How we detected water on a potentially habitable exoplanet for the first time

With more than 4,000 exoplanets – planets orbiting stars other than our sun – discovered so far, it may seem like we are on the cusp of finding out whether we are alone in the universe. Sadly though, we don’t know much about these planets – in most cases just their mass and their radius. …

Amazon fires explained: what are they, why are they so damaging, and how can we stop them?

Imagine a rainforest at dawn – the tall canopy laden with dripping ferns and orchids, tree trunks covered in spongy mosses and lichens, and the morning mist only slowly burning away as the sun rises. While there is fuel everywhere, it seems unimaginable that such humid ecosystems could ever catch fire. Jos Barlow, Lancaster University …

Bees: how important are they and what would happen if they went extinct?

Bees – including honey bees, bumblebees, and solitary bees – are very important because they pollinate food crops. Pollination is where insects move pollen from one plant to another, fertilizing the plants so that they can produce fruit, vegetables, seeds, and so on. If all the bees went extinct, it would destroy the delicate balance …

The end of the world: a history of how a silent cosmos led humans to fear the worst

It is 1950 and a group of scientists are walking to lunch against the majestic backdrop of the Rocky Mountains. They are about to have a conversation that will become a scientific legend. The scientists are at the Los Alamos Ranch School, the site for the Manhattan Project, where each of the group has lately …

How to build a moon base

Half a century after humans first walked on the moon, a number of private companies and nations are planning to build permanent bases on the lunar surface. Despite the technological progress since the Apollo era, this will be extremely challenging. So how should you get started? Ian Whittaker, Nottingham Trent University and Gareth Dorrian, University …

Moon landing anniversary: One small step for man… a giant leap for space robots

Apollo 11’s successful mission 50 years ago was the turning point in the space industry. It is comparable to the Wright brothers‘ flight in 1903 that marked the beginning of the aviation industry and James Watt’s invention of the steam engine, the landmark of the industrialization era. The first step on the lunar surface is …

5 Moon-landing innovations that changed life on Earth

Much of the technology common in daily life today originates from the drive to put a human being on the Moon. This effort reached its pinnacle when Neil Armstrong stepped off the Eagle landing module onto the lunar surface 50 years ago. As a NASA airborne astronomy ambassador and director of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee …

Sea creatures store carbon in the ocean – could protecting them help slow climate change?

Heidi Pearson, University of Alaska Southeast As the prospect of catastrophic effects from climate change becomes increasingly likely, a search is on for innovative ways to reduce the risks. One potentially powerful and low-cost strategy is to recognize and protect natural carbon sinks – places and processes that store carbon, keeping it out of Earth’s …

Tragic tale of a ‘man-eating’ tigress tells us so much about the climate crisis

Nayanika Mathur, University of Oxford The way that we live on Earth is causing an unprecedented acceleration in species extinction. Now, more than half a million species “have insufficient habitat for long-term survival” and are likely to go extinct unless their natural environments are restored. But we are already seeing major problems from this intrusion, …