Full thrust on Europe's new Ariane 6 rocket

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Media captionThe Vinci engine can be reignited multiple times

Manufacturers say they are making rapid progress in the development of Europe's new rocket - the Ariane 6.

The vehicle is due to enter service in 2020, gradually replacing the existing workhorse, the Ariane 5.

The prime contractor, the recently rebranded ArianeGroup, gave an update on the status of the programme here at this week's Paris Air Show.

"We're on track with our roadmap and Ariane 6 is progressing very well," CEO Alain Charmeau told BBC News.

Image copyright ARIANEGROUP
Image caption The Ariane 64 (four strap-on boosters) will be the most powerful version of the rocket

"Perhaps the most spectacular highlight at the moment is the testing of our Vinci engine. It's a brand new engine that will be on our new, versatile upper-stage. And on Monday we had another successful test. We're now well above 100 hundred tests."

Read full article Full thrust on Europe's new Ariane 6 rocket

Galileo contract faces Brexit crunch

OHB stand at the Paris Air Show
Image caption OHB stand at the Paris Air Show

The contract will be signed on Thursday giving a German-UK consortium the go-ahead to build another eight satellites for Galileo - Europe's version of GPS.

OHB System of Bremen and SSTL of Guildford have so far produced all of the fully operational satellites in the constellation.

Read full article Galileo contract faces Brexit crunch

Whales reached huge size only recently

Whale Image copyright Silverback Films/BBC
Image caption Being big means they can maximise the opportunities where they exist

Blue whales are the biggest animals that have ever existed on Earth but they only recently* got that way.

This is the extraordinary finding from a new study that examined the fossil record of baleens - the group of filter feeders to which the blues belong.

Read full article Whales reached huge size only recently

Decoding Antarctica's response to a warming world

PIG Image copyright T.Ronge/AWI
Image caption Ice giants of Antarctica: The Polarstern research vessel is almost 120m in length

A tangle of tubes, cables, and actuators - Mebo looks as though it could morph at any moment into one of those Transformer robots from the movies. 

Image copyright T.Ronge/AWI
Image caption This was the seventh different ship from which MeBo has been deployed

The 10-tonne machine is in fact a seabed drilling system, and a very sophisticated one at that. 

Read full article Decoding Antarctica's response to a warming world

Tinkering for science on the Irrawaddy

River Image copyright Photo (C) TU Delft / Floris Papenhuizen
Image caption Going with the flow: The Irrawaddy stretches from source to ocean for about 2,000km

"Poohsticks" is what you might call entry-level hydrology.

Drop twigs over a bridge on the upstream side and then race over to the downstream side to see which bits of wood appear first.

Image copyright Photo (C) TU Delft / Floris Papenhuizen
Image caption Do it yourself science... that is also edible. Some drifters did go missing

Read full article Tinkering for science on the Irrawaddy

Antarctica's troublesome 'hairdryer winds'

Melt ponds on the Larsen C Ice Shelf Image copyright BAS
Image caption Melt ponds on Larsen C recently photographed from a British Antarctic Survey plane

It's an ill wind that blows no good - at least not for the ice shelves on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula.

A new study has found an atmospheric melting phenomenon in the region to be far more prevalent than anyone had realised.

Read full article Antarctica's troublesome 'hairdryer winds'

Poo sediments record Antarctic 'penguin Pompeii'

Penguins Image copyright STEPHEN ROBERTS

The perilous history of a penguin colony on a small Antarctic island has been recorded in their excrement.

For thousands of years, the birds have nested on the Ardley outcrop where their poop, or guano, would collect at the bottom of a lake.

Read full article Poo sediments record Antarctic 'penguin Pompeii'

Scientists trace South Georgia's giant ice history

Penguins Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The changes that have occurred on South Georgia could be a prelude to what will happen on Antarctica

South Georgia is an island of astonishing beauty - of imposing landscapes, and bewildering numbers of penguins, seals and seabirds.

It also has some impressive ice fields, although none it seems quite like those of the past.

Read full article Scientists trace South Georgia's giant ice history

Boaty McBoatface submarine set for first voyage

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Media captionProf Russell Wynn explains the workings of Boaty McBoatface

The yellow submarine named Boaty McBoatface is set to leave for Antarctica this week on its first science expedition.

The robot is going to map the movement of deep waters that play a critical role in regulating Earth's climate.

Read full article Boaty McBoatface submarine set for first voyage

'Rock star' Archaeopteryx fossil heads for Japan

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Media captionNHM's Lorraine Cornish: "For us, it is one of our most important fossils"

One of the true "rock stars" of the fossil world is going on tour for the first time.

London's Natural History Museum has sent its specimen of Archaeopteryx - the so-called "first bird" - to Japan.

Read full article 'Rock star' Archaeopteryx fossil heads for Japan