Italy avalanche: A cruel coincidence

Rigopiano hotel Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Rescuers battled overnight to reach the Rigopiano hotel

It's a cruel coincidence that the latest swarm of big quakes to strike the Apennines region of Italy should occur just after a period of very heavy snow.

The sizeable tremors - four magnitude fives in the space of four hours on Wednesday - appear to have triggered an avalanche that swept into the Rigopiano hotel in the Grand Sasso resort area, killing many of its occupants.

The deep drifts have made it difficult for emergency workers to reach the smothered building and deal with the crisis.

Earthquakes cannot be predicted with precision but seismologists had suspected this particular area of central Italy would experience another batch of serious tremors sooner or later.

What we're seeing is a classic case of gap filling - of previous quakes stress-loading adjacent zones, which then fail themselves as a direct consequence.

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To see finally the face of Peggy

Peggy Image copyright NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI
Image caption When first identified Peggy was picked up as a long, bright smudge at the edge of Saturn's A-ring

Will Peggy finally reveal herself?

Scientists studying the splendour of Saturn's rings are hoping soon to get a resolved picture of an embedded object they know exists but cannot quite see.

Read full article To see finally the face of Peggy

Recruiting prawns to fight river parasite

Media captionSusanne Sokolow: "The prawns voraciously eat the snails"

Making sure certain rivers are fully stocked with prawns could prove to be an important contribution to fighting schistosomiasis.

The parasitic worm disease is endemic in many parts of the tropics and sub-tropics. Africa is a hotspot.

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Norcia earthquake: Why multiple quakes are hitting Italy

Aerial view of Amatrice - 30 October (firefighters' handout) Image copyright EPA
Image caption The town of Amatrice has been hit by earthquakes several times in recent months

Sunday's early-morning quake near the town of Norcia is the biggest in Italy since the Magnitude-6.9 Irpinia event in the south of the country in 1980.

Back then, some 2,500 people died and more than 7,000 were injured. Thankfully, we are not expecting loss of life on that scale here.

Read full article Norcia earthquake: Why multiple quakes are hitting Italy

Schiaparelli: The imperative to touch another world

Schiaparelli probe

"Dare to fail" is one of those mantras that engineers like to repeat. It's how you learn.

That is certainly the attitude being taken by the European Space Agency (Esa) in the wake of its Schiaparelli mishap.

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Europe must find another Rosetta

Sylvain Lodiot Image copyright ESA
Image caption End of mission announcement: "Thank you and goodbye"

It was the strangest of atmospheres. Quite sombre, actually. Akin almost to a wake.

Controllers had waited in silence for a radio signal to drop off their screens. It did so, abruptly, indicating that the billion-euro Rosetta mission had finally come to an end.

Read full article Europe must find another Rosetta

Gaia clocks speedy cosmic expansion

Artwork Gaia and Milky Way Image copyright ESA
Image caption Artwork: Gaia is making the definitive map of our Milky Way Galaxy

Europe’s Gaia space telescope has been used to clock the expansion rate of the Universe and - once again - it has produced some head-scratching.

The reason? The speed is faster than what one would expect from measurements of the cosmos shortly after the Big Bang.

Read full article Gaia clocks speedy cosmic expansion

Falcon blast to reverberate across space industry

Explosion Image copyright TIA GRANT
Image caption A thick pall of smoke drifts across the Cape after the explosion

It is usual for SpaceX to do a "hot fire" test a few days before a launch.

The procedure involves holding down the Falcon 9 on its launch pad and then igniting its Merlin engines.

Read full article Falcon blast to reverberate across space industry

Quakes 'ever present' for Apennines

Amatrice quake Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Every so often, one of the faults that run along the Apennines will rupture

Quakes are the ever present danger for those who live along the Apennine mountain range in Italy.

Through the centuries thousands have died as a result of tremors equal to, or not much bigger than, the event that struck in the early hours of Wednesday.

Read full article Quakes 'ever present' for Apennines

Aeolus space laser catches a following wind

Artwork Image copyright ESA
Image caption The mission's full name is Atmospheric Dynamics Mission (ADM-Aeolus)

Europe’s Aeolus space laser mission, which is designed to make unprecedented maps of Earth’s winds, has reached a long-awaited key milestone.

Engineers at Airbus in the UK have finally managed to bolt together all the elements of the satellite after overcoming major technical challenges.

Read full article Aeolus space laser catches a following wind