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  • Soapbox

    It’s time to start taking the search for E.T. seriously, astronomers say

    Long an underfunded, fringe field of science, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence may be ready to go mainstream.

    Astronomer Jason Wright is determined to see that happen. At a meeting in Seattle of the American Astronomical Society in January, Wright convened “a little ragtag group in a tiny room” to plot a course for putting the scientific field, known as SETI, on NASA’s agenda...

    01/28/2019 - 06:00 Astrobiology, Astronomy, Science & Society
  • Editor's Note

    We spent New Year’s Eve in the Kuiper Belt

    We started 2019 at Science News with a bang, providing live coverage of discoveries more than 6.5 billion kilometers from Earth.

    NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has been heading for the outer reaches of our solar system since it launched in 2006. After surveying Jupiter and Pluto, its next task was to investigate the mysterious space rock 2014 MU69, dubbed Ultima Thule, orbiting in...

    01/27/2019 - 07:00 Planetary Science, Science & Society
  • Science Stats

    Ring ripples reveal how long a day lasts on Saturn

    You can’t tell how fast Saturn is spinning by watching the clouds swirling at its surface. But ripples in its rings reveal how fast the planet rotates: Its day flies by in 10 hours, 33 minutes and 38 seconds.

    “That’s a really fast clip,” says astronomer Christopher Mankovich of the University of California, Santa Cruz, who reports the rotation rate in the Astrophysical Journal on January...

    01/22/2019 - 16:59 Planetary Science, Astronomy
  • News

    A new gravitational wave detector is almost ready to join the search

    In the quest for better gravitational wave detectors, scientists are going cold.

    An up-and-coming detector called KAGRA aims to spot spacetime ripples by harnessing advanced technological twists: chilling key components to temperatures hovering just above absolute zero, and placing the ultrasensitive setup in an enormous underground cavern.

    Scientists with KAGRA, located in Kamioka...

    01/18/2019 - 07:00 Physics, Astronomy
  • News

    The moon’s craters suggest Earth hasn’t erased lots of past impacts

    A new look at the moon’s craters suggests the Earth and moon both suffered a sharp increase in impacts around 290 million years ago, and Earth has kept its biggest scars.

    Geologists long assumed that erosion and tectonic activity had erased Earth’s craters so thoroughly that “you couldn’t say anything about the craters on Earth at all,” says planetary scientist Rebecca Ghent (SN: 12/22/...

    01/17/2019 - 14:06 Planetary Science
  • Feature

    Two daring spacecraft aim to bring asteroid dust back to Earth

    Shogo Tachibana greeted asteroid Ryugu with dread.

    The cosmochemist with the University of Tokyo had spent 10 years helping to design a mission to Ryugu’s surface. To touch down safely, the spacecraft, Hayabusa2, needs to find broad, flat stretches of fine-grained dust on the asteroid. But on June 27, when Hayabusa2 finally reached its target after a three-and-a-half-year journey (SN...

    01/15/2019 - 14:42 Planetary Science, Astrobiology
  • News in Brief

    The first suspected exomoon may remain hidden for another decade

    SEATTLE — A good exomoon is hard to find. Proving that the first purported moon around an exoplanet actually exists could take up to a decade, its discoverers say.

    “We’re running into some difficult problems in terms of confirming the presence of this thing,” said astronomer Alex Teachey of Columbia University at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society on January 10.

    Using...

    01/15/2019 - 07:00 Exoplanets
  • News

    A cosmic flare called the ‘Cow’ may reveal a new way that stars die

    SEATTLE — Astronomers may have discovered a new way that stars can die. A mysteriously brief and bright burst whimsically called the “Cow” reveals an entirely new type of stellar death.

    The details of that stellar doom, however, remain hazy. Scientists are still debating whether the flare-up, spotted on June 16, 2018, was from an unusual type of star that was eaten by a black hole, or...

    01/14/2019 - 11:12 Cosmology, Astronomy
  • News

    A second repeating fast radio burst has been tracked to a distant galaxy

    SEATTLE — Astronomers have spotted a second repeating fast radio burst, and it looks a lot like the first. The existence of a second repeating burst suggests there could be many more of the mysterious signals in the cosmos.

    The burst, called FRB 180814.J0422+73, is one of 13 newly discovered fast radio bursts, or FRBs — brief, bright signals of radio energy that come from distant...

    01/09/2019 - 13:08 Cosmology
  • News

    Less than a year after launch, TESS is already finding bizarre worlds

    SEATTLE — The next generation exoplanet hunter is coming into its own. NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS, has already found eight confirmed planets in its first four months of observing — and some are unlike anything astronomers have seen before.

    “The torrent of data is starting to flow already,” TESS principal investigator George Ricker of MIT said January 7 in a...

    01/08/2019 - 16:13 Exoplanets