This week in science

NASA InSight’s final photo and more: Understand the world through 7 images

NASA

All About Space Magazine/Future/Getty Images

NASA’s InSight lander sent a farewell image the week of December 15–21, as another space mission suffered a catastrophic failure.

Here are the biggest science stories of the week, told in 7 striking images

Gerson Buss

7. Life finds a way

NASA/JPL/DLR

December 15

Researchers found comet strikes on Europa could send chemicals required for life to the moon’s buried ocean even if they only make it halfway through its icy shell. At that point, melted water from the surface would continue tunneling through the ice, seeding the ocean with crucial components for life to arise.

NASA/JPL/DLR

6. Baby pictures

NASA, ESA, CSA and STScI

December 16

Astronomers found signs of two dozen new stars in JWST’s image of the Cosmic Cliffs. Clouds of dust have obscured most of the region from other telescopes, hiding the gas jets that young stars like the newly discovered ones emit.

NASA, ESA, CSA and STScI

5. Warming up

Victor O. Leshyk, www.paleovista.com

December 16

Climate change may have helped dinosaurs survive following the Triassic-Jurassic mass extinction that killed off other large animals. Researchers say the rise of sauropods had more to do with their thriving in a warmer climate than the fact that competing species died off.

Victor O. Leshyk, www.paleovista.com

4. Water watcher

NASA

December 16

After a one-day delay, NASA launched SWOT, a satellite using a brand-new infrared radar to monitor climate change’s effects on Earth’s water level. Developed with France’s space agency, SWOT can track and measure water across 90 percent of the planet’s surface.

NASA

3. InSight signs off

NASA

December 19

NASA’s InSight lander captured what may be its last photo of Mars. InSight has been studying seismic activity on Mars since 2018 but recently lost communications with Earth, likely signaling that dust on its solar panels has prevented it from recharging.

NASA

2. Canopy crossing

Chanpen Saralamba

December 20

Researchers found artificial and natural canopy bridges crossing over roads and other infrastructure can help increase animal populations. Canopy bridges keep animals off roads where they’re more likely to be killed, and allow access to food and mates that would otherwise be cut off by human activity.

Chanpen Saralamba

1. Failed in flight

Arianespace

December 20

Europe’s Vega C rocket failed shortly after its liftoff, when its second-stage boosters were meant to take over. Two Pléiades Neo Earth-observing satellites were lost in the accident, which occurred on just the second mission for the new rocket.

ESA