Stories You Might Have Missed This Week

Washington state implements new gun purchase restrictions, more border fencing could be constructed, and NASA gets a a good look at a far-off celestial body.
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Ultima Thule is not a comet or asteroid, according to lead scientist Alan Stern; it's a "primordial planetesimal" that could provide bits of insight about our solar system's origins.

Ultima Thule is not a comet or asteroid, according to lead scientist Alan Stern; it's a "primordial planetesimal" that could provide bits of insight about our solar system's origins.

This week at Pacific Standard, we introduced you to a tattoo artist who removes swastikas and gang symbols for free, wondered why 2018 felt so long, and investigated whether or not animals should be Oscar-eligible.

Though we all paused this week to celebrate the new year, the news just kept on rolling. Here are a few stories we've been watching this week.

Washington State Implements a New Age Restriction on Gun Purchases

As of January 1st, only those aged 21 and over can buy semi-automatic rifles in Washington, up from the previous minimum of 18. This is the first of several new gun-control measures the state is implementing as a result of a ballot measure that passed in November; other measures will take effect later this year.

The National Rifle Association and the Second Amendment Foundation are suing the state over the new law, arguing that it violates citizens' constitutional rights. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson was unsurprised by the lawsuit. "The gun lobby is trying to thwart the will of nearly 60 percent of Washingtonian voters who supported common sense gun reform in our state," he said in a statement.

More Troops Are Expected to Head to the U.S.-Mexico Border to Build Fencing

With the federal government remaining in a partial shutdown over President Donald Trump's demand for a border wall, the Department of Homeland Security has requested more troops to install or upgrade 160 miles of fencing along the United States' southern border. A senior military official told NPR thousands more troops might be deployed for the fence work, which could take months.

NASA Shares Images of the Most Distant Celestial Body Ever Explored

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration this week introduced the world to an object nicknamed Ultima Thule, which is located one billion miles farther from Earth than Pluto. It's made up of two small, icy bodies that have become bound together in what's called a contact binary—and in photos, it looks like a snowman. Ultima Thule (which means "beyond the known world") is not a comet or asteroid, lead scientist Alan Stern told the Associated Press; it's a "primordial planetesimal" that could provide bits of insight about our solar system's origins.

"We've never seen anything like this before," Stern said. "It's not fish or fowl. It's something that's completely different."

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