April Breezes Across Earth and Beyond

This month in pictures
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Tethered balloons

A research team preparing 22-foot-wide tethered balloons to study dust particles.

Abigail Malate, Staff Illustrator

(Inside Science) -- As warm winds swept across the Northern Hemisphere this month, researchers took the opportunity to fly giant red balloons and study wind energy. Those aerial accomplishments were mirrored on Mars with the first-ever flight on another planet. Endangered animals also took center stage for Earth Day, celebrated on April 22 this year.

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The Martian surface, captured by the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter during its first flight.

In the early hours of April 19, NASA engineers made history. At 3:46 a.m. PDT, a team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California successfully launched the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter into its first flight on Mars. This was the first ever remotely controlled flight on another planet. During its flight, the helicopter captured this image of the Martian surface as it hovered above it.

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Tethered balloons

On a sunny day earlier this month, researchers from Sandia National Laboratories flew bright red balloons to test the safety of new solar power technology. The emerging technology involves concentrating sunlight into sand-like ceramic particles within a tower, then collecting the particles in a falling-particle receiver. These 22-foot-wide tethered balloons were released in areas adjacent to the receiver to collect airborne dust samples.

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A close up of a sikafa lemur

Meet the sifaka lemur -- an endangered genus of lemur living in the forests of Madagascar. These primates are folivores, eating primarily leaves that typically contain toxins. However, new research in Science Advances suggests that sifakas possess a genetic adaptation that helps neutralize those toxins and optimize nutrient absorption. These lemurs also dine on flowers and fruits, making for a flexible diet when they suffer habitat loss due to deforestation.

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Vertical Axis Wind Turbines

Out at sea, this farm of Vertical Axis Wind Turbines helps capture wind energy. In a recent study from Oxford Brookes University, 11,500 hours of computer simulations showed that wind energy farms could perform more efficiently using vertical wind turbines instead of the more commonly used horizontal variety.

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A kakapo bird

This is the kakapo, a flightless bird native to New Zealand. It holds the title of the world’s heaviest parrot and is nearly extinct. There are fewer than 200 adult birds left in the wild, and the Vertebrate Genomes Project aims to find out whether the species has enough genetic resilience to survive. This month, researchers obtained a reliable kakapo genome sequence for the first time.

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Author Bio & Story Archive

Abigail Malate is a graphic designer at the American Institute of Physics, which produces the editorially independent news service Inside Science.