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Space, astronomy and planetary science

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Mashable

Xin Liu SM ’17, art curator for the Media Lab’s Space Exploration Initiative, and Pat Pataranutaporn, a graduate student, speak with Mashable video producer Teodosia Dobriyanova about why sending plastic-eating bacteria to space could aid sustainability efforts. “We envision that in the future when astronauts, as they travel deeper into space, they’ll need to do what we call in-situ resource utilization,” says Pataranutaporn. “So using the materials that already exists there, in this case plastic waste, to upcycle it into new materials.”

The Washington Post

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station completed an experiment to test a system developed by researchers from MIT’s Space Exploration Initiative that would allow astronauts to build parts in space, reports Pranshu Verma for The Washington Post. The new system could allow astronauts to build and modify space stations “quicker, cheaper and with less complexity,” explains Ariel Ekblaw, director and founder of the Space Exploration Initiative. “It starts to unlock more opportunities for exploration.”

Popular Science

MIT researchers developed a new system to build gravity-defying spare parts in space that is currently being tested aboard the International Space Station, reports Rahul Rao for Popular Science. “The MIT group’s process involves taking a flexible silicone skin, shaped like the part it will eventually create, and filling it with a liquid resin,” writes Rao. “These are going to be our first results for a really novel process in microgravity,” explains Ariel Ekblaw SM ’17, PhD ’20, director of the Space Exploration Initiative.

Scientific American

Using data from the James Webb Space Telescope, postdoc Rohan Naidu and his colleagues discovered a candidate galaxy in the early universe that is one of two candidate galaxies older than any others known before, reports Jonathan O'Callaghan for Scientific American.

CNN

CNN’s Ashley Strickland highlights a study by MIT researchers finding that a mysterious flash of light was caused by a black hole jet pointing directly at Earth. The researchers determined that the flash of light was “100 times more powerful than the most powerful gamma-ray burst afterglow,” explains research scientist Dheeraj “DJ” Pasham.

Reuters

Astronomers from MIT and other institutions have found that the source of a big flash of light observed in February 2021 was a black hole jet pointing directly towards Earth, reports Will Dunham for Reuters. "At its peak, the source appeared brighter than 1,000 trillion suns," explains research scientist Dheeraj “DJ” Pasham.

The Boston Globe

Boston Globe reporter Travis Andersen writes that researchers from MIT and other institutions have found that a huge bright flash in the sky initially observed earlier this year was a black hole jet pointing straight towards Earth. “Researchers believe the jet is a product of a black hole that suddenly began consuming a nearby star, releasing a large amount of energy in the process,” writes Andersen. “The flash was detected at some 8.5 billion lights years away, or more than halfway across the universe.”

Gizmodo

A mysterious bright light detected in February has been identified as a black hole consuming a nearby star by researchers at MIT and elsewhere, reports Isaac Schultz for Gizmodo. “This particular event was 100 times more powerful than the most powerful gamma-ray burst afterglow,” says research scientist Dheeraj “DJ” Pasham. “It was something extraordinary.”

Newsweek

Researchers from MIT and elsewhere have found that the source of a mysterious flash of light was a black hole jet pointed at Earth, reports Aristos Georgiou for Newsweek. “The study suggests that the jet was produced when this distant black hole began devouring a nearby star that had strayed too close,” writes Georgiou. “As the black hole fed on the material of the star, it ejected a stream of particles traveling at close to the speed of light in the form of a jet, which appears to be pointed directly at our planet.”

Popular Science

Scientists from around the world, including researchers at MIT, have found evidence of past chemical reactions between liquid water and carbon-compounds on Mars, reports Laura Baisas for Popular Science. “We believe we have found these kinds of liquid water environments and organic compounds together. That’s sort of the limit to how we can describe what we call habitability,” explains postdoc Eva Linghan Scheller.

The Washington Post

A team of scientists, including researchers from MIT, have found that Martian rocks uncovered by NASA’s Perseverance contain “signs of a watery past and are loaded with the kind of organic molecules that are the foundations for life as we know it,” reports Joel Achenbach for The Washington Post. “On balance, we are actually super lucky that there are igneous rocks in the crater, and that we happened to land right on them, since they are ideal for determining ages and studying the past history of Mars’ magnetic field,” says Prof. Benjamin Weiss.

VICE

NASA’s Perseverance rover has uncovered evidence of habitable conditions that once existed on Mars, reports Becky Ferreira for Vice. “In that kind of environment, we’re seeing very, very strange chemistry which is not common on Earth at all, but seems to be more common on Mars because we’ve seen these kinds of materials in almost all the missions now,” says postdoctoral fellow Eva Scheller.

CNN

Postdoc Rohan Naidu speaks with CNN reporter Ashley Strickland about the significance of the James Webb Space Telescope. “With Webb, we were amazed to find the most distant starlight that anyone had ever seen, just days after Webb released its first data,” says Naidu.

Bloomberg

Prof. Danielle Wood speaks with Bloomberg about the future of space technology and sustainability. Wood explains that she and her team are focused on developing a “space sustainability rating, which is a method to incentivize organizations to actually do what they can to reduce space debris now in Earth’s orbit.” 

Forbes

Researchers from the MIT Space Exploration Initiative are sending two payloads to the moon with Lunar Outpost, a space technology company, reports Arianna Johnson for Forbes. “The Resource camera will generate 3-3 images of different lunar points of interest,” writes Johnson. “The second payload is the AstroAnt, a miniature rover the size of a matchbox that will drive atop the MAPP rover and take contactless measurements of the rover’s radiator.”