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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
  • 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

    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

    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
  • Science Visualized

    Why midsize animals are the fastest

    Speed has its limits — on the open road and the Serengeti. Midsize animals tend to be the speedsters, even though, in theory, the biggest animals should be the fastest. A new analysis that relates speed and body size in 474 species shows that the pattern holds for animals whether they run, fly or swim (see graphs below) and suggests how size becomes a liability.

    This relationship between...

    08/11/2017 - 09:00 Animals, Biophysics, Ecology
  • News

    Why is this year’s solar eclipse such a big deal for scientists?

    The sky will go dark. The temperature will drop. Stars will shine in the middle of the day. For the first time in nearly a century, millions of Americans from coast-to-coast will witness a total solar eclipse. Those who have watched the sun suddenly snuff out say it’s an otherworldly feeling. It can be humbling. It can be spiritual. It can change the course of history (SN: 5/13/17, p. 29)....

    08/11/2017 - 07:00 Astronomy, Earth, Physics, Science & Society
  • 50 Years Ago

    50 years ago, steel got stronger and stretchier

    Ductile, strong steel

    Fundamental scientific knowledge of the behavior of metallic crystals has led to the design of a new series of alloy steels, stronger and tougher than those now available. The new alloys can be stretched from two to five times more than previous ones, yet also have high strength…. The alloys, called TRIP steels, are produced by [the process] Transformation Induced...

    08/10/2017 - 07:00 Materials