The top space stories of the week!


Small and unusually-hot stars are covered in spots, a space shuttle astronaut makes history once again and two Black astronomers lead a campaign for racial equality in STEM. These are just some of the top stories this week from 

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has been delayed once again, according to a recent announcement by the associate administrator of the space agency’s Science Mission Directorate. Since 2009, the launch date for the observatory has been pushed back by almost seven years and its price tag has nearly doubled. The development of the $9.8 billion observatory was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Full story: Another delay: NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope won’t launch in March 2021

See Also: SpaceX’s 1st astronaut launch was NASA’s most-watched online event ever

Plus: In photos: SpaceX’s historic Demo-2 test flight with astronauts

NASA recently announced that the Pennsylvania-based space company Astrobotic will be in charge of delivering the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, to the moon. This trip is currently scheduled for late 2023 and is an important part of the space agency’s Artemis program. VIPER is designed to help scientists learn more about ice reserves that might exist below the lunar surface. 

Full story: NASA picks Astrobotic to land ice-hunting VIPER rover at the moon’s south pole

The orbit of a Saturnian moon is expanding away from the ringed planet much faster than scientists once thought. In a new study, researchers found that Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, is drifting away from its parent planet at a rate about 100 times faster than previously predicted. Titan currently orbits Saturn from a distance of 746,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers), but was “born” much closer to the planet. 

Full story: Titan is drifting away from Saturn 100 times faster than we thought

Thousands of people in the science community signed on to participate in the #StrikeforBlackLives (or #Strike4BlackLives) call to action. The Wednesday (June 10) action was led by two Black astronomers: Brian Nord, an astrophysicist at the University of Chicago and Fermilab, and Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, a cosmologist at the University of New Hampshire. The call to action asked people to spend the day taking steps to eliminate anti-Black racism in STEM.

Full story: Scientists condemn racism and take action with #StrikeforBlackLives this week

Kathy Sullivan, a history-making NASA astronaut, recently set another world record by diving deep instead of flying high. On June 6, Sullivan became the first woman to descend to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, located 7 miles (11 kilometers) below the surface of the Pacific Ocean near Guam; this is the lowest-known location on Earth. In 1984, Sullivan became the first American woman to perform a spacewalk. 

Full story: Astronaut Kathy Sullivan is first woman to dive to deepest point on Earth

Researchers used two space telescopes and one ground observatory to study the early universe. Their recently-published study suggests the first stars in the universe formed earlier than astronomers thought. Their findings could have “profound astrophysical consequences,” according to the lead researcher. 

Full story: The 1st stars in the universe formed earlier than thought

On June 7, NASA’s sun-kissing Parker Solar Probe embarked on its fifth flyby of the sun. Leading up to this close approach, the mission spent weeks taking many observations of the star, and the probe will continue this data-gathering marathon until June 28. Two weeks later, on July 10, Parker will conduct another exciting maneuver: a flyby of Venus. 

Full story: NASA’s Parker Solar Probe flies by the sun in 5th close encounter

China launched two rockets just 36 hours apart from each other during the same weekend that NASA and Space conducted their Demo-2 mission flight. On May 30, China launched two satellites on a Long March-11 rocket, according to Chinese state media. On May 31, China launched two more satellites atop a Long March-2D rocket. 

Full story: China launches 2 rockets in 2 days, lofting 4 satellites to orbit

A small satellite spotted an exoplanet in a recent technology demonstration and proved that cubesats could make big strides in the study of distant worlds. The briefcase-size ASTERIA cubesat, or Arcsecond Space Telescope Enabling Research in Astrophysics, spotted the previously-known exoplanet called 55 Cancri. ASTERIA was deployed into space from the International Space Station in late 2017.

Full story: Record breaker! Briefcase-size satellite spots alien planet

Stars are hot, but there are certain stars with especially-scorching surfaces. In a new study, researchers found that a group of small super-hot stars that are huddled together in dense clumps are “plagued with spots” because of their magnetic fields. Astronomers wanted to study this type of star because when this kind of star dies, it doesn’t turn into a red giant (as most smaller stars do). 

Full story: Huge magnetic spots may explain weird light patterns of super-hot stars


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