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Space, astronomy and planetary science

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Science Friday

Science Friday host Ira Flatow spotlights how Prof. Scott Hughes has shifted the wavelengths of gravitational waves into the range of human hearing, creating an audible experience that allows listeners to experience the “ripples in space-time made by the tremendous mass of colliding black holes.”

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.”

Popular Science

Popular Science reporter Leto Sapunar spotlights the efforts of MIT researchers who are investigating the origins of a fast blue optical transient nicknamed “the Cow.” To research scientist Dheeraj “DJ” Pasham, “this looks like a sign that matter is closely orbiting a ‘newborn’ black hole or a type of neutron star called a magnetar, and the matter shines with x-rays each time it completes a quick orbit,” writes Sapunar.

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.

Newsweek

Newsweek reporter Robert Lea spotlights how MIT researchers traced the source of a bright blue cosmic explosion to the birth of a neutron star or black hole. “We have likely discovered the birth of a compact object in a supernova” says research scientists Dheeraj “DJ” Pasham. “This happens in normal supernovae, but we haven’t seen it before because it’s such a messy process. We think this new evidence opens possibilities for finding baby black holes or baby neutron stars.”

Gizmodo

Gizmodo reporter Isaac Schultz writes that MIT astronomers have found that a black hole or neutron star may have been produced by a burst of stellar light, known as “the Cow." “I think the Cow is just the beginning of what is to come,” explains research scientist Dheeraj “DJ” Pasham. “More such objects would provide a new window into these extreme explosions.”

New Scientist

New Scientist reporter Leah Crane writes that astronomers have found evidence that a large stellar explosion detected in 2018 was likely caused by a dying star that gave birth to a neutron star or small black hole. “People have been suspecting that these kind of extreme explosions could be the birth of black holes or neutron stars, but this is a final piece of evidence that I think really settles the case,” says research scientist Dheeraj “DJ” Pasham.

Forbes

MIT researchers have uncovered evidence that the creation of a new black hole or neutron star caused a strange blue flash of light in space that was detected in 2018, reports Téa Kvetenadze for Forbes. An explanation for the event was elusive until researchers “focused on the X-rays emitted by the flash and found the Cow was producing a pulse of X-rays every 4.4 milliseconds.”

CNET

CNET reporter Monisha Ravisetti writes that MIT researchers have found that a super-bright stellar explosion detected in 2018 likely gave rise to a new black hole or neutron star.  "Usually, I dare not say 'first time,'" explains research scientist Dheeraj "DJ" Pasham. "But I truly think this is the first time that you have direct confirmation, so to say, that a star dies and you immediately see the baby compact object."

USA Today

Marcos Berríos ‘06, Christina Birch PhD ’15, and Christopher Williams PhD ’12 are among the ten selected to be a part of NASA’s 2021 astronaut candidate class, reports Emre Kelly for USA Today. “Flanked by T-38 Talon jets to be used over their two-year training course at Johnson Space Center in Houston, NASA officials introduces the 2021 class of six men and four women in front of their families, friends, and soon-to-be colleagues,” writes Kelly.