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Crowdfunding helps pull off new space feat – a satellite propelled in orbit by Sun

ScientiFix, our weekly feature, offers you a summary of the top global science stories of the week, with links to the best sources to read them.

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Science nonprofit claims big success as sunlight propels satellite 

The Planetary Society, the world’s largest nonprofit for science, claims to have pulled off an unprecedented feat: Getting a small spacecraft to propel itself in the Earth’s orbit solely through light from the Sun, a mission accomplished through a silver solar sail. 

This is how it works: As the photons in sunlight hit the sail, they transfer momentum to it. If oriented in the right direction, the craft can move through the bombardment. In the case of the Planetary Society’s LightSail2, scientists noted the spacecraft rose 1.7km in four days. LightSail2, however, is not the first time a spacecraft has used sunlight to fly. More on Ars Technica

PS: The mission is crowdfunded.

Greenland loses over 10 billion tonnes of ice in one day

Greenland is witnessing one of its biggest melt seasons in recorded history, confirming that the climate emergency is accelerating faster than the worst-case scenario envisaged thus far. Within one day this week, Greenland lost over 10 billion tonnes of ice, possibly raising global sea levels permanently. The melting has reportedly “reached parts of Greenland that typically stay frozen all year round”. More on Scientific American

Pacific island states declare ‘climate crisis’

Several Pacific island states, which face the most immediate risk from a warming world, have declared a climate crisis. These include Fiji and the Solomon Islands. The leaders of the countries have called for urgent action to phase out fossil fuels. More on

Scientists dig deep into a two-year-old European radioactive mystery  

In September 2017, a harmless but significantly strong radioactive release was observed across Europe. It was the biggest radioactive material reading since Fukushima in 2011. New details have now been published about attempts to locate the source of this radioactivity. More on Interesting Engineering.

NASA telescope spots ‘missing link’ planets

NASA’s orbiting telescope TESS, which has replaced Kepler and searches for exoplanets near the solar system, has discovered a trio of unusual planets. These planets have the exact properties needed to understand the differences in the evolution of rocky planets and gas giants. More on NYT.  

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