environment

New satellite images of St. Elijah's Monastery, located in the ISIS-held city of Mosul, no longer show a neatly chiseled, square parcel of land, complete with walls and buildings built into a hill.

All that can be seen of the Christian monastery, parts of which are 1,400 years old, is a dusty field of rubble. It was apparently razed by ISIS in its quest to destroy religious or historical artifacts deemed heretical.

The astronomer whose work helped kick Pluto out of the pantheon of planets says he has good reason to believe there's an undiscovered planet bigger than Earth lurking in the distant reaches of our solar system.

A rare sight will greet early risers starting Wednesday morning. About 45 minutes before sunrise, five planets – Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter – will all be visible in the sky.

The best time to get planetary sightseeing in will be at the end of the week. By then, the five aforementioned planets will form an arch-shaped line in the sky that will be fairly easy to follow. The moon will pop up in the intergalactic line-up shortly thereafter.

Wikimedia Commons

Atlantic salmon are back, and they're spawning in Connecticut. It's the first time in centuries this creature has returned naturally to the state. But climate change and dwindling conservation money still present a lot of issues for this migratory fish.

Citing concerns over pricing and pollution, the Obama administration on Friday unveiled a moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands. The change won't affect existing leases, which generated nearly $1.3 billion for the government last year.

The Department of the Interior says it wants to make sure the money it's charging for coal leases takes into account both market prices and what's often called the "social costs" of coal — its impact on climate change and public health.

The agency says federal lands account for roughly 40 percent of all U.S. coal production.

A mind-boggling stellar explosion is baffling astronomers, who say this cosmic beast is so immensely powerful that no one's sure exactly what made it go boom.

The recently discovered inferno is about 200 times more powerful than a typical exploding star, or supernova, and 570 billion times brighter than our sun. It was first spotted in June by the All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae, nicknamed the "Assassin" project, so it's called ASASSN-15lh.

peasap / Creative Commons

Republican lawmakers are proposing a constitutional amendment that would make it harder for the state to give away open space. The measure comes at a time when officials say Connecticut won't meet its goals for land conservation. 

Vincent Scarano / Connecticut College

Picture a curbside lined with garbage. You may imagine old mattresses or discarded TVs, but there's one bit of trash your mind may block out: cigarette butts. An anthropology professor at Connecticut College has become obsessed with these often-overlooked artifacts of modern life, examining what they can tell us about our culture -- and the basics of archeology. 

Christine Olson / Creative Commons

An oceanographer who helped solve the mystery of last summer’s explosion on a crowded Rhode Island beach said there’s a very low risk of the same type of explosion occurring again.

Christine Olson / Creative Commons

The cable that caused an explosion at a crowded Rhode Island beach last summer, injuring a woman, may have counterparts lying under beaches, harbors and waterways at dozens of sites nationwide.

At the end of every year, U.S. meteorologists look back at what the nation's weather was like, and what they saw in 2015 was weird. The year was hot and beset with all manner of extreme weather events that did a lot of expensive damage.

December, in fact, was a fitting end.

Photonesta

Okay, this show comes with a trigger warning.

We're going to talk about things people eat, and some of those things are not for the squeamish. This is a conversation about disgust, and specifically, how our reflexive response of disgust may get in the way of things we probably need to think about doing.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

In December, Connecticut regulators approved the $3 billion merger of Spanish firm Iberdrola and New Haven-based UIL Holdings. The news came just two weeks after the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority issued a draft decision OK-ing the deal. 

For now, they're known by working names, like ununseptium and ununtrium — two of the four new chemical elements whose discovery has been officially verified. The elements with atomic numbers 113, 115, 117 and 118 will get permanent names soon, according to the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.

New Bedford Whaling Museum

A new project is using log books from historic whaling vessels to get a broader look at climate change in the Arctic. The project, called Old Weather: Whaling, is getting help from citizen scientists.

pedrik / Creative Commons

A conservation goal set more than a decade ago points to an ambitious target: preserving 21 percent of Connecticut's land as open space by 2023. Funding has now lagged, the state said, and it won't reach that goal. 

5Gyres, Oregon State University / Creative Commons

A federal ban on tiny synthetic plastic spheres known as "microbeads" passed through Congress this week, following the lead of legislative action in several states including Connecticut.

Like amaranth and quinoa before it, millet – a hardy, gluten-free ancient seed – has become an "it" grain in recent years.

It's the solstice again, which is an astronomer's favorite time of year. That's because it's one of the few occasions where we have anything semi-practical to say to anyone.

"Hey, Adam, you're an astronomer. What's this whole solstice thing about?"

Well, I'm glad you asked.

Almond Butterscotch / Creative Commons

Connecticut needs to conserve more land -- and do it much faster -- if the state hopes to meet a conservation goal set for the year 2023, which seems increasingly out of reach.

It is without a doubt a spectacular moment for the space industry: Just months after the setback of a launch explosion, a SpaceX rocket managed to launch satellites into space, then tumble back to Earth, use rockets to stabilize itself and stick the landing on a small pad in Florida.

In a finding that suggests "considerable water activity" on Mars, NASA says its Curiosity rover has found very high concentrations of silica on the red planet. The agency says it also found "a mineral named tridymite, rare on Earth and never seen before on Mars."

MGM Springfield

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission unanimously approved a plan on Thursday that will allow MGM Springfield to begin construction on its proposed $950 million casino in the city's downtown.

scrappy annie flickr.com/photos/14903992@N08/15723002693 / Creative Commons

Ho, ho, ho, it's time for holiday gift buying. Yes, let's talk about special gifts you can give the gardener in your family. If you're stuck for ideas, I've got a few to share. Are you listening, Santa?

Time is running out for New York residents opposed to erecting high-voltage power towers across the scenic Hudson Valley to weigh in.

LOLren / Creative Commons

Nearly 200 countries adopted a landmark agreement to combat global warming over the weekend and several Connecticut environmentalists were watching.

A new house in Matunuck will sustain winds of more than 130 miles per hour. It’s the first home under construction in New England built to disaster certification standards known as FORTIFIED.

After a string of severe storms in recent years, the state hopes to shift to a more rigorous building code so that homes can sustain high winds and water damage.

In what supporters are calling a historic achievement, 196 nations attending the COP21 climate meetings outside Paris voted to adopt an agreement Saturday that covers both developed and developing countries. Their respective governments will now need to adopt the deal.

Thawt Hawthje / Creative Commons

As world leaders in Paris approach what could be a historic agreement on climate change, a new Yale University survey finds Americans have very complicated attitudes about the environment.

At the U.N. climate summit in Paris, the U.S. has a big footprint. Cabinet officials scurry from meeting to meeting, trying to get a binding deal that would help some 200 countries slow the planet's warming. Yet in some ways, the United States is an outlier.

"Everybody else is taking climate change really seriously," President Obama said during his visit to Paris at the start of the summit. "They think it's a really big problem."

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