China Space Probe Lands on Dark Side of the Moon

China has become the first country to successfully land a spacecraft on the far side of the moon. The Chang’e-4 probe has also made the first lunar landing since 1972. It has the task of exploring the side of the moon that never faces earth.

The Chinese probe landed in a huge crater 2500 km in diameter and 13 km deep. The crater is one of the oldest parts of the moon and our solar system.

Scientists hope to learn more about the geology of the far side of the moon. The craft has two cameras on board which will send images back to earth. It will also attempt to send signals to distant regions of space, something that cannot happen on earth because of too much radio noise.

Chang’e-4 also has instruments on board to examine minerals as well as a container with seeds which will try to create a miniature biosphere.

Communication with the spacecraft is not easy. Images and other data must be transmitted to a separate satellite because no direct communication with the earth is possible.

For China the Chang’e-4 mission is an important achievement, because the country has successfully done something no other nation on earth has. It wants to become a leading power in space exploration and has announced plans to send astronauts to the moon and set up its own space station.

The dark side of the moon is older and has a thicker crust than the visible side. It takes the moon as long to rotate on its own axis as it does for one complete orbit around the Earth.

Chang’e-4 landing craft and the vehicle that can move around the surface of the moon
Image: Loren Roberts for The Planetary Society


  • achievement = something important that you have done
  • announce = to make public; to say officially
  • attempt = try
  • axis = imaginary line around which an object turns
  • biosphere = area in which plants and animals can live
  • crater = round hole in the ground made by a huge rock that crashed into it
  • crust = hard top part of a planet
  • data = information
  • distant = faraway
  • explore = to go to unknown places and find out more about them
  • face = look towards
  • far side = the side of the moon which we never see
  • geology = study of the rocks that make up the moon
  • image = picture
  • lunar = about the moon
  • mineral = material that is formed naturally and can be dug out of the ground
  • miniature = very small
  • probe = unmanned spacecraft
  • radio noise = unwanted electric signals
  • rotate = move around a central point
  • scientist = person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • seed = small hard objects produced by plants from which a new plant is formed
  • solar system= our sun and the planets that move around it
  • space exploration = to send spacecraft into other regions of space in order to find out more about them
  • space station = large spacecraft that stays above the earth and is the basis for people travelling in space or for tests and experiments
  • spacecraft = object that can travel into space
  • task = job; mission
  • transmit = send
  • visible = something that can be seen

Voyager 2 Becomes Second Object to Leave Solar System

Voyager 2 has become the second man-made object to pass the boundary of the solar system and enter interstellar space. It is currently 18 billion km from earth. Its sister ship, Voyager  1 reached this boundary in 2012.

According to NASA scientists, the probe can operate for five to ten more years. It is so far away from earth that commands take about 16 hours to reach it.

Voyager 2 has entered the heliopause, an area where hot solar winds do not exist any more and the sun’s magnetic field ends. Interstellar space is the vast emptiness between star systems.

The spacecraft is better equipped than its predecessor, Voyager 1. It has instruments on board to measure speed , density and temperature of solar winds. Voyager 1 stopped sending back this data decades ago. Voyager 2 also sends other useful information back to scientists on earth.

The Voyager missions, which were launched in the 1970s have become a great success for NASA. Both craft have traveled beyond their projected destinations. The two spacecraft were originally created to study Jupiter and Saturn more closely. Later, it turned out that Uranus and Neptune could also be examined before the probes left the solar system.

Even though their power sources will eventually stop, the Voyager probes will continue to move on to places no man-made object have gone before.

Voyager 2
Voyager 2


  • according to = as said by ..
  • beyond = farther than
  • boundary = a line where one are ends and another one starts
  • command = instruction
  • craft = spaceship
  • currently = at the moment
  • data = information
  • decade = ten years
  • density = the relationship between how big something is and how it is filled
  • equipped = here: it has instruments on board
  • emptiness = with nothing in it
  • even though = while
  • eventually = in the end, finally
  • examine = to look closely at something and find out more information about it
  • interstellar space = the area between star systems
  • launch = send into space
  • magnetic field = the area around an object that has magnetic power
  • measure = to find out how high, fast etc.. something is
  • man-made object = something that is made by people , not by nature
  • NASA = the American space agency
  • originally = at first
  • power source = where the energy to move on comes from
  • predecessor = here: the spacecraft that was launched before it
  • probe = unmanned spaceship that has instruments on board
  • projected destination = the place they were originally planned to go to
  • reach = get to; arrive at
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • solar = from the sun
  • solar system = our sun and the planets that move around it
  • vast = extremely big

More and More Children with Food Allergies

The rate of food allergies around the world is increasingThe rise in food allergies has affected western countries most. 

Especially children are at risk.  In some cases, allergies can lead to dangerous and even life-threatening situations. More and more families must change their diets in order to fight allergies.  Children can be allergic  to various types of food, above all, milk and dairy products, nuts , and fish.

Allergies are caused by allergens , which are basically harmless substances that the immune system tries to fight .  Victims suffer from a variety of symptoms including redness of the  skin, vomiting, diarrhea and breathing difficulties.

In the United States 8% of children have some form of allergy. In Australia, 5% of all children are affected.  The UK has seen a 500% increase in peanut allergies alone in the past 20 years.

While industrialized countries are hardest hit, allergy rates in developing countries are lower. Cities are  affected more than rural areas.

Scientists have been trying to find out why we are becoming more allergic to food.  One reason may be improved hygiene , which leads to children having fewer infections. Another cause may be the lack of vitamin D which helps our immune system  fight allergies.

At the moment a  food allergy cannot be cured. In addition, it is very difficult to determine which food children are allergic to.  Doctors recommend eating small amounts of possibly allergic food and observe how the body reacts .


Peanuts are causing an increasing number of allergies with children
Peanuts are causing an increasing number of allergies with children


  • above all = mostly
  • affect = to do something that causes a change in a certain situation
  • allergen = material that causes an allergy
  • cause = lead to ; to be the reason for
  • cure = to make an illness go away
  • dairy products = products that are made from  milk , like cheese, joghurt etc..
  • developing country = poor country of the Third World
  • determine = find out
  • diarrhea = an illness in which body waste comes out in a watery, liquid form
  • diet =the kind of food that you eat every day
  • especially = above all
  • harmless = not dangerous
  • hygiene = when you keep yourself  and the things around you clean in order to prevent diseases
  • immune system = the system by which our body protects itself against diseases and illnesses
  • improve = to make better
  • in addition = also
  • increase = to go up
  • infection = a disease that affects your body and is caused by a virus or bacteria
  • lack = not enough
  • life-threatening = very dangerous ; a situation that can lead to death
  • observe= watch something very closely
  • peanut = pale, brown nut with a thin shell that grows under the  ground
  • rate = the number of times something happens
  • rural = in the countryside
  • scientist = person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • substance = material
  • symptom = sign that a health problem exists
  • various = different
  • variety = many different types
  • victim = here: a person who suffers from an allergy
  • vomit = to bring up the food you eat from your stomach through your mouth , because yo are ill

NASA Parker Probe On Journey To The Sun

The US space agency NASA has launched a space probe to get closer to the sun than any other spacecraft before it . The mission to the sun is named after Eugene Parker, a scientist who discovered solar winds in 1958.

The mission’s aim is to fly through the corona, the sun’s outer atmosphere, and find out more about how it’s made up and why it is many times hotter than the sun’s surface.

The spacecraft should also help scientists  better understand  solar winds. These streams of  charged particles can reach the earth’s magnetic field and cause the disruptions of communications , GPS systems and may also interfere with satellite navigation.

The Parker probe will get to within 6 million km of the sun’s surface, much closer than Helios-2, which traveled to within 43 million kilometers of the sun in 1976. It is planned to make 24 orbits around the sun within the next 7 years. Reaching almost 700,000 km an hour, the probe will also be the fastest object ever to travel around the sun.

The solar mission will first orbit around Venus  and use its gravity to propel it into an orbit around the sun. It will then spend a few days orbiting the sun before returning back to Venus to prepare for the next fly-by.

NASA has faced many challenges before the Parker probe could start. It had to produce a light spacecraft that could travel at high speeds and still resist  temperatures of over 1300° Celsius.


Parker Solar Probe
Parker Solar Probe – Image: NASA


  • aim = purpose, something that you hope to do
  • challenge = a difficult job
  • charged particle = tiny object that carries electricity with it
  • corona = the shining circle of light you see around the sun when the moon passes in front of it
  • discover = find out something that you didn’t know about before
  • disruption = to stop something from working the way it should
  • face = to put you in a difficult situation
  • fly-by = to fly past the sun or another planet
  • GPS = Global Positioning System = system that uses radio signals from satellites to show your exact position on earth
  • gravity = the power that pulls a planet to another one
  • interfere = here: cause something not to work the way it should
  • launch = start into space
  • magnetic field = an area around the earth that has magnetic power
  • mission = trip to a place  somewhere in space
  • orbit = to move around
  • probe =object that is sent into space without any people on board
  • propel = push
  • resist = here: not to be damaged
  • scientist = person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • solar = about the sun
  • space agency = government organisation that controls space travel
  • spacecraft = object that can travel  in space
  • stream = line
  • surface = the top layer of an object

East African Rift is Growing Quickly

A large crack in the surface of the earth, several kilometres long,   has caused a highway to collapse in Kenya. The area lies on the East African Rift, where the Arabian and African plate meet.

The earth’s crust is broken up into several tectonic plates which are constantly on the move, gliding towards or against each other at various speeds. When these plates collide energy is set free, resulting in earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

The East African Rift stretches over 3000 km from the Gulf of Aden in the north to Zimbabwe in the south.  It consists of several valleys that are filled with long lakes. Because the two plates are moving away from each other Eastern Africa will be separated from the rest of the continent.

A rift is the first phase of a plate that is breaking apart. After millions of years, it can lead to the formation of a new ocean.  A well-known example is a separation of Africa and South America and the creation of the Atlantic Ocean.

Where the earth’s plates move away from each other magma plumes come up through the mantle and cause volcanic activity. Forces are so strong that the plate breaks apart and causes major earthquakes. In many cases, plates move slowly, at a rate of only  a few cm per year and most of the time we don’t notice these movements.

East African Rift from outer space
East African Rift from outer space – Image: Christoph Hormann


  • at a rate = how fast something happens
  • collapse = fall apart; break down
  • collide = crash into each other
  • consist of = is made up of
  • constantly = always
  • crack = a line that you see when something starts to  break apart
  • crust = the hard, outer layer of the earth
  • forces = here: the power or strength of an activity
  • formation = when something new is created
  • earthquake = a sudden shaking of the earth’s surface that can cause a lot of damage and kill people
  • eruption = if something  breaks out suddenly
  • glide = move slowly and quietly
  • magma plumes = hot melted rock from the inner part of the earth which comes to the surface
  • major = here: very strong
  • mantle = part of the earth below the crust
  • notice = to see something happen; to be aware of something
  • resulting in = something that leads to something else
  • separate = divide, split apart
  • several = a few
  • stretch = to spread from one place to another
  • surface = here: the top layer of the earth
  • tectonic = about the movments of sheets of rock that form the earth’s surface
  • various = different


4400 Year-Old Tomb Found Near Giza Pyramids

Egyptian archaeologists have discovered a tomb that dates back 4,400 years. Found near the famous pyramids at Giza, it probably belongs to a woman known as Hetpet, who was a female priest and closely connected to the royal family of the Fifth Dynasty.

Hetpet is well-known among ancient Egyptian archaeologists. Even though her mummy has not yet been found, some of her private belongings were discovered over a century ago.

The tomb found in the western part of the Giza necropolis is made out of mud brick and is in good shape. Its wall paintings show hunting and fishing scenes as well as animal offerings and monkeys gathering fruit.

Excavators unearthed 300 cubic meters of earth before they found the tomb. They hope there may be more discoveries to be made in what they call a very promising area of the cemetery. Even though much of the area has been thoroughly examined in the past centuries, modern technologies may still reveal new findings under the desert surface. Increased digging is also going on in Luxor and the Valley of the Kings

Authorities hope that the recent discovery will help boost Egypt’s tourism industry which has been declining since the Arab Spring of 2011.


The Giza Pyramid area
The Giza Pyramid area – Image: Ricardo Liberato


  • animal offering = here: animals that are killed and given to God
  • Arab Spring = series of protests and revolutions in northern Africa and the Middle East in 2010 and 2011
  • archaeologist = person who studies old civilisations  and examines their buildings, tombs and what is left of that time
  • authorities = organisation within the government that is responsible for certain things
  • boost = improve ; make better
  • cemetery = area where dead people are buried
  • century = a hundred years
  • connect = link to; here: a close friend
  • decline = go down
  • desert = large area of dry land with rocks and sand
  • dig = to move the earth on the surface so that you can find something
  • discover = find for the first time
  • even though = while
  • excavate = to dig carefully in an area in order to find old objects like bones, cups or tools
  • examine = look at; observe
  • gather = collect
  • increased = more and more
  • mud brick = wet earth that is dried and used as a building material
  • mummy = a dead body that has been preserved  by wrapping it in cloth
  • necropolis = area of land where dead people are buried
  • priest = man or woman who does performs religious acts
  • private belongings = what belonged to her
  • promising = here: an area where archaeologists hope to make new discoveries  in the future
  • reveal = to find something that was not known at first
  • royal family = the king, his wife and children
  • surface = the top layer of something
  • technologies = methods of doing something
  • thoroughly = very closely; completely
  • tomb = stone structure  above or below the ground where a dead person is buried
  • unearth = to find something that has been buried in the ground
  • Valley of the Kings = area in central Egypt where kings and queens of ancient Egypt were buried between the 16th and 11th century B.C.

Stephen Hawking Dies Aged 76

Stephen Hawking, world-famous British physicist, died at the age of 76 at his home in Cambridge, England. The scientist became famous for his work on black holes, relativity and quantum mechanics.

In his most famous discovery, Hawking showed that black holes leak a bit of energy, known as Hawking radiation and then shrink and evaporate.

At the age of 22, Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with ALS,  a rare disease of the nervous system.  At that time doctors gave him only a few years to live.  However, Hawking proved them wrong and fought bravely against his illness. He spent most of his life paralyzed in a wheelchair and was only able to speak through a voice synthesizer.

Hawking was not only a professor at Cambridge University until 2009, but also a popular celebrity who appeared in TV shows like the Simpsons, and the Big Bang Theory.  He also wrote a bestselling book about the mysteries of the universe called A Brief History of Time, which sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. His early life was dramatized in the 2014 film “The Theory of Everything“, which received several Academy Award nominations.

Because of him, many ordinary people got interested in physics and the universe. Scientists, politicians and other experts around the world praised Hawking as a person with a  brilliant and extraordinary mind.


Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking


  • Academy Award = an Oscar
  • black hole = an area in space into which everything near it, including light, is pulled
  • bravely = with a lot of courage
  • brilliant = extremely clever and intelligent
  • celebrity = famous person
  • diagnosed = to find out what illness someone has
  • discovery = finding something for the first time
  • evaporate = here: disappear slowly
  • extraordinary = great and impressive
  • however = but
  • leak = a hole that lets something through
  • mind = your thoughts and ability to think
  • nervous system = your brain and nerves in your body; it controls what you feel and how you move
  • ordinary = normal, like you and me
  • paralysed = unable to move or feel all or parts of your body
  • physicist = a scientist who has special knowledge of physics
  • politicians = people who work in the government, parliament or for political parties
  • popular = well-known
  • praise = to admire and approve of someone
  • quantum mechanics = the scientific study of the way atoms and smaller parts of things behave
  • radiation = form of energy  which may be dangerous in large amounts
  • rare = something that does not exist very often
  • receive = get
  • relativity = the relationship in physics between  time, space and movement; the theory was created by Albert Einstein
  • several = some, a few
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • universe = all of space, including the stars and planets
  • voice synthesizer = a computer system that produces sounds like human speech
  • wheelchair = a chair with wheels, used by people who cannot walk

Polar Bears Could Face Extinction Earlier Than Thought

Polar bears could become extinct faster than predicted. That is because there is a shortage of food in their habitat and scientists have now found out that polar bears need more energy than previously thought.

As a result of global warming, Arctic ice is melting quickly, so that polar bears have to travel further in search of food. In a study that has spanned the last three years, scientists found out that polar bears have to travel one and a half times more than in the past.  As a result, they lose weight.

Experiments conducted with modern technology show how polar bears move and behave. High-tech GPS collars were put on 9 female polar bears. Their movements and energy consumption have been tracked over a period of 12 days. Results show that a few of them lost up to 10%of their weight.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, polar bears spend half of their time hunting for something to eat. They rely mostly on young seals as the main source of food, but the seal population is getting scarce because of the melting ice.

A polar bear needs about 12000 kilocalories a day to stay healthy and even more to put on the body fat it needs to survive the winter months.

Over the past ten years, the number of polar bears has declined by 40%. Ice on their habitat, Arctic Sea ice is decreasing at a rate of 14% per decade.  It is currently at its lowest level in 40 years.


Polar bear feeding on a dead seal
Polar bear feeding on a dead seal – Image: AWeith


  • according to = as reported by …
  • behave = act in certain situations
  • body fat = here: the fat an animal needs to protect itself from the cold weather
  • collar = band of leather or plastic that is around an animal’s neck
  • conduct = carry out
  • currently = at the moment
  • decade = ten years
  • decline = to go down
  • decrease = become lower
  • energy consumption = the amount of energy you need and use up
  • extinct = to die out and not exist anymore
  • global warming = increase in the atmosphere’s temperature caused by more carbon dioxide and other gases
  • further = a longer distance
  • GPS = system that shows where your position is on earth through a system of radio signals
  • habitat = natural home of a plant or animal
  • lose weight = become thinner
  • melt = when ice turns into water
  • predict = to say that something will happen before it does
  • previously = at an earlier time
  • rely = here: eat
  • scarce = not very much left
  • scientist = person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • seal = large sea animal that eats fish and lives near coasts
  • shortage = not enough
  • source = where something comes from
  • span = period of time between two events
  • study = piece of work that is done to find out more about a subect
  • survive = stay alive
  • track = monitor, watch closely
  • World Wildlife Fund = organisation that wants to protect the environment and save animals and plants



Oldest Human Fossil Found Outside Africa

A human fossil found in Isreal in 2002 now shows that humans may have left Africa up to 100,000 years earlier than originally thought. Researchers spent one and a half decades studying an upper jawbone and stone tools found in a cave in Isreal.

The jawbone was found with teeth that were thought to be between 170 000 and 190 000 years old.  CT scans helped to build a 3D model, which researchers then compared with other fossils from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

The tools found nearby suggest that prehistoric people were busy making various objects that they used for hunting animals and gathering.  While some scientists say that the tools could only have been made by homo sapiens, modern people, others do not ignore the fact that Neanderthals could also have made them.

Up to now, the oldest fossils found outside Africa were also located in Israel. According to archaeologists, they were no more than 90,000 to 120,000 years old.

The new discovery also sets back the date at which homo sapiens appeared in Africa. While the current theory says that they originated in Africa 200,000 years ago, we now may believe that they actually showed up between 300,000 and 500,000 years ago. If that is true, then they probably left Africa on short trips to other continents as early as 200,000 years ago.


Skull of a Homo Sapiens
Skull of a Homo Sapiens – Image: Dr. Günter Bechly


  • according to = as said by …
  • appear = show up; start to exist
  • archaeologist = a person who studies ancient civilisations by looking at what is left of buildings, tools etc..
  • cave = a large natural hole in the side of a hill or mountain
  • compare = to look at two or more things and find out the differences between them
  • CT scan = an  examination in which the inside of an object  is produced on a computer using x-rays
  • current = now
  • decade = ten years
  • discovery = finding something for the first time
  • fossil = an animal or plant that lived many thousands of years ago and that has been preserved in rock
  • gathering = to look for plants to eat
  • homo sapiens = modern man; the type of human that exists now
  • humans = people
  • ignore = pay no attention to …
  • jawbone = one of the bones that are in your teeth
  • located = found
  • Neanderthal = early type of human being who lived in Europe during the Stone Age
  • originally = at first
  • originate = come from
  • prehistoric people = people who lived a long time ago, before anything was written down
  • researcher = someone who studies a subject in detail in order to find out more about it
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • skull = the bones of a person’s head
  • stone tools = early tools that the first people made out of stone; they were used for hunting, gathering food and making fire
  • suggest = to say that something may be true
  • various = different kinds of …



Cloning of First Monkeys in China

Two monkeys have been cloned in a Chinese laboratory. They were created with the identical technique used to clone Dolly, the sheep back in 1996. Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua were born a few weeks ago at a Chinese lab. Researchers say they are growing normally.

Over two decades ago, Dolly, became the first successfully cloned mammal. Since then cows, pigs, dogs and other mammals have been cloned.  The cloning of primates was thought to be more difficult than the creation of other mammals in a lab. The Chinese team has brought the scientific community one step closer to the cloning of humans.

The technique used in the test involves transferring the nucleus of a cell into an egg which has had its nucleus removed. The experiment was remarkable because it used fetal cells instead of adult cells. It took the Chinese scientists many attempts and 127 eggs to clone just two monkeys.

According to scientists, the cloning of monkeys will help to research human diseases, including cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. It is also important in drug research.

China has invested heavily in research in the past years. The successful test came at a time when American and European scientists have backed away from using monkeys and apes for ethical reasons.


Close-up of Dolly, the sheep in her stuffed form
Close-up of Dolly, the sheep in her stuffed form – Image: Toni Barros


  • according to = as said by …
  • Alzheimer’s disease = disease that affects the brain, especially of older people; it makes it difficult for you to move, talk or remember things
  • attempt = try
  • back away = stop doing something
  • cancer = serious illness in which cells can grow in an uncontrolled way
  • clone = an animal or plant produced by scientists from one cell of another animal or plant so that they are exactly the same
  • creation = making something
  • decade = ten years
  • disease = illness
  • drug research = creating new forms of medicine
  • ethical = something that is morally good or bad
  • fetal = belonging to an unborn baby or animal
  • human = a person
  • identical = the same
  • including = also
  • invest = put money into …
  • laboratory = room or building in which scientific experiments take place
  • mammal = type of animal that drinks milk from its mother’s body when it is young; humans, dogs and cows are mammals
  • nucleus = the central part of an atom
  • primate = member of a group of mammals that includes humans and monkeys
  • remove = take away
  • remarkable = unusual, surprising
  • researcher = person who studies something in order to find out more about it
  • scientific community = all the people who do research work in labs
  • technique = method; way of doing something
  • transfer = move from one place to another