On Mars, auroras are blue and visible to the naked eye. Here’s a simulation

Mars has auroras too, and in addition to the red and green tinted Northern Lights here on Earth, these also come in blue. According to NASA, these should be visible to the naked eye if a Martian astronaut were to look to the sky from one of the two poles.

NASA’s deceleration system for Martian landings looks like an UFO. [UPDATED: launch postponed]

Today, NASA is performing a new test round for its low-density supersonic decelerator (LDSD), which is basically a giant stop and break system for heavy duty crafts landing on Mars. Both the Curiosity Rover (2012) and the twin Viking probes (1976) used the same parachute to slow their supersonic descent and land safely on the Martian surface. These parachutes, however, can’t handle more than a tone worth of payload, and if humans are ever to touch the planet’s surface they’d need to land 15 to 20 tones of payload. The LDSD system deployed by NASA and slated for a test run above the Pacific might be the technology we’ve been waiting for.

Giant sawfish exhibit virgin birth, reproducing without sex

A routine DNA test came up with some extremely surprising results – female sawfish in Florida reproduce without mating with males. This is among the very few times this process was observed in vertebrates.

Earth-sized planets all have relatively circular orbits, study finds

For decades, researchers have studied our planet’s orbit with growing interest: is there something special about the way the Earth revolves around the Sun, is it a necessary condition for life to emerge? A team of researchers from MIT studied 74 Earth-sized exoplanets and reports that all of them have fairly circular orbits around their stars. Circular vs Eccentric The

Amazon holds contest to see who’s the best robot that can replace a warehouse worker

Over the weekend, Amazon – a company that employs more than 50,000 people in its warehouses alone – organized a contest where engineering teams from all over the world were invited to present a robot that can fulfill simple warehouse duties. Though some of the bots were quite impressive, all of them failed miserably at some point, even at a task so simple as grabbing an item from a shelf and placing it in a tub. It’s not that they couldn’t do this, rather they were so slow and clumsy that any warehouse worker witnessing the display might think he’s a superhero and his job is safer than the pope in the Vatican. Well, that may be true … but who knows for how long. After all, any repetitive task can be automated, eventually.

Lightsail responds after eight day of silence in space. Bill Nye: ‘it’s alive!’

After a successful launch and deploy to Earth’s orbit on the back of the powerful United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket out of Cape Canaveral, the LightSail went silent for eight straight days. Spirits were high and nerves tense, but apparently the craft managed to solve the communication glitch all by itself. Like always, “have you tried switching it off and on?” Following the self-reboot, engineers immediately uploaded a new patch and hopefully we’ll see Lightsail unravel its photon harvesting wings soon enough. The LightSail, currently strapped to a CubeSat, might then be deployed through and out the solar system.

California faces tsunami risk – L.A. specifically threatened

It’s not just the San Andreas fault – a new study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research reports that there are several long faults on the U.S. West coast which can cause significant earthquakes, as well as tsunamis.

Tiny origami bot folds, navigates obstacles, swims, then dissolves. Next: inside your body

At the International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) conference, a team from MIT, in collaboration wit the Technische Universitat in Germany, presented an incredible origami bot that can perform various complex motor tasks. Weighing only 0.3 grams, the bot can scuttle at about 4 cm/sec to crawl up an arm, carry twice its load, dig through a pile of foam, climb a ramp or push a tiny puck along a planned trajectory. At the end, the researchers demonstrate how the entire bot (apart from its magnet) can be dissolved in acetone. Later on, it’s easy to imagine a similar origami bot traveling through your body where it performs various tasks like deliver a medical payload, diagnose for diseases or even perform surgery. It would be designed to be much smaller and with all its parts dissoalvable inside the human body after a while or when emerged in a certain bodily solution.

The 2C global warming goal may be buried in Paris

The plan for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP21, was to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world. But tackling global warming simply doesn’t seem to be a priority for the governments of most countries, and the goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) seems less and less likely.

Scientists light the brain of mice to recall their lost memories

A team at MIT in collaboration with the Riken Brain Science Institute in Japan activated the lost memories of mice, suggesting memory deficiencies like amnesia have more to do with accessing data, than storage itself. Though far from applicable to humans, the research does show that it’s possible, in theory at least, to help patients with retrograde amnesia (who’d lost their memories following a trauma or brain injury) live a normal life once more.

Third of endangered saiga antelope population killed by unidentified disease

Some 120,000 critically endangered saiga antelopes were killed by a mysterious disease since mid-May in Kazakhstan, where 90% of the population lives. A third of the endangered saigas died in this sudden lapse that is still leaving veterinarians and researchers in the area scratching their heads. In the past two decades, the long-nosed antelopes went through a number of similar tragedies, both at the hand of disease and over-hunting.

Now you know why Swiss cheese has holes (it’s not the mice)

A team at Agroscope, a Swiss agricultural research center, reports what lends the Swiss cheese its uncanny hole-ridden appearance: tiny pieces of hay that find their way into the milk.

Elon Musk’s Hyperloop ‘might be free to passengers’

As if Elon Musk’s Hyperloop project wasn’t attractive enough, it just got even hotter – Dirk Ahlborn, CEO of the company running the project announced that the super-fast transportation might actually be free for passengers, as they are thinking about other types of monetisation.

Leaving the nest: early humans migrated from Africa through North, rather than South

Archaic homo sapiens left Africa, the wellspring of humanity, some 60,000 years ago migrating North, via a route passing through what is known today as Egypt, rather than South, through the Arabian Peninsula, as previously proposed. The findings were reported by an international team of researchers which used novel techniques to produce whole-genome sequences from 225 people from modern Egypt and Ethiopia (six modern Northeast African populations). This is far from the last word, but the picture the researchers paint seems to be consistent with other evidence, such as early human-made tools and human fossils found on the proposed route (Israel), and is in better agreement with what we already know about the genetic mixture of all non-Africans with Neanderthals.

Dinosaurs were warm-blooded, new study finds

New controversial research concluded that dinosaurs weren’t the cold blooded lizards we tend to see them today – instead, they had much in common with mammals, and were warm blooded.

New simulation lab will help researchers better understand hurricanes

A lab from the University of Miami will be able to reproduce hurricane conditions on demand, empowering researchers to study hurricanes in a novel way.

Archaeologists find 2,400 year old gold bongs used for cannabis and opium

Two apparent bongs likely used by Scythian tribal chieftains have discovered by archaeologists in Russia. But unlike modern bongs, these ones are made of solid gold.

Creationist finds Paleocene fossils in his basement, claims they’re 4,500 years old

An Alberta citizen discovered a trove of rare fossilized fish while digging up his basement. But Edgar Nernberg isn’t a man who “believes” in science – instead, he claims that the fish are 4,500 years old, from Noah’s flood.

Author of Gay Marriage Study Admits to Lies

A few days ago, we were telling you about a seemingly fake study on changing people’s opinions on gay marriage. Michael LaCour, a very promising grad student from UCLA apparently forged data and lied about how he got it, and the study which had been published in Science, one of the largest journals in the world, was retracted. Now, while the

Volcanic twins of the Red Sea: Sholan and Jadid

We tend to think of the planets as static, enduring, and never changing. With the average human life spanning only decades, we can be forgiven that the dimension of time in which geological processes take place goes a bit over our heads. However, recent images captured by satellites showing the birth of two volcanic islands published in a study by Nature Communications are a powerful reminder that the Earth is a planet alive under its crust as well as above.