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Titan Nitrogen Solar System

Researchers have not yet been able to figure out why Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, has such a thick, nitrogen-rich atmosphere that is more than seven times as massive as Earth’s atmosphere when adjusted for surface area. This creates a haze around the moon which blocks most of the Sun’s rays making its surface near impossible to see. “The main theory has been that ammonia ice from comets was converted, by impacts or photochemistry, into nitrogen to form Titan’s atmosphere. While that may still be an important process, it neglects the effects of what we now know is a very substantial portion of comets: complex organic material. A lot of organic chemistry is no doubt happening on Titan, so it’s an undeniable source of curiosity,” said Dr. Kelly Miller, research scientist in the Southwest Research Institute’s Space Science and Engineering Division. Read more for another video and additional information.

Axolotl Salamander Regeneration

Photo credit: Christian Baker
The axolotl is a Mexican salamander with incredible regenerative abilities, which means you can slice off its leg off, and the limb will grow right back, exactly the way it was. How they’re able to do this and humans can’t is still a mystery to researchers. “It’s hard to find a body part they can’t regenerate: the limbs, the tail, the spinal cord, the eye, and in some species, the lens, even half of their brain has been shown to regenerate,” said study co-lead author Randal Voss, a professor at the University of Kentucky Spinal Cord and Brain Injury Research Center. Read more for another video and additional information.

Laser Ear Secret Whispers
Photo credit: HOLGER LANGMAIER / MATT SEYMOUR / TAG HARTMAN-SIMKINS via Science Alert
MIT Lincoln Laboratory researchers have devised a way to send secret whispers directly into a person’s ear by simply pointing a laser at someone from a distance. That person then hears the transmitted audio but others in the same area do not. These special laser systems can transmit tones, music, and recorded speech at a conversational volume to specific people who don’t need to wear any special equipment. Read more for a video and additional information.

Israel Moon Landing

Israel’s Beresheet (Hebrew word for “beginning”) spacecraft is set to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in February, and is expected to land on the lunar surface about two months later. This unmanned spacecraft means Israel join three other countries – the U.S., the Soviet Union and China – to have made successful ‘soft landings’ on the lunar surface. The landing also marks the first private mission to reach Earth’s natural satellite. Read more for another video and additional information.

Apollo 14 Earth Moon Rock

Photo credit: David A. Kring / Center for Lunar Science and Exploration via CNN
Apollo 14 was the eighth manned mission in the United States Apollo program, and the third to land on the Moon as well as the last of the “H missions,” targeted landings with two-day stays on the lunar surface with two EVAs, or moonwalks. When astronauts Alan Shepard and Edgar Mithcell returned samples from the moon’s surface, they probably didn’t realize that they were reuniting Earth with a bit of its early history. The “moon rock” you see above most likely collided with the moon after an impact sent it hurtling from Earth 4 billion years ago. Read more for another video about Apollo 14 and additional information.

Doomsday Clock 2 Minutes to Midnight

Photo credit: Express.co.uk
Scientists have just the symbolic Doomsday Cock ahead by half a minute, saying the world was at its closest to annihilation since the height of the Cold War due to threats of nuclear war. At two minutes to midnight, it’s at the closest to catastrophe since 1953, due to several factors. “Hyperbolic rhetoric and provocative actions on both sides have increased the possibility of nuclear war by accident or miscalculation,” said the group of North Korea’s nuclear program. Read more for a video explaining what the Doomsday Clock is all about.

NASA Apollo 11 Moon Lunar Soil

Photo credit: Joe Gutheinz, courtesy of Christopher McHugh
Nancy Lee Carlson from Inverness, Illinois has filed a new lawsuit accusing NASA of damaging a sample bag taken on the historic first manned moon mission in 1969 and illegally taking particles of moon dust. She first purchased the item in 2015 for $995 and later sold it in 2017 for $1.8 million, in which during that two-year period, Carlson and NASA were engaged in a protracted legal battle over its ownership, which she eventually won. “The bag contained lunar samples, including some lunar dust enmeshed in the bag fibers when the Apollo 11 mission returned to Earth,” the suit says. Read more for a video about building a lunar base out of moon dust and additional information about the case.

NASA Mars William Shatner
William ‘Captain Kirk’ Shatner spotted a strange “shiny bluish light” in an image captured by the NASA InSight Rover on Mars, and then promptly shared his discovery with the world on Twitter. Before things got out of hand, the space agency Tweeted back: “Just a bit of lens flare as the sun dips low on the horizon. Both photos were taken shortly before sunset. No cause for alarm, Captain!” For those don’t know about the mission, InSight’s objectives are to basically place a seismometer, called SEIS, on the surface of the red planet to measure seismic activity and provide accurate 3D models of the planet’s interior; and measure internal heat flow using a heat probe called HP3 to study Mars’ early geological evolution. Read more for the original Tweet from William Shatner, a video about the InSight and additional information.

Shark Galaga

Photo credit: Terry Gates / Gizmodo
Galagadon, a freshwater shark from the Cretaceous Period, is related to a group called carpet sharks found in Indo-Pacific seas today, and measured 1-2 feet in length, with teeth the size of a sand grain, about four-hundredths of an inch (1 millimeter). However, these teeth are shaped just like the spaceships found in the 1981 Japanese arcade game Galaga, which is the sequel to 1979’s Galaxian. Read more for an artist’s depiction of an actual Galagadon shark.

Planet Nine Solar System Orbit

“Planet Nine” is theorized to be 10 times larger than Earth and is supposedly located somewhere in the outer reaches of our solar system, but it may not be a real planet after all, but instead a massive disc of smaller objects lying just beyond Neptune that exerts the same gravitational force as a super-Earth-sized planet. This mysterious planet is thought to be located so far from the Sun that it reflects very little light, and scientists have based its existence based on the strange clustered orbits of a group of trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs), which includes Pluto. Read more for another video and additional information.