This week in science

Orion completes Moon flyby and more: Understand the world through 7 images

Artemis takes a crucial step.

NASA

NASA/Bill Ingalls

NASA’s Orion spacecraft reached a historic goal the week of November 16–23, as scientists peered into Earth’s ancient climate and the composition of the early Universe.

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

NASA

7. Falling rocks

Chris Jackson/Chris Jackson Collection/Getty Images

November 16

Astronomers described “the most accurately recorded carbonaceous chondrite fall” ever, of an intact meteorite that landed in 2021. The Winchcombe meteorite, as it’s called, contains water with a similar composition to Earth’s oceans, suggesting that meteorites could have brought water to Earth originally.

Chris Jackson/Chris Jackson Collection/Getty Images

6. Climate change

©Science China Press

November 16

Scientists determined the Tibetan Plateau rose by nearly 2 miles between 50 and 38 million years ago, altering the region’s weather patterns. That helped form the monsoon cycle, shaping East Asia’s climate and landscape.

©Science China Press

5. Baby pictures

NASA, ESA, CSA, Tommaso Treu (UCLA, Zolt G. Levay (STScI)

November 17

Astronomers discovered two of the earliest galaxies ever found — from 350 million to 450 million years after the Big Bang — in images from JWST. At just one-hundredth the age of the Universe, they’re brighter than other galaxies from their time, suggesting they may be exceptionally large.

NASA, ESA, CSA, Tommaso Treu (UCLA, Zolt G. Levay (STScI)

4. Waiting for water

Brian Atkinson, University of Nottingham

November 17

Researchers found a new mechanism they’re calling hydro-signalling, which allows some plants to change their roots’ shape in response to water. When they can’t detect moisture, plants release a hormone that stops roots from branching, causing them to only grow in the direction of water.

Brian Atkinson, University of Nottingham

3. Shape of the stars

Melissa Weiss/Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian

November 18

Researchers determined the diffuse cloud of stars surrounding the Milky Way’s core, called its stellar halo, is not spherical as had been thought, but oblong. The finding is important for understanding how the galaxy formed and determining the structure of its dark matter.

Melissa Weiss/Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian

2. Moonshot

NASA

November 21

NASA’s Orion craft completed its first flyby of the Moon, capturing images of Earth and the Moon along the way. As part of the Artemis I mission, Orion will gather data to assist a crewed mission to the Moon planned for 2025.

NASA

1. Stuck in time

Sosiak et al. 2022, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University

November 23

Researchers discovered the oldest army ant ever found, from around 35 million years ago, preserved in amber. Mislabeled and stored in Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology since the ‘30s, the specimen suggests predatory army ants once had a much larger presence in Europe.

Sosiak et al. 2022, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University