Bringing Mars Rocks to Earth: Our Greatest Interplanetary Circus Act. With the latest Mars missions heading toward their destination, there is growing anticipation about what all this new robotic instrumentation might soon reveal of the Red Planet. Of course, planetary scientists and engineers have also long had the goal of bringing bits of Mars back to Earth for much closer, hands-on investigations. The complex plan taking shape to do that has a certain “Are you kidding me?” feel to it yet also sounds just plausible enough to inspire optimism (in this observer at least). It’s reminiscent of the rescue effort in The Martian, but just replace Matt Damon with a soccer ball filled with rocks and dust.
—Timothy Oleson, Science Editor
The Seismic Hush of the Coronavirus. By now we’ve all seen photos of eerily empty streets and public spaces during regional shutdowns, and earlier this year the media covered the pandemic’s effect on air quality. But who would have thought that a decrease in human activity would register on seismometers around the world? Well, every seismologist and a lot of other scientists, I’m sure, but it hadn’t occurred to me. Of particular note, data collected during the pandemic could help scientists distinguish human-caused tremors from natural ones, and seismic monitoring could also be used to monitor human activity during this pandemic and in the future.
—Faith Ishii, Production Manager
Today’s astronomy tales:
Observatories are spectacular and meticulously-engineered hubs of scientific research. They also work best when we maroon them in the MIDDLE OF NOWHERE
“Nowhere” sometimes gives us some interesting observing companions… pic.twitter.com/sw6pakhLAz
— astrotweeps: Emily (@starstuffwilson) (@astrotweeps) July 22, 2020
Just a fun thread of the various critters your everyday astronomer might encounter while studying the universe. My wildlife encounters include moths, spiders, roadrunners, cats and dogs, and *shudder* ladybugs.
—Kimberly Cartier, Staff Writer
Revealed: Oil Giants Help Fund Powerful Police Groups in Top U.S. Cities. In an investigation by the Public Accountability Initiative, researchers found that big oil and gas companies like Chevron and Shell are funding private police foundations in U.S. cities. The police foundations support local policing groups with “training, weapons, equipment, and surveillance technology” and face less oversight than publicly funded organizations. These companies have also been accused of producing toxic pollution that disproportionately hurts communities of color. As Black Lives Matter protests renounce state-sanctioned violence and anti-Black racism, it is important to look at the ties between environmental and racial justice.
—Jenessa Duncombe, Staff Writer
Trump Administration Says Massive Alaska Gold Mine Won’t Cause Major Environmental Harm, Reversing Obama. Controversy about Alaska’s proposed Pebble Mine has churned for decades. The site sits in the headwaters of the world’s most productive salmon fishery. There are concerns about faults under the site of a 500-foot (152-meter) earthen dam required to contain the billions of tons of rock expected to be removed during the mine’s operation. The mining company is angling for approval of a smaller footprint, with the option to expand (to where most of the gold is) later. Locals, who don’t see the big payouts from mining that oil offers and are unlikely to be hired by the mining company, are lukewarm on the project. Opponents have complained that the Army Corps of Engineers’ environmental impact statement is not scientifically rigorous. Lawsuits expected!
—Liza Lester, Staff Writer
Mars never looked so good, but it’s the voice-over that makes this a classic. In a (red) world….
—Caryl-Sue, Managing Editor