This week in science

The Webb Telescope’s first snapshot of a star and more: Understand the world through 7 images

NASA

NASA

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope captured its first image of a star the week of February 9, as scientists shed light on cryptic species and human-Neanderthal interactions.

Here are the week’s biggest science stories, told in 7 amazing images.

NASA

7. How do you hide a black hole?

ESO/Jaffe, Gámez-Rosas et al.

February 16

Astronomers found a supermassive black hole obscured by a dust cloud at the center of Messier 77, also known as the squid galaxy. The finding supports a 30-year-old theory that all active galactic nuclei include a supermassive black hole surrounded by dust, but some black holes may be hidden by the angle they’re viewed from Earth.

ESO/Jaffe, Gámez-Rosas et al.

February 16

Biologists discovered at least 16 different species of wasps currently identified as one species, Orymus labotus. The wasps are visually identical but genetically distinct. Researchers say it highlights the importance of identifying cryptic species, which is crucial for their conservation.

Gallery image by Entomological Society of America; component images by Sofia Sheikh, Anna Ward, and Andrew Forbes, University of Iowa

5. Mistaken identity

February 12

Bill Gray, the astronomer who first spotted the rocket on a collision course with the Moon, issued a correction on the booster’s origin. Rather than a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, it’s now believed to be a booster from China National Space Agency’s Chang'e 5-T1, a test for future lunar missions.

TPG/Getty Images News/Getty Images

February 11

Researchers created a robotic armband with haptic feedback that allows prosthetic hand users to perform multiple grasping functions at once. Study participants could hold objects in the robotic hand while unscrewing bottle caps or flipping light switches with other fingers.

Alex Dolce, Florida Atlantic University

3. At first sight

NASA

February 11

The James Webb Space Telescope captured its first image of a star as it nears the end of the first phase of its mirror alignment. The image shows 18 instances of the same star from each of the telescope’s primary mirror segments. As part of the alignment process, the telescope also stopped for a selfie.

NASA

2. Hello, neighbor

ESO/L. Calçada

February 10

Scientists discovered evidence of one of the lightest exoplanets ever found orbiting Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to our Solar System. Named Proxima d, the planet is one-quarter of Earth’s mass but orbits its sun too closely to hold liquid water.

ESO/L. Calçada

February 9

Researchers found evidence that humans were in western Europe around 54,000 years ago. Teeth and tools recovered in a cave in France put humans in the region 10,000 years earlier than previous research. They likely coexisted with Neanderthals there.

L. Slimak, et al. SCIENCE ADVANCES (2022)