This week in science

Unity 22 test flight and more: Understand the world through 8 images

Virgin Galactic

Jared Isaacman

The week of July 8–14 saw SpaceX and Virgin Galactic hitting big milestones for commercial space travel. Scientists also solved a 40-year-old mystery on Jupiter and saw Mars from a new angle.

Here are the biggest science stories of the week, told in 8 amazing images.

Philip Kiberd

8. Eye in the sky

NASA/JPL-Caltech

July 8

NASA received new images from Ingenuity’s ninth flight on Mars. The images will help NASA plan the Perseverance rover’s route and study parts of Mars that the rover can’t reach.

NASA/JPL

7. An egg-citing discovery

Philip Kiberd

July 8

A study of a fossilized ostrich eggshell suggests the interior of South Africa was grassland that supported grazing animals until around 200,000 years ago. The study also showed that fossilized ostrich eggshells can reveal information on the climate when they were laid.

Philip Kiberd

6. Riding the waves

NASA Chandra/Juno Wolk/Dunn

July 9

For 40 years, scientists didn’t know why Jupiter emitted massive x-ray bursts every few minutes. Researchers discovered this week that plasma waves created by Jupiter’s magnetic field vibrating are the cause.

NASA Chandra/Juno Wolk/Dunn

5. Defying gravity

Inspiration4

July 11

The all-civilian Inspiration4 astronaut crew took their first zero-g flight during training. The SpaceX mission is expected to launch in mid-September 2021 at the earliest.

Inspiration4

4. Volcanoes on Venus

NASA

July 11

A new study suggests the phosphine in Venus’ atmosphere may stem from active volcanoes, rather than biological life, as was previously suggested. NASA currently has two missions to Venus planned, to study its atmosphere and geological history.

NASA

3. Space race

Virgin Galactic

July 11

Virgin Galactic’s Unity 22 test flight carried founder Richard Branson, three employees, and two pilots to the edge of space — 53 miles above sea level. It was the first fully crewed flight for the Unity spaceplane.

GENE BLEVINS/AFP/Getty Images

2. The sex lives of algae

Kohei Takahashi, Evolution

July 12

Researchers identified a species of algae with three sexes that can all breed in pairs with each other in a river outside Tokyo. It’s the first time a species of algae has been found with three sexes.

Kohei Takahashi, Evolution

July 12

Astronomers observed a binary star system heading toward a rare Type 1A supernova. Binary system HD265435 is expected to be consumed in a supernova when its white dwarf’s core reignites.

University of Warwick/Mark Garlick

Read more science stories here.

Erik Simonsen/Photodisc/Getty Images