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  • Say What?

    Earth might once have resembled a hot, steamy doughnut

    Synestia\sin-es-ti-ə \ n.

    A large spinning hunk of hot, vaporized rock that forms when rocky, planet-sized objects collide

    Earth may have taken on a jelly doughnut shape early in its history. The rocky planet was spinning through space about 4.5 billion years ago when it smacked into a Mars-sized hunk of rotating rock called Theia, according to one theory (SN: 4/15/17, p. 18). That hit...

    07/21/2017 - 09:00 Planetary Science
  • Science Ticker

    New Horizons’ next target caught making a star blink

    With Pluto in its rearview mirror, the New Horizons spacecraft is zipping towards a more far-out object. But it’s not flying blind. Using ground-based telescopes, the New Horizons team has spotted its next destination eclipsing a distant star. The event will reveal the rock’s specs in advance of the spacecraft’s visit in a year and a half.

    The object, called 2014 MU69, lives in the...

    07/20/2017 - 07:00 Planetary Science, Astronomy
  • News

    Giant mud balls roamed the early solar system

    The earliest asteroids were probably made of mud, not rock.

    Radioactive heat in the early solar system could have melted globs of dust and ice before they had a chance to turn to rock, a new simulation published July 14 in Science Advances shows. The results could solve several puzzles about the composition of meteorites found on Earth and may explain why asteroids are different from...

    07/14/2017 - 14:00 Planetary Science, Astronomy
  • News

    Water bears will survive the end of the world as we know it

    Water bears may be Earth’s last animal standing.

    These tough little buggers, also known as tardigrades, could keep calm and carry on until the sun boils Earth’s oceans away billions of years from now, according to a new study that examined water bears’ resistance to various astronomical disasters. This finding, published July 14 in Scientific Reports, suggests that complex life can be...

    07/14/2017 - 11:40 Animals, Astronomy, Astrobiology
  • Science Ticker

    Here are Juno’s first close-ups of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot

    The Juno spacecraft’s first closeup views of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot are here. The spacecraft flew just 9,000 kilometers above the famous storm on July 10.

    Scientists had expected the images to take until at least the night of July 13 to download because the spacecraft’s antenna was pointed away from Earth. But the first images arrived early, hitting the internet at about 11:30 a.m. EDT...

    07/12/2017 - 13:22 Planetary Science
  • Science Ticker

    Teeny-weeny star vies for title of smallest known

    An itty-bitty star, with a radius about the size of Saturn’s, is one of the smallest ever found.

    Known as EBLM J0555-57Ab, the star is significantly smaller than the Jupiter-sized TRAPPIST-1, a peewee star famous for hosting a septet of Earth-sized planets. And it’s comparable in size to a previously reported runt, 2MASS J0523-1403.

    Although the star’s girth is similar to Saturn’s...

    07/12/2017 - 07:00 Astronomy
  • Science Ticker

    The most distant star ever spotted is 9 billion light-years away

    The most distant star ever observed has been spotted, and its light comes from across two-thirds of the universe. That puts the star a whopping 9 billion light-years away.

    Patrick Kelly at the University of California, Berkeley and his colleagues found the star in Hubble Space Telescope images of a galaxy cluster called MACS J1149. In April and May 2016, Kelly and his team saw a...

    07/11/2017 - 16:51 Astronomy, Cosmology
  • News in Brief

    Newfound particle relies on its charm(s)

    A newly discovered particle is dishing out a double dose of charm.

    The newcomer is a baryon, meaning that it’s composed of three smaller particles called quarks — in this case, two “charm” quarks and one “up” quark. Detected by the LHCb experiment at CERN, the European physics laboratory near Geneva, the baryon is the first to be discovered with two charm quarks, LHCb scientists reported...

    07/07/2017 - 12:23 Particle Physics
  • Science Ticker

    Juno will fly a mere 9,000 km above Jupiter’s Great Red Spot

    Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is ready for its close-up. On July 10, NASA’s Juno spacecraft will fly directly over it, providing the first intimate views of Jupiter’s most famous feature.

    The Great Red Spot is a 16,000-kilometer-wide storm that’s been raging for centuries. Juno will soar just 9,000 kilometers above the Red Spot’s swirling clouds, collecting data with its eight scientific...

    07/07/2017 - 07:00 Planetary Science
  • Letters to the Editor

    Readers intrigued by Mars' far-out birth

    Martian mysteries

    Mars may have formed out where the asteroid belt is now, far from its planetary neighbors, Thomas Sumner reported in “New proposal reimagines Mars’ origin” (SN: 5/27/17, p. 14).

    Readers online were fascinated by Mars’ origin story. “There seemed to be evidence of actual seas on early Mars,” stargene wrote. “How can this be finessed into the idea of Mars living out in...

    07/06/2017 - 12:30 Planetary Science, Genetics, Particle Physics