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New lunar research answers old questions, poses others

From its close perch in the sky, the moon has long mystified artists, lovers and scientists. Now a quartet of recent papers — all of which touch on the moon’s violent birth and turbulent infancy — may help scientists put two long-standing lunar mysteries to rest, while deepening a third enigma and suggesting a speculative solution to a fourth.

23 Oct 2014

Past penguin populations not dependent on ice extent

Penguins’ lives revolve around ice, so it seems they might be particularly vulnerable to changing ice conditions and ice loss. But a new study charting the rise and fall of penguin populations over the last 30,000 years suggests that past populations have actually increased during times of climate warming and retreating ice.

21 Oct 2014

Harpooning space debris

Harpooning was first used to spear fish, and later whales, but has yet to be used in space. Now, the European Space Agency (ESA) is considering the ancient technique to capture rogue satellites interfering with important orbits.

18 Oct 2014

Mercury formed by hit and run?

The solar system was once as busy as a store parking lot on Black Friday. Collisions were common in the early days, and new evidence of a hit-and-run scenario may explain some of Mercury’s peculiarities.

17 Oct 2014

Clues to limestone weathering written in Western Wall

Builders and masons take note: When it comes to the durability of limestone, grain size matters. New research combining field and lab data shows that fine-grained limestone is more susceptible than its coarser-grained cousins to a one-two punch of chemical and mechanical weathering. The findings, which arose in part from observations of Jerusalem’s historic Western Wall, could have implications for Earth’s carbon cycle and landscape — as well as for architectural preservation.

16 Oct 2014

Kilauea eruptions could shift from mild to wild

Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano is famously effusive: Low-viscosity lava oozes out of the main caldera and two active rift zones along the southern shore of the Big Island. But scientists suspect that Kilauea’s eruptions haven’t always been so mild, and a new study is providing further evidence supporting that notion. In the past 2,500 years, at least two cycles of explosive eruptions lasting several centuries each have rocked the island. The switch from effusive back to explosive is likely to occur again, scientists say, but probably not anytime soon.
 

14 Oct 2014

Ice (Re) Cap: October 2014

From Antarctica to the Arctic; polar caps, permafrost and glaciers to ocean-rafted sea ice; and burly bears to cold-loving microbes, fascinating science is found in every nook and crevasse of Earth’s cryosphere, and new findings are announced often. Here are a few of the latest updates.

12 Oct 2014

Acid rain recovery in the Northeast

Four decades after the passage of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, the acid rain that plagued the Northeast is still diminishing. The amount of sulfate and nitrate found in Northeastern lakes is not only declining, but the decrease has been speeding up, according to a long-term study recently published in Environmental Science & Technology.

10 Oct 2014

Cassini spots new moon in Saturn's rings

Saturn is famous for its rings, but the sixth planet from the sun also has dozens of moons — 62 at last count, 53 of which have names — and now, according to new observations, it may have a 63rd. In April of last year, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft spotted a newly formed object at the edge of Saturn’s outermost A ring.

08 Oct 2014

Saturn's polar hexagon stable over time

Saturn’s peculiar polar “hexagon” has proven perplexing for scientists studying the atmospheric phenomenon since Voyager 1 and 2 first observed it in the early 1980s. Now, an international team has completed the most thorough study of the six-sided jet stream yet, using images and data collected between 2008 and 2014 by the Cassini spacecraft.

07 Oct 2014

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