TIME space travel

Watch Explosive New Video of SpaceX’s Rocket Landing Test

The April test ended unsuccessfully

SpaceX on Thursday released new video of an April landing test of the Falcon 9 rocket that nearly ended in success — until it tipped over and exploded.

Unlike previous footage, this video comes from a tracking camera that followed the first stage Falcon 9, or the part of the rocket that detaches from the cargo vessel bound for the International Space Station, according to SpaceX. A rocket’s first stage normally falls back into the ocean — a harmless but expensive loss. If the Falcon 9 could land successfully, it would mark a huge step towards SpaceX’s goal of more efficient spaceflight.

Another landing test is scheduled for June 28 shortly after the Falcon 9 launches at 10:21 a.m. ET from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The event is subject to weather and other delays.

TIME Archaeology

Scientists Have Finally Found the Face on This Fossilized Critter—And It’s Weird

Hallucigenia sparsa worm
Danielle Dufault—AP This image provided by Danielle Dufault shows a rendering of a Hallucigenia sparsa worm which lived 508 million years ago.

"It looks completely surreal. It is like something from another world."

Scientists studying the fossilized remains of Hallucigenia, a 508-million-year-old worm-like sea creature, say they finally have located the specimen’s face — and it’s not a beauty.

The prehistoric crawler has a spoon-shaped head, a deck of teeth that extends all the way down the creature’s throat, and, when seen under the microscope, researchers reported, “a tiny pair of eyes” and a “really cheeky semi-circular smile.”

Dr. Martin Smith of Cambridge University and Dr. Jean-Bernard Caron of the University of Toronto published their findings Wednesday in the weekly science journal Nature. “It looks completely surreal,” Smith told BBC News. “It is like something from another world.”

A bulging feature previously mistaken for the Hallucigenia’s head, meanwhile, has been revealed to be fluid excreted from the creature’s gut as it was fossilized. The scientists say this new information about the Hallucigenia represents one more piece toward solving the puzzle of how the Cambrian period’s unusual life forms turned into the creepy crawlies we know today.

TIME public health

Leading Health Experts Call For Fossil Fuel Divestment to Avert Climate Change

climate change singapore
Getty Images

'Divestment rests on the premise that it is wrong to profit from an industry whose core business threatens human and planetary health'

More than 50 of the world’s leading doctors and health researchers called on charities to divest from fossil fuel companies in an open letter Thursday. The letter, published in the Guardian, argues that climate change poses a dire risk to public health and that fossil fuel companies are unlikely to take action to reduce carbon emissions without prodding.

“Divestment rests on the premise that it is wrong to profit from an industry whose core business threatens human and planetary health,” the health experts wrote. The case for divestment brings “to mind one of the foundations of medical ethics—first, do no harm.”

The letter is the latest show of support for efforts to halt climate change from the medical community. Recent research has outlined a variety of public health issues caused by climate change, from heath stroke deaths to increased asthma rates. Just this week a study in The Lancet outlined how climate change could erode 50 years of health advances.

Read More: How College Kids Helped Divest $50 Billion From Fossil Fuels

The open letter alluded to those impacts and suggested that divestment would be the best way for global charities to address them. Engaging with fossil fuel companies’ boards has not been shown to work, the researcher wrote, likening the oil industry to the tobacco industry.

“Our primary concern is that a decision not to divest will continue to bolster the social licence of an industry that has indicated no intention of taking meaningful action,” researchers wrote.

The long list of signatories include the editors of The Lancet and BMJ, leading medical journals, as well as medical professors from across the United Kingdom.The letter specifically calls on the Wellcome Trust and the Gates Foundation, two nonprofits that are leading contributors to global health causes, to divestment their multi-billion endowments from fossil fuel companies. Together the companies control total endowments worth more than $70 billion.

TIME Environment

Lake Mead Reservoir Hits Record Low

Prompting concerns about a possible water shortage

Lake Mead, the Arizona-Nevada reservoir that stores water for some western U.S. states and Mexico, reached a record low on Tuesday, falling below the level that could trigger a water supply shortage.

If the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation predicts that the lake won’t rise above 1,075 ft. by January—it just hit 1,074.99—then it will announce a shortage in August, The Arizona Republic reports. Water managers are optimistic that won’t happen thanks to an unexpectedly wet spring, but the record low suggests water users are taking more from the Colorado River than it can really provide.

“This is the check-engine light,” Drew Beckwith, water-policy manager with the Western Resource Advocates, told the paper. “It really does [make critical] the fact that we have to start changing.”

[The Arizona Republic]

 

 

TIME Environment

Americans Throw Away $640 Worth of Food Each Year

Environmental impacts of food waste aren't a great concern, a new survey shows

Americans toss $640 worth of food each year, according to a survey released Wednesday.

Though more than half of Americans say they reuse leftovers for new meals, 76% of the 1,000 adults surveyed say they throw away leftovers at least once a month; 53% say they do so once a week, the American Chemistry Council found.

All that wasted food makes Americans unhappy, but for different reasons. An overwhelming majority (79%) say they’re bothered by the wasted money spent on thrown-out food, 45% say they’re bothered because other people in the world are hungry and 15% say they’re concerned about the environment. The EPA says food waste makes up 20% of landfill content and releases the greenhouse gas methane as it rots.

“For years we’ve been told to finish your plate, there are hungry people,” Steve Russell, vice president of plastics at ACC, told USA Today. “I just don’t think we’ve done a good enough job yet talking about the environmental impacts of food waste.”

TIME space

How NASA Used X-Rays to Pinpoint a Distant Star

Chandra XRay Light Echoes Neutron Star
NASA/CXC/U. Wisconsin/S. Heinz A light echo in X-rays detected by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has provided a rare opportunity to precisely measure the distance to an object on the other side of the Milky Way galaxy.

And made this stunning picture

These rings might look like colorful, interstellar rainbows, but for astronomers they’ve helped solve a mystery.

By studying these rings, which were captured using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, astronomers were able to determine how far Circinus X-1, a double star system in the plane of our galaxy, is from Earth.

“It’s really hard to get accurate distance measurements in astronomy and we only have a handful of methods,” says Sebastian Heinz of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, who led the study. “But just as bats use sonar to triangulate their location, we can use the X-rays from Circinus X-1 to figure out exactly where it is.”

The rings are “echoes from a burst of X-rays emitted by Circinus X-1 in late 2013,” the space agency said in a statement. “The burst reflected off intervening clouds of dust, with some reflected X-rays arriving to Earth from different angles at a time delay of about one to three months, creating the observed rings.”

By comparing the Chandra data to prior images of dust clouds detected by the Mopra radio telescope in Australia, and by using simple geometry, NASA says that astronomers were able to determine the distance of Circinus X-1 from Earth. In this case: 30,700 light years.

TIME climate change

California Wildflowers Suffering From California Drought

dead flowers california
Getty Images

And wildflowers aren't the only things getting hurt

Crippling drought in California has reduced the number of native wildflowers in the state’s grassland, potentially foreshadowing how climate change may affect plant life worldwide in the coming decades, according to new research in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS).

The impact of wildflower loss may be minimal at first, but researchers say effects could spread up the food chain, eliminating a key food source of insects and pollinators and subsequently hurting small animals. As the habitat changes, it will become more vulnerable to incursions from invasive species.

Read More: The Weird Effect Climate Change Will Have On Plant Growth

The researchers evaluated nearly 15 years of data on California plant diversity for the study. Although plant diversity may change over time for a number of reasons, scientists were able to rule out a number of other factors as the cause of decline in this case, including problems related to grazing, fires and the prevalence of invasive grasses.

“Fifteen years of warmer and drier winters are creating a direct loss of native wildflowers in some of California’s grasslands,” said lead author Susan Harrison, a professor at the University of California Davis, in a press release. “Such diversity losses may foreshadow larger-scale extinctions, especially in regions that are becoming increasingly dry.”

Indeed, California is not the only place to show the first signs of plant species loss. Species diversity on European mountaintops has declined in recent years as the climate dries, according to the study. And, if climate change continue on the same trajectory, the study suggests we should expect the same elsewhere soon.

TIME space

See a Rare Photo of 3 Crescent Moons

Triple crescent moons Cassini Titan Mimas Rhea
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute The moons Titan, Mimas, and Rhea, captured by Cassini in this image released on June 22, 2015.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft caught the stunning image

On Earth, we’re used to seeing a crescent moon—so much so that we barely pay attention to it. But imagine seeing three crescent moons at the same time. This is what NASA’s Cassini spacecraft captured on March 25, 2015.

The rare image shows three of Saturn’s 62 moons: Titan (the largest moon in this photograph), Rhea and Mimas. While Titan appears fuzzy because of its cloud layer, Rhea clearly shows its rough, heavily cratered surface. “And a close inspection of Mimas (center bottom), though difficult to see at this scale, shows surface irregularities due to its own violent history,” says the team at the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations, which released the image on Monday.

The Cassini spacecraft first arrived near Saturn in 2004 and is now on its second mission extension, dubbed the Cassini Solstice Mission, which will end in 2017.

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