This week in science

China's Zhurong Mars rover and more: Understand the world through 9 images

Tara Stewart Merrill

The week of May 13–19, China’s space agency made a historic landing while scientists on Earth peered into the distant past and the brains of modern-day insects.

Here are the biggest science stories of the week, told in 9 striking images.

Northwestern University/UT Austin

9. By the seashore

Anton Wroblewski

May 13

Researchers from the University of Utah and Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute discovered the earliest evidence of mammals congregating near the ocean, in 58-million-year-old footprints. At least one set of tracks comes from the semi-aquatic Coryphodon.

Anton Wroblewski

8. Stop the spread

Tara Stewart Merrill

May 13

Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder revealed the potential for invertebrates to fight infections and stop their spread. The finding could help predict and treat animal-to-human diseases, like Covid-19.

Tara Stewart Merrill

7. Picking up the pieces

Chris Downum

May 17

Researchers from Northern Arizona University debuted a machine-learning technique to reliably sort ancient pottery pieces into stylistic categories. The new process could eliminate human error and classify specimens significantly faster.

Chris Downum

May 17

University of Utah researchers completed a survey showing that most birds in Ethiopia’s Bale Mountains live at low and intermediate elevations, but six species were found at their highest elevations ever. This baseline could help monitor threats to birds, as climate change pushes them to higher elevations.

Çağan Şekercioğlu/University of Utah

May 17

The European Space Agency released a multi-instrument view of a coronal mass ejection on the Sun, captured by its Solar Orbiter satellite. The solar explosion happened back in February, but receiving and analyzing the data took months.

Solar Orbiter/EUI Team/Metis Team/SoloHI team/ESA & NASA

May 17

Researchers from the University of Florence discovered that an atomic bomb detonated in 1945 formed a rare quasicrystal, which had previously only be created in collisions in space.

L. Bindi, et al. PNAS (2021)

May 18

Researchers from Northwestern University released what they call “the most realistic, highest-resolution 3D simulation of star formation to date.” A single instance of the STARFORGE simulation can take months to run, using one of the world’s largest supercomputers.

Northwestern University/UT Austin

2. Inside the neuron factory

B. LaFoya, et al. CELL REPORTS (2021)

May 19

Researchers from the University of Oregon recorded the process that fruit-fly stem cells use to make neurons. The study’s authors say the process has a lot in common with factory production and understanding it could improve regenerative therapies.

University of Oregon

1. Perseverance has company

CNSA

May 19

Five days after landing, China’s first Mars rover, Zhurong, sent back images from the Red Planet. Zhurong is the first rover from a country other than the U.S. to successfully deploy on Mars.

CNSA

Read more science stories here.

NASA/STEREO/COR2

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