Dear Light Years followers,
This blog burst onto the scene when the last NASA shuttle launched in July 2011. There were only three people involved in CNN Light Years at that time – myself, former CNNer Sophia Dengo and former CNN.com U.S. editor Audrey Irvine.
The shuttle program was ending, but a new era for science and space coverage on CNN.com had dawned. We quickly figured out what you, our audience, would want to read: The latest discoveries, the coolest research, weird animals, random geekiness. We gave it to you in an accurate and easy-to-understand format. And we'll keep doing that – just not on this blog.
Today we are closing CNN Light Years as a blog, but we will have the same high-caliber science reporting elsewhere on CNN.com. In our U.S., World, Health and Technology sections, we will continue to lead - as we've done in the past - with stories about new planets, climate change, prehistoric marvels and more.
We hope that you will visit CNN.com to learn something new every day, and keep participating in the conversations that we have around this marvelous universe in which we live.
Writer/Producer, CNN Light Years
By Katie Hunt and Zhang Dayu, CNN
Chinese spaceship blasted off Tuesday from a launch center in the Gobi Desert, carrying three astronauts on what is expected to be the Asian giant's longest crewed mission yet.
Propelled by a Long March-2F rocket, the Shenzhou 10 craft is scheduled to dock with the Tiangong-1 space module where the crew will transfer supplies to the space lab, which has been in orbit since September 2011.
China has stepped up the pace of its space program since first sending astronaut Yang Liwei into orbit in 2003. In 2012, it conducted 18 space launches, according to the Pentagon.
Tuesday's launch from the the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center marks the start of China's fifth crewed space mission.
By Nic Robertson, CNN
The first thing I noticed were the bicycles. Those who weren't riding them were walking.
I was beginning to wonder if we'd taken a wrong turn. We were looking for China's super-secret space center.
Our four-hour drive from Jiuquan in China's west had taken us past picture postcard fields and fish ponds framed by looming snow-capped peaks, through an oasis of green and finally across the arid Gobi desert.
By Nicole Saidi, CNN
Dear cicada friends,
We know you probably don't speak English, but we humans can't really buzz that well, so this letter will have to do.
The last time we saw your cicada variety, known as Brood II, emerge was in 1996. You were still in your larval stage at that time, so you probably don't remember. Now, you're rising to the surface and having a grand ol' party. So much so that CNN is tracking readers' reports of your locations and listening to recordings of your buzz.
We humans have a hard time imagining what it must be like to go into hiding for years on end and leave your fate in the hands of the world. Who knows what the world will be like when you next emerge 17 years from now? Will it be a mundane place or a strange post-apocalyptic scene?
By Amanda Barnett, CNN
Comet ISON may put on a show when it skims through the sun's atmosphere later this year. Right now, it's still far away, but we're keeping track and will give you regular updates. Here are five key facts about ISON as we await its arrival:
What's with the funky name?
Comet ISON was discovered by Russian astronomers Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok in September 2012. It's named after their night-sky survey program, the International Scientific Optical Network, a group of observatories in 10 countries organized to track objects in space.
Justin Bieber's reach could soon extend out of this world.
According to a tweet from Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson, the 19-year-old pop star and his manager, Scooter Braun, have joined Ashton Kutcher as the latest celebrities to sign up for a ride on Branson's SpaceShip Two commercial space flight.
"Great to hear @justinbieber & @scooterbraun are latest @virgingalactic future astronauts," Branson tweeted Wednesday. "Congrats, see you up there!"
By Josh Levs, CNN
When astronaut Neil Armstrong uttered what became one of the best-known - and most debated - quotes in all of history, he actually might have said it exactly the way he meant to, not the way people heard it.
After Armstrong lowered his left foot from the landing craft to the surface of the moon, people watching around the world heard him call it "one small step for man."
Both he and NASA initially insisted that he said "one small step for a man," and now a new and novel study on the much-analyzed quote backs him up.
By Elizabeth Landau, CNN
Achilles' heel was his weak spot in the Greek myth, but the heel of a newly discovered primate provides a strong connection between humans and their possible ancestors.
Scientists have discovered the oldest primate skeleton to date, from a creature that resembles humans' evolutionary line - the anthropoids - and a different primate lineage called the tarsiers. They have named this specimen Archicebus achilles, making reference to its heel bone, which resembles those of modern monkeys.
Anthropoids include humans, apes and monkeys. Tarsiers are nocturnal primates that live only in Southeast Asia today. The study is published in the journal Nature.
By Ben Brumfield, CNN
To get through the long, tedious hours sitting in the fossil archives at the University of California-Berkeley, Jason Head would listen to the hypnotic sounds of The Doors.
So when he happened upon one of the biggest lizards that ever walked on land, he found it fitting to name it after the band's frontman, Jim Morrison - the original Lizard King.
But that's not what makes this find interesting. It's what the existence of the "Bearded King Morrison" tells us about the effects of climate change that's intriguing.
By Matt Smith, CNN
There were three of them, one of them probably a child, and at least one met a gruesome end at the hands of a terrifying predator.
About 67 million years later, a Wyoming rancher led scientists to their remains. Now experts are digging out one of the most complete skeletons yet of a Triceratops, the three-horned, plant-eating dinosaur that was one of the last of the giant reptiles.
"There's only three other skeletons that will match the completeness of one of the specimens we're excavating right now," said paleontologist Peter Larson, president of the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research.