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Astronomers have captured this stunning image of a planet forming at the heart of a spiralling disc of gas and dust near AB Aurigae, a star located around 520 light years from Earth. The snap was taken using a near-infrared camera on the Very Large Telescope in Chile. To get better contrast, researchers used a ‘coronagraph’ to block out the star’s light. But even then, it isn’t possible to glimpse the baby planet itself. “We see the structure that the planet produces on the spiral — this is what we call a twist,” says astronomer Anthony Boccaletti.
Features & opinion
Researchers on the hunt for new materials are increasingly turning to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Algorithms can predict the physical characteristics of selected crystal structures from first principles, and neural networks can use that information to make guesses about much larger gamuts of possible materials. In future, automated labs might also help to make the materials more quickly. But even a robotic lab will need human overseers: synthesis still involves “a fair amount of artisanship,” says electrical engineer Ted Sargent.
By now you’re probably aware of the concept of herd immunity — but what about nerd immunity? We’re loving this Twitter user’s epidemiological approach to fighting fake news.
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With contributions by Davide Castelvecchi