Top 10 Fresh Finds Proving Space Is Stunning And Strange

A Disappearing Icon

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If space tourists flew past Jupiter, the planet’s most iconic feature would undoubtedly be on the program. Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, the biggest storm in the solar system, has been raging for about 188 years. However, the Earth-engulfing swirl might not see its 200th birthday.

In 2018, scientists from NASA revealed that the violent, hurricane-like tempest was losing its juice. In fact, the Great Red Spot has been shrinking for some time. When the eye was discovered in 1830, two Earths could snugly fit inside, side by side. Today, only one hypothetical Earth and a fractional second would make it.

It is not entirely clear why the storm sees a drop in strength every day. But at this rate, the monster storm could be gone in 10 years. The Great Red Spot lasted so long because it was trapped between two powerful jet streams. Flowing in opposite directions, they kept the storm stable in Jupiter’s atmosphere for almost two centuries.

A Missing Planet’s Diamonds

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When meteorites rained over the Sudan desert in 2008, they arrived with a unique pedigree. Researchers managed to find 50 fragments from what was once an asteroid 4 meters (13 ft) across. The tiny slivers were infused with nanodiamonds.

This is the only time that traces of the precious stone showed up in something from outer space. The origins of the bejeweled asteroid remained a puzzle until a 2018 study traced its history. The rock likely came from an embryonic planet. Remarkably, it was old enough to hail from the earliest days of the solar system.

Besides revealing a lost world, the gems also suggested its size. The diamonds needed certain circumstances—most of all, extremely high pressure. For a planet’s internal squeeze to be that powerful (above 20 gigapascals), it had to be as big as Mars or Mercury. Obviously, the diamond world is long gone and probably ended with a stellar smash. Amazingly, one piece arrived in Sudan billions of years later.

The Milky Way Map

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After a year-long journey through space, a probe called Gaia settled into orbit around the Sun. The 1,390-kilogram (3,000 lb) spacecraft had one mission—to map the Milky Way.

Data from Gaia was released in 2016 and 2018, and the result was a stunning color map of 1.7 billion stars. In addition, the probe also marked the exact locations of around 14,000 objects sharing its solar orbit.

The European Space Agency, the brains behind the most detailed 3-D map of the galaxy, did not hog the view, either. The interactive map can be accessed by anyone who wishes to explore the Milky Way. Gaia also calculated distance and movement for nearly every object it marked.

The amount of information is enough to keep researchers busy for the rest of their lives. Incredibly, Gaia is not done. So far, the survey has counted an estimated 2 percent of the Milky Way, which may ultimately yield around 100 billion stars.

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