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Scientist discovers snakes that engage in 'coordinated hunting'

The latest scientific discovery sounds like something out of a horror movie.

A scientist at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville has discovered a species of snakes that hunts in packs.

Vladimir Dinets found that the Cuban boa engages in "coordinated hunting," CNN reported. Dinets made the discovery while studying the snakes and how they hunt fruit bats in Cuba.

>> Read more trending news

Dinets said the snakes form a fence by hanging from the roofs of caves before dawn and after sunset, maximizing their ability to capture bats as they exit and enter the caves.

In the study, Coordinated Hunting by Cuban Boas, published in February in Animal Behavior and Cognition, Dinets notes that this is the "first scientifically documented case of coordinated hunting by snakes."

Cicadas pop out of the ground early in some parts of U.S.

The big green bugs that make a deafening sound are back.

Cicadas have popped out of the ground early this year and are starting to show up in Ohio and other parts of the Midwest, as well as the South and East Coast.

First you see their skin. Then you hear their call. 

>> Swarms of cicadas expected soon in Southeast

It's the unmistakable sound, and evidence the cicadas are back. 

"I think they're really gross," said Ashley Gilbert of Kettering, Ohio.

"They're a little scary, kind of prehistoric looking so they're a little startling," said Melissa Todd of Riverside, Ohio. 

The fragile brown casings could be from Brood X – some of these 17-year cicadas reportedly are arriving four years early – or the annual dog-days-of summer cicadas that have arrived several weeks ahead of time. 

>> Read more trending news

According to the Gardener's Network, Brood X cicadas span the following states: Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, New York, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, Virginia and West Virginia.

Whichever kind they are, cicadas don't bite and don't cause much harm to trees. Their loud sounds and startling movements is all most will have to deal with.

– The Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.

Newly discovered dinosaur named after 'Ghostbusters' creature

Calling all “Ghostbusters” fans! Scientists just unearthed a 75 million-year-old dinosaur that bears a striking resemblance to a monster from the 1984 film. 

>> Read more trending news

The new discovery was found in Montana, and scientists gave the creature the name Zuul after the villainous beast from the movie. 

Want to learn more about the species? Click here to watch a video about the dinosaur.

Sonic boom rocks Central Florida

A sonic boom shocked Central Floridians early Sunday morning after the Air Force landed a secret military aircraft at Kennedy Space Center.

>> Read more trending news 

The U.S. Air Force tweeted Sunday “The Air Force #X37B #OTV4 has returned from obit and landed safely at @NASAKennedy.”

The X37B is an unmanned secret military shuttle, which has been orbiting the Earth for more than 700 days, the Air Force reported.

The landing marks the first time the X-37B has landed at KSC using the same Shuttle Landing Facility runway as NASA’s manned orbiters.

The U.S. Air Force said, "X-37B program is the newest and most advanced re-entry spacecraft that performs risk reduction, experimentation and concept of operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies.”

Swarms of cicadas expected soon in Southeast

Southerners with a keen sense of sound and a watchful eye for insects are in for a surprise as swarms of cicadas and their overpowering hums make their way to the Southeast any day now.

These insects, also called “17-year locusts,” are notorious for disappearing for several years (in this case, 17) and reappearing “at force” in intervals, according to National Geographic

The 17-year brood, Brood VI, is estimated to hatch this month in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, according to the Gardener’s Network.

>> Read more trending news

This brood probably won’t be back until 2034, but Brood X is estimated to hatch in 2021 (though they may emerge as early as this year in some parts of the United States, according to USA Today).

University of Georgia entomologist Nancy C. Hinkle said people may first notice shed cicada skins on trees and poles, and later notice the red-eyed insects flying around trees and bushes.

According to Hinkle, the bugs aren’t particularly harmful to animals and plants but could occasionally pierce plant stems.

However, massive swarms of the insects crowded in a single area could potentially damage young trees.

The undigested remnants of the cicadas could also be harmful to dogs and are known to upset their stomachs, according to the New York Times.

In 2016, some areas saw densities of 1.5 million periodical cicadas per acre, the Washington Post reported.

“They’ll be out as one of the natural wonders of nature. Watch them, enjoy them and they’ll be gone in about a month,” John Cooley from the University of Connecticut ecology and evolutionary biology department said. 

After the periodical cicadas have tapered off, Cooley said, the summer cicadas will be on their way.

Earth Day 2017 prompts global #MarchForScience movement

Earth Day 2017 will focus on the importance of science.

The March for Science movement is holding events around the globe to emphasize how important science is to mankind.

According to the March for Science’s Twitter profile, the organization “champions robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity.”

>> Read more trending news

The Trump administration’s proposed cuts at the Environmental Protection Agency and executive orders targeting environmental regulations has sparked the March for Science movement into action.

Marches are taking place at major cities around the world, including Washington, D.C.

Study: Diet drinks can lead to stroke, dementia

Diet sodas — one of America's favorite caffeine-delivery systems — appears to be just as unhealthy as their sugary cousins

The Washington Post reports that a new study refutes the theory that diet drinks are a better option than those made with sugar or corn syrup.

>> Read more trending news

The new study in the journal Stroke says people who drink diet soda are three times as likely as those who don’t to have a stroke or develop dementia.

“This included a higher risk of ischemic stroke, where blood vessels in the brain become obstructed and Alzheimer’s disease dementia, the most common form of dementia,” Matthew Pase, a Boston University School of Medicine neurologist told The Washington Post.

Paseo is the lead author of the study.

He stressed the study showed just a correlation and not a causation but that diet pop simply “might not be a healthy alternative.”

The study of 2,888 individuals age 45 and older looked for the development of a stroke and 1,484 participants age 60 and older for dementia over a 10-year period.

There was no association with stroke or dementia found in a parallel study of sugary drinks.

The diet sodas used by those in the study contained the artificial sweeteners saccharin, acesulfame-K and aspartame.

“So, the bottom line is, ‘Have more water and have less diet soda,” said Christopher Gardner, director of Nutrition Studies at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, in an American Heart Association news release. “And don’t switch to real soda.”

He added: “Nobody ever said diet sodas were a health food.”

The American Beverage Association said low-calorie sweeteners have been proven safe by worldwide government safety authorities as well as hundreds of scientific studies and there is nothing in this research that counters this well-established fact.

“While we respect the mission of these organizations to help prevent conditions like stroke and dementia, the authors of this study acknowledge that their conclusions do not — and cannot — prove cause and effect,” the beverage association noted.

To read the whole Washington Post story click here.

Jumbo Earthlike planet might have water and life, close enough to study

Scientists have discovered another Earthlike planet in a nearby solar system just 39 light years away.

The rocky, super-sized planet, named LHS 1140b, is inside the habitable zone, or Goldilocks Zone, orbiting a red dwarf star with an average temperature that could support liquid water.

>> Read more trending news

The planet is almost seven times larger than Earth and about 11,000 miles in diameter, according to a new study published in the journal Nature.

"This is the most exciting exoplanet I've seen in the past decade," lead study author Jason Dittmann of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) said in a statement

"We could hardly hope for a better target to perform one of the biggest quests in science − searching for evidence of life beyond Earth."

Researchers discovered the planet using the transit method, which measures how much light a potential planet blocks as it crosses in front of a star.

>> Related: Scientists find 7 ‘Earth-sized planets’ orbiting star 40 light-years away, NASA says

Scientist believe that 1140b could be close enough that newer telescopes now under construction might be able to search for specific gasses, like oxygen, in the future.

Thousands of exoplanets in thousands of planetary systems have been discovered so far, and potentially habitable planets have also been found. 

>> Related: Space travel is measured in light years, but what’s a light-year anyway?

NASA announced the discovery earlier this year of seven Earth-sized planets in the habitable zone orbiting a star called TRAPPIST-1, but more study is needed to see if they could support life.


Massive asteroid dubbed ‘The Rock’ to fly unusually close to Earth this week

Space junkies rejoice — the gargantuan 2014 JO25 asteroid, nicknamed “The Rock,” will be making an uncomfortably close approach to Earth this week.

>> Read more trending news

Scientists say the 2,000 foot-wide space rock, given its nickname for being as massive as the Rock of Gibraltar (or, to some, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), will fly safely past Earth on Wednesday, April 19, at a distance of about 1.1 million miles (1.8 million kilometers). That’s about 4.6 times the distance from Earth to the moon.

Though it is expected to be very close to Earth for an asteroid of its size, there is no possibility for the asteroid to collide with the planet, according to NASA, whose scientists partnered with the Catalina Sky Survey to discover the space rock three years ago.

>> Related: Scientists discover 60 new planets, including one 'super Earth'

It will be “The Rock’s” closest approach to Earth in at least 400 years and will be its closest approach for at least the next 500 years.

The upcoming encounter with Earth is also the closest by any known asteroid of its size or larger and the next known encounter of something this size won’t occur until 2027, NASA scientists said in a news release.

>> Related: NASA finds 'lost' lunar spacecraft orbiting moon nearly a decade after it disappeared

How and when to watch:

The asteroid will fly to Earth from the direction of the sun and will be visible in the night sky after April 19.

It will be closest to our home planet at approximately 8 a.m. EDT Wednesday.

Because the asteroid isn’t very bright, you’ll need a small-optical telescope to see it at night.

According to Sky and Telescope, the asteroid will cover half the sky in under 30 minutes during early evening hours on April 19 and it’ll be fast enough to see it fly across the field of view in real time.

After one or two nights, 2014 JO25 will fade as the distance from Earth increases.

Also in the sky around the same time, according to NASA, will be the comet PanSTARRS — and it’ll be visible in the sky at dawn with binoculars or a small telescope.

Here's how to watch NASA's first live 360-degree video of a rocket launch

NASA and United Launch Alliance will broadcast the first 360-degree view of a rocket launch live Tuesday as a cargo payload heads to the International Space Station.

>> Read more trending news

The launch from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is scheduled for 11:11 a.m. EDT with a 30-minute window. The broadcast begins at 11 a.m. EDT.

To see the launch live, go to NASA’s YouTube channel and use your mouse to manipulate the view.

>> Click here to watch the livestream on YouTube

“While virtual reality and 360 technology have been increasing in popularity, live 360 technology is a brand-new capability that has recently emerged,” NASA said in a statement. “Recognizing the exciting possibilities opened by applying this new technology to spaceflight, NASA, ULA and Orbital ATK seized this opportunity to virtually place the public at the base of the rocket during launch.”

Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft will be loaded with 7,600 pounds of research, supplies and hardware for the space station. It will launch on ULA’s Atlas V rocket.

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