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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.”

Gizmodo

Prof. Anna Frebel and her colleagues have identified some of the oldest stars in our universe, located in the Milky Way’s halo, a discovery that stemmed from Frebel’s new course, 8.S30 (Observational Stellar Archaeology), reports Isaac Schultz for Gizmodo. “Studying the ancient stars won’t only help explain the timeline of stellar evolution, but also how our galaxy actually formed,” Schultz explains.

Associated Press

An international team of astronomers, including scientists from MIT, discovered an exoplanet with an “exceedingly low density for its size,” reports Marcia Dunn for the Associated Press. The planet “is ideal for studying unconventional planetary formation and evolution,” explains Dunn. 

Space.com

MIT researchers have “discovered hitherto unknown space molecule while investigating a relatively nearby region of intense star birth,” reports Robert Lea for Space.com. This discovery “revealed the presence of a complex molecule known as 2-methoxyethanol, which had never been seen before in the natural world, though its properties had been simulated in labs on Earth,” writes Lea.

Astronomy

Researchers at MIT have discovered that a previously witnessed supermassive black hole has “a smaller companion black hole zipping around it, kicking up dust every time it goes by,” reports John Wenz for Astronomy. This discovery “shakes up our thinking of what the environment at the core of the galaxy looks like,” explains Wenz. “Instead of a simple disk of matter surrounding the central black hole, steadily swirling across its event horizon, the centers of galaxies could host multiple black holes of different sizes, leading to more complex feeding behavior.”

Space.com

Astronomers from MIT and other institutions have found that periodic eruptions from a supermassive black hole located in a galaxy about 800 million light-years from Earth could be caused by a, “second, smaller black hole slamming into a disk of gas and dust, or ‘accretion disk,’ surrounding the supermassive black hole, causing it to repeatedly ‘hiccup’ out matter,” writes Rob Lea for Space.com

Scientific American

Using the James Webb Space Telescope, postdoc Rohan Naidu will be studying “some of the particularly large and red galaxies, [called little red dots,] that appear much brighter and more massive than theorists have expected galaxies at this epoch to be,” reports Jonathan O’Callaghan for Scientific American. Naidu’s “program will seek to settle the debat about little red dots once and for all,” writes O’Callaghan.

MIT Technology Review

Senior Research Scientist Lisa Barsotti speaks with MIT Technology Review reporter Sophia Chen about how she and her colleagues developed a new device that uses quantum squeezing to help the LIGO detectors identify more celestial events, such as black hole mergers and neutron star collisions. “With these latest squeezing innovations, installed last year, the collaboration expects to detect gravitational waves up to 65% more frequently than before,” Chen explains.

Quanta Magazine

Prof. Erin Kara speaks with Quanta Magazine reporter Michael Greshko about her career as an observational astrophysicist and her work to better understand how black holes behave and reshape galaxies across the universe. “The thing that really got me excited about pursuing astronomy was the discovery aspect: It was just super thrilling to be the first person to look at light that was released from around a black hole a billion years ago,” says Kara.

The Boston Globe

Researchers at MIT have discovered 18 supermassive black holes that “are tearing apart nearby stars in ‘oddball’ tidal disruption events,” reports Ava Berger for The Boston Globe. Graduate student Megan Masterson says, “the events are powerful tools to understand the most extreme parts of our universe. They happen about once every 50,000 years, and help scientists learn more about the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, and black holes in general.”

Newsweek

MIT researchers have discovered 18 new tidal disruption events (TDEs), “which are huge bursts of energy released as a star is shredded by a black hole,” reports Jess Thomson for Newsweek. “These new discoveries have also helped scientists learn more about what TDEs really are and where they occur,” explains Thomson. “The previous stock of TDEs had only been found in a rare form of galaxy known as a ‘post-starburst’ system, which once created a number of stars but has since stopped.”

Newsweek

MIT researchers have discovered that “stars at the edge of our home galaxy appear to be moving more slowly than expected,” reports Jess Thomson. This discovery “implies that the galaxy itself may be structured differently from how scientists first thought, with the core of the Milky Way possibly containing less dark matter and, therefore, being lighter in mass than first assumed,” explains Thomson.

Forbes

Forbes contributor Jamie Carter spotlights a new study co-authored by MIT scientists that suggests, “the absence of carbon dioxide in a rocky planet’s atmosphere—relative to others in the same star system—may indicate the presence of liquid water on the planet’s surface.”

Gizmodo

Gizmodo reporter George Dvorsky spotlights the Venus Life Finder mission, developed by researchers from MIT and Rocket Lab, which will be launching no earlier than December 2024. “The mission will send a small probe, equipped with a single science instrument, to analyze organic molecules and potential signs of life in the Venusian atmosphere,” writes Dvorsky.