Space Stories: Congressional Space Medal, Asteroid Rings, and Dancing Exoplanets

Image (Credit): Former NASA astronauts Robert Behnken, left, and Douglas Hurley, right, and are seen after being awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor by Vice President Kamala Harris during a ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Here are some recent stories of interest.

NASA: “VP Awards Former NASA Astronauts Congressional Space Medal of Honor

On behalf of President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris awarded former NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken the Congressional Space Medal of Honor Tuesday for their bravery in NASA’s SpaceX Demonstration Mission-2 (Demo-2) to the International Space Station in 2020. Hurley and Behnken are the first recipients of the honor since 2006 and accepted the awards during a televised event in Washington.

CNET: “NASA Webb Telescope Zooms in on One of Solar System’s Oddest Objects

Scientists using NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope say they’ve been able to get a closer look at an asteroid that also hosts just the fifth ring system to be discovered in our solar system (the others circle Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune).  Astronomers initially discovered the rings in 2013 while watching Chariklo occult, or pass in front of, a distant star. To their surprise, two other smaller objects also appeared to pass in front of the background star for an instant. These turned out to be two thin rings around Chariklo. 

Northwestern University: “Watch Distant Worlds Dance Around their Sun

In 2008, HR8799 was the first extrasolar planetary system ever directly imaged. Now, the famed system stars in its very own video. Using observations collected over the past 12 years, Northwestern University astrophysicist Jason Wang has assembled a stunning time lapse video of the family of four planets — each more massive than Jupiter — orbiting their star. The video gives viewers an unprecedented glimpse into planetary motion.