Cool Hubble contest

NASA is asking the public to vote on what Hubble should image next.

The U.S. space agency is inviting the public to vote for one of six candidate astronomical objects for Hubble to observe in honor of the International Year of Astronomy, which began this month. The options, which Hubble has not previously photographed, range from far-flung galaxies to dying stars. Votes can be cast until March 1.

Hubble’s camera will take a high-resolution image revealing new details about the object that receives the most votes. The image will be released during the International Year of Astronomy’s “100 Hours of Astronomy” from April 2 to 5.

Everyone who votes also will be entered into a random drawing to receive one of 100 copies of the Hubble photograph made of the winning celestial body.

Voting can be done here. I personally cast my vote for the interacting galaxies. I find it exciting to see two massive, gravity-bound clusters of stars tear each other apart. But maybe I’m too mundane. The spiral galaxy is currently in the lead.

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This image is called “The Antennae Galaxies in Collision” (and is just eye-candy for this post; it doesn’t have anything to do with the voting).

More Stem Cell News

Stem cells have been used to help reverse paralysis in rats.

The study, headed up by Miodrag Stojkovic, deputy director and head of the Cellular Reprogramming Laboratory at Centro de Investigacion Principe Felipe in Spain, involved transplanting so-called progenitor stem cells from the lining of rats’ spinal cords into rodents with serious spinal cord injuries.

The rats recovered significant motor activity one week after injury, Stojkovic and his co-authors wrote in the Jan. 27 early online edition of the journal Stem Cells.

The researchers say the new rat results “open a new window on spinal cord regenerative strategies.”

These are great results, of course. But we all know what’s going to happen now. Those who are motivated by magic will claim this somehow proves embryonic stem cells are not needed. It, obviously, does not, but some people give extra respect to certain blobs of differentiated cells. The reason why is jarbled and arbitrary. On the upside, however, is the fact that the U.S. no longer has an anti-science administration in place, so the cries of the religious aren’t going to be heard quite so well, at least on this subject.

Obama

Oh, right. In every other ceremonial service from inauguration day.