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.
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 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.
Dr. Irwin Goldstein isn't squeamish about describing operations on private parts. He remembers, for instance, that he performed his first penile implant on a patient in 1976. "I just did one yesterday," he added.
Goldstein, 63, director of San Diego Sexual Medicine and director of sexual medicine at Alvarado Hospital, has had a long career providing medical help to those with sexual problems. He has worked on understanding the physiology of the male erection, and has played key roles in the development of drugs for both male and female sexual dysfunction.
Remember when woolly mammoths roamed the planet? No? Well don't worry if you missed the last ice age - scientists have moved one step closer to possibly bringing the beasts back to life with the discovery of liquid blood in a well-preserved mammoth carcass in Siberia.
Researchers from the Northeast Federal University in Yakutsk found the 10,000-year-old female mammoth buried in ice on the Lyakhovsky Islands off the coast of northeast Russia.
Scientists say they poked the frozen creature with a pick and dark liquid blood flowed out.
A dinosaur from the Middle-Late Jurassic period, found in China, gives scientists new understandings of how birds evolved, according to a Wednesday report from the journal Nature.
The newly discovered species is called Aurornis xui. "Aurora" is Latin for "daybreak" or "dawn." Ornis is Greek for "bird." The last part of the name, xui, honors paleontologist Xu Xing.
The dinosaur lived about 150 million years ago, said Pascal Godefroit, lead author and researcher at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels.
By CNN Mexico Staff
A granite statue that could be more than 1,000 years old, carved with the effigy of a Mesoamerican ball player, has been discovered in the Mexican state of Guerrero, the country's National Institute of Anthropology and History said.
The statue was found a few weeks ago when residents of Ometepec, a municipality southwest of Mexico City, were installing pipes to transport water to the archaeological zone of Piedra Labrada, according the institute.
Pablo Sereno Uribe, the archaeologist in charge of the research, explained that the statue "is the representation of a decapitated ball game player. He has his arms crossed over his chest, and the legs are slightly curved. Accessories such as a helmet, a yoke close to his waist and round stones or 'chalchihuites' in the ears were observed.”
By Elizabeth Landau, CNN
A dinosaur species called allosaurus had neck muscles that allowed it to whip its head back and forth while attacking prey, a new study in the journal Palaeontologia Electronica suggests.
Researchers led by Ohio University paleontologist Eric Snively created a three-dimensional model of the dinosaur bones based on CT scans, and figured out what the muscles must have been like. They examined a specimen called Big Al, about 150 million years old.