December 2018

The VSS Unity spaceplane (Photo courtesy Virgin Galactic. All rights reserved)

It was yesterday morning in California when Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo spaceplane called VSS Unity took off connected to its White Knight Two mother ship from the Mojave Air and Space Port. Once reached 15,000 meters (about 43,000 feet) above sea level, VSS Unity was dropped and its engine brought it to an altitude of 82.7 kilometers (about 51.4 miles), below the 100 kilometers (62 miles) of the Kármán Line which officially marks the border with the space but above the 80 kilometers (50 miles) considered by some institutions as that borderline.

Asteroid Bennu (Image NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

NASA has announced that its OSIRIS-REx space probe has found traces of water in the asteroid Bennu, reached on December 3. This is water bound to minerals present on Bennu’s surface, hydrated silicates formed in the very early stages of the solar system’s history, when the first small bodies such as the asteroids started forming.

Representation of the heliosphere with the Voyagers (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA has confirmed that its Voyager 2 space probe has entered interstellar space. The instruments still operating confirmed that it passed through the outer boundary of the heliosphere, called heliopause, where the influence of solar wind ends meeting interstellar particles. These results were presented by members of the Voyager mission team today at the meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) being held in Washington these days.

Planetary formation discovered in the Taurus molecular cloud

An article published in the journal “The Astrophysical Journal” reports the observation of structures in protoplanetary disks that probably were left by newborn and perhaps still developing planets. A team of researchers led by Feng Long of the University of Beijing used the ALMA radio telescope to examine disks surrounding young stars in the Taurus star formation region discovering that of 32 protoplanetary disks 12 were divided into rings, a situation associated with planetary formation.