Science news this week: Gravitational waves and a winged Medusa medal

Gravitational waves and a Roman phalera, or military medal, featuring Medusa with two wings atop her head
(Image credit: NANOGrav / The Vindolanda Trust)

Space is the place for science news it seems, with a number of astounding discoveries from the cosmic realm getting us all starry-eyed this week.

The main headlines were the groundbreaking discovery of gravitational waves rippling in the cosmic background, and the first map of the Milky Way made with matter, not light, by tracing the galactic origins of thousands of "ghost particles," or neutrinos. However, we also had distortions in space-time putting Einstein's theory of relativity to the test, carbon compounds crucial to life found in star system 1,000 light-years from Earth, rare streaks of light above the U.S. signaling the fast-approaching solar maximum, and an alien planet hiding in our solar system — and it’s not "Planet X."

Back on Earth, we learned that the the world's largest crocodile living in captivity has passed a medical with flying colors, we saw an incredible video of a 28-year-old lab chimp seeing the open sky for the first time, and watched a shapeshifting eel with a “remarkably full tummy” swim in the deep sea. Sadly, we also found out that White Gladis, the orca that likely started the attacks on boats in Iberian waters, may have been pregnant at the time of her first strike, and was so hellbent on stopping boats that she neglected her calf once born.

Outside of the animal kingdom, we found a silver medal with a winged Medusa at a Roman fort near Hadrian's Wall, some enigmatic Anglo-Saxon ivory rings, and a 2,000-year-old fresco in Pompeii that is definitely not a pizza (although it does offer a mouthwatering taste of the Roman diet).

Of course there is more, from controversial vaginal seeding to Yellowstone’s supervolcano, honey bee origins to collapsing mountain peaks, it has certainly been a busy one, so be sure to check back for the latest science news. Visit the site daily, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and sign up to our daily newsletter using the form below to stay up to date.

 Picture of the week 

Saturn is pitch black, with only its glowing rings visible, in this raw James Webb telescope image

Only Saturn's rings appear in this eerie, unprocessed image taken by the James Webb Space Telescope (Image credit: JWST)

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has become synonymous with jaw-dropping, full-color photos of some of the most compelling cosmic landscapes in the universe (if you don’t believe us, here are a few of our favorites). But, as new photos of Saturn reveal, even JWST's unprocessed black-and-white images are stunning.

JWST captured the new images of the ringed planet between June 24 and 25 as part of a project to study the planet's rings, moons and atmospheric composition.

Currently, the pictures are in stark — and somewhat eerie — black and white, which represent the number of photons JWST's Near Infrared Camera collects. Later, scientists will process and colorize the images into something more instantly recognizable. For now, they remain a ghostly and rarely seen portrait of the planet's icy rings.

 Weekend reading 

 And finally… 

The full Buck Moon or Thunder Moon (a red full moon) passes behind Hudson Yards and the Empire State Building lit in the flag colors of countries competing in the Tokyo Olympics as it rises in New York City on July 23, 2021 as seen from Lyndhurst, New Jersey.

(Image credit: Photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)

Point your telescope to the sky on Monday (July 3) to get a view of the beautiful Buck moon, the first supermoon of the year. Not only will the moon be closer to Earth than it typically is, but for most observers, the moon will also remain lower in the sky than at any other time this year.

The Earth-facing side of the moon will be fully lit by the sun at 6:40 a.m. EDT on Monday, but it will be best viewed at moonrise the previous evening as it appears in the southeastern sky. It will be in the constellation Sagittarius, and will appear bright and full on the nights of July 2 and 4 as well.

Of course, you don’t need a telescope to look at the moon, but if you’re interested in getting one, here’s our pick of the best, as well as our guide on the different types of telescope.

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.