Science News Around the World

Curated by our Science Facilitators, this page brings you some of the latest science news from BC and around the world that has piqued our curiosity.

Science News

New Horizons spacecraft returns first images of Pluto

Ever wonder what the surface of Pluto looks like? Turns out not even planetary scientists are completely sure. Since the discovery of Pluto in 1930, no spacecraft has ever passed close enough to return clear images of the icy planet. However, with NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft fast approaching Pluto and its five moons, this is about to change.

Scientists and astronomy enthusiasts worldwide have waited nearly a decade for new images of Pluto’s rocky surface. Launched in 2006, New Horizons has covered more than three billion miles in its interplanetary journey, sending back the first of many close-up images of the dwarf planet in late January. The images show Pluto and its large moon Charon as twin pinpricks of light. NASA hopes to receive the first high-definition images during a close flyby in mid-July.

The spacecraft’s journey doesn’t end there. After passing Pluto, New Horizons will embark on a mission to study objects beyond Pluto in the Kuiper Belt. Eventually, New Horizons will pass through the outermost reaches of our solar system, joining the Voyager and Pioneer probes as one of humanity’s farthest-reaching spacecraft.

Visit NASA's website to read more about these exciting new images and the New Horizons mission. Find out more about distant celestial objects in the OMNIMAX Theatre presentation Hidden Universe, now playing at Science World.

The hidden environmental costs of what we eat

How much does agriculture harm our planet? Media coverage has helped more people realize the importance of reducing our collective impact on the environment. Many of us take actions to reduce our carbon footprints such as changing our transportation habits or upgrading our homes. However, far fewer of us stop to think about the environmental costs of what we put on our plates.

Researchers found that agriculture accounts for nearly one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions, with methane production from large livestock and gas release from their fertilized feed responsible for two-thirds of this total. Beef has the highest environmental cost of all meats, producing five times more greenhouse gases than pork or chicken and eleven times more than carb staples such as potatoes, wheat and rice.

The environmental effects of our diets range beyond airborne climate pollution. With the world increasing its appetite for meat, animal agriculture uses up our freshwater supplies at a faster rate. For example, producing one pound of beef requires 6,800 litres of water, largely used to grow the grain and grass the animal eats during its lifetime—that's enough water to fill a small in-ground swimming pool. By paying attention to what we eat, we can make choices that reduce our ecological footprints and better sustain our planet.

Want to learn more about being water-wise when choosing food? Try out the Waters for Dinner game in the Our World gallery. You can also read more about the environmental costs of our diets.