Astronomers have spotted a giant blinking star, 100 times the size of the sun, lurking near the heart of the Milky Way. Telescope observations revealed that over a few hundred days the enormous star, which lies more than 25,000 light years away, dimmed by 97% and then slowly returned to its former brightness. The unexpected and dramatic darkening was probably caused by an orbiting planet or a companion star.
The largest ever map of the universe’s dark matter has been released. Dark matter, which is unobservable from the Earth, is thought to make up around 80% of matter in the universe. A team of scientists from the international Dark Energy Survey (DES) created the new map. About 100 million galaxies were observed for the project. According to NASA, there are 100 billion stars in the Milky Way alone.
SpaceX safely returned four astronauts from the International Space Station on Sunday, making the first U.S. crew splashdown in darkness since the Apollo 8 moonshot. The Dragon capsule parachuted into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Panama City, Florida, just before 3 a.m., ending the second astronaut flight for Elon Musk’s company. It was an express trip home, lasting just 6 1/2 hours.
NASA has logged another extraterrestrial first on its latest mission to Mars: converting carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere into pure, breathable oxygen, the U.S. space agency said on Wednesday. The unprecedented extraction of oxygen, literally out of thin air on Mars, was achieved Tuesday by an experimental device aboard Perseverance, a six-wheeled science rover that landed on the Red Planet Feb. 18 after a seven-month journey from Earth.
NASA’s miniature Mars helicopter Ingenuity achieved the first powered flight on another planet on Monday. The 4-pound solar-powered helicopter ascended above the Martian surface, hovered and then touched back down, mission control said. The robot rotorcraft was carried to the red planet strapped to the belly of NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance, a mobile astrobiology lab that touched down on Feb. 18 in Jezero Crater after a nearly seven-month journey.
Human cells have been grown in monkey embryos by scientists in the US, sparking ethical concerns and warnings that it “opens a Pandora’s box”. Concerns have been raised after researchers from the Salk Institute in California produced what is known as monkey-human chimeras. Those behind the research say their work could help tackle the severe shortage of transplant organs as well as enable better overall understanding of human health.
Scientists have discovered new vulnerable sites on the surface of the COVID-19 spike protein for antibodies which could help in the development of vaccines. COVID vaccines work by teaching the immune system to make antibodies to the spike protein. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute of Biophysics in Frankfurt, Germany, have developed a detailed model of the spike protein to identify potential target sites on its surface for the antibodies.
NASA’s newest Mars rover has sent back the first-ever sounds of driving on the red planet — a grinding, clanking, banging affair that by Earth standards would be pretty worrisome. The noises made by Perseverance’s six metal wheels and suspension on the first test drive two weeks ago are part of a 16-minute raw audio feed released Wednesday by Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa on Wednesday launched a search for eight people to join him as the first private passengers on a trip around the moon with Elon Musk’s SpaceX. He had originally planned to invite artists for the weeklong voyage slated for 2023. The rejigged project will “give more people from around the globe the chance to join this journey” Maezawa said.
The American space agency is expected to release new photos from its Perseverance rover shortly. There was huge excitement at Nasa when its one-tonne robot touched down in Mars’ Jezero Crater on Thursday. Satellites have since been flying over the ($2.7bn) vehicle to pull off data to relay back to Earth. Perseverance is sitting almost bang in the middle of its targeted landing zone.