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Planetary science

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Popular Science

Prof. Richard Binzel speaks with Popular Science reporter Briley Lewis about how frequently asteroids come close to Earth. "I would be worried if we weren’t taking the asteroid survey challenge seriously,” says Binzel. "NASA and its funding sources are stepping up to the adult responsibility of doing the necessary searching to make sure our asteroid future is secure.” 

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.”

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.”

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.”

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. 

BBC Science Focus

BBC Science Focus reporter Alex Hughes spotlights a new study by MIT scientists that suggests more heavy snowfall and rain linked to climate change could increasingly contribute to earthquakes worldwide. “The researchers made these conclusions based on how weather patterns in northern Japan have seemingly contributed to a new 'swarm' of earthquakes,” writes Hughes, “a pattern of multiple, ongoing quakes – that is thought to have begun in 2020.”

NBC News

A new study conducted by MIT researchers suggests “heavy snowfall could be a factor in triggering swarms of earthquakes,” reports Evan Bush for NBC News. "Those big snowfall events seem to correlate well with the start of these big earthquake swarms," says Prof. William Frank. "We shouldn’t forget the climate itself can also play a role in changing the stress state at depth where earthquakes are happening." 

Forbes

Scientists from MIT and the University of Oxford have discovered that an ancient sequence of rocks found in Isua, Greenland have “a magnetic field strength of at least 15 microteslas or higher compared to the modern magnetic field of 30 microteslas,” reports David Bressan for Forbes. “These results provide the oldest estimate of the strength of Earth’s magnetic field derived from whole rock samples,” writes Bressan.

Space.com

Researchers from MIT and elsewhere have found that a sequence of rocks from the Isua Supracrustal Belt in Greenland contain “an ironclad record of the early Earth’s magnetic field,” reports Keith Cooper for Space.com. “The new results from the Greenland rocks are considered more reliable because, for the first time, they are based on entire iron-bearing rocks (rather than individual mineral crystals) to derive the primordial field strength,” explains Cooper. “Therefore, the sample offers the first solid measure of not only the strength of Earth's ancient magnetic field, but also of the timing of when the magnetic field originally appeared.”

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.