Will 2022 be the year of the James Webb Space Telescope? We hope so, but for now, let’s reflect on these incredible achievements in space, astronomy and exploration in 2021, a year that saw the era of space tourism and the launch of private space travel. .
It’s also the one that landed NASA on Mars, its Juno to Jupiter spacecraft continues to send back jaw-dropping images, and a few jaw-dropping solar and lunar eclipses are happening here on Earth.
Here is everything you need to know about space and astronomical events in 2021 in 10 incredible photos:
A $ 50,000 solar eclipse in Antarctica
A total solar eclipse from Antarctica? It is a rare event that only occurs once every 18 years. The 1 minute 55 second event around 0700 UTC was marred by low and high clouds in the Scotia Sea, but seen by a group at Union Glacier camp, each paying $ 50,000 for the privilege.
NASA’s Perseverance rover lands on Mars
NASA’s Perseverance rover landed safely on Mars on February 18, 2021, and in doing so posted a special message. In one of the most visually impactful parts of the incredible video of its dramatic landing on Mars, the deployment of the rover’s red and orange parachute, which NASA just revealed, displays a binary code that reads: “Dare Mighty Things “.
A “Christmas comet” has appeared
Comet Leonard – the long-awaited brilliant “Christmas Comet” – lit up as it approached the Earth and the Sun. Although it was never bright enough to be seen through binoculars, it has been expertly photographed by astrophotographers including Tara Mostofi from California (pictured above).
The billionaire space race begins
How much would you pay for a trip to space? In July 2021, Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson flew over 80 kilometers above the Earth’s surface, weightless for eight minutes in his supersonic plane. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos did something similar days later in his company’s Blue Origin capsule and rocket.
“Captain Kirk” has finally reached space
Although Virgin Galactic delayed commercial flights until the end of 2022, Blue Origin performed three other human flights, including William Shatner, the actor who played Captain Kirk in Star trek. At 90, he has become the oldest person to visit space.
While tickets to Virgin Galactic cost $ 450,000, sources tell me that Blue Origin cost $ 14 million for a specific scheduled flight and $ 1.5 million to get on the waitlist. Both experiments last less than 12 minutes.
The era of private space missions begins
The start in 2021 of private space missions was arguably more significant on a macro scale. The Inspiration4 mission, the first fully civilian mission to orbit our planet, was launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 reusable rocket in September, sending four people into orbit for three days in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule called Resilience. The mission was a fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Expect three more such missions in 2022.
Two “blood moons” in America
In the early hours of May 26, 2021, a total lunar eclipse, also known as the “Blood Moon”, was visible from North America. Also “super moon”, it was one of the astronomical highlights of 2021. In November, it was matched – or almost – by a partial lunar eclipse of 97%.
Jupiter’s giant moon captured
NASA’s Juno spacecraft in Jupiter completed its mission in 2021, but luckily another has been added. With an orbital adjustment, he was able to fly over the solar system’s largest moon, Ganymede, which is larger than the planet Mercury, with future overflights planned for Europe (September 29, 2022) and the volcanic moon of Jupiter d ‘Io (December 30, 2022). 2023 and 3 February 2024).
the Veil Nebula revealed
In March 2021, new processing techniques were applied to an old image from the Hubble Space Telescope to produce this stunning new view of the Veil Nebula. The Veil Nebula is located approximately 2,100 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus (the Swan), making it a relatively close neighbor in astronomical terms. New after-treatment methods have improved the details of the emissions of double-ionized oxygen (seen here in blue), ionized hydrogen, and ionized nitrogen (seen here in red).
Parker solar probe “touches the sun”
For the first time in history, a spacecraft flew over the Sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona. Scientists were able to predict where the Sun’s upper atmosphere began, and the Parker Solar probe was able to penetrate it for about five hours. “We can actually see the spacecraft flying through coronal structures that can be seen during a total solar eclipse,” said Nour Raouafi, Parker Project scientist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.
I wish you clear skies and big eyes.