Nell Greenfieldboyce | New Hampshire Public Radio

Nell Greenfieldboyce

Giant flares and eruptions from the sun can cause space weather, and stormy space weather can interfere with everything from satellites to the electrical grid to airplane communications. Now, though, there's good news for people who monitor the phenomenon — the sun has passed from one of its 11-year activity cycles into another, and scientists predict that the new cycle should be just about as calm as the last.

Mike Brown has been using the Hubble Space Telescope pretty consistently for most of the past three decades since it launched in 1990. But recently he had an experience with Hubble that he never had before.

With the annual flu season about to start, it's still unclear exactly how influenza virus will interact with the coronavirus if a person has both viruses.

Water on Earth is omnipresent and essential for life as we know it, and yet scientists remain a bit baffled about where all of this water came from: Was it present when the planet formed, or did the planet form dry and only later get its water from impacts with water-rich objects such as comets?

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Water is everywhere on Earth - the clouds, the rain, the oceans and rivers, even our own bodies. Where all that water originally came from is a bit of a mystery. NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce reports that scientists may have found the answer inside some rare meteorites.

This year's flu season in the Southern Hemisphere was weirdly mild.

A surprisingly small number of people in the Southern Hemisphere have gotten the flu this year, probably because the public health measures put in place to fight COVID-19 have also limited the spread of influenza.

That makes public health experts hopeful that the U. S. and other northern countries might be spared the double whammy of COVID-19 and a bad flu season this winter.

Still, they warn against complacency and say people still need to get vaccinated against the flu.

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Updated at 6:40 p.m. ET

Two NASA astronauts are back on Earth after their space capsule splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Pensacola, Fla.

The last time any NASA astronauts came home by splashing down was in 1975 — and back then, they were in an Apollo space vehicle. This time, the astronauts were in a white, bell-shaped capsule owned by SpaceX.

Updated 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday

The two astronauts that blasted off in the first private space vehicle to take people to the International Space Station are about to return to Earth — by splashing down in the waters around Florida.

This will be the first planned splashdown for space travelers since 1975, although a Russian Soyuz capsule did have to do an emergency lake landing in 1976.

The first genetically altered squid has scientists excited about a potential new way to study marine critters that are so weird, they've sometimes been compared to alien life forms.

A mosquito that transmits dangerous viruses like dengue and Zika seems to have developed a taste for human blood because of the way that people store water — which mosquitoes need for laying eggs — in hot, dry climates.

That's according to a new study in Current Biology that tested the biting preferences of Aedes aegypti populations from 27 locations across sub-Saharan Africa, the ancestral home of this mosquito species.

Rats will enthusiastically work to free a rat caught in a trap — and it turns out that they are especially eager to be a good Samaritan when they're in the company of other willing helpers.

But that urge to come to the rescue quickly disappears if a potential hero is surrounded by indifferent rat pals that make no move to assist the unfortunate, trapped rodent.

Shortly after NASA astronauts blasted off from U.S. soil for the first time since 2011, President Trump painted a dire picture of what the space agency had looked like when he first came to office.

"There was grass growing through the cracks of your concrete runways — not a pretty sight, not a pretty sight at all," he said at NASA's enormous Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where he had come to watch two astronauts launch to orbit in a vehicle owned and operated by SpaceX.

Almost 40 years have passed since the last time NASA astronauts blasted off into space on a brand new spaceship.

Now, as NASA looks forward to Wednesday's planned test flight of the SpaceX Crew Dragon with a pair of astronauts on board, some in the spaceflight community have a little bit of déjà vu.

NASA's head of human spaceflight has abruptly resigned just one week before a historic test flight to send astronauts up in a new space capsule developed by the rocket company SpaceX.

The unexpected departure of Doug Loverro startled the space community, which has been looking forward to launching astronauts from U.S. soil for the first time since the space shuttles stopped flying in 2011.

The White House has touted the fact that its coronavirus task force provided each state with a list of labs that could potentially test for the virus, but officials in a number of states told NPR that the lists did not actually help them increase testing.

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Because of the coronavirus, NASA's top official is asking space fans not to travel to Florida later this month to watch astronauts blast off from American soil for the first time since the retirement of the space shuttles in 2011.

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As the coronavirus sweeps across the globe, one pattern remains consistent: Men seem harder hit by the virus than women and are more likely to have severe illness or die.

At least in the United States, however, it seems that men are less likely to seek out testing for the virus when they feel sick.

Tiny bits of twisted plant fibers found on an ancient stone tool suggest that Neanderthals were able to make and use sophisticated cords like string and rope.

Cords made from twisted fibers are so ubiquitous today that it's easy to take them for granted. But they're a key survival technology that can be used to make everything from clothes to bags to shelters.

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The Trump administration has issued new guidelines in a small first step towards reopening the country. These guidelines should make it easier for essential workers to stay on the job. NPR science correspondent Nell Greenfieldboyce is here. Hi, Nell.

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When researcher Josh Santarpia stands at the foot of a bed, taking measurements with a device that can detect tiny, invisible particles of mucus or saliva that come out of someone's mouth and move through the air, he can tell whether the bedridden person is speaking or not just by looking at the read-out on his instrument.

The World Health Organization says the virus that causes COVID-19 doesn't seem to linger in the air or be capable of spreading through the air over distances of more than about 3 feet.

But at least one expert in virus transmission said it's way too soon to know that.

The latest figures on coronavirus tests run so far in the U.S. were put at about 552,000, according to government officials during the Thursday's briefing of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

"The testing is going very, very well," President Trump said.

At a time when the nation is desperate for authoritative information about the coronavirus pandemic, the country's foremost agency for fighting infectious disease outbreaks has gone conspicuously silent.

"I want to assure Americans that we have a team of public health experts," President Trump said at Tuesday evening's coronavirus task force briefing — a bit of reassurance that probably would not have been necessary if that briefing had included anyone from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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