Scientists use a bird skull to understand how they survived the asteroid collision that killed the dinosaurs, four astronauts reach the International Space Station and NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter takes its latest flight on Mars. These are some of the top stories this week from Space.com.
Crew Dragon Endurance docks at the space station.
SpaceX launched four astronauts up to the International Space Station for NASA on Wednesday (Nov. 10) and they arrived at the orbital outpost the following day (Nov. 11). The Crew-3 astronauts launched from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Their space vehicle, called the Crew Dragon Endurance, docked with the station’s U.S.-built Harmony module while both spacecraft sailed above the Eastern Caribbean.
A bird skull offers clues as to how they survived the dinosaur extinction.
A well-preserved ancient bird skull is offering clues about how birds survived the dinosaur-killing asteroid. Birds may have had bigger forebrains, the region responsible for processes that could allow them to modify their behavior quickly enough to keep up with their new post-collision environment.
Satellites detected reduction of greenhouse gases during pandemic lockdown.
A new study shows that greenhouse gas levels decreased in some areas due to pandemic lockdowns. Satellites detected drops of 0.14 to 0.62 parts per million in specific zones between February and May 2020, when most jurisdictions entered into some type of lockdown that March. This study shows that satellites are sensitive enough to monitor atmospheric gases that are notoriously difficult to measure.
Europe is heating up faster than the rest of the world.
Europe has already passed the 1.5-degree Celsius threshold set by the Paris Agreement, the international treaty negotiated at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris in 2015. It is currently 2.2 degrees C warmer than it was before the industrial revolution, and scientists are trying to understand why this region is warming faster than other parts of the world.
Astronomers spot a ‘quasi-moon’ Earthy companion.
A space rock called Kamo’oalewa is the first known object made of what appears to be a piece of Earth’s moon. Astronomers were able to determine its composition by observing how light reflects off of Kamo’oalewa. This object may have split off from the moon in an ancient collision.
Giant M87 black hole emits jets at light speed.
New computer models show that the supermassive black hole at the center of galaxy M87 shoots out jets of plasma that travel near the speed of light. This black hole is the one that the Event Horizon Telescope famously photographed in 2019.
Ingenuity takes its 15th flight.
NASA’s Mars helicopter recently took its 15th flight into the Red Planet’s skies. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced on Monday night (Nov. 8) that their Ingenuity chopper flew for 128.8 seconds and took images during its sortie. Ingenuity accompanied NASA’s Perseverance rover on its Mars-bound journey, both robots reaching the planet on Feb. 18.
Perseverance takes another bite from Mars.
NASA’s Perseverance rover has already collected two rock samples from Mars, and recently started work to collect a new sample. On Tuesday (Nov. 9), the team behind the robotic mission tweeted that the rover had scraped a small patch of layered rocks. The goal is to leave these samples in a cache that a later sample-return mission can collect for analysis.
Virgin Galactic has sold about 100 new space tourist tickets.
Company representatives from Virgin Galactic said on Monday (Nov. 8) that about 100 people have bought tickets to ride to suborbital space since August. These new customers mark a 15% growth in Virgin Galactic’s customer list, and each is paying about $450,000 for their space trips.
China launches three classified satellites into Earth orbit.
China launched the first set of classified Yaogan reconnaissance satellites on Nov. 5, 2021. A Long March 2D lofted the three satellites after taking off from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China. The satellites are now orbiting at roughly 310 miles (500 kilometers) above the Earth.