This week in science: planetary facts and myths

This week in science: planetary facts and myths

Move over Kepler! NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite is scheduled to launch tomorrow, assuming the weather and the systems all cooperate. TESS looks for telltale signs of exoplanets eclipsing distant stars in much the same way Kepler did. But it has newer optics, more advanced onboard tech, and a more specialized mission:

TESS will tile the sky with 26 segments, observing the southern hemisphere in the first year of mission operation and the northern hemisphere in the second year. TESS has a unique, 13.7 day,  highly elliptical cislunar orbit about Earth. … TESS anticipates the discovery of thousands of exoplanets of all sizes around a variety of star types. It has committed to delivering 50 planets of size less than 4 Earth radii with measured masses to the community.

Kepler was aptly named: it revolutionized our understanding of planetary astronomy and solar systems in general. TESS is expected to take that science to the next level and identify targets for Hubble replace, the James Webb Space Telescope, which is now slated for launch in 2020.

A small part of a massive ichthyosaur has been found that belonged to a specimen that would rival a Blue Whale in size! Since it’s highly unlikely we will ever find any fossilized remains from the largest single one that ever lived, odds are a near certainty that there were even bigger ones and plenty of them. And that latter point would also hold for giant pterodactyls.
God almighty, not the planet X nonsense again
You’ve no doubt seen that Mr. John Boehner has cast off his prior anti-cannabis zealotry and embraced the industry that now promises to succor him financially. Here’s a new study showing cannabis use by profession—former speaker of the House is not one of professions that was tested.

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