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On May 22nd, a stationary robot on Mars used its arm to scoop up some Martian sand. It then slowly dumped it onto itself, with the brisk Mars wind snatching the tiny grains and whipping them against the machine’s solar panels. The robot was NASA’s InSight Mars lander, and the sand dump wasn’t a mistake. It might sound counterintuitive, but the space agency aimed to actually clean one of the lander’s most sensitive components by using the sand as a tool to knock off a layer of rust-colored dust that covers the entire lander.

Unlike NASA’s Curiosity and Perseverance rovers, the InSight lander relies on solar power to gather energy. It stores the power in its batteries so it can enjoy a steady supply of electricity to its vital instruments. Unfortunately, with Mars approaching its farther point from the Sun in its orbit, solar power is waning, and the reddish dust covering the lander and its solar panels is only making things worse.

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Mars is often very windy and, as we all know by now, that wind can kick up a whole lot of dust. Massive dust storms regularly cover huge areas of the planet, and sometimes the entire planet, and that dust loves to settle on solar panels. InSight doesn’t have an easy way of cleaning off its solar panels, and dust is just something that past missions to Mars have had to deal with. But with InSight experiencing a pretty dramatic drop in power collection thanks to the combination of the sticky dust and the Sun being farther away than it is for the rest of the year, the robot’s handlers decide to try something.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory explains:

InSight’s team has been thinking up ways to try to clear dust from its solar panels for almost a year. For example, they tried pulsing the solar panel deployment motors (last used when InSight opened its solar panels after landing) to shake the dust off but didn’t succeed.

After that attempt failed, the team came up with a different technique that, on the surface, sounds pretty silly. The idea was to gather sand and gradually drop it near the solar array but not piling it on top of the panels themselves. The scientists attempted this on May 22nd at noon, when JPL says the wind is at its strongest. The wind grabbed some of the sand grains and bounced them off of the solar panels, knocking a bunch of dust loose which was then carried away in the breeze.

The technique worked incredibly well, and while the solar panels aren’t totally free of dust, the portion that was affected by the sand-dropping strategy produced a bump in energy collection of 30 watt-hours per Martian day. InSight is currently in a two-year mission extension following its initial two-year primary mission. Let’s hope the robot has enough power to keep going for as long as it needs to.

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Naabiae Nenu-B is a Medical Health Student and an SEO Specialist dedicated to flushing the web off fake news and scam scandals. He aims at being "Africa's Best Leak and Review Blogger" and that's the unwavering stand of Xycinews Media.

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E-Games

Super Mario World Is Now Playable In Widescreen

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Gif: Super Mario World Widescreen

Software engineer and SNES ROM hacker Vitor Vilela has led a team which has created and released Super Mario World Widescreen, a download that lets you play Nintendo’s Super Mario World—first released in 1990—on modern widescreen displays.

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Crucially SMWW keeps the game’s original 8:7 pixel aspect ratio, meaning that no matter how wide you stretch the display, “the screen you will see is like how would you see on a real TV screen connected to the SNES, except expanded to the widescreen resolution!”

Super Mario World is now available in widescreen

Left: playing SMW using a regular widescreen mod | Right: playing SMW on this custom widescreen release
Screenshot: Kotaku

While standard 16:9 and 16:10 monitor resolutions are supported, Vilela is also working on some other, funkier aspect ratios, like 2:1 and even 21:9 for anyone with an ultrawide monitor.

It’s available here, but before you go rushing to download it, there’s some stuff you need to know. Firstly, the download link is just for SMWW, and doesn’t contain a ROM of Super Mario World itself. You’ll have to find that…elsewhere.

And secondly, you’ll also need to download the emulator bsnes_hd, since the only way SMWW was made possible was because bsnes_hd allowed Vilela to increase the game’s horizontal resolution by 96 pixels, from 256×224 to 352×224. bsnes also allows many other SNES games to run in widescreen as well, though not to the same level of tailored perfection as we’re seeing here (as you can see in the comparison screenshot above, simply running SMW in bsnes has some framing issues).

You can check out a trailer below:

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Get free AirPods with Apple’s 2021 Back to School sale

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School is just now ending in many states around the country, but that didn’t stop Apple from kicking off its back-to-school sale this week. If you’re in the market for a new device ahead of the coming school year, Apple is giving away a free pair of AirPods with your purchase of any eligible computer or tablet. This includes the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, 24-inch iMac, Mac Pro, Mac mini, iPad Pro, and iPad Air, which leaves you with plenty of options.

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If you decide to take advantage of the promotion, all that you need to do is head to Apple’s Back to School landing page, select your Mac or iPad of choice, and proceed with the checkout process. After you’ve decided which model you’re going to choose, you’ll reach a page where you can add AirPods with a charging case (normally $159.99) to your order free of charge.

If you’d prefer to have a wireless charging case, you can upgrade for $40, and you’d rather get a pair of AirPods Pro, it’s going to cost you $90. You can also opt not to take the free AirPods at all, but even if you don’t need the wireless headphones, they’d probably make a solid gift.

In addition to the AirPods offer, Apple is also giving current and newly accepted college students and their parents, as well as teachers and staff, 20% off AppleCare+ for the products they buy.

It’s also worth noting that all new Apple devices come with three-month free trials to both Apple Arcade and Apple TV+. For quite some time, Apple was giving consumers a free year of Apple TV+, but as we learned earlier this week, the company actually wants people to start paying for the streaming service at some point. Therefore, all of the initial free trials from 2019 that have been extended multiple times will finally be ending in July. Furthermore, eligible devices activated July 1st, 2021 or later will qualify for offers of 3 months free Apple TV+, so if you want a full year (as well as some free AirPods), you might want to place your order soon.

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Everyone’s binge-watching this raunchy new Netflix comedy right now

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For anyone in the US who’s been going through Schitt’s Creek withdrawals and could use a hilarious new comedy from our neighbor to the north, especially as an antidote of sorts to the pandemic and all kinds of other negative news in the world right now, rejoice — Netflix has you covered, in the form of a raunchy sitcom from Catherine Reitman.

Season 5 of her show Workin’ Moms just got added to Netflix in the US a few days ago, and already it’s one of the most-watched Netflix shows, having rocketed up the streamer’s ranks of what’s popular across the service at any given moment. Reitman, the daughter of famed Hollywood director Ivan Reitman, not only stars in the series but she always writes and directs, and as of the time of this writing the series is currently the #4 most-viewed TV show on Netflix in the US. Originally broadcast in Canada via the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), this comedy is built around the following, according to Netflix’s summary: “Maternity leave is over, and it’s time for these four moms to return to work while navigating kids, bosses, love, and life in modern-day Toronto.”

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Reitman will already be familiar to American audiences thanks to acting in such productions as It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Friends With Benefits, and Knocked Up. Her Workin’ Moms cast also includes Dani Kind, Juno Rinaldo, and Jessalyn Wanlim.

As far as how much of the show is available on Netflix right now, subscribers can stream all five available seasons of the show. Reitman recently took to Instagram to confirm that Season 6 of the show is a go, it having been renewed by CBC. In terms of when that means we can expect it to make its way to Netflix — don’t expect it before 2022, probably mid-year.

Check back here this weekend, meanwhile, for our latest complete rundown on what’s hot and being binged the most right now across all the major streaming services, from Netflix to Disney+, Apple TV+, HBO Max, and more. Our list comes, as always, from the team at the streaming search engine service Reelgood, which regularly shares with a BGR a snapshot of what shows and movies are the most popular on a weekly as well as monthly basis among its millions of users.

Reelgood, by the way, is a great service to be aware of, if you’re not already and if you’re a streaming power-user. It aims to be a one-stop-shop that makes finding shows and movies to watch convenient, especially since it gets a little hard to keep track of which service has this or that new TV show — and since they’re all constantly adding and removing content pretty regularly.

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