Public Outreach

Artist’s impression of the formation of a gas giant planet. From https://www.eso.org/public/images/eso1310a/.

Friday marked the end of the 2021 TESS Science Conference. Hosted virtually by MIT, this workshop marked the second in a series dedicated to exoplanet science related to NASA’s TESS (the Transiting Exoplanets Survey Satellite) mission. From the discovery of a gas giant on the verge of tumbling into its host star to observations of starquakes, the week was crammed too full for a single blog entry to do it justice.

So instead of a full summary, I wanted zero in on one topic that has profound implications for understanding the natures of exoplanets: the planets’ compositions.

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NASA has sent missions to Mars since the mid-60s, but Mars’ interior has remained hidden from view. The InSight mission has begun to lift the veil to reveal a world with active quakes, shedding light on Mars’ ancient history, but the grand successes have also come with frustrating failures.

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DAVINCI Visits Hell

Illustration of a spacecraft descending through Venus’ atmosphere. From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DAVINCI%2B.

With acid clouds, a crushing atmosphere, and a volcanic surface, Venus might be the least hospitable place in our solar system. But, ironically, this hellish world may actually help us unlock the mystery of what makes a planet habitable, and NASA’s recently selected DAVINCI+ mission may be the key.

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A glowing orb that could be easily mistaken for a UFO was photographed Feb. 12 over Mt. Shasta in California. It was a cloud, the U.S. Forest Service says Paul Zerr U.S. Forest Service.

From space rocks to the unorthodox, the scientific community has often refused to accept anecdotal reports of strange and rare events. However, a recent government report on military sightings of UFOs may help to bring credibility to a phenomenon long dismissed. But just because a phenomenon is bizarre and unexplained, that doesn’t mean it’s aliens. That strange light in the sky is probably just Venus.

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