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  • News

    Astronomers prepare for 2017 solar eclipse spectacle

    Eeriness creeps in. Colors change and shadows sharpen. The last minutes before a total solar eclipse trigger a primal reaction in the human psyche, says astronomer Jay Pasachoff.

    “You don’t know what’s going on,” says Pasachoff, of Williams College in Williamstown, Mass. “But you know something is wrong.”

    Millions of people will know something is wrong on August 21, 2017, when a...

    08/16/2016 - 06:00 Astronomy
  • News in Brief

    Glimpse of baby planet shows what to expect when a star is expecting

    Like a cosmic sonogram, new images showcase an infant world growing in the planetary womb that encircles a young star. This is the first time researchers have observed a young planet actively feeding from the disk of gas in which it lives.

    Light from hydrogen gas swirling around the planet gave the baby world away, researchers report November 18 in Nature. The glowing hydrogen is baked...

    11/18/2015 - 13:36 Planetary Science
  • Letters to the Editor

    Neandertal bling and more reader feedback

    Strung out

    Neandertals knew how to accessorize. Eight 130,000-year-old eagle talons unearthed in Croatia show signs of being strung together and worn as a necklace or bracelet, as Bruce Bower reported in “Cache of eagle claws points to Neandertal jewelry-making” (SN: 4/18/15, p. 7).

    “If the Neandertals made string, what would they have made it out of 130,000 years ago?” asked Mark S....

    06/03/2015 - 10:50 Anthropology, Materials, Animals, Astronomy
  • News in Brief

    Galaxy’s gas molecules reveal its structure

    A surprising movement of molecules into and out of a galaxy’s core could be shaping its highly spiral structure.

    Using ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, astronomers led by Françoise Combes of the Observatoire de Paris zoomed in on NGC 1433, a galaxy that sits 32 million light-years from Earth in the Pendulum constellation. The researchers captured the most-detailed...

    10/16/2013 - 11:41 Astronomy
  • Feature

    At Home in the Universe

    When Lewis and Clark started exploring the West, they didn’t know much about what lay beyond St. Louis. Neither, at first, did astronomers know much about cosmic realms beyond Uranus.

    But just as 19th century explorers filled in huge blanks on the American map, so did 20th century skywatchers flesh out a much greater map — of frontiers far beyond the solar...

    06/01/2012 - 10:36 Atom & Cosmos
  • Feature

    Rock, Rattle and Roll

    Most scientists don’t wear protective headgear while giving talks. Then again, most scientists aren’t the target of pastry-wielding colleagues.

    But last October, when astronomer Hal Levison presented what he called a “slightly radical” mechanism for building the solar system’s giant planets, he was ready.

    “I’m really a little intimidated about...

    04/20/2012 - 10:12
  • Feature

    Fertile Frontiers

    The solar system’s spotted bully and its ringed sidekick are holding some tantalizing treasures in their gravitational clutches. Circling Jupiter and Saturn are more than a hundred moons, including some of the most promising hosts for extraterrestrial life in the solar system.

    But not every one of these moons is an equal opportunity extraterrestrial petri dish....

    09/23/2011 - 10:30 Planetary Science, Astronomy
  • News

    Feud over family ties in evolution

    A furor has broken out among biologists over ant specialist E.O. Wilson’s latest attack on a concept used to explain the origins of self-sacrifice in the dog-eat-dog world of evolution.

    The debate centers around an idea called kin selection, which biologists use to understand altruistic behaviors such as honeybee workers raising the queen’s young but never having their own....

    09/01/2010 - 16:01 Life & Evolution
  • News

    Lopsided stellar disks help black holes guzzle gas

    View a simulation of a lopsided disk forming around a supermassive black hole.

    Astronomers have finally gotten a firmer grip on how supermassive black holes in the centers of most galaxies gobble up gas from their surroundings. In a new study, two astronomers neatly explain how stars drag swirling gases toward a galaxy’s center, bringing them close enough that the black holes...

    03/03/2010 - 08:47 Atom & Cosmos
  • Feature

    The final chemistry frontier

    The landscape could be the backdrop of a post­apocalyptic film. It’s an environment of extremes, blasted by intense radiation, fierce winds and shock waves from violent explosions. Yet within this desolation, species persist. Not only are there ordinary, familiar faces, there is also, evidence suggests, a motley crew: galactic gangs that would make Mad Max cringe. Some are decked out in metal...

    01/15/2010 - 15:04