With so many things happening in 2020, many of the biggest space stories have been skipped past. Although it was a rough year, some incredible, space-related things occurred this year.
From discovering that Coronavirus affects space science, to new space launches, such as SpaceX and Blue Origins first orbital rocket, 2020 has recorded plenty of the biggest space storied. In case you’ve missed out on some of the biggest space stories of 2020, read below.
The 10 Biggest Space Stories of 2020
10. Coronavirus Affects Space Science
The majority of space sector firms are able to cope with our current COVID19 crisis. Although many still are struggling, a large portion is small and medium-sized businesses.
Factoring in the high costs of entry to the sector, there is the possibility that Coronavirus could lead to the removal of smaller and younger firms, evidently leading to a lack of innovation, a loss of employment opportunities and economic growth.
Coronavirus has further affected space sciences, through restrictions to ease the spread of the virus. Fewer employees are allowed on-site to work on projects, delaying their set launch time. Several projects were cancelled, along with many missions delayed.
9. Iconic Arecibo Observatory Collapses
Unfortunately in 2020, the Arecibo Observatory collapsed, in Puerto Rico. Sadly it’s 900-tonne instrument platform fell onto a reflector disk from 137 metres up. This observatory has been being used as a key resource for radio astronomers for the past 57 years.
The Arecibo Observatory was one of the largest in the world, with a radio receiving dish stretching across 1 000 feet (304.8 metres).
8. NASA's Sample Return Missions
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission on the asteroid 101955 Bennu was a success, as they managed to obtain pieces of the space rock to be collected as samples once brought back to Earth. This wasn’t the only successful asteroid sample collection that occurred.
Not long after NASA’s success was JAXA’s Hayabusa 2’s collection of samples from the asteroid Ryugu, reaching the Japanese scientists.
China’s Chang’e 5 mission to take samples from the moon was also a success, but this sampling mission occurred later in 2020.
7. China Analyzes weird substances on the Moon's far side
China’s Yutu 2 Rover, from their Changu-4 mission, discovered a gel-like substance late 2019. It was found in a small crater on the far side of the moon. This year, Chinese scientists published an article dedicated to this strange substance.
This strange substance turned out to be melted bits of moon rock, most likely melted in the heat of an asteroid impact. An event like this could have formed this dark green, shiny, glassy mass.
6. Phosphine on Venus
In September, they discovered Phosphine in the clouds around Venus left us all stumped as to what it was doing there. Phosphine can be a sign of life, due to research that has reflected how microbes on Earth appear to emit this compound, it was even being argued that it could be a biosignature.
5. Solar Orbiter Launches into Space
Early on in 2020, February, the NASA-ESA solar orbiter spacecraft launched into space. The solar orbiter’s mission is to study the sun up close, so we can further understand the bubble around our solar system.
While embarking on its route to the sun, it passed by Venus (as you would expect) and collected some extra data on Venus, on the 27th of December.
4. Protest Over the Thirty Metre Telescope
Last year, the native Hawaiians, called Kiai, or protectors continued to protest about the construction of the 49 Metre tall 30 Metre Telescope.
The place they are building this telescope on is called Mauna Kea, a sight which the Kiai consider sacred.
3. The Spitzer Space Telescope
After 16 years, the Spitzer Space Telescope (SST) downloaded last bits of data before being put into hibernation by NASA.
NASA has come out and said that the reason they put the SST into hibernation is that two institutions interested in the SST could not provide resources for it to stay fully operational, therefore it is coming back to Earth
2. Comet Neowise
In March 2020 they discovered the comet Neowise, through NASA’s Neowise mission. On the 23rd of July, it got the closest it has been to our planet, only 103 million kilometres, or 64 million miles.
The reason this comet is so special is that once you have spotted it with binoculars, you can remove them to see it as well, using our naked eye. It will repeat it’s loop in 6 800 years, where it will be back close enough to see with the unaided eye.
This is why it was one of the biggest space stories that happened in 2020.
1. The Great Conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter
Topping the biggest space stories of 2020 is the great conjunction fo Saturn and Jupiter.
Around the end of the year, as the great conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter occurred on the 21st of December. December the 21st also happened to be the date of Winter Solstice for the Northern Hemispheres.
Saturn and Jupiter haven’t passed this close to each other for nearly 400 years, and 800 years since the alignment of both planets took place at night. Due to the lack of light, everyone around the world was able to watch as these two gas giants aligned themselves with each other.