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Space, astronomy and planetary science

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Forbes

Forbes contributor David Bressan writes that a new study co-authored by MIT researchers finds that images taken by the Perseverance rover show that Mars’ Jezero crater was once a lake. “The fine-grained clay and carbonate layers deposited in the fossil lake are capped by a diamict, a sedimentary rock consisting of a mix of large and small boulders,” writes Bressan. “Scientists think the boulders were picked up tens of miles upstream and deposited into the former lakebed by episodic flash floods, suggesting a catastrophic climate change in Mars' distant past.”

Popular Science

Prof. Tanja Bosak and Prof. Benjamin Weiss speak with Popular Science reporter Kate Baggaley about how their analysis of images captured by NASA’s Perseverance rover found that the Jezero crater was once a lake and river delta. “The geological history of the Jezero crater could help scientists understand how the Red Planet changed from being wet and possibly habitable into a harsh desert world,” writes Baggaley. “Definitely we hit the jackpot here,” says Weiss, 

Space.com

Space.com reporter Mike Wall writes that a new study co-authored by MIT scientists finds that the Jezero crater on Mars previously hosted a big lake and river delta. “The newly analyzed photos may provide an intriguing glimpse” into Mars’ transformation to a dry landscape,” writes Wall.

CNN

Researchers from MIT and other institutions analyzed images captured by NASA’s Perseverance rover and found that Mars’ Jezero crater was a lake 3.7 billion years ago, reports Ashley Strickland for CNN. “The new information shows the importance of sending rovers to explore the surface of Mars,” writes Strickland. “Previous images captured by orbiters had shown that this outcrop resembled the kind of fan-shaped river deltas we have on Earth. Perseverance's images show definitive proof of the river delta's existence.”

WBUR

WBUR’s Erin Trahan spotlights “Space Torah,” a short film that tells the “story of former NASA astronaut Jeff Hoffman (and current MIT professor) who read from a Torah he brought onboard one of his space missions.” The film will be shown online and in-person at the Museum of Science November 7-21.

CBS Boston

CBS Boston spotlights how Prof. Taylor Perron has been honored with a 2021 MacArthur Fellowship for his work “unraveling the mechanisms that create landscapes on Earth and other planets.” CBS Boston notes that Perron is “currently studying river networks on Mars and one of Saturn’s moons for clues about the climate history of each celestial body.”

The Washington Post

Prof. Taylor Perron has been named a recipient of the 2021 MacArthur Fellowship for his work investigating the processes that create a planet’s landforms, reports Ellen McCarthy for The Washington Post.

CNN

CNN reporter Ashley Strickland spotlights first year student Kristoff Misquitta’s work winning the 2020 Genes in Space contest for an experiment aimed at understanding how the human liver functions in space. "We're trying to develop a powerful and efficient workflow to understand the state of the liver in space, and to use that as a basis to understand some of the issues surrounding the way astronauts take medication currently and to remedy issues we find," explains Misquitta. "Hopefully we can use this as a platform to someday develop more advanced and different types of medications."

Gizmodo

Gizmodo reporter George Dvorsky spotlights a new study by researchers from MIT and other institutions that finds “it’s safe for astronauts to fly to Mars and back, provided the length of the mission does not exceed four years and that crewed flights to the Red Planet coincide with a well-known solar cycle.”

The Boston Globe

Tim Brothers of the MIT Wallace Astrophysical Observatory speaks with Boston Globe reporter Thomas Farragher about the importance of reducing artificial light pollution. “There are a lot of other reasons you should care about light pollution. Maybe it’s health,” says Brother. “The reason the bugs aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing — feeding or living or pollinating — is the same reason we’re not doing the right thing.”

National Public Radio (NPR)

NPR’s Nell Greenfieldboyce spotlights how LIGO has helped to usher in a “big astronomy revolution” that is allowing scientists to listen to the universe. “The exciting thing is when you've got a new instrument, you know, a brand-new way of looking at things,” says Greenfieldboyce, “you don't know what you might detect that you never even thought of because until now, you just weren't able to look at the universe in this way.”

Gizmodo

Gizmodo reporter George Dvorsky writes that astronomers have found two red asteroids, which resemble objects typically found beyond Neptune, in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.  “This finding suggests some asteroids in the main belt formed in the outer solar system, and that a population of these objects is likely to exist within the main belt,” writes Dvorsky.

Radio Boston (WBUR)

Professor of the practice emeritus Marcia Bartusiak discusses the future of space travel and exploration with Radio Boston host Tiziana Dearing. “I believe it is our destiny to be in space, to really be the caretakers of the solar system,” says Bartusiak. She adds that “there needs to be oversight and it has to be global.”

New York Times

A new study co-authored by postdoctoral associate Michaël Marsset details how two red objects that have been discovered in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter appear to have originated beyond Neptune, reports Jonathan O’Callaghan for The New York Times. “In order to have these organics, you need to initially have a lot of ice at the surface,” explains Marsset. “So they must have formed in a very cold environment.”

Boston Globe

Writing for The Boston Globe, Hiawatha Bray spotlights Accion Systems, an MIT startup that makes “small thrusters that use an electric current to turn a liquid propellant into a stream of ionized gas. The result is gentle but effective thrust that can be used to adjust a satellite’s orbit or slow it down at the end of its life, so it can fall harmlessly back to earth.”