The top space stories of the week!

Doris Elin Urrutia
·6-min read
 null
null

NASA translates the light from iconic cosmic images into sound, astronomers reevaluate the age of the universe and researchers study a rapidly fading nebula. These are some of the top stories this week from Space.com. 

Astronomers took a new look at the universe's age

universe's history
universe's history

In work published on Dec. 30, 2020, scientists reevaluated the age of the universe with the help of data from the National Science Foundation's Atacama Cosmology Telescope (ACT) in Chile. This data, coupled with "cosmic geometry," helped the team estimate that the age of the universe is about 13.77 billion years. Armed with that information, researchers could determine how fast the universe is expanding. 

Full story: Astronomers reevaluate the age of the universe

Former astronauts condemn domestic attack on Congress

Police officers intervene after Trump supporters breached security and entered the Capitol building in Washington, on Jan. 6, 2021.
Police officers intervene after Trump supporters breached security and entered the Capitol building in Washington, on Jan. 6, 2021.

Former NASA astronauts like Senator Mark Kelly and Mae Jemison have come out in sharp criticism of the storming of the White House. The chaotic events unfolded on Wednesday (Jan. 6), the same day that a Congress joint session was scheduled to officially count the votes of the Electoral College. Sen. Kelly called the scene an "unpatriotic attempt to overturn our election," and Jemison described it as "unconscionable" and "dangerous."

Full story: Senator Mark Kelly, other former astronauts condemn storming of US Capitol building

Stingray nebula is rapidly fading

This image shows the planetary nebula Hen 3-1357, nicknamed the Stingray nebula, captured by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope in March 1996. At the time, the nebula was in its infancy and touted as the youngest known planetary nebula.
This image shows the planetary nebula Hen 3-1357, nicknamed the Stingray nebula, captured by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope in March 1996. At the time, the nebula was in its infancy and touted as the youngest known planetary nebula.

A new study of the Stingray nebula compares how it looked in 1996 versus 2016. In those 20 years, the nebula has gotten smaller and dimmer, and researchers think that, at this rate, the structure will barely be detectable in another two to three decades. Researchers describe the changes to its luminosity and structure as "very, very dramatic."

Full story: The Stingray nebula is fading fast, Hubble telescope photos reveal

China plans to launch its core space-station module this year

Artist's illustration of China's Earth-orbiting space station, which the nation plans to assemble by the end of 2022.
Artist's illustration of China's Earth-orbiting space station, which the nation plans to assemble by the end of 2022.

China plans to begin assembling its space station in Earth orbit in the near future. Tianhe, the station's core module that will provide living space and life support for astronauts, will launch atop a Long March 5B rocket from Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on the island of Hainan. China aims to have the completed space station ready by the end of 2022. 

Full story: China plans to launch core module of space station this year

Unidentified blue object seen over Hawaii

Kualoa Regional Park, Oahu, Hawaii
Kualoa Regional Park, Oahu, Hawaii

Many eyewitness accounts described a blue flying object streaking across the night sky over Hawaii on Dec. 29, 2020. The UFO crashed off the waters by the island of Oahu. One person on Twitter offered a terrestrial explanation for the sighting: the object may have been an LED kite. 

Full story: Blue UFO soars over Hawaii before crashing into the sea

Congress requests a report on Arecibo from the NSF

Arecibo Observatory's cable-suspended science platform, as seen before damage accrued in 2020.
Arecibo Observatory's cable-suspended science platform, as seen before damage accrued in 2020.

Congress has requested a report from the National Science Foundation (NSF) regarding Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. The facility's massive radio dish was decommissioned by the NSF because of its recurring structural collapse. This comes as supporters of the observatory continue to push for the dish to be saved; they successfully met the signature threshold on a White House petition to investigate the disasters. 

Full story: Congress asks for report on Arecibo radio telescope collapse

Microbes in the atmosphere

Clouds as seen from the International Space Station over Africa in 2017.
Clouds as seen from the International Space Station over Africa in 2017.

Earth's atmosphere houses microbes that have been upswept from the planet's surface, and brings up the question about where Earth's biosphere actually ends. Learning about microbes in the Earth's atmosphere is also fascinating because it could have applications for considering the possibility of life in the atmospheres of other worlds, like Venus or Mars. 

Full story: Earth's atmosphere is full of microbes. Could they help us find life on other worlds?

SpaceX performs first static-fire test of its Starship SN9 prototype

SpaceX's SN9 Starship prototype conducts its first static-fire test, on Jan. 6, 2021.
SpaceX's SN9 Starship prototype conducts its first static-fire test, on Jan. 6, 2021.

SpaceX's SN9 vehicle, which is the newest prototype of its next-generation spacecraft, lit up its three engines for one second on Wednesday (Jan. 6). This static-fire test at the company's South Texas facilities was the first time the SN9 engines were ignited. During a static fire, the engine's are turned on while the vehicle remains anchored to the ground. 

Full story: SpaceX's Starship SN9 prototype fires its engines for the 1st time

Cygnus cargo ship leaves the space station for fire test, 5G experiment

The uncrewed Northrop Grumman Cygnus NG-14 cargo ship S.S. Kalpana Chawla departed from the International Space Station on Jan. 6, 2020 to end a 93-day resupply mission.
The uncrewed Northrop Grumman Cygnus NG-14 cargo ship S.S. Kalpana Chawla departed from the International Space Station on Jan. 6, 2020 to end a 93-day resupply mission.

On Wednesday (Jan. 6), an uncrewed Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo ship left the International Space Station to test out the SharkSat 5G communications experiment, in addition to the Saffire-V fire investigation. This Cygnus ship launched into space in October to deliver nearly 8,000 lbs. (3,600 kilograms) of scientific equipment, supplies, hardware and other things — including a space toilet — to the space laboratory. 

Full story: Cygnus cargo ship leaves space station to test 5G tech and spark fires in orbit

NASA takes light from iconic cosmic objects and translates it into sound

The Crab Nebula sounds oddly beautiful.
The Crab Nebula sounds oddly beautiful.

A new program at NASA takes data from cosmic objects and turns it into sound. Researchers with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory took three iconic images from their archives, and translated different frequencies of light into different sound pitches. The "data sonification" program has X-ray light represented by brass instruments; optical light played by string instruments; and infrared light represented by woodwinds.

Full story: This is what a supernova sounds like, according to NASA

Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook