"The LAGEOS I, Laser Geodynamics Satellite, was launched on May 4, 1976 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The two-foot diameter, 900-pound satellite orbited the Earth from pole to pole and measured the movements of the Earth's surface relative to earthquakes, continental drift, and other geophysical phenomena.
The mirrored surface of the satellite precisely reflected laser beams from ground stations for accurate ranging measurements. Scientists at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. came up with the idea for the satellite and built it at the Marshall Center."Source: NASA
By Meg Urry, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Meg Urry is the Israel Munson professor of physics and astronomy and chairwoman of the department of physics at Yale University, where she is the director of the Yale Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics
On April 27, NASA's Fermi and Swift satellites detected a strong signal from the brightest gamma-ray burst in decades. Because this was relatively close, it was thousands of times brighter than the typical gamma-ray bursts that are seen by Swift every few days. Scientists are now scrambling to learn more.
We already knew that when the biggest stars run out of fuel, they don't fade quietly away. Instead, they explode in a blaze of glory known as a supernova. These stellar explosions are often bright enough to be seen by us even though they are in galaxies billions of light-years from our own Milky Way galaxy home.
In very rare cases - such as GRB130427A (tagged with the date of its discovery) - astrophysicists are lucky enough to see energetic gamma-rays from hyperfast jets of outflowing material consisting of charged particles created during a massive star's violent death throes.
By Jacque Wilson, CNN
They emerge from the ground after 17 years, their worm-like bodies creating hundreds of peanut-sized holes near the base of your tree. As they begin to climb, their dark brown skin starts to shed. Two beady red eyes appear.
By the time they reach a steady branch their transparent wings have stretched, opened and closed. Within an hour their white bodies will turn black.
Soon the males will start to sing.
By Kelly Murray, CNN
From the darkest brown to the pastiest white and every shade in between, humans display a tremendous variety of skin colors. Human skin color is directly linked to our survival as a species as we lost our fur and developed a need for protection from the sun, and then migrated into cloudier regions of the globe. Over the course of evolution, scientists argue, skin color was influenced, among other factors, by our need for healthy bones.
To begin to explain this, we turn to Nina Jablonski, professor of anthropology at Pennsylvania State University. She is a well-recognized researcher in primate evolution, and specifically the evolution of human skin, and she was the subject of a Science Seat on CNN Light Years.
The story of human skin color begins with our furry ancestors about 6 to 7 million years ago in Africa, the last time that humans and chimpanzees shared an ancestor. Jablonski says that these ancestors, called Australopithecus, still had ape-like body proportions: fairly long arms and relatively short legs.
By Eoghan Macguire and Matthew Knight, CNN
Ever since it was discovered in 2004, graphene has been hailed as a natural wonder of the materials world destined to transform our lives in the 21st century.
Graphene's amazing properties excite and confound in equal measure. How can something one million times thinner than a human hair be 300 times stronger than steel and 1,000 times more conductive than silicon?
By Rich Clifford, Special to CNN
It had been a little more than four months since completing my second space shuttle mission, STS-59, on the shuttle Endeavour.
I was finishing my annual flight physical at the Johnson Space Center Flight Medicine Clinic. The words from the flight surgeon were as expected: I was in great condition with nothing of note. Then I asked the doctor to look at my right shoulder because my racquetball game was suffering.
He asked if I had pain. I told him I wasn't in pain, but my right arm did not swing naturally when I walked. This comment must have set off some alarm, because he observed my walk down the hall and quickly said he would take me downtown to the Texas Medical Center the next day.
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 10th installment.
By Matthew Rehbein, CNN
For more than 30 years, Susan Haig’s mission has been to ensure that endangered bird species don’t become extinct.
Haig’s professional achievements are beyond impressive: She is a supervisory research wildlife ecologist for the U.S. Geological Survey, a full-time professor at Oregon State University and president of the American Ornithologists’ Union, the largest professional society of ornithologists in the world.
Her current work seeks to find the best methods to preserve specific bird populations — often, populations that are endangered — with a combination of lab-based genetic research and field-based behavioral study. She also examines the effects of climate change and other environmental stressors on water birds and the places they live.
Haig’s efforts to reintroduce the California condor in the Pacific Northwest are detailed in her upcoming book “The California Condor in the Pacific Northwest,” which she cowrote with Jesse D’Elia, one of her Ph.D. students. The book comes out next month.
CNN Light Years caught up with Haig last week to talk about how we protect endangered species — especially in the face of climate change — and even how we might one day bring some back from extinction. Here is an edited transcript of our interview.
By Steve Kastenbaum, CNN
Follow on Twitter: @SKastenbaumCNN
(CNN) – The Northern Snakedhead fish is not going to win any beauty contests.
With a mouth full of sharp teeth beneath bulging eyes, the invasive predator – native to waters in China and Russia – may be threatening the balance of the ecosystem of the Harlem Meer, a man-made lake in New York’s Central Park.
By Ben Brumfield, CNN
Nuclear scientists in Switzerland recently dropped some antimatter. The world didn't blow up, but there were some tiny explosions.
Scientists are hoping the experiment will teach them more about how the universe developed after the Big Bang.
Physicists with ALPHA Collaboration research group are trying to figure out how antimatter interacts with gravity, and if it produces "antigravity," says the group's founder, Jeffrey Hangst.
Their experiment mirrors the way Sir Isaac Newton came up with the law of gravity in the late 17th century.
Legend has it that an apple fell off a tree and hit the English nobleman on the head.
Newton got to thinking how gravity made the apple speed up as it fell.
By Elizabeth Landau, CNN
The winter of 1609 to 1610 was treacherous for early American settlers. Some 240 of the 300 colonists at Jamestown, in Virginia, died during this period, called the "Starving Time," when they were under siege and had no way to get food.
Desperate times led to desperate measures. New evidence suggests that includes eating the flesh of fellow colonists who had already died.
Archaeologists revealed Wednesday their analysis of 17th century skeletal remains suggesting that settlers practiced cannibalism to survive.