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These and many others have given astronomers the opportunity to excavate previously unseen exoplanets from the vast blackness of the universe.

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Though we'd spotted some exoplanets over the two previous decades, in the s they seemed to be everywhere, including some that look an awful lot like Earth. In , Kepler f , an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone with brilliant red and orange sunsets, was discovered. In addition, we spotted Trappist-1, a star orbited by several Earth-like planets , in , and even a possible Earth cousin orbiting the nearest star beyond our sun, Proxima Centauri, in This ability to observe space in a new way has ushered in the nascent field of multi-messenger astronomy that could further unlock the secrets of the universe.

Beyond that, astronomers continued to investigate some persistent space mysteries, like the fleeting, enigmatic signals from across the universe known as fast radio bursts.

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New evidence was presented for the possible existence of an unseen ninth planet in the far reaches of the solar system Pluto was re-classified as a dwarf planet in and we also learned more about the nature of the most powerful of all monsters: black holes. In , astronomers discovered black holes dating back to the earliest days of the universe , and in the first image was taken of a black hole with the help of the Event Horizon Telescope, eight radio telescopes around the world coordinating to form a planet-sized super telescope.

This groundbreaking view also confirmed Einstein's theory of gravity.

The One Story Told Around The World: When Saturn, Venus, And Mars Ruled The Sky

The s were a good decade for him, over a century after he and his most famous theories first rose to prominence. There were also a few new mysteries, like stars that dim in an odd and unpredictable way and that weird visit from Oumuamua , an interstellar oblong space rock that seemed to speed up inexplicably on its way back out to deep space. After a few checks, it doesn't seem that either was the work of aliens. The decade didn't yield actual aliens anywhere -- UFOs, perhaps , but certainly no confirmed close encounters.

Reaching the nearest exoplanet would require inventing some sort of breakthrough propulsion technology to travel at or near the speed of light and then spending several years traversing the 24 trillion miles 39 trillion kilometers to get there. But the past decade has brought a big push to make the Star Trek warp-speed lifestyle a reality. Elon Musk, the Mars-obsessed CEO of SpaceX , has taken his startup from just another NASA launch contractor to the outfit with perhaps the best shot at making humans a "multiplanetary species," as he likes to say.

At the end of , SpaceX launched a Dragon capsule into orbit and brought it back to Earth, the first private organization to do so. Nine years later, SpaceX and Blue Origin have gone several steps further. Both have pioneered and perfected the reusable rocket, the beginning of the end of decades in which NASA and other agencies dumped boosters into the ocean after just one use. By driving down the cost of getting to orbit, the recyclable rocket has been nothing short of a revolution in how we access space, making it easier for satellites large and small to get to orbit.

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Musk also got lots of attention by strapping three rockets together and using the Falcon Heavy lift system to send his personal Tesla towards Mars in But more importantly, the new launch and landing systems have Musk and others dreaming big about space again. He wants to build a metropolis on Mars , start super-quick international flight service between destinations on Earth via space and launch Starlink, a mega-constellation of up to 42, small satellites in low-Earth orbit blanketing the planet with broadband service.


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Meanwhile, Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic are just about ready to begin regularly taking tourists to space after a decade of ups and downs. Space has been more than just a canvas for a handful of super-rich dudes to project their childhood dreams upon. Over the past 19 years publicly funded robotic missions fanned out across the solar system, and beyond.

NASA's Dawn became the first spacecraft to orbit an asteroid in , and four years later it went on to check out the dwarf planet Ceres and its mysterious bright spots , which appear to be reflective salt deposits. The European Space Agency achieved some firsts of its own in , sending its Rosetta probe to orbit a comet and landing another craft named Philae on the icy surface. It sent back some pretty amazing images as it rode the interloper bareback through the solar system. Before finally ending with a death plunge into Saturn, NASA's Cassini mission explored the gas giant's fascinating rings and moons and even flew through the icy plumes erupting into space from the subsurface ocean of the Saturnian moon Enceladus.

It's hidden in the subsurface oceans of Jupiter's moons Europa and Ganymede, in the red slopes of Mars and even in the atmosphere of a distant exoplanet. Remarkably, another place that might be hiding a liquid ocean is the frozen surface of Pluto. This supposition comes courtesy of New Horizons, a NASA probe that flew by the dwarf planet in and returned images of a world far more dynamic and diverse than the distant snowball many long assumed it to be. We're talking a world of methane snow, possible nuclear volcanoes and even hazy blue skies.

From rovers on Mars to an orbiting Tesla, this decade revolutionized how we see space - CNET

The New Horizons probe soldiered on, visiting the strange space rock Ultima Thule and following in the footsteps of Voyager 1, which left the solar system crossing into interstellar space in NASA's third Martian rover landed on Mars in and has been roving around all that ochre dirt and sand ever since. The landing was a high-drama affair that made celebrities of NASA scientists remember Bobak, the "mohawk guy? And for years since, Curiosity has been sending back both high-resolution images and data about a foreign world that we just might visit in person one day soon.

Other space agencies have also been pushing the limits in recent years. This prospect would have alarmed Hansen several years earlier; it still made him uneasy. But he was beginning to understand that politics offered freedoms that the rigors of the scientific ethic denied. The political realm was itself a kind of Mirror World, a parallel reality that crudely mimicked our own. It shared many of our most fundamental laws, like the laws of gravity and inertia and publicity. And if you applied enough pressure, the Mirror World of politics could be sped forward to reveal a new future.

Hansen was beginning to understand that too. But in the fall of , the climate issue entered an especially long, dark winter. And all because of a single report that had done nothing to change the state of climate science but transformed the state of climate politics. A team of scientist-dignitaries — among them Revelle, the Princeton modeler Syukuro Manabe and the Harvard political economist Thomas Schelling, one of the intellectual architects of Cold War game theory — would review the literature, evaluate the consequences of global warming for the world order and propose remedies.

Then Reagan won the White House. There could be no climate policy, Fred Koomanoff and his associates said, until the academy ruled. A careful, comprehensive solution was being devised. On Oct. They were eager to learn how the United States planned to act, so they could prepare for the inevitable policy debates. Rafe Pomerance was eager, too. Its scope was impressive: It was the first study to encompass the causes, effects and geopolitical consequences of climate change.

The authors did try to imagine some of them: an ice-free Arctic, for instance, and Boston sinking into its harbor, Beacon Hill an island two miles off the coast. He argued the opposite: There was no urgent need for action. Better to bet on American ingenuity to save the day.

Major interventions in national energy policy, taken immediately, might end up being more expensive, and less effective, than actions taken decades in the future, after more was understood about the economic and social consequences of a warmer planet. Yes, the climate would change, mostly for the worst, but future generations would be better equipped to change with it.

The reporters and staff members listened politely to the presentation and took dutiful notes, as at any technical briefing. Government officials who knew Nierenberg were not surprised by his conclusions: He was an optimist by training and experience, a devout believer in the doctrine of American exceptionalism, one of the elite class of scientists who had helped the nation win a global war, invent the most deadly weapon conceivable and create the booming aerospace and computer industries.


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America had solved every existential problem it had confronted over the previous generation; it would not be daunted by an excess of carbon dioxide. Nobody believed that he had been directly influenced by his political connections, but his views — optimistic about the saving graces of market forces, pessimistic about the value of government regulation — reflected all the ardor of his party. He worried about the dark undertow of industrial advancement, the way every new technological superpower carried within it unintended consequences that, if unchecked over time, eroded the foundations of society.

New technologies had not solved the clean-air and clean-water crises of the s. Activism and organization, leading to robust government regulation, had. He felt that he was the only sane person in a briefing room gone mad. It was wrong. A colleague told him to calm down. Exxon soon revised its position on climate-change research.

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Edward David Jr. The American Petroleum Institute canceled its own carbon-dioxide research program, too. It lacked a unifying cause. Climate change, Pomerance believed, could be that cause. But its insubstantiality made it difficult to rally the older activists, whose strategic model relied on protests at sites of horrific degradation — Love Canal, Hetch Hetchy, Three Mile Island. How did you protest when the toxic waste dump was the entire planet or, worse, its invisible atmosphere?

Pomerance acted cheerful at home, fooling his kids. She worried about his health. Near the end of his tenure at Friends of the Earth, a doctor found that he had an abnormally high heart rate. Pomerance planned to take a couple of months to reflect on what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.