Astronomer flies high to spy on star formation

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.

“We’re looking at a molecular cloud called BYF73, which is collapsing in on itself at extremely high speeds and forming massive stars,” says Stuart, who is an Adjunct Fellow with the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Macquarie University.

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Keeping ahead of a child killer: stopping gastro from birth

UPDATE 22 February 2018:  

A vaccine has been developed against rotavirus, which is the common cause  of severe diarrhoea and a killer of approximately 215,000 children under five globally each year.

The oral vaccine was given in three single doses, the first within five days of birth. After three doses of RV3-BB administered from birth:

  • 94 per cent of infants were protected in their first year of life against severe rotavirus gastroenteritis
  • 75 per cent of infants were protected to 18 months of age.

The success of the RV3-BB vaccine is the culmination of more than four decades of work, which started with the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute’s Professor Ruth Bishop and the discovery of rotavirus in 1973.

The trial was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and PT BioFarma.

Read the full media release on the MCRI website.

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A new rotavirus vaccine should soon be available thanks to a collaboration between PT Bio Farma and researchers in Melbourne and Yogyakarta. The new ‘RV3’ vaccine is aimed at protecting babies from birth, improving protection and simplifying delivery.

The current vaccine, available in Australia and only on the private market in Indonesia, can only be administered from six weeks of age.

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Tracking space junk

Algorithms normally used to track aircraft, ships and other vehicles are being used to monitor space junk and predict where it will go.

Currently the US Department of Defense tracks around 17,300 objects the size of a softball or larger, orbiting around the Earth at speeds of up to seven kilometres per second.

They can cause serious damage if they collide with something else. Last year a tiny paint fleck caused a crack in a window of the International Space Station.

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Does coral help create rain?

Researchers have found that coral reefs may play a key role in cloud formation. Now they’re working to make climate modelling more accurate.

Australian and international scientists, led by QUT’s Professor Zoran Ristovski, spent a month in late 2016 collecting data on airborne particles emitted from the Great Barrier Reef, which they are now analysing.

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Cool paint for Aussie warships

A new type of paint is keeping Australian warships cool and reducing their visibility.

Australian warships were painted Storm Grey, a British Navy colour suited to overcast skies of the North Atlantic rather than Australia’s tropical waters.

“The previous colour is a historical artefact, but the conditions in our waters are quite different,” says Stefan Danek from Defence Science and Technology Group.

“So in the new Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Haze Grey, we now have a colour much more suited to the Australian environment, and a paint that’s better for it too.”

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Women in Science

From Ingrid Scheffer’s work on the the genetics of epilesy, which is bringing hope to families, to Angela Moles re-defining the field of ecology – many of Australia’s most innovative women have taken home a Prime Minister’s Prize for Science.

Read more about the Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science winners.

Each year L’Oréal Australia also awards three of Australia’s best and brightest early career women in science, with their $25,000 Fellowships. Over the past decade close to 30 astronomers, geneticists, biologists, and mathematicians  have been awarded these fellowships and last year New Zealand awarded their first fellow.

Read more about the L’Oreal For Women in Science Fellows. 

Four Australian and NZ female science leaders (and two expats) have also been awarded L’Oréal’s Women in Science Laureates.

Read about them here. 

All the stories we write about women in science  are tagged as such, so you can find them here. Or by searching womeninscience.

When the oceans were 20 metres higher: revealing past and future climates

Dr Christina Riesselman, geologist, University of Otago, Dunedin

2015 L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Fellow Christina Riesselman (Credit: L'Oréal New Zealand)

Three million years ago Earth was much as it is today – familiar continents, animals, and carbon dioxide levels. But temperatures were higher and sea levels were also about 20 metres higher. Today, a billion people live on land less than 20 metres above sea level, and carbon dioxide levels are rising.

Working on the Antarctic ice shelf and at sea Dr Christina Riesselman collects sediment cores from hundreds of metres under the sea floor and reads the climate history of millennia past using the microscopic fossilised fish teeth and diatomic algae she finds in the cores.

Christina will use her L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Fellowship to turn her focus to the end of the last Ice Age around 10,000 years ago. 2014 was the hottest year on record, but was it the hottest year since the end of the last ice age? Christina’s research could answer that question and help us understand and plan for the impact of our planet’s rapidly changing climate.

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Giving patients more control of their lives

Dr Suetonia Palmer

University of Otago, Christchurch, New Zealand

Dr Suetonia Palmer is challenging the status quo for kidney disease treatment and helping millions of people with chronic kidney disease take back control of their lives.

Click image for hi-res. Photo: Dr Suetonia Palmer, University of Otago (credit: L’Oréal Australia/sdpmedia.com.au)
Click image for hi-res. Photo: Dr Suetonia Palmer, University of Otago (credit: L’Oréal Australia/sdpmedia.com.au)

Working from temporary facilities as Christchurch rebuilds, she is guiding doctors and policy makers across the world as they attempt to make the best decisions for their patients.

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Rapid expansion in NZ and WA astronomy

Teams from Australia, India and North America are collaborating to creat the Murchison Widefield Array Radio Telescope. Credit: David Herne, ICRAR
Teams from Australia, India and North America are collaborating to create the Murchison Widefield Array radio telescope. Credit: David Herne, ICRAR

Western Australia’s International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) is only three months old but is rapidly expanding—much like the early Universe. ICRAR’s scientists have ambitious projects ahead contributing to global science and engineering through the SKA.

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PM’s Prize winner working on astronomy pathfinder

John O’Sullivan with a prototype of the revolutionary phased array feed for the ASKAP. Credit: Chris Walsh, Patrick Jones Photo Studio
John O’Sullivan with a prototype of the revolutionary phased array feed for the ASKAP. Credit: Chris Walsh, Patrick Jones Photo Studio

CSIRO’s Dr John O’Sullivan, winner of the 2009 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science, is now working on the next generation of radio telescopes.

John’s latest efforts are directed towards the development of an innovative radio camera or ‘phased array feed’ with a uniquely wide field-of-view for the Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope.

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