Anaemic star carries the mark of its ancient ancestor

Media releases

Australian-led astronomers find the most iron-poor star in the Galaxy, hinting at the nature of the first stars in the Universe.

A visualisation of the formation of the first stars. Credit: Wise, Abel, Kaehler (KIPAC/SLAC)

A newly discovered ancient star containing a record-low amount of iron carries evidence of a class of even older stars, long hypothesised but assumed to have vanished.

In a paper published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters, researchers led by Dr Thomas Nordlander of the ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions (ASTRO 3D) confirm the existence of an ultra-metal-poor red giant star, located in the halo of the Milky Way, on the other side of the Galaxy about 35,000 light-years from Earth.

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Aussie sharks still at risk from industrial fishing, despite protections

Macquarie University, Media releases

Macquarie University’s Professor Rob Harcourt urges Oceania-wide action to safeguard several species.

Sharks in Australian waters are well protected but are at risk as soon as they leave them, a new international study reveals.

The North Atlantic blue shark shares much of its territory with longline fishing fleets. Credit: Neil Hammerschlag

The study compiled by 150 scientists around the world – including 26 with ties to Australia – has found that even in the most remote parts of the world’s oceans migratory sharks are in severe danger from commercial fishing fleets, new research reveals.

In a paper published in the journal Nature, more than 150 scientists, including Professor Rob Harcourt from the Department of Biological Sciences at Australia’s Macquarie University, report that the sharks – which include iconic species such as the shortfin mako (Isurus oxyrinchus)  and the great white (Carcharodon carcharias) – congregate in food-rich areas that are also prime hunting grounds for commercial longline fishing fleets.

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Astronomer flies high to spy on star formation

Macquarie University

Dr Stuart Ryder is venturing into the stratosphere on a NASA jet to study the birthplace of massive stars.

Macquarie University astronomer Dr Stuart Ryder is in New Zealand to hitch a ride on a NASA jet and take a closer look at how stars are born in one of the most active stellar nurseries ever seen.

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Baby blue-tongues are born smart

Macquarie University

Australian research finds little lizards learn very quickly.

Young Australian eastern blue-tongue lizards (Tiliqua scincoides) are every bit as clever as adults, researchers have found.

Life is hard for baby blue-tongues. As soon as they are born, they are on their own, with neither parental support nor protection. Adults of the species can grow to 600 millimetres long and enjoy the benefits of thick scales and a powerful bite, but the young are much smaller and thus more vulnerable to predation.

And that means they have to box clever if they are to survive.

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Exiled moons may explain astronomical mysteries

Macquarie University

Australian and South American researchers posit wandering “ploonets” as unseen actors in distant solar systems.

Moons ejected from orbits around gas giant exoplanets could explain several astronomical mysteries, an international team of astronomers suggests.

Researchers led by Mario Sucerquia, from the Universidad de Antioquia, Colombia, and Jaime Alvarado-Montes from Australia’s Macquarie University, modelled the likely behaviour of giant exomoons predicted to form around massive planets – and discovered that they would be expelled and sent packing.

Roughly 50% of these ejected moons would survive both the immediate expulsion and avoid any subsequent collision with the planet or the star, ending up as quasi-planets travelling around the host star, but in eccentric “Pluto-like” orbits.

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Fresh Science now open; $3.8M for young researchers and students; ARC Linkage grants announced; Science Week and science prizes

Fresh Science, Science stakeholder bulletins

Encourage your early-career researchers to talk about their results and discoveries by getting them to nominate for Fresh Science – a national competition that helps emerging scientists who have results that deserve attention.

Fresh Science, now in its 22nd year, provides a day of media training, followed by a traditional pub test. More below.

Westpac has endowed a new perpetual suite of fellowships and scholarships. Nominate your top early-career researchers, social innovators and students now. Read on for details.

Other prizes and opportunities:

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Spinal cord injury? Tired? Get treated!

Media releases

Melbourne researchers have found that 80 percent of people with quadriplegic spinal injuries have sleep apnoea. It’s having a big effect on their lives but they don’t know they have it, and they don’t know it can be treated.

The researchers are calling for everyone with quadriplegia to see a doctor if they are tired and fatigued, and they’ve produced videos demonstrating the impact on patients’ lives.

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An island haven for frogs in a sea of extinctions

Macquarie University, Media releases

New Guinea is one of the only places in the world where frogs are safe from the species-destroying chytrid fungus. An international team of scientists has published a new paper that shows how to keep it that way, but they need help to carry out their plan.

The chytrid fungus has wiped out more than 90 frog species around the world, and it’s driving hundreds more towards extinction. New Guinea – the world’s largest tropical island, and home to 6% of all known frog species – is one of the last remaining refuges from the deadly infection.

A team of scientists led by researchers from Macquarie University and the University of New England in Australia think they know how to keep the island’s frogs safe, but they need support to establish a long-term program of monitoring and conservation.

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Earth recycles ocean floor into diamonds

Macquarie University, Media releases
Is the sparkler on your finger recycled seabed? Photo: Flickr CC/Stephen Durham

Most diamonds are made of cooked seabed.

The diamond on your finger is most likely made of recycled seabed cooked deep in the Earth.

Traces of salt trapped in many diamonds show the stones are formed from ancient seabeds that became buried deep beneath the Earth’s crust, according to new research led by Macquarie University geoscientists.

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More safe havens for native plants and animals needed in NSW’s west

Macquarie University, Media releases
The squirrel glider (Petaurus norfolcensis) is listed as a vulnerable species in New South Wales. Photo: Wikimedia CC/Brisbane City Council

Location matters for species struggling to survive under a changing climate.

A new study led by Macquarie University has found we need to provide more safe havens for wildlife and plant species to survive under climate change in New South Wales’ west.

Along the Great Dividing Range, the vulnerable spotted-tailed quoll will be forced to move into higher habitats as the climate changes, but can find sanctuary in protected areas like Kosciuszko National Park.

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It’s not just fish, plastic pollution harms the bacteria that help us breathe

Macquarie University, Media releases
Plastic pollution can harm both the micro and macro-organisms living in our oceans. Photo: Kevin Krejci

Ten per cent of the oxygen we breathe comes from just one kind of bacteria in the ocean.

Now laboratory tests have shown that these bacteria are susceptible to plastic pollution, according to a study published in Communications Biology tonight.

“We found that exposure to chemicals leaching from plastic pollution interfered with the growth, photosynthesis and oxygen production of Prochlorococcus, the ocean’s most abundant photosynthetic bacteria,” says lead author and Macquarie University researcher Dr Sasha Tetu.

“Now we’d like to explore if plastic pollution is having the same impact on these microbes in the ocean.”

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Building farms and towers at sea to feed and power the world

Macquarie University, Media releases

As partners in the $329 million Blue Economy CRC announced in Launceston

Chief investigators from Macquarie L-R: Dr Fatemeh Salehi, Professor Darren Bagnall, Dr Ming Li, Dr Rouzbeh Abbassi

Macquarie University engineers will develop new technologies for ocean infrastructure as part of the Blue Economy Cooperative Research Centre announced by Karen Andrews, the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology.

The Blue Economy CRC will drive an evolution in marine-based industries, unlocking enormous economic, environmental and technological benefits in aquaculture and renewable energy in Australia’s maritime zone.

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Macquarie University to link Australia’s future smart satellites

Macquarie University, Media releases

As partners in the $245 million SmartSat CRC announced in Adelaide this morning.

Eighty-four research and industry partners are contributing $190 million investment in cash and in kind to the new Cooperative Research Centre for Smart Satellite Technologies and Analytics, and the Australian government is contributing a further $55 million. The CRC is led by the University of South Australia. 

“A new generation of low-cost smart satellite technology has the potential to enhance agriculture, mining, communication and national security,” says Associate Professor Sam Reisenfeld, who leads Macquarie University’s contribution to the CRC.

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Lisa’s call to action; science and science writing prizes; Jane Goodall tour; and promoting women in science

Science stakeholder bulletins

Lisa Harvey-Smith has issued a call to action for International Women’s Day for a last minute push for nominations for the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science. Entries close on Tuesday and the initial entry process has been simplified. Lisa is an astrophysicist and Australia’s Women in STEM Ambassador. More on this, the Eurekas, France and EU grants below.

Primatologist Dr Jane Goodall is coming to Australia in May. See her around the country, and support her tour.

Our own team (pictured) is packed with talented female scientists-turned-communicators. Meet them at our media training courses around the country.

Our Director of Engagement Tanya Ha has shared her insights from media training scientists on LinkedIn. Read on for more information about our courses and upcoming workshop dates. We also offer cost effective training packages for larger HDR groups.

In this bulletin:

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Mission design at rocket speed

Australian science stories, Stories of Aus Sci, This Week

Planning space missions is traditionally a time-consuming and costly process. But the new Australian National Concurrent Design Facility (ANCDF), housed at UNSW’s Canberra campus, speeds things up so a mission can be planned in weeks rather than months.

Harnessing the expertise, design processes and software of the French Space Agency CNES (Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales), the UNSW team has created Australia’s first concurrent design facility.

The ANCDF allows engineers and scientists—both professionals and students—to design different parts of a mission in parallel rather than one after the other, which is the traditional approach. [continue reading…]

Wheat that’s good for guts

Australian science stories, Stories of Aus Sci, This Week

A new kind of wheat high in resistant starch can improve intestinal health

Bowel cancer is the world’s third most common cancer. A diet that includes more resistant starch, a kind of fibre that feeds good bacteria in the large intestine, can make it less common. Resistant starch helps improve gut health and reduces the risk of conditions such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cancer.

Since 2006, CSIRO scientists have been working in a joint venture with French company Limagrain Céréales Ingrédients and the Grains Research and Development Corporation to develop wheat with more resistant starch. [continue reading…]

A polariton filter turns ordinary laser light into quantum light

Macquarie University, Media releases

Nature Materials paper Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Artist’s impression of the polaritonic photon conversion platform. Laser photons enter through the top mirror and leave through the bottom mirror exhibiting quantum ‘granularity’ – after interacting with the semiconductor layer. Image: Andrew Wood

An international team of researchers led out of Macquarie University has demonstrated a new approach for converting ordinary laser light into genuine quantum light.

Their approach uses nanometre-thick films made of gallium arsenide, which is a semiconductor material widely used in solar cells. They sandwich the thin films between two mirrors to manipulate the incoming photons.

The photons interact with electron-hole pairs in the semiconductor, forming new chimeric particles called polaritons that carry properties from both the photons and the electron-hole pairs. The polaritons decay after a few picoseconds, and the photons they release exhibit distinct quantum signatures.

The teams’ research was published overnight in the journal Nature Materials.

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Trees remember heatwaves

Macquarie University, Media releases

Eucalyptus grandis

The flooded gum or rose gum (Eucalyptus grandis). Photo: Geoexplore

An Aussie eucalypt can ‘remember’ past exposure to extreme heat, which makes the tree and its offspring better able to cope with future heatwaves, according to new research from Macquarie University.

This finding could have important implications for restoring ecosystems and climate-proofing forestry, as the number of hot days and heatwaves increase due to climate change.

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The Milky Way is warped

Macquarie University, Media releases

A slightly exaggerated impression of the real shape of our warped and twisted Milky Way. Image: Xiaodian Chen (National Astronomical Observatories, Chinese Academy of Sciences)

The first accurate 3D map of our galaxy reveals its true shape: warped and twisted.

Background information and further images below.

Astronomers from Macquarie University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences have used 1339 ‘standard’ stars to map the real shape of our home galaxy in a paper published in Nature Astronomy today.

They found the Milky Way’s disc of stars becomes increasingly ‘warped’ and twisted the further away the stars are from the galaxy’s centre.

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Cane toads: what they do in the shadows

Macquarie University, Media releases

A juvenile cane toad (Rhinella marina) in Emma Gorge, Western Australia. Photo: M.G. Swan

Cane toads are picking up some shady habits, according to a new study co-authored by a Macquarie University researcher.

Toads in Western Australia have been spotted awake and active during the day in deeply shaded habitats, despite the species usually being nocturnal in Australia and other parts of the world.

However nearby cane toad populations at more exposed sites remained only active at night.

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