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Science News Staff

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Science Ticker

Dawn spacecraft will keep orbiting the dwarf planet Ceres indefinitely

Dawn spacecraft over Ceres

HOW LOW CAN YOU GO?  The Dawn spacecraft (illustrated) has been orbiting Ceres since 2015 and will soon swoop lower over the dwarf planet’s surface than ever before, thanks to an extension of its mission announced October 19.

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It’s a new day for the Dawn spacecraft. The NASA spacecraft, which has been orbiting the dwarf planet Ceres since 2015, just got its final marching orders: Keep orbiting Ceres indefinitely.

The extension, which NASA announced October 19, will be the second time Dawn’s mission at Ceres has been renewed. It means Dawn will still be in orbit when Ceres makes its closest approach to the sun in April 2018. At that point, ice on Ceres’ surface may turn to water vapor. The spacecraft will also move to lower altitudes over the dwarf planet than ever before, swooping as low as 200 kilometers above the surface. Dawn will use its onboard mass spectrometer to learn more about how much ice is hidden in Ceres’ surface.

Dawn will stay in a stable orbit around Ceres after it runs out of fuel in the second half of 2018. Other options would have been to move the spacecraft on to a new space rock — like Dawn itself did when it left the asteroid Vesta for Ceres in 2012 — or deliberately crash it, like the Rosetta spacecraft did in 2016.

Anthropology,, Psychology

Spiritual convictions and group identities inspire terrorist acts, study finds

By Bruce Bower 11:00am, September 4, 2017
Sacred values and becoming one with comrades fuels terrorist acts, a report finds.
Planetary Science

Rings of Uranus reveal secrets of the planet’s moon Cressida

By Ashley Yeager 2:00pm, September 1, 2017
By studying variations in the rings of Uranus, researchers have determined the mass and density of the planet’s moon Cressida.
Cancer,, Genetics

FDA approves gene therapy to treat a rare cancer

By Science News Staff 5:17pm, August 30, 2017
The Food and Drug Administration has approved Kymriah to treat a rare cancer. It’s the first-ever gene therapy approved in the United States.
Archaeology,, Pollution

Ancient mud documents the legacy of Rome’s lead pipes

By Helen Thompson 4:36pm, August 28, 2017
Researchers used lead levels in Rome’s ancient harbors to track lead pipe use and urbanization.
Astronomy,, Science & Society

Here’s what the Science News family did for the eclipse

By Helen Thompson 5:16pm, August 24, 2017
On August 21, 2017, the path of a total solar eclipse went coast to coast across the United States. Here are our dispatches.
Science & Society

Today is the day! A last-minute guide for watching the Great American Eclipse

By Kate Travis 6:00am, August 21, 2017
You’ve probably heard this already, but there’s a total solar eclipse traversing the United States today, August 21. Here’s what you need to know.
Animals,, Oceans,, Pollution

Giant larvaceans could be ferrying ocean plastic to the seafloor

By Helen Thompson 3:23pm, August 16, 2017
Giant larvaceans could mistakenly capture microplastics, in addition to food, in their mucus houses and transfer them to the seafloor in their feces.
Anthropology,, Human Evolution

Ancient people arrived in Sumatra’s rainforests more than 60,000 years ago

By Bruce Bower 1:00pm, August 9, 2017
Humans reached Indonesia not long after leaving Africa.

Virgo detector joins LIGO in the search for gravitational waves

By Emily Conover 3:15pm, August 1, 2017
The Virgo detector near Pisa, Italy, has begun searching for subtle ripples in the fabric of spacetime.
Health,, Biomedicine

One in three U.S. adults takes opioids, and many misuse them

By Kate Travis 10:33am, August 1, 2017
More than a third of U.S. adults used prescription opioids in 2015, and nearly 13 percent of that group misused the painkillers in some way.
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