This week in science

Clouds on Mars and more: Understand the world through 9 images

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The week of May 26–June 2 was marked by a new Covid-19 vaccine trial, a discovery about the building blocks of life, and rare images from Mars and beyond.

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

9. Poppier popcorn

Maria Fernanda Maioli

June 2

Researchers in Brazil studied 49 varieties of popcorn in order to find which one has the best “pop.” Knowing which varieties expand the most and taste the best could help producers make the classic movie snack even better.

Maria Fernanda Maioli

8. A long walk

NASA

June 2

Two Russian cosmonauts performed a seven-hour spacewalk outside the International Space Station to decommission the Pirs docking compartment. The mission made room for the Nauka multipurpose laboratory to be installed later this week.

Thomas Pesquet

June 1

Researchers in the United Kingdom measured the mass of human chromosomes for the first time, using X-rays. The chromosomes were found to be 20 times heavier than the DNA they contain, suggesting they may hold undiscovered material.

Archana Bhartiya et al/ Chromosome Research

6. Vaccine cocktail

NIAID

June 1

The National Institutes of Health began a clinical trial of Covid-19 booster shots. Vaccinated participants will receive a dose of a vaccine they haven’t yet received, which will demonstrate the effect of mixed vaccine regimens.

NIAID

May 31

Researchers in Spain found byproducts of beer and manure combine to make an effective pesticide that also supports beneficial microorganisms. The new pesticide could treat crops without harming the environment or human health.

Maite Gandariasbeitia et al

4. How’s the weather up there?

NASA/JPL-Caltech

May 28

NASA’s Curiosity rover captured images of clouds on Mars. Clouds are rare on the Red Planet, and these occurred earlier in the year than they’re typically spotted. Scientists think they could help explain how clouds form on Mars.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

May 27

Researchers at Columbia University in New York developed a method of teaching robots to make appropriate facial expressions in response to humans. The research could help make future robot caregivers more comfortable to interact with.

CREATIVE MACHINES LAB/COLUMBIA ENGINEERING

May 27

NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the MeerKAT radio telescope in South Africa captured a combined image of the center of the Milky Way galaxy. It provides an unprecedented view of the interaction of gas and magnetic fields near the galactic center.

NASA/CXC/UMass/Q.D. Wang, NRF/SARAO/MeerKAT

1. Taking up space

SpaceX

May 26

SpaceX deployed its latest batch of Starlink satellites into orbit. The internet-providing satellites have faced criticism over their potential environmental drawbacks and the risk of collisions in space.

SpaceX

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