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Newsweek

MIT scientists have found that lakes and seas made of methane may have shaped Titan’s shores, writes Jess Thomson for Newsweek. “This discovery could allow astronomers to learn even more about the conditions on Titan,” writes Thomson. “Knowing that waves carved out the coast enables them to predict how fast and strong the winds on the moon are and from which direction they blow.” 

Gizmodo

Gizmodo reporter Passant Rabie spotlights new research by MIT geologists that finds waves of methane on Titan likely eroded and shaped the moon’s coastlines. “If we could stand at the edge of one of Titan’s seas, we might see waves of liquid methane and ethane lapping on the shore and crashing on the coasts during storms,” explains Prof. Taylor Perron. “And they would be capable of eroding the material that the coast is made of.” 

NBC Boston

NBC Boston reporter Matt Fortin visits the lab of Prof. Julien de Wit to learn more about his work discovering two new planets, a puffy, Jupiter-sized planet located over 1,000 light years away that has the consistency of cotton candy and an Earth-sized planet that may lack an atmosphere. “Through studying other atmospheres we get to improve our understanding of our own climate,” de Wit explains. “It’s like a sensitive mirror that helps us reflect back on us, so it’s all these different vantage points that we are gaining. That’s what exoplanetary science gives us.”

WGBH

Prof. Anna Frebel joins Arun Rath of WGBH’s All Things Considered to discuss her recent discovery of some of the universe’s oldest stars, an out-of-this-world identification made the help of MIT undergraduates Hillary Andales, Ananda Santos and Casey Fienberg. “When you meet someone new, you want to know what their name is, how old they are, maybe where they live and what they do, right?” says Frebel. “We do the same with all the astronomical objects in the sky.” 

Smithsonian Magazine

Researchers at MIT and elsewhere have found that the sun’s magnetic field “could form much closer to the star’s surface than previously thought,” reports Will Sullivan for Smithsonian Magazine. “The findings could help improve forecasts of solar activity that can affect satellites, power grids and communications systems on Earth—and produce magnificent auroras,” explains Sullivan. 

Interesting Engineering

MIT astronomers measured a black hole’s spin for the first time by tracking the X-ray flashes produced by a black hole following a tidal disruption event, reports Interesting Engineering’s Mrigakshi Dixit. “The spin value of a black hole tells us about how it evolved over the age of the universe,” explains Research Scientist Dheeraj Pasham. 

Popular Science

MIT astronomers have found a new way to measure how fast a black hole spins, observing the aftermath of a black hole tidal disruption event with a telescope aboard the International Space Station, reports Laura Baisas for Popular Science. “The only way you can do this is, as soon as a tidal disruption event goes off, you need to get a telescope to look at this object continuously, for a very long time, so you can probe all kinds of timescales, from minutes to months,” said Research Scientist Dheeraj Pasham.


 

Gizmodo

Astronomers at MIT and elsewhere have determined how to measure the spin of a nearby supermassive black hole using a new calculation method, reports Isaac Schultz for Gizmodo. The team “managed to deduce a supermassive black hole’s spin by measuring the wobble of its accretion disk after a star has been disrupted—a polite word for torn up—by the gigantic object,” explains Schultz. “They found the black hole’s spin was less than 25% the speed of light—slow, at least for a black hole.” 

The Boston Globe

With the help of undergraduates in MIT’s Observational Stellar Archaeology 8.S30 class, researchers at MIT found three of the oldest stars in the universe orbiting around the outskirts of the Milky Way Galaxy, reports Ava Berger for The Boston Globe. “[The stars] have preserved all this information from early on for 13 billion years for us because they’re just sitting there,” explains Prof. Anna Frebel. “Like the can of beans in the back of your cupboard, unless you crack it open or damage it somehow it just keeps sitting there.”

CNN

MIT astronomers have discovered an exoplanet that is 50% bigger than Jupiter, but still the second lightest planet ever found, with a density similar to cotton candy,” reports Leah Asmelash for CNN. The planet could provide a useful window into how puffy planets form. “The bigger a planet’s atmosphere, the more light can go through,” Prof. Julien de Wit explains. “So it’s clear that this planet is one of the best targets we have for studying atmospheric effects. It will be a Rosetta Stone to try and resolve the mystery of puffy Jupiters.”

Mashable

Researchers at MIT have discovered “three of the oldest stars in the universe lurking right outside the Milky Way,” reports Elisha Sauers for Mashable. “These little stars are nearly 13 billion years old, and they haven't changed one bit since," says Prof. Anna Frebel. "The stars will continue to exist for about another 3 to 5 billion years or so."

Newsweek

MIT researchers have discovered three of the oldest stars in our universe among the stars that surround “the distant edge of our Milky Way galaxy,” reports Jess Thomson for Newsweek. “These stars, dubbed SASS (Small Accreted Stellar System stars), are suspected to have been born when the very first galaxies in the universe were forming, with each belonging to its own small primordial galaxy,” explains Thompson. 

USA Today

Researchers from MIT and elsewhere have discovered a celestial body, which has been called “the second lightest planet ever discovered,” reports Eric Lagatta for USA Today. “The star-orbiting exoplanet outside of our solar system is about seven times less massive than Jupiter, which is why astronomers compare its low density to cotton candy,” Lagatta explains. 

The Guardian

Researchers at MIT and elsewhere have uncovered a new “earth-sized planet orbiting a small, cool star that is expected to shine for 100 times longer than the sun,” reports Ian Sample for The Guardian. The planet is “55 light years from Earth and was detected as it passed in front of its host star, an ultra-cool red dwarf that is half as hot as the sun and 100 times less luminous,” writes Sample. 

Newsweek

MIT astronomers have discovered an exoplanet with a density similar to cotton candy, reports Newsweek’s Jess Thomson. The planet, “named WASP-193b, is the second-least dense exoplanet ever found, with a density of around 0.059 grams per cubic centimeter, or 3.68 pounds per cubic foot,” Thomson explains. “This makes it about 7 times less dense than our neighboring planet Jupiter, despite being 50 percent larger in size, and about 1 percent the density of our own planet.”