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Science Ticker

A roundup of research and breaking news

Science News Staff

Science Ticker

Science Ticker

New Horizons has sent back the first images of Ultima Thule, its next target

Ultima Thule

IN SIGHT Ultima Thule is barely a blip in images (left) from the New Horizons spacecraft. The remote world stands out more when the stars have been removed (right); the dark blobs are artifacts from imperfect star subtraction. Yellow crosshairs mark Ultima’s position — right where it was predicted to be.

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New Horizons has its next destination in sight.

The spacecraft, which buzzed Pluto in 2015, captured its first images on August 16 of the remote icy world nicknamed Ultima Thule, confirming that New Horizons is on track for its January 1 flyby. With about 160 million kilometers to go — roughly the same distance as Earth is from the sun — the tiny world appears as no more than a faint speck in the probe’s camera.

The pictures also barely set a new record: At roughly 6 billion kilometers from Earth, they are the farthest images ever taken. For decades, that honor was held by the Voyager 1 spacecraft, which in 1990 snapped pictures of Earth and many of our neighboring planets from nearly the same distance.

Officially dubbed 2014 MU69, Ultima Thule is part of the Kuiper Belt, a field of frozen detritus left over from the formation of the planets 4.6 billion years ago. By sending New Horizons to take pictures and measure the chemical makeup of Ultima’s surface, researchers hope to unearth clues about the origin of our solar system.

Planetary Science

OSIRIS-REx snaps first images of asteroid Bennu

By Lisa Grossman 5:12pm, August 24, 2018
OSIRIS-REx got its first glimpse of near-Earth asteroid Bennu. The probe will collect a sample from the asteroid and return it to Earth.
Planetary Science

Here’s where the Hayabusa2 spacecraft will land on the asteroid Ryugu

By Lisa Grossman 3:48pm, August 23, 2018
Japan’s Hayabusa2 probe and its landers will touch down on the asteroid Ryugu in the next few months to pick up dust samples and return them to Earth.
Health,, Cancer

There’s a new cervical cancer screening option

By Aimee Cunningham 11:00am, August 21, 2018
Women now have another choice for cervical cancer screening: getting an HPV test alone every five years.
Genetics,, Science & Society

Americans support genetically engineering animals for people’s health

By Tina Hesman Saey 3:00pm, August 20, 2018
Genetically engineering animals is OK with Americans if it improves human health, a new poll reveals.

The Parker Solar Probe has launched and is on its way to explore the sun

By Lisa Grossman 8:16am, August 12, 2018
The Parker Solar Probe just took off to become the first spacecraft to visit the sun.
Health,, Animals,, Microbes

Rat lungworm disease is popping up in the mainland United States

By Leah Rosenbaum 9:00am, August 3, 2018
A disease caused by a parasite endemic to Asia sickened at least 12 people in eight states in the continental United States from 2011 to 2017.

A new Ebola species has been found in bats in Sierra Leone

By Leah Rosenbaum 5:42pm, July 27, 2018
A sixth species of Ebola has been found, but we don’t know if it can cause disease in humans.
Health,, Neuroscience

Publicity over a memory test Trump took could skew its results

By Leah Rosenbaum 11:00am, July 16, 2018
Many media outlets reporting on President Trump’s cognitive assessment test could make it harder for doctors to use the exam to spot dementia.
Science & Society

Most Americans think funding science pays off

By Emily DeMarco 3:18pm, July 5, 2018
About 80 percent of U.S. adults say that federal spending on scientific and medical research provides value in the long run, a new survey finds.
Genetics,, Anthropology,, Animals

North America’s earliest dogs came from Siberia

By Bruce Bower 2:12pm, July 5, 2018
North America’s first dogs have few descendants alive today, a study of ancient DNA suggests.
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