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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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 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).
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.
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.
On Saturday, July 16, a South African meerkat made international news, but it wasn’t one of the cute and cuddly critters of TV’s “Meerkat Manor.”