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Astronomy from the edge of space

Flying a supersonic jet may seem an unconventional choice for astronomical discovery, but it was the best platform available to search for a possible asteroid belt lurking inside Mercury's orbit.
The inner solar system may hold a population of small asteroids just a few miles in diameter. Called Vulcanoids, these objects would lie in a belt between 0.08 and 0.21 astronomical unit from the Sun — much closer than the innermost planet, Mercury. Trying to find such small, faint objects in the glare of the Sun requires looking through a bright twilight sky. Ground-based attempts over the past few decades had turned up nothing, so we decided on a different tack: searching for Vulcanoids...

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