Inside Science


NASA begins process of bringing new space telescope into focus

NASA on Wednesday embarked on a months-long, painstaking process of bringing its newly launched James Webb Space Telescope into focus, a task due for completion in time for the revolutionary eye in the sky to begin peering into the cosmos by early summer. Mission control engineers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, began by sending their initial commands to tiny motors called actuators that slowly position and fine-tune the telescope's principal mirror. Read More...

US man recovering after 'breakthrough' pig-heart transplant

A US man with terminal heart disease was implanted with a genetically modified pig heart in a first-of-its-kind surgery, and three days later the patient is doing well, his doctors reported on Monday. The surgery, performed by a team at the University of Maryland Medicine, is among the first to demonstrate the feasibility of a pig-to-human heart transplant, a field made possible by new gene editing tools. Read More...

Discovery of UK's largest sea dragon among 'greatest' finds

Scientists have hailed one of the "greatest finds" in British paleontological history after the largest fossilised remains of a prehistoric "sea dragon" were discovered in the Midlands. The ichthyosaur, approximately 180 million years old with a skeleton measuring around 10 metres in length and a skull weighing approximately one ton, is the largest and most complete fossil of its kind ever found in the UK. Read More...

Webb telescope fully deployed in space: NASA

The James Webb Space Telescope has completed its two-week-long deployment phase, unfolding its huge, gold-plated, flower-shaped mirror panel as it readies to study every phase of cosmic history. Engineering teams cheered back at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland as NASA announced on Twitter that the final portion of the 6.5-meter (21-foot) mirror was deployed. “I’m emotional about it – what an amazing milestone,” Thomas Zurbuchen, a senior NASA engineer, said during the live video feed on Saturday as stargazers worldwide celebrated. Read More...

Webb telescope to look for first light of cosmic dawn

Peering into deep space and billions of years back in time, the James Webb telescope promises to offer the clearest glimpse yet of the Universe's cosmic dawn, when the earliest galaxies began to form. The largest and most powerful telescope ever to be launched into space, which will take over from Hubble, will "directly observe a part of space and time never seen before", says NASA. This is the Universe in its youth, just a few hundred million years after the Big Bang. With "very lofty science goals in mind", Webb will look back 13.5 billion years to when the first galaxies evolved in the Universe, said Begonia Vila, instrument systems engineer at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in a briefing. Read More...

A new book shows how animals are already coping with climate change.

‘Hurricane Lizards and Plastic Squid’ offers both good news and bad news Hurricane Lizards and Plastic Squid Thor Hanson As a conservation biologist, Thor Hanson has seen firsthand the effects of climate change on plants and animals in the wild: the green macaws of Central America migrating along with their food sources, the brown bears of Alaska fattening up on early-ripening berry crops, the conifers of New England seeking refuge from vanishing habitats. And as an engaging author who has celebrated the wonders of nature in books about feathers, seeds, forests and bees (SN: 7/21/18, p. 28), he’s an ideal guide to a topic that might otherwise send readers down a well of despair. Read More...


A new book shows how animals are already coping with climate change

‘Hurricane Lizards and Plastic Squid’ offers both good news and bad news Hurricane Lizards and Plastic Squid Thor Hanson As a conservation biologist, Thor Hanson has seen firsthand the effects of climate change on plants and animals in the wild: the green macaws of Central America migrating along with their food sources, the brown bears of Alaska fattening up on early-ripening berry crops, the conifers of New England seeking refuge from vanishing habitats. And as an engaging author who has celebrated the wonders of nature in books about feathers, seeds, forests and bees (SN: 7/21/18, p. 28), he’s an ideal guide to a topic that might otherwise send readers down a well of despair. Read More...

Tiny living machines called xenobots can create copies of themselves

Tiny “living machines” made of frog cells can replicate themselves, making copies that can then go on to do the same. This newly described form of renewal offers insights into how to design biological machines that are self-perpetuating. “This is an incredibly exciting breakthrough,” for the field of biologically based robotics, says Kirstin Petersen, an electrical and computer engineer at Cornell University who studies groups of robots. Robots that can copy themselves are an important step toward systems that don’t need humans to operate, she says. Read More...

NASA introduces its 10 'Artemis generation' astronaut candidates

Chosen from over 12,000 applicants, NASA's future astronauts have their hearts set on visiting the moon. Test pilots. Engineers. Physicists. A US National Team cyclist. A SpaceX flight surgeon. On Monday, NASA announced its 2021 class of 10 future astronauts, a diverse group of high achievers. The space agency calls them the "Artemis generation" because they are likely to be heavily involved in future Artemis-program missions to the moon. "The women and men selected for the new astronaut class represent the diversity of America and the career paths that can lead to a place in America's astronaut corps," NASA said in a statement. Read More...

Dinosaur Tail Found in Chile Stuns Scientists

Chilean paleontologists on Wednesday presented their findings on a dinosaur discovered three years ago in Patagonia which they said had a highly unusual tail that has stumped researchers The remains of the Stegouros elengassen were discovered during excavations in 2018 at Cerro Guido, a site known to harbor numerous fossils, by a team who believed they were dealing with an already known species of dinosaur until they examined its tail. "That was the main surprise,” said Alexander Vargas, one of the paleontologists. “This structure is absolutely amazing." Read More...