Planetaria 5 Jan 2018, 03:08 UTC Artist’s conception of 2014 MU69. New Horizons will reach this next target on Jan. 1, 2019. Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Alex Parker Happy New Year! As well as simply the start of a new year, today also marks another significant date – exactly one year from now, the New Horizons spacecraft will encounter its next target deep in the Kuiper Belt, much farther out than Pluto. On Jan. 1, 2019, New Horizons will fly past another Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) called 2014 MU69. This will be the most distant object to ever be visited by a spacecraft in our Solar System so far. In July 2015, New Horizons became the first spacecraft to ever see Pluto and its moons up close, an incredible achievement which finally allowed humanity to see what these small worlds actually looked like. They were also the first objects to be visited in the Kuiper Belt, a region of many thousands of such objects in the outer Solar System past Neptune. Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, were found to be more geologically active than had been thought possible. Pluto had vast “seas” of nitrogen ice, glaciers, tall ice spikes (similar to Penitentes on Earth but much larger), ...
Air & Space Magazine 4 Jan 2018, 22:00 UTC It’s fitting that 2018 started off with a supermoon on New Year’s day, with another one—plus an eclipse—coming at the end of January. This promises to be a banner year for lunar exploration, and not just because of the renewed interest in sending astronauts back to the moon’s surface.
Universe Today 4 Jan 2018, 20:05 UTC On September 8th, 2016, NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission was launched into space. In the coming months, this space probe will approach and then rendezvous with the asteroid 101955 Bennu – a Near-Earth Object (NEO) – for the sake of studying it. The mission will also acquire samples of the asteroid, which will be returned to Earth by 2023. The OSIRIS-REx mission is an historic one, since it will be the first spacecraft to conduct a sample-return mission with an asteroid. In the meantime, as the probe has makes its way further into space, it has been providing some truly breathtaking images of the journey. Consider the recently-released composite image of the Earth-Moon system, which NASA created using images that were taken by the probe on October 2nd, 2017.
Sky and Telescope 4 Jan 2018, 14:51 UTC From one star’s ashes, another is born. Astronomers have long known that most of the elements in the periodic table are synthesized within the nuclear furnaces that shine in the night sky. Then, when those stars meet their end, they fling that material outward — seeding the cosmos with heavier elements that get swept up within the gas that will soon form new stars.
SPACE.com 4 Jan 2018, 12:12 UTC A study published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters posits that Mars formed in what today is the Asteroid Belt, roughly one and a half times as far from the sun as its current position, before migrating to its present location.