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Mercury Magazine Fall 2019

Fall19_cover

Table of Contents:

[9] Space News

A rundown of some of the most exciting developments in space and time.

[27] Cosmic Views, Jason Major

The solar system has a new dwarf planet and NASA continues to troubleshoot InSight’s mole woes.

[29] Passing Through, Steve Murray

Two interstellar travelers have visited the solar system in as many years—how many more are out there?

[34] The TMT: At an Impasse

As protests continue to stall construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Hawaii’s Maunakea, where do we go from here?

Departments:

[3] Perspectives, Ian O’Neill

A Spotlight on Hawai’i

[4] First Word, Linda Shore

The TMT: To Build or Not to Build

[6] Editor’s Journal, Ian O’Neill

The TMT: Science Lost

[15] Annals of Astronomy, Clifford J. Cunningham

Great Comet Confusion

[17] Astronomer’s Notebook, Jennifer Birriel

By the Light of Earth

[19] Armchair Astrophysics, Christopher Wanjek

Darkness Calls

[21] Education Matters, Brian Kruse

The TMT: It’s All a Matter of Perspective

[24] A Little Learning, C. Renee James

Relatable

[40] Reflections, Ian O’Neill

Baby Stars Feed off Dusty Pretzel

Passing Through (Feature)

By Steve Murray

As giant planets orbit through the disks of young protoplanetary systems, their gravity can eject some pieces of disk material into interstellar space. Over the eons, chunks of planet-building debris (known as planetesimals) should have drifted through our galactic neighborhood, and astronomers have wondered where it was. All the asteroids and comets we had discovered to date seemed to be native to our solar system. Now, in the span of only two years, we’ve spotted two extrasolar visitors and a new analysis predicts that we can expect many more.

The interstellar comet 2I/Borisov as imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope. [NASA/ESA]

The interstellar comet 2I/Borisov as imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope. [NASA/ESA]

At an Impasse (Feature)

By Sarah Wells

Cold mountain winds whipped across hardened lava fields on July 15th as protestors bearing Hawaiian flags and winter coats took to the base of Hawaii’s sacred Maunakea to create a human barricade across the mountain’s single access road. Signs and banners reading “Protect Maunakea” and “Road Closed Due to Desecration” were held by both young and old kia’i, or protectors, taking a stand against what they believe to be the most recent in a long line of exploitative actions against Native Hawaiians: the building of the Thirty-Meter Telescope (TMT).

The summit of Hawaii’s Maunakea hosts 13 telescopes and the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) is planned to join them—but protests over the project’s cultural and ecological impact have stalled its construction. [Arnie Watkins/Pexels]

The summit of Hawaii’s Maunakea hosts 13 telescopes and the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) is planned to join them—but protests over the project’s cultural and ecological impact have stalled its construction. [Arnie Watkins/Pexels]

Say “Hi!” to Hygiea, the Smallest Dwarf Planet (Cosmic Views)

By Jason Major

This image, made from data captured with the SPHERE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), shows Hygiea, the fourth-largest object in the main asteroid belt. But more than just a random chunk of rock and rubble caught between Mars and Jupiter, Hygiea may very well become the newest member of the dwarf planet club.

The candidate dwarf planet Hygiea. [ESO/P. Vernazza et al./MISTRAL algorithm (ONERA/CNRS)]

The candidate dwarf planet Hygiea. [ESO/P. Vernazza et al./MISTRAL algorithm (ONERA/CNRS)]