MIT underwater camera is battery-free
Adam Glanzman

Engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have built a battery-free, wireless underwater camera that can travel up to 130 feet below the surface, a groundbreaking device that may one day be capable of collecting never-before-seen images of the deep sea.

We know more about the surface of Mars than Earth’s ocean floors. To date, only 5% of the ocean has been explored by humans, despite the fact that it is the biggest ecosystem on the planet. That’s because the deepest ocean floors — called “the hadal zone” after Hades, the ancient Greek god of the underworld — can be an unforgiving place for technology

MIT researchers recognized that the high cost of powering an underwater camera is a major roadblock in wide-scale ocean exploration. Their solution is a battery-free, wireless underwater camera that is said to be 100,000 times more energy-efficient than other underwater cameras developed previously — it is completely unmanned by explorer or ship, and could survive for weeks on end.

Adam Glanzman

Using soundscape as its energy source, the camera can take color photographs, even in dark areas, and transmit that data to researchers wirelessly. Per a press release, “It converts mechanical energy from sound waves traveling through water into electrical energy that powers its imaging and communications equipment,” noting that sound waves can come from any source, such as a ship or marine life.  

To capture color images, red, green, and blue LEDs are utilized. “Even though the image looks black and white, the red, green, and blue colored light is reflected in the white part of each photo,” the press release explains. “When the image data are combined in post-processing, the color image can be reconstructed.” 

Furthermore, the camera can operate for weeks before it loses power, allowing researchers to study little-known species — and perhaps even discover new ones. 

Fadel Adib, associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and director of the Signal Kinetics group in the MIT Media Lab, noted that climate monitoring is an additional and equally groundbreaking prospective way to use this advanced technology.

“We are building climate models, but we are missing data from over 95% of the ocean. This technology could help us build more accurate climate models and better understand how climate change impacts the underwater world,” Adib said in a statement.  

Researchers tested the camera in several environments and on different subjects, including plastic bottles floating in a pond, an African starfish, and the underwater plant Aponogeton ulvaceus

The scientists, who published their results in Nature Communications, want to improve on this prototype by increasing the camera’s memory and range. The device has successfully transmitted data from depths of 130 feet, a mere fraction of the miles upon miles that have yet to be explored. But once the technology is perfected, Adib told CBC, it will have serious implications for ocean exploration and climate change research.

“​​We want to be able to use them to monitor, for example, underwater currents, because these are highly related to what impacts the climate,” he said. “Or even underwater corals, seeing how they are being impacted by climate change and how potentially intervention to mitigate climate change is helping them recover.”

world's oldest living tree
Yiyo Zamorano via Wikimedia Commons

About 5,400 years ago, a Patagonian cypress seedling sprouted in a valley in present-day Chile. Over the millennia, the colossus grew to 100 feet tall, with a trunk 13 feet in diameter, making it one of the largest in Alerce Costero National Park. Now, research reported by Science indicates the tree may also be the oldest living non-clonal tree — one that doesn’t share a common root system — in the world.  

Jonathan Barichivich, the Chilean environmental scientist who estimated the tree’s age, grew up on indigenous land in the park. “It was like a waterfall of green, a great presence before me,” he told The Guardian, recalling the first time he saw the Alerce Milenario, or Gran Abuelo (which means “great-grandfather” in Spanish), tree as a child.

If Barichivich’s estimate is correct, the Alerce Milenario’s age surpasses that of Methuselah — a 4,853-year-old Great Basin bristlecone pine in California currently thought to be the oldest non-clonal tree — by centuries. According to the publication, non-clonal trees tend to not live as long as clonal trees. At an estimated 9,558 years old, the world’s longest-living clonal tree is thought to be Old Tjikko, a Norway spruce in Sweden.  

Barichivich, who works at the Climate and Environmental Sciences Laboratory in Paris, and colleague Antonio Lara first took a core sample of the Alerce Milenario’s trunk in 2020. Typically, Smithsonian Magazine reports, researchers calculate a living tree’s age by taking a core sample and counting the rings in the trunk. They can also take a root sample and use carbon-dating.

Gran Abuelo PatagoniaArgentina via Wikimedia Commons

But Alerce Milenario’s massive width meant a standard borer could not reach its center. Plus, Newsweek reports, due to its advanced age, much of the tree is dead, and its center likely rotten, making an accurate core sample impossible. Most of the tree’s life remains in its vulnerable root system, with any disturbance posing a threat to its vitality.   

To protect the tree, Barichivich had to devise a different way to estimate its age.

“It’s not the point to make a big hole in the tree just to know that it’s the oldest,” Barichivich told Newsweek. “The scientific challenge is to estimate the age without being too invasive.”

The 2020 core sample — which reached about 40% into the tree’s trunk, according to The Guardian — showed 2,400 rings. According to Smithsonian Magazine, Barichivich and Lara examined complete core samples from other Patagonian cypress trees and studied the species’ growth rate, as well as how environmental changes affect tree development. They also used statistical modeling to estimate its age. Based on their results, they determined there is an 80% chance the tree is older than 5,000 years, likely 5,484.

Alerce Costero National Park Sietecolores via Wikimedia Commons

The researchers, who plan to publish their results in 2023, say they’re less concerned with breaking records and more interested in securing federal protection for Gran Abuelo, according to Smithsonian Magazine. Although there’s a platform intended to protect its roots from treading visitors, it is still endangered by this and other threats. Preserving it, they say, is important for multiple reasons.

“The Gran Abuelo isn’t just old, it’s a time capsule with a message about the future,” Barichivich told The Guardian. “We have a 5,000-year record of life in this tree alone, and we can see the response of an ancient being to the changes we have made to the planet.”

Customizable Scoliosis Brace That Grows With Patients
Dyson

One young innovator is working to make scoliosis easier to treat — and notably more stylish — for adolescent patients. University of Cincinnati graduate Sangyu Xi earned the 2022 U.S. James Dyson Award for Airy, a customizable and repositionable brace that grows with its wearers. The international award aims to honor and inspire the next generation of design engineers.

Xi set out to make an “off-the-shelf scoliosis brace that the teenager is willing to wear for enough hours a day,” she explained on the award’s website. Patients can adjust the brace to accommodate their bodies and growth for up to three years. Airy’s exterior color can also be changed and the padding can be removed to make the brace translucent. 

Dyson

Scoliosis, a lateral curvature of the spine, affects about 2-3% of the U.S. population, or 6-9 million people, according to an article from Columbia University’s medical center. A brace is often essential for scoliosis patients, the majority of whom are adolescents, to keep the spine upright and prevent any curvature from getting worse. Dr. Michael Vitale, an orthopedic surgery professor at Columbia, advises that growing patients wear a brace as recommended for 16-18 hours every day. 

Vitale specializes in the treatment of complex pediatric scoliosis and performs approximately 200 scoliosis procedures annually. Most scoliosis diagnoses do not require surgery if treatment begins early. He said getting the right brace often comes down to whether the patient will wear it — “We choose the most effective brace that your child is most likely to wear as prescribed.” 

Dyson

But discomfort and “poor aesthetics” make it hard for patients to wear them for hours on end, Xi said in her project overview. Her solution, Airy, is an ergonomic brace with a recommended wear time of 18 hours per day. The target users for Airy, which incorporates a more stylish design than most braces currently on the market, are scoliosis patients ages 6-19 with moderate curvature — and Xi said she’s already seeing interest from teens with the spinal disorder. 

“I carried the prototype to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to do a validation test with four teen patients,” Xi wrote on the Dyson site. “They have expressed a strong desire to buy Airy the next time they need a new one, since it is more pleasant to wear and does not restrict their breathing.”

Dyson

Born and raised in Chengdu, China, Xi created Airy as part of her senior year capstone project at the University of Cincinnati. After a discussion with her professor, she discovered the limited advancements in scoliosis brace design and set out to create a beautiful, functional, and comfortable alternative. The design was also inspired by her mother’s work in medical device sales. 

“Winning this national award really means something to the scoliosis patients who are trying to call to people ‘we want something new [that] we want to wear and that can help us fight against scoliosis,’” she said in a press release.

Air Company Creating Jet Fuel From Carbon Dioxide
AIR COMPANY

Sustainable jet fuel alternatives will soon be taking flight in the commercial airlines industry. New York-based startup Air Company recently announced the launch of its Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), made from captured carbon dioxide.

Major airlines like JetBlue, Virgin Atlantic, and even the United States Air Force, among others, have collectively committed to purchasing over 1 billion gallons of the sustainable fuel alternative. The company is optimistic that the innovation can transform aviation into an environmentally-sustainable form of transportation, according to CEO and co-founder Gregory Constantine. 

“We have been quietly working on this innovation, and we’re proud to debut this SAF technology and commercialization in partnership with some of the most impactful and innovative companies in the world,” Constantine said in a recent press release. 

AIR COMPANY

This climate-friendly fuel — distributed under the trademarked name AIRMADE™ SAF — utilizes excess carbon dioxide to create industrial carbon-negative alcohols and fuels that can be used to power jets. Air Company hopes the SAF will serve as a blueprint for global decarbonization

“The aviation industry, for us, is really interesting, because it’s one of the toughest industries to decarbonize,” Constantine told Fast Company. Sustainable fuel alternatives and electrification have resulted in climate-friendly gains in the automobile industry in recent years, but significant infrastructural and technological challenges have slowed progress for other transportation modes. Aviation and other forms of transportation account for approximately 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions collectively, according to a study published by the American Chemical Society earlier this year.

“Traditional jet fuel, or kerosene, is a mix of hydrocarbons made from a series of chemical reactions,” Popular Science explains. Engineers must integrate more renewable starting materials in lieu of fossil fuels to make air travel more sustainable.

SAF instead utilizes carbon dioxide, a practically unlimited resource, without the need to blend fossil fuels.  

“The benefit to what we’ve been able to do is create a 100% ‘drop-in’ fuel,” Constantine told Fast Company. “So no change needs to be made to existing engines.”

AIR COMPANY

Results of a recent successful test flight conducted by the Air Force have stoked optimism within the industry, and now Air Company is eyeing the commercial flight industry in its efforts to phase out environmentally-destructive fuels. 

SAF “has the potential to achieve commercial viability at scale—a game-changer for our industry to significantly and quickly drive down our emissions,” Sara Bodgan, the sustainability director at JetBlue, told Fast Company. The airline has committed to purchasing 25 million gallons of Air Company’s new fuel within the next five years.

“With [the launch of SAF], we and our partners aim to create a direct pathway towards a seismic shift away from legacy fossil-fuel-based production in a cost-effective manner,” Constantine said in a statement. “We’re excited about the future and anticipate seeing more partners commit to phasing out fossil fuel use and decarbonizing aviation altogether.”

ONEPIECE by Ilan Manouach, world's longest book
JBE Books

The world’s longest book is enthralling but impossible to read — and that’s the point. At 21,540 pages and 37 1/2 pounds, artist Ilan Manouach’s conceptual work “ONEPIECE” is a single volume containing every edition of the world’s most highly circulated comic in the Japanese style known as manga, One Piece. Manouach says his sculpture is a commentary on the commodification of comic books. 

To make the colossal creation, Manouach printed out the entire digital catalog of One Piece and bound it together. The manga, written and illustrated by Eiichiro Oda, has been serialized in Shōnen Jump magazine every week since 1997, selling more than half a billion copies to date. The story follows protagonist Monkey D. Luffy, a boy whose body has the properties of rubber, on his swashbuckling adventures to find the world’s most valuable treasure, a “One Piece,” and become king of the pirates.  

Despite its literary contents, “ONEPIECE” isn’t meant to be read. In fact, opening it could damage the spine. Instead, it is an “unreadable sculpture that takes the shape of a book — the largest one to date in page numbers and spine width — that materializes the ecosystem of online dissemination of comics,” a spokesperson for publisher JBE Books told The Guardian

Manouach teamed up with JBE Books and his nonprofit, Echo Chamber, to create 50 signed and numbered copies of the artwork, priced at around $1,840 each. The books, featuring 31 1/2-inch spines with vivid illustrations, all sold within days of the September 7 release, Smithsonian Magazine reports.

According to JBE, “ONEPIECE” was inspired by the prevalence of online content and “rampant digitization” of comics, which “challenges the state-of-the-art comics craftsmanship.” It is also a commentary on the fact that comics are traded similarly to trading cards.

ONEPIECE by Ilan Manouach, world's longest book
JBE Books
ONEPIECE by Ilan Manouach, world's longest book
JBE Books
ONEPIECE by Ilan Manouach, world's longest book
JBE Books
ONEPIECE by Ilan Manouach, world's longest book
JBE Books
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“Comics are dual objects. They have a use value — for readers — and an exchange value for collectors. Although these two functions are not operating along a clear-cut divide, they sometimes run opposite to each other,” reads the JBE Books press release. “‘ONEPIECE’ intensifies this duality as it can only be contemplated as a material instantiation of digital comics’ very own media-saturated digital ecosystem. ‘ONEPIECE’ exists only as an object of pure speculation.”

When asked if Oda had been consulted or involved in the creation process of the world’s longest book, a JBE spokesperson told The Guardian: “This piece is about Manouach’s work around ecosystems of comics, here as a sculptor who uses online dissemination as source material, not reading copyrighted content.” The spokesperson added that they do not believe there is any copyright infringement because the book is unreadable. Although Oda might not receive royalties, he is still the richest manga creator of all time, the publication reports, with an estimated net worth of $200 million. 

“ONEPIECE” is the latest iteration of Manouach’s practice of repurposing comics. He is well known for creating “Shapereader,” a tactile storytelling system initially designed for people with visual impairments.

ancient chalk drum
British Museum and Allen Archaeology

Archeologists are making headway in the study of ancient toys, a long overlooked focus in the field — one that has them asking deeper questions about children’s play in early civilizations. 

Archaeologists have long studied ancient artifacts, religious motifs, and burial grounds to better understand history, and have made immense progress in the last century developing “effective methods and techniques for studying the past,” according to the Society for American Archaeology. Researchers have come across especially incredible finds while surveying children’s graves — the recent discovery of a 5,000-year-old chalk drum, found buried with three children, was dubbed “the most important piece of prehistoric art to be found in Britain in the last 100 years.”

Evidence of what could have been children’s toys and games have often been omitted — or misinterpreted — in records, though that is beginning to change. 

“The child’s world has been left out of archaeological research,” archaeologist Grete Lillehammer wrote in her 1989 paper, “A Child Is Born: The Child’s World in an Archaeological Perspective,” per the BBC. The article noted that “few archaeologists have looked into the subject or given it attention, less ever thought of it as the main field of interest.”  

In the case of the 5,000-year-old drum, which was found above the head of one of the children in the grave, archaeologists concluded that it was likely not a musical instrument. Jennifer Wexler, project curator of the British Museum’s exhibition where the artifact was displayed, told CNN that the drum “could have served as a toy for the children, and that there could have been wood versions that did not survive over time.” The artifact is now being regarded as more of a work of art; three “hastily-added holes” on the object may represent the “presence of the three bodies in the grave.”

Archaeologists consider context when surveying ancient artifacts, the BBC explains. Something that at first glance might resemble a child’s toy may in fact have served a different, or more practical, purpose at the time. For example, rattles have been discovered throughout the world, but some archaeologists discount them as toys because they “have been too big, and made of material too fragile, to have been convincingly used by small children.” 

A Mohenjo-Daro terracotta he-goat toy with wheels DEA / G. NIMATALLAH / De Agostini via Getty Images

“Maybe there’s a broader context that has been overlooked, simply because children have been overlooked,” Kristine Garroway, an associate professor who focuses on children in ancient Israel and Mesopotamia at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles, told the BBC. “And maybe it’s the grown-ups or an older child that are shaking a rattle to keep the child quiet.”

The chalk drum features elaborate and decorative motifs, a clue that it could have been more of an ornamental object. On the other hand, the drum was discovered alongside a chalk ball and polished bone pin which, on their own, would not be considered art. Thus is the dilemma of archeologists trying to imagine a child’s world long ago — but the effort is still important.

Understanding how children of ancient civilizations engaged in play may help archaeologists better understand the culture and history of those populations. That’s why the European Research Council (ERC) sponsored and financed a multimillion dollar, five-year project to “identify, categorize, and reconstruct the games and play of ancient Greece and Rome” — marking the first-ever comprehensive analysis of play and games in classical society. 

The project, “Locus Ludi,” is headed by professor of classical archaeology Véronique Dasen at Switzerland’s University of Fribourg. Were toys gender-specific in ancient civilizations? Were the same games played throughout the vast, multi-ethnic region? Did historical and theological shifts affect the way children play? Dasen’s project, which started in October 2017 and will conclude on September 30, set out to answer such questions.

In 2008, the National Museum of Play awarded the distinction of “oldest toy” to the stick. Although it may never be considered an archaeological discovery, it isn’t hard to imagine a Mesopotamian child using such a simple item to play drums or draw in the sand.

Devise Monitoring Parkinsons disease illustration
N.Fuller, SayoStudio

Traveling to a doctor’s office can be arduous for people with Parkinson’s disease, a neurological condition that causes spontaneous, uncontrollable movements and cognitive challenges. But clinical monitoring is essential to track the disease’s progression and evaluate treatment efficacy. A new at-home monitoring system might provide a solution that’s not only more convenient but also more effective.  

In a paper published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, researchers described how they used radio sensor devices to monitor patients’ movements and gait speeds — a key indicator of disease severity — as they went about their day. The yearlong, at-home study involved 34 participants with Parkinson’s and 16 without. 

According to MIT News, the machine, which is about the size of a Wi-Fi router, passively gathers data using radio signals that reflect off the person’s body as they move nearby. Clinicians can then use machine-learning algorithms to analyze the information and track patients’ disease progression and medication response. 

Enabling patients to remain in the comfort of their homes is immensely beneficial in and of itself. Assessing Parkinson’s disease usually requires lengthy appointments at a medical center, where clinicians test patients’ motor skills and cognitive functions. According to a previous study, more than 40% of people with Parkinson’s never receive treatment from a neurologist or Parkinson’s specialist, often because it’s too difficult to access such services.

Plus, researchers say at-home monitoring could make evaluations more accurate. Typical assessments are somewhat subjective and can be skewed by external factors, like a patient’s fatigue from travel or their inclination to act differently in an unusual circumstance. The machines provide a fuller, more precise picture of the patient’s condition. 

“We can’t really ask patients to come to the clinic every day or every week,” Yingcheng Liu, a Ph.D. student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the study’s co-lead author, told Popular Science. “This technology gives us the possibility to continuously monitor patients, and provide more objective assessments.”

And Liu’s study isn’t the only one to look to radio waves to help people with Parkinson’s — last month, a study published in Nature Medicine showed how radio signaling devices could detect and monitor the disease while patients are asleep. 

Ray Dorsey, M.D., a professor of neurology and co-author of the Nature Medicine study, told the University of Rochester Medical Center that remote monitoring could be a “powerful tool.” 

“I like to compare our understanding of Parkinson’s to a street lamp in the night; we only get a glimpse of the disease when patients visit the clinic,” he said. “Moreover, the methods we use to track the disease over time are subjective. As a result, we have a very limited insight into how Parkinson’s disease impacts people’s daily lives.” 

Neurological disorders are the leading causes of disability globally, and Parkinson’s is the fastest-growing type, affecting more than 10 million people worldwide. 

“This radio-wave sensor can enable more care (and research) to migrate from hospitals to the home where it is most desired and needed,” Dorsey told MIT. “Its potential is just beginning to be seen.”

sea turtle
EXTREME-PHOTOGRAPHER / iStock

Sea turtles are swimming safer in the world’s oceans. According to a 2022 Arizona State University study presented by marine conservation scientist Jesse Senko, poaching has become less threatening to endangered species in recent years. 

Poachers have long been hunting and harming the global population of the reptiles: During the 30-year time span between 1990 and 2020, over 1 million sea turtles were illegally harvested, per the study. Though the number is alarming, researchers have now concluded that the illegal catch of sea turtles has decreased in the past decade by almost 30% — a win for the animals and their ecosystems.

“Contrary to popular belief, most sea-turtle populations worldwide are doing quite well,” Senko told Nature. “The number of turtles being exploited is a shocker, but the ocean is big, and there are a lot of turtles out there.” An estimated 6.5 million sea turtles continue to roam the sea, though the exact number is difficult to definitively determine. 

Sea turtles have an impressive lifespan, though no two are exactly alike. A loggerhead can live up to 80 years or more, while Kemp’s ridleys — the smallest sea turtle in the world — have a lifespan around 30 years. A green turtle is the largest hard-shelled turtle, whereas a leatherback is the biggest on the planet. 

naturepics_li / iStock

There are several hotspots throughout the world that are popular for breeding and hatching. Many of these places are close to the warmth of the equator, like the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Gili Islands in Indonesia. Additionally, there are islands in the Philippines and Malaysia that are dedicated to maintaining and protecting sea turtles: ​​Selingan, Little Bakkungan, and Pulau Gulisaan, which are only able to be explored with a guide in order to protect the turtles and guests.

The recent study indicates that conservation efforts to protect turtles are largely working, with a particularly “notable” drop in the poaching of green turtles, the most frequently exploited species. 

“The silver lining is that, despite the seemingly large illegal take, exploitation is not having a negative impact on sea-turtle populations on a global scale. This is really good news,” Senko said. 
They do remain endangered, but efforts to preserve the population are on track to increase and protect the future of the ocean swimmers.

Tivoli Southern Sky Guest Farm, Khomas, Namibia, 25 December 2021
Disconnection Event © Gerald Rhemann

The universe is teeming with stunning wonders, most of which unfortunately cannot be seen in their full glory with the naked eye. Thankfully, though, we have astronomy photographers and their cameras to help us take it all in. The Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition, hosted by the U.K.’s Royal Observatory Greenwich, showcases the best of the best in the field, and the 2022 winners do not disappoint.

This year’s winner is Gerald Rhemann, whose shot of the Comet Leonard’s gas tail is pictured above. He took the photo from Khomas, Namibia, last December, capturing a rare image of the comet as it made its closest pass to date and left our solar system for good — meaning it won’t be seen from Earth ever again. The competition’s judges voted unanimously to give the picture the top spot.  

“This award is one of the highlights of my astrophotography work,” Rhemann said in a press release shared with Nice News. “All the effort that went into making this image a success was worth it.” 

Scroll down to see the rest of the winning shots, all of which are also currently on display at the National Maritime Museum in London. 

Skyscapes

Stabbing Into the Stars © Zihui Hu

Here, photographer Zihui Hu captures Namcha Barwa, described in the release as “the most beautiful snow-capped mountain in China.” Judge Sheila Kanani said: “I love the juxtaposition of the star trails against the clear peak of the mountain. The motion of the clouds adds to the drama.” 

People & Space

The International Space Station Transiting Tranquility Base © Andrew McCarthy

Taken from Arizona in January, this image shows the International Space Station positioned above the Apollo 11 moon landing site. According to the Royal Observatory, photographer Andrew McCarthy only had “a handful of milliseconds” to get the perfect shot. “The symbol of man, the tiny silhouette of the ISS, is dwarfed by the vast and detailed lunar surface, coloured by mineral deposits. It shows us just how fragile we are,” said judge László Francsics, while Melissa Brobby added, “This is a wonderfully original take on this category and it reminds us that we live in a time when humans have a permanent presence in space.” 

Aurorae

In the Embrace of a Green Lady © Filip Hrebenda

The northern lights, or Aurora Borealis, are on full display here. Though the natural phenomenon is usually best seen in the winter, Filip Hrebenda took the photo from Hvalnes, Iceland, in late spring. “I love this photo because it really sums up aurorae for me: the green ‘swoosh’ reflected in the icy lake, the clarity of the edges of the ice blocks and the looming shadow of the mountain,” said judge Kanani. 

Galaxies

Majestic Sombrero Galaxy © Utkarsh Mishra, Michael Petrasko, Muir Evenden

This picture taken in Pie Town, New Mexico, is actually three different versions of the same shot — “a muted version for the background, a regular version for the disc, and a super-stretched starless version for the stellar streams and halo” — that were combined into one. “The Sombrero is a well documented galaxy, yet astrophotographers still find ways to tease more majesty from it,” judge Steve Marsh shared. “To see the misty remnants of previous collisions surrounding the galaxy, itself floating alone in the void, is just exquisite.”  

Our Moon

Shadow Profile of Plato's East Rim © Martin Lewis

We all know what the moon looks like generally, but photos like this one offer a whole new perspective. “This close-up of the Plato crater has become one of my favorite photographs of the moon. This image of the east rim being hit by the Sun’s rays is wondrously unique and proves that, no matter how often we look at the moon, it always has many more wonderful sights for us to observe,” Brobby said. Marsh added: “I never tire of looking at craters on the moon, but this shot of Plato took my breath away with its long, sweeping shadows. If you consider the length and scale of those shadows and the mountains that create them, this image really is a deserving winner.” 

Our Sun

A Year in the Sun © Soumyadeep Mukherjee

Soumyadeep Mukherjee shot the sun for 365 days between December 25, 2020 and December 31, 2021, missing only six days during the entire period. He then blended the images to create the masterpiece above. “The commitment and diligence (not to mention luck) needed to image the Sun every day for a year is a feat within itself,” said Marsh. “But, more than just a matter of hard work, this photographer has achieved a fascinating and unique look at the progression of sunspot bands across its disc.”

Stars & Nebulae

The Eye of God © Weitang Liang

The vibrant nebula pictured here has several names — the Helix Nebula, NGC 7293, or, most colloquially, the Eye of God. Judge Imad Ahmed commented: “The colors in this photograph make for a stunning composition — from the fiery red to the defiant, moody blue at the center of the ‘eye’. It’s easy to see how the ancients used to stargaze into the heavens and imagine that the cosmos was looking back, keeping a watchful eye over us.” 

Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year

Andromeda Galaxy, The Neighbour © Yang Hanwen, Zhou Zezhen

Astronomy photography has no age requirement: This picture of the Andromeda Galaxy — the most distant object the human eye can see — was taken by two 14-year-old boys, Yang Hanwen and Zhou Zezhen. “From the dark dust lanes to the HII regions, this young photographer has expertly [brought] out the galaxy’s stunning details to produce a vibrant image,” Brobby said. “One of my favorite pictures from the competition!” 

The Annie Maunder Prize for Digital Innovation

Solar Tree © Pauline Woolley, using open source data from Solar Dynamic Observatory

Pauline Woolley created an innovative piece of art using 26 images of the sun, layering them to create rings that form an “imaginary solar tree” to visualize the passage of time. Hannah Lyons, assistant curator of art at Royal Museums Greenwich explained: “Dendrochronology — the scientific method of calculating dates based on tree rings — is used by art historians and conservators to date wood panel paintings, but here the technology has been utilized to create an unusual and beautiful composition. This is an innovative photograph that immediately astonished all the judges.”

The Sir Patrick Moore Prize for Best Newcomer

The Milky Way bridge across big snowy mountains © Lun Deng

Lun Deng captured the Milky Way poised above the highest peak in Sichuan, China, the Minya Konka Mountain, in the early morning hours. “The icy, ragged mountaintop is contrasted beautifully with the Milky Way, the lighter pink and indigo hues of which offer us a mesmerizing, warm glow,” Ahmed said. “I also have to commend the photographer’s dedication — standing in the snow in freezing conditions — to capture this picture!”

NASA’s Perseverance Rover Unearths Organic Matter on Mars
NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA’s Perseverance rover landed on Mars on February 18, 2021 to collect and cache rock samples, with a stated mission of paving the way for human exploration on the red planet. Now, the device’s rock collection is halfway complete — and according to NASA scientists, it yields promising signs of ancient Martian life. 

The team leading the Perseverance project picked Mars’ Jezero Crater as the rover’s exploration spot. NASA Associate Administrator Thomas Zurbuchen described it as a “veritable geologic feast and one of the best locations on Mars to look for signs of past microscopic life.” The crater appeared to be the site of an ancient river delta, a potentially habitable environment billions of years ago, and an ideal location to explore and collect geologic samples. 

“Now we know we sent the rover to the right location,” Zurbuchen said in a recent press release. “[The rover’s] first two science campaigns have yielded an amazing diversity of samples to bring back to Earth.”

The dried delta contained “diverse sedimentary rocks” and an interesting sample of igneous rocks, formed from crystallization of volcanic activity or magma, were discovered on the crater floor

NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS

“This juxtaposition provides us with a rich understanding of the geologic history after the crater formed and a diverse sample suite,” explained Perseverance Project Scientist Ken Farley. “For example, we found a sandstone that carries grains and rock fragments created far from Jezero Crater — and a mudstone that includes intriguing organic compounds.”

Perseverance, affectionately called “Percy” by NASA scientists, cannot determine the origin of these geological samples on its own. NASA and the European Space Agency will orchestrate a sample return mission to pick up rocks from the crater region and send them to Earth in the early 2030s for examination, WIRED reported.

The detection of organic material alone does not mean that life definitely thrived on Mars, but it does look similar to the organic materials we’ve seen here on Earth, Sunanda Sharma, scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, told CNN. 

“To put it simply, if this is a treasure hunt for potential signs of life on another planet, organic matter is a clue,” Sharma said. “We’re getting stronger and stronger clues as we’re moving through our delta campaign.”