See how NASA ships the massive James Webb telescope in a ‘suitcase’ – CNET

The view from inside the "suitcase" as the James Webb Space Telesecope was lowered into place. Note the humans in the back, for a sense of scale.

Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

The James Webb Space Telescope arrived in French Guiana on Tuesday after a 16-day journey that involved a big truck, a barge, a ship and a trip through the Panama Canal. It'll launch into space from this South America destination. NASA has now given us a behind-the-scenes look at the epic shipping process.

JWST made the trip after being packed into what NASA called a "suitcase," a massive special container more formally known as the Space Telescope Transporter for Air, Road and Sea. "This custom container was outfitted for any extreme or unexpected conditions Webb could have encountered during travel," NASA said in a statement Tuesday.

The suitcase would never be OK'd as a carry-on. Sttars clocks in at 168,000 pounds (76,000 kilograms) and stretches 110 feet (33.5 meters) long. JWST is folded up like origami to fit inside, and to prepare it for its eventual launch. 

A NASA video shows the efforts it took to encase the observatory in its suitcase at Northrop Grumman's facilities in California and then drive it to the docks on Sept. 24. The transportation team even checked for potholes along the way to make sure the sensitive telescope wouldn't get jarred. 

A second video shows the complicated process of moving the telescope to the cargo ship that would take it through the Panama Canal. The shipping route was planned out to avoid rough waters.

JWST, a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, is scheduled to launch on an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe's Spaceport on Dec. 18 after years of delays. Though it's close to its final Earth destination now, it still needs to go through a couple of months of preparations prior to launch.

JWST is packed with next-generation technology that'll help it gaze into the past and investigate the origins of our universe. If all goes well, it'll be in operation at the same time as the aging Hubble Space Telescope, which is still hanging on despite a series of technical issues. JWST may be running late, but at last the launch is in sight.  

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Elk with tire stuck around its neck for years finally freed – CNET

This screenshot came from trail camera footage captured in June 2020. 

Video screenshot of Dan Jaynes trailcam by Amanda Kooser/CNET

Over the weekend, a bull elk in Colorado had a great weight taken away. The 600-pound (272-kilogram), 4.5-year-old elk had been wearing a tire around its neck for at least two years. Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers finally caught up to the animal, tranquilized it and removed the tire.

The officers had to cut off the elk's antlers to get the tire off, but that's not as horrifying as it sounds. Bull elks shed their antlers annually, so this one will just be ahead of the curve. 

"We would have preferred to cut the tire and leave the antlers for his rutting activity, but the situation was dynamic and we had to just get the tire off in any way possible," wildlife officer Scott Murdoch said in a statement on Monday.

Thanks to an alert from a local resident, the officers swung into action on Saturday and tracked the bull to where it was hanging out with a herd of about 40 animals.    

The successful attempt came after a series of other tries. It took a few minutes to free the elk from its burden, reverse the sedation from the tranquilizer and let it rejoin its herd. The tire was full of wet pine needles and dirt, so the elk should be feeling quite a bit lighter after the removal.   

The operation was a long time in coming. The elk first came to the attention of Colorado Parks and Wildlife back in mid-2019. A 2020 video detailed the elk's predicament and efforts to track it down.  

The officers reported the elk was in surprisingly good condition, with a little hair rubbed off and a small wound on its neck. "I was actually quite shocked to see how good it looked," Murdoch said.  

Don't worry. This Colorado bull elk was tranquilized so wildlife officers could remove the tire around its neck. It made it through the ordeal.

Pat Hemstreet

The elk isn't the only wild animal to end up in a difficult situation. The agency said it has seen elk, moose, deer and bears entangled in everything from hammocks to holiday lighting to laundry baskets.  

"The saga of this bull elk highlights the need for residents to live responsibly with wildlife in mind," Colorado Parks and Wildlife said. "That includes keeping your property free of obstacles that wildlife can get tangled in or injured by."

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NASA lunar probe captures ghostly image of Jupiter and its moons – CNET

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter captured this far-off portrait of Jupiter in August 2021.

NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

It looks like a marble sitting on velvet. NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been in residence around our moon since 2009, looked out into the solar system and captured an ethereal snapshot of stormy gas giant planet Jupiter. 

The image comes from late August. Brett Denevi, deputy principal investigator for the LRO Camera, highlighted the portrait on Twitter last week, writing, "From the Moon to Jupiter, with Love."   

The image is extraordinary not for its clarity, but for what it represents: a tremendous effort from a spacecraft tasked with orbiting and imaging our moon. LRO is designed to gaze at the moon's surface. It's old, and some of its equipment isn't working like it used to. 

This higher-contrast version of LRO's Jupiter image shows where four of the gas giant's moons can be located in the image.

NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

"The spacecraft is also gracefully aging so the solar panels must be turned away from the sun for as little time as possible," Denevi wrote in a statement. "And then adding in other thermal and timing constraints, the operations team had to work hard to find just the right time to turn the spacecraft toward the outer solar system and scan across Jupiter to get this image."

If you look closely at the snapshot, you'll noticed what looks like a wispy extension on the right side of Jupiter. An annotated version of the image points out that the protrusion is actually the planet's moons Europa and Io. The higher-contrast shot helps the moons Ganymede and Callisto pop out as well.

Thanks to NASA's Juno mission, we have all sorts of lavish close-up views of Jupiter with its swirling storms. Those Juno images are eye-popping, but LRO's stripped-down vision of the planet is a reminder of the versatility and longevity of NASA's lunar spacecraft.

LRO can help us imagine a future where humans are visiting the moon more often and surveying the solar system from a place that's both close and far away.

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16-million-year-old tardigrade trapped in amber a ‘once in a generation’ find – CNET


This lateral view of Paradoryphoribius chronocaribbeus shows how it looks with a stereomicroscope.

Ninon Robin (Harvard/NJIT)

A long, long time ago, a miniscule animal met its end in a sticky trap of tree resin. Sixteen million years later, that tiny tardigrade fossil was discovered in Dominican amber. It's now something of a science celebrity. Talk about a glow-up.

The fossil tardigrade is remarkable for its rarity and for being a new species and a new genus.  

Tardigrades are known as "water bears" due to their appearance when seen under a microscope (here's what they look like when they walk). They're nearly invincible, able to survive exposure to space and even being shot out of a gas gun (to a point). 

While the fossil micro-animal looked like a modern tardigrade on the outside, researchers were also able to examine its innards. "Of all the currently known and formally named tardigrade amber fossils (three so far, including this Dominican amber fossil), this is the first fossil wherein we were able to visualize its internal structure (i.e. foregut)," Marc Mapalo, a doctoral candidate at Harvard University, told me. Mapalo is lead author of a paper on the find published this week in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The tardigrade was so different from known specimens it earned its own genus and the name Paradoryphoribius chronocaribbeus.

This artistic rendering shows what Paradoryphoribius chronocaribbeus might have looked like.

Holly Sullivan (Harvard/NJIT)

"The discovery of a fossil tardigrade is truly a once-in-a-generation event," said co-author Phil Barden in a New Jersey Institute of Technology statement on Tuesday. Barden's lab found the fossil. 

Spotting a teensy tardigrade that's half a millimeter long in ancient amber is no easy feat. "At first I thought it was an artifact in the amber-- a crack or fissure that just happened to look a lot like a tardigrade," Barden said. The tiny claws tipped him off to what it really was.

Humans can buy tardigrade plush toys, tardigrade-emblazoned T-shirts and even tardigrade jewelry. "As microorganisms they live on a scale that is difficult to comprehend, yet they have these funny little legs and conspicuous cute faces that seem somehow familiar, like the bears they're sometimes named after," Barden said.

The Dominican amber piece with the tardigrade also contained three ants, a beetle and a flower.

Phillip Barden (Harvard/NJIT)

While more tardigrade fossils may yet be found in other amber samples, it's a challenging mission."You could spend the rest of your life screening through amber and never find one," Barden said. He considers the discovery to be "enough tardigrade luck for one career." 

Mapalo hopes the find will encourage researchers to take care when studying amber and to keep their eyes peeled for the critters. The fossilized animals can tell us about how tardigrades have changed over time. There's a lot left to learn about these mighty water bears, both ancient and modern.

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US to declare 23 species extinct, including 11 birds, 8 mussels and a bat – CNET


The ivory-billed woodpecker (left) was last seen in 1944 in Louisiana.

The Birds of America/John James Audubon/Library of Congress

It's a bitter moment when the US Fish & Wildlife Service proposes delisting animals and plants from the Endangered Species Act because they can no longer be found. It means that officials are calling off the search and that the creatures are thought to be beyond saving. On Wednesday, the agency cataloged 23 species it has determined are now extinct.

The agency is seeking comments from the public on the proposal to delist the species, which include the ivory-billed woodpecker, Bachman's warbler, eight species of freshwater mussels, eight birds from Hawaii, a flowering plant and the Little Mariana fruit bat that once lived in Guam. 

"With climate change and natural area loss pushing more and more species to the brink, now is the time to lift up proactive, collaborative, and innovative efforts to save America's wildlife," US Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said in a statement.

The ivory-billed woodpecker was once the country's largest bird of its kind. The last confirmed sighting in the US was in 1944 in Louisiana. The Fish & Wildlife Service traces the woodpecker's extinction to loss of forest habitat and to collection of the birds by humans. Bachman's warbler was a small songbird with a yellow belly that was last seen in the US in 1962.

Eleven of the 23 species are from Hawaii and Guam, "many of which had striking characteristics, such as the long curved beaks of the Kauai akialoa and nukupu'u, the haunting call of the Kauai 'o'o, and the brilliant colors of the Maui akepa and Molokai creeper," the Fish & Wildlife Service said. One of those birds, Kauai nukupu'u, was last seen in Hawaii in 1899.

While fish and mussels may not be as eye-catching as the birds, their disappearances indicate a loss of healthy stream and river systems. 

The Endangered Species Act is intended to protect threatened animals and plants and to help their populations recover. Delisting these species is sad news, but the act has had a tangible impact.

"While protections were provided too late for these 23 species, the ESA has been successful at preventing the extinction of more than 99% of species listed," the Fish & Wildlife Service said.

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Jupiter’s Great Red Spot storm is speeding up but scientists aren’t sure why – CNET

The Hubble Space Telescope snapped this gorgeous look at Jupiter in August 2020.

NASA, ESA, A. Simon (NASA/GSFC), M.H. Wong (University of California, Berkeley) and the OPAL team

Humanity has been following the adventures of Jupiter's Great Red Spot for 150 years, and we've just learned something new about the swirling vortex. The winds along the outer edge of the oval are speeding up. Cue up The Scorpions' "Wind of Change."

The Hubble Space Telescope -- a joint project of NASA and the European Space Agency -- has logged an interesting phenomenon. The wind speeds in the spot's "outer lane" have increased by up to 8% from 2009 to 2020. Meanwhile, NASA said the innermost winds "are moving significantly more slowly, like someone cruising lazily on a sunny Sunday afternoon."

The Great Red Spot's winds whip around counterclockwise, hitting speeds of over 400 mph (644 km/h). The storm alone is bigger than Earth. NASA put together a video showing the wind movement. 

Hubble has been monitoring Jupiter for years. The wind speed change might not have been spotted if it weren't for the telescope's keen eye. 

"We're talking about such a small change that if you didn't have eleven years of Hubble data, we wouldn't know it happened," planetary scientist Amy Simon said in a NASA statement on Monday. Simon is a co-author of a study on the wind published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters (PDF link),

These graphics show how Jupiter's Great Red Spot moves, as well as its rotation speed, which is faster to the outside of the oval.

Science: NASA, ESA, Michael H. Wong (UC Berkeley)

While researchers know the winds are whipping faster, the meaning of the speed increase is a little hard to sort out since Hubble is only able to collect data on what's happening with the cloud tops. It can't peer into the depths below. 

Michael Wong of the University of California at Berkeley --the study's lead author -- described the information as "an interesting piece of data that can help us understand what's fueling the Great Red Spot and how it's maintaining energy."

The scenic Great Red Spot has long been an object of fascination. Some studies show it appears to be shrinking. Scientists in 2019 said not to worry, that they expect it to hang around for years to come. That should give Hubble more chances to monitor the massive storm, assuming the venerable telescope continues to operate despite the occasional technical glitch. Here's to more years of storm-watching, Hubble.

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Luminous aurora seen from ISS drapes Earth in a glowing green veil – CNET

ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet captured a stunner of a view of an aurora during a full moon.

ESA/NASA/Thomas Pesquet

I've seen a lot of photos taken from the International Space Station of auroras floating over Earth in magical waves of glowing light. They have all been worthy of a moment of quiet reflection, but a fresh image from European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet has left me in awe.

Pesquet is currently on board the ISS, circling around in orbit and capturing some fine views of our planet. He called this new aurora image "special as it is so bright" in a tweet on Friday. "It is the full moon lighting up the shadow side of Earth, almost like daylight," he explained.

The ISS image comes from August. Pesquet has been in residence on the ISS since April and is scheduled to return to Earth sometime in November. He has put his space photography skills to good use, recently wowing us with a photo of city lights on Earth mirrored by stars in the darkness.    

Auroras are also known as the northern lights or southern lights. "The dancing lights of the aurora provide spectacular views from the ground, and also capture the imaginations of scientists who study incoming energy and particles from the sun," NASA has said.  

But I'm here for the drop-my-jaw-to-the-floor beauty of Pesquet's image. For the way the clouds swirl and Earth's blue waters peek out from below. For the glowing green radiance reminding me some magic is real.

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NASA Perseverance rover snaps selfies at historic Mars sample site – CNET

NASA's Perseverance rover captured a couple selfies at the "Rochette" rock sample site on Mars.

This story is part of Welcome to Mars, our series exploring the red planet.

NASA's Perseverance Mars rover did something extremely cool: It collected two rock samples on Mars and stashed them into tubes that could one day be brought back to Earth. That achievement was worth a double-selfie celebration.

On Monday, NASA released a pair of rover selfies, one showing the rover "looking" at the rock it drilled for the samples, and the other showing it "looking at the camera." The difference is in the position of the head-like suite of instruments mounted at the top of its mast. 

The rock Perseverance sampled is nicknamed "Rochette." The selfie comes from Sept. 10, and the twin drill holes are clearly visible as two dark circles in the rock. The samples are now safely tucked away, and NASA hopes to send a future mission to retrieve them. The rover will be collecting more rocks as it continues its explorations.

Each version of the portrait is made from 57 images stitched together into a full view of the rover and its surroundings. The rover used a camera on the end of its robotic arm to gather all the shots together.

One key goal of the Perseverance mission is to seek out signs of ancient microbial life in the Jezero Crater, a region that was once home to a lake. The rover is busy studying its surroundings, and it's also looking fabulous while it's doing science. It was a perfect time to take a selfie to commemorate a historic event on Mars.

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See Earth sparkle in knockout views from China’s new space station – CNET

Lights sparkle below in this sweeping view of Earth, space and stars taken from the Tianhe module of China's space station.

Tang Hongbo/China Manned Space Agency

It's been a busy year for China in space. The country has landed a rover on Mars, launched a key module of a new space station into orbit and sent astronauts up for a visit. Those astronauts -- known as taikonauts -- have now gifted us with some seriously stunning views from above.

Taikonauts Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo are currently on their way back to Earth after a three-month stay. The China Manned Space Agency has released a series of photos over the last few weeks showing what Earth looks like from the station's windows. 

Tianhe is the core module of the station, which is coming along in its 18-month construction schedule. The station is expected to be completed by late 2022. 

The Tianhe module's solar array makes a cameo appearance in this view over Earth that shows part of South Africa.

Tang Hongbo/China Manned Space Agency

The views out the window are spectacular, but we also got a photo that includes a Tianhe window, which looks a lot like a porthole on a ship.

This porthole-like window gives China's taikonauts a view of the planet below.

Tang Hongbo/China Manned Space Agency

Hongbo shared a look at his bedroom on board Tianhe, which helps to put the size of the window into perspective. Notice how the bed can be closed up like a sleeping bag. That's so the taikonauts can stay put and not float off in microgravity while they're snoozing.

Taikonaut Tang Hongbo snapped this view of his bedroom on board the Tianhe core module of China's space station.

Tang Hongbo/China Manned Space Agency

The core module is home base in space for the taikonauts. It will get an expansion with the eventual addition of two more modules designed to host research and experiments.

Between China's space station, the International Space Station and now SpaceX's all-private Inspiration4 mission, we're experiencing a welcome outpouring of outstanding photography from orbit. Keep it coming, astronauts, cosmonauts and taikonauts!

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Try to spot the human-made object hiding in this NASA ISS photo – CNET

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei challenged his social media followers to find the human-made object in this photo snapped from the ISS.

Mark Vande Hei/NASA

Most of us will never get on a spacecraft, blast off this rock and spend time in orbit gazing down at the astounding views of Earth below. So we turn to astronauts like NASA's Mark Vande Hei to share that experience through images. Sometimes the experience involves a little bit of hide and seek. 

Vande Hei is currently up on the International Space Station. He used his vantage point to offer us Earth-dwellers a visual challenge this week. "Can you find the human-made object in this photo?" Vande Hei tweeted.

The image shows a wide expanse of blue with fluffy clouds floating along the edge. It looks quiet and peaceful, as if no humans are anywhere near. But they are there. 

Spotting the object may be tricky on a small screen, but blow up the image and sweep your eyes across it to find the answer. Still looking? Here's a hint: It's something that floats. If you're still on the hunt, then go check out the comments on Vande Hei's tweet where keen-eyed viewers have shared the solution. 

If you aced this space-related visual challenge, you should try to find the Perseverance Mars rover hiding out in this red planet snapshot captured by the Ingenuity helicopter. It's even harder.

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