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In 1950, as part of a publicity campaign, the Hayden Planetarium began accepting reservations for what was billed as the first trip into space. After ads appeared in newspapers and the story was picked up by BBC broadcaster Alistair Cooke, letters poured in from as near as Newark and as far as Northumberland, with requests to book trips to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.
Some were accompanied by elaborate drawings of spacecraft, others by offers to serve as crewmembers on the flight. All came from applicants who wrote passionately about becoming the first to experience a trip to outer space, and the result is a treasure trove of letters that capture the public fascination with space exploration, a selection of which are now available for viewing on the Museum’s Beyond Planet Earth: The Future of Space Exploration site.
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Much like the sunscreen-toting crowds hitting the beaches this summer, coral reefs may be carrying some protection from the sun’s strong rays.
In the case of corals, however, the “sunscreen” may come in the form of fluorescent proteins—and the protection is not from sunburn but from a fatal phenomenon known as bleaching.
Bleaching occurs when coral polyps, the animals that make coral reefs, expel photosynthetic algae under environmental stress, including too much sunlight. Under normal conditions, the algae, which give coral its brown color, are important symbiotic partners: embedded under the polyps’ skin, they produce carbohydrates that the polyps depend on for most of their energy.
Corals, in turn, need sunlight to fuel the algae’s photosynthesis. But too much sunlight can damage the algae’s photosynthetic machinery, leading them to produce damaging free radicals. This stress, combined with stress from warming seawater, can lead to bleaching.
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For the last two months, scorpion expert Lorenzo Prendini has been criss-crossing the globe to train others in finding, collecting, and preserving scorpion specimens for study.
In May, Dr. Prendini, an associate curator in the Museum’s Division of Invertebrate Zoology, traveled to Pakistan as a guest of the country’s Higher Education Commission to present a lecture at the University of Sargodha and to train a team of local scientists. One of these researchers, Dr. Muhammad Tahir, was recently awarded a grant by Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission to carry out a survey of local scorpion species, which include species of interest to medical research, and he will travel to the U.S. this fall to spend nine months working with Prendini at the Museum.
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Each year, people bring their shells, rocks, insects, feathers, bones, and artifacts to the Museum’s annual Identification Day. On Saturday, June 16, scientists will attempt to identify your discoveries while showing you some specimens from their own collections. Items identified in previous years have included a whale jawbone, a green beetle bracelet from Brazil, and a 5,000-year-old stone spear point from Morocco. Watch the video below for some pointers on what to bring.