What Are Some Space Discoveries Made in the 2010s?


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In 2011, astronomers discovered HD85512b, a planet approximately 36 light years away that appears to exhibit many Earth-like qualities. Later that year, a NASA probe orbiting the Vesta asteroid led to the discovery of a 13-mile high mountain responsible for scattered asteroid debris around the world. In 2012, the Voyager 1 officially crossed into interstellar space, making it the first spacecraft to leave the solar system.

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Astronomers in Chile located planet HD85512b orbiting an orange dwarf star using the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher, or HARPS. Radial velocity relies on starlight fluctuations to find areas where the star may be affected by the gravitational pull of nearby worlds. The HARPS data indicates that HD85512b is roughly 3.6 times larger than Earth in mass, and its orbital position is ideal for liquid water to form. A research team estimated that the mystery planet would need at least 50 percent cloud cover to regulate overheating and enable habitability.

In July 2011, the Dawn spacecraft entered Vesta's orbit, revealing that a mountain 2.5 times taller than Mount Everest protrudes from the asteroid. Meteorite fragments from Vesta have been collected around the globe, and researchers believe some form of impact triggered the mountain's formation, causing rock fragments to break off and fall to Earth.

Voyager 1 was originally launched in 1977 and wandered more than 11.66 billion miles away from the Sun by 2013. The passage occurred on Aug. 25, 2012. Scientists were able to confirm the event by observing solar storms near the solar system boundary, indicating the spacecraft traveled through the solar wind separating the Sun's orbit from interstellar space.

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