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The top space stories of the week!

A composite image of the effects of our Milky Way galaxy's monster black hole.
(Image credit: NASA, ESA, and Gerald Cecil (UNC-Chapel Hill); Image Processing: Joseph DePasquale (STScI))

Astronomers view the brightest "Cow" supernova to ever be seen in X-ray observations, NASA's InSight Mars lander goes into safe mode as it endures a dust storm and Jupiter's polar cyclones share similarities with Earth's oceans. These are some of the top stories this week from 

Astronomers spot possible 'exomoon' orbiting a planet outside the solar system

An artist's depiction of an exomoon orbiting exoplanet Kepler 1708 b.

(Image credit: Helena Valenzuela Widerström)

Beyond our solar system, a distant moon smaller than Neptune is orbiting a planet about the size of Jupiter. The new research that produced this finding is the second exomoon candidate observation made to date. The field of exolunar science is still quite young, but can one day give scientists a new understanding about how stellar and planetary systems work across the galaxy. 

Full story: The hunt is on for exomoons around alien planets and scientists may have just found one 

Astronomers spot the brightest-known 'Cow' supernova

An artist's conception comparing a normal supernova to a cow supernova.

(Image credit: Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF)

There is a certain type of powerful supernova known as a Cow class event. When stars explode at the end of their lives, they go out in a massive blast but can also leave behind a remnant. These leftovers are very active in Cow supernovas, emitting high amounts of X-ray radiation. Astronomers recently spotted the brightest Cow supernova ever seen in X-rays.

Full story: 'Cow' supernova is brightest ever seen in X-ray observations

See also: 'Mini' monster black hole discovered hiding in a dwarf galaxy

The last eight years have been the hottest ones on record

A map of tropical water vapor from NASA. Research on water vapor and other climate features suggests that satellite measurements might have underestimated past warming.

(Image credit: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)

Last year was the sixth hottest year on record and the last eight years have been the hottest ever, according to an announcement made on Thursday (Jan. 13) by experts from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The ocean heat content in 2021 was also the highest since records began six decades ago, according to one expert. Powerful storms fueled by rising global temperatures have also led to the deaths of 600 people just in the U.S. alone. 

Full story: 2021 saw record temperatures and deaths from natural disasters, NASA, NOAA reveal 

InSight goes into safe mode as it braves a Martian dust storm

Artist impression of Mars Insight.

(Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA's InSight lander is currently in safe mode as it rides out a dust storm on Mars. The spacecraft, which is designed to study the Red Planet's interior, initiated safe mode on Jan. 7. The regional dust storm is blocking InSight's solar panels from charging, but the mission team says InSight's power is holding steady. 

Full story: NASA's InSight Mars lander hunkering down in Red Planet dust storm

NASA may need more astronauts to accomplish moon and Mars missions

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei seen during a spacewalk conducted in 2017.

(Image credit: NASA)

A report released on Tuesday (Jan. 11) said that NASA may need more astronauts to meet the spacefaring goals it has set for itself in the coming years. The Office of Investigator General evaluated how NASA manages its astronaut corps, and in its new report, the office concluded that missions to the moon or to Mars would require more astronauts. Currently, NASA only flies astronauts to the International Space Station.

Full story: NASA may need more astronauts for space station, moon missions, report says

The Milky Way's central supermassive black hole has a 'blowtorch-like jet,' says NASA

A composite image of the effects of our Milky Way galaxy's monster black hole.

(Image credit: NASA, ESA, and Gerald Cecil (UNC-Chapel Hill); Image Processing: Joseph DePasquale (STScI))

The Hubble Space Telescope captured the sight of bright radiation and heated gas near the supermassive black hole found at the Milky Way's center. This gargantuan black hole, dubbed Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*), has been emitting jet-like superheated beams for thousands of years. Scientists were able to observe the effects of these leaking beams on its surroundings, providing evidence of the jet's existence. 

Full story: The Milky Way's supermassive black hole is leaking gas

People want to know what NASA's new space telescope will photograph first

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, seen here in an artist's illustration, deployed its final primary mirror segment on Jan. 8, 2022, a critical milestone for its mission to study the universe.

(Image credit: NASA)

The James Webb Space Telescope is a highly-anticipated scientific mission and, naturally, people are excited to see what its first images will be like. In a Jan. 8 press conference, Webb's operations project scientist said that the next-generation space telescope's first images would probably be "ugly" and "blurry," because the spacecraft's 18 hexagonal mirror segments will need to be aligned correctly in a process that involves taking images. 

Full story: What will the James Webb Space Telescope look at first?

See also: NASA's newly launched X-ray space telescope is ready to start observing the cosmos

Plus: Powerful European Earth-observation satellite suffers anomaly in orbit

Jupiter's polar cyclones share similarities with Earth's oceans

A multitude of swirling clouds in Jupiter's dynamic North Temperate Belt is captured in this image from NASA's Juno spacecraft.

(Image credit: NASA)

A research team led by an oceanographer found striking similarities between the way water moves on Earth and how cyclones churn at Jupiter's north pole. Their analysis, which involved looking at imagery taken by NASA's Juno spacecraft, found that similar forces generate these two phenomena. Jupiter's polar cyclones are massive and can stretch up to 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) across. 

Full story: Juno solves mystery of what drives Jupiter's polar cyclones 

SpaceX launches 105 small satellites and its rocket safely lands back on Earth

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket lifting off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station to deliver a batch of more than 100 cubesats into orbit.

(Image credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX performed its second rocket launch of 2022 on Thursday (Jan. 13), lofting 105 small satellites into space for the Transporter-3 mission. This flight marks SpaceX's third dedicated rideshare mission. The two-stage Falcon 9 rocket that carried the satellites into Earth orbit touched down on a landing pad about nine minutes after launching from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. 

Full story: SpaceX launches 105 small satellites into orbit, nails rocket landing 

Virgin Orbit delivers 7 satellites to Earth orbit

Virgin Orbit's carrier plane, Cosmic Girl, lifts off from Mojave Air and Space Port on Jan. 13, 2022, with the company's LauncherOne rocket under one wing.

(Image credit: Virgin Orbit)

Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne rocket delivered seven satellites into Earth orbit on Thursday (Jan. 13). To reach an altitude at which it could deploy the small payloads, LauncherOne rode under the wing of Virgin Orbit's Cosmic Girl carrier aircraft. This modified Boeing 747 lifted off from Mojave Air and Space Port in Southern California, flew over a patch of the Pacific Ocean and then released LauncherOne at an altitude of roughly 35,000 feet (10,700 meters). LauncherOne then powered itself to orbit. 

Full story: Virgin Orbit sends 7 satellites to orbit in fourth mid-air launch

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Doris Elin Urrutia

Doris is a science journalist and contributor. She received a B.A. in Sociology and Communications at Fordham University in New York City. Her first work was published in collaboration with London Mining Network, where her love of science writing was born. Her passion for astronomy started as a kid when she helped her sister build a model solar system in the Bronx. She got her first shot at astronomy writing as a editorial intern and continues to write about all things cosmic for the website. Doris has also written about microscopic plant life for Scientific American’s website and about whale calls for their print magazine. She has also written about ancient humans for Inverse, with stories ranging from how to recreate Pompeii’s cuisine to how to map the Polynesian expansion through genomics. She currently shares her home with two rabbits. Follow her on twitter at @salazar_elin.