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.


Colliding Neutron Stars

On August 17, a faint chirp from instruments at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) in the United States set off a mad scramble in observatories around the world to catch a glimpse of something never before observed: the cosmic collision of two neutron stars (an event called a kilonova).

TC4: Earth’s Close Shave

Yesterday, on Thursday, October 12, a house-sized asteroid buzzed Earth, passing within the orbit of the moon and uncomfortably close to hundreds of orbiting communications and weather satellites. Officials at the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) insisted there was never any danger of a collision.

Mythic Monday: Winged Pegasus

Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superhorse! If you have ever stargazed in the Northern Hemisphere, you might have noticed Pegasus, a constellation resembling part of a horse.

The September Equinox

Today, at 4:02 p.m. Eastern Time, the autumnal equinox marks the beginning of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere, where the seasons are reversed, the event is called the vernal equinox and marks the start of spring.

Cassini’s Grand Finale

Cassini is gone. For more than 13 years, the space probe revealed the secrets of Saturn. It ended its mission in a blaze of glory on Friday, September 15, crashing into the planet it had studied for so long.

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.

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.

Mythic Monday: Martial Mars

​This week’s mythology star, Mars, the god of war, held a special place in the hearts of the ancient Romans—not because of the god’s warlike nature but because the Romans considered him the father of the legendary founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus.

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.

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.

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.

How Many Moonlets to a Moon?

One of the greatest questions in the formation of the solar system is in our own planetary back yard: how was the moon made? A new hypothesis was published last month in Nature Geoscience.

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.

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).

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.

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.

June Solstice

About the photo: When the North Pole has its greatest slant toward the sun, left, summer begins in the Northern Hemisphere and winter begins in the Southern Hemisphere. Credit: WORLD BOOK map Have...