# News this Week

Science  23 Jan 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6220, pp. 356
1. # This week's section

### Judge's ruling: BP Gulf spill totaled 3.19 million barrels of oil

After hearing “voluminous, dense, highly technical, and conflicting” testimony from geoscientists, a federal judge on 15 January ruled that petroleum giant BP spilled 3.19 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. The U.S. government had argued for 4.2 million barrels; BP 2.45 million. The ruling means BP faces a maximum fine of $13.7 billion, or$4300 per barrel, for violations of the Clean Water Act; the final amount will be set in a proceeding that begins 20 January. Under the 2012 RESTORE Act, 80% of the fine will be dedicated to Gulf Coast restoration, recovery, and research. “There is no way to know with precision how much oil discharged. … There was no meter counting of each barrel of oil,” wrote District Court Judge Carl Barbier of the Eastern District of Louisiana in New Orleans. Six experts testified that as few as 2.4 million barrels of oil, and as many as 6 million, escaped during the 86-day ordeal; BP and the government agreed that 810,000 barrels were captured. http://scim.ag/_BPruling

### Plan to save monarch butterflies backfires

It started with the best of intentions: Well-meaning gardeners across the United States, upon learning that monarch butterflies were losing the milkweed they depend on because of the spread of herbicide-resistant crops, began planting milkweed in their own gardens. But inadvertently, they may be endangering the monarchs' iconic migration to Mexico by planting the wrong species of milkweed, scientists reported last week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Many gardeners planted widely available tropical milkweed Asclepias curassavica, which doesn't die back in the winter like native milkweed does, offering the monarchs a year-round place to lay their eggs—so that many monarchs don't bother making the trip to Mexico at all. Worse, tropical milkweed hosts the protozoan parasite Ophryocystis elektroscirrha, which caterpillars ingest along with their milkweed meals; when they hatch, the butterflies are covered in spores and are much weaker than their healthy counterparts. If an infected monarch does try to migrate, it will probably die long before it arrives in central Mexico. http://scim.ag/monarchfail

“I don't know if it is all [man's fault] but the majority is. … It is man who continuously slaps down nature.”

Pope Francis on 15 January, responding to questions about his views on humankind's role in global climate change.

## Around the world

### Paranal, Chile

First light for planet hunter

A group of European institutions announced first light on the Next-Generation Transit Survey (NGTS), a new planet-hunting instrument in Chile, last week. NGTS, like NASA's Kepler satellite, hunts for exoplanets by measuring dips in brightness as a planet crosses in front of its star. From the duration and frequency of the dips, scientists can deduce an exoplanet's size and orbit. Previous transit surveys by ground-based telescopes have only been able to detect Jupiter-sized or bigger planets due to the blurring effect of Earth's atmosphere. Kepler, by focusing on one patch of sky for years, can spot Earth-sized or smaller planets with long orbits. NGTS aims to fill the gap between those rocky planets and gas giants, focusing on planets between two and eight times the diameter of Earth—super-Earths to exo-Neptunes. http://scim.ag/NGTSopen

Long-lost Mars lander found

At last, scientists know the fate of the Beagle 2, a British-built probe sent to the Red Planet in late 2003 as part of the European Space Agency's (ESA's) Mars Express mission. When it couldn't establish contact with the probe, ESA declared the probe lost in 2004. But last week, scientists examining three images taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter over several years (and at different sun angles) with its High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera, announced they had spotted signs of the errant spacecraft on the planet's surface. Although mission scientists originally feared Beagle 2 had crash-landed, the images show that it landed successfully enough to partially deploy its solar panels—but the partial deployment wasn't enough to transmit data.

### Sydney, Australia

Lawsuit over mine approval

## Newsmakers

### ‘Eye in the sky’ to lead space org

Veteran space engineer Alur Seelin Kiran Kumar has taken the reins of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), an organization riding high after its Mangalyaan probe reached Mars last September on the nation's first try. Known as “India's eye in the sky,” Kumar, 62, has overseen development of India's remote sensing systems, including the Bhaskara-1 Earth observation satellite in 1979 and a constellation of high-resolution imaging satellites now in orbit. As director of the Space Applications Centre in Ahmedabad, Kumar headed the team that designed three of Mangalyaan's five scientific payloads, including the Mars Color Camera. Kumar will oversee an ambitious slate of missions at ISRO, including the launch this spring of India's prototype space shuttle and Chandrayaan-2, India's second moon foray featuring a lander and a rover and slated for liftoff in 2017.