Moon dust probe crashes

Nature Newsblog - Fri, 2014-04-18 10:35

The LADEE mission has ended in a controlled crash.


A NASA spacecraft that studied lunar dust vaporized into its own cloud of dust when it hit the Moon, as planned, in a mission-ending impact on 17 April. Launched last September, the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) finished its primary mission in March. In early April, on an extended mission, it made close passes as low as 2 kilometres above the surface, gathering data on more than 100 low-elevation orbits. Mission controllers deliberately crashed it to avoid the chance that, left alone, it might crash and contaminate historic locations such as the Apollo landing sites.

During its lifetime, LADEE made the best measurements yet of the dust generated when tiny meteorites bombard the surface. It is still hunting the mystery of a horizon glow seen by Apollo astronauts. It also carried a test for future laser communications between spacecraft and Earth.

In its final days the probe unexpectedly survived the cold and dark of a total lunar eclipse on 15 April. Just before the eclipse, NASA had the spacecraft perform a final engine burn that determined the crash trajectory. LADEE normally coped with just one hour of darkness every time it looped behind the Moon. The eclipse put it into darkness for some four hours, potentially jeopardizing the ability of its battery-powered heaters to keep the spacecraft from freezing to death. But the spacecraft survived.

NASA has been running a contest to predict the exact date and time of the LADEE impact, and this morning predicted there may be multiple winners. When it hit, the probe was travelling about three times as fast as a rifle bullet. In the coming months the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter will take pictures of the crash site, which engineers are still determining.

Categories: General, News

In sex-reversed cave insects, females have the penises

Biology News - Thu, 2014-04-17 20:39

This shows the female penis of N. aurora. Researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on April 17 have discovered little-known cave insects with rather novel sex lives. The Brazilian insects, which represent four distinct but related species in the genus Neotrogla, are the first example of an animal with sex-reversed genitalia.

Categories: Biology News, General

Some immune cells defend only 1 organ

Biology News - Thu, 2014-04-17 20:38

Scientists have uncovered a new way the immune system may fight cancers and viral infections. The finding could aid efforts to use immune cells to treat illness.

Categories: Biology News, General

What’s in a name? Emmett Reid Dunn and the Oedipus salamanders

Ernst Mayr Library Blog - Thu, 2014-04-17 15:07

When scientists describe a new animal species, they give it a name, according to rules of the ICZN, the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature.   Species names can honor a person or the place where the animal lives, or reflect the personality of the describer, as in the case of the beetle Gelae donut (Miller and Wheeler 2004).  Emmet Reid Dunn (1894-1956), who earned his PhD at Harvard under Thomas Barbour, expressed his sense of humor when naming salamanders.  Dunn’s 1921 dissertation on the Plethodontidae was expanded and published in 1926 as The Salamanders of the Family Plethodontidae.   Of the eight Oedipus salamanders that Dunn described there, two stand out: Oedipus rex and Oedipus complex.

Because names change as scientific knowledge advances, both of these names have been revised into ordinariness.   In 1944, E.H. Taylor reassigned the species within the genus Oedipus to eight separate genera, including Oedipina(Keferstein 1868) and the new genus Pseudoeurycea.

Below are references for the type descriptions, the Taylor 1944 and the Encyclopedia of Life entries for both.   The new names are more accurate, but not as clever!


Oedipus rex, sp.nov. described by E.R. Dunn in 1921.

Common name, Royal False Brook Salamander.

E.R. Dunn, “Two new Central American salamanders”, Proceedings of the Biology Society of Washington vol. 34, pg. 143-146 (1921)

EOL record for Pseudoeurycea rex:

Pseudoeurycea rex © 2006 Sean Michael Rovito Source: CalPhotos



E.H. Taylor, “The genera of Plethodont Salamanders in Mexico, Pt. 1.”, Univ. of Kansas Science Bulletin vol. 30, pg. 189-232 (1944).

Oedipus complex, sp.nov. described by E.R. Dunn in 1924.

Common name, Gamboa worm salamander.

E.R. Dunn, “New Amphibians from Panama”, Occasional Papers of the Boston Society of Natural History vol. 5, pg 93-95 (1924).

EOL record for Oedipina complex:

Oedipina complex © STRI



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