For many reasons, 2020 could be a watershed year for society and science. Astronomers and public space agencies have spent managing the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. They also made breakthroughs in new technologies and bid farewell to many important projects.
This year has seen a new era of sample retrieval missions, protests against the telescope, a brilliant visit from a dazzling comet and the „Great Coupling“ between Saturn and Jupiter.
Here’s a look back at the top 10 space stories of 2020.
Coronavirus is affecting space science
The coronavirus pandemic has affected many sectors of astronomy and spaceflight. Universities, space agencies and ongoing projects Adapt to that With the new reality as countries around the world have taken measures to prevent the spread of the respiratory disease COVID-19. Classrooms became virtual, astronomical conferences changed shape and higher education institutions prepared for the financial troubles caused by the virus’s impact on the economy.
Social distancing measures have affected the field in many ways. Space agencies like NASA Command Their employees to work from home. Projects like the Event Horizon Telescope, which captured the first-ever image of a black hole, canceled Its observations for 2020. The satellites continued their observations, shown Desolate streets And the Short-term changes Of emissions caused by human activity. Social movements such as Protests Against building a thirty-meter telescope In Hawaii, too, to keep community elders safe from disease.
Spacecraft such as NASA’s OSIRUS-REx mission to collect asteroid samples have had to delay their most important maneuver – retrieving material from asteroid Bennu – due to limitations caused by virus mitigation efforts on Earth.
The contagious and deadly nature of the virus was apparent to space agencies. On May 6th Head of the human spaceflight program in Russia Died Just weeks after testing for Coronavirus. In late April 2020, engineers worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California He developed a new respirator called VitaThe Response to limited ventilators for COVID-19 patients.
The iconic Arecibo Observatory has collapsed
This year, the National Science Foundation (NSF) invited the famous Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico after two major cable failures. It led to the collapse of the radio telescope. The 57-year-old structure was the largest radio dish telescope in the world, and researchers have used its capabilities to make important breakthroughs in astronomy. The Arecibo Observatory It also served as the backstory for movies like „Contact“ and „Goldeneye“.
The facility suffered two cable failures this year, then in early December, the platform suspended above the radio dish was destroyed.
The news was about Arecibo’s structural damage and the subsequent shutdown Frustrating For the local community, very. Field trips to the visitor center are a „rite of passage“ for Puerto Rican children.
A boom in sample return missions
new „Golden ageOne of the sample retrieval tasks is here.
In October 2020, NASA Osiris Rex A mission to the asteroid Bennu successfully concealed chunks of space rock to bring to Earth. On December 7, JAXA collected samples from the Ryugu asteroid Hayabusa 2 Task Arrived Japanese scientists. A capsule containing the rocky matter landed in the Woomera Restriction Zone in Australia on December 5, and the spacecraft returned to the solar system on a long mission. The predecessor of this spacecraft, Hayabusa, was the first mission to return pieces from an asteroid to Earth.
China Chang’e 5 The mission also made a sampling appointment with the moon in late 2020. The first lunar samples that came to Earth were brought by NASA The Apollo Program.
China is decomposing foreign matter on the far side of the moon
Chinese scientists have published an analysis of Strange substance Discover the far side of the moon. The Yutu 2 rover from the Chinese Chang’e 4 expedition found a jelly-like substance in July 2019, and this year, Chinese researchers described the material in a new paper.
The glass material is a dark green color and resembles breccia, or broken shards of minerals that have been held together. Material information was obtained from the panoramic cameras and hazard avoidance of the Yutu 2 and the visible and near-infrared spectrophotometer (VNIS) of the rover. The researchers write that the material may have formed in a collision or a volcanic eruption.
Phosphine on flower
On September 14, a team of astronomers announced that they had done so Found The chemical footprint of phosphine in Venus’ atmosphere. This compound was found near microbes on Earth, and some people have argued that it could be a biomarker, an indication that some life forms in the clouds of Venus were able to survive on the planet. Harsh environment.
Astronomers discovered the chemical signature of phosphine using the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii and the Atacama Large Millimeter / submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile. Researchers have discovered phosphine levels at a loss because Venus, like Earth, has many oxygen-containing molecules that must quickly destroy phosphine.
The Skeptics Beware From making a connection life signals. The discovery, however, astonished people all over the world.
Launching the orbiting solar module into space
In February 2020, a new solar mission from the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA launched into space. The Solar Orbiter mission is designed to study the sun closely to understand the bubble that wraps around the solar system.
The sun affects a region of space called the heliosphere. The solar system is inside, and outside this region is interstellar space. To understand the heliosphere, The solar orbit It will closely examine the sun’s polar regions. The mission’s innovative heat shield can withstand temperatures up to 970 degrees Fahrenheit (520 degrees Celsius).
Related: The world’s largest solar telescope produces an unprecedented image of our star
Protests against the thirty-meter telescope
Native Hawaiians call them kia’i, or protectors, She continued Protests Against the construction of a 160-foot (49 m) thirty-meter (TMT) telescope this year. TMT originated in 2003 when a non-profit partnership formed between two universities in California and two counterparts in Japan, China, India and Canada.
Kia’i formed a camp to protest the start of construction in the summer of 2019. They argue that Maunakea is a religious site sacred to indigenous Hawaiians and that TMT will be a huge new addition to the summit that is already inhabited by about a dozen astronomical observatories.
Goodbye, Spitzer Space Telescope
On January 30th, NASA Spitzer Space Telescope He went offline after spending more than 16 years taking notes of the universe. The mission team placed the spacecraft In permanent hibernation to finish the job; Team members believe the spacecraft will eventually crash into the debris field.
Susan Dodd, a former Spitzer project manager, said at a January 23 session about the telescope that she revealed an „abundance“ of cosmic details.
Spitzer collected the data using a technique called spectroscopy. This allowed scientists to study the universe using the infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Scientists used infrared data to identify dust and space particles that do not shine in visible light as stars do, providing a more complete picture of the universe.
Hello Comet Newies
Comet NEOWISE was discovered in March 2020 by NASA’s NEOWISE mission and dazzled spectators on Earth in the weeks that followed. The icy comet approached its closest point to the Sun on July 3 and survived the encounter, allowing skywatchers to marvel at its impressive tail as it headed back toward the outer solar system. NEOWISE will not return for another 6,800 years.
In addition to making it more beautiful, the comet’s brightness allowed astronomers to collect high-quality data about the object. NASA officials He said That the last guilty made in such a great show was Hale-Bopp in 1997.
Related: Amazing images of comet NEOWISE from Earth and space
Plus: The Hubble Telescope captures a stunning view of Comet Neways after its spectacular summer sky view
The great conjunction between Saturn and Jupiter
The last celestial event that stopped the show for 2020 was „Great couplingSaturn and Jupiter on December 21, Which was also the date of the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere.
Jupiter and Saturn can be seen side by side, low in the evening sky shortly after sunset. They were only a tenth of a degree apart. Their proximity to one another in the sky hasn’t happened in over 400 years.
An amazing end to this historic year. SkySat captured the remarkable conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn – the closest night sky corridor of two planets for nearly 800 years, and on that note, we’re out! Happy Holidays from Team Planet. pic.twitter.com/Is4xQTtaIdDecember 23, 2020
The pairings between these two planets occur roughly once every two decades, when Earth, Jupiter and Saturn form a line through space. Viewers fortunate enough to have a clear sky upon observing the conjunction can see the flickering of Jupiter’s Galileo moons.
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