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Sunday Science: Space oddities, venom treatments & the feline ge - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Sunday Science: Space oddities, venom treatments & the feline genome

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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. -

BLACK HOLE "BLURRING"

A NASA telescope captured a rare sight 324 light years away!

The specialized scope allowed researchers to see a corona, a source of x-rays, move closer to a black hole. Then, the extreme gravity of the black hole pulled the x-ray light in, blurring it.

It's the first time this phenomenon has been seen so clearly, and scientists hope it will allow them to better understand what coronas are.

VENOM AS CANCER TREATMENT?

Here at home, could venom stop cancer growth?

That's a question scientists at the University of Illinois are trying to answer. At a conference this week, they proposed using venom from bees, snakes, and scorpions, similar to how ancient doctors treated some ailments.

Venom can hurt all cells, but researchers say their technique would, in theory, only target cancer cells. So far, work is still in the early stages, but it has shown success in stopping breast and skin cancer cell growth in lab tests.

HAND WASHING BETTER THAN SANITIZER

It turns out, hand sanitizer may not be the best way to stop germs from spreading in the classroom.

Many schools have added hand sanitizers, hoping to reduce absentee rates from student sickness.

But researchers in New Zealand tested this using two groups of children, one who just washed their hands and one who did that and also used hand sanitizers after coughing or sneezing or before meals.

After 20 weeks, researchers found that the absentee rates were the same.

The takeaway for schools and parents, researchers say, is that it's best to have kids wash their hands with soap and water, but if that's not available, to use a hand sanitizer with an alcohol concentration of at least 60 percent.

DOMESTIC CAT GENOME MAPPED

And the internet's favorite furry friend now has its DNA mapped out. A team announced earlier this month that they've finished sequencing the domestic cat genome.

Researchers hope that having this information will help them learn more about the nearly 250 genetic diseases similar to human disorders that can affect cats. It may also help them figure out why cats' genetics have changed very little over thousands of years of interactions with humans, whereas dogs' genetics have been altered a lot during domestication.

Now, when they did the human genome sequencing, the people whose genes were used were kept anonymous to protect their privacy. Not so with the cats -- we know they used a female Abyssinian from University of Missouri named Cinnamon. And they had backup from a cat in Russia named Boris.

NIGHT EARTH PHOTO IDENTIFICATION

And here's another neat effort from NASA.

They need your help categorizing hundreds of thousands of night photos of the Earth -- most taken from the International Space Station.

They're trying to figure out which cities and towns clusters of lights are coming from. They want to do this so they can create an open atlas of nightime photos of Earth.

If you want to help, you can go to: www.eol.jsc.nasa.gov

 

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