China is one step closer to leading the search for alien radio signals. On Sunday the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) announced that the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) has begun operations. FAST takes over the title of world’s largest radio telescope from the 305-meter Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.
The asteroids that are whizzing around our little corner of space are basically the crumbs left over from the formation of the solar system, and that means they have a lot to tell us about those early years. Now, scientists have studied a particularly weird space rock and found that it’s the oldest known igneous meteorite, dating back to one of the very first volcanic eruptions in the solar system.
After almost four decades of dormancy, NASA has successfully ordered the Voyager 1 deep space probe to fire a set of thrusters that have been inactive for 37 years. The November 28 test was carried out by mission control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, as part of an effort to keep the unmanned explorer functional for up to an additional three years as it speeds into interstellar space.
Virgin Galactic’s manned spaceplane has hit another milestone, breaking Mach 2 as it roared into the mesosphere. With test pilots Dave Mackay and Mike “Sooch” Masucci at the controls, VSS Unity was released from the mothership VMS Eve at an altitude of 46,500 ft (14,200 m) before firing its hybrid rocket engine for 42 seconds to power it to 170,800 ft (32.3 mi, 52 km) and a speed of Mach 2.47 (1,832 mph, 2,948 km/h).
Pioneering theoretical physicist and science popularizer Stephen Hawking has passed away at the age of 76. Details have not been released yet, but the BBC reports that his children Lucy, Robert and Tim have released a statement saying, “We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today. He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years.”