Finland, Sagittarius A, and the Blobs BelowEverything you need to know for today in five minutes.
Good morning. It's Friday, May 13, and we're covering a potential addition to NATO, a groundbreaking galactic observation, and much more. Have feedback? Let us know at email@example.com.
NEED TO KNOW
Finland Moves Toward NATO
Finland’s leaders announced their support for the country to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization yesterday, ending a decadeslong position of neutrality. The country shares an 830-mile border with Russia, and the membership would more than double the border length NATO shares with Russia. Sweden is also expected to make a similar announcement this weekend. If both countries join, Russia would be surrounded in the Arctic and Baltic Sea (WashPo, paywall).
NATO was founded in 1949 by the US, Canada, and several European nations to provide security against the Soviet Union. The application must be first approved by Finland’s parliament, followed by a formal invitation from NATO. The invitation is expected by the end of June when NATO leaders meet for the Madrid summit. See the steps to NATO membership here.
The news comes in defiance of threats made by Russia to discourage the countries from joining the alliance. Russia responded by threatening to take “retaliatory steps” and warned of repercussions to regional security.
Milky Way's Giant Revealed
The supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way has been imaged for the first time, astronomers announced yesterday. Known as Sagittarius A*, the galactic anchor sits about 27,000 light-years from Earth and is roughly 4 million times the size of our sun.
The presence of Sagittarius A* has long been inferred by the motion of nearby stars; yesterday's news marks the first direct visual confirmation of its existence. Technically the photo—taken by what is effectively an Earth-sized telescope (see 101, w/video)—is a silhouette of the object. Black holes are ultra-dense, collapsed stars from which even light can't escape the gravitational pull. The measurement detects gas and dust around the object's boundary, which reveals its shape.
Early analysis confirmed predictions made by Einstein's theory of general relativity. Read more about the study here.
Kendrick Lamar Returns
Hip-hop superstar Kendrick Lamar released overnight the much-anticipated "Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers," his first album in more than five years. The record is his fifth studio album and the follow-up to 2017's "DAMN.," which went seven-times platinum.
The Compton, California, native is known for combining powerful narrative with skillful lyrics. The 14-time Grammy winner initially gained widespread recognition with 2012's "Good Kid, M.A.A.D City." His 2017 opus netted a Pulitzer—the first for a non-Jazz or classical album—and was ranked 175 on Rolling Stone's greatest albums of all time. His projects in the five years since have included producing the "Black Panther" soundtrack, which won two Grammys, his acting debut, and more.
Lamar is often referred to as part of the Big 3, along with rappers Drake and J. Cole—each of whom rose to prominence about a decade ago alongside each other.
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>Country music legend Naomi Judd died by self-inflicted gunshot wound, her daughter Ashley Judd revealed in an interview (More)
>Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike to skip Preakness Stakes, ensuring no Triple Crown winner this year(More) | The US tapped to host 2031 Men's and 2033 Women's Rugby World Cups (More)
> Defending Super Bowl champs Los Angeles Rams to open 2022 NFL season against Buffalo Bills; see full 2022 schedule (More) | Maria Taylor named new host of NBC's "Football Night in America" (More)
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Science & Technology
>Terraform Labs briefly halts operation of its blockchain following a dayslong crash of its digital currencies, which dragged down the broader crypto market (More) | $200B erased from crypto markets yesterday (More) | What went wrong? (More)
>Chemists demonstrate RNA molecules are capable of linking short amino acids together; experiment fills a key gap in the "RNA world" theory (More) | What is RNA? (More)
>Paleontologists discover rare, 66-million-year-old fossilized dinosaur embryo; the unhatched hadrosaur was found in southern China (More)
Business & Markets
>US stock markets end mixed (S&P 500 -0.1%, Dow -0.3%, Nasdaq +0.1%) in volatile session; Dow closes down for sixth consecutive day (More)
>Twitter reports departure of two executives, institutes hiring freeze ahead of potential Elon Musk deal (More)
>Grocery delivery giant Instacart files for confidential IPO; company reduced its valuation from $39B to $24B in March (More) | Sam Bankman-Fried, CEO of cryptocurrency exchange FTX, discloses 7.6% stake in free online trading firm Robinhood; Robinhood shares up 20% in after-hours trading (More)
Politics & World Affairs
>The US expected to pass 1 million reported COVID-19 deaths shortly; President Joe Biden orders flags at half-staff (More) | See current stats (More) | North Korea makes first confirmation of a COVID-19 outbreak, orders lockdowns (More)
>House Jan. 6 committee subpoenas Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R, CA-23) and four other GOP members; orders come after offers for voluntarily interviews were turned down (More)
>Israel officials admit veteran Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot and killed by Israel forces while reporting from the West Bank; Israel requests fatal bullet for examination (More) | See background (More)
Letter to My Younger Self
Players' Tribune | Tarik Cohen. An NFL running back pens an emotional reflection on achieving dreams while carrying the weight of the past. (Read)
Russia's Air Errors
Atlantic | Phillips Payson O’Brien, Edward Stringer. Russia's inability to establish air superiority has been the most overlooked failure in its war against Ukraine. (Read, paywall)
The Blobs Below
BBC Future | Zaria Gorvett. Deep within the Earth's core lie mysterious blobs of exotic materials the size of continents. (Read)
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Historybook: The US declares war against Mexico in dispute over Texas (1846); "Golden Girls" actress Bea Arthur born (1922); HBD Stevie Wonder (1950); Pope John Paul II is shot, survives assassination attempt (1981); RIP actress and singer Doris Day (2019).
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- Bea Arthur
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