Long ago, 15 bright radio pulses emerged from a dwarf galaxy about 3 billion light years away from Earth. Last Saturday, a telescope in a remote area of West Virginia picked up those signals from a distant corner of the universe, and yesterday, a group of astronomers and astrophysicists shared preliminary results on their observations.
In the hours before dawn on March 11, 1437, the constellation Scorpio rose over the horizon near Seoul, Korea. Astronomers tasked with scanning the sky and noting nightly changes—aurorae, comets, shooting stars and the like—noticed something odd about the group of stars they called the tail of the dragon, one of the lunar mansions of the night sky.
When subjected to the pressures (and temperatures) of other planets, even familiar substances can get pretty alien. Case in point: the diamond rains of the ice giants. Scientists have long thought that massive planets like Neptune and Uranus—which probably-maybe (or maybe-probably) contain relatively tiny rocky cores covered with a mantle of slurried water, ammonia, and methane ices and surrounded by a thick atmosphere — are subject to rain made of literal diamonds. Now researchers have synthesised the process in a lab, showing how such conditions might occur.
A syzygy feels magical, and not just because it gets you at least 25 points in Scrabble. The whole concept of celestial bodies aligning feels poetic. When it results in a total solar eclipse here on Earth, you can feel for a few moments as though you're part of something much greater and grander than yourself. The transience only makes it more beautiful. Which is why thousands of people will flock to the path of totality on August 21, 2017: to witness a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon.