A new minimoon is headed towards Earth, and it’s not natural

Astronomers spot an object heading into Earth orbit.

Credit: Tony Dunn
  • Small objects such as asteroids get trapped for a time in Earth orbit, becoming "minimoons."
  • Minimoons are typically asteroids, but this one is something else.
  • The new minimoon may be part of an old rocket from the 1960s.
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    Closest images ever taken of the sun reveal "nanoflares"

    The Sun, as its never been seen before.

    Credit: Solar Orbiter/EUI Team (ESA & NASA); CSL, IAS, MPS, PMOD/WRC, ROB, UCL/MSSL
  • ESO's Solar Orbiter has sent back new images from halfway between the Earth and the Sun.
  • The images show far more "nanoflares" than ever seen before.
  • The discovery raises more questions about how the Sun works.
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    Ask an astronomer: What makes neutron stars so special?

    Astrophysicist Michelle Thaller talks ISS and why NICER is so important.

    • Being outside of Earth's atmosphere while also being able to look down on the planet is both a challenge and a unique benefit for astronauts conducting important and innovative experiments aboard the International Space Station.
    • NASA astrophysicist Michelle Thaller explains why one such project, known as NICER (Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer), is "one of the most amazing discoveries of the last year."
    • Researchers used x-ray light data from NICER to map the surface of neutrons (the spinning remnants of dead stars 10-50 times the mass of our sun). Thaller explains how this data can be used to create a clock more accurate than any on Earth, as well as a GPS device that can be used anywhere in the galaxy.
    • Astronaut Garrett Reisman took in countless indescribably beautiful views while he lived in space. But most shocking, he says, was observing the thinness of Earth's atmosphere.
    • You can compare the thickness of the atmosphere to the diameter of Earth to the skin on an apple, or the shell of an egg. It's incredibly thin and shows just how seemingly fragile our planet is.
    • But to put this into perspective, whereas the atmosphere reaches a height of 300,000 feet from Earth's surface, the deepest part of the ocean only reaches 35,000 feet, ten times thinner than Earth's atmosphere. Everything we experience on Earth, from sea to sky, exists on just a tiny slice of precious surface coating.
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    Space exploration is the ultimate plan B. Here’s why.

    Why did the dinosaurs go extinct? Because they didn't have a space program.

    • Space exploration is more than just the ultimate adventure, our study and investigation of space yields great scientific rewards, says astronaut Garrett Reisman.
    • Earth is wonderful, but it won't last forever, so it's important that we maintain a big picture view to ensure the survival of the human species.
    • Exploring space is our ticket to "the ultimate plan B," according to Reisman. If there were to occur a mass extinction event on Earth, the humans that inhabit another planet in our solar system will be the only hope of human survival.
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