Happy New Year from space! This first week we are starting close and then traveling far across the cosmos. First we get a view from the moon, with the famous Apollo 8 image called Earthrise. A NASA astronaut took this photo out the window of the Apollo 8 capsule on Christmas Eve 1968 and it has changed how humanity sees the Earth ever since. Next we will fly over to Jupiter to watch some lighting in the cloud tops before heading out to the area of the distant solar system called the Kuiper Belt. In 2015 the New Horizons spacecraft flew past Pluto, giving us a closer look at the dwarf planet than anyone had ever gotten before, but they weren’t quite done exploring. This New Years’ Eve, the spacecraft flew past the object 2014 MU 69, marking another record of exploration: This 21-mile long icy rock is the most distant object that humankind has ever visited. By studying very distant Kuiper Belt objects like MU 69, scientists are able to peer back in time to the beginning of the solar system. Object like MU 69 are what’s called cold classical Kuiper Belt objects, they are untouched by the warmth of the sun and have been for nearly four billion years. So when we can swing by and collect science data, we get insights into what materials were floating around during the early days of the solar system.
Finally, we will depart the solar system entirely to visit the remnants of a dead star that exploded and left colorful gas and dust in its wake. Think of it as a very very distant New Year’s Eve firework display.
Want to keep hanging out in space? Peruse the full cosmic collection here.
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- Finnish swimmers who chill out in subzero waters
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