fossil identified as a toothless theropod

Distant worlds, a statue made out of a rocket and a dinosaur egg: December 2021’s eye-opening science images

We bring you the best images in science from last month.

Christmas and New Year have blasted past us in a blur, and now it’s time to look forward to what 2022 has to offer. But before we do, we take a glance back at some of the best images in science over the festive period.

Advertisement

From the discovery of a remarkable dinosaur embryo, a record-breaking volcanic eruption, and space missions launching left, right and centre, it certainly was busy. And with the James Webb Space Telescope launching on Christmas Day, by this time next year, we will hopefully start seeing some amazing images of our Universe.

Buried in ash

A fissure is seen next to a house covered with ash on the Canary island
A fissure is seen next to a house covered with ash on the Canary island of La Palma, Spain, on 1 December 2021. A volcanic eruption in Spain’s Canary Islands recently became the island’s longest eruption on record. Photo by Emilio Morenatti/AP/Shutterstock

Stuck around

Cement trucks belonging to sand miners sit buried by volcanic ash
Cement trucks belonging to sand miners sit buried by volcanic ash after heavy rains shifted ash from the slopes of Indonesia’s most active volcano, Merapi, in Magelang on 2 December 2021. Photo by Agung Supriyanto/AFP/Getty Images

Working from home

tele-education robot at French school sat like a pupil
Children work in a classroom while a schoolgirl is connected remotely with the help of a ‘Buddy’ tele-education robot at Jules Ferry elementary school on 3 December 2021 in Ormesson-sur-Marne, near Paris, France. Photo by Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images

Not going like a rocket

woman walks in front of a Soyuz rocket installed as a monument
A woman walks in front of a Soyuz rocket installed as a monument in Baikonur City, near the Russian leased Kazakh Baikonur cosmodrome on 5 December 2021. Photo by Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images

Distant worlds

This image shows the most massive planet-hosting star pair to date, b Centauri, and its giant planet b Centauri b. This is the first time astronomers have directly observed a planet orbiting a star pair this massive and hot. The star pair, which has a total mass of at least six times that of the Sun, is the bright object in the top left corner of the image, the bright and dark rings around it being optical artefacts. The planet, visible as a bright dot in the lower right of the frame, is ten times as massive as Jupiter and orbits the pair at 100 times the distance Jupiter orbits the Sun. The other bright dot in the image (top right) is a background star. By taking different images at different times, astronomers were able to distinguish the planet from the background stars. The image was captured by the SPHERE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope and using a coronagraph, which blocked the light from the massive star system and allowed astronomers to detect the faint planet.
This image released on 8 December 2021 shows the most massive planet-hosting star pair to date, b Centauri, and its giant planet b Centauri b. This is the first time astronomers have directly observed a planet orbiting a star pair this massive and hot. The star pair, which has a total mass of at least six times that of the Sun, is the bright object in the top left corner of the image, the bright and dark rings around it being optical artefacts. The planet, visible as a bright dot in the lower right of the frame, is 10 times as massive as Jupiter and orbits the pair at 100 times the distance Jupiter orbits the Sun. The other bright dot in the image (top right) is a background star. Photo by ESO/VLT

COVID studies

lab technician performing variant analysis of SARS-CoV-2 Genomes
This picture shows a lab technician performing variant analysis of SARS-CoV-2 genomes with a genome sequencer at the Imelda hospital in Bonheiden, Belgium on 8 December 2021. Photo by Dirk Waem/Belga Mag/AFP/Getty Images

All systems go!

Flames shoot from rocket as space tourists in Soyuz blast off
The Soyuz MS-20 spacecraft carrying the crew of Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin, Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and his production assistant Yozo Hirano blasts off to the International Space Station from the Moscow-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on 8 December 2021. Photo by Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images

Another fin mess

China's longest fin whale specimen
Taxidermists install China’s longest fin whale specimen at the Shanghai Natural History Museum on 9 December 2021 in Shanghai, China. The fin whale was found at the junction of the Yangtze River Estuary and Hangzhou Bay in Shanghai in March 2017. Photo by VCG/Getty Images

Here be dragons

Dragon sculpture made of storm debris by Italian artist Marco Martalar
A woman walks near the ‘Vaia Dragon’, a sculpture made by Italian artist Marco Martalar in Lavarone near Trento, Alps Region, Northeastern Italy, on 13 December 2021. Venetian artist Marco Martalar creates his works from wooden debris of the Vaia windstorm that hit the Veneto region in October 2018, destroying thousands of hectares of forest, and shattering the Italian forest system. Photo by Marco Bertorello/AFP/Getty Images

Turn up for the books

Futuristic bookshop in China
This photo taken on 15 December 2021 shows people visiting a book store in Foshan in China’s southern Guangdong province. Photo by AFP/STR/Getty Images

Ripe for picking

Workers pick ripe tomatoes in intelligent greenhouse
Workers pick ripe tomatoes in an intelligent greenhouse in Zhangye City, Northwest China’s Gansu Province, 15 December 2021. Photo by Wang Jiang/Costfoto/Future Publishing/Getty Images

More great images from Science Focus magazine:

Santa Claus is surfing to town

A surfer dressed as Santa Claus
A surfer dressed as Santa Claus rides an artificial wave at the Alaia Bay surf wave pool surrounded by the Swiss Alps, in Sion, on 15 December 2021. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

Dirty great volcano

Aerial view of the Cumbre Vieja volcano,
Aerial view of the Cumbre Vieja volcano, in Tacande, on the Canary Island of La Palma on 16 December 2021. A volcanic eruption on the Spanish island of La Palma has shown its first sign it might be coming to an end after nearly three months, scientists have said. The eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano has ebbed and flowed since it first began spewing lava on 19 September, forcing the evacuation of over 7,000 people and destroying nearly 3,000 buildings. Photo by Jorge Guerrero/AFP/Getty Images
Advertisement

Baby dino

Exquisitely Preserved Oviraptorosaur Dinosaur Embryo Found In Fossilized Egg
The fossilised oviraptorosaur egg with embryo ‘Baby Yingliang’ is pictured during a press conference on 22 December 2021 in Fuzhou, Fujian Province of China. A close-to-hatching oviraptorosaur dinosaur embryo was found in the Ganzhou, Jiangxi Province of China. The fossil was identified as a toothless theropod dinosaur, or oviraptorosaur, dating back 66 to 72 million years. Photo by Wang Dongming/China News Service/Getty Images

The wait is over

James Webb Space Telescope Launch
Launch teams monitor the countdown to the launch of the Ariane 5 rocket carrying the James Webb Space Telescope into orbit on 25 December 2021, in the Jupiter Centre at the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana. NASA’s James Webb is a large infrared telescope that will study every phase of cosmic history from within our Solar System to the most distant observable galaxies in the early Universe. Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA/Getty Images

Mountain Vista

Eso Vista Telescope with ESO VLT on mountain
From its dome on Cerro Paranal in Chile’s Atacama desert, the ESO-operated Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA) enjoys a stunning view of not only the majestic southern heavens, but also of the nearby mountainous peak and ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT). Conceived and developed by a consortium of 18 universities in the United Kingdom, VISTA is the world’s largest telescope entirely devoted to mapping the sky in infrared light. Photo by G. Hüdepohl/ESO