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New York Times

To celebrate the list of known exoplanets topping 5,000, New York Times reporter Becky Ferreira spoke with astronomers, actors and astronauts about their favorite exoplanets or exoplanetary systems. “TOI-1233 is an outstanding planetary system with its high number of transiting planets, sunlike host star and its proximity to the solar system,” says postdoc Tansu Daylan of the system he detected along with two high school students he was mentoring.

Wired

Prof. Sara Seager has been awarded one of NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) awards, which will help fund her project aimed at sending an orbiter that deploys an inflatable probe to Venus, as part of an effort to search for habitability or signs of life, reports Ramin Skibba for Wired. “This search for signs of life on Venus has been around for a long time, and now the stars are aligned to start taking it seriously,” says Seager.

Forbes

Forbes contributor David Bressan writes that a new study by MIT researchers proposes that oxygen began accumulating in early Earth’s atmosphere due to interactions between marine microbes and minerals in ocean sediments. The researchers hypothesize that “these interactions helped prevent oxygen from being consumed, setting off a self-amplifying process where more and more oxygen was made available to accumulate in the atmosphere,” writes Bressan.

Gizmodo

MIT astronomers have observed the dark side of a football-shaped exoplanet known as WASP-121b and found that it may have metal clouds made up of iron, corundum, and titanium, reports Isaac Schultz for Gizmodo. “The vastly different temperatures on either side of the planet make a dynamic environment for the various molecules floating around the atmosphere,” writes Schultz. “In the daytime, water gets ripped apart by the nearly 5,000° Fahrenheit heat and blown to the night side of the planet by 11,000-mile-per-hour winds.”

CNN

CNN reporter Ashley Strickland writes that MIT researchers have observed the dark side of an exoplanet that is 855 light years from Earth and found that the gas giant may have metal clouds and rain containing liquid gems. The researchers found that the “exoplanet has a glowing water vapor atmosphere and is being deformed into the shape of a football due to the intense gravitational pull of the star it orbits,” writes Strickland.

The New York Times

One year after NASA’s Perseverance rover successfully landed on Mars, scientists are preparing to investigate a dried-up river delta along the west rim of the Jezero crater to search for rocks and microscopic fossils, reports Kenneth Chang for The New York Times. If Perseverance undercovers fossils, “we have to start asking whether some globs of organic matter are arranged in a shape that outlines a cell,” says Prof. Tanja Bosak.

NBC News

Prof. Sara Seager speaks with Tom Metcalfe of NBC News about the Venus Life Finder missions, which will carry a robotic space payload partially funded by MIT alumni to Venus to search for signs of life in the planet's atmosphere. “Space is becoming cheaper in general, and there is more access to space than ever before,” says Seager. 

The Boston Globe

Prof. Sara Seager speaks with Boston Globe reporter Matt Yan about how she plans to use the James Webb Space Telescope to compare when an exoplanet is in front of a star and when it is not. “By comparing those two measurements, they’re going to be a tiny bit different,” says Seager, adding that when the planet "in front of the start is blocking some of the starlight, in particular, the atmosphere blocks some of the starlight, and so we can tell what’s in the planet atmosphere.”

Forbes

MIT researchers have proposed a conceptual hovering rover that would use the moon’s static charge to stay airborne, reports Elizabeth Howell for Forbes. “We think a future [moon] mission could send out small hovering rovers to explore the surface of the moon and other asteroids,” says graduate student Oliver Jia-Richards.

Popular Science

MIT researchers have tested the concept for a hovering rover, a spacecraft that could use the moon’s electric field to levitate over its surface, reports Tatyana Woodall for Popular Science. Graduate student Oliver Jia-Richards explains that the team’s idea for a disc-like rover “potentially provides a much more precise and easier way of maneuvering on these rough terrain and low gravity environments.”

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?”

Gizmodo

MIT researchers have proposed testing a concept for a levitating rover that could operate by using the moon’s electric field, reports Andrew Liszewski for Gizmodo. Liszewski writes that “the researchers believe a levitating rover powered this way could potentially float even higher, or potentially be built heavier with additional scientific instrumentation on board.”

New York Times

Prof. Sara Seager speaks with New York Times reporter Dennis Overybye about the James Webb Telescope. Seager is part of a team that is planning to use the telescope to observe an exoplanet named Trappist-1e to determine if the planet has an atmosphere.

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.”

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.