease that would be sensitive to climate change over twenty years ago. The Plasmodium parasites and the Anopheles mosquitoes that carry the disease thrive in warmer temperatures.

Emily McNair is a down-to-Earth artist who is rarely seen without some form of video game regalia. She is from the small town of Monument, Colorado and loves to spend her precious spare time outdoors. She has been with The Oredigger for three years and is currently Managing Editor. She is working on a degree in chemical engineering and will graduate in May.

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