News in Brief
Visions of a space snowman have fallen flat.
New images of Ultima Thule released February 8 indicate that the faraway space rock is much thinner than thought. Rather than two round spheres stuck together like a snowman (SN: 2/2/19, p. 7), the object, officially called MU69, is shaped more like a couple of lumpy pancakes that melded together in a frying pan.
NASA’s New Horizons...
Cataclysmic collisions between space rocks have helped explain some of the solar system’s biggest mysteries, from how the moon formed to how Uranus got its lopsided rotation. But convincing evidence for such events happening outside of the solar system is scant.
Now scientists think that they have found the first known example of a near head-on collision between two massive worlds in...
Long an underfunded, fringe field of science, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence may be ready to go mainstream.
Astronomer Jason Wright is determined to see that happen. At a meeting in Seattle of the American Astronomical Society in January, Wright convened “a little ragtag group in a tiny room” to plot a course for putting the scientific field, known as SETI, on NASA’s agenda...
You can’t tell how fast Saturn is spinning by watching the clouds swirling at its surface. But ripples in its rings reveal how fast the planet rotates: Its day flies by in 10 hours, 33 minutes and 38 seconds.
“That’s a really fast clip,” says astronomer Christopher Mankovich of the University of California, Santa Cruz, who reports the rotation rate in the Astrophysical Journal on January...
In the quest for better gravitational wave detectors, scientists are going cold.
An up-and-coming detector called KAGRA aims to spot spacetime ripples by harnessing advanced technological twists: chilling key components to temperatures hovering just above absolute zero, and placing the ultrasensitive setup in an enormous underground cavern.
Scientists with KAGRA, located in Kamioka...
SEATTLE — Astronomers may have discovered a new way that stars can die. A mysteriously brief and bright burst whimsically called the “Cow” reveals an entirely new type of stellar death.
The details of that stellar doom, however, remain hazy. Scientists are still debating whether the flare-up, spotted on June 16, 2018, was from an unusual type of star that was eaten by a black hole, or...
Nancy Roman, a groundbreaking astronomer known as the “Mother of Hubble,” died on December 25 at the age of 93.As NASA’s first Chief of Astronomy, Roman oversaw the early planning and development of the Hubble Space Telescope (SN: 10/10/64, p. 231) as well as other space observatories and satellites. “I knew that taking on this responsibility would mean that I could no longer do research, but...
Letters to the Editor
More than 11 million people visited the Science News website this year. Check out this recap of the most-read stories of 2018, and the most popular stories published this year on each of our blogs.Top 10 stories
1. Male birth control pill passes a safety testMen who took a prototype once-daily contraceptive pill for about a month saw their testosterone and other reproductive hormones...
Apollo 8: Options on the way
Just two months after the end of the successful first manned Apollo flight ... three astronauts are ready to fly this Saturday to within 70 miles of the lunar surface.... The Apollo 8 plan is for the astronauts to fly as many as 10 orbits around the moon before heading home. — Science News, December 21, 1968Update
Apollo 8 launched on December 21...
Year in Review
Several new space probes got their starts in 2018, while some sang swan songs.Hello
1. TESS is on the lookout for planets
There’s a new planet hunter in town. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, launched April 18 to search the nearest, brightest stars in the sky for signs of orbiting planets.
TESS has already spotted at least two new worlds, one of which may...