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  • Science Ticker

    Plate tectonics started at least 3.5 billion years ago

    Plate tectonics may have gotten a pretty early start in Earth’s history. Most estimates put the onset of when the large plates that make up the planet’s outer crust began shifting at around 3 billion years ago. But a new study in the Sept. 22 Science that analyzes titanium in continental rocks asserts that plate tectonics began 500 million years earlier. 

    Nicolas Greber, now at the...

    09/21/2017 - 15:12 Earth
  • News

    Intense storms provide the first test of powerful new hurricane forecast tools

    This year’s Atlantic hurricane season has already proven to be active and deadly. Powerful hurricanes such as Harvey, Irma and Maria are also providing a testing ground for new tools that scientists hope will save lives by improving forecasts in various ways, from narrowing a storm’s future path to capturing swift changes in the intensity of storm winds.

    Some of the tools that debuted...

    09/21/2017 - 08:07 Earth, Climate
  • Science & the Public

    How hurricanes and other devastating disasters spur scientific research

    Every day, it seems like there’s a new natural disaster in the headlines. Hurricane Harvey inundates Texas. Hurricane Irma plows through the Caribbean and the U.S. south, and Jose is hot on its heels. A deadly 8.1-magnitude earthquake rocks Mexico. Wildfires blanket the western United States in choking smoke.

    While gripping tales of loss and heroism rightly fill the news, another story...

    09/12/2017 - 17:15 Earth, Oceans, Science & Society
  • Reviews & Previews

    North America’s largest recorded earthquake helped confirm plate tectonics

    The Great QuakeHenry FountainCrown, $28

    In the early evening of March 27, 1964, a magnitude 9.2 earthquake roiled Alaska. For nearly five minutes, the ground shuddered violently in what was, and still is, the second biggest temblor in recorded history.

    Across the southern part of the state, land cracked and split, lifting some areas nearly 12 meters — about as high as a telephone...

    09/03/2017 - 08:00 Earth, History of Science
  • News

    On a mountain in Wyoming, the eclipse brings wonder — and, hopefully, answers

    View the video

    CASPER MOUNTAIN, Wyo. — It’s nothing like a sunset. It’s cold and dark, but it’s not like nighttime, or even twilight. The moon just snaps into place over the last slivers of the sun, turning the sun into a dark hole. The only illumination — a flat, ghostly, metallic sort of light — is from peaked gossamer streamers stretching out toward the edges of the sky.

    I’ve...

    08/21/2017 - 19:38 Astronomy, Earth
  • News

    Does the corona look different when solar activity is high versus when it’s low?

    Some cities have all the luck.

    Carbondale, Ill., is just a few kilometers north of the point where this year’s total solar eclipse will linger longest — the city will get two minutes and 38 seconds of total darkness when the moon blocks out the sun. And it’s the only city in the United States that will also be in the path of totality when the next total solar eclipse crosses North...

    08/19/2017 - 07:00 Astronomy, Physics, Science & Society, Earth
  • News

    Why are the loops in the sun’s atmosphere so neat and tidy?

    View the video

    When the Aug. 21 solar eclipse unveils the sun’s normally dim atmosphere, the corona will look like an intricate, orderly network of loops, fans and streamers. These features trace the corona’s magnetic field, which guides coronal plasma to take on the shape of tubes and sheets.

    These wispy coronal structures arise from the magnetic field on the sun’s visible surface...

    08/17/2017 - 07:00 Astronomy, Earth, Science & Society, Physics
  • News

    What can the eclipse tell us about the corona’s magnetic field?

    View the video

    The star of any solar eclipse is, of course, the sun. And total eclipses give the sun’s wispy, tenuous atmosphere the spotlight. This region, called the corona, is normally too dim to observe directly. But with the moon blocking the sun’s bright disk, the corona comes into view.

    And the view is dazzling. The corona’s hot plasma is a radiant, ever-changing tiara, full...

    08/16/2017 - 07:00 Astronomy, Earth, Science & Society, Physics
  • News

    Seismologists get to the bottom of how deep Earth’s continents go

    Earthquake vibrations are revealing just how deep the continents beneath our feet go.

    Researchers analyzed seismic waves from earthquakes that have rocked various regions throughout the world, including the Americas, Antarctica and Africa. In almost every place, patterns in these waves indicated a layer of partially melted material between 130 and 190 kilometers underground.

    That...

    08/15/2017 - 17:46 Earth
  • News

    What can we learn about Mercury’s surface during the eclipse?

    On the morning of August 21, a pair of jets will take off from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston to chase the shadow of the moon. They will climb to 15 kilometers in the stratosphere and fly in the path of the total solar eclipse over Missouri, Illinois and Tennessee at 750 kilometers per hour.

    But some of the instruments the jets carry won’t be looking at the sun, or even at Earth...

    08/14/2017 - 07:00 Astronomy, Earth, Science & Society, Planetary Science