Top 10 Fresh Finds Proving Space Is Stunning And Strange

The night sky appears static, but the universe is a busy monkey. Cutting-edge science follows its trail, and increasingly, the pickings are unusual and spectacular.

Sometimes, answers are given with a flourish or mysteries throw back a couple of sticky wrenches. From the smallest diamond on Earth to the biggest structure in the known universe and everything in between, space continues to amuse, stun, and even frighten us with several brand-new discoveries.

A Planet Cradle

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In 2018, an observatory in Chile gazed at nearby stars and dusty disks filled the telescope’s view. They were a motley crew. Some had rings that shone with varying brightness, while others were shaped like hamburgers. The size and the angle of each also differed.

But the disks all contained the ingredients of future planets—dust, gas, and planetesimals. Since the group also hung around young stars, it supports the idea that the disks are incubating worlds.

These stars are nearly one million years old, which is very young in space terms. The discovery of the sooty circles could help researchers gaze back in time and understand how our solar system birthed its own planets. In addition, with a better understanding of regions that spawn planets, it may also reveal what the solar system looked like during its youth around four billion years ago.

The Billion-Year Turn

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The time it takes for each planet in the solar system to turn around its own axis and the Sun was determined long ago. So, a mixed batch of scientists from the United States, China, and Australia turned their interest to galaxies. In the same vein, the quest was to discover the length of one galactic swirl.

Surprisingly, the answer was every billion years. It was not so much the mind-boggling time span but that it applied to every galaxy, no matter its size or density. For some reason, like clocks, every galaxy completes a full turn after a billion years.

Since rotation happens mainly at the outskirts of the spirals, researchers found another unexpected thing. Scientists always believed that a galaxy’s fringe consisted of sparsely placed young stars and gas. While both were confirmed, an unforeseen solid population of older stars also studded the region.

A Surprisingly Close Asteroid

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Over a century ago, an asteroid exploded over Tunguska and razed 500,000 acres of trees. In April 2018, out of nowhere, another space rock hurled past Earth. Called 2018 GE3, it was only spotted a day before its surprise flyby.

It was so hair-raising because it could have been bigger than the Siberian asteroid of 1908. 2018 GE3 measured between 48–110 meters (157–360 ft) wide. At the extreme, it was almost four times bigger than its Tunguska cousin.

Buzzing Earth on April 15, the asteroid chose an uncomfortably close lane at about 192,000 kilometers (119,400 mi) from Earth. The Moon was nearly double that distance from the Earth.

Although an impact would not have caused global damage, 2018 GE3 is nothing to laugh at. It was up to six times larger than another rock that burst over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013. That event caused property damage up to 93 kilometers (58 mi) away and injured over 1,000 people.

Most sobering was 2018 GE3’s stealthy approach that avoided detection until the last day.

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