National Geographic News


First Alien Star System With Eight Planets Found

National Geographic News

An illustration of NASA's Kepler spacecraft, which started hunting for new planets in 2009. In a first for astronomy, scientists trained a neural network to sift through scads of data from a planet-hunting telescope, and it found a whole new world. Dubbed Kepler-90i, the newfound planet had been hiding in the buckets of data gathered by NASA's Kepler spacecraft. It joins seven other planets circling a star roughly 2,500 light-years away, which means the Kepler-90 system ties our own planetary family for hosting the most known worlds. "Kepler has already shown us that most stars have planets," NASA's Paul Hertz said during a press conference revealing the discovery.


Secret Lives of Jellyfish: Robots, Genetics, and World Domination

National Geographic News

The rhopoema nomadica, or nomadic jellyfish, is native to the Indian Ocean but in the eighties, they started turning up in the eastern Mediterranean, presumably through the Suez Canal. Now this jellyfish forms massive plumes, kilometers wide, along the coast of the eastern Mediterranean and Israel. For the first time, recently, a huge plume formed off Egypt's coast, and off Turkey and Lebanon. When it blooms intensely, it can get sucked into the watering systems that power plants use to cool machinery. Jellyfish are gooey, like a sink stopper, and clog the intake systems, so they have to shut down power plants until they can clear the bloom away.


Bearded Dragons Are Dumber Because of Climate Change

National Geographic News

Bearded dragons that incubated at warmer temperatures are slower learners as adults. Many species, including humans, struggle to survive when temperatures rise too high. But even small increases can affect animals, causing subtle changes in physiology or behavior that alter how they fare. For some lizards, the effects of heat may, somewhat literally, be a no-brainer. A new study published in Royal Society Open Science has found that a temperature increase on the scale expected from climate change can make bearded dragons dumber.


Dogs Show 'Sad Puppy Face' More Often When Being Watched

National Geographic News

Dogs change their facial expressions when they know people are looking at them--perhaps in an effort to communicate. For instance, canines in the study would make the classic "sad puppy face"--raising their inner eyebrows to make their eyes look larger and more infant-like--when looking into a human's eyes. The discovery adds to scientists' ever-growing understanding of man's best friend, one of our species's longest companions. Humans and dogs have lived side by side by some 30,000 years, and along the way, evolution seems to have sculpted dogs' behavior. Research has shown that dogs constantly monitor humans, intently watch our gestures, and in comparison to hand-reared wolf puppies, tend to look up at human faces more often.


Mysterious Blue Whale Behavior Likely Filmed for First Time

National Geographic News

Watch: This may be the first footage of a blue whale "heat run." Blue whales are the largest animals on Earth, but we know surprisingly little about their complex social interactions--and they've rarely been recorded on camera. But new footage filmed off the coast of Sri Lanka by pro whale photographer Patrick Dykstra, in conjunction with blue whale scientist Howard Martenstyn, may be a first. Their video shows what they believe is the first known clip of a blue whale "heat run." Heat runs have been well documented in humpback whales, but no known footage exists of the behavior in blue whales (or at least that Dykstra or National Geographic could find).


Once Thought Loners, Cougars Revealed to Have Rich Society

National Geographic News

For decades, the cougar (Puma concolor) has been thought of as a loner predator, running across other members of its species only to mate or to fight. But a new study now shows that, contrary to popular belief, cougars have quietly built for themselves a rich, hierarchical society based largely on sharing food--a find that stands to upend scientists' preconceptions about one of the Americas' most iconic big cats. "For more than 60 years of intensive research... we have said that [cougars] are solitary, robotic killing machines," says Mark Elbroch, lead scientist for the Puma Program at Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization. "Instead, what we have unveiled is a secretive animal with a complex social system completely built on reciprocity. "That flies in the face of everything we ever thought about this animal," he adds.


Shark 'Feeding Frenzy' Seen in Incredible Aerial View

National Geographic News

A massive school of fish in the ocean forms a fascinating natural sight. A vacationer with a drone camera captured a scene fit for a horror movie: a group of sharks, also known as a shiver, feasting on a school of menhaden fish off the coast of New York's Hamptons, one of the most famous vacation spots in the United States. "Sharks' travel patterns in the area are well documented, and include regularly feeding on large schools of fish," he said. Skomal points out that through the use of drones to document shark feeding, we get a look at these creatures in a new way.



Your Greens Might Soon Be Grown in Warehouses

National Geographic News

Bowery Farms grows hydroponic crops out of a warehouse in Kearny, New Jersey, using LED lights. Here, Bowery Farms co-founder and CEO Irving Fain talks about the future of urban farming and why it's important. Bowery vertically stacks its plants to maximize growing space. Of course, the idea of growing food indoors isn't really new--what's changed?


New Jersey-Size 'Dead Zone' Is Largest Ever in Gulf of Mexico

National Geographic News

This year's large size is mainly due to heavy stream flows in May, Rabalais continued, which were about 34 percent above the long-term average and carried higher-than-average amounts of nutrients through Midwest waterways and into the Gulf. In its action plan for the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone, the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force recently extended the deadline until 2035 for achieving the goal of a 1,950-square-mile dead zone, which would be roughly the size of Delaware. Shrinking the annual Gulf of Mexico dead zone down to that size, however, will require a much higher 59 percent reduction in the amount of nitrogen runoff that flows down the Mississippi River, according to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "The bottom line is that we will never reach the action plan's goal of 1,950 square miles until more serious actions are taken to reduce the loss of Midwest fertilizers into the Mississippi River system," says University of Michigan aquatic ecologist Don Scavia, lead author of the paper.