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Saturday, August 15, 2020
An asteroid’s moon got a name so NASA can bump it off its course

An asteroid’s moon got a name so NASA can bump it...

Newly christened “Dimorphos” is a tiny space rock with a big target on its back. The International Astronomical Union gave the rock an official name on June 23 for a unique reason: It has been marked for the first-ever asteroid deflection mission. A NASA spacecraft will ram into Dimorphos — on purpose — to alter…
Meteorites might be more likely to strike near the equator

Meteorites might be more likely to strike near the equator

Geoffrey Evatt was snowmobiling in Antarctica when he spotted an outlandish feature. A black rock stood so starkly against the diamantine ice that even the untrained eye would have known it was not from this world, but a meteorite. “You’ll never get over that high of finding the first one,” he says. Not that it…
Planets with hydrogen-rich atmospheres could harbor life

Planets with hydrogen-rich atmospheres could harbor life

Microbes can live and grow in an atmosphere of pure hydrogen, lab experiments show. The finding could widen the range of environments where astronomers seek signs of alien life. “We’re trying to expand people’s view of what should be considered a habitable planet,” says exoplanet astronomer Sara Seager of MIT (SN: 10/4/19). “It seems to…
This is the most comprehensive map of the moon’s geology yet

This is the most comprehensive map of the moon’s geology yet

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In the most comprehensive lunar map yet, the moon looks like it’s been playing paintball. Each splash of color identifies a discrete rock or sediment formation, including craters, basins and ancient lava fields. For instance, “the darker, more earth tones are these highland-type terrains, and the reds and the purples tend to be more of…
Unlike Earth, the gases in Venus’ atmosphere aren’t uniformly mixed

Unlike Earth, the gases in Venus’ atmosphere aren’t uniformly mixed

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A new look at the nitrogen on Venus may overturn a decades-old assumption about the planet’s atmosphere. Scientists long thought that atmospheric turbulence would create a uniform mixture of gases in Venus’s atmosphere below an altitude of about 100 kilometers. That’s how it works on Earth. But data from NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft now indicate that…
If Pluto has a subsurface ocean, it may be old and deep

If Pluto has a subsurface ocean, it may be old and...

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A suspected subsurface ocean on Pluto might be old and deep. New analyses of images from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft suggest that the dwarf planet has had an underground ocean since shortly after Pluto formed 4.5 billion years ago, and that the ocean may surround and interact with the rocky core. If so, oceans could…
The asteroid Ryugu has a texture like freeze-dried coffee

The asteroid Ryugu has a texture like freeze-dried coffee

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The asteroid Ryugu is light and fluffy. Images taken by Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft suggest the whole asteroid is highly porous, scientists report in Nature on March 16. “It is something like freeze-dry coffee,” says planetary scientist Tatsuaki Okada of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency. If early protoplanets had similar structures, that could mean planets formed…
Could we have already imaged a ringed exoplanet?

Could we have already imaged a ringed exoplanet?

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Enlarge / Artist's conception of a large ring system surrounding an exoplanet. Many of the exoplanets we've discovered look at least vaguely like something we're familiar with. Exoplanets have been described as super-Earths, mini-Neptunes, hot Jupiters, and so on. But not everything is entirely familiar, and we've stumbled across a number of oddballs. Among those…
Coronavirus and technical issues delay a Mars mission’s launch

Coronavirus and technical issues delay a Mars mission’s launch

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A joint European and Russian mission to Mars is being postponed from July until sometime in 2022, as the coronavirus pandemic is preventing scientists from resolving a few technical difficulties, the European Space Agency said March 12. “We cannot fly in 2020,” ESA director general Jan Wörner says. “This is a disappointment for me personally,…
Coronavirus restrictions the final straw for ESA’s Mars Mission

Coronavirus restrictions the final straw for ESA’s Mars Mission

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Enlarge / The Rosalind Franklin rover following environmental tests. On Thursday, the European Space Agency and its Russian partners announced that they would be delaying their planned rover/lander mission to Mars. As we reported earlier this year, the project was facing a number of technical hurdles, and time was running short to sort them out…

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