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Wednesday, January 20, 2021
How future spacecraft might handle tricky landings on Venus or Europa

How future spacecraft might handle tricky landings on Venus or Europa

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The best way to know a world is to touch it. Scientists have observed the planets and moons in our solar system for centuries, and have flown spacecraft past the orbs for decades. But to really understand these worlds, researchers need to get their hands dirty — or at least a spacecraft’s landing pads. Since…
This new image reveals a sunspot in unrivaled detail

This new image reveals a sunspot in unrivaled detail

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The largest solar telescope on Earth has gotten the sharpest glimpse ever of a sunspot. Vaguely resembling a sunflower — or the Eye of Sauron from The Lord of the Rings — the spot appears as a dark blemish wreathed by ribbons of plasma that have been sculpted by magnetic fields sprouting from the spot’s…
Top 10 questions I’d ask an alien from the Galactic Federation

Top 10 questions I’d ask an alien from the Galactic Federation

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Any science journalist would rejoice at the revelation of aliens on Earth. It would be the story of a lifetime. So it’s not surprising that a former Israeli space official’s claim that a Galactic Federation is known to the U.S. government has made a few headlines and trended on Twitter. Of course, most science journalists…
Hayabusa2’s asteroid dirt may hold clues to the early solar system

Hayabusa2’s asteroid dirt may hold clues to the early solar system

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For the first time, scientists are about to get their (carefully gloved) hands on asteroid dirt so old it may contain clues to how our solar system formed and how water got to Earth. A capsule containing two smidgens of dirt from asteroid Ryugu arrived in Japan on December 7, where researchers will finally get…
Here are 10 of Arecibo’s coolest achievements

Here are 10 of Arecibo’s coolest achievements

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The sun has set on the iconic Arecibo telescope. Since 1963, this behemoth radio telescope in Puerto Rico has observed everything from space rocks whizzing past Earth to mysterious blasts of radio waves from distant galaxies. But on December 1, the 900-metric-ton platform of scientific instruments above the dish came crashing down, demolishing the telescope…
For the second time ever, an asteroid sample returns to Earth

For the second time ever, an asteroid sample returns to Earth

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Early on Sunday morning, the skies above a secluded military complex in central Australia will be brightened by a fireball plummeting to Earth. It will be a flamboyant homecoming for the sample return capsule from Hayabusa2, a Japanese spacecraft launched almost exactly six years ago on a mission to shoot an ancient asteroid and steal…
Why losing Arecibo is a big deal for astronomy

Why losing Arecibo is a big deal for astronomy

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Edgard Rivera-Valentín first visited the Arecibo Observatory as a little kid. “I definitely remember this feeling of just being awestruck,” Rivera-Valentín says. “Looking at this gigantic telescope … getting to hear about all this neat work that was being done … it definitely leaves an impression.” Important science was happening right in the backyard of…
December’s stunning Geminid meteor shower is born from a humble asteroid

December’s stunning Geminid meteor shower is born from a humble asteroid

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On Sunday night, December 13, countless meteors will shoot across the sky as space particles burn up in our atmosphere and meet a fiery end. Most meteor showers occur when Earth slams into debris left behind by a comet. But not this meteor shower, which is likely to be the most spectacular of the year.…
Astronomers spotted colliding neutron stars that may have formed a magnetar

Astronomers spotted colliding neutron stars that may have formed a magnetar

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A surprisingly bright cosmic blast might have marked the birth of a magnetar. If so, it would be the first time that astronomers have witnessed the formation of this kind of rapidly spinning, extremely magnetized stellar corpse. That dazzling flash of light was made when two neutron stars collided and merged into one massive object,…
Runaway stars may create the mysterious ultraviolet glow around some galaxies

Runaway stars may create the mysterious ultraviolet glow around some galaxies

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Hot blue stars kicked out of their cradles may explain a mysterious ultraviolet glow that surrounds the disks of many spiral galaxies. A new computer simulation demonstrates that these runaway stars can populate the vast expanses beyond a galaxy’s visible disk (SN: 3/23/20). These distant regions have gas that is too warm and tenuous to…

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