This week in science

Webb Telescope alignment milestone and more: Understand the world through 7 images

NASA/STScI

NASA GSFC/CIL/Adriana Manrique Gutierrez

NASA’s James Webb Telescope reached a crucial milestone the week of March 10–16, as researchers found a dangerous vulnerability in self-driving vehicles and made strides in animal conservation.

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

Gongora et al.

7. Mystery solved

ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

March 10

In 2015, scientists found abundant molecular oxygen on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which is extremely rare. Researchers now say its abundance may be an illusion caused by ice from the comet’s nucleus rapidly vaporizing when warmed by the Sun.

ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

March 14

Researchers demonstrated that industry-standard self-driving vehicle sensors are vulnerable to a hack that tricks them into seeing objects as closer or farther away than they actually are. The researchers suggest adding a two-camera setup to sensors or implementing data-sharing with other vehicles to reduce the risk from this type of attack.

Spencer Hallyburton, Duke University

5. Prehistoric predator

San Diego Natural History Museum

March 15

Scientists discovered an extinct cat-like predator called Diegoaelurus vanvalkenburghae, which preceded the saber-tooth tiger by 40 million years. It’s part of a little-known animal group called Machaeroidines, which subsisted on meat but aren’t closely related to modern carnivores.

San Diego Natural History Museum

4. Back from the brink

Gongora et al.

March 15

Researchers decoded the DNA of the vulnerable Arabian oryx, an important step for future breeding programs that could bring the animal back from the brink of extinction. The Arabian oryx was once extinct in the wild, but wild populations today number around 1,200 thanks to breeding in captivity.

Gongora et al.

3. A year in space

ESA/NASA-T. Pesquet

March 15

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei broke the record for the most consecutive days in space by an American astronaut. When he returns to Earth on March 30th, he’ll have spent 355 days on the International Space Station, 15 days longer than previous record-holder Scott Kelly.

ESA/NASA-T. Pesquet

2. The shape of resistance

Hayashi-Nishino et al.

March 15

Researchers found that bacteria change in shape when they develop antibiotic resistance. The finding could be used to detect drug-resistant bacteria with machine-learning analysis of microscope images.

Hayashi-Nishino et al.

1. Fine phasing

NASA/STScI

March 16

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope completed its fine phasing alignment stage, signaling that it will perform at or above expectations. NASA released images from the alignment phase showing one focused star with a collection of galaxies and other stars in the background.

NASA/STScI