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New images from asteroid probe offer clues on planet formation

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Photographs snapped by a shoebox-sized probe that explored the near-Earth asteroid Ryugu have offered new clues about its composition, insights that will help scientists understand the formation of our solar system.

The German-French Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) hitched a ride on Japan’s Hayabusa2 spaceship, touching down on the 900-meter (3,000 feet) wide asteroid, whose orbit lies mostly between Earth and Mars, on October 3, 2018.

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Ryugu’s gravity is 66,500 times weaker than Earth’s, and the forward motion of wheels would have launched MASCOT back into space.

So it instead hopped around the surface using the tiny amount of momentum generated by a metal swing arm attached to its boxy body, which weighed 10 kilograms (22 pounds).

In addition to taking temperature readings and other measurements, MASCOT reeled off a series of pictures showing the asteroid is covered with rocks and boulders that fall into one of two categories: dark and rough with crumbly surfaces that resemble cauliflowers, or bright and smooth.

“The interesting thing there is it really shows that Ryugu is the product of some kind of violent process,” Ralf Jaumann of the German Aerospace Center and the lead author of a paper describing the findings in the journal Science on Thursday, told AFP.

Ryugu may be the “child” of two parent bodies that collided, broke up, and then came back together through gravity, the researchers say.

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Another theory is that it could have been struck by another body that created different interior temperature and pressure conditions, resulting in the two types of material.

Many of the rocks also contained small blue and red “inclusions” — material that was trapped in the rock during its formation — making them extremely similar to a type of rare, primitive meteorites found on Earth called carbonaceous chondrites.

“This material is primitive material — it’s the very first material of the solar nebula,” or the cloud of interstellar dust and gas that formed the planets of our system, said Jaumann.

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Hayabusa2 will eventually return to Earth carrying samples, but MASCOT’s observations provide information on the material’s original geologic context: how it is exposed to temperature changes, how it gets weathered, and so on.

Why is this important?

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“We don’t know how planets formed in the beginning,” said Jaumann.

“And in order to understand this, (we must) go to the small bodies, these primitive bodies, primordial in their history in their evolution, in order to understand the first 10 to 100 million years of planetary formation.”


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Fox News reporter and right-wing conspiracy theorists planned to wiretap family of slain DNC staffer Seth Rich: report

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The Daily Beast on Monday evening broke a bombshell report on a secret 2017 meeting in Texas on a right-wing conspiracy theory where espionage was discussed.

"One of their topics was responding to online critics of wealthy Texas businessman Ed Butowsky, who had recently been outed as a driving force behind a retracted Fox News story about murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich," The Beast reported. "The group that gathered at Butowsky’s home included a conspiracy theorist, a Fox reporter fighting for her career, a former private intelligence contractor married to star journalist Lara Logan, and a Democratic PR operative who lost his business in the face of sexual assault allegations."

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Maddow breaks down potential ‘direct financial connection’ between the Russian government and Donald Trump

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MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow read bombshell excerpts from a new book set for release on Tuesday.

The host interviewed David Enrich, finance editor at The New York Times, about his forthcoming book Dark Towers: Deutsche Bank, Donald Trump, and an Epic Trail of Destruction.

The host of "The Rachel Maddow Show" read excerpts from the book.

"There was no doubt that Deutsche Bank had extensive business dealings with Russia, and those dealings included acting as a conduit for dirty money to get out of Russia and into the western financial system," Enrich wrote.

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Congress still has one big tool left to rein in Trump’s corruption: Oversight Committee Democrat

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Senate Republicans may have managed to quash the impeachment trial without calling forth any new witnesses or seriously considering the evidence against President Donald Trump. And the president may feel vindicated and largely invulnerable as a result.

But, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Monday, that doesn't mean Democrats don't have one last big play to rein in the president's abuses of power. They can use the first and strongest authority delegated to them: the power of the purse.

"What can Democrats really do when it comes to oversight of the president?" asked Cooper. "I mean, now that impeachment is over, does seem like there are fewer and fewer guardrails, if any."

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