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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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ScienceShot: So Long, Mr. Spock
18 January 2013 3:25 pm
Long before Star Trek's Mr. Spock (inset), many astronomers during the 19th and early 20th centuries thought a planet named Vulcan circled the sun inside the orbit of Mercury (shown transiting the sun, main image) and tugged on the latter, accounting for peculiarities in Mercury's motion. Well, Vulcan doesn't exist—Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity explains Mercury's orbit—but asteroids known as vulcanoids could, circling so close to the sun that we can't see them in its glare. If vulcanoids are real, they're only 7% to 21% as far from the sun as Earth is: closer than that and they evaporate in the sun's heat, farther than that and Mercury kicks them away. Now, in the March issue of Icarus, astronomers report results of a search using STEREO, two NASA spacecraft that revolve around the sun near Earth's orbit. The scientists found no new objects, ruling out the existence of any vulcanoids larger than about 6 kilometers, which is less than half the mean diameter of the little martian moon Deimos. But the search would have missed smaller vulcanoids, so an even deeper exploration might be, as Spock would say, the logical thing to do.
See more ScienceShots.