This week in science

James Webb Telescope launch and more: Understand the world through 8 images

NASA

NASA’s James Webb Telescope prepared for launch, as water was found far from Earth...

Here are the biggest science stories of October 28November 4, told in 8 striking images.

NASA

November 4

Researchers discovered synaptic genes in sponges regulate feeding and fight bacteria in the gut. The presence of synaptic genes is strange (since sponges don’t have brains) and the study suggests their function in sponges could be a precursor to the brain’s evolution.

Jacob Musser, Giulia Mizzon, Constantin Pape, Nicole Schieber / EMBL

7. Water, water everywhere

ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/S. Dagnello (NRAO)

November 3

Scientists detected water and carbon monoxide in the pair of galaxies known as SPT0311-58, 12.88 billion light-years from Earth. The finding shows these molecules were being formed shortly after the birth of the universe.

ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/S. Dagnello (NRAO)

November 3

Researchers determined that atmospheric carbon dioxide in regions that produce most of the gas fell by 0.14 to 0.62 parts per million during Covid-19’s height. The study also demonstrates a more accurate way to measure carbon dioxide with data from satellites.

Brad Weir (Universities Space Research Association and NASA)

5. Out of thin air

ETH Zurich

November 3

Scientists developed an experimental system that successfully created fuel from carbon dioxide and water extracted from air, plus sunlight. The device was viable under field conditions, but researchers say it would need to be optimized for actual use.

ETH Zurich

November 2

The Hubble Space Telescope captured an image of nebula N44, with its unique “superbubble” region devoid of gas. The 250-light-year-wide region may have been formed by stellar wind or supernovas.

NASA, ESA, V. Ksoll and D. Gouliermis (Universität Heidelberg), et al., Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

3. Launch preparations

NASA/Chris Gunn

November 2

Technicians began final preparations for the James Webb Space Telescope’s launch after it arrived in French Guiana last month. The observatory is scheduled to launch on December 18.

NASA/Chris Gunn

November 1

Researchers discovered how DNA molecules assemble into patterns and found a way to manipulate their behavior. The finding could help with the development of materials that can assemble or repair themselves.

Angus McMullen/NYU’s Department of Physics

October 28

NASA’s Juno probe revealed more about the planet’s distinct atmospheric features, including the finding that the Great Red Spot extends 200 miles below the cloud top. Studies are still underway on Jupiter’s red and white bands and the Great Red Spot’s gravity.

International Gemini Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/NASA/ESA, M.H. Wong and I. de Pater (UC Berkeley) et al.