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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Astronomers have now spotted a second mysterious, likely interstellar object on a path through our solar system.
These interlopers — the first of which came through the inner solar system in 2017 — represent the best chance astronomers have so far of learning more about far off star systems from close range.
What's happening: Last week, scientists announced the discovery of a likely interstellar comet.
Details: Some scientists will be focused on the comet's atmosphere, known as a coma, that is created when the object heats up as it nears the Sun. The heat causes ice on the comet to turn immediately from a solid to gas.
"This, to me, has bearing on, 'Are all solar systems suitable to life?'" Karen Meech, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii, told Axios.
Background: Scientists are hoping to compare 'Oumuamua and C/2019 Q4 to figure out just how different or similar the 2 objects coming from 2 parts of the galaxy are.
Comet C/2019 Q4 (Borisov) seen by the Gemini Observatory. Photo: Gemini/NSF/AURA
Some scientists hope to create a protocol for whenever the next interstellar comet is found in order to maximize their chances to observe it as soon as it's seen.
The big picture: Even without those new tools online, catching sight of C/2019 Q4 just 2 years after seeing 'Oumuamua already deepens the mystery around just how many of these interstellar objects might be visiting our solar system.
Relativity Space's 3D printer. Photo: Relativity Space
Relativity Space and Momentus — 2 companies looking to capitalize on the growing small satellite industry — are teaming up.
Driving the news: Relativity — which is trying to create the world's first fully 3D printed rocket — plans to launch satellites using Momentus' space tug system to orbit for the first time in 2021.
The big picture: Euroconsult predicts the small satellite manufacturing and launch industry will grow to $42.8 billion from 2019 to 2028, nearly quadrupling in size.
Where it stands: By signing this agreement, Momentus and Relativity hope to provide access to more orbits for their customers, once they begin flying.
Yes, but: Some experts are concerned a bubble is forming in the small rocket industry, with dozens of companies hoping to come online in the coming years.
Saturn as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope. Photo: NASA/ESA
Saturn's rings may be more ancient than previously thought, according to a new analysis published in the journal Nature Astronomy this week.
Why it matters: The true age of the rings has major implications for the age of Saturn's moons.
What they found: Earlier studies have suggested that the rings are young, at about 10 million–100 million years old, based on estimates of their mass and appearance.
What's next: The mystery surrounding the age of Saturn's rings may never be solved definitively, but learning more about their eventual fate may be easier than piecing together its past, astronomer James O'Donoghue, who is unaffiliated with the new study, told Axios via email.
Artist's illustration of K2-18b. Credit: ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser
Bigelow's next-generation inflatable space habitat is shooting for the Moon (Loren Grush, The Verge)
NASA cubesat to test lunar Gateway orbit (Jeff Foust, SpaceNews)
Most massive neutron star ever detected strains the limits of physics (Ashley Strickland, CNN)
For NASA contractors, lunar landing failures by Israel and India hit close to home (Christian Davenport, Washington Post)
Water vapor detected in the atmosphere of a super-Earth (Axios)
A fleet of satellites orbiting Mars allows us to see the changing face of the Red Planet throughout the year, and sometimes its surface looks remarkably similar to Earth.
The MRO has been beaming back photos of Martian geology since its arrival in orbit around the planet in 2006.
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