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Murder hornets, park robots and planet formation — May’s best science images

A planet is born. Astronomers captured this stunning image of what might be a planet forming at the heart of a spiralling disk of gas and dust near AB Aurigae, a star located around 160 parsecs (520 light years) from Earth. The snap was taken using a near-infrared camera on the Very Large Telescope in Chile. To obtain 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, just the spiral structure it produces, known as a ‘twist’.

Washington State Department of Agriculture entomologist Chris Looney holds an Asian Giant Hornet.

Credit: Karla Salp/WSDA/Handout via REUTERS

Murder hornets. This Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia) was caught in a trap near Blaine, Washington. The 5-centimetre-long insects — nicknamed ‘murder hornets’ because repeated stings can be fatal to humans — began appearing in North America for the first time last year. They typically avoid people, but prey on honey bees, and can destroy a hive within hours. Scientists at Washington State University have begun trapping them with the aim of eradicating the species in the United States and protecting vulnerable pollinators.

SpaceX DM-2 approaching the ISS

Credit: Chris Cassidy/JSC/NASA

Space dragon. The Crew Dragon capsule docks with the International Space Station (ISS) 19 hours after launching from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It was carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, who became the first people to travel to orbit in a spacecraft built by a private company — in this case, SpaceX of Hawthorne, California. The pair will spend up to four months on the ISS.

A Fiumicino airport employee wearing a "Smart-Helmet" portable thermoscanner to screen passengers and staff for COVID-19.

Credit: Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty

Smart headgear. A worker wears a thermoscanner helmet at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, a device that uses infrared sensors to take the temperatures of staff and passengers and displays the data inside the visor. The technology is being trialled as a way of identifying people who have a fever and might be carrying the coronavirus. It could be used alongside other measures to improve passenger safety when flights resume.

A new species of scaleworm, Peinaleopolynoe orphanae, one of several new species nicknamed Elvis worms

Credit: Greg Rouse, Scripps Oceanography

Elvis worm. Four new species of deep-sea worm, whose iridescent scales resemble the outfits worn by singer Elvis Presley, have been described by researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego. All four have been placed in the Peinaleopolynoe genus, a group of scale worms distantly related to earthworms, using DNA sequencing. One species was given the name Peinaleopolynoe elvisi, a nod to the king of rock ’n’ roll himself. The specimens were collected from the bottom of the eastern Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and an area near Costa Rica, using a crewed research submarine and remotely operated vehicles.

New social distancing circles with people in them at Dolores Park on May 20 in San Francisco, California

Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty

Keep your distance. A drone captured this overhead shot of social-distancing circles that have been introduced in Dolores Park in San Francisco, California, to help reduce the chances of people catching COVID-19. As lockdowns are eased around the world, people are being urged to follow social-distancing rules as a way of going about their daily lives without spreading the coronavirus.

A four-legged robot dog called SPOT patrols a park as a safe distancing ambassador in Singapore

Credit: Edgar Su/Reuters

Park patrol. In Singapore’s Bishan-Ang Moh Kio Park, a four-legged dog-like robot called Spot is being trialled as a way of encouraging social distancing. Built by robotics design firm Boston Dynamics in Waltham, Massachusetts, Spot is equipped with a camera to monitor how busy the park gets, and can broadcast reminders through a loudspeaker for people to keep their distance. In a separate initiative, the Spot robot is being used to help screen people at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, who might be infected with the coronavirus, by measuring their body temperature and respiration rate.

China's new large carrier rocket Long March-5B launched on May 5

Credit: Luo Yunfei/China News Service via Getty

Blast off. China’s new large carrier rocket Long March-5B launched from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province on 5 May. The rocket was carrying the trial version of China’s new-generation crewed spaceship, which is designed to carry up to six astronauts. The launch’s success paves the way for China to use the rocket to carry the modules of the space station it is planning to construct in low-Earth orbit, the first of which is due to launch in 2021.



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