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Repeating fast radio bursts from space are mysterious. This one is even weirder

By Ashley Strickland, CNN

It’s a distinctly human trait to believe the impossible is a puzzle waiting to be solved.

We’re driven to determine if “the truth is out there.” If we just had all of the pieces, they might fit together and form the bridge to a greater understanding.

On Thursday, NASA announced the agency is putting a team together to study unidentified aerial phenomena, otherwise known as UFOs.

The team will gather evidence and analyze data for unexplained events in the sky from a scientific perspective to determine if they are natural or require other explanation. The nine-month study kicks off in the fall, and the findings will be shared with the public.

“I’ve spent most of my career as a cosmologist. I can tell you, we don’t know what makes up 95% of the universe,” said astrophysicist David Spergel, who will lead the team.

To tide you over, here are some other unusual things we learned this week.

Across the universe

Mysterious fast radio bursts have long intrigued astronomers because they don’t understand what causes the bright, millisecond-long flashes in space.

Now, a pulsing burst of radio waves has been detected in a galaxy about 3 billion light-years away — and it’s even weirder than the others.

The celestial object constantly released weaker radio waves between the repeating bursts. There is only one other fast radio burst known to do this, which has astronomers questioning if there is more than one kind of these unexplained phenomena.


It’s a livin’ thing.

For the first time ever, scientists have learned how to grow humanlike skin on a robotic finger.

This advancement is one step closer to giving robots the look and touch of living creatures, according to the researchers.

The same cells that serve as the building blocks for human skin were used in the trials. The humanlike skin was even able to repel water.

The researchers are interested in adding a vascular system that could help the skin sustain itself, grow nails and even sweat. Having humanlike hands could one day enable robots to help us with a surprising range of tasks.

Fantastic creatures

Meet Fernanda. She’s kind of a big deal in the Galapagos Islands, and we don’t blame you if you sing a version of ABBA’s “Fernando” in her honor.

The lone small female tortoise was found living on Fernandina Island in the Galapagos archipelago in 2019. Her discovery shocked scientists because they thought Fernandina tortoises were extinct, especially given the island’s very active volcano.

A new genetic study revealed Fernanda is indeed a native species of her island, especially when compared with the DNA of a male tortoise specimen collected from the island in 1906.

And Fernanda may not be the last of her kind. Recent evidence suggests there are more like her on the island — but any future expeditions, and the tortoises themselves, face formidable volcanic challenges.

Other worlds

The Ingenuity helicopter is battling a hazy shade of winter on Mars.

The arrival of cyclical dust storms caused the NASA team to lose contact with Ingenuity for two days in May. The little chopper now faces frigid nights without its heater and has less solar power due to a lack of sunlight. But the copter’s team has a plan that could help Ingenuity survive and continue flying high on Mars.

Reports are that the Perseverance rover has adopted a pet rock in the meantime (and we’re not joking).

Meanwhile, NASA’s DAVINCI spacecraft will face the opposite conditions when it orbits and then attempts to land on the hellish surface of Venus in 2031, descending through immense pressure and scorching temperatures to capture never-before-seen images of the planet.


Ancient bones newly unearthed on the Isle of Wight once belonged to one of Europe’s largest predators. The spinosaurid, a two-legged dinosaur with the face of a crocodile, was larger than a double-decker bus.

It’s possible that the bones, from an animal that lived 125 million years ago, belonged to a newly discovered species instead. But scientists need more information to make the determination.

Thanks to a number of fossils recovered from the island, the Isle of Wight is known as the UK’s dinosaur capital. And if you’re eager for more dinos, “Jurassic World: Dominion” was released this week.


Dive into these stories:

— The James Webb Space Telescope’s giant golden mirror was dinged by a micrometeoroid. Don’t worry: The observatory is still preparing to share its first hi-res color images on July 12.

— Abu Dhabi is full of ancient wonders. Explore some of the treasures in the Arabian desert that tell the story of the Emirati people’s connection to both land and sea.

— We promise this isn’t a Dr. Seuss riddle, even if it sounds like one. A California court has ruled that bees can legally be considered fish under specific circumstances, especially to protect them.

Like what you’ve read? Oh, but there’s more. Sign up here to receive in your inbox the next edition of Wonder Theory, brought to you by CNN Space and Science writer Ashley Strickland, who finds wonder in planets beyond our solar system and discoveries from the ancient world.

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