Science

Today’s Science: Endangered Pandas and The Cassini Spacecraft

By Lauren Blake ’20

Every week, interesting discoveries, revelations, and developments in the field of science occur all over the world. Whether it’s news about the rainforest, oceans, space, or technology, I am excited this year to write small pieces about news in the science world! “Today’s Science” is a new column for The Bamboo that will be uploaded weekly, bringing you small snippets of our scientific world.

Giant Panda’s Habitat is Shrinking

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According to BBC News, the Giant Panda species has moved from endangered to vulnerable and now to extinction on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List. The cause of this critical shift in the list is significant habitat loss which is the most threatening factor to the Giant Panda’s survival. The best option to sustain the species is building new reserves and expanding current ones. These lovable creatures used to reside in eastern and southern China, and now there are an estimated 1,800 Giant Pandas in the six Chinese mountain ranges of Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces. Although last year the Giant Panda was taken off of the endangered list, and many celebrated this conservation victory, it has once again been downgraded.

As part of our duty as women of heart, we should help raise awareness of the decreasing population of our beloved mascot: the Giant Panda. We cannot let the Panda go extinct like the California Golden Bear, which is today only found stuffed in museums and depicted on the California state flag.

According to WWF (World Wildlife Fund), we can help by donating to various conservation foundations like the IUCN and WWF. One more way we can help is to not support panda tourism and that can be done by traveling smartly. For more information on how to help go to:

http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/endangered_species/giant_panda/whatyoucando/

Cassini-Huygens Spacecraft: Last Moments32_CGF_STILL_00025_320.jpg

In the early morning of Friday, September 15, the Cassini Spacecraft plunged toward the planet Saturn and disappeared into the planet’s gaseous atmosphere. Cassini sent a signal when the spacecraft entered the upper region of Saturn’s atmosphere, but at 4:55 a.m. the scientists and researchers at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena saw the signal vanish. From this, they understood that this scientific tool was almost certainly incinerated in the extreme heat caused by its high speed encounter with the dense portion of Saturn’s atmosphere.  

Using the last of the Cassini’s rocket fuel, NASA deliberately sent the spacecraft into Saturn’s atmosphere. NASA did this on purpose to ensure that Cassini would not run out of fuel and crash into one of Saturn’s moons (which scientists believe are capable of supporting life). They also knew that this kind of crash could contaminate those moons with Earth microbes that were launched with Cassini.

This spacecraft explored the wonders of Saturn for 20 years — since October 15, 1997 — and it was launched with two elements: the Cassini orbiter and the Huygens probe. Cassini was able to see wavelengths of light and energy that are not visible to the naked eye. This spacecraft took thousands of pictures of Saturn and its moons that will keep researchers busy for years to come.

 
clip art from freeclipartimage.com

panda photo from nationalzoo.com

cassini photo from nasa.gov

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