. 24/7 Space News .
Marsquakes, water on other planets, asteroid hunting highlight 2020 in space
by Brooks Hays
Washington DC (UPI) Dec 25, 2020

illustration only

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic demanded the attention of thousands of scientists, but they had a lot to look in to, including vaccines and treatments for the novel coronavirus.

Many scientists kept their attention on the skies, searching for answers to cosmic mysteries and preparing for the next chapter in the history of human spaceflight.

Here are five of the most astounding space-related scientific breakthroughs and discoveries made over the last 12 months.

These discoveries have set the stage for even more compelling advances in the year ahead - a year during which NASA hopes to fly a helicopter on Mars and send its first Artemis test flights to the moon.

Hottest picture in space
While scientists have insight into the inner workings of the sun, there is much about the star that researchers still don't understand, like why its atmosphere is hotter than its surface or what exactly fuels coronal mass ejections.

In 2020, scientists got a closer look at some of the sun's most perplexing phenomena, thanks to a pair of observatories: NASA's High Resolution Coronal Imager, a sub-orbital telescope called Hi-C and the agency's Solar Orbiter, a space probe jointly managed with the European Space Agency.

This spring, scientists working on the Hi-C mission shared the sharpest-ever photos of the sun, revealing fine magnetic threads of super heated plasma that make up the sun's outer layer.

"These new Hi-C images give us a remarkable insight into the Sun's atmosphere," said Amy Winebarger, Hi-C principal investigator at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Not to be outdone, NASA and European Space Agency researchers working on the Solar Orbiter mission released the closest images yet taken of the Earth's host star.

"These amazing images will help scientists piece together the sun's atmospheric layers," Holly Gilbert, NASA project scientist for the mission at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., said in a press release.

"[That understanding] is important for understanding how it drives space weather near the Earth and throughout the solar system," Gilbert said.

Quakes on Mars
In 2020, researchers published the first scientific papers utilizing data collected by NASA's InSight lander. Since the spacecraft began its scientific mission in late 2018, its seismometer has detected hundreds of Marsquakes.

The frequencies of the seismic waves recorded by InSight's instruments suggest the craft landed on a large patch of sand that extends a few feet below the Martian surface.

According to analysis by researchers at NASA and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Mars' composition beneath the sandy topsoil a lot like Earth's crystalline crust, but more fractured.

Researchers were able to link some of the Red Planet's quakes to a volcanically active region known as Cerberus Fossae, which is characterized by a pair of deep channels that were created by lava flows some 10 million years ago.

"It's just about the youngest tectonic feature on the planet," planetary geologist Matt Golombek, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said in a news release. "The fact that we're seeing evidence of shaking in this region isn't a surprise, but it's very cool."

Watery exoplanets
The search for life continues to dominate the field of planetary science. It has inspired a variety of investigations by different kinds of scientists, from geochemists to astrobiologists, but it is also has centered largely on the never-ending hunt for extraterrestrial water.

This summer, scientists at NASA used sophisticated mathematical models to predict whether Earth-like exoplanets near our solar system host water.

Lynnae Quick, planetary scientist at the Goddard Space Flight Center, found a quarter of the 53 exoplanets analyzed are likely to be ocean worlds. This means they feature large bodies of water encased in layers of ice - like Saturn's moon Enceladus and Jupiter's moon Europa.

"Forthcoming missions will give us a chance to see whether ocean moons in our solar system could support life," Quick said in a NASA news release. "If we find chemical signatures of life, we can try to look for similar signs at interstellar distances."

Lunar rocks
Last year, China became the first space-faring nation to put a spacecraft on the dark side of the moon. This year, China's space agency became the first in decades to collect and return lunar rock samples to Earth.

In early December, China's Chang'e-5 lander touched down on Mons Rumker, a 1.2-billion-year-old volcanic plain inside Oceanus Procellarum, also known as the Ocean of Storms, situated on the near side of the moon.

After collecting 4.4 pounds of rock samples, the lander lifted off from the surface of the moon and rendezvoused with the spacecraft's orbiter.

On Dec. 17, the Chang'e-5 return capsule, having safely separated from the main spacecraft some 3,000 miles above the southern Atlantic Ocean, touched down in Inner Mongolia.

Asteroid hunting
This year, NASA became the second nation to successfully collect rocks and dust from the surface of an asteroid.

In early October, NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft performed a touch-and-go maneuver while circling the asteroid Bennu.

The rock samples were successfully sealed in a capsule and are ready for their trip home. The journey back to Earth will begin next year, but the rock samples aren't expected to touch down until 2023.

Scientists hope the samples will help scientists decipher the solar system's early history, as well as aid "planetary defense" engineers with missions to protect earth from rogue asteroids.

Bennu is believed to offer a window into the solar system's past since it's a pristine, carbon-rich body carrying building blocks of both planets and life.

While NASA waits for its own asteroid rocks, Japan's space agency reported its own asteroid sample return mission, Hayabusa-2, was a success.

In early December, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency successfully retrieved capsules carrying rocks from the asteroid Ryugu and gas from deep space.

Source: United Press International

Related Links
Space News at Space Daily
Space Tourism, Space Transport and Space Exploration News

Thanks for being there;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5+ Billed Monthly

paypal only
SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal

Spinoff highlights NASA technology paying dividends in US economy
Washington DC (SPX) Dec 16, 2020
Whether upgrading air traffic control software or honing the food safety practices that keep our dinner tables safe, NASA has worked for more than six decades to ensure its innovations benefit people on Earth. One of the agency's most important benefits is the way investment in NASA pays dividends throughout the U.S. economy. The latest edition of NASA's Spinoff publication highlights dozens of companies that have benefited from cooperation with NASA. This cooperation means investment in existing ... read more

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Rice seeds carried to the moon and back sprout

Marsquakes, water on other planets, asteroid hunting highlight 2020 in space

China to launch core module of space station in first half of 2021

US may buy seat on Russia's Soyuz for astronaut's flight to ISS in Spring 2021,

SDA awards contract to SpaceX

Launch of Long March 4C closes out China 2020 space plan

Russia plans more Proton-M launches in 2021

mu Space to push Thai space industry, planning to build its first spaceship in 2021

NASA video shows Perseverance rover's planned 'terror' landing on Mars

Fluvial Mapping of Mars

A Martian Roundtrip: NASA's Perseverance Rover Sample Tubes

How to get people from Earth to Mars and safely back again

China's space achievements out of this world

China's Chang'e-5 orbiter embarks on new mission to gravitationally stable spot at L1

China plans to launch four manned spacecraft in next two years

Mission accomplished, now on to the next: China Daily editorial

Record Year for FAA Commercial Space Activity

Voyager Space Holdings to buy all of Nanoracks

Lockheed Martin To Acquire Aerojet Rocketdyne

Russia lifts UK telecom satellites into orbit

Scientists and philosopher team up, propose a new way to categorize minerals

New radiation vest technology protects astronauts, doctors

Order and disorder in crystalline ice explained

Spontaneous robot dances highlight a new kind of order in active matter

Discovery boosts theory that life on Earth arose from RNA-DNA mix

Astronomers detect possible radio emission from exoplanet

Key building block for organic molecules discovered in meteorites

Device mimics life's first steps in outer space

Dark Storm on Neptune reverses direction, possibly shedding a fragment

The 'Great' Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn

NASA's Juno Spacecraft Updates Quarter-Century Jupiter Mystery

Swedish space instrument participates in the search for life around Jupiter

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2024 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.