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14 Of The Most Awesome Science Photos From This Week

Humanity science-ed pretty hard this week.

Posted on July 25, 2015, at 8:01 a.m. ET

Science gave us some mighty gifts this past week:

1. We learned about a new, nearby, Earth-like exoplanet in a system NASA describes as being more similar to our own than any other yet discovered.

Wendy Stenzel / NASA / Via

An artist's impression of this new world is on the far left. According to NASA: "The new discovery, Kepler-452b, fires the planet hunter’s imagination because it is the most similar to the Earth-sun system found yet: a planet at the right temperature within the habitable zone, and only about one-and-a-half times the diameter of Earth, circling a star very much like our own sun."

2. We caught a glimpse of some star-forming dust in infrared.

JAXA / Via

That dust is the stuff that creates solar systems. The image was taken from the Japan Akari space observatory's recent all-sky survey.

3. From the Rosetta mission, we got a look inside Imhotep, a region of Comet 67P.


Slide the bar to see each different geological region.


Slide the bar to see each different geological region.


Slide the bar to see each different geological region.

4. The mystery of hair ice, a fungus that grows on dead wood, was solved.

This unusual phenomenon occurs during a perfect storm of rotten wood of high-latitude trees at cool temperatures. They're also elusive, growing primarily at night and melting by morning. The study, published in Biogeosciences, revealed the cobwebby filaments grow with the help of a specific fungus called Exidiopsis effusa (and some mad-cap physics).

5. We discovered a fossilized snake with four legs.

The fossil, complete with a leg.

An artist's interpretation of the snake.

The new find, dubbed Tetrapodophis amplectus, may teach scientists about how lizards evolved into snakes.

6. We found some normally land-based microbes that have likely been living deep on the ocean floor for tens of millions of years.

Hiroyuki Imachi / JAMSTEC

This is an important find because we know very little about the massive amount of microbial life on the ocean floor, even though it plays a big role in producing and/or trapping carbon. It's also impressive that these soil microbes can do so well after being buried in the deep ocean. In the words of Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park, "Life, uh, finds a way."

7. Some cave-rappelling scientists came to the conclusion that massive Ice Age animals like the woolly mammoth went extinct mainly due to climate changes.

Laura Weyrich / Via

The finding, which came after analyzing DNA from bones and comparing them to climate records, challenges the commonly held view that humans hunted these "megafauna" to extinction. Above, a scientist travels down a 100-foot pitch into a cave to excavate Ice Age megafaunal bones.

8. Scientists developed a way to 3D-print nanoscale shapes using DNA.

Erik Benson and Björn Högberg / Creative Commons / Nature

Using this method, the scientists were able to create nanoscale (one nanometer is one billionth of a meter) models of things like human figurines, rabbits, bottles, and balls. The photos above are large-scale versions of some of those models. This technology could be used to better deliver medicine in the future.

9. NOAA shared this awesome picture of a humpback whale and a calf swimming off the coast of Hawaii.

10. We learned that some stink bugs can pick the color of their eggs depending on the environment in which they lay them.

Leslie Abram / Via

Here's an adorable stink bug and the range of colors she gets to choose from when laying her eggs. Dark eggs, which have a pigment that protects against UV radiation tend to be laid on leaf tops and light eggs on leaf undersides, scientists reported. The pigment they discovered was previously unknown to science.

11. We found some super old plant remains that suggest that humans may have experimented with agriculture as long as 23,000 years ago.

Snir et al 2015 / Via

Barley grown in the wild and barley grown for agricultural purposes typically take on different traits. This picture shows the remains of 23,000 year old wild barley (left) and farmed barely (right) from an archeological site in Israel. Using this information, as well as the presence of weeds, researchers concluded that this community toyed around with agriculture, but the idea didn't really take hold.

12. We discovered this remarkable looking wasp:

Hannes Baur / Via

13. We snapped a picture of Earth in its entirety from a million miles away.

NASA / Via

This photo was taken by a camera named EPIC (Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera), which is aboard the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite. This satellite's main job is to monitor solar wind in real-time.

14. And New Horizons bid farewell to Pluto.


Like a longing goodbye, the spacecraft took this image at about 1.25 million miles from Pluto. The glowing halo is the dwarf planet's atmosphere backlit by the sun.

What could possibly be left to discover? We'll find out next week!