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Asteroid missions on track to reach their destinations in 2018

18 January 2018 Stephen Clark

Pioneering spacecraft from NASA and the Japanese space agency promise to reveal two unexplored asteroids later this year, officials said Wednesday, beginning surveys that will culminate in daring descents to capture samples for return to Earth, where eager scientists await a hands-on look at the specimens.

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Japan’s Hitomi observatory made cosmic discovery before failing

12 July 2016 Stephen Clark

Japan’s doomed Hitomi observatory peeled back a veil on the inner workings of the Perseus cluster of galaxies before the satellite spun out of control earlier this year, revealing in unprecedented detail how gas heated to millions of degrees behaves around an unseen supermassive black hole, scientists said.

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Mystery solved: Martian moons formed by a giant impact

5 July 2016 Astronomy Now

Where did the two natural satellites of Mars, Phobos and Deimos, come from? For a long time, their shape suggested that they were captured asteroids. However, the shape and course of their orbits contradict this hypothesis. Two independent and complementary studies now provide an answer: these satellites formed from the debris of a gigantic collision between Mars and a protoplanet one-third its size.