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Solar System: Things to Know This Week

Our solar system is huge, let us break it down for you. Here are a few things you should know this week: 

1. Closeup of a King

For the first time since it entered orbit around Jupiter in July, our Juno spacecraft has flown close to the king of planets—this time with its eyes wide open. During the long, initial orbit, Juno mission managers spent time checking out the spacecraft “from stem to stern,” but the science instruments were turned off as a precaution. During this latest pass, Juno’s camera and other instruments were collecting data the whole time. Initial reports show that all went well, and the team has released a new close-up view that Juno captured of Jupiter’s north polar region. We can expect to see more close-up pictures of Jupiter and other data this week.

+Check in with Juno

2. Getting Ready to Rocket

Our OSIRIS-REx mission leaves Earth next week, the first leg of a journey that will take it out to an asteroid called Bennu. The mission will map the asteroid, study its properties in detail, then collect a physical sample to send back home to Earth. The ambitious endeavor is slated to start off on Sept. 8.

+See what it takes to prep for a deep space launch

3. New Moon Rising

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has already mapped the entire surface of Earth’s moon in brilliant detail, but the mission isn’t over yet. Lunar explorers still have questions, and LRO is poised to help answer them.

+See what’s next for the mission

4. A Mock-Eclipse Now

We don’t have to wait until next year to see the moon cross in front of the sun. From its vantage point in deep space, our Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) sometimes sees just that. Such an event is expected on Sept. 1.

+See the latest sun pictures from SDO

5. Jupiter’s Cousins

Our galaxy is home to a bewildering variety of Jupiter-like worlds: hot ones, cold ones, giant versions of our own giant, pint-sized pretenders only half as big around. Astronomers say that in our galaxy alone, a billion or more such Jupiter-like worlds could be orbiting stars other than our sun. And we can use them to gain a better understanding of our solar system and our galactic environment, including the prospects for finding life.

Want to learn more? Read our full list of the 10 things to know this week about the solar system HERE

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Mars “astronauts” just came back to civilization after one year in isolation

Six volunteer “astronauts” just emerged after spending 12 months living in isolation inside a dome on top of a volcano in Hawaii.The volunteers were part of a NASA-funded experiment called HI-SEAS. Now, after 12 months of isolation on simulated Mars, the volunteers have emerged from the experiment that realistically mimicked living conditions on Mars.

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Researchers spotted a radio signal so strong, it might just be the work of aliens … maybe

On May 15, 2015, astronomers in the Russian Republic of Karachay-Cherkessia spotted a strange radio signal coming from the direction of a star, HD164595, located fewer than 100 light years away, in the Hercules constellation. The researchers speculated that it could be either a Kardashev I or Kardashev II civilization.

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Here’s a comic on something flaming hot!

This week’s comic: Firewall Theory

http://www.sciencealert.com/try-to-escape-a-black-hole-and-you-ll-be-burnt-to-a-crisp-new-paper-cautions

https://profmattstrassler.com/articles-and-posts/relativity-space-astronomy-and-cosmology/black-holes/black-hole-information-paradox-an-introduction/

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SETI researchers are buzzing about a strong spike in radio signals that seemed to come from the direction of a sunlike star in the constellation Hercules, known as HD 164595.

The signal fits the profile for an extraterrestrial source – but it could also be a case of earthly radio interference. In any case, the blip is interesting enough to merit discussion by those who specialize in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, or SETI – including Centauri Dreams’ Paul Gilster, who brought the case into the public eye this weekend.

The apparent source of the signal, HD 164595, is interesting for a couple of reasons: It’s a sunlike star, about 95 light-years away from Earth, and it’s already known to have at least one “warm Neptune” planet called HD 164595 b. “There could, of course, be other planets still undetected in this system.

The case has been compared to the one-time-only “Wow Signal” of 1977, or the more recent controversy over KIC 8462852, also known as “Tabby’s Star” or the alien-megastructure star.