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The top space stories of the week!

Smoke from wildfires is changing the color of the sun and the moon in skies across the United States, Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket launches four people into suborbital space and NASA's Juno spacecraft is listening to the dynamics between Jupiter and its volcanic moon Io. These are some of the top stories this week from 

Smoke from wildfires is changing the apparent color of the moon and sun. 

Amateur astronomer and astrophotographer Bill Funcheon captured this photo of the red moon  over NJ on July 20, 2021.  (Image credit: Bill Funcheon)

People across the United States noticed this week that the sun and the moon are tinged with a red color. This effect is caused by the ongoing Bootleg wildfire in Oregon, which has released smoke that travels and blankets the continental United States in its haze. The Bootleg wildfire began on July 6 and has burned through 400,389 acres as of Friday (July 23). 

Full story: Wildfires are turning the sun and moon red

New Shepard spacecraft launches four people on a quick suborbital flight. 

Blue Origin’s New Shepard lifts-off from the launch pad carrying Jeff Bezos along with his brother Mark Bezos, 18-year-old Oliver Daemen, and 82-year-old Wally Funk on July 20, 2021 in Van Horn, Texas. (Image credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Billionaire Jeff Bezos, Mercury 13 member Wally Funk, and two other passengers flew to suborbital space on Tuesday (July 20). They traveled onboard the autonomous New Shepard rocket from Blue Origin, the spaceflight company founded by Bezos. New Shepard launched from Blue Origin's Launch Site One near the West Texas town of Van Horn. The entire trip took about 10 minutes. 

Full story: Jeff Bezos launches into space on Blue Origin's 1st astronaut flight

See also: Aviation pioneer Wally Funk, the oldest person to fly in space, can't wait to go back after Blue Origin launch

Plus: Oregon congressman proposes new space tourism tax

First moon-making disk identified around a distant planet. 

The PDS 70 system captured by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) (Image credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/Benisty et al.)

For the first time, astronomers have observed a moon-forming disk around a distant planet. Known as a circumplanetary disk, this ring of material are the building blocks of a planet's moons. This particular disk is about 500 times larger than Saturn's rings. 

Full story: Astronomers spot 1st moon-forming disk around an alien world

Scientists imagine a new future for the Arecibo Telescope. 

Arecibo Observatory's cable-suspended science platform, as seen before damage accrued in 2020. (Image credit: UCF)

Scientists have come together to imagine the future of the Arecibo Telescope in Puerto Rico, which collapsed in December 2020. One option is a new ambitious design called the Next Generation Arecibo Telescope, which came together just two months after the collapse. The National Science Foundation owns the site and it hasn't decided how to proceed. There is equipment on the site that is functioning properly, however, and some antennas of one experiment are repairable. 

Full story: Scientists want to build a new, very different Arecibo Telescope to replace fallen icon

NASA's Juno spacecraft listening to Io's interaction with Jupiter. 

A 180-mile-high plume of the volcano near Io's north pole. (Image credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

Io and other moons orbiting Jupiter are caught in a tug-of-war with the gas giant because of its gravity. In Io's case, this interaction causes hundreds of volcanic eruptions. Some of this spewed material splits into electrically-charged subatomic particles that reach Jupiter. NASA's Juno spacecraft is currently using its Waves instrument to listen for the radio emissions produced by this phenomenon. 

Full story: Jupiter's volcanic moon Io is emitting strange radio waves and NASA's Juno probe is listening

Trace Gas Orbiter finds no signs of methane on Mars. 

The European Space Agency's Trace Gas Orbiter has detected no signs of methane in the atmosphere of Mars in more than two and a half years of measurements. (Image credit: ESA)

Methane is a gas that, on Earth, can be produced by living organisms or generated in geological processes. Researchers looking to detect methane on Mars looked at more than 2.5 years of observations from the Trace Gas Orbiter mission and found no traces of methane on Mars. The Trace Gas Orbiter arrived at Mars in 2016 and is a mission from the European Space Agency and Russia's Roscosmos. This finding does not mean, however, that methane cannot be detected closer to the planet's surface.  

Full story: Europe's Mars orbiter finds no trace of methane on Red Planet

See also: Curiosity rover discovers that evidence of past life on Mars may have been erased

SuperBIT project uses a balloon to loft a space telescope above the clouds. 

The SuperBIT balloon in flight, above NASA's Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility, Texas, in June 2016. (Image credit: Richard Massey/Durham University (CC BY 4.0))

NASA, the Canadian Space Agency, and researchers across three universities have created SuperBIT, a next-generation space telescope. SuperBIT, short for Superpressure Balloon-borne Imaging Telescope, uses a football-field sized balloon to reach the top of Earth's stratosphere where its camera can get clear views of the universe. SuperBIT is a cheaper, easily upgradable, and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional space telescopes. 

Full story: Meet SuperBIT, the next-generation space telescope that rides above the clouds on a balloon

Researchers finally get a good look at Venus' nighttime weather. 

An image of Nüwa Campus, the largest block in Venus' lowlands region. (Image credit: Paul K. Byrne and Sean C. Solomon)

Nighttime weather on Venus has only been well-studied until recently because observing the circulation of these clouds was difficult without sunlight. In a new attempt, researchers used a new analytical model to interpret the infrared observations taken by the Japanese probe Akatsuki, which arrived at Venus in 2015. The result is a good first look at Venus' nighttime weather.

Full story: Nighttime weather on Venus revealed for the 1st time

Nauka's long-awaited journey to the space station has begun. 

The Proton M rocket with the Russian Nauka module aboard blasting off Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. (Image credit: Roscosmos)

Russia's largest space laboratory, called Nauka, finally launched into orbit on Wednesday (July 21) after 14 years of delays. Nauka is also known as the Russian Multipurpose Research Module (MLM), and it will expand the International Space Station (ISS) once it is installed. It is currently on an 8-day autonomous flight to reach the ISS. 

Russia launches huge Nauka science module to space station after years of delays

An smateur astronomer sifts through old data to find a new Jupiter moon. 

In 1974, NASA's Pioneer 11 spacecraft viewed Jupiter from above its north pole.

In 1974, NASA's Pioneer 11 spacecraft viewed Jupiter from above its north pole. (Image credit: NASA Ames)

Jupiter has a new moon candidate, thanks to the work of an amateur astronomer. The gas giant is currently home to 79 moons, and the numbers continue to increase. The latest finding is an object that orbits Jupiter in a retrograde path and that may have been born of an asteroid collision. 

Full story: Amateur astronomer discovers a tiny moon around Jupiter

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Doris Elin Urrutia

Doris Elin Urrutia joined as an intern in the summer of 2017. She received a B.A. in Sociology and Communications at Fordham University in New York City. Her work was previously published in collaboration with London Mining Network. Her passion for geology and the cosmos started when she helped her sister build a model solar system in a Bronx library. Doris also likes learning new ways to prepare the basil sitting on her windowsill. Follow her on twitter at @salazar_elin.

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