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Space, astronomy and planetary science

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Wired

Research scientist Clara Sousa-Silva speaks with Wired reporter Abigail Beall about phosphine, a molecule that she has spent the past decade investigating. “Phosphine is a horrific molecule, it’s foul in every way,” she says. “It’s almost immoral, if a molecule can be.”

USA Today

A team of astronomers, including MIT researchers, have identified fast radio burst emanating from a magnetar in our galaxy, reports Doyle Rice for USA Today. “The radio pulses are the closest ones detected to date, and their proximity has allowed the team to pinpoint their source.”

The Verge

Prof. Kiyoshi Masui speaks with Verge reporter Loren Grush about how astronomers have detected fast radio bursts coming from a magnetar within our own galaxy. “This is the missing link,” Masui says. “Now we’ve seen a fast radio burst coming from a magnetar, so it proves that at least some fraction of fast radio bursts we see in the universe come from magnetars.”

Scientific American

Writing for Scientific American, Rebecca Boyle highlights how Prof. Dava Newman and graduate student Cody Paige are developing next-generation spacesuits from advanced materials. Boyle writes that Newman explains “future space suits have to be lightweight, easy to move in, and better at protecting astronauts from hazards such as micrometeorites and radiation.”

CBS Boston

CBS Boston reporter Juli McDonald spotlights how NASA's ORISIS-Rex spacecraft carried a key imagine instrument, designed and built by students from MIT and Harvard, on its mission to sample the surface of the asteroid Bennu. Prof. Richard Binzel, co-investigator for the mission, explains that, the device was developed to “measure the asteroid in X-ray light, which is part of the process of figuring out what the asteroid is made out of.”

The Boston Globe

When NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft touched down on the asteroid Bennu, onboard was the REgolith X-Ray Imaging Spectrometer (REXIS), a device built by students from MIT and Harvard, write Breanne Kovatch and Andrew Stanton for The Boston Globe. “We as scientists feel the drive of curiosity and the thrill of exploration and it’s humbling and satisfying to think that we can share that sense of exploration with the world,” explains Prof. Richard Binzel, a co-investigator for the mission.

Fox News

Fox News reporter Chris Ciaccia writes that a team of astronomers, including MIT researchers, has found an exoplanet that has a 3.14-day orbit. “The ‘pi planet’ known as K2-315b is relatively close to Earth at 186 light-years away,” writes Ciaccia.

The Washington Post

Prof. Sara Seager speaks with Washington Post reporter Joel Achenbach about the Breakthrough Initiative she is leading aimed at exploring the feasibility of sending an exploration mission to Venus. “We just want to do something small and fast and focused,” says Seager. “Can we send a microscope and look for life directly?” 

CBS News

Astronomers have found that the M87* black hole appears to be wobbling, reports Sophie Lewis for CBS News. “The wobbling is big news — it allows scientists to study the object's accretion flow,” writes Lewis. “Studying that region is key to understanding how the black hole and surrounding matter interact with the host galaxy.”

Gizmodo

Gizmodo reporter George Dvorsky writes that astronomers from the Event Horizon Telescope collaboration, including MIT Haystack Observatory researchers, have studied the physical changes to M87* black hole and found that it appears to be wobbling. “With this paper, we’ve now entered into a new era of studying the intimate areas around black holes,” writes Dvorsky.

Forbes

MIT researchers have discovered an Earth-sized planet, named K2-315b, which is being referred to as the “pi planet” for its 3.14 day orbit, reports Allison Gasparini for Forbes. “Having planets like K2-315b will help us to further understand the diverse planet bodies out there,” says graduate student Prajwal Niraula.

The Guardian

 “At our best, scientists are explorers and what I’ve discovered is that life can change in the blink of an eye,” writes Prof. Sara Seager in an excerpt from her new book, “The Smallest Lights in the Universe” published by The Guardian. “We need to hold on to the glimmers of hope – however small – and to continue to search for what really matters.”

Space.com

A team of researchers, led by Prof. Sara Seager, is planning to investigate why phosphine has been found on Venus and the discovery’s potential implications, reports Mike Wall for Space.com. “We are thrilled to push the envelope to try to understand what kind of life could exist in the very harsh Venus atmosphere and what further evidence for life a mission to Venus could search for,” says Seager.

The Washington Post

Research scientist Clara Sousa-Silva speaks with Washington Post reporters Joel Achenbach and Marisa Iati about her work trying to determine whether phosphine in the clouds of Venus could be a potential indicator of life. “We did our very best to show what else would be causing phosphine in the abundance we found on Venus,” says Sousa-Silva. “And we found nothing. We found nothing close.”

CNN

Writing for CNN, Prof. Sara Seager explores the significance of the paper she co-authored detailing the discovery of phosphine on Venus. “Our finding of phosphine gas now raises Venus as just one more place to take seriously in the search for life beyond Earth,” writes Seager, “maybe not so crazy after all.”