This week in science

Blue Origin rocket fails and more: Understand the world through 9 images

PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP/Getty Images

MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images/MediaNews Group/Getty Images

A Blue Origin rocket suffered a major malfunction in flight the week of September 8–14, as researchers made a shocking discovery about microplastics and an important clinical trial began.

Here are the week’s biggest science stories, told in 9 incredible images.

9. Early air travel

Charlène Letenneur

September 8

Researchers determined gliding reptiles were able to emerge in the Cisularian epoch because forests became denser, making gliding more efficient. The finding was made after examining a near-perfect fossil of Coelurosauravus elivensis, the first-known gliding reptile.

Charlène Letenneur

8. Stopping the spread

NIAID

September 9

The first clinical trial of an antiviral for monkeypox began in the U.S. More than 500 participants will be involved in the test of TPOXX, which aims to stop the infection’s spread. Monkeypox has been declared a health emergency, with more than 21,000 cases in the U.S.

NIAID

7. Nowhere to hide

Katarína Fogašová

September 9

Researchers found microplastics trapped in water in leaf axials, where leaves emerge from plants. The microplastics were found in teasels, where water microcosms exist for only a few months at a time. Researchers say “probably no environment on Earth is safe” from microplastics due to their prevalence in the environment.

Katarína Fogašová

6. Stellar sea life

CTIO/NOIRLab/DOE/NSF/AURA

September 12

Chile’s Dark Energy Camera captured a stunning image of the Lobster Nebula around 8,000 light-years from Earth. New filters that isolate specific light wavelengths on the Dark Energy Camera made the image possible and enable more detailed observations of distant objects.

CTIO/NOIRLab/DOE/NSF/AURA

5. Human touch

Renato Augusto Ferreira de Lima

September 13

Researchers found human activity is the most significant variable affecting carbon storage in the Atlantic Rainforest. Human activity had two to six times more impact on storage than climate, soil, and tree characteristics. Researchers say limiting human impact is the best strategy to preserve carbon sequestration capacity.

Renato Augusto Ferreira de Lima

4. Emergency exit

Blue Origin

September 13

Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital rocket failed in flight, sending its uncrewed capsule parachuting to Earth. The booster was destroyed in the resulting crash, and Blue Origin says it’s still early in its investigation of the cause.

PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP/Getty Images

3. Hope for hearing loss

Erin Jimenez, Ph.D.

September 14

Researchers identified a network of proteins that triggers hair cell regeneration to restore lost hearing in zebrafish. Since we share 70 percent of our genes with zebrafish, this finding could point to a future target to treat human hearing loss.

Erin Jimenez, Ph.D.

2. When it rains, it pours

Felicity Newell

September 14

A five-year study in Peru showed that arthropod biomass is reduced 50 percent after short droughts and periods of rainfall alike. That suggests tropical insects, which account for half of insect species, are vulnerable to both the increased rain and drier conditions that could result from climate change.

Felicity Newell

1. Dental records

Terry Harrison, NYU’s Department of Anthropology

September 14

Scientists discovered the earliest known gibbon fossil, the upper jaw of an infant. Most gibbon fossils from southern China, where the jaw was found, date back around 2 million years — the new fossil is around 8 million years old. The fossil suggests gibbons from that time period are similar in size to gibbons today.

Terry Harrison, NYU’s Department of Anthropology