Black Planets, Moon Blasts and Octopus Camouflage

BY Jenny Marder  August 15, 2011 at 2:51 PM EDT

Darkest Planet Found: Coal-Black, It Reflects Almost No Light

National Geographic.jpgA Jupiter-size gas giant planet so black that it is less reflective than “the blackest acrylic paint” has been discovered by NASA’s Kepler space telescope. This National Geographic News story includes a nice explanation on Kepler’s photometers and how it identifies planets by monitoring stellar brightness — an indication that a planet is passing in front of star. This exoplanet caused the smallest photometric signal a planet has ever detected. Lead study author David Kipping said the dimming was “so small, it’s like the dip in brightness we would see with a fruit fly going in front of a car headlight.” (Andrew Fazekas, National Geographic News)

Where’s the Octopus?

Science Friday.jpgThis video begins by asking, what makes a marine biologist scream? Answer: an octopus engulfed in camouflage against an ocean plant that suddenly blanches white, shoots ink and darts away. This Science Friday video features biologist Roger Hanlon, who is trying to understand how camouflage works among squid, octopus and cuttlefish — cephalopods. Such animals can actually change their skin texture and color as a defense against predators. (Flora Lichtman, Science Friday)

‘Earth-Mars’ Collision May Have Happened in Alien Solar System

Science.jpgA collision similar to the alleged Moon-forming encounter between a Mars-sized planet and Earth has occurred around a nearby star in the constellation Hercules, Science reports. The star, a white dwarf, is located 50 light years away and is made up of elements common in Earth-like planets. Seeing the planet, detecting the gravitational pull it exerts on its star or discerning whether it has a newborn moon is unlikely. But this story spells out what we do know well. (Ken Croswell, Science NOW)

In Future Math Whizzes, Signs of ‘Number Sense’

New York Times.jpgChildren as young as three have a “number sense” that correlates with their aptitude for math as adults, according to a new study from Johns Hopkins University. And this intuition exists in people with and without formal education. (Sindyan Bhanoo, New York Times)