This week in science – Nov. 26

Mark Hendricks, Science & Technology Editor Ω

Fifteen years in space

Astronaut James H. Newman during a spacewalk preparing to release the first combined parts of the ISS space station in 1988. Image courtesy NASA

Astronaut James H. Newman during a spacewalk preparing to release the first combined parts of the ISS space station in 1988. Image courtesy NASA

The International Space Station (ISS) celebrated its 15th anniversary circling the earth on Nov. 20, 2013. To date, the ISS has had more than 200 visitors from 15 nations, representing a truly international collaboration.

The ISS is a low-Earth orbit research station that was constructed by multiple countries. Canada, USA, Russia, Europe and Japan have all contributed parts to the ISS. The station serves as a research laboratory where astronauts can conduct experiments in an environment that is impossible to recreate on Earth.

Experiments aboard the ISS have contributed to advanced robotic surgery, clean drinking water for people who aren’t near water treatment plants and remote medical diagnostics.

The ISS was propelled into the cultural consciousness last year thanks to Chris Hadfield’s stint as the commander of the ISS, where he live tweeted space to a mass audience, bringing people closer than they’ve ever been before.

Find out more: www.nasa.gov/station

Newly discovered dinosaur dominated the landscape before T-rex

The newly discovered predator siats meekerorum existed before tyrannosaurus rex and is the third largest predator ever discovered. Jorge Gonzales/North Carolina State University

The newly discovered predator siats meekerorum existed before tyrannosaurus rex and is the third largest predator ever discovered. Jorge Gonzales/North Carolina State University

Paleontologists discovered a new predatory dinosaur that existed before tyrannosaurus rex and is the third largest predator ever discovered.

The fossils were from a juvenile, so the exact size of an adult is uncertain but even so the bone size suggests a predator that was 30 feet long and weighed in at four tonnes.

“It’s been 63 years since a predator of this size has been named from North America,” Lindsay Zanno, a North Carolina State University paleontologist and lead author of the study said in a press release. “You can’t imagine how thrilled we were to see the bones of this behemoth poking out of the hillside.”

The team made the discovery in Utah’s Cedar Mountain formation in 2008, but the results weren’t published until Nov. 22 in the journal Nature Communications.

Find out more: news.ncsu.edu/releases

Orbiter to explore Mars’ upper atmosphere

NASA launched a new space orbiter on Nov. 18, 2013 to explore Mars’ upper atmosphere and attempt to solve the mystery of what caused the change in the planet’s atmosphere.

Four billion years ago, Mars had an atmosphere thick enough to support liquid water, but today only a trace of that atmosphere remains. The Mars atmosphere and volatile evolution orbiter (MAVEN) will reach the red planet in September 2014 and begin its mission then.

MAVEN consists of eight separate sensors that it will use to analyze the upper atmosphere of Mars.

Maven is also carrying a DVD that contains 1,100 fan submitted haikus and a list of 10,000 MAVEN supporters. The cover of the DVD was also a community contest and was designed by a kindergarten class.

Find out more: www.iflscience.com