Early Meteorites Reveal Makeup of Solar System 4.5 Billion Years Ago

Meteorites formed during the birth of the Solar System have helped scientists pinpoint the origin of organic materials necessary for the formation of life on Earth. The finding could also help astronomers explore the possible habitability of planets in other solar systems.

Carbonaceous chondrites are meteorites created from chondritic asteroids that are as old as the Solar System. Organic-rich carbonaceous chondrites are especially rare, encompassing only a few percent of all known meteorites. They consist of the first solid materials – rocks, organics, water ice and fine grain dust – formed in the early Solar System 4.5 billion years ago. When discovered on Earth and analyzed, such meteorites can act much like a time capsule, storing essential clues and revealing information to help scientists understand how planets formed and changed over billions of years. Read more.

Quinoa farmers increase yields using nuclear-derived practices

Although it was domesticated five millennia ago, quinoa is one of those foods that was practically unknown outside of Peruvian highlands until very recently, when nutrition-conscious consumers learned of its richness in proteins, amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. Once providing sustenance to the Inca civilization that flourished there in the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries, it was chosen as a food for NASA astronauts on space journeys in the twentieth century, and the United Nations declared 2013 the Year of Quinoa.

While all of this recognition is certainly positive, today’s quinoa production also faces a harsh reality in terms of the frequent droughts, soil salinity, frost, hail, wind, flooding and abiotic stress present in the Peruvian Andes that add up to reduce its productivity. Read more.

What powers deep space travel?

Master’s student spends summer modeling nuclear generators for space expeditions

When Khooshboo Dani grew up dreaming of traveling through space and building something among the cosmos, she never considered what would power her voyage. Inspired by Neil Armstrong’s biography and trips to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and the Boeing’s Factory in Seattle, she decided to pursue a graduate education in astronautical engineering after completing a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from Amrita University in India. Now, as a master’s student at University of Southern California in Viterbi’s Department of Astronautical Engineering (MS ’19) and former member of the Liquid Propulsion Lab, a student-led rocket building group, she has developed an interest in power systems. Read more.