TIME astonomy

The Most Beautiful Space Photos Of 2013

Cosmic photography is always breathtaking, so a full year's worth of images provides plenty of choices. Here are some of 2013's highlights.

TIME astronomy

Snapshots of the Heavens: Amazing Astronomy Photos

The Royal Observatory culled through over 800 entries from astronomers and astro-photographers around the world to release its compilation of the best astronomy photos of 2012. Astronomy Photographer of the Year is run by the Royal Observatory Greenwich and Sky at Night Magazine. The competition drew a wide array of subjects captured by amateur and professional photographers from around the globe.

The Royal Observatory has culled through over 800 entries from astronomers and astro-photographers around the world to release its compilation of the best astronomy photos of 2012. The contest is run by Royal Observatory Greenwich and Sky at Night Magazine.

Should you have plans to be in London, an exhibition featuring the work is on display at the Royal Observatory Greenwich Planetarium throughout October 2012 in “The Universe Exposed: photographing the cosmos.”

TIME animals

Tiny Beauties: Visions From Under the Microscope

A global photography contest produces stunning images from an invisible world

The folks at Olympus know a thing or two about what makes a pretty picture. One thing they appreciate is that the most striking images are often the ones that are too small to see. That’s why they sponsor the Olympus BioScapes Digital Imaging competition, soliciting photographs captured under the microscope by competitors from around the world. Of the thousands of images they received in 2012, they chose 10 winners. The first place finisher receives either an Olympus microscope or camera equipment, both valued at $5,000. The rest of us get some of the most improbably beautiful sights we’d otherwise never hope to see.

TIME animals

Killing Wolves Increases Cattle and Sheep Deaths, Study Finds

Wolf
Getty Images

Increased wolf control meant more dead livestock, study found

Killing wolves that prey on sheep and cattle leads to the death of more livestock, according to a new study.

Prior to the Washington State University study, the practice of culling wolves to save livestock had been a “widely accepted, but untested, hypothesis,” according to the authors. But it may be that killing wolves disrupts wolf packs in a way that leads them to hunt for livestock, which are relatively stationary, rather than the more mobile deer and elk.

“The odds of livestock depredations increased 4% for sheep and 5–6% for cattle with increased wolf control,” the study found.

The study, which looks at 25 years of government data, found that killing wolves only helps protect livestock after 25% of a wolf population has been killed. But regulations designed to protect wildlife make it unfeasible to kill that many of the animal.

“The only way you’re going to completely eliminate livestock depredations is to get rid of all the wolves,” said study author Rob Wielgus, a Washington State University wildlife biologist. “Society has told us that that’s not going to happen.”

TIME animals

This Is How Electric Eels Shock Their Victims

Electric Eel
Getty Images

The predators have a two-pronged tactic to "remotely control" their prey

In the battle of electric eel vs. prey, it turns out electric eels have an even greater advantage than we thought.

A new study published in the journal Science reveals the mechanics of the eel’s electric discharge, showing how the predators use this biological weapon to “remotely control their target.”

When an eel is pursuing a fish and doesn’t want it to get away it can emit an electric charge from its organs that stuns its victim, according to research by Vanderbilt University’s Kenneth Catania. The elongated fish uses “high-frequency volleys to induce immobilizing whole-body muscle contraction.”

MORE: The Top 10 New Species of 2014

And when an eel is looking for prey and cannot find any, it uses a different tactic: the eel releases electricity in two or three batches, which actually causes nearby fish to twitch, revealing their hiding place.

It’s an electric eel’s world and tiny fish are just living in it.

Read next: And Then Here’s an Owl Going for a Swim in Lake Michigan

TIME space

Orion Successfully Completes Space Mission

After three postponements Thursday

The Orion spacecraft successfully touched down in the Pacific Ocean Friday morning, 4.5 hours after launching into space.

NASA had called off three successive countdowns on Thursday in the wake of wind gusts and valve problems with the vessel, but the mission went off as planned Friday.

“There’s your new spacecraft, America,” Mission Control commentator Rob Navias said moments before the Orion capsule landed in the water, the AP reports.

The experimental craft orbited the Earth twice and traveled a distance of 3,600 miles into space before the landing. The Orion project is a Lockheed Martin and Boeing joint venture that undertakes commercial and U.S. government launches.

“The flight is designed to test many of the most vital elements for human spaceflight and will provide critical data needed to improve Orion’s design and reduce risks to future mission crews,” read a NASA statement.

TIME People

James Watson’s Nobel Prize Medal Sells at Auction for More Than $4 Million

Literacy Partners 26th Annual Evening Of Readings Pre-Gala Kick-Off
Noble Prize winner, Dr. James Watson, attends the Literacy Partners 26th annual Evening of Readings pre-gala kick-off at Michael's on March 1, 2010 in New York City. Gary Gershoff—WireImage

Awarded in 1962 for shared discovery of double-helix structure of DNA

A Nobel Prize medal awarded to a scientist in 1962 for the discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA was said to set a new record for one of the honors at an auction on Thursday.

Though Christie’s in Manhattan set the estimated haul for James D. Watson’s prize between $2.5 and $3.5 million, an anonymous bidder bought it for $4.1 million, the New York Times reports. The total rose to $4.76 million due to the buyer’s premium, which goes to the auction house. Watson, who watched from the back of the room with family members, acknowledged plans to give a portion of the proceeds to the various schools he attended to “support and empower scientific discovery.”

MORE: The Mortification of James Watson

The gifts may help rehabilitate Watson’s image. Though he made the discovery for which he won the prize at 24, the 86-year-old became persona non grata in the scientific community seven years ago when he told The Sunday Times of London that he was pessimistic about making advancements in Africa because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours, whereas all the testing says not really.” He later apologized, saying, “There is no scientific basis for such a belief.”

Jack Wang, a chief executive of a Chinese biotech company, bought the medal that belonged to one of Watson’s partners in his discovery, Francis Crick, for $2.27 million last year.

[NYT]

TIME climate change

Watch the Science Cop Take on Climate Change Denying Senator Jim Inhofe

The climate denier in charge of the Senate Climate Committee

You don’t have to be a general to be head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, but if you don’t at least believe in the existence of a military, we’ve got a problem on our hands.

The country is about to face something similar in January, when the GOP takes control of the U.S. Senate and Oklahoma’s James Inhofe — Congress’s most vocal global warming denier — becomes chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Inhofe, who has called climate change “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,” not only sniffs at what the overwhelming majority of climatologists know to be true, he actually tries to go toe to toe with them on the science. And that’s where he exposes how little he knows — and how wrong he is. The Science Cop explains.

TIME

‘Unprecedented': Drug May Help Heal Damaged Spine

The drug helped rats with spinal injuries move their back legs again

Researchers say they’ve developed a drug that may help heal a damaged spine — the first time anything like a drug has been shown to help.

The drug works on nerve cells that are cut, sending connections across the break, and it helped injured rats move their back legs again and also gave them back control of their bladders.

“This recovery is unprecedented,” said Jerry Silver, a neuroscience professor at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio who led the study.

Right now, there’s no good way to heal a broken spine. Sometimes people grow nerve cells back, but usually not. […]

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME space

NASA Orion Launch Postponed Till Friday

NASA hopes the spacecraft will make it to Mars one day

A series of problems forced NASA to delay a planned launch of its its new Orion spacecraft on Thursday.

The next launch attempt is slated for Friday at 7:05 a.m. ET.

The launch, an early step in NASA’s mission to send people to Mars, was set to begin at 7:05 a.m. ET on Thursday but was delayed multiple times for a variety of reasons, including a boat in the area and valve trouble on the core booster. Thursday’s launch window closed at 9:44 a.m. ET.

The un-crewed Orion is intended to orbit 3,600 miles above Earth before it finally crashes into the Pacific Ocean. It will measure the effects of high radiation zones on the spacecraft, which has a heat shield to withstand massive temperatures when it speeds into the atmosphere at 20,000 mph, before finally hitting the ocean.

There will be more test-runs to come for Orion, a vessel that NASA hopes will ultimately take astronauts into new places–maybe even Mars.

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