Science news this week: The spark of life in space and 1.7 billion T. rexes

Composite of a simulation of an enormous solar flare and coronal mass ejection (CME) blasting out of the sun and an artist's interpretation of what Tyrannosaurus rex may have looked like
No, this solar flare and coronal mass ejection aren't the space event that killed the nonavian dinosaurs (that was the asteroid that struck 66 million years ago). (Image credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center / Shutterstock)

It's been a busy week in science news when it comes to animals, where we discovered why a tiny jumping spider is such a bad actor, revised our best estimates for how many T. rexes once roamed Earth, and found out how Australian authorities are doing to save koalas from chlamydia

Elsewhere, a mysterious noise 70,000 feet (21,000 meters) up in the atmosphere is baffling scientists, while further afield, the James Webb Space Telescope has spotted what could be an ancient "water world" in a nearby star system.

Closer to home, we've uncovered a 5,400-year-old tomb in Spain that perfectly captures the summer solstice, a pair of 2,300-year-old scissors and a "folded" sword in a Celtic cremation tomb, and the ruins of a Roman watchtower in Switzerland. 

Delving further back in human history, we shared the latest research on our human relatives, which revealed that Neanderthals passed down their tall noses to modern humans. And looking back even further, we saw evidence that the very spark of life on Earth may have been caused by solar superflares.

Picture of the week

Satellite image of Earth showing areas of the Pacific Ocean that are warmer and higher — a sign of El Niño. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This colorful image of Earth portents the early signs of El Niño forming in the Pacific Ocean. 

Using data from NASA's Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite, the picture shows Kelvin waves (in red and white, which represent warmer water and higher sea levels) moving across the Pacific. Scientists consider these waves to be a precursor to El Niño when they form at the equator and move the warm upper layer of water to the western Pacific. 

"We'll be watching this El Niño like a hawk," Josh Willis, a project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), said in a statement. "If it's a big one, the globe will see record warming." 

Weekend reading

And finally…

Don't miss your last chance to see the ethereal Earthshine next week. The phenomenon, also known as Da Vinci glow, is sunlight reflected first by Earth onto the lunar surface, then again into the eyes of the viewer. The effect is a faint, ghostly glow on the shadowed part of the moon's Earth-facing side. It's not to be missed.

Editor-in-Chief, Live Science

Alexander McNamara is the Editor-in-Chief at Live Science, and has more than 15 years’ experience in publishing at digital titles. More than half of this time has been dedicated to bringing the wonders of science and technology to a wider audience through editor roles at New Scientist and BBC Science Focus, developing new podcasts, newsletters and ground-breaking features along the way. Prior to this, he covered a diverse spectrum of content, ranging from women’s lifestyle, travel, sport and politics, at Hearst and Microsoft. He holds a degree in economics from the University of Sheffield, and before embarking in a career in journalism had a brief stint as an English teacher in the Czech Republic. In his spare time, you can find him with his head buried in the latest science books or tinkering with cool gadgets.