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Astronomy

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Science Friday

Science Friday host Ira Flatow spotlights how Prof. Scott Hughes has shifted the wavelengths of gravitational waves into the range of human hearing, creating an audible experience that allows listeners to experience the “ripples in space-time made by the tremendous mass of colliding black holes.”

Popular Science

Popular Science reporter Nikita Amir writes that a new study co-authored by MIT researchers finds has identified a chemical pathway by which life could make a home for itself in Venus’ toxic clouds by producing ammonia. “Life on Venus, if it exists, is not like life on Earth,” says research affiliate Janusz Petkowski. “It’s life as we don’t know it. The only question is, to what degree it is different?”

Wired

Wired reporter Reece Rogers spoke with MIT postdoctoral scholar Tansu Daylan about the winter solstice and the Earth’s relationship with the sun. “The solstices are defined with respect to the Earth-sun system, not necessarily the whole solar system,” says Daylan. “We attach a lot of meaning to it because the sun is so sacred for us, and its location on the celestial sphere, as a function of time throughout the year, is very important.”

Popular Science

Popular Science reporter Leto Sapunar spotlights the efforts of MIT researchers who are investigating the origins of a fast blue optical transient nicknamed “the Cow.” To research scientist Dheeraj “DJ” Pasham, “this looks like a sign that matter is closely orbiting a ‘newborn’ black hole or a type of neutron star called a magnetar, and the matter shines with x-rays each time it completes a quick orbit,” writes Sapunar.

Axios

Axios reporter Miriam Kramer notes that scientists from MIT and other institutions are planning a mission to probe the atmosphere of Venus for any potential signs of life. The probe “will come equipped with a laser designed to help it figure out what kind of chemistry is happening in droplets in Venus' atmosphere during a three-minute flight through the planet's clouds,” writes Kramer.

Newsweek

Newsweek reporter Robert Lea spotlights how MIT researchers traced the source of a bright blue cosmic explosion to the birth of a neutron star or black hole. “We have likely discovered the birth of a compact object in a supernova” says research scientists Dheeraj “DJ” Pasham. “This happens in normal supernovae, but we haven’t seen it before because it’s such a messy process. We think this new evidence opens possibilities for finding baby black holes or baby neutron stars.”

Gizmodo

Gizmodo reporter Isaac Schultz writes that MIT astronomers have found that a black hole or neutron star may have been produced by a burst of stellar light, known as “the Cow." “I think the Cow is just the beginning of what is to come,” explains research scientist Dheeraj “DJ” Pasham. “More such objects would provide a new window into these extreme explosions.”

New Scientist

New Scientist reporter Leah Crane writes that astronomers have found evidence that a large stellar explosion detected in 2018 was likely caused by a dying star that gave birth to a neutron star or small black hole. “People have been suspecting that these kind of extreme explosions could be the birth of black holes or neutron stars, but this is a final piece of evidence that I think really settles the case,” says research scientist Dheeraj “DJ” Pasham.

Forbes

MIT researchers have uncovered evidence that the creation of a new black hole or neutron star caused a strange blue flash of light in space that was detected in 2018, reports Téa Kvetenadze for Forbes. An explanation for the event was elusive until researchers “focused on the X-rays emitted by the flash and found the Cow was producing a pulse of X-rays every 4.4 milliseconds.”

CNET

CNET reporter Monisha Ravisetti writes that MIT researchers have found that a super-bright stellar explosion detected in 2018 likely gave rise to a new black hole or neutron star.  "Usually, I dare not say 'first time,'" explains research scientist Dheeraj "DJ" Pasham. "But I truly think this is the first time that you have direct confirmation, so to say, that a star dies and you immediately see the baby compact object."

Newsweek

A team of astronomers, including MIT researchers, has discovered an ultrahot Jupiter that orbits its star in just 16 hours, reports Robert Lea for Newsweek. “Ultrahot Jupiters such as TOI-2109b constitute the most extreme subclass of exoplanet,” explains former MIT postdoc Ian Wong. “We have only just started to understand some of the unique physical and chemical processes that occur in their atmospheres – processes that have no analogs in our own solar system.” 

Newsweek

Newsweek reporter Robert Lea writes that astronomers from MIT and elsewhere have found evidence of a large planetary collision that stripped the atmosphere from a planet. “While astronomers have long believed these kinds of collisions are common throughout the Universe, this is the first time that they have spotted evidence of one that stripped an atmosphere in such a way around a distant star,” writes Lea.

Space.com

A new study co-authored by MIT researchers presents the first evidence that a distant planet had its atmosphere partially blown away by a large impact, reports Charles Choi for Space.com. "I think a really critical implication is that the gas that is released in the aftermath of a giant impact can last for a long time, and it can affect the way the system evolves long-term," explains graduate student and lead author Tajana Schneiderman. 

The Boston Globe

Tim Brothers of the MIT Wallace Astrophysical Observatory speaks with Boston Globe reporter Thomas Farragher about the importance of reducing artificial light pollution. “There are a lot of other reasons you should care about light pollution. Maybe it’s health,” says Brother. “The reason the bugs aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing — feeding or living or pollinating — is the same reason we’re not doing the right thing.”

National Public Radio (NPR)

NPR’s Nell Greenfieldboyce spotlights how LIGO has helped to usher in a “big astronomy revolution” that is allowing scientists to listen to the universe. “The exciting thing is when you've got a new instrument, you know, a brand-new way of looking at things,” says Greenfieldboyce, “you don't know what you might detect that you never even thought of because until now, you just weren't able to look at the universe in this way.”