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An iron-rich planet spotted in a nearby solar system could help scientists understand the mystery of how the planet Mercury formed in our own neighborhood.

The newly-described planet is about 31 light years away, according to a report in the journal Science. Astronomers haven't seen it directly, but they've been able to estimate its size and mass by watching its effects on the star that it orbits. It appears that this planet is largely made of iron.

The early humans who walked the Earth nearly 3.7 million years ago were not walking alone. Fossil footprints in Tanzania reveal that two human species once lived in the same place at the same time.

NASA is about to launch an unprecedented mission to knock an asteroid slightly off course.

In the first real-world test of a technique that could someday be used to protect Earth from a threatening space rock, a spacecraft is scheduled to blast off from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California on Tuesday at 10:20 p.m. PST.

NASA should work towards building a giant new space telescope that's optimized for getting images of potentially habitable worlds around distant stars, to see if any of them could possibly be home to alien life.

That's according to a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Every ten years, at the request of government science agencies including NASA, this independent group of advisors reviews the field of astronomy and lays out the top research priorities going forward.

The biggest animals to have ever lived on Earth gobble up much more food than scientists thought, according to a new study of filter-feeding whales that reveals just how important their eating habits could be for recycling nutrients in the ocean.

NASA's twin Voyager spacecraft, launched in 1977, have been traveling for so long that they've left our solar system. Amazingly, these venerable probes still talk to Earth, but their plutonium-powered energy supply is getting ever closer to running out.

Star Trek's Captain Kirk is about to boldly go where hundreds of others have gone before, continuing a decades-long tradition of space flights for non-astronauts who are wealthy or famous or well-connected — or all of the above.

As for ordinary folks without deep pockets — well, the final frontier might be opening up a just a bit, but opportunities still basically come down to contests and luck.

Two scientists have won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for developing "an ingenious tool for building molecules" that is also cheap and environmentally-friendly.

Updated October 5, 2021 at 5:48 PM ET

Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, the largest funder of basic and clinical biomedical research in the world, says he will step down by the end of the year.

NASA does not plan to rename its new $10 billion technological marvel, the James Webb Space Telescope, despite concerns about it being named after former NASA administrator James Webb, who went along with government discrimination against gay and lesbian employees in the 1950s and 1960s.

The space agency tells NPR it has investigated the matter and decided to keep the telescope's name as is, ahead of the long-awaited launch in December.

In December, NASA will launch the most powerful telescope ever put into space. The James Webb Space Telescope will be able to study planets outside our solar system with unparalleled detail — including checking to see if their atmospheres give any indication that a planet is home to life as we know it.

In December, NASA is scheduled to launch the huge $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope, which is sometimes billed as the successor to the aging Hubble Space Telescope.

The new telescope, the largest and most powerful ever put into space, will travel to a lonely spot 1 million miles from Earth, where it will be able to peer out into the farthest reaches of the universe.

After a setting-up period of about six months, NASA will unveil the telescope's first images to the public.

Anyone who has ever accidentally stepped on a dog's tail has probably wondered if dogs can understand the difference between doing something by mistake about doing it on purpose. Now a new study suggests that, at least in some circumstances, dogs do seem to know when their humans have just screwed up.

A potentially dangerous asteroid called Bennu has a 1 in 1,750 chance of hitting Earth between now and the year 2300.

That's according to the most precise calculations of an asteroid's trajectory ever made, and the odds are slightly worse than NASA previously thought.

Still, the researchers studying Bennu say this doesn't keep them up at night.

A pretty little white flower that grows near urban centers of the Pacific Northwest turns out to be a killer.

The bog-dwelling western false asphodel, Triantha occidentalis, was first described in the scientific literature in 1879. But until now, no one realized this sweet-looking plant used its sticky stem to catch and digest insects, according to researchers who note in their study published Monday it's the first new carnivorous plant to be discovered in about 20 years.

Jason Hodin hauls up a rope that's hanging from a dock in the waters off San Juan Island in the Pacific Northwest. At the end is a square, sandwich-size Tupperware container, with mesh-covered holes in the sides to let water flow through. Hodin pulls off the lid and peers inside at some crushed bits of shell. He points to some reddish-orange dots.

"See that? That little dot right there in front of my finger?" Hodin says. "That's a juvenile sea star that's about a month old."

High up on Mount Rainier in Washington, there's a stunning view of the other white-capped peaks in the Cascade Range. But Scott Hotaling is looking down toward his feet, studying the snow-covered ground.

"It's happening," he says, gesturing across Paradise Glacier.

Small black flecks suddenly appear on the previously blank expanse of white. The glacier's surface quickly transforms as more and more tiny black creatures emerge. The ice worms have returned, snaking in between ice crystals and shimmering in the sun.

A black hole swallowing a neutron star — a star more massive than our sun but only about the size of a city — has been observed for the first time ever.

Each of these space monsters is among the most extreme and mysterious phenomena in the universe. The new find, described Tuesday in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, shows how the very fabric of the universe gets roiled when the two come together.

Right now, a couple of planets about as massive as Earth are orbiting a dim star that's just a dozen light-years away from us. Those planets could be cozy enough to potentially support life. But if any one is living there — and if these life forms have the same kinds of technology that humans do — they wouldn't be able to detect Earth yet.

NASA has decided to send two new missions to Venus, our closest planetary neighbor, making it the first time the agency will go to this scorching hot world in more than three decades.

The news has thrilled planetary scientists who have long argued that Venus deserves more attention because it could be a cautionary tale of a pleasant, Earth-like world that somehow went horribly awry.

Jumping spiders, which use their four pairs of big eyes to spot prey so that they can pounce, can spend a lot of the night just hanging around—literally.

The gorilla jumping spider, Evarcha arcuata, frequently hangs by a single thread at night, suspended in mid-air for hours. Researchers suspect these visually-oriented spiders may cope with darkness by switching to a strategy that lets them use vibrations as a warning signal of danger.

Millions upon millions of Brood X cicadas are emerging, and entomologist Marianne Alleyne didn't want to miss it.

"I didn't see it 17 years ago, and I wanted to experience it," says Alleyne. "My brother-in-law actually put it perfectly: 'This is your entomology Woodstock, isn't it?'"

Traces of rare forms of iron and plutonium have been found at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, after some kind of cataclysm in outer space created this radioactive stuff and sent it raining down on our planet.

An effort to understand the full genetic makeup of more than 70,000 mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fishes has taken some major steps forward, with scientists unveiling the DNA sequences of 25 species including the Canada lynx, platypus, and zig-zag eel.

Updated April 23, 2021 at 5:24 PM ET

It was 4 o'clock in the morning, well before sunrise, and cold. A light wintry mix of rain and snow was falling. The lousy weather was a relief, as it meant even less of a chance that someone might randomly pass by. The small group of scientists didn't want anyone to see what they were about to do.

More than a billion biological specimens are thought to be stashed away in museums and universities and other places across the United States — everything from dead fish floating in glass jars to dried plants pressed between paper to vials of microbes chilling in a freezer.

Until recently, it's been hard to for researchers to locate all the potentially useful stuff scattered around in storage, even though caretakers say these treasures are like time machines that offer an unrivaled opportunity to understand global change.

Octopuses have alternating periods of "quiet" and "active" sleep that make their rest similar to that of mammals, despite being separated by more than 500 million years of evolution.

During their active periods of sleep, octopuses' skin color changes and their bodies twitch, according to a report in the journal iScience, and they might even have short dreams.

NASA is counting down to what should be the final major test of the massive rocket it is building to put the first woman and the next man on the moon.

In 2016, a family in Illinois thought that a meteorite had hit their backyard. They called up the geology department at nearby Wheaton College to say that whatever struck their property had started a small fire and had left a weird rock embedded in the scorched dirt.

An unopened letter that was mailed back in 1697 but never delivered has been read by researchers who have developed a way to virtually "unfold" sealed letter packets without having to actually break the seal.

The new technique, described in the journal Nature Communications, should allow historians to learn more about "letterlocking," the practice of using elaborate slits, folds, creases and tucks to turn a flat sheet of paper with a written message into a tamper-resistant package.

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