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Science in 140 characters: All aboard the microbe train?

Hubble has now been positioned to take more photos of Jupiter. NASA says it will be able to create spectacular videos of the progression of the auroras.

Written by Jamie Mullick | Published: July 3, 2016 4:26:56 am

jupiter 759

Jonathan Eisen, Biologist | @phylogenomics

Have you ever wondered what kind of microbes you encounter every day on your daily subway commute? A team of scientists in Boston decided to check the kind of bacteria the city’s subway system was infested with, according to a study tweeted by biologist Jonathan Eisen. The scientists were rather surprised by their findings: that there was very little possibility of any disease being spread by the city’s T subway system. Scientists said most of the surfaces from where the samples were taken — seats, poles, ticketing machines, touch screens — had microbial content of that of a healthy hand, instead of pathogens that could trigger diseases.

“From what we found, the bugs you encounter riding the T are not any worse than what you would expect from shaking someone’s hand,” said Curtis Huttenhower, a computational biologist at Harvard. “Sure, a lot of microbes are involved, but it’s nothing to worry about.”

The study, published in the American Society for Microbiology’s journal, also found microbes that live in our mouths or noses on some of the poles (attributed to coughing or sneezing), and some vaginal microbes on seats (which can be transferred through clothing). “Even though the subway can seem like a ‘dirty’ environment, it’s not strikingly different from a conference room at work,” Huttenhower said.

Jovian ‘light show’ to welcome Juno

Emily Lakdawalla, Astronomer | @elakdawalla 

Jupiter has one of the most well-known adornments in the world of astronomy, the Giant Red Spot. However, recently captured images from the Hubble Space Telescope show that the Giant Red Spot may have competition with an aurora above Jupiter’s North Pole that was on full display. Like on Earth, aurora borealis, or northern lights, are formed when high-energy particles are pushed to the poles of the planet due to its magnetic field and then collide with atoms of gas to create light. The auroras on Jupiter, which are estimated to be five times the size of Earth and hundreds of times more powerful than the auroras on Earth, were spotted by Hubble a week or so before the scheduled arrival of NASA’s space probe Juno into the Jovian system.

“These auroras are very dramatic and among the most active I have ever seen,” said astronomer Jonathan Nichols from the University of Leicester. “It almost seems as if Jupiter is throwing a fireworks party for the imminent arrival of Juno.”

Hubble has now been positioned to take more photos of Jupiter. NASA says it will be able to create spectacular videos of the progression of the auroras.

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