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  • Science Ticker

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

    Just a stab in the dark, but you’ve probably heard: There is a total solar eclipse today, August 21.

    For the first time since 1979, the moon’s shadow will zip across the continental United States. The shadow will travel from Oregon to South Carolina in a swift 92 minutes. For those in the path of totality, total darkness will last only a couple of minutes. There and elsewhere in most of...

    08/21/2017 - 06:00 Science & Society
  • News

    Eclipse watchers will go after the biggest solar mystery: Why is the corona so hot?

    A total solar eclipse shines a light on the sun's elusive atmosphere. When the moon blocks the sun, it’s finally possible to see how this diffuse cloud of plasma, called the corona, is magnetically sculpted into beautiful loops. The material there is about a trillionth the density of the solar surface. From its delicate and diaphanous appearance, you might expect the corona to be where the sun...

    08/20/2017 - 06:00 Astronomy, Science & Society, Physics
  • 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

    Cosmic lens lets astronomers zoom in on a black hole’s burps

    Astronomers have caught their best look ever at blobs of hot gas fleeing a supermassive black hole, thanks to a new kind of cosmic magnifying glass.

    Anthony Readhead of the Owens Valley Radio Observatory at Caltech and colleagues caught two small, hot bursts traveling away from a bright galaxy called J1415+1320 at near the speed of light. Although the galaxy is billions of light-years...

    08/18/2017 - 17:01 Astronomy
  • Science Visualized

    Here are the paths of the next 15 total solar eclipses

    August's total solar eclipse won’t be the last time the moon cloaks the sun’s light. From now to 2040, for example, skywatchers around the globe can witness 15 such events.  

    Their predicted paths aren’t random scribbles. Solar eclipses occur in what’s called a Saros cycle — a period that lasts about 18 years, 11 days and eight hours, and is governed by the moon’s orbit. (Lunar eclipses...

    08/18/2017 - 14:30 Astronomy, Planetary Science
  • News

    We share the Milky Way with 100 million black holes

    The Milky Way teems with black holes — about 100 million of them.

    But there’s no reason to fear. “It may sound like a big number, but by astronomical standards, it’s a pretty small number,” says physicist Daniel Holz of the University of Chicago. The number of stars in the Milky Way, for example, is about a thousand times larger.

    Scientists from the University of California, Irvine...

    08/18/2017 - 09:00 Astronomy, Physics
  • News

    Where does the solar wind come from? The eclipse may offer answers

    The sun can’t keep its hands to itself. A constant flow of charged particles streams away from the sun at hundreds of kilometers per second, battering vulnerable planets in its path.

    This barrage is called the solar wind, and it has had a direct role in shaping life in the solar system. It’s thought to have stripped away much of Mars’ atmosphere (SN: 4/29/17, p. 20). Earth is protected...

    08/18/2017 - 07:00 Astronomy, Science & Society, Physics
  • Context

    Eclipses show wrong physics can give right results

    Every few years, for a handful of minutes or so, science shines while the sun goes dark.

    A total eclipse of the sun is, for those who witness it, something like a religious experience. For those who understand it, it is symbolic of science’s triumph over mythology as a way to understand the heavens.

    In ancient Greece, the pioneer philosophers realized that eclipses illustrate how...

    08/17/2017 - 15:30 Astronomy, History of Science
  • News

    Embryos kill off male tissue to become female

    Add a new ingredient to the sugar, spice and everything nice needed to make girls.

    A protein called COUP-TFII is necessary to eliminate male reproductive tissue from female mouse embryos, researchers report in the Aug. 18 Science. For decades, females have been considered the “default” sex in mammals. The new research overturns that idea, showing that making female reproductive organs is...

    08/17/2017 - 14:17 Development
  • News

    How an itch hitches a ride to the brain

    Scientists have traced the sensation of itch to a place you can’t scratch.

    The discomfort of a mosquito bite or an allergic reaction activates itch-sensitive nerve cells in the spinal cord. Those neurons talk to a structure near the base of the brain called the parabrachial nucleus, researchers report in the Aug. 18 Science. It’s a region that’s known to receive information about other...

    08/17/2017 - 14:14 Neuroscience