Readers ask about exoplanets, spider silk and water beetles

Faraway view

Astronomers snapped the primary picture of a photo voltaic system with a sunlike star and two exoplanets, Lisa Grossman reported in “A bizarre photo voltaic system cousin makes its photographic debut” (SN: 8/29/20, p. 5).

“On the scale of the image, each p­lanets — large as they’re — ought to seem as level sources, so I assume their spherical look is as a result of mild assortment technique for this direct imaging,” reader Jean Asselin wrote.

Asselin is appropriate that the system is so far-off that scientists can not bodily resolve any of the planets, says Alexander Bohn, an astronomer at Leiden College within the Netherlands. Each of the planets don’t have any spatial dimension as seen from Earth. “That each have a bodily diameter within the picture is simply brought on by the optical response of an imaging machine to some extent source,” Bohn says. “If you happen to picture the evening sky together with your smartphone digital camera, the celebs even have a finite dimension of pixels in your picture, though they’re level sources for each you and your smartphone.”


Some spider webs are coated in neurotoxins which will paralyze prey, Christie Wilcox reported in “Orb weavers could spin toxic webs” (SN: 8/29/20, p. 18).

The story reminded reader Renata Riegler of a little bit of medical folklore: S­pider webs had been mentioned for use to decorate wounds. “The paralyzing or antimicrobial properties … might have helped the therapeutic,” Riegler wrote.

Spider webs could have been used for hundreds of years to decorate wounds. The observe even is talked about in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night time’s Dream: “I shall need you of extra acquaintance, good Grasp Cobweb: If I reduce my finger, I shall make daring of you.” Spider silk is coated with chemical compounds which may promote blood clotting, stop an infection and velocity therapeutic, although scientific proof for these properties is sparse, says affiliate editor Cassie Martin. At this time, engineers are investigating spider silk as a drug supply technique and as scaffolding for tissue restore, she says.


A water beetle eaten by a pond frog scurried by way of the frog’s digestive tract and emerged out the bottom unscathed, Jonathan Lambert reported in “Eaten beetle exits the opposite finish alive” (SN: 8/29/20, p. 18). The story amazed readers on Twitter. @JoePoutous likened the beetle’s journey to the tunnel of t­error scene within the 1971 movie Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Manufacturing unit. @Rogie_The_Medic urged a brand new title for the insect: fecal strolling beetle.

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