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Countdown to the Transit of Venus on June 5

Research posts

Astrophysicist Jackie Faherty is blogging about the upcoming transit of Venus, which will take place next week. In her first post, she explains what the transit is, when it occurs, where she will be observing it—and where New Yorkers can catch a glimpse of the phenomenon.

A rare astronomical event is upon us: our sister planet Venus is about to transit our Sun. Depending on your geographic location, this means that the distant planet will glide across the face of the Sun appearing as a small black dot for several hours. Just like the Moon will sometimes pass between the Earth and the Sun, causing a solar eclipse, so do the innermost planets Venus and Mercury. However, since Venus and Mercury are many times more distant to us than the Moon, and since their orbits are not perfectly aligned with that of the Earth, transits of the inner planets are far more rare than solar eclipses and the shadows they cast are smaller. But the event is no less dramatic and unfolds over several hours rather than mere minutes.

Tags: Hayden Planetarium

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Researchers Broaden Reach of Virus Tracking Software

Research posts

A web-based application that tracks dangerous viruses as they spread has been restructured to allow even wider use of the program around the world. SUPRAMAP, a program that synthesizes large, diverse datasets to help researchers understand the evolution of infectious diseases across hosts and geography, was developed in 2007 by the Museum, The Ohio State University, and the Ohio Superconductor Center. In a recent paper in the journal Cladistics, researchers from these institutions describe how they reconfigured SUPRAMAP’s server to let researchers and public safety officials develop their own applications for the program.

Tags: Our Research, SciCafe

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"Punk Eek," 40 Years Later

Research posts

In the late 1960s, Curator Emeritus Niles Eldredge was a graduate student with a passion for trilobite eyes. He had been taught to expect slow and steady change between the specimens of these Devonian arthropods he collected for his dissertation. Only his trilobites were doing one of two things: staying the same, or evolving in leaps.

Tags: Evolution, Paleontology

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Museum Ph.D. Student Confirms New Lizard Species in the Congo

Research posts

Museum graduate student Edward Stanley recently used high-resolution x-ray images of tiny “armor” bones to help an international team of scientists discover a new species of lizard from remote, war-torn mountains in Central Africa. The lizard, Cordylus marunguensis, was found on the Marungu Plateau in the southeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is described in the African Journal of Herpetology.

The new lizard was discovered on an expedition led by Eli Greenbaum, assistant professor of evolutionary genetics at the University of Texas at El Paso, and Chifundera Kusamba, a research scientist from the Centre de Recherche en Sciences Naturelles in the Congo. Suspecting that the lizard represented a new species, Greenbaum sent DNA samples and a specimen to Stanley, a third-year student in the Museum’s Richard Gilder Graduate School—the first museum program in the Western Hemisphere with the authority to grant the Ph.D. degree.

Tags: Our Research, Richard Gilder Graduate School

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