We’re joining forces with our colleagues at Spaceflight Now to provide live coverage of the New Horizons spacecraft’s flyby of 2014 MU69 — also known as Ultima Thule — in the Kuiper Belt a billion miles beyond Pluto. Text updates will appear automatically below. Follow us on Twitter.
Japan’s Akatsuki spacecraft got another shot at Venus after a main engine failure during a crucial orbital-insertion burn meant it zipped past the planet on its first attempt in December 2010. The probe spent five years orbiting the Sun so it could catch up with Venus to try again on 7 December. The successful nail-biting manoeuvre is being celebrated by NASA scientists, eager to learn more about the atmosphere and climate of Earth’s enigmatic sister planet.
The space environment around a planet plays a key role in determining what molecules exist in the atmosphere – and whether the planet is habitable for life. New research shows that Venus has an “electric wind” strong enough to remove the components of water from its upper atmosphere, which may have played a significant role in stripping Earth’s twin planet of its oceans.