Friday, March 30, 2012

Hubble Spies a Spiral Galaxy Edge-on

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has spotted the "UFO Galaxy." NGC 2683 is a spiral galaxy seen almost edge-on, giving it the shape of a classic science fiction spaceship. This is why the astronomers at the Astronaut Memorial Planetarium and Observatory, Cocoa, Fla., gave it this attention-grabbing nickname.

While a bird's eye view lets us see the detailed structure of a galaxy (such as this Hubble image of a barred spiral), a side-on view has its own perks. In particular, it gives astronomers a great opportunity to see the delicate dusty lanes of the spiral arms silhouetted against the golden haze of the galaxy’s core. In addition, brilliant clusters of young blue stars shine scattered throughout the disc, mapping the galaxy’s star-forming regions.

Perhaps surprisingly, side-on views of galaxies like this one do not prevent astronomers from deducing their structures. Studies of the properties of the light coming from NGC 2683 suggest that this is a barred spiral galaxy, even though the angle we see it at does not let us see this directly.

This image is produced from two adjacent fields observed in visible and infrared light by Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys. A narrow strip which appears slightly blurred and crosses most the image horizontally is a result of a gap between Hubble’s detectors. This strip has been patched using images from observations of the galaxy made by ground-based telescopes, which show significantly less detail. The field of view is approximately 6.5 by 3.3 arcminutes.

Image Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

NASA Administrator Supports Apollo Engine Recovery

David Weaver
Headquarters, Washington

WASHINGTON -- The following is a statement from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden regarding the efforts announced this week by Jeff Bezos to recover main engines from the Saturn V first stage rocket of Apollo 11:

“I would like to thank Jeff Bezos for his communication with NASA informing us of his historic find. I salute him and his entire team on this bold venture and wish them all the luck in the world.

“NASA does retain ownership of any artifacts recovered and would likely offer one of the Saturn V F-1 engines to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington under long-standing arrangements with the institution as the holder of the national collection of aerospace artifacts.

“If the Smithsonian declines or if a second engine is recovered, we will work to ensure an engine or other artifacts are available for display at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, as Jeff requested in his correspondence with my office. I have directed our staff to begin work to exercise all appropriate authorities to provide a smooth and expeditious disposition of any flight hardware recovered.

“I sincerely hope all continues to go well for Jeff and Blue Origin, and that his team enjoys success and prosperity in every endeavor. All of us at NASA have our fingers crossed for success in his upcoming expedition of exploration and discovery.”

For more about the Saturn V’s F-1 engine, visit

For more about NASA, visit

- end -

Distribution of Protein CHC22 Clathrin

This colorful series of images shows the distribution of a protein called CHC22 clathrin in human muscle cells. A recent study from Frances Brodsky's laboratory at the University of California, San Francisco, found that CHC22 plays a key role in forming cellular compartments in muscle and fat that accumulate glucose transporters, to mobilize them for release in response to insulin. This process clears glucose from the bloodstream to control blood sugar levels after a meal. The CHC22 protein represents a human variation of this pathway that is not present in mice. Studying CHC22 in more detail could help researchers better understand what goes wrong on a cellular level in type 2 diabetes. [Reference: Vassilopoulos et al (2009) Science 324:1192] (Date of Image: 2009)

Credit: ©Stephane Vassilopoulos and Frances Brodsky, University of California, San Francisco

Administration to Announce “Big Data” R&D Initiative

Today, at 2:00 p.m. EST, the American Association for the Advancement of Science will host researchers from a number of fields. These researchers are generating extremely large and complicated data sets, commonly referred to as “big data.” A wealth of information may be found within these sets, with enormous potential to shed light on some of the toughest and most pressing challenges facing the Nation.

To maximize this historic opportunity—and in support of recommendations from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology—the Obama Administration is launching a Big Data Research and Development Initiative, coordinated by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and supported by several Federal departments and agencies.

Please click here to watch the event.


John Holdren, Assistant to the President and Director, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Subra Suresh, Director, National Science Foundation

Francis Collins, Director, National Institutes of Health

Marcia McNutt, Director, United States Geological Survey

Zach Lemnios, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research & Engineering

Kaigham “Ken” Gabriel, Deputy Director, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

William Brinkman, Director, Office of Science, Department of Energy

Theoretically Predicted Exotic Molecule

This graphic shows a theoretically predicted exotic molecule made of two rubidium atoms, whose size is around a thousand times greater than ordinary diatomic molecules. The molecule's electron density, shown in the figure, resembles a trilobite, a creature that dominated life on Earth hundreds of millions of years ago.

The existence of this molecule was predicted by Chris H. Greene of the University of Colorado Boulder, Alan S. Dickinson of the University of Newcastle, and Hossein R. Sadeghpour, a staff scientist at the Institute for Theoretical Atomic and Molecular Physics (ITAMP) at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., in a paper published in Physical Review Letters, volume 85, number 12, pp.2458-2461 (2000). This is a color version adapted from Fig.3 of that reference.

Green received a grant from the National Science Foundation in 2000 for his work in this study, performed at the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics (JILA) at CU-Boulder. (Date of Image: May 2000)

Credit: Chris H. Greene, Physics Department and JILA, University of Colorado Boulder