News Archive


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This page contains a number of links to news items we highlighted in 2018. Please scroll down to see more information.


NASA's Dawn and Kepler Missions End


NASA’s Dawn spacecraft ends its 11 year

mission to the asteroid Vesta and dwarf

planet Ceres, after running out of fuel.

The Kepler spacecraft has also run out

of fuel after a nine and a half year

mission to search for exoplanets.


Launch of BepiColumbo

Mission to Mercury

Artist's impression of BepiColombo fairing release.

Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

Europe's first mission to Mercury launched

successfully in the early hours of 20 October.

The ESA - JAXA mission is set to arrive at

Mercury in late 2025. The 1 to 2 year mission

involves two spacecraft: the Mercury Planetary

Orbiter (MPO) and the Mercury Magnetospheric

Orbiter (MMO). More information is available

from ESA's dedicated mission site, linked here.


Soyuz Spacecraft Flight Aborted after


Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Flight of Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft is aborted during

its climb to orbit, due to an anomaly. The two man

crew is recovered safely. Image shows Cosmonaut

Alexey Ovchinin and astronaut Nick Hague with

their families after landing at Krayniy Airport


November: Skull asteroid to pass Earth

rtist's impression of asteroid 2015 TB145 Credit: J.A. Peñas/SINC

This November, the asteroid that passed Earth

on Halloween 2015 will return to 'haunt' us.

But don't worry, it won't throw eggs at your

windows or come begging for sweeties...

we hope...

Image generated using radar data from Arecibo

Observatory (Puerto Rico) Credit: NAIC-Arecibo/NSF


Did Ancient Mars have conditions for

underground life?

image: NASA / JPL

New research suggests it likely that ancient

Mars  had the chemical energy to support

similar underground microbial colonies that

exist on Earth.


Hopping Robots Land on Asteroid

JAXA photo from rover during hop on Ryagu (surface on the left)

Japanese space agency, JAXA, successfully

lands two autonomous rovers on the Ryugu

asteroid 300 million km from Earth. The rovers

were despatched from the Hayabusa-2

mothership. Hayabusa-2 will leave Ryugu in

December 2019 to return to Earth with

samples gathered by German-French

lander, Mascot.

The Jaxa newsfeed can be viewed here

Also: more info about the first Hayabusa

mission, which successfully returned a sample

from asteroid Itokawa to Earth in 2010


Virgin Orbit to Test Air-launched Rocket

LauncherOne under Virgin Orbit’s “Cosmic Girl”. Credit: Virgin Orbit

Virgin attaches a small sat launcher under

the wing of a  modified passenger jet in

preparation for tests with a full-scale model

of their LauncherOne rocket and ultimately

their first orbital launch attempt.


NASA's Commercial Space Programme

NASA commercial test flight crew Credit: NASA

Find out the latest news on NASA collaboration

with Boeing and SpaceX to develop spacecraft

and rockets to  transport astronauts to the ISS.

Water Molecules Above Jupiter's Red Spot

Hydrogen and oxygen are found emitting from

Jupiter's great storm, suggesting water-rich

clouds deep in its atmosphere


New Hubble Images of Saturn's Aurora

Credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA, A. Simon (GSFC) and the OPAL Team,

J. DePasquale (STScI), L. Lamy (Observatoire de Paris)

New images are released showing Saturn's

auroras observed by Hubble in 2017

A composite video of the Aurora's evolution

can also be seen here


News from Shetland Space Centre

SSC and B2Space to work on feasibilty study

of using Unst as a launch location for the new

'Rockoon' satellite system

New Horizons Spacecraft Awakes

The New Horizons spacecraft is out of hibernation

to prepare for its January 2019 flyby of  MU69 in

the Kuiper Belt, nicknamed “Ultima Thule”.

It will be the furthest ever flyby from Earth and

follows its flyby of Pluto in 2015.

Observations from Earth show MU69 is red, 

30km in diameter and could either be two large,

connected sections  or a binary system.

Interestingly, from a local point of view,

interpretations of the ancient 'Ultima Thule'

place name include Orkney and Shetland.

Horizons Mission to ISS Begins

The mission which began on 8th June will see

German astronaut Alexander Gerst take over

as commander of the ISS, only the second

European to do so. Alexander will also be working

with robots to develop techniques required for

further human and robotic exploration of the

Solar System. Plans to build an international

gateway between the Moon and Earth are

to be discussed this month. Europe will supply

key parts such as a habitation module and a

service module for NASA’s Orion spacecraft.

NASA Launches TESS Satellite to Aid

Search for Exoplanets

image: NASA

In a bid to discover exoplanets in our 'solar

neighbourhood' the Transiting Exoplanet Survey

Satellite (TESS) will monitor more than 200,000

stars for temporary drops in brightness caused

by planetary transits. More information is available

on NASA's dedicate TESS site. There's also a

paper model to download.


It's Official - Uranus Stinks

Image: NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft. NASA

Astronomers have spectroscopically detected

hydrogen sulphide in Uranus’ atmosphere, a gas

encountered in rotten eggs.


Stephen Hawking Paper


image: Graham CopeKoga/Cambridge University Library.

Prof Stephen Hawking’s final theory on the origin

of the universe, written in collaboration with Prof

Thomas Hertog from KU Leuven, has been

published in the Journal of High Energy Physics.

The theory was submitted for publication before

Hawking’s death earlier this year.


Is Life Possible Above Venus?

Image: NASA's Mariner 10 mission (1974)

An international team of researchers has

presented a case for the atmosphere of

Venus as a possible niche for extraterrestrial

microbial life. Although surface conditions are

inhospitable, space probes to the planet have

shown that temperature and pressure in the

lower and middle portions of the atmosphere

might be able to support microbial life.


ESA: Clean Space Challenges & Solutions

Image: ESA

View an animated introduction to ESA's Clean

Space initiative, dedicated to safeguarding

the Earth and space environments on ESA's

'Clean Space Blog'


CHEOPS Rocket Logo Chosen

Winning design. Credit: ESA/D. Vrenko

ESA has announced the winner of a competition to

design a logo for its CHEOPS mission, which will

measure the size of planets as they cross before

of their parent stars. CHEOPS (CHaracterising

ExOplanets Satellite) will be launched aboard a

Soyuz rocket and the design will be seen on the

ocket's shell that protects the satellite during

launch and as it passes into space.




January / February 2018

Interstellar Asteroid is Dark, Red

..... and Very Long

First interstellar asteroid

Image: ESO/M. Kornmesser

Artist's impression of interstellar asteroid

`Oumuamua, which seems to be a dark red

& highly-elongated metallic or rocky object,

about 400 metres long. Oumuamua is unlike

anything normally found in the Solar System.

Private Mission May Reach Enceladus

Before NASA

Moon Enceladus

Image: NASA

RUSSIAN billionaire Yuri Milner, founder of the

$100 million Breakthrough Starshot project to send

small probes to Alpha Centauri, has announced

plans to explore funding a mission to Enceladus.


Unst in Shetland to Aim for

Space Programme !

Other links :





An Atmosphere Around the Moon?

Recent  research suggests that the

Moon had a significant atmosphere in the

past which was thicker than the atmosphere

of Mars today.  This could also be a source

for some of the water detected


Analysis of Comet 67P's Dust Jet


Whilst orbiting comet 67P in July 2016, ESA’s

Rosetta spacecraft flew through an errupting

dust jet and used all five of its instruments to

record it. Analysis of the data is now complete


Voyager Golden Record Finally

Available on Earth

Carl Sagan and the golden record

Carl Sagan and the golden record

The Golden Record is a 90-minute message

of goodwill from Earth to any extraterrestrials

who might find one of the two Voyager

spaceships. The brainchild of astronomer

Carl Sagan, the record contains engraved

sounds and images chosen to represent

the diversity of Earth. After a crowd funding

campaign, LP and CD versions will be

released for the first time by specially formed

'Ozma records'.The content includes opera,

rock 'n' roll, blues, classical music and field



Russia and USA to Build Moon

Space Station Together

image credit: NASA

Russian space agency Roscosmos has

announced it will be collaborating with

NASA to facilitate scientific missions

in the moon's orbit and to its surface.

The agencies "intend to develop

international technical standards which

will be used later, in particular to create

a space station in lunar orbit".

"Roscosmos and NASA have also

agreed on standards for a docking

unit of the future station.”


Weird Weather on Mercury

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics

Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

The planet Mercury has very little atmosphere,

but it does have a strange weather pattern:

morning micro-meteor showers


United Emirates Plans 'Mars City'

in Desert

Image credit: Dubai Media Office

The United Arab Emirates is constructing a

giant “space city” in the desert to simulate

conditions on Mars as realistically as possible.

The planned city will cover 1.9 million square

feet and will simulate conditions for a

settlement on the Red Planet.

You can learn more about other aspects of the

Emirates' Mars Mission here..


Webb Space Telescope Launch

Delayed Until 2019

Webb space Telescope

NASA has announced that the James

Webb space telescope will stay on Earth

for slightly longer than intended, to allow

more time for testing. The launch aboard

an Ariane V booster, was originally

scheduled for October 2018. The telescope

will now be launched sometime between

March and June 2019


Mars Rover Opportunity Prepares for

Winter Stopover


As Winter approaches, Opportunity searches

for a good place to rest, tilted towards the

Sun to and recharge its solar batteries


New Study of Variable Stars

in the Pleiades

Credit: NASA / Aarhus University / T. White

Scientists have used a new algorithm and

data from the Kepler space telescope for the

most detailed study to date of the Seven

Sisters star cluster (the Pleiades)


Cressida: Uranus Moon that Would Float

in a Gigantic Tub of Water

Image: Erich Karkoschka/Univ. of Arizona, Voyager 2, NASA

Astronomers at the University of Idaho

(Moscow) have calculated Cressida’s density

and mass using variations in an inner ring of

the planet as Uranus passed in front of a

distant star.


The Tail of the Disappearing Comet

Getting ready to count shooting stars this

Autumn? Want to read a clear explanation

of meteor showers in plain English? 

Pop over to the Universe Aware site for

a clear run down of the basic facts

... not just for children !


Download Free E-books from NASA

Image: NASA

Did you know you can download NASA ebooks

from their website. Books are in the categories

History, Aeronautics and Science. Apps, ringtones

and podcasts are also available.