May 28, 2023
Daily briefing: JWST gets great view of Earth-sized exoplanet

Daily briefing: JWST gets great view of Earth-sized exoplanet

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TRAPPIST-1 planetary system. TRAPPIST-1b (far left) and c receive the most light from the star and would be the warmest.

An artist’s rendering shows approximations of the seven planets of the TRAPPIST-1 system. TRAPPIST-1b (far left) is closest to its star.Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The exoplanet TRAPPIST-1b — one of seven roughly Earth-sized planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system — probably doesn’t have an atmosphere. It’s not surprising: TRAPPIST-1b is the closest to its star and is blasted by four times as much radiation as Earth receives from the Sun. But the work shows the transformational power of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to observe the system, which offers a unique laboratory for studying planetary environments and how they might become suitable for life.

Nature | 3 min read

Reference: Nature paper

As the effects of climate change grow, scientists from fields spanning astronomy to biology are trying to decarbonize their research. They say that the time for carbon-footprint assessments is over — we must take action, and that needs institutional support. “The situation is not that different from the one you can experience as a citizen,” says Pierrick Martin, an astrophysicist at an institute that is trying to reduce the heavy toll of its observatory. “There are things you can do yourself, at your level, in your local environment, that are worth something. But this has limits, and you can’t escape from political decisions at some point.”

Nature | 5 min read

There could be close to 300 billion tonnes of water stored in glass beads scattered across the Moon’s surface. Researchers found the beads in lunar soil samples collected by China’s Chang’e-5 spacecraft. The beads are created during meteoroid impacts, which throw up showers of molten droplets that solidify into tiny spheres. They contain water, which might have formed when the solar wind reacted with oxygen on their surfaces. The water could be extracted and used by astronauts on future lunar missions, says planetary scientist Mahesh Anand. “With this finding, the potential for exploring the moon in a sustainable manner is higher than it’s ever been.”

The Guardian | 3 min read

Reference: Nature Geoscience paper

Features & opinion

Countless people — around 20 million in the United States alone, by one estimate — experience debilitating, regular pain. Research into how to help them has been slow, but the science is building and viable treatments are available. Nature editor Lucy Odling-Smee, who has experienced chronic pain herself, delves into the treatments that have shown promise and why they are not always getting to those who need them.

Nature | 16 min read

Last May, a group including bioethicists, researchers, institutional leaders and journal editors was formed at the 7th World Conference on Research Integrity to look at the myriad ways in which research programmes and practices disadvantage those living in low- and middle-income countries. Seven members present the result: the Cape Town Statement. It includes 20 recommendations, drawn from discussions involving around 300 people from an estimated 50 countries, on the theme of ‘fostering research integrity in an unequal world’.

Nature | 11 min read

Reference: The Cape Town Statement on Fostering Research Integrity Through the Promotion of Fairness, Equity, and Diversity

For scientist parents, the pandemic raised the long-standing barriers of combining work and caregiving even higher. The crisis disrupted research and interrupted publishing, setting off a vicious downward spiral of productivity that hinders funding success and puts the brakes on careers. Nature talked to five mothers in academia about what institutions have done to make adjustments for pandemic disruptions and what other support parents, and especially mothers, need.

Nature | 10 min read

Where I work

Andrea Terán-Valdez shot working with scientific collections as part of her research, Ecuador.

Andrea Terán-Valdez is a conservation biologist at the Jambatu Center for Amphibian Research and Conservation in San Rafael, Ecuador.Credit: Jaime Culebras

Conservation biologist Andrea Terán-Valdez aims to protect endangered frogs in Ecuador by breeding populations, cataloguing new species and fighting industrial development. “So far, we have gathered information on 652 species,” she says. “There are many more, and many are disappearing before we can describe them.” Finding and describing new frog species is a powerful conservation tool because it compels governments to protect them, she notes. “We don’t want to lose any other species — we have already lost too many.” (Nature | 3 min read)

Quote of the day

Mathematician Emmy Murphy thinks about maths as existing in the space between us: a social phenomenon that is moved and shaped by human minds. (Quanta | 10 min read)

A week in the iguana-rich isles of Mexico has primed me to follow Audubon Magazine’s suggestion to expand your birding to include more ‘herping’: spotting reptiles and amphibians. Apparently one thing that’s been holding some of us back from embracing the featherless is that they are not as cute as birds. “A lot of birder social media assumes that if I post a picture of a bird, people will think it’s cool,” says ornithologist Jess McLaughlin. “A lot of herp social media is about why it’s cool, why it’s not scary, why you should care.” Full disclosure, as a kid I was lucky enough to have birds and a tortoise companion (RIP Tortellini) and the reptile was the cutest. And at the end of the day, “birds are just glorified reptiles,” admits the Audubon’s Steven Prager.

Tell me your herping tales — plus any other feedback on the newsletter — at

Thanks for reading,

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

With contributions by Katrina Krämer and Gemma Conroy.

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