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  • The List

    Top exoplanet finds of 2013

    With the addition this year of 180 new worlds to the Paris Observatory’s list of confirmed exoplanets, there are now more than 1,000 known planets orbiting stars other than the sun.

    Here are some of the year’s most notable finds:

    View as a slideshow

    1. The Earthiest

    Kepler-78b is most similar to Earth in mass, diameter and composition; it could be made of rock with an iron...

    12/28/2013 - 11:38 Astronomy
  • Feature

    Year in Review: Meteorite makes an impact


    When a known asteroid passed within 28,000 kilometers of Earth on February 15, astronomers hoped it would serve as a wake-up call about the danger of meteorite impacts. As it turned out, astronomers got more than they had bargained for. On that same day, a 19-meter-wide space rock plowed...

    12/27/2013 - 11:00 Astronomy, Planetary Science
  • Feature

    Year in Review: Gift of steroids keeps on giving


    Once a cheater, always a cheater, a mouse study found — at least when it comes to steroids.

    The result, reported in October, strongly implies that anabolic steroids like testosterone give doping athletes a competitive advantage for years — perhaps even decades — after they stop...

    12/27/2013 - 10:00 Physiology, Cells
  • Feature

    Year in Review: Odd cicada history emerges


    For a few weeks in 2013, a chorus of headlines about the raucous reproduction of periodical cicadas just about drowned out the real cicada news.

    This was the year for a cohort of big, reckless, ruby-eyed bugs to break out of the soil for their first and only chance to mate after 17...

    12/27/2013 - 09:00 Animals, Evolution
  • Feature

    Year in Review: Visitor from the Oort cloud


    Comet ISON was an ordinary-sized comet with an extraordinary story. It started out millions of years ago in the faraway Oort cloud (SN: 10/19/13, p. 19), where remnants of the early solar system hang out in deep freeze. A passing star may have given one of these remnants a nudge,...

    12/27/2013 - 06:45 Astronomy, Planetary Science
  • Feature

    Year in Review: Progress made toward twin prime proof


    Some pan for gold, some pan for prime numbers. Yitang “Tom” Zhang may have found both.

    Zhang, a mathematician at the University of New Hampshire, stunned the mathematical world in May when he reported a major step toward solving one of the oldest outstanding problems in number...

    12/26/2013 - 16:30 Numbers
  • Feature

    Year in Review: Slain king’s bones dug up


    It was reported 528 years late, but the top news from 1485 seems to be that King Richard III may have been killed by a blade thrust upward into his skull or an axe-whack to the back of his head.

    Researchers at the University of Leicester in England performed the autopsy on the...

    12/26/2013 - 15:55 Anthropology, Archaeology
  • Feature

    Year in Review: Dark energy gets more confusing


    New measurements of light from distant exploding stars were supposed to illuminate the dark energy that is pushing the cosmos apart. Instead they have further shrouded the universe’s fate.

    Dark energy first made headlines in 1998, when researchers found that light from faraway...

    12/26/2013 - 14:20 Cosmology, Astronomy
  • Feature

    Year in Review: Canine genealogy


    The ancient lineage of man’s best friend is kind of a tangled mess. But scientists made some progress this year in identifying dogs’ ancestors and in estimating the timeline of canine domestication.

    Dogs may have descended from a now-extinct wolf species, Adam Freedman of Harvard...

    12/26/2013 - 12:40 Animals, Paleontology
  • Feature

    Year in Review: Methane shortage on Mars


    After months of searching, the NASA rover Curiosity detected no appreciable methane in Mars’ atmosphere, disappointing scientists who had hoped to find a strong sign of life on the Red Planet.

    On Earth, microbes have churned out as much as 95 percent of all atmospheric methane, so...

    12/26/2013 - 10:00 Planetary Science, Astronomy