The top three news stories of the week, as chosen by our resident students. This week’s top stories are coffee is good for you, a giant iceberg set adrift from Antarctica and Jupiter’s Great Red Spot.

Article written by Will Hawkes


There is too much blood in my caffeine system!

Great news for coffee drinkers everywhere! Two large scale studies (1 & 2) published this week have found that drinking at least 1 cup of coffee a week can make you less likely to die from conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes or kidney disease. Even better news for people like myself, drinking 4 or more cups a day decreased the incidence of dying from heart disease by 25% compared to 15% when consuming 1 cup per day in comparison to non-drinkers.

Surprisingly, coffee drinkers also smoked, drank and ate more than the non-coffee drinkers while still enjoying a lower incidence of mortality.

The authors are careful not to suggest a direct link between the brew and health benefits, stating that there are many other factors involved. This is because coffee consumption was only measured at the beginning of the study and it is unclear whether or not this, or other lifestyle choices, remained the same over the 16 year period.


Don’t talk to me

Crackin’ Up!

Six weeks after Donald Trump announced his intent to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, an iceberg more than twice the size of Luxembourg has broken away from an ice shelf on the Antarctic peninsula. The crack has rapidly increased to a length of 180km over the last 13 months, reaching a breaking point and dumping a trillion tonnes of ice into the Weddell sea. The sheer size of this ice mass means that it is unlikely to be set adrift into the ocean but will gradually dissolve and break up into numerous icebergs, which will gradually disperse and dissolve themselves.

Although the enormous breakage in the ice shelf itself is not believed to be the result of climate change, the gradual melting of the Antarctic ice shelves and the corresponding acceleration in water run-off into the ocean is. The breakage in Larsen C this week represents a loss of 10% of the mass of the ice sheet and is likely to result in the acceleration of water run-off deposited into the ocean by the glacier behind the ice shelf; upsetting the balance between deposition into the ocean and water freezing into ice shelves.


Iceberg independence

The Perfect Storm

Meanwhile, 500 million miles away, NASA’s Juno spacecraft has sent back the closest images of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot ever taken. Flying over the surface of the gas giant at 200,000km/hr, Junocam snapped the largest storm in the solar system, 1.3 times the size of Earth; which only just fit into the field of view at 9,000km away! Within the storm, you can see multiple smaller vortices formed from the turbulence as the storm rotates in the opposite direction to the surrounding atmosphere. Shadows can also be seen, providing data on the height of various features, giving the opportunity to map the current condition of the storm in 3D.

The instrument that took the images, Junocam, is a side project of the Juno mission, created to encourage community engagement. However, because the camera needs to be positioned on the outside of the craft, it is being continually exposed to radiation from Jupiter’s massive magnetic field and as a result, the camera won’t survive much longer. The real purpose of the $1.1 billion mission is to collect data to help explain where in the solar system Jupiter formed and to map the planet’s gravity, to find out whether or not it has a solid core. This information will ultimately help scientists to understand how the solar system formed, roughly 4.6 billion years ago.


A planet never changes its spots, or does it?