NASA will launch two missions to asteroids in search of clues about the early solar system, the space agency announced. The first mission, scheduled for 2021, will send a probe to study the Trojan asteroids that swarm around Jupiter and are thought to be relics of the earliest days of the solar system. The project has been dubbed “Lucy” in honor of humanity’s famous ancient relative. The second, slated for 2023, will send an orbiter to 16 Psyche, a massive metallic object in the asteroid belt that is thought to be the exposed iron core of a protoplanet.
Climate change could claim yellow cedar
A type of tree that thrives in soggy soil from Alaska to Northern California and is valued for its commercial and cultural uses could become a noticeable casualty of climate warming over the next 50 years, an independent study has concluded. Yellow cedar, named for its distinctive yellow wood, already is under consideration for federal listing as a threatened or endangered species. The study in the journal Global Change Biology found death due to root freeze on 7 percent of the tree’s range, including areas where it’s most prolific. It cited snow-cover loss that led to colder soil. Additional mortality is likely as the climate warms, researchers said.
Tomatillo fossil is 52 million years old
The nightshade family contains more than 2,400 different species of plants, including some of the most widely consumed fruits and vegetables in the world. Scientists had estimated that the family was about 30 million years old. But paleontologists in Argentina have recently discovered 52 million-year-old fossilized tomatillos. Small, green and covered in a papery husk, tomatillos look a bit like Chinese lanterns. The discovery could push the age of the nightshade family back to when dinosaurs roamed Earth.