Snipers are a special breed, warriors with a combination of shooting skill, cunning, and patience. Military history has shown that a single sniper in the right place at the right time can change the course of battle, even in the face of overwhelming odds.
Here are the five most legendary among them:
5. U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Adelbert Waldron
As a member of the 9th Infantry Division, he was assigned to PBR boats patrolling the Mekong Delta, at one point making a confirmed kill from a moving boat at 900 yards. He set his record of 109 kills in just 8 months, which was the record until Chris Kyle broke it during the Iraq War and is perhaps even more remarkable considering he was fighting in a dense jungle environment that didn’t always provide easy sight lines.
4. Red Army Captain Vasily Zaytsev
Between November 10 and December 17, 1942, during the Battle of Stalingrad, Zaytsev killed 225 soldiers and officers of the Wehrmacht and other Axis armies, including 11 enemy snipers. Before that he killed 32 Axis soldiers with a standard-issue rifle. Between October 1942 and January 1943, he made an estimated 400 kills, some at distances of more than 1,100 yards.
A feature-length film, Enemy at the Gates, starring Jude Law as Zaytsev, includes a sniper’s duel between Zaytsev and a Wehrmacht sniper school director, Major Erwin König.
3. U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Chris Kyle
Navy SEAL Chris Kyle served four tours during the Iraq War, and during that time he became the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history with over 160 kills officially confirmed by the Department of Defense. Kyle’s bestselling book, American Sniper, was made into a movie directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper as Kyle.
On February 2, 2013, Kyle was shot dead at a shooting range near Chalk Mountain, Texas along with his friend, Chad Littlefield. The assailant, Eddie Ray Routh, was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
2. U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Norman Hathcock
During the Vietnam War Hathcock had 93 “confirmed” kills of North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong personnel, which meant they occurred with an officer present (in addition to his spotter). He estimated the number of “unconfirmed” kills to be upwards of 400. His warfighting career ended when he was wounded by an anti-tank mine in 1969 and sent home. He later helped establish the USMC Sniper School.
1. Finnish Army Second Lieutenant Simo Häyhä
Nicknamed “White Death,” Simo Häyhä tallied 505 kills, far and away the highest count from any major war. All of Häyhä’s kills of Red Army combatants were accomplished in fewer than 100 days – an average of just over five kills per day – at a time of year with very few daylight hours. He was wounded late in the war when an explosive bullet shot by a Soviet soldier took off his lower left jaw. He lived a long life, however, dying in a veterans nursing home in 2002 at the age of 96.
When asked if he regretted killing so many people he replied, “I only did my duty, and what I was told to do, as well as I could.”
TripAdvisor is a great place to get travel tips from fellow adventurers. It can tell you what cafes are best in Paris or which museums are best in Germany. And, it can apparently tell you which bases are best in Afghanistan.
Some hilarious person decided to add “Bagram Airfield” to TripAdvisor’s list of “Things to do in Afghanistan,” and vets have been filling it with unfiltered and often sarcastic opinions about what life on the base is like. It’s currently ranked as the “#1 of 1 things to do in Bagram, Afghanistan, Asia.” Read the 4 selected reviews below to learn why:
1. BAF4DAYZ nailed the Afghanistan experience with just the headline of his review:
2. Other reviewers gave a nod to the locals who make all visits to Bagram so memorable:
3. People gave five-stars to the communal living areas and fine dining options:
4. Other amenities, like the free gyms and the opportunities to create memories, received four stars.
For some odd reason, the beloved airfield sports a travel alert about safety and security concerns in the area. (Not sure what that’s about.) Read more reviews at the TripAdvisor webpage. Vets that have visited the facility can also leave their own two cents in the form of a new review.
When you go to the page, be sure to answer TripAdvisor’s questions about Bagram Airfield such as, “Do you find this attraction suitable for young children?”
The hero has been the most popular archetype of human-storytelling for as long as stories have been told. From the Epic of Gilgamesh to the Odyssey to comic books to the epic film franchises that bring in billions of dollars in revenue, superhero stories are here to stay.
Superheroes all have origin stories, which tell how they gained their powers and chose to fight against evil.
But some heroes felt the call to serve before being recruited by special agencies — some even before having heightened abilities.
Get ready because this is your SPOILER WARNING: we’ll be discussing plots from comics and films — both released and upcoming — from the DC and Marvel universes.
“You might remember that ‘annoyed’ is my natural state.”
10. Logan aka James Howlett (Wolverine)
Wolverine’s mutations — accelerated healing powers and longevity; heightened senses, speed, and stamina; and retractable bone claws which were later plated with nearly indestructible adamantium — render him a powerful fighting machine.
According to the film, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Logan was born in the 1800s. He fled his childhood home and fought as a soldier in the American Civil War, both World Wars, and the Vietnam War. That’s a century of combat, by the way.
When he was discovered by Maj. William Stryker — a military scientist biased against mutants and intent on destroying them — Wolverine’s military career came to an end, leading him on a path towards the X-Men.
In the comics, Wolverine has many storylines, including a journey to hell, but we’ll stick with the cinematic telling of his life. He can never fully escape his painful past, and even when he’s fighting for the good guys, he’s got a bad attitude. He’s like the Senior NCO who doesn’t have any more f*cks to give but is so great at his job that everyone just lets him do his thing.
Nonetheless, his moral compass remains true until the end.
“I’m more of a soldier than a spy.”
9. Sam Wilson (Falcon)
Sam Wilson is a former Air Force Pararescue Jumper, which made him a great candidate for the superhero with a tendency to jump into the middle of a combat situation to ice evildoers and save lives.
Wilson is important for many reasons. Created in 1969 by Stan Lee and artist Gene Colan, he was the first African-American superhero in mainstream comics, making his mark on the civil rights movement of the 60s.
In the comics, Wilson has a telepathic link to his bird, Redwing, which allows him to see through the bird’s eyes. He’s also skilled in hand-to-hand combat and operating the Falcon Flight Harness.
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the powers are gone, but the harness remains. It was actually a secret military asset, which Wilson somehow stole… and, somehow, there were never consequences levied by the U.S. government for that, but okay…
Most importantly, Wilson counsels veterans with post-traumatic stress issues, embodying the ideal of service after service and the value of supporting our fellow brothers- and sisters-in-arms.
“But being the best you can be…that’s doable. That’s possible for anybody if they put their mind to it.”
8. Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel)
Major Carol Danvers is a trained military intelligence officer and erstwhile spy. She’s one of the most distinguished officers in the superhero universe and a graduate of the Air Force Academy, where Nick Fury recruited her for the CIA.
In the comics, she retired from the Air Force as a Colonel to be Chief of Security at NASA before becoming half-Kree (a militaristic, alien race in the Marvel Universe). She became Captain Marvel after meeting a Kree alien named Mar-Vell, but she acquired superpowers after an explosion merged her DNA with the first Captain Marvel… well, it’s complicated.
Danvers is an author and feminist and her powers include flight, enhanced strength and durability, shooting energy bursts from her hands, and being able to verbally judo one Tony Stark.
“The future of air combat… is it manned or unmanned? I’ll tell you, in my experience, no unmanned aerial vehicle will ever trump a pilot’s instinct.”
7. James Rhodes (War Machine)
There’s a bit of a discrepancy here. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, James Rhodes is an airman. In the comic books, he’s always been a Marine. If I told you that a hero was named “War Machine” and had little understanding of ammo consumption, would you think he was an airman or a Marine?
Screw it — let’s dive into both!
First, the comics: A former pilot in the Marine Corps, Rhodes met Tony Stark aka Iron Man while he was still deployed in Vietnam. Rhodes was shot down behind enemy lines when he encountered Stark in the prototype Iron Man suit. The two teamed up and became best friends. Rhodes conducts himself according to military honor codes, which often contrasts with Tony Stark’s relativistic heroism, and even assumes the mantle of Iron Man when Stark struggles with alcohol addiction.
In the MCU, Rhodes becomes War Machine and struggles to balance his loyalty to the Avengers with the legal obligations of the military and the Sokovia Accords. This tension eventually earns him a court-martial, when he’s forced to disobey the Accords to help Captain America travel to Wakanda.
But hey, is a military infraction even that big a deal when half of the universe is being wiped out?
“Three minutes and twenty seconds, really? If you were my agents, it wouldn’t be for long.”
6. Maria Hill
Maria Hill commissioned in the Marine Corps before joining S.H.I.E.L.D. She quickly rose through its ranks and was appointed Deputy Director under Nick Fury. She possesses normal human strength, which makes her participation in supernatural phenomenon even more impressive.
As a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, she is experienced in espionage, hand-to-hand combat, weapons expertise, and tactical vehicle operation.
In the comics, Hill served under Fury until after Marvel’s Civil War, when she assassinated Captain America. But that’s okay because she was only evil because she was controlled by Red Skull — and no one stays dead in comics anyway (except Uncle Ben).
In the MCU, Hill provides intel and support for the Avengers and remains the one person Nick Fury can trust.
“Daddy needs to express some rage.”
5. Wade Wilson (Deadpool)
Deadpool is the guy in your unit that just won’t take anything seriously. That’s true for his character, both in the comics and on-screen, but it’s also true for the actual creators of Deadpool, who break convention in more ways than one. For example, he knows that he is a fictional character and he commonly breaks the fourth wall. Most antiheroes are dark and tortured, and Deadpool certainly is that… but he’s also… just… uncouth and rather undignified, which is what makes him so unique.
His origins are rather vague and are subject to change. Stories have been retconned, conveniently forgotten, or just ignored (like what we’re going to do with Deadpool’s appearance in X-Men Origins: Wolverine…). Nonetheless, there seems to be a consensus that Wade Wilson (if that’s even his name) served in the U.S. Army Special Forces before he was dishonorably discharged.
In the film, he is diagnosed with terminal cancer and undergoes an experiment where he is injected with a serum meant to activate his mutant genes. After prolonged stress and torture, the experiment works. Cancer continues to consume his body, but his superhuman healing allows him to cure it simultaneously, leaving him disfigured, but unkillable.
He becomes a mercenary who continues to fight the chaotic-good fight.
“I’m all out of wiseass answers.”
4. Jonah Hex
Though he initially joined the United States Army as a cavalry scout, Jonah Hex‘s story really began during the Civil War. As a southerner, he fought for the Confederacy, but he found himself increasingly uncomfortable with slavery. Unwilling to betray his fellow soldiers, but loathe to fight for the South, Hex surrendered himself to the Union.
Tried for treason and exiled to the wild west, Hex would later be branded with the mark of the demon and be forced to walk the land as a supernatural bounty hunter. At some point, he’d also travel time (because comic logic) and fight alongside other superheroes.
He also fought alongside Yosemite Sam. Yeah, the Looney Toons’ Yosemite Sam.
Hex didn’t have supernatural abilities, but he was an outstanding marksman, a quick draw, and an expert fighter in the wild west.
“I still believe in heroes.”
3. Nick Fury
As with many comic book heroes, whose stories continue for decades, Nick Fury has a sliding history that keeps him current in conflicts. His first appearance was in Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #1, which took place during World War II.
Fury served as a colonel during the Cold War before becoming the director for S.H.I.E.L.D. (then known as “Supreme Headquarters International Espionage Law-enforcement Division”). His skills and experience with espionage were put to use against the Soviet Union and primed him for his position at S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers Initiative.
From leading his Howling Commandos to becoming the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. to transforming into the silent observer of Earth, Nick Fury has done it all without any actual abilities — and with only one eye. He obtained the Infinity Formula, which kept him from aging, but it was his mind and skill on the battlefield that allowed him to take down nearly every superhero in the Marvel universe.
“I can do this all day.”
2. Steve Rogers (Captain America)
Steve Rogers is the ultimate example of patriotism, bravery, and sense of duty. In fact, that’s why he was chosen for the Super Soldier Serum project in the first place.
During World War II, Rogers made multiple attempts to enlist, but failed to meet the physical requirements. But his tenacity caught the eye of a scientist who recognized that Rogers’ attitude made him the perfect Project Rebirth candidate.
Rogers began his career doing propaganda to support the war effort, but he would eventually be unleashed in Europe in the fight against the Nazi faction, HYDRA.
His military service ended when he sacrificed himself to save the United States from a HYDRA-coordinated WMD attack. He was suspended in ice until he was revived by S.H.I.E.L.D. in the modern day.
Rogers later joined the Avengers, but his sense of duty and his compulsion to act in the face of injustice — no matter what the laws are — pitted him against other Avengers after creation of the Sokovia Accords, which established U.N. oversight of the team.
“If you want peace, prepare for war.”
1. Frank Castle (Punisher)
The Punisher is a psychologically troubled antihero, which makes his story both unsettling and, in many ways, very familiar for combat-veterans. He is a vigilante who fights crime by any means necessary, no matter how brutal those means might be.
Frank Castle joined the Marines after dropping out of Priest school when he was asked if he could ever forgive a murderer. Because of Marvel’s sliding timeline, through which they avoid putting firm dates on characters, Castle’s story changes every now and then to reflect modern, real-world events.
Hands down, the most “Marine” story in The Punisher canon goes to Punisher: Born. Set in Vietnam, it is essentially the origin story of how Castle goes from being the gun-slinging badass that Marines think they are to actually being the gun-slinging badass Marines know they are.
Fan theories speculate the narrator of the story is actually Ares, the Greek God of War, who makes an unsuspecting Castle his avatar.
Editor’s Note: Parts of this article have appeared previously on We Are The Mighty.
China offered an unprecedented look at its new DF-26 “carrier killer” missile in a video seen by military experts as a direct warning to US aircraft carriers that they’re in danger of being sunk.
The footage of the DF-26 broke with norms in several ways. China strictly controls its media, and any data on a its ballistic missiles or supporting infrastructure amounts to military intelligence for the US, which considers China a leading rival.
And a close look at the video reveals a capable weapon with several strengths and features that seriously threaten the US Navy’s entire operating concept.
“This is the first time, to my knowledge, the DF-26 has really been materially visible in any video,” Scott LaFoy, an open-source missile analyst at ArmsControlWonk.com tweeted in response to the video. “This sort of imagery wasn’t released for literally decades with the DF-21!” he continued, referencing China’s earlier, shorter-range “carrier killer” missile type.
The DF-26 warhead revealed.
(CCTV / YouTube)
What we know about the missile
The DF-26 has a known range of 1,860 to 3,500 miles, putting much of China’s near periphery in range, along with much of the US military’s Pacific basing and infrastructure.
With at least a 2,500-pound throw weight, China can use the missile to carry conventional, nuclear, or anti-ship warheads.
First off, the missile is road-mobile, meaning that if the US sought to kill the missiles before they’re fired, they’d likely be able to run and hide.
Second, the missile is solid-fueled. This means the missile has fuel already inside it. When North Korea launched its intercontinental-ballistic-missile prototypes in 2017, it used liquid fuels.
The ranges of Chinese ballistic and cruise missiles, air-defense systems, and warships.
(Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments)
Liquid-fueled missiles must take fuel before the launch, which for road-mobile missiles, requires a large team of fueling and support trucks. The long convoy makes the mobile missiles easier to track and would give the US about 30 minutes to hunt the missile down.
Third, the missile is cold-launched, according to LaFoy. This makes a minor difference, but essentially allows the missile to maximize its range by relying on compressed gas to eject it from the tube to get it going, rather than a powerful blast of fuel.
Submarines, for example, shoot cold-launched missiles near the surface before letting their engines rip.
Finally, according to LaFoy’s close analysis of the launch, the DF-26 may carry field reloads, or essentially get close to rapid fire — which could allow China’s batteries to overwhelm a carrier’s robust defensive systems.
If the DF-26 units carry with them additional rounds and operate as portrayed in the video, China may truly have a weapon that they can confidently show off knowing the US can scrutinize it but likely not defeat it.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A training camp used by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS, was destroyed by a pair of stealth bombers today.
According to a report by FoxNews.com, two B-2A Spirit bombers attacked the training camp about 30 miles from Sirte. At least 85 members of the terrorist group are believed to have been killed in the mission, which involved the bombers dropping a total of 108 500-pound bombs. Unmanned aerial vehicles also took part in the attack, using AGM-114 Hellfire missiles to kill surviving terrorists.
FoxNews.com noted that the bombers were refueled five times as they flew to and from Whiteman Air Force Base.
“This action was authorized by the President as an extension of the successful operation the U.S. military conducted last year to support Libyan forces in freeing Sirte from ISIL control,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a statement released after the attack. “The ISIL terrorists targeted included individuals who fled to the remote desert camps from Sirte in order to reorganize, and they posed a security threat to Libya, the region, and U.S. national interests.”
The use of B-2 bombers might come as a surprise as F-15E Strike Eagles from the 48th Fighter Wing at Lakenheath Air Base had been used in the past. The Navy had the guided missile destroyers USS Porter (DDG 78) and USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) in the region as well. Last year, Marine Cobras from a Marine Expeditionary Unit took part in operations against ISIS in the country.
FoxNews.com reported that this was the first action the B-2s had seen since 2011. One possible reason was the presence of the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov. The carrier reportedly hosted a Libyan warlord who the Russians are backing to run the war-torn country. The carrier and its escorts, including a Kirov-class battlecruiser, have substantial air-defense assets, including Su-33 Flankers, MiG-29K fighters, and SA-N-6 surface-to-air missiles.
Humping is a reality for many of us, and I’m not talking about the kind that has a happy ending. In my Marine Corps career, I estimate that I easily hiked 1,000 miles with a full pack — between 50 and 150 lbs. At a minimum speed of 3 miles an hour, that’s over 300 hours of time for the mind to go to dark or funny places.
On a long hump, the mind so often goes dark. I remember envisioning the sweet relief of rolling an ankle so I could ride in the safety vehicle, even picking out the exact rock I was planning to eat shit on.
“That one….seriously, that one. Okay, fine, the next one… Ah, fine, I don’t wanna cause any serious damage. I’ll just take a header into that ditch and cause a concussion instead.”
On my 23rd birthday, I was on an 8-mile movement to a range for a live fire event. It was the second day in a row we were humping, and the entire epidermis of my right foot was already falling off, from the ball of my foot to the start of my heel, from the previous day’s movements. I had spent the previous weekend in Virginia beach drinking homemade Sangria, and the effects were still very much present.
I spent that entire hump in my own head questioning all of my life decisions.
You know he’s thinking about the next ‘Avengers’ movie.
Eventually, I got to the point in my career where I just accepted that I would be walking for the next 8 hours and decided to make it fun. Games I played:
Reliving every fight I’ve ever been in and how I would Jason Bourne my way to victory if it happened again.
During daylight hikes I would make up fake hand and arm signals and try to confuse people who took things too seriously.
I would secretly listen to music on my iPod (I’m old) through a strategically placed earbud. #combathunter
My roommate would use hikes as an opportunity to eat as much as he could; it was one of the few times you had enough “free time” to eat a full meal. The trick would be to figure out a way to use the heater packet while hiking. You need to jam it between your pack and back and focus on walking level, so it doesn’t fall out. Beware of the high potential for second-degree burns.
“Hey! What was the name of the fat guy in The Office?”…
At one point, I wrote a new phonetic alphabet with just profanities. You can imagine what replaced Foxtrot. It was enlightening.
“A cougar is following you.” That’s just a game where you pretend a cougar is going to rip out your jugular as soon as you stop. The trick to this one is to think one step ahead of the mountain cat.
I would replace famous movie characters with my mom and see how the story would play out. It was never as entertaining, but always much more satisfying. If my mom took the place of Frodo in Lord of The Rings the opening scene would have also been the closing scene.
Gandalf shows up at night after dinner. Mom says, “What are you doing here? I’m busy, get out.” He counters “Lisa, you need to take the ring to Mordor to destr–” And, in classic Lisa fashion, she cuts him off mid-sentence with “That’s not my problem, now is it? Take it yourself.”
Humping is a profession nearly as old as prostitution…
Once I matured, I realized the right answer is to become externally motivated. I believe the jobs of the Platoon Commander and Platoon Sergeant are easier than the rifleman, because you are concerned with your Marines, rather than yourself. When your focus is pointed outward, time flies.
This lesson applies to every kind of difficult situation. Caring for others is one of the most selfish and least selfish things you can do. When it comes to hiking, if you focus externally, you get to push your own ailments aside until you are alone in your room, crying like a big dumb baby.
In the gym, you are forced to confront your demons directly; there are no troops for you to look out for.
But in actuality, everything you do to make yourself better is also making the lives of those around you better. So, in a way, finishing a workout for your spouse or kids is no different than completing a movement for your unit.
Where are you in your hump day progression? Are you living in a world of regret and grief? Are you writing the next great American novel in your head? Or have you reached the point of hiking enlightenment and started checking on your guys and planning for their success when you reach your objective?
Kojima Production’s “Death Stranding” has all the makings of a video game blockbuster. It’s an experience three years in the making, the product of a visionary director launching a new franchise from an independent studio.
But after three years of mounting anticipation, it’s still not totally clear what players can expect from “Death Stranding.” Sony gave critics an early chance to dive in and see what “Death Stranding” is about, and the reviews have brought back rather mixed opinions.
There’s no question “Death Stranding” is a clear departure from Director Hideo Kojima’s last game, “Metal Gear Solid V.” While “Metal Gear Solid” is a military-focused franchise starring a super soldier, “Death Stranding” puts you in control of a lone deliveryman in a desolate, post-apocalyptic that’s wide open for exploration.
Norman Reedus of “The Walking Dead” plays the game’s protagonist, and a handful of recognizable actors offer photo-realistic performances for the game’s cinematic cut scenes. The story wasn’t particularly celebrated among reviewers, though some said the cutscenes were well-acted.
Reviewers ultimately found that the experience would vary depending on the player, since “Death Stranding” takes dozens of hours to complete. Critics noted that the game’s first 10 hours can be particularly challenging or outright boring depending on your play-style, but the game changes rather dramatically after the long introduction.
Last year’s best-selling game, “Red Dead Redemption 2,” had a similar reception — the game’s campaign took 40 or more hours to complete and left reviewers with a mixed impression of the game’s massive open world. “Red Dead Redemption 2” was still well received by fans for its immersive gameplay and thoughtful storytelling.
Here’s what critics are saying about “Death Stranding” so far:
(“Death Stranding”/Kojima Productions)
The visuals of “Death Stranding” are impressive by any standard.
“So much work has been poured into every inch of every model and it’s almost unbelievable to see this much detail – even in an era where most games already feature highly detailed characters. Put simply, the bar has been raised.” — John Linneman, Digital Foundry
(“Death Stranding”/Kojima Productions)
‘Death Stranding’ is more about survival and exploration than action and combat.
“There’s no automatic parkour or physics-defying cliff climbing here. Every step I take needs to be intentional, or I might end up taking a serious tumble. When I overload my pack I have to use the left and right triggers to balance my weight, or else I risk falling over, damaging my goods.
It’s equally engaging and frustrating as I topple over after twisting my ankle, forcing myself to restack all my belongings. Death Stranding is a walking simulator in the truest sense.” — Russ Frushtick
(“Death Stranding” Kojima Productions)
Exploring doesn’t mean you’ll always be alone though.
“Violence is a last resort, and ‘Death Stranding’ is best experienced in a careful and stealthy fashion, but when the time comes for the silence to break and explosions to ring out, it’s powerful.” — Heather Alexandra, Kotaku
(“Death Stranding”/Kojima Productions)
“Death Stranding” is a long game that requires a personal investment from its players.
“It’s not a game that makes itself easy to enjoy. There are few concessions for uninterested players. It’s ponderously slow, particularly in the early chapters, which largely consist of delivering packages over staggering distances. Early conversations are filled with phrases and words that will be incomprehensible to the uninitiated — and, honestly, much of it remains a mystery after the credits roll.” — Andrew Webster, The Verge
(“Death Stranding”/Kojima Productions)
‘Death Stranding’ left many critics excited for the game’s release so they could compare their experiences with other players’.
“I came away from the game exhilarated, confused and wanting to find others who have played it not only to put together the missing pieces but to commiserate about the experience. In a clever meta twist, Kojima has created a game that begs for a larger discourse, a connection for all those who have played it to share.” — Kahlief Adams, The Hollywood Reporter
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
You might remember this Air Force staff sergeant from her viral Adele cover. The Voice contestant has some serious swagger rollin’ with Sony Music Nashville. And check out the lyric video after getting acquainted with her in the first one.
Next time you step on a LEGO brick in the middle of the night, think twice before you vindictively throw it in the trash. If it’s part of a rare or coveted set, it could be worth enough to dull your pain. In fact, the LEGO collectors market has become its own building block economy, with some sets bringing in thousands of dollars on the brick market.
“Many factors play into a set’s aftermarket value, but demand is the primary factor,” explains Chris Malloy, managing editor for The Brothers Brick, and co-author of Ultimate LEGO Star Wars.“For most of the company’s history, LEGO was viewed as exclusively a children’s toy. So, in the early 2000s, when LEGO began to explore the adult market in a serious way, they began developing a lot of massive sets with high price tags.”
Gerben van IJken, a full time LEGO expert with the EU-based auction platform Catawiki, and a LEGO investor and appraiser, also cites rarity, detail, and demand as reasons for increased value in LEGO collectibles.
“Most high-priced sets are recent, but not that recent. Properties such as Star Wars, for example, benefited from the restart of the movie franchise and the fact that people who loved Star Wars as kids – but didn’t have the money to buy sets that cost hundreds of dollars – are now buying them.”
So what are the most valuable LEGO sets around? That’s what we set out to find. While LEGO lore (get used to that term) tells of employee exclusives, such as a solid gold, 14K LEGO brickvalued between ,000 and ,000, we’ve kept this list to models, sets, and minifigures that are, or once were, available to the general public. So take a look at these sets and see if you have any of them sitting in the attic.
1. #10179 LEGO Ultimate Collector’s Series Millennium Falcon
Highest Sale Price: ,000
The out-of-this-world sale price for this Star Wars set is a bit misleading, because it was a one-time thing influenced by some extraordinary factors. “This sale involved a first edition set, sold in an airtight case,” says van IJken. “It was also sold in Las Vegas, which influenced the markup.”
Despite the galactic inflation, a first edition Millennium Falcon is one of the most — if not the most —valuable Lego sets ever produced. “We’ve sold these sets for prices ranging from ,400 – ,700,” he says. However, a re-released version that came out in 2017 has devalued the set, according to Malloy. “Since the new Millennium Falcon came out, the more recent value is about id=”listicle-2629731824″,679, with only one sold in the last 6 months.” That said, with an original price of about 0, even the more modest sale price still represents a nearly 300 percent increase, making this set a true smuggler’s treasure.
2. #10189 LEGO Taj Mahal, First Edition
Highest Sale Price: ,864
“This set used to trade blows with the Millennium Falcon for the top spot,” explains Malloy. “But it’s a perfect example of why speculating LEGO set values and prices is a very, very risky business.” LEGO re-released the Taj Mahal model a few years ago as part of a different collection, which dropped the price from north of ,000 to a mere 0. Despite the devaluation however, this set is still an architectural masterpiece and first editions once sold for about 10 percent of their highest valued price.
3. #6080 LEGO King’s Castle
Highest Selling Price: ,600
If you’ve got a mint condition, in-the-box 1984 King’s Castle, you might be able to fetch some serious LEGO loot. Part of the reason is that, in general, a sealed LEGO set is worth up to ten times as much as an opened one. Another part is that, for the 80s, this was a HUGE set. “The largest set in a given theme during the 80s and 90s was typically in the 600 piece range,” Malloy explains. “Since the early 2000s, most themes include sets of more than 1,000 pieces. This means that there are a greater number of recent sets with a high starting value than there were from decades past.” Remarkably, the price of LEGOs on a per-piece basis has stayed relatively the same – about .10 per piece – since the 1980s, according to Malloy. So, the larger the set, regardless of its release date, the greater the possible value.
4. #10030 LEGO Ultimate Collector’s Series Imperial Star Destroyer
Highest Sale Price: ,300
According to Malloy and van IJken, the high prices for Star Wars sets has less to do with rarity, and more to do with the enormous demand for all things Light or Dark Side. “Countless fans collect these sets to try and complete the full ‘Ultimate Collector’s Series’, or find every version of their favorite ship,” Malloy says. When fully assembled, this highly-detailed Star Destroyer measures more than three feet long, and is comprised of more than 3,000 pieces. Other versions of the same ship, which are not part of the Ultimate Collector’s Series, can still fetch nearly a grand on the secondary market.
5. #6399 LEGO Airport Shuttle
Highest Sale Price: ,484
As part of the “Classic Town” line, this set was sought after by 90s kids everywhere. Why? Because it was one of the rare monorail sets that featured a looping track and battery-powered train. Originally selling at 0, this 730-piece model sits alongside other monorail sets such as the Futuron Monorail Transport System (1987, set #6990) and the Monorail Transport Base (1994, set #6991), which each average more than id=”listicle-2629731824″,000 in collector markets. “The monorail is sought after because it was a limited production,” says van IJken. “In fact, LEGO folklore tells us that LEGO outsourced the production of the monorail tracks — just the tracks, not the trains — to a company that went bankrupt. Because of that, the tooling pieces for the tracks were lost, and the monorail sets were abandoned.”
6. #10190 LEGO Market Street
Avg. Sale Price: ,163
Designed by a LEGO fan, this hyper-realistic set is a LEGO Factory exclusive which incorporates intricate design elements such as spiral staircases, awnings, and removable balconies. It’s also part of the sought-after “modular” collection, which allows you to construct it in different ways and supplement it with different sets to create a truly unique LEGO town. The highly-valued “Cafe Corner” set (#10182), is one such set, itself valued at nearly id=”listicle-2629731824″,600.
7. #1952 LEGO Milk Truck
Average Value: id=”listicle-2629731824″,980
Released in 1989, this LEGO vehicle set debuted in Denmark to promote the Danish dairy company MD Foods. While it only contains 133 pieces, it’s niche availability, and subsequent rarity, make it one of the most sought after “oddities” in LEGO land. Don’t be fooled by later, domestic releases, such as this one, which are much less valuable.
8. #71001 LEGO Minifigures Series 10, “Mr. Gold”
Average Sale Price: id=”listicle-2629731824″,786
If you have kids, you know the thrill of hunting for the rare, blind-boxed LEGO Minifigures. “This Minifigure was limited to 5,000 pieces,” explains Malloy. “Sold to the public, they were mixed in with the unmarked, blind packs as a ‘treasure hunt’ item.” Minifigures, which are a huge part of LEGO lore can drastically affect the value of whole sets. “It’s common to sell sets without the Minifigures, which will often drop the value by at least 50%,” Malloy adds. And Mr. Gold, because he wasn’t part of a larger set, had a sticker price of only .99 during his release in 2013.
Average Sale Price: 8 (used), id=”listicle-2629731824″,700 (Mint in Same Box [MISB])
“Maersk and LEGO have a long history, and LEGO continues to release Maersk sets,” explains Malloy. “These are both limited sets, and finding accurate listings on them can be tough. I’ve seen a mint, in-box Container Ship listed for id=”listicle-2629731824″,700, a used Truck for ,000, and a new Truck for ,600. But these are asking prices.” Still, both sets are rare enough to command respectable scratch.
10. #10196 LEGO Grand Carousel
Average Sale Price: id=”listicle-2629731824″,591
The LEGO Creator series – of which this intricate carousel set is a part – is a recent example of the detail factor that makes certain models so valuable. It’s a work of art that sells for nearly id=”listicle-2629731824″,500.
11. #3450 LEGO Statue of Liberty
Average Sale Price: id=”listicle-2629731824″,531
As part of the LEGO Architecture series, this 2,882 piece beauty can fetch up to ,000 in its first edition. There’s even a boxed set on Amazon listed at ,000. (.54 for shipping, though? We’ll pass.) “This set and the Eiffel Tower regularly switch places in the value department, says van IJken. “More recently, the Statue of Liberty has begun to gradually increase in value,” he says. Standing at 30″ tall, it’s likely to tower over your typical toddler — assuming he or she doesn’t swallow the torch pieces first.
12. #10018 LEGO Darth Maul
Average Sale Price: id=”listicle-2629731824″,333
Back to the Sarlacc pit we go to retrieve yet another high priced Star Wars LEGO set. This time, it’s a bust of a bust — the majorly underwhelming Darth Maul from 1999’s The Phantom Menace. His 1,800+ piece visage looks incredibly cool, and the hype was strong with this one, having been released less than two years after the film. So, again, a combination of Star Wars buzz, moderate rarity, and a great looking figure created a sought after collectible. If you’re not inclined to pay max Galactic Credits, though, here’s a list of all the pieces needed to build your own for a fraction of the bounty. Instructions too!
13. #6081 LEGO King’s Mountain Fortress
Average Listing Price: id=”listicle-2629731824″,326
A key component of LEGO’s 90s Castle line, this 400+ piece stronghold features a realistic drawbridge, landscaping elements, and several badass Minifigure knights. Currently, eBay features a handful of used sets (some complete, some not), which go for nearly 15 percent of the boxed set we’ve listed. “If you want to sell a set like this quickly,” Malloy says, “eBay is the way to go. If you get lucky and there’s a bidding war, it’s likely to bring in the highest price possible. But if you want to have more control over the price but don’t care about selling as quickly, use Bricklink, which is a dedicated community for LEGO collectors.”
14. #4051 LEGO NesQuik Bunny
Average Sale Price: 4
“There are a few increasingly rare LEGO pieces that were available to the public, but this one is the most baffling to me,” says van IJken. “It’s the Nesquik bunny, who is the mascot of the chocolate milk brand. This figure was part of a line that was centered around movie making, and was endorsed by Steven Spielberg.” It came with a yellow sweater and brown pants and was given away with European chocolate milk cartons. Some did hop on over to the US, though, and if you have a mint, bagged one, you can hock it for some modest money. Not bad for what was once a free giveaway.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
The United States was the “Arsenal of Democracy” in World War II, but even this arsenal had to get a little help from allies. The British, in fact, loaned us some of their planes during that conflict. Here are four planes we borrowed from the Brits.
1. Supermarine Spitfire
Yes, even though the United States had the P-40, P-38, P-47, P-51, F4F Wildcat, F6F Hellcat, and the F4U Corsair, they had to acquire the plane that won the Battle of Britain.
The American Spitfires mostly saw service in North Africa and Italy, according to SpitfireSite.com, until they were replaced by P-51s. United States Army Air Force Spitfires scored almost 350 kills during World War II.
The Spitfire is also notable for being the plane that got Jimmy Doolittle chewed out by Eisenhower.
2. Airspeed Horsa
Okay, this is technically a glider. Still, the United States needed a glider to bring in heavy gear for units like the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions. The Airspeed Horsa fit the bill with its ability to carry a lot of troops and gear, and the United States got 301 of the planes for D-Day, according to the book World War II Glider Assault Tactics.
3. Bristol Beaufighter
This was a multi-role heavy fighter, which packed a huge punch (four 20mm cannon, six .303-caliber machine guns). According to Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, the United States operated four squadrons of Beaufighters in the night-fighter role. These squadrons operated in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations, eventually switching to the P-61 Black Widow.
4. De Havilland Mosquito
This plane was very versatile, used for photo reconnaissance, as a night-fighter, as a heavy fighter, and even as a light bomber. The Army Air Force used a number of these planes in all of those roles during World War II, but historynet.com noted that most of them were crashed because this airborne hot rod was difficult to fly.
America may have missed out — the Mosquito is considered a legend.
Even today, America’s importing warplanes: The A-29 Super Tucano is a Brazilian design, while the AV-8 Harrier was British.
Sailors are a superstitious bunch. Cats were said to bring good luck on ships and prevent bad weather. While nobody can prove or discredit myths like that, what cats actually did was successfully catch rodents. In killing diseased-ridden rats, cats helped make for a safer, healthier journey, thus further fueling superstitions.
Historical evidence dates the link between cats and sailors as far back as their domestication in Ancient Egypt and through the Viking golden age — but why? For starters, cats have a natural reaction to barometric pressure changes.
So, if you come to know the habits of an on-board cat very well, once they start to take an unusual liking to shelter, you can intuit a storm is incoming. This, plus the fact that every ship needs a mascot made cats very welcome among sailors.
Ships’ cats were very well taken care of during their service. They would receive rations like any other sailor, were given bunks and living spaces like any other sailor, and they got plenty of love and attention like any other sailor.
Sailors would generally leave the felines alone to hunt any rodents that sneaked aboard while docked. And, during the lonely months at sea, cats were big morale boosters when solemn sailors needed a friend.
One of the most well-known naval kitties was Unsinkable Sam of WWII. As the story goes, he survived the sinking of three ships before retiring. He was first aboard the German battleship Bismark as a kitten (originally named Oscar). When it sank in May 1941, he was found adrift by the HMS Cossack, the ship that destroyed the Bismarck.
When the HMS Cossack sank in October 1941, Sam was with the picked up with the surviving crew and taken to Gibraltar and served as the ship’s cat for the HMS Ark Royal, which then sank in November 1941. Because he still had six lives to go, the Royal Navy saw fit to grant him shore duty as mouse-catcher at the Governor General of Gibraltar’s office.
(Oscar, the Bismarck’s Cat by Georgina Shaw-Baker)
The United States Army Air Force’s daylight bombing campaign in Europe involved thousands of bombers, and tens of thousands of crewmen. While there were pilots, crew chiefs, radiomen, bombardiers, and navigators on planes like the B-17, about 40 percent of the crew were aerial gunners.
What did it take to get these specialists ready? In some ways, it didn’t take long – maybe a few weeks. But these gunners had to learn a lot. Maintenance of their machine guns was vitally important. But they also had to learn to hit a moving target – because the Nazi fighters trying to shoot the bombers down were not going to make things easy for them.
So, what did it take to teach gunners how to hit a moving target? Well, for starters, there were lessons on maintenance for both a .30-caliber machine gun (mostly used early in the war) and the M2 .50-caliber machine gun, and how fix them when they jammed. Then, they had to learn how bullets traveled downrange, and how to adjust for the drop of the bullets from the guns.
When that was done, the trainees were started on full-auto BB guns at an indoor range. Once that was mastered, they then did a lot of skeet shooting with 12-gauge shotguns.
Yep, a popular shooting sport was used to train the folks whose job involved keeping Nazi fighters from shooting down a bomber with ten airmen on board.
The training went on to include live-fire of the machine guns, as well as how the turrets used on planes like the B-17 and B-24 worked. Aircraft recognition — including knowing an enemy fighter’s wingspan — was also very important.
Following that, they took to the air, and learned how to fire the guns while wearing the gear they’d need on board a bomber – including a life vest, parachute, and the helmet.
B-17 gunners wearing bulky sheep-shearling flying clothing to protect against the deadly cold at the altitudes typically flown in Europe. At 25,000 feet, the temperature could drop below -60 degrees Fahrenheit. (U.S. Air Force photo)
As you can imagine, this included a lot of learning and skills to master. You can see an introductory video for aerial gunners made during World War II below.
Just as dust gathers in corners and along bookshelves in our homes, dust piles up in space too. But when the dust settles in the solar system, it’s often in rings. Several dust rings circle the Sun. The rings trace the orbits of planets, whose gravity tugs dust into place around the Sun, as it drifts by on its way to the center of the solar system.
The dust consists of crushed-up remains from the formation of the solar system, some 4.6 billion years ago — rubble from asteroid collisions or crumbs from blazing comets. Dust is dispersed throughout the entire solar system, but it collects at grainy rings overlying the orbits of Earth and Venus, rings that can be seen with telescopes on Earth. By studying this dust — what it’s made of, where it comes from, and how it moves through space — scientists seek clues to understanding the birth of planets and the composition of all that we see in the solar system.
Two recent studies report new discoveries of dust rings in the inner solar system. One study uses NASA data to outline evidence for a dust ring around the Sun at Mercury’s orbit. A second study from NASA identifies the likely source of the dust ring at Venus’ orbit: a group of never-before-detected asteroids co-orbiting with the planet.
“It’s not every day you get to discover something new in the inner solar system,” said Marc Kuchner, an author on the Venus study and astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “This is right in our neighborhood.”
In this illustration, several dust rings circle the Sun. These rings form when planets’ gravities tug dust grains into orbit around the Sun. Recently, scientists have detected a dust ring at Mercury’s orbit. Others hypothesize the source of Venus’ dust ring is a group of never-before-detected co-orbital asteroids.
(NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Mary Pat Hrybyk-Keith)
Another ring around the Sun
Guillermo Stenborg and Russell Howard, both solar scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., did not set out to find a dust ring. “We found it by chance,” Stenborg said, laughing. The scientists summarized their findings in a paper published in The Astrophysical Journal on Nov. 21, 2018.
They describe evidence of a fine haze of cosmic dust over Mercury’s orbit, forming a ring some 9.3 million miles wide. Mercury — 3,030 miles wide, just big enough for the continental United States to stretch across — wades through this vast dust trail as it circles the Sun.
Ironically, the two scientists stumbled upon the dust ring while searching for evidence of a dust-free region close to the Sun. At some distance from the Sun, according to a decades-old prediction, the star’s mighty heat should vaporize dust, sweeping clean an entire stretch of space. Knowing where this boundary is can tell scientists about the composition of the dust itself, and hint at how planets formed in the young solar system.
So far, no evidence has been found of dust-free space, but that’s partly because it would be difficult to detect from Earth. No matter how scientists look from Earth, all the dust in between us and the Sun gets in the way, tricking them into thinking perhaps space near the Sun is dustier than it really is.
Stenborg and Howard figured they could work around this problem by building a model based on pictures of interplanetary space from NASA’s STEREO satellite — short for Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory.
Scientists think planets start off as mere grains of dust. They emerge from giant disks of gas and dust that circle young stars. Gravity and other forces cause material within the disk to collide and coalesce.
(NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory)
Ultimately, the two wanted to test their new model in preparation for NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, which is currently flying a highly elliptic orbit around the Sun, swinging closer and closer to the star over the next seven years. They wanted to apply their technique to the images Parker will send back to Earth and see how dust near the Sun behaves.
Scientists have never worked with data collected in this unexplored territory, so close to the Sun. Models like Stenborg and Howard’s provide crucial context for understanding Parker Solar Probe’s observations, as well as hinting at what kind of space environment the spacecraft will find itself in — sooty or sparkling clean.
Two kinds of light show up in STEREO images: light from the Sun’s blazing outer atmosphere — called the corona — and light reflected off all the dust floating through space. The sunlight reflected off this dust, which slowly orbits the Sun, is about 100 times brighter than coronal light.
“We’re not really dust people,” said Howard, who is also the lead scientist for the cameras on STEREO and Parker Solar Probe that take pictures of the corona. “The dust close to the Sun just shows up in our observations, and generally, we have thrown it away.” Solar scientists like Howard — who study solar activity for purposes such as forecasting imminent space weather, including giant explosions of solar material that the Sun can sometimes send our way — have spent years developing techniques to remove the effect of this dust. Only after removing light contamination from dust can they clearly see what the corona is doing.
The two scientists built their model as a tool for others to get rid of the pesky dust in STEREO — and eventually Parker Solar Probe — images, but the prediction of dust-free space lingered in the back of their minds. If they could devise a way of separating the two kinds of light and isolate the dust-shine, they could figure out how much dust was really there. Finding that all the light in an image came from the corona alone, for example, could indicate they’d found dust-free space at last.
Mercury’s dust ring was a lucky find, a side discovery Stenborg and Howard made while they were working on their model. When they used their new technique on the STEREO images, they noticed a pattern of enhanced brightness along Mercury’s orbit — more dust, that is — in the light they’d otherwise planned to discard.
“It wasn’t an isolated thing,” Howard said. “All around the Sun, regardless of the spacecraft’s position, we could see the same five percent increase in dust brightness, or density. That said something was there, and it’s something that extends all around the Sun.”
Scientists never considered that a ring might exist along Mercury’s orbit, which is maybe why it’s gone undetected until now, Stenborg said. “People thought that Mercury, unlike Earth or Venus, is too small and too close to the Sun to capture a dust ring,” he said. “They expected that the solar wind and magnetic forces from the Sun would blow any excess dust at Mercury’s orbit away.”
With an unexpected discovery and sensitive new tool under their belt, the researchers are still interested in the dust-free zone. As Parker Solar Probe continues its exploration of the corona, their model can help others reveal any other dust bunnies lurking near the Sun.
Asteroids hiding in Venus’ orbit
This isn’t the first time scientists have found a dust ring in the inner solar system. Twenty-five years ago, scientists discovered that Earth orbits the Sun within a giant ring of dust. Others uncovered a similar ring near Venus’ orbit, first using archival data from the German-American Helios space probes in 2007, and then confirming it in 2013, with STEREO data.
Since then, scientists determined the dust ring in Earth’s orbit comes largely from the asteroid belt, the vast, doughnut-shaped region between Mars and Jupiter where most of the solar system’s asteroids live. These rocky asteroids constantly crash against each other, sloughing dust that drifts deeper into the Sun’s gravity, unless Earth’s gravity pulls the dust aside, into our planet’s orbit.
At first, it seemed likely that Venus’ dust ring formed like Earth’s, from dust produced elsewhere in the solar system. But when Goddard astrophysicist Petr Pokorny modeled dust spiraling toward the Sun from the asteroid belt, his simulations produced a ring that matched observations of Earth’s ring — but not Venus’.
This discrepancy made him wonder if not the asteroid belt, where else does the dust in Venus’ orbit come from? After a series of simulations, Pokorny and his research partner Marc Kuchner hypothesized it comes from a group of never-before-detected asteroids that orbit the Sun alongside Venus. They published their work in The Astrophysical Journal Letters on March 12, 2019.
“I think the most exciting thing about this result is it suggests a new population of asteroids that probably holds clues to how the solar system formed,” Kuchner said. If Pokorny and Kuchner can observe them, this family of asteroids could shed light on Earth and Venus’ early histories. Viewed with the right tools, the asteroids could also unlock clues to the chemical diversity of the solar system.
Because it’s dispersed over a larger orbit, Venus’ dust ring is much larger than the newly detected ring at Mercury’s. About 16 million miles from top to bottom and 6 million miles wide, the ring is littered with dust whose largest grains are roughly the size of those in coarse sandpaper. It’s about 10 percent denser with dust than surrounding space. Still, it’s diffuse — pack all the dust in the ring together, and all you’d get is an asteroid two miles across.
Using a dozen different modeling tools to simulate how dust moves around the solar system, Pokorny modeled all the dust sources he could think of, looking for a simulated Venus ring that matched the observations. The list of all the sources he tried sounds like a roll call of all the rocky objects in the solar system: Main Belt asteroids, Oort Cloud comets, Halley-type comets, Jupiter-family comets, recent collisions in the asteroid belt.
“But none of them worked,” Kuchner said. “So, we started making up our own sources of dust.”
Perhaps, the two scientists thought, the dust came from asteroids much closer to Venus than the asteroid belt. There could be a group of asteroids co-orbiting the Sun with Venus — meaning they share Venus’ orbit, but stay far away from the planet, often on the other side of the Sun. Pokorny and Kuchner reasoned a group of asteroids in Venus’ orbit could have gone undetected until now because it’s difficult to point earthbound telescopes in that direction, so close to the Sun, without light interference from the Sun.
Asteroids represent building blocks of the solar system’s rocky planets. When they collide in the asteroid belt, they shed dust that scatters throughout the solar system, which scientists can study for clues to the early history of planets.
(NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab)
Co-orbiting asteroids are an example of what’s called a resonance, an orbital pattern that locks different orbits together, depending on how their gravitational influences meet. Pokorny and Kuchner modeled many potential resonances: asteroids that circle the Sun twice for every three of Venus’ orbits, for example, or nine times for Venus’ ten, and one for one. Of all the possibilities, one group alone produced a realistic simulation of the Venus dust ring: a pack of asteroids that occupies Venus’ orbit, matching Venus’ trips around the Sun one for one.
But the scientists couldn’t just call it a day after finding a hypothetical solution that worked. “We thought we’d discovered this population of asteroids, but then had to prove it and show it works,” Pokorny said. “We got excited, but then you realize, ‘Oh, there’s so much work to do.'”
They needed to show that the very existence of the asteroids makes sense in the solar system. It would be unlikely, they realized, that asteroids in these special, circular orbits near Venus arrived there from somewhere else like the asteroid belt. Their hypothesis would make more sense if the asteroids had been there since the very beginning of the solar system.
The scientists built another model, this time starting with a throng of 10,000 asteroids neighboring Venus. They let the simulation fast forward through 4.5 billion years of solar system history, incorporating all the gravitational effects from each of the planets. When the model reached present-day, about 800 of their test asteroids survived the test of time.
Pokorny considers this an optimistic survival rate. It indicates that asteroids could have formed near Venus’ orbit in the chaos of the early solar system, and some could remain there today, feeding the dust ring nearby.
The next step is actually pinning down and observing the elusive asteroids. “If there’s something there, we should be able to find it,” Pokorny said. Their existence could be verified with space-based telescopes like Hubble, or perhaps interplanetary space-imagers similar to STEREO’s. Then, the scientists will have more questions to answer: How many of them are there, and how big are they? Are they continuously shedding dust, or was there just one break-up event?
In this illustration, an asteroid breaks apart under the powerful gravity of LSPM J0207+3331, a white dwarf star located around 145 light-years away. Scientists think crumbling asteroids supply the dust rings surrounding this old star.
(NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Scott Wiessinger)
Dust rings around other stars
The dust rings that Mercury and Venus shepherd are just a planet or two away, but scientists have spotted many other dust rings in distant star systems. Vast dust rings can be easier to spot than exoplanets, and could be used to infer the existence of otherwise hidden planets, and even their orbital properties.
But interpreting extrasolar dust rings isn’t straightforward. “In order to model and accurately read the dust rings around other stars, we first have to understand the physics of the dust in our own backyard,” Kuchner said. By studying neighboring dust rings at Mercury, Venus and Earth, where dust traces out the enduring effects of gravity in the solar system, scientists can develop techniques for reading between the dust rings both near and far.
This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.