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by Ryan Whitwam

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NASA’s InSight Lander made history when it became the first mission to take seismic readings on another planet, but the lander’s other major experiment hasn’t been as successful. The mission’s burrowing heat probe, sometimes called the “Mole,” has struggled to even make it underground, but NASA has finally reported success getting it to stay there. The instrument managed to drag itself below the surface and is no longer visible. We don’t yet know if it will work as intended, but this is a big step in the right direction.

After landing on the red planet, InSight sent back images of its surroundings. NASA engineers built a replica of the landing zone to carefully plan the instrument deployment. The Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) was placed on the surface several months later, and it has since sent back a plethora of data on the planet’s internal structure. The Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) was supposed to hammer itself into the ground, relying on the friction of soil to help it along. However, the Mole encountered issues almost immediately. …


by Ryan Whitwam

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You probably know Betelgeuse as that star with the weird name, but it’s of particular interest to astronomers right now. It’s a red supergiant in Orion many thousands of times brighter than the sun, and it’s dying. Astronomers expect Betelgeuse will go supernova in the next 100,000 years, and it turns out this star might be much closer to Earth than we thought. Don’t start building a supernova-proof bunker just yet — it may be closer, but it’s still not dangerous.

Betelgeuse made headlines recently with speculation that it may be on the verge of exploding (it’s the red star on the left in the image above). This was based on some very bizarre changes in the star’s brightness. Since we don’t know exactly how a star like Betelgeuse looks immediately before it dies, this was not an unreasonable hypothesis. However, astronomers now believe it’s much more likely that the star simply released a cloud of gas that partially obscured our view. And that makes sense — supergiant stars are so hot and energetic that they shed huge amounts of matter in their solar wind. …


by Ryan Whitwam

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What’s that in the sky? A bird? A plane? No, it’s apparently a person wearing a jetpack buzzing Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). This is the second such incident reported in the last several months, which seems awfully suspicious when jetpacks are only barely functional. The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating both reports for fear whoever (or whatever) is up there could interfere with air traffic.

The latest incident report comes from a China Airlines flight, which claimed to spot a person wearing a jetpack at an altitude of 6,000 feet about seven miles (11 kilometers) north of LAX on Wednesday afternoon. …

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