An orbital mission studying Jupiter is extended by NASA until the year 2025, the space agency's Curiosity rover celebrates its 3,000th Martian day and a satellite captures snowfall in Spain. These are some of the top photos this week from Space.com.
Twinkling at the center of this Digitized Sky Survey image is the triple-star system HS Hydra, located 342 light-years away from Earth. A research team is harnessing the observational capabilities of a NASA spacecraft actively studying alien worlds, called TESS (short for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite), to learn about HS Hydra.
TESS isn't designed for this kind of work, per se; it's tasked with detecting dips in star brightness, which might indicate that a planet is orbiting around it. Researchers want to use TESS to observe the moments when the stars of HS Hydra eclipse one another.
New solar arrays for the space station
In this picture, Deployable Space Systems employees stand in front of one of the new 63-foot-by-20-foot (19-meter-by-6-meter) solar arrays that will deploy at the International Space Station. The eight current arrays on the space laboratory can generate up to 160 kilowatts of power during orbital daytime. But with the new arrays, the station can receive a total of up to 215 kilowatts of electricity. The new arrays may reach space as soon as May 2021.
A fast-spinning and youthful magnetar
The bright purple point indicated with an arrow is J1818.0-1607, an object located about 21,000 light-years away from Earth in the Milky Way galaxy. It is a magnetar, and was first spotted by astronomers in March 2020. Magnetars are a kind of neutron star, the super-dense corpses of dead stars, but magnetars are unique in the incredible strength of their magnetic fields. This particular object may be the fastest-spinning and youngest magnetar known to astronomy.
Curiosity snaps Martian panorama
This panorama was taken by NASA's car-sized Curiosity Mars rover on Nov. 18, 2020, the 2,946th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. The mission team released this image, made up of 122 individual images stitched together, in celebration of their more recent sol milestone: on Tuesday (Jan. 12), Curiosity marked its 3,000th sol. This composite image shows rocks on the slopes of Mount Sharp, which rises about 3.4 miles (5.5 km) up from the center of the 96-mile-wide (154 kilometers Gale Crater.
Jupiter mission is extended four years
NASA has extended its Juno mission at Jupiter will be extended four years, now until September 2025. "The Juno spacecraft and its mission team have made discoveries about Jupiter's interior structure, magnetic field, and magnetosphere, and have found its atmospheric dynamics to be far more complex than scientists previously thought," NASA officials wrote in a recent statement. The extended mission will include flybys of the Jovian moons Ganymede, Io and Europa.
This image of Jupiter comes from data collected by Juno's Junocam instrument on April 1, 2018. Citizen-scientists Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran processed that data into this stunning view.
Microbes and asteroids
The "BioAsteroid" payload from the University of Edinburgh runs aboard the European Space Agency's Kubik facility in the Columbus module on the International Space Station. The miniature laboratory contains asteroid-like rocky fragments and microbes (a mixture of bacteria and fungi). Scientists hope to use this experiment to understand better how these microscopic little organisms interact with the asteroid-like material, which could later inform asteroid mining efforts. -- Chelsea Gohd
Watching the weather from space
In this view from space captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-3 satellite, you can see a heavy blanket of snowfall over much of Spain. The image, snapped at 5:40 a.m. EST (1040 GMT) on Jan. 12, shows most of the country covered in snow following storm Filomena, which brought the heaviest snowfall that Spain has seen for 50 years.
Copernicus Sentinel-3 is a two-satellite mission that, with a variety of instruments, observes and monitors Earth's surface from above. -- Chelsea Gohd
Spotting a supernova
The Hubble Space Telescope spotted a growing, gaseous supernova remnant, known as 1E 0102.2-7219, from a supernova explosion that occurred 1,700 years ago during the fall of the Roman Empire. The star that exploded in the event was from the Small Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy to our own Milky Way Galaxy located about 200,000 light-years away.
At the time of the supernova event, people living in Earth's southern hemisphere would have been able to see the light coming from this blast, though there are no known records of the event from humans on Earth. -- Chelsea Gohd
Astronauts practice for spaceflight here on Earth in a number of unique ways, including underwater. In this image, astronauts practiced a maneuver designed for the International Space Station underwater at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, which is operated by NASA. At this testing facility, astronauts get completely suited up as if they were about to go out on a spacewalk and perform spacewalk tasks underwater on a mock space station.
Later this month, NASA astronauts Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins will put their training to the test as they will embark on a spacewalk during which they will install a small, fridge-sized device on the outside of the space station's Columbus module. -- Chelsea Gohd
This strange, green glow is actually a new type of star that, until recently, hadn't been observed in X-ray light. Scientists think that this star formed when two white dwarf stars (the leftover stellar cores of stars like our sun) merged into one another, forming a new object that emits X-ray light instead of being destroyed in the collision. -- Chelsea Gohd