The mysterious case of America's dying songbirds

Plus: Monster comets, warehouse-sized asteroids, billion-year-old galaxy secrets uncovered and much more!
                                                                                                                                                                               
Hello, humans!

This week's email is led by a wonderful story from reporter Megan Wollerton. She investigated a spate of mysterious deaths in American songbirds in the Eastern US. Scientists are still trying to work out what was making the birds sick, but a lack of funding has prevented any quick progress. Fortunately, less and less cases have been seen in the last few weeks -- though researchers are worried the illness could come back.

Shifting our attention from flying animals to flying rocks, Earth was buzzed by a warehouse-sized asteroid and no one seemed to notice. You can read that story at the link above. Below? Researchers also studied a huge comet -- one of the largest ever seen, perhaps -- and found it to be bigger than a Martian moon. Plenty more space news this week: Violent explosions, billion-year-old mysteries, NASA's next-gen moon rocket in all its glory and, right at the end of the email, a video detailing the plan for four people to spend 365 days in a 3D-printed Mars habitat. Before you get to that, let's talk even more space in this week's mailbag.

📧The Mailbag📧


Andrea asked: Thinking about the ISS and wonder how lengthy time there is changing humans. Does extended stay affect DNA? Blood? Understanding the time in space affects bones and everyone must have an exercise routine to remain healthy. Long term, what changes are our humans experiencing?

Great question and one that CNET has covered in the past. One of the most interesting studies of spaceflight's effects on humans is NASA's Twin Study. It looked at the physiological changes experienced by twin brother astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly. Mark stayed down on Earth while his brother worked away on the International Space Station -- then, after a year, NASA examined DNA, gut bacteria, the immune system and more, finding a host of changes occur to these systems while in space. There was some decline in immune function and cognition for Scott and slight changes in DNA. Many of the changes reversed when Scott came back to Earth. In a nutshell, space definitely changes us, but we're still trying to pull apart all of the effects. We've only scratched the surface and the Twins study, while good, is focused on two male astronauts -- there's plenty to learn before we tick off long-haul flights from Earth to Mars or even further.

Have a stellar week, humans!

Remember, if you do have any burning questions or want to discuss the physiological impacts of spaceflight, send me an email or a message on Twitter! And if you're enjoying this email, please forward it to your friends!

Enim scientia et astra!
Jackson Ryan Jackson Ryan
Science Editor, CNET
A  mystery illness is killing American songbirds
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