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The Countdown, Episode 1: Earliest Spiral Galaxy, Earth as Art, the Pioneer Anomaly, a Rocket-Loving Gopher, 7 Minutes of Terror

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Welcome to The Countdown, the Scientific American show that counts down the five coolest things happening now in space news.

Episode 1: July 26, 2012

Story 5

Galaxies from the early universe usually look kind of lumpy or blobby, but scientists have spotted one with a spiral structure, making it look a lot like our own Milky Way galaxy.

See Primordial Pinwheel: Astronomers Spot Oldest Prominent Spiral Galaxy Yet.

Story 4

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Landsat program, the U.S. Geological Survey asked the public to vote on favorite images from the “Earth as Art” collection. The winner: “Van Gogh from Space.”

See Top Five Earth as Art Winners.

Story 3

The strange slowing of the Pioneer spacecraft led to many theories, including speculations of new physics. The answer seems to be recoil generated by the heat of the batteries.

See Pioneer Spacecraft Warmth Takes Heat off Relativity.

Story 2

How does a gopher manage to survive the hustle and bustle of a busy spaceport? Evidently, by staying away from the launch pad.

See Curious Kazakh Gopher Not Curious About Nearby Spaceships

Story 1

Seven minutes of terror—that’s how NASA describes the descent of the Mars lander Curiosity on August 5.  The car-sized lander will undergo complex, never-before-tried landing maneuvers in hopes of a safe touchdown.

See Mars Rover Prepares for 7 Minutes of Terror.


Philip Yam About the Author: Philip Yam is the managing editor of He is the author of The Pathological Protein: Mad Cow, Chronic Wasting and Other Prion Diseases. Follow on Twitter @philipyam.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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