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  • illustration of New Horizons journey to Pluto
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  • Feature

    Rendezvous with Pluto

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    Tiny, far-flung Pluto is about to have a visitor — at least for a few hours.

    On July 14, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will reach the dwarf planet and try to learn all it can about Pluto and its five known moons. Then the probe will leave Pluto behind, vanishing into the frigid darkness beyond the planets.

    In its wake, New Horizons will introduce Earth to the...

    06/12/2015 - 11:55 Planetary Science, Astronomy
  • Reviews & Previews

    Catching Particle Fever

    There’s a brilliant dreamlike sequence about halfway through the documentary Particle Fever, when theoretical physicist Nima Arkani-Hamed enters his building at the Institute of Advanced Studies in Princeton, N.J., looking troubled. Cartoon equations and figures swirl around his head. As he walks upstairs to his office and starts to work, the building’s windows fall away. Shortly thereafter,...

    02/22/2014 - 14:22 Particle Physics
  • Feature

    Danger in the Air

    On Dec. 15, 1989, KLM flight 867 from Amsterdam was approaching its destination in Anchorage, Alaska, when the plane flew into what appeared to be a thin layer of normal clouds. Suddenly, according to flight-crew reports, it got very dark outside and the air in the cockpit filled with a brownish dust and the unmistakable smell of sulfur. One minute after beginning a high-power climb to escape...

    09/08/2009 - 10:14 Earth
  • Feature

    Biological Moon Shot

    Richard Pyle hasn't gotten a congratulatory crate of free diapers. But he's one of the fathers, in a sense, of the first fish species named in 2008. Quintuplet species even. The journal Zootaxa posted descriptions of five damselfish on Jan. 1 that Pyle and his colleagues at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu found using a specialized mix of gases to push beyond the depth limits of conventional...

    01/29/2008 - 11:13 Other
  • Feature

    That's One Weird Tooth

    What Martin Nweeia noticed first when he encountered narwhals, he says, was the sound. In May 2000, as spring was just reaching Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic, a famed local hunter took Nweeia out on the ice searching the open water for those tusk-bearing, high-Arctic whales. "I was sitting on a bucket out on the ice doing polar bear watch," he says. At that time of year, daylight lasts...

    03/21/2006 - 14:43 Animals
  • Feature

    Comeback Bird

    During the last week of April, an e-mail zinging through the bird-watcher community spilled the beans on one of the biggest and best-kept secrets in ornithology. It proclaimed that North America's famed ivory-billed woodpecker was not extinct after all, but Terry Rich of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wasn't excited. He had heard that story too many times before. Since the last widely...

    06/06/2005 - 09:54 Animals
  • Feature

    Infrasonic Symphony

    "Let me start off with a riddle," says NASA scientist Allan J. Zuckerwar. In his office in Hampton, Va., he rattles off items as dissimilar as rhinoceroses, supersonic aircraft, and hurricanes. "Now, what do they have in common?" The answer, Zuckerwar explains, is that each one generates silent infrasound—long sound waves at a frequency below 20 hertz. People can't hear anything below that...

    01/03/2004 - 14:55 Earth