Vote Now! Best Space Stories of the Week – Dec. 22, 2013

Gaia Liftoff, Titan's Seas and More

NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/USGS

Last week, Europe launched its galaxy-mapping Gaia spacecraft, Iran claimed to launch a monkey into space and scientists plumbed the depths of the Saturn moon Titan's hydrocarbon lakes and seas. See the best stories from last week here.

FIRST STOP: Europe Launches Gaia, Its Billion-Star Surveyor

Europe Launches Gaia, Its Billion-Star Surveyor

ESA–S. Corvaja, 2013

Europe's Gaia spacecraft lifted off from French Guiana Thursday (Dec. 19), carried aloft by a Russian Soyuz-Fregat rocket. Gaia is on its way to a gravitationally stable point about 930,000 miles from Earth, which it should reach in three weeks. Over the next five years, Gaia will precisely map 1 billion Milky Way stars, allowing scientists to create a high-resolution galactic map.

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NEXT: Iran Claims to Launch Monkey to Space

Iran Claims to Launch Monkey to Space

Produced by Newsy, powered by Newslook

Iran successfully launched its second monkey into space Saturday (Dec. 14), landing it safely on Earth after a 15-minute ride, according to Iranian officials.

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NEXT: Geminid Meteor Shower Wows Skywatchers

Geminid Meteor Shower Wows Skywatchers

Cody Limber

Skywatchers were treated to an amazing cosmic show over the weekend during the Geminid meteor shower, one of the most incredible meteor displays of the year.

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NEXT: Scientists Aim to Take 1st Image of Black Hole

Scientists Aim to Take 1st Image of Black Hole

© M. Moscibrodzka & H. Falcke, Radboud-Universität Nimwegen

The European Research Council has given $19.3 million to a project that aims to peer at the supermassive black hole at the core of the Milky Way and image its event horizon — the theorized boundary beyond which nothing, not even light, can escape.

[Full Story]

NEXT: Holiday Spacewalks Required to Fix Space Station Cooling System

Holiday Spacewalks Required to Fix Space Station Cooling System

NASA TV

Repairing a problem with the International Space Station's vital cooling system will require spacewalks on Dec. 21, Dec. 23 and possibly Dec. 25 as well, NASA officials say.

[Full Story]

NEXT: Exoplanet Possibly Spotted Orbiting Nearby 'Failed Stars'

Exoplanet Possibly Spotted Orbiting Nearby 'Failed Stars'

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Gemini Observatory/AURA/NSF

Astronomers have spotted signs of a possible exoplanet in a nearby system of twin failed stars. If confirmed, the alien world would be one of the closest to our sun ever found.

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NEXT: NASA Recreates Famous 1968 'Earthrise' Photo

NASA Recreates Famous 1968 'Earthrise' Photo

NASA/GSFC

It is one of the most famous photos ever taken — the Earth rising over the moon's horizon as seen firsthand by the 1968 Apollo 8 crew. And yet, more than four decades later, details about the how photo was captured are still being uncovered.

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NEXT: Private Mars Mission Will Beam Video from Red Planet to Earth

Private Mars Mission Will Beam Video from Red Planet to Earth

Bryan Versteeg /Mars One Foundation

The nonprofit organization Mars One plans to bring live video from the surface of Mars to Earth, via a lander and orbiter to launch as part of an unmanned mission in 2018.

[Full Story]

NEXT: Winter Solstice: Sun Stands Still on Dec. 21

Winter Solstice: Sun Stands Still on Dec. 21

Daniel McVey/www.danielmcvey.com

The sun paused on Dec. 21 at its southernmost location in the sky and began moving north again. This day provided folks in the Northern Hemisphere their least amount of sunlight all year, while it was the longest day for people south of the equator.

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NEXT: Scientists Plumb Depths of Titan's Hydrocarbon Seas

Scientists Plumb Depths of Titan's Hydrocarbon Seas

NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/USGS

Saturn's largest moon Titan harbors about 2,000 cubic miles of liquid methane and ethane on its frigid surface, new observations by NASA's Cassini orbiter suggest. The hydrocarbons are contained in an area near Titan's north pole that's just 660,000 square miles in size, a region slightly larger than Alaska.

[Full Story]

NEXT: In Memoriam: Spacecraft We Loved and Lost in 2013

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