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Hominin skull and Mars panorama — November's best science images – Nature.com

The month’s sharpest science shots, selected by Nature’s photo team.
By Emma Stoye
06 December 2021
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Martian postcard. NASA’s Curiosity rover used its navigation cameras to capture this panoramic view of Mars’s surface at different times of day. The composite black-and-white images captured the scene at 8:30 a.m. and again at 4:10 p.m. local Mars time, providing contrasting lighting conditions that brought out unique landscape details. Engineers then combined the shots and added colours in an artistic re-creation that includes images from the morning scene in blue, the afternoon scene in orange and a combination of both in green.
Credit: ESA
Credit: ESA
Pool of plastic. The Atlantic Basin Facility at the Deltares research institute near Delft, the Netherlands, is a scale model of the Atlantic Ocean, complete with wave generators to simulate realistic marine conditions. Here, researchers at the European Space Agency are using real bits of reclaimed marine litter to test whether plastic floating in the ocean can be detected from space using satellite monitoring. For maximum realism, the items they dumped in the basin include things often found at sea, such as bags, bottles, marine nets and ropes, cutlery and Styrofoam balls.
Caption: Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty
Caption: Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty
Sick of oil. An ‘oil head’, a climate activist at the protest organization Ocean Rebellion, vomits mock oil at a demonstration outside an oil refinery and petrochemical plant in Scotland. The event took place during the United Nations COP26 Climate Change Conference, which saw world leaders congregate in Glasgow, UK, to discuss commitments to tackle climate change. During COP26, countries signed a deal pledging to curb emissions — but outside the conference venue, thousands of protestors demanded stronger action.
Bird’s eye view. This is among the first images collected by Landsat 9, an orbiting satellite run jointly by NASA and the US Geological Survey that launched in September.
It shows part of the northwest coast of Australia,
including clusters of dark-green mangrove swamps in protected inlets and bays. Fluffy cumulus clouds and wispy, high-altitude cirrus clouds hover above.
Credit: NASA
Lost child. The first partial skull of a Homo naledi child, who died almost 250,000 years ago, has been found in the depths of Rising Star Cave near Johannesburg, South Africa, where the ancient hominin species was first discovered in 2015. The skull comprises 28 fragments and 6 teeth that researchers have pieced together into this reconstruction. The team named the skull’s owner Leti, after the Setswana word letimela, which means ‘the lost one’. It is a rare find — juvenile hominin remains are usually thin and extremely fragile.
Credit: Wits University
Credit: Michele Lapini/WaterBear and CIWEM
Credit: Michele Lapini/WaterBear and CIWEM
Flooded field. This aerial shot, taken by photojournalist Michele Lapini, shows a house submerged by floodwater from the Panaro river near Modena, Italy, after heavy rain and melting snow. The photo was a winner at Environmental Photographer of the Year awards. Research suggests that extreme floods are becoming more frequent in some parts of Europe as a result of climate change.
Credit: Nina L. Kikel-Coury/Smith Lab
Credit: Nina L. Kikel-Coury/Smith Lab
Fish heart. This microscope image of zebrafish (Danio rerio) heart tissue shows the abundance of cells called glia (green) that interact with neurons (blue) and heart cells (red). A new study shows that glia have an important role in enabling the heart to function properly. Removing these cells causes the heart rate to increase, and when glia lack a key gene that drives their development, the heart beats irregularly. “Our findings indicate an extensive and under-explored network of organ-associated glia that have functional roles dependent upon the environment,” said co-author Cody Smith, a biologist at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.
Credit: Chee Kee Teo/Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards 2021
Credit: Chee Kee Teo/Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards 2021
Swimming lesson. This image by amateur wildlife photographer Chee Kee Teo shows a smooth-coated otter (Lutrogale perspicillata) dunking her baby in Singapore’s Kallang River. “It was the period during which the baby otters were learning to swim,” Teo told Yahoo. “They would swim for a small stretch near the river bank, then get tired and want to return to the nest. But the adults would carry them back and make them swim back again, to train them to swim.” The picture was a winner at this year’s Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards, which aims to bring a lighter note to conservation-minded wildlife photography.

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