Manchester’s week in science: 8th-14th February.

Manchester scientists present at the birth of a new multiple-star system.

As we go about our lives, safe on our cozy little rock cruising around the sun, it’s easy to forget that beyond our tiny corner of the universe exists a world of immense diversity. Scientist from the University of Manchester, Liverpool John Moors University and other European institutes have been peering out into the universe for many years and have recently observed a pretty amazing occurrence.

The constellation Perseus as it can be seen by the naked eye

The constellation Perseus as it can be seen by the naked eye

Using the combined power of the Very Large Array radio telescope cluster (VLA), the Green Bank Telescope (GBT) and the worlds largest astronomical telescope (the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT)), researchers have seen the gaseous beginnings of a multiple star system. This system is forming from fragmenting gas within a dense core of gas called Barnard 5 (B5) – found in the constellation Perseus.

Professor Gary Fuller of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank Centre for astrophysics notes how amazing this discovery is stating “Seeing such a multiple star system in its early stages of formation has been a longstanding challenge, but the combination of the Very Large Array (VLA) and the Green Bank Telescope (GBT) has given us the first look at such a young system.”

The discovery was made by analysing radio emissions from ammonia molecules within B5. These emissions revealed filaments of fragmenting gas which were contracting and beginning to form new stars – a process which will ultimately lead to the creation of a new multiple-star system.

Jaime Pineda, of the Institute for Astronomy, ETH Zurich, in Switzerland, who led the project, said: “This provides fantastic evidence that fragmentation of gas filaments is a process that can produce multiple-star systems,”

Dr Richard Parker, of the Astrophysics Research Institute at LJMU who performed the stability analysis calculations on the system, said: “Observing the formation and subsequent destruction of these systems will ultimately help us to understand whether our own Sun was once part of such a system and if it was, what happened to its stellar siblings.”

The art of a healthy life.

A new report, fresh out of Manchester Metropolitan University, suggests that engaging with the arts has a positive long-term effect on health and wellbeing. This work, based on evidence from 15 long-term international studies and compiled by Dr. Rebecca Gordon-Nesbit, suggests that active engagement with the arts has a beneficial impact on a range of chronic diseases. These include cancer, heart disease, dementia and obesity.
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This report suggests that the observed benefits may be due to environmental enrichment. Specifically, the positive psychological benefits which come from enjoyable activities and socialising can have a huge impact on our health and ability to ‘fight off’ disease – This may stem from changes in our immune response or even small modifications to our genes (see epigenetics).

Although we certainly can’t underplay the necessity for medical treatments in the fight against human disease, we also can’t ignore the effect a positive mental state has on patient recovery. So, in a time when increasing pressure is being places on arts organisations to account for themselves in economic terms, it is important to emphasise the social value of culture and the positive effect this can have on our nations health and wellbeing.

Volunteers needed to take part in study exploring the effect of stress on skin ageing:

13963723690_b7e84ea9f6_mSkin ageing can be influenced by many factors including sun exposure and smoking alongside the natural ageing process. However, new research is now also highlighting the possible impact stress can have on the health of our skin. There is evidence to suggest psychological stress impacts our immune systems and so may also affect our health and how we age.

Researchers from the University of Manchester, in partnership with Laboratoire Clarins, are running a study to better understand the effect stress has on skin ageing. To perform this research they are looking to recruit Caucasian (white skinned) women, aged 25-40 years to travel to the Dermatology Centre in Salford and have their skin analysed in detail by a high specification camera.

Dr Rachel Watson is leading the research in Manchester and Wai Yeung, from the University’s Centre for Dermatology Research is organising recruitment.  He said: “People are leading increasingly stressful lives with disrupted sleep patterns and we believe that this could have specific and measurable effects.”

“The results from the research should allow us to understand the skin ageing process better and could lead to new treatments and products.”

The study involves completing an online survey and a single one hour visit to the Dermatology Centre in Salford. All participants will be reimbursed for their time. If you are interested in taking part, more information is available here: http://www.tinyurl.com/studyclarins.

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