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Asteroid Bennu Could Shed Light on How Ingredients for Life Reached Earth | Smart News

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A series of studies published last week in the journals Science and Science Advances offer a new, detailed look at the makeup of a small asteroid called Bennu. The studies come just before NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft plans to pick up a sample from the asteroid’s surface on October 20 and return with it to Earth in 2023.

Before the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft reached the asteroid in 2018, astronomers could only study it with telescopes that couldn’t make out details smaller than cities or states, Michael Greshko reports for National Geographic. OSIRIS-REx allows astronomers to map details the size of basketball courts, sheets of paper and postage stamps, depending on the imaging tool they used.

“The reason there’s so much interest in asteroids is a lot of them are very primitive, from when the Solar System formed, and they didn’t change with wind and water, or weather like on Earth,” planetary scientist Amy Simon of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center tells Passant Rabie at Inverse. “They’re still more pristine than anything you could find in the universe.”

Researchers chose Bennu for close study and a sample-return mission because it is a relatively rare type of asteroid that’s rich in carbon-containing molecules, or organics, and because it formed early in the history of our solar system, Neel Patel reports for the MIT Technology Review. It’s also relatively close to Earth.

Bennu is about a third of a mile wide, made of a pile of rubble that is loosely held together by its own gravity, per National Geographic. The rubble resulted from a collision with a 60-mile-wide object in the asteroid belt that destroyed Bennu’s parent body, a larger asteroid. Bennu probably formed between 700 million and two billion years ago somewhere between Mars and Jupiter, and has drifted closer to Earth

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College student from N.J. killed in Ohio shooting remembered as ‘light in everyone’s life’

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A former New Jersey high school football player shot to death early Sunday near Ohio State University is being remembered as a “light” in the lives of those who knew him.



Chase Meola is shown in a 2015 photo while playing football for Mahwah High School. Meola, 23, was killed Sunday in a shooting near Ohio State University, where he was a student.


© Steve Hockstein/Steve Hockstein | For NJ Advance Media/nj.com/TNS
Chase Meola is shown in a 2015 photo while playing football for Mahwah High School. Meola, 23, was killed Sunday in a shooting near Ohio State University, where he was a student.

Chase Meola, 23, a Mahwah native and fifth-year marketing major at Ohio State, was gunned down as he was leaving a party, officials said.

“He was always very outgoing. He’s from New Jersey, so he definitely had that loud, outgoing personality,” friend Ashley McCartney told Ohio television station 10 WBNS.

A GoFundMe set up to pay for funeral costs had already exceeded its $50,000 goal by Monday afternoon.

“He was light in everyone’s life and will be dearly missed by those he touched,” organizers wrote. The organizers, identified as friends of Meola’s, did not respond to a request for comment.

Meola, once a star football player for the Mahwah High School Thunderbirds, was earning an MBA, his LinkedIn said, with a goal of working on Wall Street.

“The Ohio State University community is in mourning, and our deepest condolences and support go to the family and friends of Chase,” the university said in a statement.

Meola was leaving a party around 2 a.m. on Sunday when an “altercation occurred outside,” university officials said. Meola was shot in an alley near the party and pronounced dead at the scene.

Kintie Mitchell Jr., 18, of Columbus, has been charged with murder. His first court date is on Tuesday, WCMH 4 reported.

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Nanoscale machines convert light into work

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Nanoscale machines convert light into work
Researchers created an optical matter machine that operates much like a mechanical machine in which if one gear is turned, a smaller interlocking gear will spin in the opposite direction (a). The optical matter machine (b) uses circularly polarized light to create a nanoparticle array that acts like the larger gear by spinning in the optical field. This makes a probe particle – analogous to the second smaller gear – orbit the nanoparticle array in the opposite direction. Credit: Norbert F. Scherer, University of Chicago

Researchers have developed a tiny new machine that converts laser light into work. These optically powered machines self-assemble and could be used for nanoscale manipulation of tiny cargo for applications such as nanofluidics and particle sorting.


“Our work addresses a long-standing goal in the nanoscience community to create self-assembling nanoscale machines that can perform work in conventional environments such as room temperature liquids,” said research team leader Norbert F. Scherer from the University of Chicago.

Scherer and colleagues describe the new nanomachines in Optica. The machines are based on a type of matter known as optical matter in which metal nanoparticles are held together by light rather than the chemical bonds that hold together the atoms that make up typical matter.

“Both the energy for assembling the machine and the power to make it work come from light,” said Scherer. “Once the laser light is introduced to a solution containing nanoparticles, the entire process occurs on its own. Although the user does not need to actively control or direct the outcome, this could readily be done to tailor the machines for various applications.”

Creating optical matter

In optical matter, a laser light field creates interactions between metal nanoparticles that are much smaller than the wavelength of light. These interactions cause the particles to self-assemble

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High-speed photos shine a light on how metals fail

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High-speed photos shine a light on how metals fail
An alloy sample being stretched in front of the laser-high speed camera set up. Credit: Aalto University

How things deform and break is important for engineers, as it helps them choose and design what materials they’re going to use for building things. Researchers at Aalto University and Tampere University have stretched metal alloy samples to their breaking point and filmed it using ultra-fast cameras to study what happens. Their discoveries have the potential to open up a whole new line of research in the study of materials deformation.


When materials get stretched a bit, they expand, and when the stretching stops, they return to their original size. However, if a material gets stretched a lot, they no longer return back to their original size. This over-stretching is referred to as ‘plastic’ deformation. Materials that have begun to be plastically deformed behave differently when they’re stretched even more, and eventually snap in two. Some materials—including the lightweight aluminum alloys used in high tech applications like cars and aircraft—start to deform unpredictably when they become plastically deformed. The specific problem the researchers were interested in solving is called the Portevin-Le Chatelier (PLC) effect, where bands of deformation in the material move as it gets stretched. The movement of these bands causes the unpredictable deformation, and researchers wanted to develop a better understanding of how they moved, to be able to better predict how these materials would deform. “There were models for how these materials deformed,” said Professor Mikko Alava, the leader of the research group at Aalto, “but until now, they weren’t very useful.”

To develop the new model, the researchers used very high-speed cameras, illuminated using laser light, to photograph the samples. Once they gathered this data, they were able to see what theoretical models fit the data. They found that

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Bright light bars big-eyed birds from human-altered landscapes

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Bright light bars big-eyed birds from human-altered landscapes
In a study of 240 bird species, Florida Museum of Natural History researchers found strong links between eye size, light and habitat use. The findings suggest eye size could be an important predictor for how sensitive certain bird species may be to habitat disturbance. Credit: Ian Ausprey/Florida Museum

New research shows the glaring light in human-altered landscapes, such as livestock pastures and crop fields, can act as a barrier to big-eyed birds, potentially contributing to their decline.


Florida Museum of Natural History researchers found strong links between bird eye size, habitat and foraging technique. Birds that kept to the shade of the forest had larger eyes than those that inhabited the canopy, and birds with relatively small eyes were more numerous in agricultural settings.

The findings suggest eye size is an overlooked, but important trait in determining birds’ vulnerability to changes in their habitat and could help inform future research on their sensitivity to other bright environments, such as cities.

“Many bird species literally disappear from highly disturbed, anthropogenic habitats such as agricultural landscapes,” said lead author Ian Ausprey, a Ph.D. student in the Florida Museum’s Ordway Lab of Ecosystem Conservation and a National Geographic Explorer. “That’s probably due to many reasons, but this paper suggests light could be part of that.”

Despite numerous studies on how light influences the makeup of plant communities, little research has focused on how it drives the ecology of vertebrates. Ausprey said while some of the study’s results may seem like “a no-brainer,” it is the first to document the relationships between light, eye size and how birds navigate their world.

Light is especially key for birds, which use their vision to detect food. Big eyes house more photoreceptors and are a common feature in birds of prey such as owls and raptors, enabling