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Pangolin protectors, an inflatable lab and young stars — June’s best science images

A colourful view of the universe as seen with the eROSITA X-ray telescope

Credit: Jeremy Sanders, Hermann Brunner, eSASS team (MPE); Eugene Churazov, Marat Gilfanov (IKI)

X-ray universe. Researchers have created the first map of the sky charted in high-energy X-rays — offering a glimpse of what the Universe would look like if seen with X-ray vision. They created the image using data from an instrument called eROSITA (Extended Roentgen Survey with an Imaging Telescope Array), part of the German–Russian satellite mission Spectrum-Roentgen-Gamma. After sweeping the sky for six months, eROSITA has charted more than one million sources of X-ray radiation, including gigantic black holes, galactic clusters and the remnants of supernova explosions, many of which are new to science. Researchers hope that a detailed map in this part of the spectrum will offer new ways to track the Universe’s expansion, and to study the mysterious repulsive force called dark energy.

A pangolin caregiver at a farm care for rescued, illegally trafficked pangolins, helping them to find ants and termites to eat

Credit: Brent Stirton, South Africa, Category Winner, Professional, Natural World & Wildlife, 2020 Sony World Photography Awards

Pangolin protector. A pangolin clings to a conservation worker in Zimbabwe, in one of the few sanctuaries that specializes in rehabilitating pangolins seized from illegal traders. The scaly creatures are one of the world’s most trafficked animals, and some species are critically endangered. They are hunted for their meat and scales, which are used in some countries in traditional medicine. This photo is part of a series taken by photographer Brent Stirton that explores the illegal pangolin trade. The collection won the natural world and wildlife category of this year’s Sony World Photography Awards.

Members of staff work at a COVID-19 testing lab built with an air-inflated structure in Daxing District, Beijing.

Credit: Peng Ziyang/Xinhua via ZUMA Wire

Inflatable lab. Beijing’s Huoyan mobile coronavirus testing laboratory was assembled in just two days using nine of these inflatable structures in a sports stadium in the city’s Daxing district. It was set up in response to a spike in demand for tests after authorities uncovered a cluster of new COVID-19 cases in the city. The lab contains 14 automated testing machines that look for genetic material from the coronavirus; they can process up to 30,000 tests per day.

Solar transit of the ISS on June 24 showing the SpaceX Crew Dragon

Credit: Thierry Legault

Space-station silhouette. Amateur astronomer Thierry Legault created this incredible composite shot of the International Space Station (ISS) as it crossed the Sun. Throughout the transit, the ISS was travelling at around 27,000 kilometres per hour, making the silhouette visible for just 0.6 seconds. Zooming in on the image reveals detailed features of the station, including the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule (circled), which carried NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the ISS in May.

Land Surface Temperature in Siberia

Credit: European Union, Copernicus Sentinel-3 imagery

Warming north. Parts of the Russian Arctic have experienced record-breaking high temperatures in recent weeks. This heat map — produced using data from a European Sentinel-3 satellite — shows air temperatures of up to 45 °C in some places on 19 June. The heat has been linked to the thawing of permafrost, widespread wildfires and swarms of tree-eating moths in the region.

Two technicians inspect a critical part of the James Webb Space Telescope

Credit: Northrop Grumman

Telescope test. NASA engineers have successfully completed a test of a crucial part of the James Webb Space Telescope, the long-awaited follow-up to the Hubble telescope. The Deployable Tower Assembly is a large extendable tube connecting the upper section of the spacecraft — which carries the telescope’s mirror and scientific instruments — to the warmer, lower section which houses the electronics. The assembly is designed to create a gap between the two parts; this will allow the telescope’s cooling systems to bring the mirrors and sensors down to the super-cold temperatures required to detect infrared signals from far-away objects. During the test, engineers deployed the tower in the same way it will move in space — extending 1.2 metres upwards over several hours. To simulate the zero-gravity environment of space, they used a complex system of pulleys and counterbalances to offset the effects of Earth’s gravity. The telescope is scheduled to launch next year.

The largest urban plant farm in the world on a rooftop in Paris, France

Credit: Bureau233/eyevine

Vertical veg. The world’s largest urban rooftop farm opened to the public on 1 July. Located on top of an exhibition centre in southwest Paris, the farm stretches over 15,000 square metres and aims to produce several hundred kilograms of fruit, vegetables and spices each day. It will use space-saving methods such as aeroponics, in which plants are grown in vertical columns without soil and fed with liquid nutrients.

Dust rings around young stars captured by the Gemini Planet Imager Exoplanet Survey, or GPIES.

Credit: Thomas Esposito/UC Berkeley

Dusty stars. This collection of photos shows disks of dust and rock surrounding young stars in far-away solar systems. The 8-metre Gemini South telescope in Chile captured the pictures using its Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) instrument. Over 4 years, the GPI photographed 26 stars with such disks, 7 of which were previously unknown. Nearly all of the stars show evidence of planets — gaps between the debris disk and the central star (creating a ring-like shape) indicate the presence of planets that are sweeping up the dust and rocks. Studying some of these systems in detail could help researchers to understand what our Solar System looked like when it was forming 4.5 billion years ago.



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