The SPHEREx space telescope will launch in 2023, NASA reports. This orbiting observatory will map 100,000 stars in our galaxy and 300,000 other galaxies over the entire sky. The telescope will record in infrared light, similar to some forms of night vision technology, The robotic mission will examine stellar birthplaces, searching for water. It will also turn its eyes to watch planets form around alien stars.Read More Meet SPHEREx – NASA’s Newest Mission to Explore the Early Universe, Launching in 2023
The Kepler spacecraft has sent its final images to Earth, ending a decade of hunting for planets beyond our solar system. The spacecraft was utilized in the discovery of more than 2,600 of these exoplanets. Just 35 years ago, astronomers did not know of any planets beyond our own stellar family, while today, we know of thousands of such alien worlds, Most of these discoveries were made using the Kepler spacecraft, launched in 2009. The observatory ran out of fuel in October 2018, and was placed in a safe orbit prior to shutdown.Read More Good Night, Dear Kepler — Planet-Hunting Telescope Sends Last Images to Earth; Is That Tetris?
NASA is readying a new spacecraft, the Europa Clipper, for a journey to explore the giant water moon of Jupiter. Europa is believed to have oceans of liquid water deeper than any found on Earth, which are heated by bending and flexing as it orbits its massive companion. The spacecraft, due for launch in 2023, will carry instruments to measure the composition and condition of the oceans of Europa, as well as that world’s atmosphere, surface, and magnetic field. Astronomers believe that Europs may be one of the most likely places in the solar system to find alien life,Read More NASA Readies Europa Clipper for First In-Depth Study of Jupiter’s Water Moon Europa
The Parker Solar Probe has just completed its first orbit of the Sun, as it studies the surface and atmosphere of our parent star. This mission was launched in August 2018, as the most ambitious mission ever to study the Sun. The spacecraft will help answer questions about solar science, including the mysteries of why the atmosphere of the Sun is hotter than its surface, and the origin of the solar wind. The mission is scheduled to last seven years, during which time the vehicle will also make seven close passes of the planet Venus.Read More Weee! Parker Solar Probe Completes First Trip Around the Sun
After nearly 15 years exploring the surface of Mars, the Opportunity rover may be dead. Despite over 600 attempts, communication still has not been restored with the vehicle, following a loss of power caused by a sandstorm which engulfed the spacecraft last spring. Since 2004, Opportunity traveled 45 kilometers, or 28 miles, exploring the geology and climate of the Red Planet. The golf-cart-sized rover found some of the best evidence yet seen that Mars once had seas of liquid water. It survived an earlier sandstorm in 2014, but has been silent since June 10th.Read More A Eulogy for the (Likely) Lost Opportunity Rover
The oldest rock from Earth ever found was recently discovered hiding on the Moon. The four-billion-year-old rock was found among the samples returned from the Moon by the astronauts of Apollo 14. Analysis shows this rock formed on Earth, was blasted into space when an asteroid hit our planet four billion years ago, ejecting the rock onto the surface of the Moon. Once there, the area was hit by an asteroid, burying big Bertha, before another impact raised it, once again, to the surface. It was returned to Earth in 1971 by astronauts Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell.Read More Earth’s Oldest Rock Found – It was Hiding on the Moon!
On the night of Monday, January 21st, asteroid 2019 AX8 passed 6.9 million kilometers (or 4.3 million miles) from the Earth, after first being seen just two weeks before. The asteroid measured between 28 and 63 meters (equivalent to 92 to 207 feet) across, roughly half the height of the Great Pyramid of Giza. To face threats like this one, NASA is planning to launch the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (called DART) in 2022, in an effort to change the course of such a body. The rocket will collide with the asteroid Didymos B, the smaller of two asteroids which orbit each other. This test will be the first-ever attempt to redirect an asteroid.Read More Asteroid AX8 Skims Earth as NASA Prepares Plans to Save Planet from Future Threats
The Hubble Space Telescope suffered a major setback as a primary instrument, the Wide Field Camera 3, failed on January 8th. This is one of two main cameras aboard the orbiting telescope, and was installed by astronauts in 2009. Backup equipment aboard Hubble might be able to revive the telescope, but engineers are not at work during a partial shutdown of the federal government. Repairs to the Hubble are unlikely to happen until the government reopens.Read More Hubble Space Telescope Camera Fails and Government Shutdown Prevents Repairs
A strange exoplanet sitting 53 light years from Earth has been discovered by astronomers using the TESS spacecraft. This world is three times larger than the Earth, but 23 times as dense. This suggests it is likely surrounded by a thick atmosphere, denser than that seen on Uranus or Neptune. The planet, HD 2172b, speeds around its parent star once every 36 days. This is the third confirmed planet found by TESS, although astronomers are looking through data showing more than 280 other potential worlds.Read More Weird Exoplanet Discovered by TESS Spacecraft – Strange World, Indeed!
The New Horizons spacecraft made a close encounter with Ultima Thule on New Year’s Day, making this the most distant body ever visited by a robotic explorer. The color images returned by the vehicle show the object resembles a red-colored snowman 31 kilometers (19 miles) in length. Exploration of Ultima Thule could help astronomers answer mysteries about comets and the formation of the Solar System. New Horizons made history in 2015, when it became the first spacecraft to visit Pluto.Read More A Giant Red Snowman in Space? New Horizons Returns First Color Images of Ultima Thule