This year was filled lots of cosmic stories from the latest in NASA innovations to the great American solar eclipse. Here are the best celestial stories of 2017.
Why the 2024 total solar eclipse may 'outshine' 2017
Only during totality can you safely remove your eclipse glasses without fear of damaging your retinas. (Photo: AJ Mangoba/flickr)
Looking back on 2017, there was one space event that was brighter than the rest.
The total solar eclipse in August spanned the United States from Washington to South Carolina and was the first one in the country in more than 100 years. People all over the country bought solar eclipse glasses, and many drove hundreds of miles to find the best viewing spot. A solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the Earth and sun and casts its shadow on the planet.
The next one occurs on April 8, 2024, a brief intermission of only seven years, and will cut a path from Mexico to Texas to Maine and the maritime provinces of Canada. While the 2024 total solar eclipse will certainly offer new opportunities for those states missing out on 2017's lauded "path of totality," it's the duration of totality that will have eclipse-o-philes counting down the days.
For the 2017 eclipse, the duration of totality lasted between 20 seconds (over Kansas City, Kansas) to a maximum of two minutes and 40 seconds (over Carbondale, Illinois). The 2024 eclipse by comparison will average just under 4 minutes (4 minutes 27 seconds in Texas) along the path of totality.
NASA reinvents the wheel using chain mail
Flat tires are frustrating for anyone, but they're especially frustrating for NASA. After all, if a rover or a vehicle breaks down on an extraterrestrial surface, you can't call AAA.
So when the Mars Curiosity rover's tire started cracking after traveling only 10 miles, NASA needed to come up with a long-term solution. Chain mail was the perfect material. The chain mail tire is made up of stoichiometric nickel titanium, an alloy that remembers its original shape after it has rolled over something.
The sun may have an evil twin with a flare for mass extinction
We've always been told the sun is the only one of its kind in space — the brightest light in our solar system. But just like a scene out of a "Star Wars" movie, a new scientific model revealed that the sun has an evil family member — a twin named Nemesis. And it sure does live up to its name.
The data suggests stars like the sun typically have a consort, another star locked in orbit, commonly called a binary. The sun’s binary, like Nemesis, may be responsible for wreaking havoc in our solar system, including snuffing out life on Earth every 26 million years or so. In other words, he’s the brother who rarely visits, but when he does, he can’t leave soon enough.
Twins study: Space travel changes our genes
Many twins are not only identical but also share similar interests and personality traits. But if one twin went to space? How would their bodies differ if one of them spent a long period of time in zero gravity?
NASA conducted a year-long study on twin astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly, and the findings were astounding. Astronaut Scott Kelly was chosen to serve aboard the International Space Station from March 2015 to March 2016. Mark Kelly, who is also a former NASA astronaut, remained on Earth.
Preliminary results from the study have revealed that space travel changes how genes are expressed and how stomach bacteria changes.
Half of our bodies' atoms are from a galaxy far, far away
The idea of traveling to space is a far-fetched daydream for many people. But did you know that part of you already comes from outer space?
A groundbreaking new study suggests that half the atoms that make up the human body literally sailed here from beyond the Milky Way. After poring over 3-D models of evolving galaxies, a Northwestern team concluded that atoms likely hitched a ride on galactic winds — hyper-charged gases that race at hundreds of miles per second.
The theory is that galactic winds helped push speeding "stardust" from their own galaxies into bigger neighboring ones, where they were recruited for the factory of creation.
Can't get enough celestial stories? Check out MNN's space page for more out-of-this-world content!