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Ingenuity Mars helicopter to take flight and 5 other top space and science stories this week

Ingenuity Mars helicopter to take flight and 5 other top space and science stories this week

Welcome to Wonder Theory, your weekly space and science digest.

The golden age of science is now. Discoveries redefining both our past and our future are revealed weekly — and we’re exploring space like never before, unlocking the secrets of the universe one at a time.

The Covid-19 pandemic may have cast a long shadow, but scientific and celestial findings have continued to provide that spark of hope we all need.

We invite you to join this most excellent journey. So step into this rocket ship — and let your mind take off and explore freely.

Across the universe

Stop one is Mars, where a milestone in the history of aviation is in the making. The first helicopter that will fly on another planet is carrying a special token from the earliest powered, controlled flight on Earth: the Wright brothers’ Flyer 1. A postage stamp-size piece of muslin that covered one of the wings from the aircraft is attached to a cable beneath the Ingenuity Mars helicopter’s solar panel. Ingenuity will attempt flight on the red planet no earlier than April 8.

Ingenuity is a small sidekick that caught a ride to Mars along with the NASA Perseverance rover. Once the rover sets the helicopter down on the Martian surface in April, Ingenuity will have 31 days to conduct up to five flights. While this little helicopter’s brief adventure will then come to an end, the rover will spend the next two years searching for signs of ancient microbial life on Mars. And it will send back fascinating photos, videos and even sounds along the way.

Curiosities

Do octopuses dream? Maybe. But they definitely change colors while they sleep. Shifts in color, behavior and movement are evidence of a sleep cycle in octopuses, Brazilian scientists say, with the octopus switching between active and quiet sleep just as humans switch between deep sleep and REM sleep. Golden slumbers, indeed. Turns out this fantastic sea creature is not so different from us after all.

Unearthed

The remains of a 3,000-year-old gold mask are among a huge cache of over 500 artifacts found at Sanxingdui, an archaeological site outside Chengdu, the capital of China’s Sichuan province. Some experts say the items may shed further light on the ancient Shu state, a kingdom that ruled in the western Sichuan basin until 316 BC. Read on to find out what else archaeologists discovered about this glimpse into the distant past.

Other worlds

Get mesmerized by the swirling lines of this supermassive black hole’s magnetic field, never seen before now. Nearly two years after unveiling the first image of this cosmic body, a global team of scientists has a more complete picture of this beast lurking at the heart of the M87 galaxy, which is 55 million light-years away. The strength of the magnetic field is helping scientists learn how the black hole launches jets of material across the galaxy.

The night sky

The northern lights, or aurora borealis, put on a dazzling display — but some people claim to hear unique sounds that accompany them, like sizzling or the soft sound of soap bubbles bursting. Now, Hankasalmi Observatory volunteers in Finland will listen in with microphones to the phenomenon. The new citizen science project aims to help solve the mystery.

Force of nature

These waterfalls were worth chasing for some fortunate spectators. After heavy rains battered northern Australia for almost a week, stunning footage has emerged of waterfalls streaming down Uluru, the sacred sandstone monolith in the desert plains of the Northern Territory’s “Red Centre.”

 

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