Hearing from Hitomi Again!

So earlier in the life of Little Bits of Science, I wrote about the Hitomi satellite, at the time apparently lost in space. It turns out that the day after I wrote about it, Hitomi was heard from again!

Junked? Maybe not. Hitomi, a Japanese astronomy satellite, was thought to be lost after it failed to come online. Now the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency says the satellite has phoned home – but a full recovery will take months.

What does this mean, exactly? Well, it’s too early to say, even now a month since we’ve heard from the satellite. According to communication that scientists have since gathered from Hitomi – infrequent beacon signals which have been picked up – it appears the satellite is still there, just spinning out of control. And apparently, this is a recoverable situation. The Japanese space agency responsible for the satellite is working on restoring communication and stabilizing it so Hitomi can return to its mission of X-Ray observation of the universe.

Bees are Addicted to Caffeine

I’m a big fan of caffeine. So much so that I have a caffeine molecule tattooed on my left forearm. caffeine photoBut it turns out that humans aren’t the only caffeine aficionados. Bees like caffeine, and spend more time gathering nectar from flowers which naturally produce caffeine.

Scientists at the University of Sussex said they thought the plants produce the caffeine in their nectar to fool bees into thinking it contains more sugar than it actually does. The insects will repeatedly visit those flowers, helping the plants maximize pollination.

Francis Ratnieks, a professor of apiculture at the university, said bees communicate by moving their abdomens a certain way — or, as he calls it, “dancing.” He said the caffeine increases that dancing.

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