The top space stories of the week!

A newly-discovered object in the solar system may be a comet with an interstellar future, SpaceX’s Starship prototype explodes after successfully landing during a high-altitude test and astronomers pay close attention to a large asteroid that passed by Earth this week. These are some of the top stories this week from Space.com. 

Starship SN10 aces landing, but then blew up. 

SpaceX’s Starship SN10 rocket prototype explodes after a successful liftoff and soft landing at the company’s South Texas launch site on March 3, 2021. This view was provided by SPadre.com. (Image credit: Spadre.com via YouTube)

SpaceX performed the third high-altitude test of its Starship vehicle on Wednesday (March 3), achieving its first successful landing of this rocket’s prototype. However the spacecraft ultimately blew up in a massive explosion minutes after touchdown. SpaceX is testing Starship so that it can someday carry human passengers on interplanetary journeys. 

Full story: SpaceX’s SN10 Starship prototype lands after epic test launch — but then explodes

Astronomers study asteroid Apophis during Friday’s flyby.

An animation shows Apophis’ 2029 path compared to the swarm of satellites orbiting Earth. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The safe, but close, encounter by asteroid Apophis on Friday (March 5) allowed astronomers to learn more about the space rock that will return in the future. This week Apophis passed by Earth at about 44 times the distance from the moon, and the asteroid will make another safe, but even closer, approach to Earth in the year 2029. The asteroid is roughly 1,000 feet (300 meters) across, and researchers used this flyby to refine its orbital model and to test out planetary defense models.  

Full story: [Large asteroid Apophis will safely fly by Earth on Friday]

See also: Planetary defense experts use infamous asteroid Apophis to practice spotting dangerous space rocks

Plus: Newfound Comet Leonard will blaze into view this year

Expedition 64 astronauts perform a 7-hour spacewalk.

NASA astronauts Kate Rubins (top right in red stripes) and Victor Glover work on the base of a mast canister on the International Space Station’s Port 6 truss solar arrays on Feb. 28, 2021 to install supports for new solar arrays to be installed later this year.  (Image credit: NASA TV)

NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Victor Glover spent more than seven hours on a spacewalk this week. The goal of the Feb. 28 extravehicular activity, or EVA, was to install modification kits for new solar arrays on the International Space Station. The new solar panels are an upgrade to the current space-station system, which has panels dating back to the year 2000. 

Full story: Spacewalking astronauts prepare International Space Station for new solar arrays

See also: Vice President Kamala Harris calls NASA astronaut on International Space Station

Space traveler journeys to the deepest part of the ocean. 

Astronaut-explorer Richard Garriott waves before entering Limiting Factor, the deep sea submersible that took him down to Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench, the lowest point on Earth, on March 1, 2021. Garriott is now the first person to traverse both poles, launch into Earth orbit and reach the ocean’s bottom. (Image credit: Richard Garriott)

Explorer Richard Garriott has flown into space and traversed both poles, and recently he completed another extreme trip. Garriott descended to the lowest point in the ocean, the Challenger Deep, on Monday (March 1) by traveling aboard the ”Limiting Factor” submersible. The Challenger Deep is located on the southern end of the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific Ocean.

Full story: Astronaut-explorer Richard Garriott sets records on dive to deepest point on Earth

Perseverance unfurls its robotic arm for the first time on Mars. 

A raw image taken by the Perseverance rover on March 3, 2021, shows the robot’s arm rotated away from the main body as the spacecraft tests its movement. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Mars Perseverance rover has successfully moved its robotic arm for the first time in its new planetary home. The robotic mission arrived at the Red Planet on Feb. 18, 2021 to look for traces of ancient life. The rover’s arm carries many instruments and unfurled to a total length of 7 feet (2.1 meters). 

Full story: Perseverance rover flexes its arm on Mars for the 1st time

See also: NASA’s Perseverance rover deploys wind sensor on Mars

One year later, Betelgeuse’s faint spell is still a mystery. 

An image captured by the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile shows Betelgeuse in December 2019, at right, early in what would become the dramatic dimming episode that culminated in February 2020. (Image credit: ESO, M. Montargès et al.)

Orion the Hunter is perhaps one of the best-known constellations in the night sky. The bright red star within this hero’s shape, Betelgeuse, was noticeably dimmer last year and scientists still do not have an explanation for the strange phenomenon. Scientists hope that new observations of Betelgeuse this year will put last year’s dimness into context; they wonder if the faint period was a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, or if it will happen again. 

Full story: Scientists still stuck on Betelgeuse antics a year after strange dimming episode

Fascinating new discovery may become a future interstellar comet. 

This image, captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, shows the comet P/2019 LD2 as it swoops closely to the Trojans, the ancient asteroids trapped near Jupiter by the planet’s gravitational pull. This is the first comet that astronomers have observed near these ancient asteroids and the image reveals the comet’s dust and gas tail trailing away from its glowing center (or nucleus). The comet was discovered in June 2019 and is likely among the comets journeying towards the Sun after escaping the Kuiper belt. (Image credit: NASA, ESA, STScI, B. Bolin (IPAC/Caltech); CC BY 4.0 )

A possible comet currently trapped by Jupiter’s gravitational pull could shoot off into interstellar space in a few years’ time. The object-in-question spews gas, and researchers say it is temporarily circling the sun within a group of ancient asteroids called Trojans. Simulations suggest the comet originated in the icy region beyond Neptune’s orbit, flew towards the sun, and may be shot out away from the sun by Jupiter’s influence in a couple of years. 

Full story: Future interstellar comet? Gas-spewing object spotted in asteroid group near Jupiter

Meteorite that formed part of a November fireball was recovered from a Swedish village. 

A 30-pound chunk of iron meteorite found in Uppsala, Sweden.  (Image credit: Andreas Forsberg/Anders Zetterqvist.)

A bread loaf-sized meteorite weighing 31 lbs (14 kg) was found in Uppsala, Sweden. The space rock landed on Earth on Nov. 7, 2020 and was once part of a larger meteor that probably weighed more than 9 tons (8.1 metric tons). The meteorite is covered in circular depressions, which formed when the rock partially melted as it careened into Earth’s atmosphere. 

Full story: Lumpy, 30-pound meteorite that crashed in Sweden recovered in local village

Newly-spotted exoplanet described as a ‘Rosetta Stone.’ 

Artist’s illustration of the newly discovered exoplanet Gliese 486 b. (Image credit: RenderArea)

A newfound exoplanet roughly the size of Earth, called Gliese 486 b, may be cool enough to have an atmosphere, but also warm enough that scientists can study its atmosphere. This planet may help scientists decipher observations from other exoplanets, and they’ve therefore described Gliese 486 b as a “Rosetta Stone.” Gliese 486 b orbits a dim red dwarf star just 26 light-years from Earth. 

Full story: Newfound exoplanet could be ‘Rosetta Stone’ for studies of alien atmospheres

Satellites show Arecibo Observatory cleanup. 

Artist’s rendering of a comet headed toward Earth. (Image credit: Maxar Technologies)

Satellite images taken on Feb. 23, 2021 show work crews removing part of the structure of the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. The National Science Foundation, which has run the massive dish telescope since the 1970s, decommissioned the telescope in November 2020 following structural damage that was deemed too severe for repairs. Part of the telescope’s damage occurred shortly after it was decommissioned, when its suspended platform crashed onto the dish. 

Full story: Cleanup of Arecibo Observatory’s collapsed radio telescope seen from space

Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: [email protected]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *