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Scientific American

Prof. Richard Binzel talks with Meghan Bartels of Scientific American about the importance of studying Asteroid Apophis – a sizeable space rock that will near Earth within “one tenth of the Earth-moon distance” in 2029. “It’s an incredibly rare event that an asteroid like Apophis would hit the Earth, but it’s better to be knowledgeable than to [be] caught unaware,” says Binzel, a planetary scientist Bartels notes has “spent years raising awareness about the scientific opportunities of the 2029 flyby.” 

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.” 

The Boston Globe

Writing for The Boston Globe, Cady Coleman ’83 reflects on her career as an astronaut and Air Force colonel. “I am an astronaut,” writes Coleman. “Even after 24 years at NASA, two space shuttle missions, and six months living aboard the International Space Station, it thrills me to say those words, and yet there is a part of me that’s still surprised by them.”  

Science

Science reporter Paul Voosen spotlights Tropics “a four-CubeSat mission launched by NASA last year” and led by Lincoln Laboratory Fellow William (Bill) Blackwell. The mission has “yielded unprecedented observations of the evolution of hurricanes cores,” writes Voosen. 

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.”

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.” 

Newsweek

MIT researchers have developed a wearable backpack with spider-like limbs to help astronauts maintain stability in space, reports Jess Thomson for Newsweek. The new technology, called Supernumerary Robotic Limbs (SuperLimbs), “could be crucial in future missions to the moon, where gravity is only a sixth of that on Earth and astronauts may struggle to clamber up again after a fall due to their unwieldy space suits,” explains Thomson. 

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.”

TechCrunch

Researchers at MIT have developed SuperLimbs, a pair of wearable robotic limbs that “can physically support an astronaut and lift them back on their feet after a fall,” reports Brain Heater for TechCrunch. “The system, which is still in the prototype phase, responds directly to the wearer’s feedback,” writes Heater. “When sitting or lying down, it offers a constructive support to help them get back up while expending less energy — every extra bit helps in a situation like this.”

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.