The top three news stories of the week, as chosen by our resident students. This week’s top stories are that space flight, an interstellar cucumber and test tube eggs.
By Fuad Mosis
Falcon Heavy thrills
I don’t think it’s possible for me to write my favourite science news stories of the week with discussing the incredible feat of Elon Musk’s Falcon Heavy rocket. The Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket to date, with the capability to carry 63,800 kg to low earth orbit. For this week’s demonstration, Musk boosted his Tesla Roadster with Starman in the driving seat, a full-scale human mannequin in a space suit, who’s currently on his way towards the orbit of Mars. Perhaps more impressively, two of the three boosters landed safely back on their designated pads, while the third met its end in the Atlantic. While Musk predicted a 50% success rate for the launch, what we saw on Tuesday was nothing less than astonishing. The future of space travel is an exciting prospect, and reusable rocket boosters is a welcome step. If you haven’t already seen the launch, I highly recommend you treat yourself.
An interstellar cucumber goes tumbling by
Continuing with the theme on the cosmos, we learned a little more about out interstellar visitor from October. ‘Oumuamua’ means scout or messenger in Hawaiian, and is quite a fitting name for the elusive object that zoomed past our planet last year. This flypast captivated astronomers around the world not only because this is the first ever recorded object from interstellar space that’s entered our solar system, but also because of is irregular and memorable shape. At least 200m long, the object has been described as a cucumber or a cigar. It was initially thought to be a comet, before being reclassified as an asteroid, or more precisely, an interstellar asteroid. Recently, studies have demonstrated that ‘Oumuamua is experiencing non-principal axis rotation, or in other words, it’s tumbling. Similarly, the speed and trajectory of the interstellar asteroid have revealed it has been involved in a collision, and will continue to spin chaotically for at least a billion years as it tumbles out of our Solar System and back through interstellar space. Check out the original paper here
Creating human eggs in the lab
In another world first, scientists at the University of Edinburgh have been able to grow human eggs in the lab. While we are still some time away before any tangible clinical use is established, this new technique is proposed to potentially be able to preserve the fertility of children who are undergoing treatment for cancer, as well as provide a window to see how the human eggs develop. While only 32 eggs of 310 samples were able to fully mature with this technique, this research acts as proof of concept that oocytes can fully develop and mature in the lab. The next step would be to fertilise these eggs with sperm and evaluate whether healthy embryos can develop. Check out the original article here.