This week in science

Artemis targets November launch and more: Understand the world through 8 images

NASA/Joel Kowsky

IRB Barcelona

NASA returned its Artemis I SLS to the launchpad yet again the week of November 2–9, as astronomers made spectacular discoveries in Earth’s cosmic neighborhood.

Here are the biggest science stories of the week, told in 8 stunning images.

NASA/Joel Kowsky

8. Close to home

International Gemini Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/J. da Silva/Spaceengine/M. Zamani

November 2

Astronomers discovered the closest black hole to Earth, just 1,600 light-years away. A partner star still orbits the dormant black hole, giving astronomers an opportunity to study a binary system relatively nearby.

International Gemini Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/J. da Silva/Spaceengine/M. Zamani

7. Frost and fire

Adrià Descals

November 3

Researchers found conditions that cause wildfires in the Arctic significantly increased since 1982, so extreme fire seasons could become more common. That puts the region’s permafrost at risk of melting, which would release enormous amounts of carbon and methane into the atmosphere.

Adrià Descals

6. Immune response

IRB Barcelona

November 3

Scientists found vaccinations using senescent cancer cells — which no longer reproduce, but aren’t dead — are more effective than vaccinating with dead cancer cells. The senescent cells trigger the body to attack living cancer cells, whether they’re introduced before or after tumors form.

IRB Barcelona

5. In the atmosphere

Simon Proud and Simeon Schmauß / Uni Oxford, RALSpace NCEO / NOAA

November 3

Scientists determined the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai eruption in January 2022 produced the highest volcanic ash plume ever recorded. Observations from three satellites showed it reached 57 kilometers (35 miles) high, touching the Earth’s mesosphere.

Simon Proud / Uni Oxford, RALSpace NCEO / Japan Meteorological Agency

4. Surely this time

NASA/Joel Kowsky

November 4

NASA’s SLS mega-rocket once again returned to the launchpad in preparation for the Artemis I mission. Its launch has been delayed by multiple technical issues, including one that pushed its launch from November 14 to 16 this week.

NASA/Joel Kowsky

3. Old-timer

University of Warwick/Dr Mark Garlick

November 5

Astronomers found the oldest known planetary system in the Milky Way, 90 light-years from Earth. The white dwarf WDJ2147-4035 and the remains of its orbiting planets are 10.7 billion years old.

University of Warwick/Dr Mark Garlick

2. Breathless

Scott Evans

November 7

Geobiologists determined the first known mass animal extinction at the end of the Ediacaran Period 550 million years ago was caused by plummeting oxygen levels. Around 80 percent of animals on Earth died as a result, and researchers still don’t know what caused the drop in oxygen.

Scott Evans

1. Spell it out

Dafna Gazit, Israel Antiquities Authority

November 9

Researchers uncovered the oldest known sentence written in the Canaanite alphabet, developed around 1800 BCE. Found in Israel on an ivory comb dated to 1700 BCE, the sentence reads, “May this tusk root out the lice of the hair and the beard.”

Dafna Gazit, Israel Antiquities Authority