Strange Exoplanet & Cancer Therapy | SciByte 98

Strange Exoplanet & Cancer Therapy | SciByte 98

We take a look at a rule breaking exoplanet, non-toxic cancer therapy supplement, hidden antarctic mountains, a new astronaut class, story updates, Curiosity news, and as always take a peek back into history and up in the sky this week.

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Mysterious ExoPlanet

  • The gap in the cloud seen in the dust surrounding one star, probably arose when a planet under construction swept through the dust and debris in its orbit
  • This small planet (6 to 28 times Earth’s mass) if we can confirm it, shouldn’t be there according to conventional planet-forming theory
  • Current Formation Theories
  • Seeing such a gap follows what we think we know about planetary formation
  • You start with a cloud of debris and gas swirling around a star, then gradually the bits and pieces start colliding, sticking together and growing bigger into small rocks, bigger ones and eventually, planets or gas giant planet cores
  • If there is a planet and there is no dust larger than a grain of sand farther out, that would be a huge challenge to traditional planet formation models
  • How we Think it Should Have Formed vs. How it Appears
  • This planet is far from its star, TW Hydrae, about twice Pluto’s distance from the sun
  • TW Hydrae is a red dwarf star, which lies about 176 light-years from Earth in the constellation Hydra
  • Given that alien systems’ age, that world shouldn’t have formed so quickly.
  • Astronomers believe that Jupiter took about 10 million years to form at its distance away from the sun
  • This planet near TW Hydrae should take 200 times longer to form because the alien world is moving slower, and has less debris to pick up
  • TW Hydrae is only 55 percent as massive as our sun and is believed to be only 8 million years old.
  • What This Might Mean
  • Astronomers are seriously investigating other theories about how this potential planet can to be formed
  • If we can actually confirm that there’s a planet there, we can connect its characteristics to measurements of the gap properties
  • These observations will add to planet formation theories as to how you can actually form a planet very far out
  • One alternative brought up in the press release: perhaps part of the disc collapsed due to gravitational instability
  • If that is the case, a planet could come to be in only a few thousand years, instead of several million
  • Direct collapse” theory, though: astronomers believe it takes a bunch of matter that is one to two times more massive than Jupiter before a collapse can occur to form a planet
  • This world is no more than 28 times the mass of Earth, as best as we can figure and Jupiter itself is 318 times more massive than Earth
  • There are also intriguing results about the gap, the dust grains in this system, orbiting nearby the gap, are still smaller than the size of a grain of sand
  • Astronomers plan to use ALMA and the James Webb Space Telescope, which should launch in 2018, to get a better look
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Should This Alien World Even Exist? This Young Disk Could Challenge Planet-Formation Theories |


Non-Toxic Cancer Therapy Supplement

  • A research team from the Hyperbaric Biomedical Research Laboratory at the University of South Florida has found that a combination of nontoxic dietary and hyperbaric oxygen therapies effectively increased survival time in a mouse model of aggressive metastatic cancer
  • The research shows the effects of combining two nontoxic adjuvant cancer therapies, the ketogenic diet and hyperbaric oxygen therapy, in a mouse model of late-stage, metastatic cancer
  • This study demonstrates potential cost-effective, nontoxic therapies to contribute to current cancer treatment regimens
  • The Study
  • Metastasis, the spreading of cancer from the primary tumor to distant spots, is responsible for over 90 percent of cancer-related deaths in humans
  • In the study, mice with advanced metastatic cancer were fed either a standard high carbohydrate diet or carbohydrate-restricted ketogenic diet
  • Mice on both diets also received hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which uses a special chamber to increase the amount of oxygen in the tissues
  • Ketogenic Diet
  • The ketogenic diet forces a physiological shift in substrate utilization from glucose to fatty acids and ketone bodies for energy
  • Normal healthy cells readily adapt to using ketone bodies for fuel, but cancer cells lack this metabolic flexibility, and thus become selectively vulnerable to reduced glucose availability
  • Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
  • Solid tumors also have areas of low oxygen, which promotes tumor growth and metastatic spread
  • Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves breathing 100 percent oxygen at elevated barometric pressure, saturating the tumors with oxygen
  • The Combination
  • When administered properly, both the ketogenic diet and hyperbaric oxygen therapy are non-toxic and may even protect healthy tissues while simultaneously damaging cancer cells
  • Both therapies slowed disease progression independently, animals receiving the combined ketogenic diet and hyperbaric oxygen therapy lived 78 percent longer than mice fed a standard high-carbohydrate diet
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube | Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Talk| UCLA Health
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Nontoxic cancer therapy proves effective against metastatic cancer | MedicalXPress


Buried Antarctic Mountain

  • The British Antarctic Survey, Bedmap2 has used millions of new measurements of the frozen continent\’s surface elevation, ice thickness, and bedrock topography from a wide variety of sources collected over several decades
  • The original Bedmap relied mostly on ground-based measurements, which limited the scientists in terms of how much land they could cover
  • A NASA program called Operation IceBridge sends out airplanes that fly over the entire continent.
  • The airplanes part of Operation IceBridge are equipped with lasers that measure the surface mountains\’ heights and other features, as well as ice-penetrating radar that maps subglacial bedrock-\”giving [scientists] a more 3-D picture of the ice sheet itself
  • The new data has revealed several smaller features-both on Antarctica\’s surface and buried under the ice-that were missed in the previous Bedmap effort
  • Scientists want to know the shapes of mountains and rocks to model how fast ice will move across these features on its way to the ocean, where the ice can melt and contribute to sea level rise
  • Multimedia
  • IMAGE | Interactive Slider of Two Views
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Antarctic\’s Mountains Revealed By Sharpest Map Yet |

New NASA Astronaut Class of 2013

  • The 2013 astronaut candidate class comes from the second largest number of applications NASA ever has received — more than 6,100
  • This group might be among the first to ride commercial spacecraft to the Space Station, or NASA says perhaps even missions to an asteroid or Mars
  • The new astronaut candidates will begin training at NASA\’s Johnson Space Center in Houston in August
  • The Astronauts
  • Josh A. Cassada, Ph. D | A former naval aviator is a physicist by training and currently is serving as co-founder and Chief Technology Officer for Quantum Opus
  • Victor J. Glover, Lt. Commander, U.S. Navy | An F/A-18 pilot and graduate of the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School currently serving as a Navy Legislative Fellow in the U.S. Congress
  • Tyler N. Hague, Lt. Colonel, U.S. Air Force | Currently is supporting the Department of Defense as Deputy Chief of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization
  • Christina M. Hammock | Currently is serving as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Station Chief in American Samoa
  • Nicole Aunapu Mannl, Major, U.S. Marine Corps | Is an F/A 18 pilot, currently serving as an Integrated Product Team Lead at the U.S. Naval Air Station, Patuxent River
  • Anne C. McClain; Major, U.S. Army | Is an OH-58 helicopter pilot, and a recent graduate of U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Naval Air Station, Patuxent River
  • Jessica U. Meir, Ph.D. | Currently is an Assistant Professor of Anesthesia at Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston
  • Andrew R. Morgan, M.D, Major, U.S. Army | Has experience as an emergency physician and flight surgeon for the Army special operations community, and currently is completing a sports medicine fellowship
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube NASA Unveils 2013 Astronaut Class | VideoFromSpace
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • NASA Selects 2013 Astronaut Candidate Class |

— Updates —

ARKYD Telescope Upgrade Available

LEGO Curiosity Rover


  • Answering Camera Questions
  • The team has received a lot of questions about the cameras on the rovers and are now trying to answer some of them
  • The Curiosity rover actually has 17 cameras on it, which is the most of any NASA planetary mission ever.
  • Many of the black and white images that come back from the rover are black and white, or gray scale, because that\’s all the rover really needs in order to detect rocks and other obstacles
  • Other cameras are color, such as the Mastcam imager, because the scientists use the color information to learn about the soil and the rocks
  • There are 1-megapixel black and white imagers for the engineering cameras and 2-megapixel color imagers for the science cameras
  • Camera Rundown
  • MARDI, or the Mars Descent Imager, took pictures as the rover was landing on Mars
  • MAHLI is the camera mounted on the end of the arm, and that takes close-up, high-resolution color photos
  • Hazard avoidance cameras, or the HazCams, there are four of these in the front and four in the back, and they\’re used to take pictures of the terrain near the wheels and nearby the rover
  • Mast Cameras, which are color imagers, which are used to do geology investigations
  • Navigation Cameras, which take pictures that are used to drive the rover
  • A remote microscopic imager, is part of the ChemCam laser instrument and is used to document the laser spots, that the rover makes on the surface
  • Video
  • In addition to the video taken when the rover was descending to the surface, the team has taken movies of the soil being shaken in the scoop
  • Since video files are pretty large and because they have a limited downlink each day, the scientists prefer to take still images of new targets
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube | Curiosity Rover Report (June 13, 2013): Curiosity\’s Cameras | JPLnews
  • Image Galleries at JPL and Curiosity Mulimedia
  • Social Media
  • Curiosity Rover @MarsCuriosity
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Video Transcript: Curiosity\’s Cameras |


Looking back

  • June (18?), 240 BC : 2253 years ago : Eratosthenes : A Greek astronomer and mathematician, estimated the circumference of the earth. As the director of the great library of Alexandria, he read in a papyrus book that in Syene, approaching noon on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, shadows of temple columns grew shorter. At noon, they were gone. The sun was directly overhead. However, a stick in Alexandria, far to the north, could cast a pronounced shadow. Thus, he realized that the surface of the Earth could not be flat. It must be curved. Not only that, but the greater the curvature, the greater the difference in the shadow lengths. By measurement on the ground and application of geometry, he calculated the circumference of the earth.

Looking up this week

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