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Color-enhanced view of Mercury. Photo: NASA/JHU-APL/Carnegie
Scientists are pushing space agencies around the world to send dedicated missions to the small, relatively unexplored planet Mercury.
Why it matters: With its odd, huge core, magnetic field and unexplained chemistry, the planet is like nowhere else in the solar system.
The big picture: NASA has long-dedicated many of its limited resources to studying Mars and the Moon from close range, effectively leaving planets like Mercury, Venus, Uranus and Neptune somewhat left behind.
What's happening: NASA is considering establishing an assessment group that will focus on bringing scientists focused on Mercury together and will help advocate for missions.
Details: MESSENGER mapped Mercury’s surface and also found that about 85% of the planet’s volume is taken up by a huge metal core.
What's next: Some planetary scientists hope to convince NASA to send a rover or lander to Mercury in the 2030s to study the planet from its surface to get more information about the small world than an orbiter could.
Mercury as it transits across the face of the Sun. Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Monday's transit of Mercury gave millions of people the chance to see the smallest major planet in our solar system in much the same way that scientists spot worlds around other stars.
The big picture: Exoplanets — planets orbiting stars other than our Sun — can be detected when a star's light dips as the planet passes across the face of its star.
Details: Mercury's transits can illuminate its exosphere — the planet's extremely thin atmosphere — for telescopes.
ICYMI: Sorry, but transits of Mercury are relatively rare events. The next one is expected to occur in 2032.
Photo: NASA/Reid Wiseman
As space gets more crowded with satellites and space junk, one company wants to make it easier and cheaper to know where things are in orbit during daylight hours.
Why it matters: Experts say better means of keeping track of satellites and space junk will be essential as more satellites are launched.
Details: Some tracking systems use radar and other expensive technology to track satellites during daytime hours, but Numerica has developed a relatively cheap, autonomous system that Aristoff says can be deployed worldwide.
What's happening: The Air Force's Space Pitch Day is part of the organization's bid to modernize and relax the way it interacts with private companies.
Starlink satellites ahead of deployment in space. Photo: SpaceX
Despite an uncertain market, companies are moving forward in their plans to launch thousands of internet-beaming satellites to low-Earth orbit — and some are already facing setbacks.
Why it matters: SpaceX, Amazon, OneWeb and others are betting big on these global broadband constellations in the hopes that the fleets of small satellites will help tap them into underserved markets and increase their bottom lines.
What's happening: On Monday, SpaceX launched its second batch of 60 Starlink satellites to orbit.
Yes, but: While analysts agree there are millions of people around the world who could benefit from better access to broadband, it's not yet clear that these constellations will be the best way to deliver it.
Opening up a previously sealed Apollo Moon rock sample. Photo: NASA/James Blair
If I touched the Moon, what would it feel like? (Randall Munroe, New York Times)
Senators propose extending ISS' life to 2030 (Elizabeth Howell, Space.com)
NASA's "hidden figures" to be awarded congressional gold medals (Robert Pearlman, CollectSPACE)
NASA opens untouched Apollo Moon rock sample (Sophie Lewis, CBS News)
Proposed interstellar mission reaches for the stars (Lee Billings, Scientific American)
Photo: NASA/ESA/E. Rivera-Thorsen
Sometimes our deepest views of the universe are the most indirect.
"The magnification allows Hubble to view structures as small as 520 light-years across that would be too small to see without the turboboost from the lensing effect," NASA said in a statement.
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