This week in science

NASA Voyager glitch and more: Understand the world through 7 images

NASA

Angela Ziltener

NASA’s Voyager space probe returned mysterious signals to Earth the week of May 18–25, as scientists uncovered a worrying environmental trend.

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

7. Australia’s extinct giant

Peter Trusler

May 25

Using proteins found on a fractured eggshell, researchers identified an extinct bird species hunted and eaten by the earliest humans in Australia. Human hunting is thought to have contributed to the extinction of the 6.5-foot-tall Genyornis.

Gifford H. Miller

6. Worms at work

César Hernández Regal

May 24

Researchers identified two enzymes in wax worm saliva that can degrade plastic on their own. Scientists discovered wax worms’ ability to break down polyethylene in 2017, but didn’t know what chemical caused the reaction.

César Hernández Regal

5. Long-haul Covid-19 consequences

Radiological Society of North America

May 24

Researchers using a novel MRI technique called Hyperpolarized Xenon 129MRI found breathing pattern abnormalities even in Covid-19 patients who had never been hospitalized. The lung damage was undetectable on a regular MRI, and it was detected even up to a year after the initial infection.

Radiological Society of North America

4. The speed of the universe

NASA, ESA, Adam G. Riess (STScI, JHU)

May 19

Scientists using the Hubble Telescope arrived at a more accurate rate of expansion for the universe: 45 miles per megaparsec (roughly 3.25 million light-years). The finding came from observations of 42 supernovae, which astronomers use as “milepost markers.”

NASA, ESA, Adam G. Riess (STScI, JHU)

3. Deep-sea skin care

Angela Ziltener

May 19

Researchers discovered dolphins rub themselves against specific types of coral that excrete antibacterial substances, likely to keep their skin microbiome healthy. Scientists had seen the rubbing behavior before but never had an explanation for it.

Angela Ziltener

2. From carbon sink to carbon source

Alexander Schenkin

May 19

Researchers discovered the life expectancy of tress in 24 Australian old-growth forests has halved in the last 35 years. This climate change-induced mortality means trees are absorbing less carbon dioxide before dying and expelling the gas themselves.

Alexander Schenkin

1. The voyage continues

NASA/JPL-Caltech

May 18

NASA’s Voyager 1 space probe, which launched in 1977, began sending anomalous signals from its attitude articulation and control system, consisting of the numbers 377 or 0. Voyager’s project manager tells Inverse NASA is working to diagnose and correct the issue.

NASA/JPL-Caltech