By Victoria Jaggard, SCIENCE Executive Editor
I’ll admit it: I’m a space geek who has never seen a meteor shower in person. I’m a city girl who’d rather go to a midnight movie than go stargazing in the countryside. But I know I’m missing out on spectacular views by spending so much time under a haze of light pollution. That’s why I was alarmed to see videos showing a recent meteor shower being photo-bombed by satellites.
As Spaceweather.com reports, dozens of spacecraft in the new Starlink constellation dove through the recent (and rare) outburst of the Alpha Monocerotids, creating bright trails that sometimes outshone the meteors. The incident has astronomers and stargazers worried, since parent company SpaceX plans to launch even more of these satellites in a bid to deliver global internet service. Our hunger for more, faster internet may also damage a more common activity: checking the weather forecast. As our Alejandra Borunda reports, next-generation 5G service threatens to drown out key data about water vapor in the atmosphere, potentially undercutting forecast accuracy.
As much as I love my smartphone, I’m hoping that the right folks are paying attention to these warning signs and will make sure that tomorrow’s technology won’t come at too high a price.
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Today in a minute
Hurry up and discover: The prospect of rising seas washing away history has prompted researchers to intensify excavations along the north shore of Puerto Rico. So far, scientists have documented a 2,000-year-old Taino ceremonial site and the remains of a large settlement nearby, environmental archaeologist Isabel Rivera Collazo tells the Associated Press. “The entire coast is blanketed with archaeological sites,” she says. “We want to recover that information before it disappears.”
Diseases from deforestation: Researchers say slash-and-burned forests expel animals that can then spread diseases to livestock—and humans. They cite Indonesian deforestation, which forced out fruit bats carrying disease, resulting in 105 people dying of Nipah virus. The incident is a cautionary tale for issues such as today’s massive Amazon deforestation.
Your daily wonder: There is now an operational radio telescope on the far side of the moon, thanks to a joint Dutch-Chinese effort. A major upside: The location is removed from any terrestrial radio interference, Universe Today reports. It requires a relay to transmit back to Earth.
Bye bye, Christmas on ice: For the first time ever, the city of North Pole, Alaska, has canceled its annual Christmas ice park. Ponds aren't frozen enough to gather enough ice for carving, the Associated Press reports. Here are the broader dangers of the Arctic thaw.
Your Instagram photo of the day
Strategic Greenland. Rocks containing rare earth minerals like neodymium, widely used in electronics, glow with exposure to an ultraviolet flashlight. This valley is at the base of a mineral complex in southern Greenland that is the site of a proposed rare earth mine.
Related: A Greenland rock controversy for the ages
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The big takeaway
Is music universal? All cultures make music and use similar kinds of music in similar contexts, with consistent features in each case, according to new analysis by Harvard researcher Samuel Mehr and a team of cognitive biologists at the University of Vienna. “For example, dance music is fast and rhythmic, and lullabies soft and slow—all around the world,” says a University of Vienna news release. “Healing songs tend to use fewer notes, and more closely spaced, than love songs. These and other findings indicate that there are indeed universal properties of music that likely reflect deeper commonalities of human cognition—a fundamental ‘human musicality.’"
This week in the night sky
Venus and Saturn Dance. The planet Venus is slowly rising higher and becoming brighter around sunset. Starting at twilight on Friday, the planet will easily draw the attention of stargazers looking westward, as it and Saturn will appear only five degrees apart. Also, if you missed hunting down Uranus last month, you will get a second chance Saturday and Sunday. The waxing gibbous moon will act as a convenient guidepost. Use binoculars to scan the sky above the moon and look for a faint, distinctly green-blue object about five degrees above it. —Andrew Fazekas
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One last glimpse
Spinning in space. NASA astronaut Christina Koch (@Astro_Christina on Twitter) compiled this stunning long-exposure picture of Earth against a backdrop of wheeling stars as the International Space Station orbited above Namibia in July. The image is among a dozen that captured the imagination of our SCIENCE team this year. See them all.