Gravitational waves: So many new toys to unwrap

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Media captionHear the 'sound' of two dead stars colliding

Whenever there's a big science discovery, it's always nice to get a historical perspective. And so here goes with the remarkable observation of gravitational waves emanating from the merger of two dead stars, or neutron stars, some 130 million light-years from Earth.

It's 50 years since the existence of these stellar remnants was confirmed (July 1967) by the mighty Northern Irish astronomer Jocelyn Bell Burnell. It's more than 40 years since we realised neutron stars might occur in pairs, or binaries, as we call them.

"And from that time, it's been clear that occasionally they would approach closer together and have a spectacular splat of some kind," says English Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees.

Well, on 17 August this year, at precisely 12:41:04 UTC, a pair was duly observed to do just that. To have a big splat.


Gravitational waves - Ripples in the fabric of space-time


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Plate tectonics: When we discovered how the Earth really works

Dan McKenzie Image copyright The Geological Society, McKenzie Archive
Image caption Dan McKenzie: The young scientists of the 1960s sought answers that had eluded their elders

What would you put on your list of the great scientific breakthroughs of the 20th Century?

General relativity? Quantum mechanics? Something to do with genetics, perhaps?

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Are Mexico's two September earthquakes connected?

composite image of ruins after separate earthquakes Image copyright AFP
Image caption Were the earthquakes of 7 September (L) and 19 September (R) connected?

Mexico had barely begun to deal with the aftermath of one big quake before another rocked the country. People will naturally ask: are they related? Did one cause the other?

Seismologists will spend a good deal of time in the coming months debating this issue, but on the face of it they look to be unconnected.

Read full article Are Mexico's two September earthquakes connected?

Sir David Attenborough polar science vessel takes shape

Block 10 Image copyright CAMMELL LAIRD
Image caption Block 10's arrival at Birkenhead, with Cammell Laird's construction hall in the far background

The 900-tonne block of steel that will form the stern of Britain's new polar ship is being moved into position at Cammell Laird on Merseyside.

The Birkenhead yard received the rear section of the Sir David Attenborough on a sea-barge at the weekend from Northeast subcontractor A&P Tyne.

Read full article Sir David Attenborough polar science vessel takes shape

Walking in Shackleton's footsteps

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Image caption South Georgia's beaches get very busy during the breeding season

Shackleton's escape from the Antarctic in 1916 is well told.

It is without doubt a remarkable story given the many challenges he and his crew had to overcome after losing their ship, the Endurance.

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UK wants continued EU Copernicus participation

S5P Image copyright Airbus DS/Max Alexander
Image caption Sentinel-5P will make global maps of pollution from an altitude of 824km

The UK has given the clearest statement yet of its desire to stay within the European Union's Copernicus Earth observation programme after Brexit.

EU member states are building the most advanced ever satellite system for monitoring the state of the planet - with Britain playing a major role.

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Earth is becoming 'Planet Plastic'

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Media captionScience reporter Victoria Gill looks at why there is so much plastic on beaches

US scientists have calculated the total amount of plastic ever made and put the number at 8.3 billion tonnes.

It is an astonishing mass of material that has essentially been created only in the last 65 years or so.

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James Webb: Swallowing the biggest space telescope

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Media captionJuli Lander and Alberto Conti: "Chamber was built to test Apollo"

The door has closed on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

The successor to Hubble has been locked tight inside a giant chamber where it will undergo a series of tests to simulate conditions off Earth.

Read full article James Webb: Swallowing the biggest space telescope

Antarctic iceberg: Giant 'white wanderer' poised to break free

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Media captionThe putative iceberg has been modelled using observations from the Cryosat spacecraft

Everybody is fascinated by icebergs. The idea that you can have blocks of frozen water the size of cities, and bigger, sparks our sense of wonder.

British astronaut Tim Peake photographed one from orbit that would just about fit inside Central London's ring road. But at 26km by 13km (16 miles by 8 miles), it was a tiddler compared with the berg that is about to break away from the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula.

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The rock that records how we all got here

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Media captionRichard Herrington: "It's that free oxygen that gives us the diversity of life we have on Earth today"

You're going to want to touch it; you're definitely going to want to run your fingers over its wavy lines.

This 2.5-tonne lump of rock will be one of the new star exhibits when London's Natural History Museum re-opens its front entrance-space in a couple of weeks' time.

Read full article The rock that records how we all got here