April 18th, 2013
04:14 PM ET

3 new planets could host life

By Elizabeth Landau, CNN

In the midst of chaos here on Earth, scientists are finding hope for life on other planets.

Scientists announced Thursday the discovery of three planets that are some of the best candidates so far for habitable worlds outside our own solar system - and they're very far away.

NASA's Kepler satellite, which is keeping an eye on more than 150,000 stars in hopes of identifying Earth-like planets, found the trio.

Two of the planets - Kepler-62e and Kepler-62f - are described in a study released Thursday in the journal, Science. They are part of a five-planet system in which the candidates for life are the farthest from the host star.

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Filed under: In Space • Kepler
San Francisco's Exploratorium opens in sparkling new home
The entrance to the new Exploratorium science museum on Pier 15 in San Francisco.
April 17th, 2013
01:03 PM ET

San Francisco's Exploratorium opens in sparkling new home

By Heather Kelly, CNN

At the Exploratorium, one does not stand stiffly in front of musty exhibits and read tiny placards. There is no room for boredom or passively observing. The installations at this interactive science museum are hands on - they require touching, building, playing, experimenting and thinking.

And in the Exploratorium's shiny new space, the experience is just as much for adults as it is for children.

On Wednesday, the doors open on the Exploratorium's first new home in its 44 years, the $250 million renovated Pier 15 on the Embarcadero, San Francisco's eastern stretch of waterfront. It is three times larger than the old museum, the cavernous exhibit hall at San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts, which was originally built for the 1915 World's Fair. The Exploratorium was originally opened in that location in 1969 by physicist Frank Oppenheimer.

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Filed under: On Earth
Apollo 13: LIFE With the Lovell Family During ‘NASA’s Finest Hour’
Not published in LIFE. From left: Astronauts Pete Conrad and Buzz Aldrin; James Lovell's mother, Blanch; Barbara Lovell (chin in hand); Neil Armstrong (standing); Jeffrey, Marilyn and Susan Lovell, all watching TV at the Lovell home during the Apollo 13 crisis, April 1970.
April 17th, 2013
11:46 AM ET

Apollo 13: LIFE With the Lovell Family During ‘NASA’s Finest Hour’

Life.com has published a gallery of images of astronaut Jim Lovell's home and family during Apollo 13, which returned safely to earth on this date in 1970.

View the full gallery at LIFE.com

Filed under: Light up the screen
Mammoth remains discovered in Mexico
April 16th, 2013
11:26 AM ET

Mammoth remains discovered in Mexico

Read this story in Spanish at CNNMexico.com.

By CNN Mexico Staff

The remains of a mammoth have been uncovered south of Mexico City, researchers at Mexico's National Institute for Anthropology and History said.

"For the first time in Latin America, magnetic, electric and ground-penetrating radar methods were applied in paleontology... (methods that are) commonly used in archaeological excavations to detect architectural (findings)," the institute said. Ground-penetrating radar is a technique that uses electromagnetic radiation to generate a picture of the subsurface.

Paleontologists and archaeologists worked together to use these approaches, which saved the scientists time, and helped them determine the magnitude of the discovery before the excavation process started last March.

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Filed under: News • On Earth
April 15th, 2013
11:45 AM ET

What happens if you cry in space?

By Matthew Abshire, CNN

Crying probably isn’t on the top of the list of official experiments being explored on the International Space Station, but that doesn’t stop astronaut Chris Hadfield from demonstrating the phenomenon of human tears in space.

The Canadian ISS commander recently took time to answer a question he says he commonly receives: What happens to your tears when you cry in space? Hadfield's video demonstration will make the inner nerd in you shout with glee.

Hadfield uses a bottle of drinking water to place droplets in his eyes and then proceeds to blink and move around. He shows off this bizarre reality: Tears don't fall in space.

Check out the video to see what happens. Trust me, you’ll understand why Hadfield says that if you’re going to cry in space, bring a hankie.

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Filed under: In Space • People in Orbit
Study: Climate change didn't cause drought
April 12th, 2013
05:32 PM ET

Study: Climate change didn't cause drought

Extreme natural events, not man-made climate change, led to last summer's historic drought in the Great Plains, a new federal study said Friday.

Drought occurred in six Plains states between last May and August because moist Gulf of Mexico air "failed to stream northward in late spring," and summer storms were few and stingy with rainfall, said a report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"Neither ocean states nor human-induced climate change, factors that can provide long-lead predictability, appeared to play significant roles in causing severe rainfall deficits over the major corn producing regions of central Great Plains," the report summary said.

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Filed under: Climate • On Earth
April 12th, 2013
03:50 PM ET

Scientists explore 'dark lightning'

By Matthew Abshire, CNN

Just when you thought being struck by lightning couldn’t get any more terrifying, there's this:

Researchers at the Florida Institute of Technology are investigating what is being dubbed “dark lightning,” using computer models. This invisible phenomenon is not some cosmic event happening millions of light years from us, but actually occurs within storm clouds in our atmosphere at altitudes low enough for a commercial airliner to pass through.

CNN’s Chad Myers points out the real danger with “dark lightning” is not from a traditional bolt of energy, but an unleashing of exponentially high amounts of X-rays and gamma rays.

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Filed under: Climate • On Earth
April 12th, 2013
02:15 PM ET

NASA shoots for asteroid, new manned missions

NASA plans to capture an asteroid and start sending astronauts aloft again by 2017, even with a tighter budget, the U.S. space agency announced Wednesday.

The Obama administration is asking Congress for just over $17.7 billion in 2014, down a little more than 1% from the nearly $17.9 billion currently devoted to space exploration, aeronautics and other science.

The request includes $105 million to boost the study of asteroids, both to reduce the risk of one hitting Earth and to start planning for a mission to "identify, capture, redirect, and sample" a small one. The plan is to send an unmanned probe out to seize the asteroid and tow it into orbit around the moon, where astronauts would study it.

FULL STORY

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Filed under: News
April 12th, 2013
12:05 PM ET

Science Seat: Where morals come from

By Kelly Murray, CNN

Editor's note: The Science Seat is a feature in which CNN Light Years sits down with movers and shakers from different areas of scientific exploration. This is the eighth installment.

Being nice to others and cooperating with them aren't uniquely human traits. Frans de Waal, director of Emory University's Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Lawrenceville, Georgia, studies how our close primate relatives also demonstrate behaviors suggestive of a sense of morality.

De Waal recently published a book called "The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates," which synthesizes evidence that there are biological roots in human fairness, and explores what that means for the role of religion in human societies. CNN's Kelly Murray recently spoke with De Waal about the book.

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Filed under: Human ancestors • On Earth • Science Seat
April 11th, 2013
02:00 PM ET

Ancient humanlike skeleton is 'weird mosaic'

By Elizabeth Landau, CNN

If you could time travel to 2 million years ago in South Africa, you might see a creature with humanlike hands and an ape-sized brain, walking upright with feet twisted inward.

Would you recognize this as your relative?

Anthropologists are keen on exploring the mysteries of human evolution presented by the fossilized remains of a species called Australopithecus sediba, or A. sediba for short. The latest collection of studies, published Thursday in the journal Science, presents more detail than ever about what this creature was like. Whether it's a direct ancestor of humans is controversial, however.

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Filed under: Human ancestors • News • On Earth
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