The solar system is about to get busy! In the next few weeks, a slew of spacecraft will embark on a one-way 314-million-mile (505-million-kilometer) journey to Mars, to seek evidence of past life and to further investigate its unusual atmosphere. The back-to-back missions are timed to take advantage of the short window of opportunity — caused by celestial mechanics — that will allow them to reach the Red Planet in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.
The term "bird brain" is frequently used to describe a person's lack of intelligence and good decision-making ability. However, some scientists believe it should be considered a compliment, given that many birds can perform tasks that were once considered solely within the realm of humans. These include manufacturing and using tools, solving problems, and planning for future needs. Now, Griffin, an African Grey parrot, has proved that birds may even possess better visual memories than human adults and children.
One of the biggest challenges to battling the rapid spread of COVID-19 is identifying and isolating people who are infected before the symptoms, which usually take between 3 to 13 days, surface. Now, frontline workers may get some help from canines who can "sniff out" the disease even when the patient is asymptomatic, meaning he or she never shows any of the traits associated with COVID-19.
A massive dust cloud that had been journeying 5,000 miles from the Sahara Desert across the Atlantic Ocean since June 15, 2020, finally hit the United States mainland on June 26, 2020. Nicknamed "Godzilla," the 3,500 mile-long plume broke into two chunks, thanks to the split in the mid-levels of the atmosphere.
With less than 55,000 grizzly bears left in the wild across North America, the sighting of even one is a cause for celebration. Hence you can only imagine how delighted Cara Clarkson and her family were when they spotted two young grizzlies — one with rarely seen all-white fur— foraging alongside the Trans-Canada Highway near Banff, Canada, on April 26, 2020.
With the days getting increasingly longer and warmer, the Northern Hemisphere summer may seem to be well on its way. However, though the meteorological season, which evenly splits the 12 months of the year into four seasons, started on June 1, 2020, the astronomical summer will not begin until June 20, 2020. Called summer solstice, it is the day when the North Pole is most inclined towards the Sun, allowing residents of the Northern Hemisphere to enjoy the longest day (and shortest night) of the year. Conversely, Southern Hemisphere residents will celebrate the astronomical start of winter, or winter solstice, with the shortest day (and longest night) of 2020.
As if the COVID-19 pandemic has not been difficult enough, 2020 has another "trick" in store for the residents of Southwest Virginia, parts of North Carolina, and West Virginia. This one will come in the form of millions and millions of noisy cicadas who are gradually emerging from their 17-year underground hibernation to spend the final few weeks of their lives mating and breeding. Dubbed Brood IX, the alien-like insects are expected to peak in mid-June, with as many as 1.5 million specimens emerging per acre. The visit, however, will be short-lived, and most will be gone by July.
Are you looking for an "out of this world" gift for dad this Father's Day? Then you are in luck, for June 21, 2020, also happens to be the day of a relatively rare annular solar eclipse. The celestial event, which will transform the Sun into a spectacular "ring of fire," will be visible across a narrow, but long, slice of the Eastern Hemisphere. While a larger swath of the world will be able to view a partial eclipse, Americans will miss the event altogether since it will occur on the evening of June 20 and end by sunrise on June 21, 2020.