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Primordial Asteroids That Never Suffered Massive Collisions all Seem to be Larger Than 100 km. Why?

Planetary systems form out of the remnant gas and dust of a primordial star. The material collapses into a protoplanetary disk around the young star, and the clumps that form within the disk eventually become planets, asteroids, or other bodies. Although we understand the big picture of planetary formation, we’ve yet to fully understand the details....

What Would Raindrops be Like on Other Worlds?

Precipitation is much more widespread throughout that solar system than commonly assumed.  Obviously it rains water on Earth.  But it snows carbon dioxide on Mars, rains methane on Titan, sulfuric acid on Venus, and could potentially rain diamonds on Neptune.  The type of material falling out of the sky is almost as varied as the planets themselves. ...

Jupiter Could Make an Ideal Dark Matter Detector

So, you want to find dark matter, but you don’t know where to look? A giant planet might be exactly the kind of particle detector you need! Luckily, our solar system just happens to have a couple of them available, and the biggest and closest is Jupiter. Researchers Rebecca Leane (Stanford) and Tim Linden (Stockholm) released a paper this week describing...

Perseverance Takes a Selfie With Ingenuity. It’s Almost Time to fly

Perseverance is having a proud parent moment in this image, looking like it’s waiting with a child at the bus stop on the first day of school. The Mars 2020 rover took this selfie with the Ingenuity helicopter, which is preparing to take the first controlled flight ever on another world. On April 3rd, Ingenuity was removed from...

What are the Best Ways to Search for Technosignatures?

The search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) has long roots in human history.  With the advent of modern technologies, scientists were finally able to start scanning the skies for any sign of life.  When the search first started back in the 1960s, it focused almost exclusively on trying to detect radio signals.  Over the decades, no irrefutable...

An Intermediate-Mass Black Hole Discovered Through the Gravitational Lensing of a Gamma-ray Burst

Black holes come in three sizes: small, medium, and large. Small black holes are of stellar mass. They form when a large star collapses at the end of its life. Large black holes lurk in the centers of galaxies and are millions or billions of solar masses. Middle-sized black holes are those between 100 to 100,000 solar masses. They are known as Intermediate...

Perseverance Captured This Image of a “Rainbow” on Mars, but it’s just a Lens Flare in the Rover’s Camera

Did the Perseverance rover capture a rainbow on Mars? This image, from the rover’s left rear Hazard Camera, sure looks like it. But alas, no. However, film director JJ Abrams would be proud. The rover’s official Twitter account explained it best, that rainbows just aren’t possible on Mars, and this is simply a lens flare: “Rainbows...

Mars Helicopter Survives its First Night on Mars is Getting Ready to Fly

On April 3rd, the Mars Ingenuity helicopter was removed from its carbon-fiber shield on the Perseverance rover’s belly. On Sunday, April 11th, it will make its first attempt at a powered, controlled flight, becoming the first aircraft to operate on another planet. In the meantime, Ingenuity accomplished another major milestone as it survived its first...

Here’s a Strange Rock That Perseverance Shot With its Laser

Perseverance has been busy lately.  After testing its systems out, taking the first sound recording ever on the Red Planet, and dropping off its helicopter sidekick, now it has the opportunity to work on its primary mission: stare at some rocks.  And occasionally zap them with a laser. That laser is part of the Supercam system we reported...

Lunar Gateway Will Maintain its Orbit With a 6 kW ion Engine

When NASA sends astronauts back to the Moon as part of the Artemis Program, they will be taking the long view. Rather than being another “footprints and flags” program, the goal is to create a lasting infrastructure that will ensure a “sustained program of lunar exploration.” A major element in this plan is the Lunar Gateway, an orbital habitat that...

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