Inverse Daily

The James Webb Space Telescope could be the key to life in space

Plus: What made the Milky Way? Scientists think they have an answer.

An artist's rendering of the first space walk by a cosmonaut. | Located in: Rykoff Collection.  (Pho...
Rykoff Collection/Corbis Historical/Getty Images

Are you prepared to risk it all to live on Mars? Billionaires like Elon Musk are (or at least, so they say), but we’re still a long way from an interplanetary U-Haul service. Personally, I’ll stick with Earth until the bitter end. I’m thankful for all the carrots and One Direction albums, and the least I could do is go down with the ship as my hometown sinks underwater. But if you’d prefer to risk spending your final days spent in an orbital escape pod on your way to a habitable planet far, far away, then rest assured the James Webb Space Telescope is looking out for you.

I’m Ashley Bardhan, a newsletter writer at Inverse. Send the Martians my regards. But before you leave, keep scrolling to read stories on the obscure origins of the Milky Way, the truth about “flurona,” and more.

This is an adapted version of the Inverse Daily newsletter for Monday, January 10, 2022. Subscribe for free and earn rewards for reading every day in your inbox. ✉️

James E. Webb, before he got turned into a space telescope.

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The one clue JWST will use to look for habitable planets

Imagining life beyond Earth is exciting — but scientists have a very high bar for what makes a planet “habitable.” And other than Earth, they haven’t discovered anything that fits the bill. The James Webb Space Telescope might change that.

It’s not alone. Long before the Webb was sent to gaze at the more distant universe, there have been the cadre of Mars missions studying habitability closer to home. This includes NASA’s Viking 1 mission and its Curiosity and Perseverance rovers, which continue to roam and study the Red Planet.

“Mars is one example of a planet that has been investigated and probed with several missions over the past several years,” writes Inverse reporter Passant Rabie. “NASA’s Viking 1 mission, which landed on Mars in 1976, was the first to prove that Mars’ environment was once conducive to life.”

Now, 46 years later, the long-awaited Webb telescope will assist researchers in the quest to find life in space by peering into far-off exoplanets’ atmospheres.

“Scientists can then determine which missing light corresponds to which chemical and find out what the planet’s air is made up of,” writes Rabie.

Key quote — “Our galaxy alone has about 200 billion stars, with one out of five on average hosting a potential Earth.” Lisa Kaltenegger, associate professor of astronomy and director of the Carl Sagan Institute at Cornell University.

“I think the numbers are forever in our favor,” she adds.

Is there any life out there?

Maybe one day: How to get to SpaceX’s Mars City

I’m looking, I’m looking!

Antonio Luis Martinez Cano/Moment/Getty Images

Ruins of an ancient star cluster reveal Milky Way secrets

“While the bulk of the Milky Way forms an unmistakable spiral, wispy trails of stars find their own orbit around the galaxy’s center,” writes Inverse’s Jennifer Walter.

“Known as star streams, these ribbons of light are remnants of the early galaxy.”

Flash forward to January 5, 2022, when international researchers announced the discovery of an unusual star stream, C-19. It orbits the fringes of the Milky Way and contains a shockingly low concentration of metal.

“Researchers thought that globular clusters couldn’t have less than 0.2 percent metallicity,” explains Walter, “but C-19 has less than 0.05 percent.”

Discoveries like this one make researchers question what created the Milky Way and the rest of our strange universe.

Get into a spiral.

See what lies beyond: Element found in human teeth discovered in a distant galaxy

Gotta go fast.

MediaNews Group/Bay Area News via Getty Images/MediaNews Group/Getty Images

Video shows a Tesla driving for a staggering 752 miles

Teslas, as far as electric vehicles go, tend to boast outstanding mile ranges — the Environmental Protection Agency estimates both the Tesla Model 3 and the Model S have ranges well above 350 miles. The median mile range for electric vehicles in 2021 is around 250 miles. Now, Tesla may be about to make a big leap forward.

“Tesla’s impressive battery range may have just doubled,” writes Inverse Innovation reporter Mike Brown. “On Wednesday, Michigan-based battery company Our Next Energy revealed that it drove a Tesla Model S retrofitted with its own product last year. Whereas the current Model S has an EPA-estimated range of 405 miles, the retrofit car traveled 752 miles without recharging.”

Our Next Energy’s battery could be a gamechanger for anyone who loves a long drive but is concerned about making the journey in a rechargeable EV. But the battery prototype won’t be available until 2023, and as we wait for it, a lot could change.

Take it with a grain of salt.

Try a Volvo: Volvo’s new “fully self-driving” tech beats Tesla in one major way

Flurona or no flurona, don’t forget to keep your mask tight.

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Should you worry about “flurona”?

On this season of The Pandemic: Meet the Delta strain’s extra-contagious cousin, Omicron, watch as the CDC succumbs to pressure, and prepare yourself for… “flurona.”

The term went viral after CBS’ Los Angeles affiliate tweeted: “#BREAKING, a COVID testing site at the Getty Center has detected LA’s first case of flurona.”

The portmanteau sounds as made-up as the name of a science fiction character (Doctor Wellington Yueh, Slartibartfast, etc.), and it is certainly misleading. “Flurona is not a thing,” writes Inverse reporter Katie MacBride. Rather, she explains, “‘flurona’ simply means a person has both Covid-19 and the flu and probably feels awful.”

Flurona does have a certain ring of doom to it, but presenting it as an extra-evil, mutant virus in its own right is inaccurate. It’s also a disservice to people worried about what variants may crop up after Omicron and Delta burn through the globe. Even so, the threat of dual infection is real — and it is a great reason to get your flu and your Covid-19 vaccines (and the booster).

“The best-case scenario is feeling like you have a mean bout of the flu,” writes MacBride. “The worst-case scenario is the same for both viruses: Death.”

M-m-m-my “flurona.”

Covid-19 facts: Nine immutable truths about Covid-19

So natural!

Grafissimo/DigitalVision Vectors/Getty Images

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  • On this day in history: Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus, most known for laying the groundwork for modern taxonomy, died on this day in 1778. You can still visit his Linnaeus Garden, the first botanical garden in Sweden, which blooms in Uppsala.
  • Song of the day: Nature Boy,” by Nat King Cole.
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