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You will never forget your first mission to Mars.
When NASA’s InSight spacecraft arrived on the Red Planet on November 26, 2018, it was my first time covering a spacecraft landing on Mars. The robotic lander made a graceful, ballet-like landing on the Martian surface.
Moments later, he sent a “beep” and a photo of his landing site back to mission control, as if to say, “I did it!” As the InSight team burst into cheers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, I danced with them thousands of miles away at my desk.
The mission made incredible discoveries about earthquakes on the Red Planet and what the core of Mars might look like.
But the InSight mission is coming to an end as dust obscures its solar panels. In a few weeks, the lander will no longer be able to beep to show that everything is fine.
Before bidding farewell, however, the spacecraft still has a few surprises in store.
When Mars rumbled beneath InSight on December 24, NASA scientists thought it was just another earthquake.
The magnitude 4 quake was actually caused by a space rock that slammed into the Martian surface a few thousand miles away.
The meteoroid left a crater on the Red Planet, and it revealed shimmering chunks of ice in a completely unexpected location – near the hot Martian equator.
Meanwhile, researchers tested a microbe dubbed “Conan the Bacteria” under Mars-like conditions. The ability of this hardy organism to withstand harsh conditions has led scientists to believe that ancient microbial life may be sleeping deep below the Martian surface.
Humans aren’t the only beings picking their noses.
For the first time, an aye-aye, an unusual-looking species of lemur, has been documented rooting in its nose – then licking its finger.
Other non-human primates also sample their own snot, but the creature’s impossibly long middle finger means it can reach all the way back into its throat, a scan taken by researchers showed.
Local legends associate the long cipher of the nocturnal aye-aye with prophecies of death in his native Madagascar. But researchers hope people will see the value in saving this misunderstood and highly endangered creature.
Emperor penguins may reign supreme at the South Pole, but the iconic species is at risk of extinction due to the climate crisis.
As greenhouse gas and carbon emissions warm the Earth, the floating world of the Southern Ocean that these seabirds inhabit is melting. sea ice is where they breed and raise their chicks, stay safe from predators and search for food.
When the pack ice disappears, the whole emperor penguin colonies may disappear.
Flightless seabirds have now been listed as threatened by the US Fish and Wildlife Service – this means they will receive new protections under the Endangered Species Act.
Marine archaeologists have finally located an elusive 17th-century shipwreck in Sweden.
Researchers found the Äpplet, one of four warships created by order of King Gustavus Adolphus in 1625. The ship was a sister ship to the Vasa, which capsized on its maiden voyage and is on display in a museum in Stockholm.
The Äpplet served in Europe Thirty Years’ War, then was deliberately sunk in 1659 after being deemed unseaworthy. The researchers now plan to make a 3D image of the wreck as it lies on the seabed.
The James Webb Space Telescope presented last week a sparkling view of the star-forming region called the Pillars of Creation.
A new image of the same feature, captured in mid-infrared light, reveals the dark underbelly of the normally ethereal scene where dust has drowned out starlight. Only a few red stars pierce the darkness.
The towering columns look like a tangle of ghostly figures weaving their way through the cosmos. With Halloween just around the corner, it would be an apt illustration of “The Ghoul-Haunted Forest of Weir” from Edgar Allan Poe’s “Ulalume.”
Additionally, Webb glimpsed a distant surprise that could be an ancient merger between two galaxies at the beginning of the universe. And planetary scientists have made a surprising discovery about exoplanets that could restrict the search for habitable worlds.
Check out these intriguing stories:
— A mysterious field in Hengduan in China mountains is filled with dozens of rhododendron species. Rather than competing with each other, they evolved to live in harmony. (add link Friday)
— Retired astronaut Scott Kelly is part of a new team of experts who will delve into the mysteries of UFOs. NASA’s highly anticipated study began on Monday.
– Meet adorable additions to the Tree of Life. After years of effort, researchers have discovered six new species of rainfrogs on the eastern slopes of the Ecuadorian Andes.
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