This week in science

NASA InSight shutting down and more: Understand the world through 9 images

NASA/Lockheed Martin

Stocktrek Images/Stocktrek Images/Getty Images

NASA announced the week of May 11–18 that it will shut down its Mars InSight lander, and scientists saw our galaxy’s black hole for the first time.

Here are the week’s biggest science stories, told in 9 incredible images.

UF/IFAS/Tyler Jones

9. Black hole in our back yard

Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration

May 12

Scientists revealed the first image ever taken of the event horizon of Sagittarius A*, the black hole at the center of our galaxy. Observations previously showed stars orbiting something in the area, but the photo of Sagittarius A*’s glowing gas ring is the first visual confirmation.

Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration

8. Lunar gardening

UF/IFAS/Tyler Jones

May 12

For the first time, scientists successfully grew plants in lunar soil (or regolith). Learning to reliably grow plants in regolith is important to future long-term missions to the Moon like Artemis.

UF/IFAS/Tyler Jones

7. Blood Moon

Anadolu Agency/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

May 15

A total lunar eclipse created a Blood Moon in the sky Sunday night. During a total eclipse, the edges of Earth’s atmosphere reflect red tones onto the Moon’s surface but scatter blue tones, giving the Blood Moon its distinctive color.

Anadolu Agency/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

6. Neurons like new

Song Lab, UNC-CH

May 16

Scientists sparked the creation of new neurons by increasing electrical activity in an adult brain’s hypothalamus and the hippocampus. Increasing neurons in these areas could fight the effects of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Song Lab, UNC-CH

5. Night lights

UNSW Sydney

May 17

Researchers demonstrated a process to generate electricity from infrared light the Earth radiates to space at night. The proof-of-concept study generated only a tiny amount of electricity, but future devices that function like solar panels could capture much more energy.

UNSW Sydney

May 17

Researchers discovered healing from major bone breakages, like a broken rib, increases the activity of Sonic hedgehog, a gene that helps skeletal development in embryos but is inactive in adults. Treatments that bolster this process could help repair broken bones faster.

Stephanie Kuwahara and Max Serowoky/ Mariani Lab

3. Ancient human hotspot

Nature Communications

May 17

Researchers determined a human tooth found in Laos in 2018 likely belonged to a Denisovan, an extinct hominid closely related to modern humans. It’s the first Denisovan fossil found in Southeast Asia, showing the area was home to at least five early human species.

Nature Communications

2. Solar hedgehog

ESA

May 18

The ESA released spectacular recordings taken by its Solar Orbiter in March, including some of the most detailed images of the Sun ever seen. The Orbiter captured an unexplained area of the Sun with spikes of hot and cold gas, which scientists nicknamed “the hedgehog.”

ESA

1. InSight checks out

NASA/JPL-Caltech

May 18

NASA announced its InSight Mars Lander will shut down this year as dust covers its solar panels. Launched in 2018, InSight monitors seismic conditions on Mars, giving scientists information on activity under the planet’s surface.

NASA/JPL-Caltech