Summer 2020 has been exciting for stargazers. They have been treated to a once-in-a-lifetime visit from comet NEOWISE and had the rare opportunity to observe five planets and a full moon simultaneously, among other celestial events. Now, to top it all off, come the Perseids — the biggest and most spectacular meteor showers of the year.
SpaceX's first-ever passenger flight to the International Space Station (ISS) ended successfully on August 2, 2020, when Crew Dragon Endeavour splashed into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida. After a series of safety checks, the recovery teams unlocked the capsule's hatch and quickly whisked the spacecraft's precious cargo — NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley — to shore. During their total 64 days in space, the astronaut duo completed 1,024 orbits around Earth and traveled 27,147,284 miles.
Scattered across the ocean bed, and often hidden from the human eye, are hundreds, or perhaps even thousands, of "blue holes." The massive underwater sinkholes, which host a diverse biological community — ranging from coral to sponges to sharks to sea turtles — were formed thousands of years ago when groundwater dissolved karst, a type of porous limestone rock found on ocean floors.
American civil rights leader and U.S. Representative John Lewis (D-GA) passed away on July 17, 2020, following a seven-month battle with pancreatic cancer. The 80-year-old dedicated his life to building what he called "The Beloved Community" in America — first as a civil rights leader and then as a lawmaker advocating, for reforms on issues from gun control to health care.
Over the years, there have been numerous attempts to create "glow-in-the-dark" plants. However, none of the approaches — which included infusing plants with nanoparticles of the luciferins and enzymes needed for the phenomenon to occur, or incorporating them with bacterial bioluminescence genes – proved feasible.
Even those not normally interested in astronomy will find it hard to resist NEOWISE, the brightest comet to grace our skies since the 1997 appearance of Comet Hale-Bopp. The spectacular cosmic snowball of frozen gas, rock, and dust has been visible to those willing to wake up before dawn since early July. However, it has now risen high in the evening skies and can be viewed with the unaided eye by even the most casual stargazer.
The solar system is about to get busy! In the next few weeks, a slew of spacecraft will embark on a one-way journey to Mars, to seek evidence of past life and to further investigate its unusual atmosphere. The back-to-back missions are timed to take advantage of the short window of opportunity — caused by celestial mechanics — that will allow them to reach the Red Planet in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.
A massive dust cloud that had been journeying 5,000 miles from the Sahara Desert across the Atlantic Ocean since June 15, 2020, finally hit the United States mainland on June 26, 2020. Nicknamed "Godzilla," the 3,500 mile-long plume broke into two chunks, thanks to the split in the mid-levels of the atmosphere.