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Euclid space telescope captures tens of thousands of glittering galaxies

The first science release from the Euclid space telescope showcases tens of thousands of galaxies and other celestial phenomenons.

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Stunning new images from the Euclid space telescope show a dazzling array of starry sights, released to celebrate the first science published from the telescope’s early release observations.

The mission from the European Space Agency, launched last year, aims to elucidate the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy — forces that comprise most of the known universe but that are largely unknown since they are so difficult to study. Scientists know that dark matter must exist because they can observe its gravitational effects, for example, but they can’t observe it directly because it doesn’t interact with light.

The solution is an extremely sensitive instrument like Euclid, which can observe distant galaxies to see dark matter’s effects on them. “We have to accurately measure the shapes of over 1.5 billion distant galaxies,” explained Valeria Pettorino and René Laureijs, Euclid project scientists at the European Space Agency. But these galaxies can be faint and tiny, and when viewed from Earth, they are blurred by our planet’s atmosphere. As Euclid sits above the atmosphere in space, it can detect and measure these galaxies with less interference.

The result is images that are four times sharper than those taken from telescopes on the ground, showing a high level of detail over a wide area of the sky. Using data from just 24 hours of observations, they show objects including galaxy clusters, star-forming regions, and a large nearby spiral galaxy called NGC 6744.

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As well as the careful measurements of galaxies for dark matter research, the telescope will also provide data on other astronomical objects. “We will be able to also search for objects that were very difficult to detect before Euclid such as free floating planets, ultra-cold stars, brown dwarfs, galaxies with very low surface brightness or very high redshift quasar populations,” Pettorino and Laureijs said. “Euclid may also reveal new objects which have never been observed before.”

Stellar nurseries like Messier 78 will be searched for objects like free-floating or “rogue” planets, which don’t orbit a star but, rather, wander alone through the cosmos. There are thought to be trillions of these rogue planets in our galaxy, but they are hard to study since they often don’t have nearby objects that they interact with. With Euclid, rogue planets down to four times the size of Jupiter can be observed — that’s fairly large compared to planets in our Solar System but tiny in terms of how small the objects are compared to stars. 

And at the other end of the mass scale, Euclid will also observe entire groups of galaxies, like the cluster Abell 2390, which contains more than 50,000 galaxies. Such clusters are so massive that they bend space-time, creating an effect called gravitational lensing, in which light from distant galaxies is warped and shows up as a distorted shape like a disk or an arc. This allows researchers to study the amount of dark matter present in the cluster since the greater the amount of dark matter, the greater the mass and therefore the lensing effect.

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The first images from Euclid have exceeded expectations, Pettorino and Laureijs said, with results from just a day’s worth of observations already showing millions of different objects. Over the next six years, Euclid will peel back even more of the universe as it surveys a third of the entire sky.

“This is the start of an extraordinary journey towards a fundamental understanding of the Universe we live in,” Pettorino and Laureijs said.

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The Nintendo Switch has turned into an excellent Mario RPG machine

Nintendo has released a remaster of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door on the Switch, joining other roleplaying games like Mario & Luigi and Super Mario RPG.

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When it comes to Mario’s traditional platforming adventures, the story is mostly set dressing. There’s an intro about Peach being captured or Bowser turning into a sentient castle, and then you get on with the jumping and exploring. But there’s a rich and interesting world that goes underexplored — which is where Mario’s roleplaying spinoffs come in. Since the original Super Mario RPG on the SNES, these games have not only given more stories and character to the Mario universe but they’re also somehow even weirder than the already quite weird mainline games.

And with the addition of the new remaster of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, the Nintendo Switch (and its subscription service) has slowly turned into a great starting point for getting started with the Mario RPG universe.

The obvious place to start with the franchise is Super Mario RPG. For a while, that was easier said than done. Unlike most Nintendo games, Mario RPG hasn’t been ported all that much; there’s the original SNES version, rereleases on the Wii / Wii U virtual console, and its inclusion in the SNES Classic Edition. But last year, the Switch got a full-on remake, which doesn’t change much aside from introducing proper 3D graphics and some quality-of-life tweaks.

But it didn’t need to change much: this game is a delight. Created in collaboration with Final Fantasy maker Square Enix (then SquareSoft), it’s a fairly traditional RPG — which means turn-based battles, gear upgrades, and magic — that turns the Mushroom Kingdom into a fever dream of a fantasy realm. It somehow manages to marry slapstick humor with an epic quest, stuff it with Mario references, and still feel cohesive.

From there, Mario RPGs went on two diverging paths. One of them is only lightly represented on the Switch. As part of Nintendo Switch Online’s library of Game Boy Advance titles, you can play Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, which, as the name implies, has players controlling both brothers on a goofy journey to rescue Peach’s voice from an evil bean. To give a sense of how odd Superstar Saga can get: the game opens with a scene where you see Luigi doing laundry and Mario in the shower. It only gets sillier from there. But its playful approach to combat and storytelling makes it stand up even now.

The other spinoff series is Paper Mario. It kicked off on the N64, and the original game is available as part of Switch Online. What defines this series — aside from the distinct lack of playable Luigi — is its papercraft aesthetic. Not only does it give the games a playful look but it also creates all kinds of opportunities for great jokes and fun gameplay. Depending on the game, Mario can turn into a paper airplane or travel around the world using a fax machine.

The series arguably peaked with Thousand-Year Door, which originally launched on the GameCube in 2004. It maintains the lighthearted charms and solid yet accessible gameplay of its predecessors, but it builds on them with a surprisingly deep and interesting story and an extremely odd and lovable cast of characters. The remaster on the Switch mostly adds some welcome quality-of-life-tweaks, so that personality remains intact. Unfortunately, from there, the Paper Mario series slowly drifted away from its RPG roots, with subsequent releases shifting more into action territory.

That said, I have to give a special shoutout to 2020’s The Origami King on the Switch. While it’s not as pure of an RPG as Thousand-Year Door, it is still absolutely hilarious and has some of the most memorable — and heartbreaking — character moments in the entire series. Bobby the Bob-omb has forever changed how I view Super Mario enemies.

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The US sues Ticketmaster for driving up live event fees

The US Justice Department has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Ticketmaster parent company Live Nation, seeking a breakup of its alleged live event ticketing monopoly.

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The US Justice Department and 30 state and district attorneys general have filed an antitrust lawsuit against Ticketmaster and its parent company, Live Nation Entertainment, alleging that it has a monopoly in the live ticketing industry that enables it to illegally suppress competition.

“It is time to break up Live Nation-Ticketmaster,” US Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement announcing the lawsuit.

The DOJ alleges that Live Nation’s dominance — which spans ticket sales, promotion, artist management, and venue ownership — has given the company unfair commercial advantages over rivals. In particular, its alleged ticketing monopoly has reduced consumer choice, resulting in higher prices, according to the government. Live Nation owns or controls over 265 concert venues in North America, according to the DOJ, which includes more than 60 of the top 100 US amphitheaters.

A ruling in the government’s favor could eventually unwind the Ticketmaster merger

The government alleges that Live Nation and Ticketmaster engaged in anticompetitive practices to protect a cycle that feeds it revenue, which the company calls its “flywheel,” according to the DOJ. In that cycle, Live Nation-Ticketmaster allegedly “captures fees and revenue from concert fans and sponsorship, uses that revenue to lock up artists to exclusive promotion deals, and then uses its powerful cache of live content to sign venues into long term exclusive ticketing deals, thereby starting the cycle all over again,” according to the DOJ press release.

Live Nation, the self-proclaimed “largest live entertainment company in the world,” drew antitrust scrutiny when it merged with ticketing giant Ticketmaster in 2010. At the time, President Barack Obama’s Justice Department was criticized for allowing the merger despite concerns that it would give the unified companies too much control over the live entertainment industry. While the DOJ hasn’t said at this stage what exactly a breakup should look like, a ruling in the government’s favor could eventually result in an effective unwinding of the Ticketmaster merger.

DOJ antitrust chief Jonathan Kanter explained why the government is calling for a breakup during a press conference. “Some monopolies are just so entrenched, and some problems so difficult to address that they require decisive and effective solutions,” he said.

In 2019, the DOJ and Live Nation agreed to update and extend the 2010 consent decree they entered when the government allowed the merger to go through without a challenge. That update clarified prohibitions on certain behaviors the government feared could harm competition, like threatening venues with withholding concerts if they chose a different ticketing platform. But senior DOJ officials told reporters from several publications on a background call Thursday that the conduct it alleges in its lawsuit is broader and more recent in scope and centers on violations of antimonopoly law rather than merger law.

Concerns over Live Nation’s dominance came to a head in November 2022 when Ticketmaster crashed due to “unprecedented demand,” preventing thousands of Taylor Swift fans from purchasing Eras Tour tickets. The DOJ’s antitrust investigation into Live Nation was reportedly opened shortly after this incident, according to The New York Times.

In the complaint, the DOJ details several methods that Live Nation-Ticketmaster allegedly used to lock up the market. For example, it alleges that the company “exploits” its relationship with “potential competitor-turned-partner” Oak View Group, which manages live events venues but has “avoided bidding against Live Nation for artist talent.” Live Nation-Ticketmaster has also “threatened financial retaliation” to keep new entrants out of the market, according to the government, and retaliated against venues that work with its rivals. The company also creates exclusionary contracts to keep venues from switching to rivals or using multiple ticketers, the government alleges.

Live Nation responded to the lawsuit in a blog post, saying that the government “ignores everything that is actually responsible for higher ticket prices, from increasing production costs to artist popularity, to 24/7 online ticket scalping that reveals the public’s willingness to pay far more than primary tickets cost.” Live Nation called it “absurd to claim that Live Nation and Ticketmaster are wielding monopoly power” since its service charges are often lower than other places and it isn’t even that profitable.

The government is demanding a jury for the trial, stemming from some of the claims under the states parties’ laws. The bipartisan group of states joining the lawsuit includes California, Colorado, Florida, and Texas.

The lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of New York, represents the third major tech anti-monopoly complaint filed under Kanter within two years. Kanter’s division also filed suit against Google and Apple under Section 2 of the Sherman Act and just wrapped up another Google trial, which kicked off during the previous administration.

Update, May 23rd: This article has been updated to include comment from Live Nation.

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