The background picture of our advent calendar shows a glimpse into a cosmic nursery: NGC 602, at about about five million years of age a relatively young cluster of stars, is surrounded by natal stars and dust. It is located in the Small Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy to our Milky Way.
© NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) – ESA/Hubble Collaboration
Steel is one of the most versatile construction materials ever. Since its properties can be influenced over a wide range by forming, heat treatments, and not least by some clever alloying - i.e. adding different quantities of other elements - tailor-made grades are now available for a wide variety of applications. At the Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung, scientists are exploring the characteristics of various materials down to the atomic level as well as developing new ones. This image shows the crystallographic structure of stainless steel, which is very often used in the food industry due to its chemical resistance. The colours illustrate the crystal orientations, which have a decisive influence on the properties of the material.
Cultural achievements that are passed down from generation to generation are an important part of what makes humans distinct. Especially the impressive cave paintings, which we know from the late Palaeolithic, were regarded as a unique characteristic of modern humans (Homo sapiens). Using precision uranium-thorium dating, scientists have now proven that Neanderthals created cave art more than 65,000 years ago, more than 20,000 years before the arrival of modern humans in Europe. This handprint of a Neanderthal in the Maltravieso Cave in western Spain (Extremadura) is more than 66,000 years old. The new data suggest that Neanderthals were also able to think symbolically and that their mental abilities were on a par with those of modern humans.
Find out more: Neanderthals thought like we do
Photography (color enhanced)
Electrons move at breathtaking speed. If you want to observe them, you need ultra-short light pulses. In order to control the particles beyond that, "ultra-white" laser light is required. It includes not only all colours of the visible spectrum, but also infrared and ultraviolet waves. But that's not all: the waves oscillating at different speeds must also be combined appropriately. Scientists have developed a so-called "light wave synthesizer" that splits the white laser light into three colour channels and then reassembles them in a modified form. This produces laser pulses with complex but finely adjustable waveforms. The pulses can then even consist of less than one full oscillation and last only about two femtoseconds (one femtosecond is one millionth of a billionth of a second). This enables the precise control of electron movements.
Capturing the right moment and the right mood - this applies not only to photographers on Earth, but also to robots in space. Just at the moment when the sun rose over the Imhotep region of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, warming up the surface of the dirty ice ball, leading to dust being blown into space, the Rosetta space probe came along this scence. And by chance, the OSIRIS camera system pointed exactly at the point on the surface where the fountain originated: a round region about ten meters in diameter within a depression where frozen water exists. The Earth scout's mission is long over - Rosetta fell on the comet's nucleus on 30 September 2016 - but the analysis of the collected data is still in progress today. And who knows: sometimes true treasures can be found...!
Maps don't just map spaces, they create them. Not only the present, but also the past play a role in the image we create of a city. And for which city could this be any truer than for Rome? This image shows an excerpt from the oldest known map of Rome in post-antiquity; commissioned around 1320 by Paolino Minorita. Its "universal history" combines chronological tables, continuous text and maps to show the history from the creation of the world to the (then) present in an accessible manner. Clearly visible are the city walls, the Pantheon (with its striking dark vestibule), the Colosseum (below right with dome) as well as the Tiber, which meanders through the city, past an ancient circus (Circo) - which, however, no longer existed in the 14th century . The aim of the map is to integrate historical knowledge in the image and to thus project history into the space.