Previously Unknown ‘Lost World’ Discovered in Antarctica

Communities of species previously unknown to science have been discovered on the seafloor near Antarctica, clustered in the hot, dark environment surrounding hydrothermal vents.

“Hydrothermal vents are home to animals found nowhere else on the planet that get their energy not from the Sun but from breaking down chemicals, such as hydrogen sulphide,” said Professor Alex Rogers of Oxford University’s Department of Zoology, who led the research. “The first survey of these particular vents, in the Southern Ocean near Antarctica, has revealed a hot, dark, ‘lost world’ in which whole communities of previously unknown marine organisms thrive.”

 In the “hadal” zone, which at 11,000 meters is deeper than Mount Everest is high – the pressure rises to 1,000 bar, or a ton per square centimeter. And as there is practically no light, and plants cannot grow, there is little food. It offers a glimpse of what life on Jupiter’s moon, Europa, might look like.For the first time, researchers led by the University of Oxford, University of Southampton and British Antarctic Survey, used a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to explore the East Scotia Ridge deep beneath the Southern Ocean, where hydrothermal vents, including ‘black smokers’ reaching temperatures of up to 382 degrees Celsius, create a unique environment that lacks sunlight, but is rich in certain chemicals.

“What we didn’t find is almost as surprising as what we did,” said Professor Rogers. “Many animals such as tubeworms, vent mussels, vent crabs, and vent shrimps, found in hydrothermal vents in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans, simply weren’t there.”

The team reports its findings in this week’s issue of the online, open-access journal PLoS Biology.


Source and Image: The Daily Galaxy

Voyager spaceship exits our Solar System

03 May 2011 Last updated at 06:15 GMT

NASA experts noted that the Voyager probes, launched more than 30 years ago, are now reaching the edge of the solar system and will continue its journey into interstellar space. The two probes were reported to be working fine and will be expected to continue their journey as our first ambassadors across our solar system. One of the probes, Voyager 1, is currently traveling through space at 38,000 mph around the edge of the solar system.

“It’s uncanny,” said Ed Stone, a scientist of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and also a Voyager Project Scientist since 1972. “Voyager 1 and 2 have a knack for making discoveries,” he added. Voyager 1 has visited the planets Jupiter and Saturn, while Voyager 2 has passed Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

Among the discoveries made by the two Voyagers include the discovery of volcanoes on Io, one of Jupiter’s moons, evidence of an ocean beneath the icy surface of Europa, evidence of methane rain on Saturn’s moon, Titan, ice geysers on Neptune’s moon Triton and other significant discoveries on other planets and moons in our solar system. Stone says that each of the discoveries have changed the way scientists think of other worlds.

In 1980, the first Voyager used the gravity of Saturn to slingshot its way out into the universe. Then in 1989, Voyager 2 used the very same technique with Neptune’s gravity to exit the solar system. With the momentum created by the planet’s gravity, the probes will have enough speed and velocity to exit our solar system. What happens once they exit our system and ‘pop free’ is open to speculation.

Both spacecrafts are currently navigating the heliosheath, the space filled with a thick magnetic field that no ship has ever faced before. It echoes with low frequency radio bursts that can only be heard in the outer reaches of our solar system. The heliosheath is so far away from earth that the Sun merely looks like a small star from that distance. No one knows how long the two Voyagers will be in the heliosheath but most scientists predict another four or five years.

The Voyagers are powered by the radioactive decay of a Plutonium 238 heat source. That power source will keep the critical subsystems running for at least another 10 years. The Voyager 1 will be the first probe to leave the solar system and it holds the record for the farthest man-made object from our planet.