This week in science

NASA's SLS rocket and beyond: Understand the world in 7 images

NASA

As NASA announced two major milestones, an amateur astronomer made an explosive discovery in the night sky during the week of March 18–24.

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

N. Warburton, et al. ROYAL SOCIETY OPEN SCIENCE (2021)

March 24

A skeletal study of Congruus kitcheneri by researchers from Australia revealed it had an unusual pocket in its nose and adapted to climb trees. Even more surprisingly, the kangaroo lived in an area that’s now a barren plain, devoid of trees.

N. Warburton, et al. ROYAL SOCIETY OPEN SCIENCE (2021)

6. Ready for takeoff

NASA/JPL-Caltech

March 23

NASA announced a tentative launch date of April 8 for the Ingenuity helicopter’s first flight on Mars. It will mark the first controlled aircraft flight on another planet.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

5. Bird brain

Peter Trusler

March 23

Researchers from Flinders University found that the brain of the Dromornis stirtoni, an ancient Australian flightless bird, was squeezed into a tiny cranium due to its massive beak. Their study also found that the giant bird is closely related to today’s chickens.

Peter Trusler

4. The Spiders from Mars

NASA

March 22

Researchers from Trinity College Dublin found evidence that “spiders from Mars” — radial patterns carved into the planet’s surface — are caused when the CO2 ice that forms in winter rapidly turns to gas in spring.

NASA

March 19

NASA’s Hubble space telescope captured an image of re-energized planetary nebula Abell 78. This rare type of nebula — sometimes called a “born again” star — occurs when fusion briefly resumes in a collapsed star.

ESA/Hubble & NASA, M. Guerrero

2. A new light in the sky

Yuji Nakamura

March 18

An amateur astronomer in Japan discovered a classical nova in the Cassiopeia constellation. The stellar explosion is bright enough to see with binoculars in the northern hemisphere.

Yuji Nakamura

1. All systems go

NASA/Robert Markowitz

March 18

NASA successfully completed the final hot fire test of its Space Launch System rocket core stage, the largest rocket element the agency has ever made. The test paves the way for the SLS to be used in the Artemis I test flight around the Moon.

NASA/Robert Markowitz

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University of Granada