Science in the News


Water You Could Drink – On Mars!

The Opportunity Rover, one of the most successful explorers in history, has added another remarkable discovery to its résumé. Opportunity has found a type of clay that is deposited in water – not just any water, but water with the right chemistry for our kind of life. In the words of Project Manager Steve Squyres, "This is water you could drink."

What's the big deal? Haven't our intrepid Mars rovers already found lots of evidence for ancient Martian water? Yes, they have. But this discovery is different.

Update: A Bang for the Flash!

They did it. A large collaboration of scientists, watching the spot in the constellation Leo where a humongous gamma ray burst occurred in late April, have seen the giant supernova explosion they were expecting after such a monumental event. Not only that, but the explosion was so large and powerful that it created the universe's oddest inhabitant – a black hole!
Update: A Bang for the Flash!


Just over three and a half billion years ago, in the direction of the constellation Leo the Lion, something big happened – something very, very big. That very big something caused a beam of intensely energetic (yet invisible) light to fly our way. It's been traveling toward us all this time, as our Earth evolved and changed, until finally, on April 27, 2013, it reached our planet.

On that date, astronomers operating telescopes in orbit around the Earth recorded the most powerful gamma ray burst they'd seen in decades. Now those same astronomers are anxiously watching the same patch of sky for what they believe must follow, a giant stellar explosion called a supernova. If they can spot it, they will learn much about stars, their moments of death, and the origin of us all.

So what's the big deal about gamma rays?
Credit: NASA/DOE/Fermi LAT Collaboration

Know Your Mother

Some Incredible Earth Facts to Celebrate on Earth Day

1) The Earth isn't round!

Actually, (like a lot of us) the Earth is a bit plump about the middle. Why? Because it's spinning so fast! The Earth's rotation creates stress on the rocks and the oceans, causing the planet to bulge around the equator. In fact, because the Southern Hemisphere is mostly ocean and because water is easier to move than land, the Earth is a little bit pear-shaped!

2) The tallest mountain is . . . well . . .

You probably said Mount Everest right away. It's true that Everest is the point on Earth farthest from sea level. However, there are at least two challengers to Everest's claim. If you measure base to peak, then Mauna Kea in the Hawaiian Islands is actually about four thousand feet taller than Everest. Of course, Mauna Kea begins on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean and doesn't even break sea level until it's already almost 20,000 feet high. But if you put the two side by side, Mauna Kea would actually be larger.
Gorgeous view of Pacific Ocean.

For Carl: Three New Worlds in the Cosmos

It seems like just yesterday. In 1980, astronomer Carl Sagan presented Cosmos, his PBS series about the joy and beauty of scientific discovery. More than anything else (yes, I have to admit, even more than my childhood visits to COSI), Cosmos awakened in me a love and a passion for science that has never dimmed.

In one of my favorite scenes, Sagan visits his old sixth grade classroom in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn. Sagan talks to the students there (who, coincidentally, were just my age at the time) about what a special time this was, the first time that humans had begun to explore the universe. In particular, Sagan talks about the beginning of our search for planets beyond the solar system.
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