This week in space: 6/15 - 6/22
With everything that happens on earth in a given week, it's easy to forget that things, indeed, are constantly happening outside our own atmosphere.
From posters recruiting for jobs on Mars, to a once-in-a-lifetime 'strawberry moon,' here's everything important that happened in space last week.
5. The earth has another moon ... kind of
Don't look now, but something's following us.
NASA announced Tuesday that it has observed an asteroid shadowing Earth, circling around us as we orbit the Sun.
And apparently, it's been doing this for over one hundred years now.
The unimaginatively named 2016 HO3 has been dancing around us, sometimes jumping ahead of us, on our orbit around the sun — and occasionally falling behind.
As NASA notes in a release, it's like we've been playing a game of leapfrog with the small asteroid for years.
"The asteroid's loops around Earth drift a little ahead or behind from year to year, but when they drift too far forward or backward, Earth's gravity is just strong enough to reverse the drift and hold onto the asteroid so that it never wanders farther away than about 100 times the distance of the moon," Paul Chodas, manager of NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object (NEO) Studies, said. "The same effect also prevents the asteroid from approaching much closer than about 38 times the distance of the moon."
Um, stalker much?
4. The summer solstice brought with it a once-in-a-lifetime Instagram occurrence
When something takes place very rarely, we say it happens once in a blue moon. But it turns out, there's another moon that's even rarer -- and it happened just this week.
On Monday, anyone who looked up to the night sky was treated to the spectacular sight of a strawberry moon -- that's the term for a full moon in the month of June.
Even rarer? This year, it happened to fall exactly on the summer solstice.
3. Need a job? We might've found you one ... if you're flexible on location
Being an astronaut may no longer be a far-fetched fantasy from your childhood.
In an effort to make dreams come true, NASA released a series of vintage recruitment posters for positions that could possibly exist on Mars one day.
While it's probably safe to assume that a job on Mars is way better than your typical 9 to 5, don't go quitting your day job just yet.
The program will likely take a decade or more to begin, and even once it does, the fastest current mode of transportation we have would take upwards of a year to arrive on the red planet.
But then again, if you spent your whole life dreaming of being launched into space, one year of traveling should be a cake flight.
2. We may be one step closer to winning the ultimate game of hide-and-seek
If aliens are the competition, then Steven Hawking thinks we're about to smoke 'em.
Hawking is part of a project searching for intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, and the first place he and a team of researchers are checking is under the icy surfaces of exoplanets.
A study led by Dr. Lena Noack of the Royal Observatory of Belgium concluded that if there is enough heat given off by a planets' interior, water can stay liquid deep under the icy surface and support alien life.
According to scientists, two known exoplanets, Kepler 62e and 62f, could have such oceans below their icy surface ... the only question we have to answer now is, is this a game of hide-and-seek we're ready to win?
1. Scientists just found ionized oxygen in an ancient galaxy and IT'S A BIG DEAL
Astronomers have found traces of the most distant oxygen ever discovered in the galaxy, which could help us learn more about a mysterious period in our universe's past.
A team or researchers discovered the ionized oxygen in a galaxy called SXDF-NB1006-2 that sits 13.1 billion light-years away from Earth.
But why should I care? We're glad you asked!
For as much as we know about the universe, the way the first galaxies (and pretty much everything else, for that matter) formed is still kind of a big mystery.
Astronomers are trying to piece together this mystery by studying the chemical composition of early-universe galaxies. Specifically they're looking for traces of heavy elements, or in this case, anything besides hydrogen or helium.
"Seeking heavy elements in the early universe is an essential approach to explore the star formation activity in that period," lead researcher Akio Inoue said in a press release. "Studying heavy elements also gives us a hint to understand how the galaxies were formed and what caused the cosmic reionization."
The presence of any ionized oxygen suggests lots of luminous, giant stars formed inside this galaxy and emitted enough ultraviolet light to ionize the oxygen.
"This is an important step towards understanding what kind of objects caused cosmic reionization," astronomer Yoichi Tamura said in the press release. "Higher resolution observations will allow us to see the distribution and motion of ionized oxygen in the galaxy and provide vital information to help us understand the properties of the galaxy."
That's all for now folks -- have a stellar week.