This week in science

NASA ends Geotail mission and more: Understand the world through 7 images

NASA

NASA declared an end to a 30-year space mission the week of January 11–18, as researchers found cause for hope and concern in ice sheets in Greenland and the Antarctic.

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

Boy_Anupong/Moment/Getty Images

7. Spreading its wings

Bruce Balick/University of Washington/Joel Kastner/Paula Baez Moraga/Rochester Institute of Technology/Space Telescope Science Institute

January 12

By comparing Hubble images from 2009 and 2020, astronomers discovered the Butterfly Nebula is being blasted by multiple unexplained jets from the dying star at its center. Researchers plan to use JWST images to study how the jets altering the nebula’s shape came to be.

Bruce Balick/University of Washington/Joel Kastner/Paula Baez Moraga/Rochester Institute of Technology/Space Telescope Science Institute

6. Nanoscale

Brookhaven National Laboratory

January 13

Scientists used AI to guide self-assembling materials into forming never-before-seen nanostructures, including a ladder shape. The AI process induces the materials to self-assemble into new forms faster than previous methods, which could be used in developing microelectronics.

Brookhaven National Laboratory

5. Winds of change

©NASA/USGS, Dr Frazer Christie, Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge

January 16

Researchers found Antarctic ice sheet loss is slowing in some places, due to weaker winds contributing less to ocean warming. The study suggests climate change mitigation could still prevent ice sheet collapse and the resulting sea level rise.

©NASA/USGS, Dr Frazer Christie, Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge

4. Packs in peril

Voyageurs Wolf Project

January 17

Researchers found humans are a significant source of deaths among wolves in national parks, and these deaths destabilized entire wolf packs. When humans caused the death of a wolf, most often through poaching, the chance their pack stayed together decreased by 27 percent, and the chance of reproduction decreased 22 percent for the next year.

Voyageurs Wolf Project

3. Extreme closeup

Christopher Klose / MBI

January 18

Scientists created a method to record the nanometer-scale fluctuations in magnetic material that gives rise to magnetism. It’s the first method that allows them to see the movement of magnetically charged regions in objects — called magnetic domains — without damaging the object in the process.

Christopher Klose / MBI

2. Warming world

Alfred-Wegener-Institut / S. Kipfstuhl

January 18

High-elevation portions of the Greenland Ice Sheet experienced the warmest decade in the last thousand years from 2001 to 2011. Researchers found a 2.7 degree Fahrenheit increase in the ice sheet, which could add as much as 20 inches to sea levels by 2100 if melting continues at its current rate.

Alfred-Wegener-Institut / S. Kipfstuhl

1. Tail end

NASA

January 18

NASA announced the official end of its Geotail mission after the spacecraft’s remaining date recorder failed last year. A joint mission with Japan’s space agency, Geotail studied the magnetosphere starting in 1992, contributing to our understanding of how the Sun interacts with Earth’s magnetic field.

NASA