Showing posts from 2020

China lands its Moon rocks in Inner Mongolia Source:  By   Paul Voosen , Science Magazine.  Excerpt: China’s Chang’e-5 mission made a triumphant return around 1 p.m. EST today, landing in the middle of the night on the dark frozen plains of Inner Mongolia, Chinese   state media reported . The capsule’s return marks the first time China has collected rocks from the Moon—and the first time any nation has accomplished the feat since 1976. The 3-week-long mission   was the most complicated   in the history of China’s robotic space exploration program, involving a lunar landing, furious scooping and drilling of up to 2 kilograms of grit, and then an ascent and rendezvous with an orbiter, which carried the samples back to Earth. The China National Space Administration, typically secretive with its missions, showed growing confidence in its space program, with live broadcasts of the rocket launch and return of its sample capsule, which glowed bright whit

Japan’s Hayabusa2 capsule lands with carbon-rich asteroid samples Source:    By  Dennis Normile , Science Magazine.  Excerpt: Japan has once again retrieved samples from a distant asteroid, which scientists will scrutinize for clues about the ancient delivery of water and organic molecules to Earth. The return capsule of the Hayabusa2 mission—about the size and shape of a wok—parachuted to a landing in the red desert sand of Woomera, Australia, in the early morning of 6 December, after a nearly 5.3-billion-kilometer trip to the asteroid Ryugu. A helicopter team homed in on a radio beacon and found the capsule intact. Launched in 2014 by the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Hayabusa2 spent 18 months circling Ryugu, making remote observations of  the diamond-shaped rubble pile . It also released several tiny rovers that hopped on the surface gathering data. After identifying safe spots amid

Moon May Hold Billions of Tons of Subterranean Ice at Its Poles Source:  By Jerald Pinson, Eos/AGU.  Excerpt: New research indicates that if even a moderate amount of the water delivered by asteroids to the Moon was sequestered, the lunar poles would contain gigaton deposits (1 billion metric tons) of ice in sheltered craters and beneath its surface. ...“We looked at the entire time history of ice deposition on the Moon,” said   Kevin Cannon , a planetary scientist at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden and lead author of the   new study   in the AGU journal Geophysical Research Letters. Cannon and his team used conservative estimates for the amount of water that asteroids were likely to contain upon impact with the Moon and how much of it was likely to be retained once the dust had settled. ...“If the very oldest regions have been stable and accumulating ice for billions of years, then some could have very substantial deposits, but they might b

Famed meteorite reveals early water on Mars—and an early outer space bombardment Source:  By   Paul Voosen .  Excerpt: With just 15 grams of the 4.4-billion-year-old   “Black Beauty” meteorite   [from Mars] discovered in 2011 in the western Sahara, [Martin Bizzarro’s] team has revealed a record of asteroid impacts and volcanic eruptions spanning nearly all of martian history. One of the most surprising findings: After Mars underwent a pummeling early in its life, all went quiet—even during a time, nearly 4 billion years ago, when our Solar System was thought to have suffered a cataclysmic assault... .  

SpaceX’s Dragon Crew-1 capsule, with 4 astronauts aboard, on way to ISS Source:   By  Christian Davenport  and  Hamza Shaban , The Washington Post.  Excerpt: CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX launched four astronauts to the International Space Station on Sunday in a spectacular evening liftoff that came days after the company’s Dragon capsule became the first privately owned and operated spacecraft to be certified by NASA for human spaceflight. SpaceX earned that designation and the right to undertake what NASA hopes will be regular missions to the space station and back after  it completed a test flight  of two astronauts earlier this year. That May launch was the first of NASA astronauts from U.S. soil since the space shuttle was retired in 2011, forcing the United States to rely on Russia for flights to orbit for nearly a decade.... 

Martian dust storms parch the planet by driving water into space Source:  By   Paul Voosen , Science Magazine.  Excerpt: ...Martian dust storms are common, but every decade or so, for reasons unknown, a monstrous one goes global, veiling the planet. The storms can be a mortal threat to exploration: The one in 2018   killed off NASA’s Opportunity rover   by coating its solar panels in dust. But now, researchers say the storms may also be one of the culprits in the ultimate martian cold case: how the once-wet planet lost its water. Fossilized rivers and deltas etched across Mars   suggest water flowed there billions of years ago . Most of it must have somehow escaped to space—yet researchers thought water vapor could not travel high in the frigid, thin atmosphere without condensing into snow and falling back to the surface. New data from NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) orbiter,   published today   in Science, show how churning dust stor

Earth-size Planets are Common, Kepler Retrospective Finds Source:  Sky and Telescope Magazine.  Excerpt: ...NASA’s Kepler telescope was retired a few years ago, but ongoing analyses of its data, both by professional astronomers and  citizen scientists , are still producing new results. ...Kepler has found more than 2,600 exoplanets (and counting). Now, an international collaboration led by Steve Bryson, a researcher at NASA Ames, has announced a refined estimate. The team, including NASA scientists, SETI researchers, academics, former-Keplerites, and other planet hunters, performed a statistical analysis that combined Kepler’s planet catalog and stellar data from the European Space Agency’s Gaia observatory. They found that about half of the Sun-like stars in our galaxy could have a rocky planet in their habitable zones. ... The study , soon to be published in The Astronomical Journal, predicts that there are at least 300 million habitable-zone rocky

The universe teems with weird black holes, gravitational wave hunters find Source:    By   Adrian Cho , Science Magazine.  Excerpt: Less than 5 years ago, physicists rocked the scientific world when they   first spotted gravitational waves —fleeting ripples in space and time—set off when two gargantuan black holes billions of light-years away swirled into each other. Since then, scientists have detected a scad of similar events,   mostly reported event by event . Today, however, researchers with a global network of gravitational wave detectors announced the first major statistical analyses of their data so far, 50 events in all. Posted online in four papers, the analyses show that black holes—ghostly ultraintense gravitational fields left behind when massive stars collapse—are both more common and stranger than expected. They also shed light on mysteries such as how such black holes pair up before merging....  

NASA’s SOFIA Discovers Water on Sunlit Surface of Moon. Source:   NASA RELEASE 20-105.  Excerpt: NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) has confirmed, for the first time, water on the sunlit surface of the Moon. This discovery indicates that water may be distributed across the lunar surface, and not limited to cold, shadowed places. ...Previous observations of the Moon’s surface detected some form of hydrogen, but were unable to distinguish between water and its close chemical relative, hydroxyl (OH). Data from this location reveal water in concentrations of 100 to 412 parts per million – roughly equivalent to a 12-ounce bottle of water – trapped in a cubic meter of soil spread across the lunar surface. The   results are published   in the latest issue of Nature Astronomy. ...As a comparison, the Sahara desert has 100 times the amount of water than what SOFIA detected in the lunar soil. ...the discovery raises new questions

The Moon may hold much more water than we think Source:    By   Sid Perkins , Science Magazine.  Excerpt: Scientists have long suspected the Moon holds sizable reserves of water, secreted as ice in the deep cold of permanently shadowed craters near the poles. Two new studies tell us more about the possible extent of those reserves. One suggests the shadowy polar caches may cover an area equivalent to the states of Connecticut and Massachusetts combined; the other reveals traces of water elsewhere on the Moon’s surface, trapped in rocks or between the grains of lunar soil. ...A 2008–09 orbital expedition   detected the signature of water in shadowy lunar hollows . But how much is there? To find out, Paul Hayne, a planetary scientist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and his colleagues estimated the number and size of permanently shadowed polar regions, where temperatures remain below –163°C. ...the team calculated that the Moon’s polar regions host

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Successfully Touches Asteroid Source:  NASA RELEASE 20-103.  Excerpt: NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft unfurled its robotic arm Tuesday, and in a first for the agency, briefly touched an asteroid to collect dust and pebbles from the surface for delivery to Earth in 2023. This well-preserved, ancient asteroid, known as Bennu, ... offers scientists  a window into the early solar system  as it was first taking shape billions of years ago and flinging ingredients that could have helped seed life on Earth. If Tuesday’s sample collection event, known as “Touch-And-Go” (TAG), provided enough of a sample, mission teams will command the spacecraft to begin stowing the precious primordial cargo to begin its journey back to Earth in March 2021. Otherwise, they will prepare for another attempt in January.... See also New York Times article [ https:/

Dune Universe Inspires Titan’s Nomenclature Source:  By  JoAnna Wendel , Eos/AGU.  Excerpt: Frank Herbert’s Dune tells the story of Paul Atreides, a son of a noble family sent to the hostile desert planet Arrakis to oversee the trade of a mysterious drug called melange (nicknamed “spice”), which gives its consumers supernatural abilities and longevity. ... Arrakis Planitia —belongs to the second-largest moon in our solar system,  Titan . Arrakis is a vast, undifferentiated plain of sand, but not sand as we know it. Titan’s sand is made of large organic molecules, which would make it softer and stickier, said  Mike Malaska , a planetary scientist.... ...Malaska likes to imagine that Titan’s hydrocarbon sand, which is actually referred to as tholin, or  complex organic gunk,  could double as the infamous spice at the center of Dune’s expansive narrative arc. ...Arrakis isn’t the only name from the Dune novels that adorns Titan’s geological features. ...There’s Bu

A NASA mission is about to capture carbon-rich dust from a former water world Source:  By  Paul Voosen , Science Magazine.  Excerpt: OSIRIS-REx is ready to get the goods. On 20 October,  after several years of patient study  of its enigmatic target, NASA’s $800 million spacecraft will finally stretch out its robotic arm, swoop to the surface of the near-Earth asteroid Bennu, and sweep up some dust and pebbles. The encounter, 334 million kilometers from Earth, will last about 10 seconds. If it is successful, OSIRIS-REx could steal away with up to 1 kilogram of carbon-rich material from the dawn of the Solar System for return to Earth in 2023. Since OSIRIS-REx (short for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) arrived in 2018, Bennu has yielded surprises…. Despite the logistical challenge, the boulders contain a prize:  veins of carbonate minerals thicker than your hands , the team reports in one of six studies pu

Simulations Reveal How Planetary Impacts Affect Atmosphere s Source:    By Frank Tavares, NASA.  Excerpt: The histories of planets across our solar system and beyond are filled with collisions and transformations. New research is helping scientists understand how colossal impacts, like the one with Earth thought to have formed the Moon, are impacting the atmospheres of rocky planets.In the animation above, a Mars-like mass grazes an Earth-like mass, replicating the traditional theory for the impact that formed the Moon. Some atmosphere is lost, accompanied by a shockwave....    

Moon safe for long-term human exploration, first surface radiation measurements show Source:  By  Adam Mann , Science Magazine.  Excerpt: ...China’s Chang’e 4 lander has made the first detailed measurements of the intense radiation that blasts the lunar surface and found that it’s safe for human exploration. ...The robotic Chang’e 4  made history last year  when it touched down in Von Kármán crater on the Moon’s far side, bringing a suite of instruments along for the ride. One of these was a new dosimeter.... The device measured hourly radiation rates and found that astronauts would be exposed to roughly  200 times the radiation levels  as people on Earth, they report today in Science Advances. The dosimeter’s placement inside the Chang’e 4 probe provides partial shielding, much as an astronaut’s spacesuit would to their body, so the findings are quite applicable to human explorers, Wimmer-Schweingruber says. The measured dose is about five to 10 ti

Scientists spot potential sign of life in Venus atmosphere Source:  By Marisa Iati and Joel Achenbach, The Washington Post.  Excerpt: An international team of astronomers has detected a rare molecule in the atmosphere of Venus that could be produced by living organisms, according to   a study   published Monday. The discovery instantly puts the brightest planet in the night sky back into the conversation about where to search for extraterrestrial life. The researchers made clear this is not a direct detection of life on Venus. But the astronomical observations confirmed the highly intriguing presence of   the chemical phosphine   near the top of the acidic clouds that blanket the planet. Phosphine is a simple molecule produced on Earth by bacteria and through industrial processes. As a result, it is on the list of molecules — oxygen being another — considered by scientists to be potential “biosignatures” of life on Earth-sized planets whose atmospheres can be viewed th

NASA announces it’s looking for companies to help mine the moon Source:  By   Christian Davenport , The Washington Post.  Excerpt: The space agency announced Thursday it is looking for companies to collect rocks and dirt from the lunar surface, and then sell them to NASA, as part of a technology development program that would eventually help astronauts “live off the land.” ...The announcement is yet another step in NASA’s Artemis project to set up a permanent presence on and around the moon and eventually go to Mars, where astronauts would need to be able to use the resources there.     In a blog post,   Bridenstine said the effort would fully comply with the   Outer Space Treaty of 1967 , which says that no country may lay sovereign claim to the moon or other celestial bodies....    

How Do You Solve a Moon Mystery? Fire a Laser at It Source:    By Katherine Kornei, The New York Times.  Excerpt: The moon is drifting away. Every year, it gets about an inch and a half farther from us. Hundreds of millions of years from now, our companion in the sky will be distant enough that there will be no more total solar eclipses. For decades, scientists have measured the moon’s retreat by firing a laser at light-reflecting panels, known as retroreflectors, that were left on the lunar surface, and then timing the light’s round trip. But the moon’s five retroreflectors are old, and they’re now much less efficient at flinging back light. To determine whether a layer of moon dust might be the culprit, researchers devised an audacious plan: They bounced laser light off a much smaller but newer retroreflector mounted aboard a NASA spacecraft that was skimming over the moon’s surface at thousands of miles per hour. And it worked. These results were published this month

Extremely young galaxy is Milky Way look-alike Source:   By Science Daily. Excerpt: Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), in which the European Southern Observatory (ESO) is a partner, have revealed an extremely distant and therefore very young galaxy that looks surprisingly like our Milky Way. The galaxy is so far away its light has taken more than 12 billion years to reach us: we see it as it was when the Universe was just 1.4 billion years old. It is also surprisingly unchaotic, contradicting theories that all galaxies in the early Universe were turbulent and unstable. This unexpected discovery challenges our understanding of how galaxies form, giving new insights into the past of our Universe. "This result represents a breakthrough in the field of galaxy formation, showing that the structures that we observe in nearby spiral galaxies and in our Milky Way were already in place 12 billion years ago," says Francesca Rizz

This is the way the universe ends: not with a whimper, but a bang. Source:   By Adam Mann, Science Magazine.  Excerpt: In the unimaginably far future, cold stellar remnants known as black dwarfs will begin to explode in a spectacular series of supernovae, providing the final fireworks of all time. That’s the conclusion of a new study, which posits that the universe will experience one last hurrah before everything goes dark forever. ...The known laws of physics suggest that by about 10 100  (the No. 1 followed by 100 zeros) years from now, star birth will cease, galaxies will go dark, and even black holes will evaporate through a process known as Hawking radiation, leaving little more than simple subatomic particles and energy. The expansion of space will cool that energy nearly to 0 kelvin, or absolute zero, signaling the heat death of the universe and total entropy. ...The particles in a white dwarf stay locked in a crystalline lattice that radiates heat for trillions of ye

Planet Ceres is an 'ocean world' with sea water beneath surface, mission finds Source:  By The Guardian.  Excerpt: Dwarf planet, believed to be a barren space rock, has an ‘extensive reservoir’ of brine beneath its surface, images show. The dwarf planet Ceres – long believed to be a barren space rock – is an ocean world with reservoirs of sea water beneath its surface, the results of a major exploration mission showed on Monday. Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and has its own gravity, enabling the Nasa Dawn spacecraft to capture high-resolution images of its surface. Now a team of scientists from the United States and Europe have analysed images relayed from the orbiter, captured about 35km (22 miles) from the asteroid. They focused on the 20-million-year-old Occator crater and determined that there is an “extensive reservoir” of brine beneath its surface....  See also article Dwarf planet Ceres is an ocean world with salt

Exploring the Solar System Source:   By Jonathan Corum.  Excerpt: Three missions to Mars this summer — from NASA, China and the United Arab Emirates — will join dozens of active and inactive spacecraft beyond Earth’s orbit. [A comprehensive listing of solar system missions.... 

Why the ‘Super Weird’ Moons of Mars Fascinate Scientists. What’s the big deal about little Phobos and tinier Deimos? Source:   By Robin George Andrews, The New York Times.  Excerpt: our planetary neighbor is adorned with two moons: puny Phobos, a lumpy mass 17 miles across; and diminutive Deimos, just 9 miles long. Their names in ancient Greek may mean “fear” and “dread’, but the aesthetics of these Lilliputian space potatoes inspire anything but. ...the desire to visit Phobos and Deimos was galvanized by their deeply mysterious nature. “They’re super weird, confusing and interesting,” said Abigail Fraeman, a planetary scientist studying Mars, Phobos and Deimos at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. ...they look like asteroids foreign to the red planet but behave like byproducts of Mars’ early, impact-laden history. And if that Japanese mission manages to grab some samples and decode the chemistry of the mangled moons, we might be able to discover their origins. In doing so, we won’t just gain a better understanding of Mars’ anc

Solar Orbiter's First Images Reveal "Campfires" on the Sun   Source:   By European Space Agency (ESA).  Excerpt: The first images from Solar Orbiter, a new Sun-observing mission by ESA and NASA, have revealed omnipresent miniature solar flares, dubbed 'campfires', near the surface of our closest star. ...Solar Orbiter, launched on 10 February 2020, carries six remote-sensing instruments... and four in situ instruments that monitor the environment around the spacecraft. By comparing the data from both sets of instruments, scientists will get insights into the generation of the solar wind, the stream of charged particles from the Sun that influences the entire Solar System. ...The campfires shown in the first image set were captured by the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI) from Solar Orbiter's first perihelion, the point in its elliptical orbit closest to the Sun. At that time, the spacecraft was only 77 million km away from the Sun, abo

A Month of Milestones for Mars Missions Source:   By Kimberly M. S. Cartier, Eos/AGU.  Excerpt: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) hopes to kick off a new decade of Mars exploration as it launches the Emirates Mars Mission and its orbiter, Hope. Hope, or Al Amal, is the first space exploration mission from an Arab state. It will be joined in its journey to Mars by China’s Tianwen-1 and the United States’ Mars 2020 mission later in July. ...The Hope probe is a weather satellite that will create a global map of Mars’s weather and atmospheric dynamics up through the exosphere. One of its science goals is to understand how near-surface weather leads to loss of atmospheric hydrogen and oxygen, a key to understanding Mars’s evolution from warm and wet to cold and arid. ...Tianwen-1 is an all-in-one orbiter, lander, and rover and could make China only the second country (after the United States) to successfully land on Mars. The plan is for Tianwen-1 first to orbit Mars

With first spacecraft to Red Planet, United Arab Emirates poised to join elite Mars club Source:   By Sedeer El-Showk, Science Magazine.  Excerpt: The United Arab Emirates (UAE), a small Persian Gulf nation, is on the cusp of a big breakthrough: joining the United States, the Soviet Union, Europe, and India in the elite club of nations that have successfully sent spacecraft to Mars. On 15 July, the Emirates Mars Mission (EMM)—also known as the Hope satellite—is set to launch on a Japanese rocket, arriving at the Red Planet in February 2021. Planners hope the mission will boost UAE industry and science capacity while also delivering sorely needed data on the martian atmosphere. ...Most of the six spacecraft now at Mars are in polar orbits that only offer views of the surface at fixed times of day. But Hope will be inserted into an inclined orbit that provides a view of any given point at a different time on each orbit. A camera and infrared spectrometer wil

How NASA’s new rover will search for signs of ancient life on Mars Source:   By Kelso Harper, Joel Goldberg, Science Magazine.  Excerpt: [See movie also] If NASA realizes its midsummer dream, a spacecraft will blast off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, sometime between 30 July and 15 August, destined to ignite the next generation of Mars exploration. The mission aims to deliver the space agency’s latest rover, Perseverance, to an uncharted crater known as Jezero—an ancient lake bed that could offer a window into Mars’s climatic history. Perseverance will carry many tools and instruments, including a small helicopter and a novel array of 43 sample tubes, robotic arms, and multiple drills, which will bore into the martian surface for chalk-size cores of rock and soil. The cores will eventually make their way back to Earth in a sample return campaign, a joint effort between NASA and the European Space Agency. Should they contain organic compounds, they may ind

NASA’s new rover will collect martian rocks—and clues to planet’s ancient climate Source:  By Paul Voosen, Science Magazine.  Excerpt: NASA’s newest Mars rover, Perseverance, is going back in time to the bottom of a vanished lake. If all goes well, in February 2021 it will land in Jezero crater and pop the dust covers off its camera lenses. Towering in front of it, in all likelihood, will be a 60-meter cliff of mudstone: the edge of a fossilized river delta. These lithified martian sediments could hold answers to urgent questions about the earliest days of Earth’s chilly, parched neighbor: How did this pintsize planet, so distant from a faint young Sun, support liquid water on its surface? How much water was there, and how long did it persist? And did Mars ever spawn life?....  See also Martian Chronicler, Science Magazine 2020 June 26 article by Paul Voosen [ ]

Mars mission would put China among space leaders Source:    By Dennis Normile, Science Magazine.  Excerpt: NASA’s Perseverance rover may have company on the Red Planet. China aims to leap to the front ranks in planetary exploration with an ambitious Mars mission, its first independent bid to reach the planet. Tianwen-1—“quest for heavenly truth”—consists of not only an orbiter, but also a lander and a rover, a trifecta no other nation has accomplished on its first Mars bid. “A successful landing would put China among elite company,” says Mason Peck, an aerospace engineer at Cornell University....

A Decade of Sun. By NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) Source:    NASA Excerpt: YouTube video - As of June 2020, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory — SDO — has now been watching the Sun non-stop for over a full decade. From its orbit in space around the Earth, SDO has gathered 425 million high-resolution images of the Sun, amassing 20 million gigabytes of data over the past 10 years. This information has enabled countless new discoveries about the workings of our closest star and how it influences the solar system. ...While SDO has kept an unblinking eye pointed towards the Sun, there have been a few moments it missed. The dark frames in the video are caused by Earth or the Moon eclipsing SDO as they pass between the spacecraft and the Sun. A longer blackout in 2016 was caused by a temporary issue with the AIA instrument that was successfully resolved after a week. The images where the Sun is off-center were observed when SDO was calibrating its instruments....   

Mars Is About to Have Its ‘Wright Brothers Moment’ URL Source:  By Kenneth Chang, The New York Times.  Excerpt: As part of its next Mars mission, NASA is sending an experimental helicopter to fly through the red planet’s thin atmosphere....  

Small Worlds With Lava Oceans Might Have Given Us Meteorites Source:  By Jonathan O’Callaghan, The New York Times.  Excerpt: Researchers propose a new model to explain the formation of most of the meteorites that make it to Earth. “Droplets of fiery rain.” That’s how Henry Clifton Sorby, a 19th-century British mineralogist, described the tiny spheres called chondrules found within meteorites. Chondrules are such dominant features of these meteorites that they are called chondrites, and they account for 86 percent of meteorites that have been found on Earth. Their origin, however, remains a mystery. ...Now some scientists think they have a new answer to this rocky enigma: The chondrites may have formed in an unusual event during a narrow window of time in the early solar system. The findings [ ], presented at a virtual meeting of the American Astronomical Society this month by William Herbst an

This is what our universe looks like to x-ray eyes Source:  By Daniel Clery, Science Magazine. Excerpt: A telescope designed to study the universe’s mysterious dark energy released its first all-sky image today (pictured), showing what we would see if we had x-ray eyes. After half a year of observing, the scope—known as eROSITA (extended Roentgen Survey with an Imaging Telescope Array)—has already logged more than 1 million objects that shine in the x-ray spectrum, including black holes gobbling matter, compact burned-out stars like white dwarfs and neutron stars, and gas between stars so hot that it gives off an x-ray glow. The eROSITA team says this first image identifies twice as many x-ray sources as have previously been detected in 60 years of x-ray astronomy, and stretches four times farther out than the previous x-ray survey 3 decades ago. Most of the dots in the image—and eROSITA’s primary targets—are supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies

Baby planets are born exceptionally fast, study suggests Source:   By Adam Mann, Science Magazine.  Excerpt: Planets are forming around young stars far faster than scientists expected, arising in a cosmic eye blink of less than half a million years, according to a new study. ...Planets coalesce from massive disks of gas and dust that surround newborn stars. But detecting these embryonic worlds is difficult because both the star and the disk shine far brighter than any tiny planet. To find out how much material is available for planet formation, researchers have used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile to weigh the disks around young stars between 1 million and 3 million years old. Past studies found that some lacked the mass to form even a single Jupiter-size world. The results suggested astronomers were either overlooking some hidden reservoir of material or they were looking too late in the planet-forging proc

Sunburned Surface Reveals Asteroid Formation and Orbital Secrets Source:   By Megan Sever, Eos/AGU.  Excerpt: Newly analyzed high-resolution images from the Hayabusa2 landing on the near-Earth asteroid Ryugu revealed a reddish hue to surface materials. Scientists interpret that coloration to be a result of a brief orbital excursion close to the Sun. When combining this information with previously collected data from Ryugu, scientists can now paint a clearer picture of how and when the asteroid formed, how its orbit has changed over time, and what its surface looks like....