The Scaly Anteater
With eight different species found across Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, pangolins or “scaly anteaters” are nocturnal, solitary, and often quite secretive creatures. All species share the characteristic of thick, armour-like scales, but despite their scaly appearance they are actually mammals, and their scales are made from keratin—the same protein that forms human hair and fingernails. These scales make up 20% of their bodyweight and are able to cut anything inserted between them, so the pangolin’s first line of defence is to roll up into a tight ball. Their diet is mainly composed of ants and termites, and because they have poor eyesight, they use their strong sense of smell to locate nests and reach into them with their amazingly long and sticky tongues. In some places, pangolins are thought to be purveyors of magic and charms—the scales are thought to neutralise evil spirits, keep predators away or call down rains—but this poaching, along with trafficking and habitat loss, is posing a serious threat to these weird but wonderful creatures. Several species are listed as endangered, and several more as threatened. Want to help?
What are Globular Clusters?
In the far flung reaches of the Milky Way, spherical concentrations of stars called globular clusters orbit the galactic centre. They are often visble to the naked eye and are sometimes mistaken for galaxies, because they contain hundreds of thousands or even millions of stars, crammed into a cluster typically 100 light-years across. They’re enormously old—older than any other structures in the galaxy—and are thought to have formed in the vast halo surrounding our galaxy while it was still an infant, before it flattened into a spiral disc. Because of this, globular clusters contain some of the oldest stars in the Milky Way. These stars are not fixed in roughly circular orbits like our planets around the sun, but instead swarm in unusual and complex loops around the cluster centre, sometimes interacting gravitationally with other stars but rarely colliding. There were once thousands of globular clusters roaming the Milky Way, taking hundreds of millions of years to orbit the galactic centre, but now there are only about 150 left, typically 9 to 13 billion years old. Conditions aren’t right for new ones to form, but in neighbouring galaxies we’ve found globular clusters as young as 40 million years old.
I love space.
Rehearsals have begun for my school’s production of “Annie” and guess who’s playing Miss Hannigan? ME!
Still haven’t gotten into this tumblr business just yet but hopefully I’ll have some good news to share tomorrow….fingers crossed!!!!