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Hungry bug seeks hot meal
Cleaning Up Fish Farms
New Gene Fights Potato Blight
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Spotting the World's Leggiest Animal
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Ultrasonic Frogs Raise the Pitch
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Nice Chimps
A Grim Future for Some Killer Whales
Baby Number Whizzes
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A Diamond Polish for Ancient Tools
When frog gender flips
Undercover Detectives
Computers
New eyes to scan the skies
Secrets of an Ancient Computer
Play for Science
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Ancient Critter Caught Shedding Its Skin
An Ancient Spider's Web
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Earth
Life under Ice
In Antarctica watch the heat (and your step)
Slip Slidin' Away—Under the Sea
Environment
Blooming Jellies
A Change in Time
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Finding the Past
Of Lice and Old Clothes
A Volcano's Deadly Ash
Watching deep-space fireworks
Fish
White Tip Sharks
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Food for Life
Sponges' secret weapon
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GSAT English Rules
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Order of Adjectives
Whoever vs. Whomever
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Monkeys Count
Deep-space dancers
Math of the World
Human Body
Foul Play?
Remembering Facts and Feelings
A Long Haul
Invertebrates
Ants
Tapeworms
Giant Clam
Mammals
Hoofed Mammals
Sun Bear
African Elephants
Parents
How children learn
The Surprising Meaning and Benefits of Nursery Rhymes
What Not to Say to Emerging Readers
Physics
Invisibility Ring
The Pressure of Scuba Diving
Extra Strings for New Sounds
Plants
Cactus Goo for Clean Water
Fungus Hunt
Stalking Plants by Scent
Reptiles
Turtles
Chameleons
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Space and Astronomy
Planets on the Edge
Gravity Tractor as Asteroid Mover
Planning for Mars
Technology and Engineering
Switchable Lenses Improve Vision
Toy Challenge
Sugar Power for Cell Phones
The Parts of Speech
Countable and Uncountable Nouns
Pronouns
What is a Preposition?
Transportation
Ready, unplug, drive
Charged cars that would charge
Where rivers run uphill
Weather
Antarctica warms, which threatens penguins
Science loses out when ice caps melt
Watering the Air
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Ready, Set, Supernova

Stars explode all the time in outer space, but astronomers usually see the explosions only after they've happened. One type of stellar explosion, called a supernova, can glow for days or even months. Now, for the first time, scientists have actually caught a star in the act of going supernova. The research team was using NASA's Swift spacecraft to study a galaxy called NGC 2770. They had aimed the spacecraft's X-ray telescope at a recently discovered supernova. Supernovas are dramatic explosions that happen when a really big star (as least eight times as big as our sun) runs out of fuel. Exploding stars release a lot of energy, much of it in the form of X rays. Just as the telescope began observing the target supernova, the spacecraft recorded a fresh batch of X rays coming from another region in the same galaxy. The X-ray burst lasted for about 7 minutes. Although no supernova was visible, these scientists suspected they had just witnessed the beginning of a star undergoing such a catastrophic explosion. Using the Gemini North telescope on the Hawaiian mountain Mauna Kea, the researchers then took another look at the same spot in the sky as where the X-ray burst had been. The region is now called SN 2008d. There they saw a visible-light display, which confirmed that a supernova had indeed occurred. Astronomers usually can't spot supernovas until the stars send out large amounts of visible light. By then, however, key information about early stages of the explosive process has vanished. In the case of SN 2008d, the energy and length of the initial release of X rays suggest that the star was compact. Also, it hurled out lots of gas—called a stellar wind—from its surface before it went supernova. For decades, scientists predicted that supernovas would send off X rays right before exploding. Now they finally have evidence that they were right. The new discovery suggests that astronomers might be able to use wide-angle X-ray telescopes to catch the very beginnings of hundreds of supernova explosions each year.—Emily Sohn

Ready, Set, Supernova
Ready, Set, Supernova








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