This dead star offers a glimpse of our solar system’s eventual fate

Space truly is the final frontier.

Fifty-five years after the world met Capt. James T. Kirk and his crew on the USS Enterprise, William Shatner was able to boldly go there.

The “Star Trek” actor became the oldest person to ever travel to space. The trip was a blisteringly brief 10 minutes aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft, but Shatner was incredibly moved by the “profound experience” of seeing the “life and nurturing” of Earth.

Current-day scientists are living up to the words spoken by Shatner in the show’s introduction half a century ago: exploring strange new worlds and seeking out new life.

And today, NASA’s Lucy mission lifted off on a quest to understand how our solar system formed 4.5 billion years ago.

Once upon a planet

Our corner of the universe may be in for a rude awakening, but we’ve got 5 billion years to prepare.

Researchers observed a giant planet orbiting a white dwarf, or the remains of a dead star, at the heart of our galaxy. It showed what may happen in our solar system when the sun dies.

While Saturn and Jupiter will likely survive the violent evolution, it’s a different story for the other planets.

Consequences

With sea levels steadily on the rise, 50 major coastal cities need to adapt in unprecedented ways to stay afloat, according to new research.

The results show striking visual contrasts between the world as we know it today and our underwater future, if the planet warms to 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit (3 degrees Celsius) above preindustrial levels.

Use our visual sliders to compare how California’s Santa Monica pier and London’s Buckingham Palace would appear if global warming and sea level rise can’t be stopped. The sight of such iconic places submerged is startling.

Wild kingdom

Stunning photos revealing our wonderfully wild world have won in 19 categories of the 2021 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.

Photographers from 95 countries submitted a record-breaking 50,000 entries, with shots including a gorilla enjoying a rain shower and a tent spider’s web as an auto-rickshaw passed by in India (which was captured by a 10-year-old).

And enjoy a peek at the cuter side of wild animals with this litter of adorable newborn cheetahs.

Five cubs were born to cheetah mom Rosie Tuesday morning at Virginia’s Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. You can watch the feline family via the Cheetah Cub Cam, which features live footage of the den. If you listen closely, you can hear the cubs chirping.

Across the universe

An outburst of cosmic explosions has been traced back to a mysterious repeating fast radio burst in space called FRB 121102. Researchers detected 1,652 bursts over the course of 47 days.

Fast radio bursts, or FRBs, are millisecond-long emissions of radio waves in space. This one has been traced to a small dwarf galaxy over 3 billion light-years away.

Scientists have yet to determine the actual cause of the flashes, and, naturally, everyone has a theory (greetings, aliens!). But researchers suspect these celestial phenomena as the more likely cause.

We are family

As humans, it appears we have a long history of indulgences.

Archaeologists uncovered a 1,500-year-old wine factory in the Israeli town of Yavne after toiling away at the site for two years. A famous brand of wine from the ancient world was likely made at the world’s largest wine factory from the Byzantine period, they said.

Meanwhile, researchers studying fossilized poop discovered that Iron Age Europeans enjoyed blue cheese and beer in their diet.

And charred seeds found in a hearth once belonging to hunter-gatherers in Utah suggest humans used tobacco over 12,000 years ago — 9,000 years earlier than previously thought.

Curiosities

You never know what you’ll find:

— This “living fossil” creature was found in an incredibly unlikely place for the first time in documented history.

— An Australian-made rover will land on the moon in 2026 and collect lunar soil that may contain oxygen, which NASA hopes to extract.

— These carved stone statues were used as garden ornaments — until it was revealed that they were Egyptian relics dating back thousands of years.

Like what you’ve read? Oh, but there’s more. Sign up here to receive in your inbox the next edition of Wonder Theory, brought to you by CNN Space and Science writer Ashley Strickland, who finds wonder in planets beyond our solar system and discoveries from the ancient world.

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