Mammoth remains discovered in Mexico
April 16th, 2013
11:26 AM ET

Mammoth remains discovered in Mexico

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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 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.


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Filed under: News
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
Science Seat: In search of the perfect tomato
University of Florida professor Harry Klee is working to improve the taste and quality of supermarket tomatoes.
March 1st, 2013
07:00 AM ET

Science Seat: In search of the perfect tomato

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 different areas of scientific exploration. This is the fourth installment.

Ever wondered why some tomatoes taste great, and many others don’t?

Professor Harry Klee, a horticulturalist at the University of Florida in Gainesville, is on a mission to improve the taste and quality of supermarket tomatoes. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2012 for his efforts.

Klee presented his research in Boston recently at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting. CNN Light Years spoke with Klee before the conference. Here is an edited transcript:


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Filed under: News • On Earth • Science Seat • Voices
Planet of sound: Meteor blast resonated around Earth
A large chunk of a meteor that exploded over Russia is found in a lake on Friday, February 15.
February 28th, 2013
09:43 AM ET

Planet of sound: Meteor blast resonated around Earth

By Matt Smith, CNN

The meteor that exploded over the steppes of southwestern Russia sent a low-frequency rumble bouncing through the Earth, giving scientists new clues about the biggest cosmic intruder in a century.

The big boom over Chelyabinsk on February 15 also produced a wave of sound thousands of times lower than a piano's middle C - far below the range of human hearing, according to the international agency that watches for nuclear bomb tests. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization said that sound wave showed up on sensors from Greenland to Antarctica, making it the largest ever detected by its network.

Scientists then used that wave to calculate the size of the small asteroid that plunged to Earth, said Margaret Campbell-Brown, an astronomer at Canada's University of Western Ontario.


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Black holes rapidly spinning and twisting spacetime
Scientists analyzed X-ray light to determine the spin of the black hole at the center of galaxy NGC 1365.
February 27th, 2013
05:37 PM ET

Black holes rapidly spinning and twisting spacetime

Follow @CNNLightYears on Twitter.

By Elizabeth Landau, CNN

Scientists have been able to pin down the most accurate estimate yet for how fast a supermassive black hole is spinning. The answer is "fast": near the speed of light.

The black hole in question is more than 2 million miles across, with a surface traveling near the speed of light. It is at the center of spiral galaxy NGC 1365 and is the equivalent of about 2 million solar masses. Don't worry, this black hole not an imminent danger to us, given that it's in a galaxy 60 million light years away.


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Filed under: News
February 27th, 2013
02:50 PM ET

Group aims to send 2 humans on Mars mission in 2018

Follow @CNNLightYears on Twitter for more space and science updates.

By John Zarrella, CNN

If newly unveiled plans pan out, a man and a woman may represent humanity on one journey that has never been attempted before: a mission to Mars.

“It’s incredibly feasible. It’s not crazy talk," Taber MacCallum, CEO of Paragon Space Development Corp., told CNN.

MacCallum and millionaire Dennis Tito announced their plans Wednesday to send a couple of earthlings on a 501-day trip in a spacecraft that would fly by the red planet. The proposal was unveiled at the National Press Club in Washington.


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Filed under: Mars • News • the Moon
February 20th, 2013
06:35 PM ET

Mars rover drills, sees planet's true colors

By Elizabeth Landau, CNN

Mars may have a lot of orangey dust flying around, but now that a rover has retrieved a sample by drilling a rock there, scientists believe the Red Planet may have another color beneath the surface.

The two-ton Mars rover Curiosity, which has been exploring Gale Crater since its miraculous landing on August 6, has become the first robot to drill into a rock to collect a sample on Mars, scientists reported Wednesday. Chemical analyses are still to come, but for now the big news is that the material from the drill appears to be gray.

"We’re sort of seeing a new coloration for Mars here, and it’s an exciting one to us," said Joel Hurowitz, sampling system scientist for Curiosity at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.


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Filed under: In Space • Mars • News
February 15th, 2013
04:17 PM ET

A chance to prevent future asteroid impacts

Editor’s Note: Ed Lu is an explorer who loves mapping the unknown – whether it’s the oceans at Liquid Robotics, our neighborhoods, leading Google Advanced Projects Teams, or unveiling the secrets of the inner solar system and saving the world with the B612 Foundation, where he serves as CEO. A NASA Astronaut, he’s flown three missions, logging 206 days in space to construct and live aboard the International Space Station. Watch Ed Lu’s full plan to save the world, this Sunday 2:30 P.M. E.T. on “The Next List”

By Ed Lu, Special to CNN

Today's meteor explosion over Chelyabinsk is a reminder that the Earth orbits the Sun in a shooting gallery of asteroids, and that these asteroids sometimes hit the Earth.  Later today, a separate and larger asteroid, 2012 DA14, will narrowly miss the Earth passing beneath the orbits of our communications satellites.  We have the technology to deflect asteroids, but we cannot do anything about the objects we don't know exist.

Discovered just one year ago by an amateur citizen observer, 2012 DA14 will fly only 17 thousand miles above Earth – the distance the Earth travels in just 15 minutes, and not much longer than many people travel on common air flights. So this truly is a close shave. In fact, 2012 DA14 will pass underneath our communications satellites as it flies by Earth.

FULL STORY on CNN's What's Next

Filed under: News
February 1st, 2013
12:58 PM ET

NASA launches communications satellite

If you think the days of staring in amazement at NASA space launches are behind us, you’re wrong.

There are no space shuttles leaving the United States at the moment, but NASA is still launching three communication satellites into orbit. The first capsule, known as TDRS-K, launched on Wednesday at 8:48 p.m. EST from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. TDRS stands for Tracking and Data Relay Satellite.

The next one, TDRS-L, is scheduled for launch in 2014. The manufacturing process for the final satellite in the trio, TDRS-M, will be completed in 2015.

NASA says these new satellites are designed with a higher performance solar panel, which should help improve power and return faster communications to the ground.

Take a look at the video above for an up-close view of the rumbling rocket, the take-off from base and a glowing stream of fire and smoke.

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