A rocket malfunction that forces astronauts to evacuate may appear to be a plot straight out of a Hollywood movie. However, that is precisely what happened to Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin and American astronaut Nick Hague on October 11, 2018. Fortunately, the “movie” had a happy ending with both scientists returning to Earth safely.
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The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, or JAXA, made history on September 21, 2018, when its unmanned probe Hayabusa2 successfully landed two moving robots, collectively called MINERVA-II1, on asteroid Ryugu’s surface. A few weeks later, on October 2, the spacecraft repeated the feat by deploying a third, slightly bigger, rover called the Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT). The information collected from the primitive asteroid could help shed light on the origins of our solar system and how the first life forms arose on Earth.
While the volcanoes on Earth eject fiery lava, ash, and smoke, those on Ceres, a dwarf planet that orbits between Mars and Jupiter, have been spewing out ice throughout its history. The chain of events leading to the discovery began in 2015 when NASA’s spacecraft Dawn, sent to explore the asteroid belt where Ceres resides, captured some high-resolution images of its icy, rocky terrain. On the dwarf planet’s crater-covered surface, was a solitary 4km (13,000 feet ) tall mountain.
NASA’s ambitious mission to “touch” the Sun got underway at 3:31 a.m. EST on August 12 with the launch of the Parker Solar Probe from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Within six weeks, the spacecraft, which is currently traveling at 39,500 miles per hour, will conduct the first of seven flybys of Venus and use the planet’s gravitational pull to catapult itself closer to the Sun. The process, known as gravity assist, is instrumental in the probe’s mission to reach our fiery star.
Tonight, (May 8) Earth will pass between the sun and Jupiter, putting our solar system’s largest planet directly in opposition to the star. This means that Jupiter will rise shortly after the sun sets and stay up all night, making it the best time of year to see the massive gaseous world. While the planet will shine its brightest tonight, it will not reach its closest distance — 409 million miles (658 million kms) — to Earth until May 10.
Reports of an out-of-control space station hurtling towards Earth may sound like a bad April Fools’ prank. However, this was no joke. At 5:16 pm PDT on April 1 (April 2, 00:16 GMT), China’s school bus-sized Tiangong-1 met a fiery end over the South Pacific, ending weeks of uncertainty as to when and where it would land.
With over 3,500 exoplanets confirmed as of January 2018 and more being observed on a regular basis, the discoveries have become almost routine. However, all the planets found thus far have been within the Milky Way, the galaxy that contains our solar system. Now, scientists from the University of Oklahoma believe they may have found evidence of trillions of planets beyond our galaxy.
RZ Piscium, a star located 550 light years away in the constellation Pisces, has long intrigued researchers with its strange “winking” behavior. During the erratic episodes, which last as long as two days, the celestial body becomes about ten times dimmer and discharges a larger than normal amount of energy at infrared wavelengths, indicating the presence of enormous dust clouds.