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These 2016 stories could be really big — if they're true

Some scientific findings this year made a big splash but require more evidence

10:00am, December 23, 2016
illustration of Planet 9

BIG IF TRUE  If it does exist, Planet 9 probably resides somewhere between 500 and 600 times Earth’s distance from the sun. Its discovery would be big news in science.

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These findings would have rocked the scientific world, if only the evidence had been more convincing.

New Planet 9 clues

A giant planet lurking at the outskirts of the solar system could explain the odd orbits of far-flung hunks of icy debris (SN: 2/20/16, p. 6). If the planet exists, its average distance from the sun would be between 500 and 600 times Earth’s distance (SN: 7/23/16, p. 7).

Signs of ancient life

Mounds of minerals discovered in Greenland appear to have been deposited by clusters of microbes 3.7 billion years ago. If so, these stromatolites represent the oldest fossilized evidence of life on Earth (SN: 10/1/16, p. 7).

Lucy’s big fall

A controversial study claims that Lucy, the most famous fossil in the study of human evolution, died after falling from high up in a tree (SN: 9/17/16, p. 16). The autopsy supports the hypothesis that Australopithecus afarensis split its time between the ground and the trees.

Nucleus with no charge

Researchers have spotted signs of a “tetraneutron,” an atomic nucleus with four neutrons but no protons (SN: 3/5/16, p. 10). If confirmed, this first-of-its-kind nucleus might be explained by a new, interneutron force.


C. Crockett. Computer simulations heat up hunt for Planet Nine. Science News. Vol. 189, February 20, 2016, p. 6.

C. Crockett. New clues in search for Planet Nine. Science News. Vol. 190, July 23, 2016, p. 7.

B. Bower. Fossil autopsy claims Lucy fell from tree. Science News. Vol. 190, September 17, 2016, p. 16.

T. Sumner. Greenland may be home to Earth’s oldest fossils. Science News. Vol. 190, October 1, 2016, p. 7.

A. Grant. Physicists find signs of four-neutron nucleus. Science News. Vol. 189, March 5, 2016, p. 10.

Further Reading

C. Crockett. A distant planet may lurk far beyond NeptuneScience News. Vol. 186, November 29, 2014, p. 18.

M. Grosser. The search for a planet beyond NeptuneIsis. Vol. 55, June 1964, p. 163.

B. Bower. Shoulder fossil may put Lucy’s kind up a treeScience News. Vol. 182, December 1, 2012, p. 16. 

T. Siegfried. Top 10 subatomic surprises. Science News Online, October 6, 2015. 

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