Out of This World: The Echo Recaps Outer Space News from January and February

By Brenna Tiffany | Reporter 

2016 kicked off with a number of scientific discoveries and “out of this world” stories. If you aren’t quite caught up on your intergalactic news, don’t panic, all the stories you need to know are right here.

Astronaut Breaks Space Record, Releases #EarthArt Pics to Twitter 

On March 27, 2015, astronaut Scott Kelly made his way to the International Space Station for his mission not so formally known as: a year in space.

Over four months later, on Kelly’s 127th day at the station, he tweeted his first picture of Earth with the hashtag “Year in Space,” and people ate it up. Kelly’s breathtaking photos are still continuing; check out #EarthArt on Twitter to see his collection.

More noteworthy than his photography is the record he now holds: most consecutive days in space. Kelly broke the old record, 215 days, set in 2007 by Spanish-American astronaut Michael López-Alegría, back in October, and he’s been adding on to the record ever since. He’s slated to spend 342 consecutive days at the International Space Station before returning home.

A Ninth Planet in Our Solar System?

On Jan. 20, documents were released stating that a new planet titled Planet Nine is currently being theorized. The planet is said to be 10 times the size of Earth, and it is believed that it is 20 times further from the sun than Neptune. This places the planet in the Kuiper Belt, the same area as our fond dwarf planet, Pluto, rests.

After plenty of time spent staring at the Kuiper Belt, scientists came up with a theory on the movements so consistently seen in the belt. If Planet Nine does exist, it would perfectly explain this motion.

There is always the chance that the planet does not exist, in which case it’s back to the drawing board to explain what’s going on in Pluto’s neck of the woods. Either way, scientists are sure that the idea of Planet Nine will lead them to a new discovery whether it is a new planet, or finding that there may only be eight planets in our system.

Tribute to NASA’s Fallen

On Jan. 28, NASA payed tribute to the members of Apollo 1, The Challenger, and the Columbia. Arlington National Cemetery was host to an observance and a wreathe laying for the lost. In addition, a televised wreathe laying was held at the Space Mirror Memorial located in Florida.

The Kennedy Space Center opened a new memorial over the summer called Forever Remembered in order to honor those lost. President Barack Obama gave a speech dedicated in honor of the lives lost on the Challenger on Jan. 28, 1986.

The speech is now uploaded on NASA’s memorial page at http://www.nasa.gov. To quote former president Ronald Reagan, “The future does not belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave.”

Minor Details

  • Spiral galaxy NGC 4845 was photographed for the first time on Jan. 8 by the Hubble Space Telescope. The galaxy is located more than 65 million light years from Earth and is host to a supermassive black hole.
  • Pictures of blooming Zinnias aboard the ISS were released on Jan. 22. The experiment to grow the plants in a microgravity environment began on Nov. 16 and one could say the experiment has sprouted and grown since then.

Picture by Scott Kelly, used with permission

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