The Countdown, a collaboration between Scientific American and YouTube's Spacelab, is a biweekly video show highlighting the best stuff happening in space, astronomy and physics. The companion Countdown blog features links to all of the stories mentioned in the show and more. Science journalist Sophie Bushwick is the show's host.
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The Countdown, Episode 8 – Hurricane Syzygy, Ancient Starlight, Vesta Mystery, Superluminous Supernovae, “Hawaiian” Soil on Mars
Hurricane Sandy hit New York City and surrounding areas hard this week, flooding streets and damaging homes. The full moon played a role in the severity of the flooding, due to a phenomena called syzygy.
Astronomers have detected ancient starlight from some of the first stars in the universe. They couldn’t see the light directly, however, instead relying on gamma rays from enormous black holes called blazars.
The giant asteroid Vesta isn’t aging like other asteroids, retaining its youthful appearance. Several theories for Vesta’s fresh look appear in this week’s issue of the journal Nature (Scientific American is part of Nature Publishing Group.)
The Mars Curiosity Rover examined soil taken from the surface of Mars and found it similar in makeup and structure to soil from the Hawaiian Islands. Since this episode of The Countdown was filmed, Curiosity has also sampled the Martian atmosphere for the carbon-based molecule methane, which, on Earth, is produced primarily by living organisms.