Behind the Headlines
Explore our world, one headline at a time.
World Book Editors break down the news in our Behind the Headlines feature allowing for a deeper understanding of the complex events that shape our world today. Behind the Headlines articles are carefully crafted presenting the latest national and world news, science discoveries, current events and other top stories and are simplified for young readers.


Central Mexico Shakes

Two days ago, on September 19, a powerful 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck central Mexico, collapsing buildings and killing more than 240 people in Mexico City, the capital, and in the states of Guerrero, México, Morelos, Oaxaca, and Puebla.

Irma’s Heavy Impact

Last week, on September 6, the massive storm known as Hurricane Irma began ravaging the Leeward Islands of the eastern Caribbean Sea. The storm then roared over Puerto Rico and Cuba before reaching southern Florida on September 10.

Mexico’s Terrifying Temblor

​Just before midnight on Thursday, September 7, a powerful earthquake caused death and destruction in southern Mexico. The 8.1-magnitude quake, the strongest in the region in decades, centered just off the Pacific coast states of Chiapas and Oaxaca.

Mudslide Disaster in Sierra Leone

​Last week, in the early hours of August 14, heavy rains and flooding caused a massive mudslide on the outskirts of Freetown, the capital city of the small west African nation of Sierra Leone. The mudslide buried parts of Regent, a settlement perched on the slopes of Mount Sugar Loaf overlooking Freetown.

Moon, Sun, Eclipse

Yesterday, on August 21, huge crowds gathered across the United Statesto watch the solar eclipse within the path of totality, the 70-mile (113-kilometer) wide swath of land from Oregon to South Carolina where the moon completely covered the sun.

Coming Attraction: A Total Eclipse

Get ready! On Monday, August 21, if you live in the United States from Oregon to South Carolina, you will be able to experience one of nature’s most impressive sights–a total eclipse of the sun. Across the United States, large crowds are expected in towns, cities, and campsites along the path of totality for the spectacular celestial show.

Ekka Time in Australia

This week in Brisbane, a city in Australia’s northeastern state of Queensland, many thousands of people are crowding into the Queensland Ekka, an event officially known as the Royal Queensland Show.

London’s Grenfell Tragedy

​Last month, on June 14, a fire destroyed much of Grenfell Tower, a 24-story apartment building in London, England. The fire, which took place in the city’s Kensington district, killed at least 80 people—the deadliest fire in London since World War II (1939-1945).

Iraq’s Battle of Mosul

​On July 10, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory for government forces in their bloody battle with Islamic State militants for possession of the northern city of Mosul.

Ice Memory: A Glacier Archive

​Last month, in June, an international team of researchers and scientists braved heavy snows, freezing winds, and thin air to extract ice core samples from the Illimani glacier high in the Andes Mountains of Bolivia. The samples were the latest collected by teams from Ice Memory, a project aiming to gather ice samples from endangered glaciers around the world.

Astana Expo 2017

On June 10, the Expo 2017 international exhibition opened in Astana, the capital city of Kazakhstan, a country in west-central Asia. Expo 2017—like so many exhibitions and fairs before it—is a celebration of international commerce, industry, and science. The theme for Expo 2017 is “Future Energy,” concentrating on clean energy innovations as well as creative ideas for the future.

A New Champ in Indianapolis

​On Sunday, May 28, 40-year-old Takuma Sato became the first Japaneserace car driver to win the Indianapolis 500, the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Sato, a Tokyo-born veteran Formula One driver, took the checkered flag just 0.2011 seconds—faster than the blink of an eye—ahead of three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Hélio Castroneves, who made repeated attempts to pass Sato in the race’s closing laps.

The Last Greatest Show on Earth

​On Sunday, May 21, the iconic Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus gave its final performance at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. The grand finale of the traveling circus, long billed as the “Greatest Show on Earth,” came after years of evolving cultural tastes, declining revenues, and increasing costs.

Glacier Park Losing its Glaciers

​Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana may soon be without any of its trademark glaciers. Many of the park’s largest glaciers have lost much of their former size in the last 50 years, according to surveys published by the United States Geological Service (USGS) and Portland State University in Oregon.

Hot Water in Icy Space

​Enceladus, an icy moon orbiting Saturn, is quickly becoming one of the hottest spots in the search for life beyond Earth. A group of scientists led by J. Hunter Waite of the Southwestern Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, has determined that hydrothermal vents (flows of heated water) likely exist in a global ocean beneath Enceladus’s icy crust. These vents could possibly be home to life forms. Waite and his team published their findings last month in the journal Science.

Portugal Takes Eurovision 2017

​On Saturday, May 13, Portugal’s Salvador Sobral won the Eurovision Song Contest with the song, “Amar Pelos Dois” (Love for Both of Us). The Portuguese-language ballad was written by Sobral’s sister, Luisa. Sobral is the first Portuguese artist to win the the hugely popular European contest.

Record U.S. Space Time

Last month, on April 24, United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronaut Peggy Whitson set a new record for cumulative time in space by an American astronaut as she began her 535th day beyond Earth’s atmosphere. Currently on board the International Space Station (ISS), Whitson surpassed the previous record of 534 total space days set by astronaut Jeffrey Williams in 2016.

A Unique Martian Potato

Human exploration of Mars is one of the primary long-term goals of such space agencies as the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA). But before people get there, scientists must solve a host of problems. First among them will be how to feed astronauts during an extended stay in the harsh environment of the Red Planet.

A Canadian River’s Sudden End

In Canada’s Yukon territory, increased melting of the vast Kaskawulsh Glacier has caused the nearby Slims River to run dry. The Slims, once a gushing channel of glacial melt water, is now a waterless expanse of mud and dust.

Shaking the Dino Family Tree

For decades, dinosaurs have been grouped into two broad categories: long-necked sauropods and meat-eating theropods (along with birds) in one group, and the remaining plant-eaters, such as Stegosaurus, Triceratops, and Iguanodon, in the other. In March, a group led by Matthew G. Baron from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom challenged that view. They published their findings in the prestigious scientific journal Nature.

Rocket Recycling

​Late last month, Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (commonly called SpaceX) made aerospace history. After propelling a communication satellite into orbit, the first stage of one of the company’s Falcon 9 rockets landed on a drone ship (uncrewed barge) in the Atlantic Ocean. But this booster had been there before. SpaceX successfully reused a booster that had been launched during a previous mission. The achievement has been widely hailed as the dawn of a new era in commercial spaceflight.

Australia’s Ancient Tracks

​For thousands of years, indigenous (native) people of Western Australia knew about giant ancient footprints along the shore of the Indian Ocean. But only recently have scientists learned about, and been able to study, the tracks, which were made by dinosaurs some 100 million years ago.

2017 Pulitzer Prizes

The winners of the 101st Pulitzer Prizes were announced yesterday by Columbia University on the recommendation of the Pulitzer Prize Board. The awards are given in the United States each year for distinguished achievement in journalism, literature, drama, and music.

New Puppet Toads–of the Dead

Scientists, never satisfied with the current number of known frogs in the world, have added two new species of toads to the ever-growing list. These new toads, native to Indonesia, have DNA so different from other toads that scientists went a step further and gave them their own genus, Sigalegalephrynus. When classifying living things, a genus (a group of related animals or plants) ranks below a family or subfamily and above a species.

Carolina’s Basketball Champs

​Carolina (North & South) college basketball reached its apex over the past couple nights as the men’s and women’s NCAA Division I Basketball Tournaments came to a close. On the women’s side Sunday night, the University of South Carolina Gamecocks downed the Mississippi State University Bulldogs 67-55 to win their first NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) championship. Last night, the University of North Carolina Tar Heels men claimed their sixth national title with a 71-65 win over the Gonzaga University Bulldogs (of Spokane, Washington).

Las Fallas: Valencia’s Fire Festival

This week, the Spanish city of Valencia hosts one the world’s more unique holiday celebrations: las Fallas (or les Falles). In Valencia, a falla is a type of torch, and for the festival, artistic monuments (also called fallas) are built and ceremoniously burned in the streets. The fire festival of las Fallas celebrates the coming of spring, lasting several days before culminating on the feast day of San José (Saint Joseph), March 19.

India’s New Night Frogs

After five years of exploration and study in the mountainous Western Ghats region of India, scientists have announced the discovery of seven new species (kinds) of frogs. Four of these new species are among the tiniest known frogs in the world, small enough to gather more than one on a 5-rupee coin (the rupee is the chief monetary unit of India).

Women’s History Month: International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day (IWD), and in honor of Women’s History Month, we look at this global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. In recent years, the day has also become a call to action for accelerating gender parity. IWD is celebrated around the world with arts performances, conferences, marches, rallies, talks, and networking events.

Exploring the Amazon Reef

Off the coast of Brazil, where the Amazon River spills into the Atlantic Ocean, scientists are taking the first up-close and personal look at the recently discovered Amazon Reef. Existence of the large coral reef was not confirmed until an oceanographic survey of the area in 2012. The survey’s findings were published in 2016, and in late January 2017, scientists began exploring the reef two-by-two in a small submarine, the exploration craft of the Greenpeace ship Esperanza.In the late 1950’s, a ship collected sponges—animals that often inhabit coral reefs—from the floor of the Amazon Delta.

Supernova Spotting

In October 2013, an international team of scientists lead by Ofer Yaron, an astrophysicist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, detected and studied a supernova that occurred in a distant galaxy within three hours of the explosion’s light first reaching Earth. Thanks to the timely observations, the team was able to learn a lot about the star and the explosion that consumed it. The team published its findings in February 2017 in the journal Nature Physics.

The Star Wars Gibbon

Move over, Luke, there’s a new Skywalker in town! A new species (kind) of gibbon, the Skywalker hoolock gibbon, has been found living in the tropical rain forests of southwestern China and northeastern Myanmar.

Rare Ruby Seadragon

Australia’s rare ruby seadragon has recently been seen alive for the first time. Because of rough sea conditions, a team of researchers had just one day to find the elusive “monster” off the coast of southern Australia. The ruby seadragon lives in waters too deep for human divers, so the team used a remote-controlled submersible (undersea vessel) to scour the murky sea bottom.

Australia Day 2017

Today, January 26, Australia celebrates Australia Day, an annual national holiday honoring the country’s past, present, and future. The date commemorates the day in 1788 that Arthur Phillip raised a British flag at Sydney Cove.

The Fall of Rusty Patched Bumble Bees

For the first time in the continental United States, a wild bee has been designated as an endangered species In the past 20 years, the insect’s population has dropped 87 percent because of habitat loss, disease, pesticides, and climate change.

Frida Kahlo at The Dalí

In December 2016, an exhibition of the work of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo opened at the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. The museum, home to a broad collection of the works of Spanish artist Salvador Dalí, is showing more than 60 of Kahlo’s works through the middle of April 2017. “Frida Kahlo at the Dalí” includes 15 paintings, 7 drawings, and numerous photographs.

South Australia’s Ancient Warratyi

A brief call of nature recently led an Aboriginal man to discover a site preserving some of the oldest known evidence of human settlement in Australia. Clifford Coulthard, an Adnyamathanha elder, stumbled across a rock shelter during a brief bathroom break while surveying in the northern Flinders Range with archaeologist Giles Hamm of La Trobe University in Melbourne.

An Infant King Turns 700

Today, November 15, is the 700th anniversary of the birth of King John I of France in 1316. Never heard of him? Well, a few things make John I a unique (but also rather obscure) figure in French history. First, he was the last in direct father-son succession of the Capetian dynasty, a line of kings that ruled France from 987 to 1328.

Highway Travel-by-Number

Ninety years ago today, on Nov. 11, 1926, the government of the United States did motorists across the nation a great favor by introducing a national system of numbered highways. Before people started navigating through smartphones with GPS, people actually read maps and road signs to find their way around.

Australia’s New Flasher Frog

Flash! Flash! Flash! No, it’s not photographers following around Hollywood stars. It’s a new species of frog that flashes in a different kind of way, with a showy display to ward off attackers.

America Goes Trump

In a shocking result, voters in the United States elected Republican businessman Donald Trump to be the nation’s next president. Trump upended Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton, who had been widely expected to win the election.

Paris Climate Agreement

Yesterday, November 7, officials from around the world gathered in Marrakech, Morocco, for the 2016 United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference, or COP22. COP22 is an acronym for the 22nd annual session of the Conference of the Parties. The meetings come on the heels of the Friday, November 4, entry into force of COP21’s Paris Climate Agreement. One hundred countries—including the two considered to be the greatest polluters, China and the United States—have ratified the agreement for nations to report their greenhouse gas emissions.

Monster Monday: the Box Jellyfish

Under water, the box jellyfish is practically invisible. It is one of the most venomous animals on Earth. It kills more people each year than sharks do. At most, however, it weighs only about 4½ pounds (2 kilograms). This Monster Monday critter packs a lot of pain into a small package.

ExoMars Good and Bad

Last month, on October 19, Mars claimed another victim. A landing module named Schiaparelli, designed by the European Space Agency (ESA) and Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, accidentally smashed into the Martian surface at more than 180 miles (300 kilometers) per hour. Schiaparelli (named for the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli, who studied Mars in the late 1800′s) was destroyed, but the mission was not a total failure. The Mars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), launched with Schiaparelli, successfully entered into orbit around the Red Planet.

Saving New Zealand’s Kiwi

How do you eliminate pests or an invasive species (introduced species that spreads quickly and harms native wildlife)? These kinds of organisms can wreak havoc on native ecosystems—so much so, that they can cause native species to become endangered or even extinct in their own homeland. This is exactly what’s happening in New Zealand.

Mount Rushmore Turns 75

Yesterday, October 31, was the 75th anniversary of the completion of theMount Rushmore National Memorial. Carved into on a granite cliff in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the giant-sized presidential faces on Mount Rushmore have symbolized American creativity and history, as well as the nation’s variety of natural beauty, since the memorial opened in 1941.

The Wonderful World Series

Tonight, October 25, the Major League Baseball (MLB) World Series begins in Cleveland, Ohio. The World Series determines the MLB champion each autumn, but the teams involved in this year’s series make it a little extra special.

A Boomerang Killed Kaakutja

Australian forensic science experts recently helped solve a centuries-old murder mystery when they determined that wounds on a prehistoric skeleton were inflicted by a boomerang.

The Wrath of Hurricane Matthew

This past weekend, Hurricane Matthew ravaged the southeast Atlantic coast of the United States, causing flooding and accidents that killed at least 33 people in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia.

The “Other” Nobel Prizes

The Ig Nobels, a parody of the “other” Nobels, celebrate the more humorous, witty, and sometimes trivial side of science. Many of the projects honored at the Ig Nobels are done purely for fun, but the projects (and their creators) are not without merit or the possibility of importance.

National Museum of African American History and Culture

On Saturday, September 24, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) opened to the public in Washington, D.C. Located on the National Mall, the museum details the history of slavery, the period of Reconstruction, the Harlem Renaissance, segregation, and civil rights.

Mapping the Milky Way

The Milky Way Galaxy is our home, but we know surprisingly little about it. Last week, on September 14, the European Space Agency (ESA) released a wealth of data gathered by the space probe Gaia (named after the ancient Greek goddess Gaia).

A Giraffe by Any Other Name

Extensive sampling of giraffe populations from previously recognized giraffe subspecies, under the one and only giraffe species (Giraffa camelopardalis), has turned up a great surprise: instead of just one species of giraffe, there may be four!

Saving California’s Island Fox

Once teetering on the brink of extinction, the rare island fox of California’s Channel Islands has made the quickest recovery yet for a North American mammal in the history of the Endangered Species Act.

Star Trek Turns 50

Fifty years ago today, on Sept. 8, 1966, the science-fiction televisionprogram “Star Trek” first aired on NBC in the United States and CTV in Canada.

The Pale Red Dot: Proxima b

On August 24, scientists from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) announced that they had discovered an extrasolar (beyond our solar system) planet, or exoplanet, that may harbor conditions favorable to life.

National Park Service Centennial

Today, August 25, is the 100th anniversary of the creation of the National Park Service (NPS). The NPS is a bureau of the United States Department of the Interior. It manages the approximately 400 areas of the National Park System.

Monkey Stone Age

​Monkeys in the Amazon rain forest likely entered their own Stone Agemore than 700 years ago, according to scientists investigating a fascinating site at Serra da Capivara National Park in northeastern Brazil.

The Air Force’s New Lightning

​On August 2, the United States Air Force declared its new F-35 Lightning II fighter planes ready for combat. The F-35 (F is the Air Force designation for a fighter plane) is a “fifth generation” fighter, combining advanced stealth technology with heavy firepower, long range, high speed, and remarkable agility.

The Battle of Long Tan: 50 Years After

August 18, 2016, marks the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan, Australia’s first major conflict in the Vietnam War. In that battle, a small group of soldiers from Australia and New Zealand defeated a much larger enemy force.

A Frankenstein Galaxy of Spare Parts

​In a sleepy section of the visible universe there lurks a huge galaxy with a bizarre patchwork of features. The galaxy was known to astronomers, but its large size and strange attributes went unnoticed for decades.

Olympic August: Christ the Redeemer

Tonight, the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games will take place in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. Millions of people around the world will tune in to watch the pomp and circumstance of the parade of the national teams as they enter Rio’s famous Maracanã Stadium.

Sunny Solar Impulse 2 August 2, 2016

​Last week, on July 26, the solar-powered airplane Solar Impulse 2 landed in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, completing the first-ever zero-fuel flight around Earth. Swiss pilot Bertrand Piccard flew the final leg from Cairo, Egypt, to Abu Dhabi’s Al-Bateen Executive Airport, a grueling 48½-hour journey buffeted by hot desert air-driven turbulence.

Pokémon Goes!

Pokémon Go leads a player on the game path in Tarragona, Spain, on July 18, 2016.Credit: © Nito, Shutterstock Millions of players are taking to the streets to play Pokémon Go, a mobile gaming...

Ancient Wings in Amber

​Late last month, paleontologists (scientists who study fossils) announced an amazing discovery. Researchers led by Lida Xing at the ChinaUniversity of Geosciences in Beijing had discovered two bird wings preserved in amber. They published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

AL All-Stars Top NL

Tuesday night, July 12, the powerful All-Star bats of the American League (AL) triumphed over the National League (NL) 4-2 at the Major League Baseball (MLB) All-Star Game at PETCO Park in San Diego, California.

Africa's Deep Helium Pool

Photo Credit: © AP Photo: Helium lifts weather balloons high into the atmosphere to record and transmit local weather information. Raise a toast—and a helium-filled balloon—to researchers from Durham...

The Battle of the Somme: 100 Years

Photo information: British troops go “over the top” during the 1916 Battle of the Somme in northern France. Credit: © Paul Popper, Popperfoto/Getty Images Today, July 1, is the 100th anniversary of...

Climate Change Victim One

About the photo: The Bramble Cay melomys (Melomys rubicola)—seen here in 2002—has vanished from the Earth. Scientists believe the small rodent is the first mammal victim of climate change. Credit:...