Captivating Science and Technology Images: Black Holes, Turtle Embryos, DNA Microscopy, and the Solar System

Science and Technology Pictures

Science and technology encompass the systematic study of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment, and the practical application of that knowledge. They also include the social analysis of science and technology.

Scientific photos help non-scientists understand complex issues and attract attention to important work in ways words and numbers alone cannot. From a glimpse inside a cell to a close-up of a dazzling asteroid, these science and technology pictures are stunning.

Black Hole

Black holes are regions of the cosmos so powerful that nothing, not even light, can escape them. So when scientists unveiled the first-ever image of one earlier this week—a smoky orange donut surrounded by fiery rings—it was an extraordinary feat of science, engineering and global collaboration.

The image (which actually are representations of radio waves captured by telescopes around the world) isn’t directly showing a black hole but rather a whirling pancake of hot plasma swirling at high speeds in an area called the accretion disk, which produces the ring-like features we see. The bright orange rim is the result of the Doppler effect, as matter gets sucked toward the black hole and accelerated inward, emitting light that bends around it.

It’s also evidence that supermassive black holes play a role in the life of galaxies, even far beyond their point-of-no-return boundary, where they churn and spit out jets of atoms that either boost or throttle the birth of new stars. It’s also a powerful confirmation of Albert Einstein’s theory of gravity, known as general relativity, which predicted the effects of black holes 80 years ago.

Turtle Embryo

When turtle eggs are swabbed with special stains, scientists can see which muscles will eventually become bones and joints. They also know which ones will become a head and two front flippers. The winner of the forty-fifth annual Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition, this vivid photo by microscopy technician Teresa Zgoda and recent university graduate Teresa Kugler blends science and artistry with spectacular results.

During development, reptiles produce hormones that determine whether they will be born male or female. Scientists used a chemical, capsazepine, to suppress the activity of a gene that affects these hormones in turtle embryos. Embryos lacking this gene were incubated at different temperatures; half hatched as males, and the other half hatched as females. Researchers found that when the Kdm6b gene was active, growing turtles moved around inside their eggs toward cooler or warmer spots to find the Goldilocks zone, where the sex hormones were balanced.

This ability to shift their sex ratios in response to temperature changes may help turtles offset the effects of climate change, which are predicted to make them more likely to have female babies.

DNA Microscopy

Researchers can use the microscope to see things very small, but the device has its limitations. For example, a single change in a gene can dramatically alter how a cell produces antibodies, but it’s difficult to capture these details using a traditional microscope.

Currently, there are two ways to capture microscopy data: either by detecting electromagnetic radiation (e.g., photons or electrons) or by dissecting samples at known locations and then analyzing each fragment. DNA microscopy, which utilizes DNA “bar codes,” offers a new option, and researchers have published their results in the journal Cell.

One of the main hurdles to imaging DNA was its squishiness. “Imagine a bowl of spaghetti noodles—they’re all globbed up in weird shapes,” says Tom Perkins, head of the Wyss Institute’s atomic force microscopy lab. To make DNA more accessible, Perkins’ team combined the imaging technique of fluorescence polarization with optical tweezers. This enabled them to optically trap and manipulate DNA, squishing it into a more interpretable strand.

Solar System

The Solar System includes the Sun and everything that orbits around it, including the eight planets, their moons, asteroids and comets. The planets are held in their orbits by the Sun’s gravity, which is much stronger than that of Earth. The rotation of the planets on their own axes creates days and nights.

NSF’s Inouye Solar Telescope has captured close-up images of the Sun, revealing a pattern of turbulent “boiling” plasma. These cell-like structures are the signature of violent motions that transport heat from deep within the Sun to its surface, rising in bright centers of “cells,” cooling, and sinking back down in dark lanes.

This NASA image shows the seven planets on a scale that correctly demonstrates their relative sizes and orders of distance from the Sun, with Mercury at left close to the arc of the Sun’s horizon and Pluto at right near the edge of the Solar System. Neptune and Uranus can be seen as well, with their respective rings of icy debris.

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