By Elizabeth Landau and Polina Marinova, CNN
Stargazers in North America were delighted this week to see a highly anticipated comet make an appearance in the March sky.
The comet is called Pan-STARRS, and it gets its funky name from the telescope credited with discovering it in June 2001: the Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System in Hawaii.
Brian Karczewski, 24, got a great shot of the comet from a California church parking lot and submitted an iReport about it.
Breathtaking blossoms nearly the size of our solar system are strewn across the universe - hundreds of thousands of them. Quasars are, at the same time, among the most fiery monsters.
Astronomer Maarten Schmidt was the first to discover one and revealed it to the world 50 years ago Saturday in an article in the journal Nature.
His discovery was a sensation in the 1960s and made its way into pop culture. It was the age of the first manned space flights.
"It reverberated," Schmidt recalls. "It drew a lot of attention."
In the popular TV series Star Trek, the original crew of the Starship Enterprise was tasked with inspecting the newly discovered phenomenon close up.
Electronics company Motorola branded a line of televisions 'Quasar.' A decade later Marvel Comics created a superhero with the same name.
Luckily, no quasar is anywhere close to Earth, said Schmidt, who made the discovery at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.FULL STORY
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 many areas of scientific exploration. This is the sixth installment.
As primates, humans were once furry, much like the modern chimpanzee. But when, and why, did we lose this fur and become "naked"?
Nina Jablonski, professor of anthropology at Pennsylvania State University, studies primate evolution with an emphasis on human skin. Among numerous academic publications, she also wrote the book, "Skin: A Natural History."
CNN Light Years spoke with Jablonski about the evolution of human skin, from furry to naked. Here is an edited transcript:
By Emily Smith, CNN
While you're frying up some eggs and bacon, we're cooking up something else: a way to celebrate today's food holiday.
Flour power! March 14 is Pi Day, or if you're us, National Pi(e) Day.
Today is the day where we can celebrate the logical left brain and the creative right brain. Pi(e) Day is just that – a time when math and science folks can indulge their sensory side.
Editor's note: Jim Bell is a professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University and a member of the NASA Curiosity Mars rover camera team. He is the president of The Planetary Society and author of "Postcards from Mars," "Mars-3D," and "The Space Book."
(CNN) - An announcement on Tuesday marked, quite literally, a watershed moment in the history of solar system exploration. NASA scientists said an analysis of drilled rock samples collected by the Curiosity rover shows that ancient Mars could have supported living microbes.
It is the first time that we've discovered actual evidence for fresh water on another planet.
We've been down this watery path before - sort of. Back in 2004, NASA's Opportunity rover found evidence of ancient water on Mars.
Just in time for Albert Einstein's birthday Thursday, scientists delivered exciting news about how the universe works.
Last summer, physicists announced that they had identified a particle with characteristics of the elusive Higgs boson, the so-called "God particle." But, as often the case in science, they needed to do more research to be more certain.
On Thursday, scientists announced that the particle, detected at the Large Hadron Collider, the world's most powerful particle-smasher, looks even more like the Higgs boson.
The news came at the Moriond Conference in La Thuile, Italy, from scientists at the Large Hadron Collider's ATLAS and Compact Muon Solenoid experiments. These two detectors are looking for unusual particles that slip into existence when subatomic particles crash into one another at high energies.
By Elizabeth Landau, CNN
In Daniel Tammet's mind, three is a dotted green crescent moon shape, one is a sort of white sunburst and four is a blue boomerang. Every number has a distinct color and shape, making the number pi, which begins with 3.14, unfold like a beautiful poem.
For math enthusiasts around the world, March 14 (3-14) is Pi Day, honoring the number pi, which is the ratio of circumference to diameter of a circle. On Thursday, Tammet is promoting France's first Pi Day celebration at the Palace of Discovery science museum in Paris.
Tammet's relationship to this number is special: At age 25, he recited 22,514 digits of pi from memory in 2004, scoring the European record. For an audience at the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford, he said these numbers aloud for 5 hours and 9 minutes. Some people cried - not out of boredom, but from sheer emotion from his passionate delivery.
By Elizabeth Landau, CNN
Happy Pi Day, everyone! Pi Day honors the number pi, the ratio of circumference to diameter of a circle, which is approximately 3.14. It is also Albert Einstein's birthday. And it sounds like "pie."
It's hard to know who was the first person who decided to bake a pie on March 14. These days, there are celebrations worldwide - on the Internet, in schools and among friends who like to eat sweets. But the San Francisco Exploratorium takes credit for the first Pi Day in 1988. The day was "founded" by Larry Shaw, who worked in the electronics group at that time.
The Exploratorium is going all out for its 25th anniversary of pi parties. It just so happens that the museum is moving to Pier 15 next month. Thursday, in front of its new location, the museum is unveiling a circular "pi shrine" where Pi Day will be celebrated. The shrine consists of a pi symbol with digits spiraling around it that will be embedded in the sidewalk.
By Elizabeth Landau, CNN
Curiosity, humanity's most powerful rover to land on Mars, has made a startling discovery: Conditions that could have supported life once existed there.
"We have found a habitable environment that is so benign, and supportive of life, that probably if this water was around and you had been on the planet, you would have been able to drink it," John Grotzinger, Curiosity project scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, said in a Tuesday news conference.
This discovery is based on the chemical analysis of powder that the rover recovered by drilling a hole in a rock. This was the first time a robot sent from Earth had drilled on another planet.
The commercial spaceflight company demonstrated that Grasshopper could land intact as part of a test series on Thursday in McGregor, Texas, a small town southwest of Waco.
This was the fourth try for the rocket, which stands 10 stories tall, and it successfully doubled its highest leap to date, rising 24 stories or 80.1 meters.
The prototype hovered for about 34 seconds and landed safely, making it easier and easier to imagine a future where a spacecraft doesn’t burn up when it re-enters Earth's atmosphere.
This is one small step for Grasshopper, one giant leap for space exploration’s pocketbook.
Check out the recently released video above to see the successful launch and landing.