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NASA, ESA, NRAO and L. Frattare (STSci)

NASA and the Japanese space agency JAXA are moving ahead with building a new orbiting X-ray telescope to find evidence of dark matter, which is believed to make up 80% of all the mass in the universe. Dark matter doesn't emit or absorb light, and is instead detected via X-rays from the decay or annihilation of dark matter particles.

Previous joint missions were ill-fated:

  • Take 1: In 2000, the first version of the telescope was lost in a launch failure.
  • Take 2: X-ray detecting instruments made it into orbit in 2005 but a helium leak caused the primary one to malfunction.
  • Take 3: A month after its launch in February 2016, the $273 million Hitomi telescope lost contact when the control system that stabilized it repeatedly failed, causing the satellite to spin uncontrollably and fly apart.

Why it matters: For years, scientists have been scouring the center of galaxy clusters for proof of dark matter. Several satellites have provided conflicting data about telltale X-ray signals. With resolution 20 times better than that of previous missions, the X-ray Astronomy Recovery Mission (XARM) may finally shed light on one of science's biggest questions.

Go deeper

"Atmospheric river" to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood

A map depicting 24-hour preciptation forecast (inches) ending Monday at 5a.m. local time. Photo: NOAA

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are set dump historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.

10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves to be removed after fires

A firefighter looks up at a giant sequoia tree after fire burned through the Sequoia National Forest near California Hot Springs, California, on Sept. 23. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

"Upwards of" 10,000 trees near giant sequoia groves have been "weakened by drought, disease, age, and/or fire" and must be removed in the wake of California's wildfires, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks announced.

Why it matters: The damage to these trees, considered "national treasures," and work to remove them means a nearby key highway must remain closed to visitors as they have "the potential to strike people, cars, other structures, or create barriers to emergency response services," per a statement from the national parks.

Obama stumps for McAuliffe, urges Virginians not "to go back to the chaos"

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama framed a Nov. 2 gubernatorial race as a bellwether for the Democratic Party and the country, telling a crowd at a campaign event for Terry McAuliffe on Saturday that "I believe you, right here in Virginia, are going to show the rest of the country and the world that we're not going to indulge in our worst instincts."

Why it matters: With just over a week to go before Election Day in the Commonwealth, McAuliffe is bringing out the big guns. The 44th president appeared on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University to urge supporters to get to the polls.