The Best Space Stories Of The Year

Mankind has stared up at the cosmos since forever. We now understand a little more about the great expanse beyond our planet, but that doesn't mean we're any less transfixed by the stars. Here are some of our best space posts from the past year.

1. The Mystery Of The Giant Planet Hidden In Our Solar System

There's a giant planet right here, hiding in our Solar System. One that nobody has ever seen, even while it is four times larger than Jupiter and has rings and moons orbiting it. At least, that's what two astrophysicists say.

2. The First Image Of Earth Taken By NASA's NPP Satellite

NASA's new NPP — or NPOESS Preparatory Project — satellite travels in a sun-synchronous orbit. So as it photographs the planet, each photo is taken at the same time ensuring that all the images have similar lighting.

3. Awesome NASA Video Captures What Looks Like an Alien Spaceship

A camera on board NASA's STEREO A satellite seems to have captured video of an unknown thing that looks like an actual spaceship. The blip appeared when a Sun's coronal mass ejection (CME) reached planet Mercury. Watch the video and judge by yourself.

4. Why You Should Worry About China's First Space Station

China has successfully launched the Tiangong-1, its first space lab. It's the first of a series of small test stations, and the first step towards the country's goal of having a 60-ton space station in orbit by 2020.

5. This Fluid Fly-By Video Is The Most Astonishing View If Earth I've Ever Seen

This weekend NASA published an awesome time-lapse flyby of planet Earth taken from the International Space Station. Awesome, but jerky — until now. Someone interpolated the original frames to achieve this smooth as silk motion film. It'll leave you stupefied.

6. The Biggest Diamond In The Universe Is Actually A Planet

Astronomers and gold diggers were excited when scientists discovered a planet littered with diamonds. That's just OK now. Why? Because a new planet just took bling to the next level: it's one massive diamond the size of Jupiter.

7. When Returning From The Moon, Don't Forget To Fill Out Your Customs Form

Despite the fact that every single facet of NASA's moonwalks were government-controlled expeditions, astronauts were not exempt from the annoying processes involved with foreign travel. Case in point, this customs form, signed by Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.

8. This Is What 44,000,000 Horsepower Looks Like

NASA has released this beautiful, crystal-clear video of Discovery's launch. It was taken from an HD camera mounted on the left solid rocket booster, during liftoff of the shuttle for mission STS-133.

9. This Massive Cold War Spy Satellite Was Hidden From The World Until Now

The HEXAGON satellite spied on America's Cold War foes for over a decade, taking extremely detailed (film!) photographs from space. It was 18.3m long — bigger than a bus. And the public never, ever saw it. We did.

10. The Tragic Story of a Russian Cosmonaut Who Was Sent into Space Knowing He Would Die

Vladimir Komarov, a cosmonaut, knew he was going to die when he left Earth for space on the Soyuz 1. His friend Yuri Gagarin, the first human to reach outer space, knew Komarov would too. But Leonid Brezhnev, leader of the Soviet Union, wanted to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Communist Revolution with a spectacle. So Komarov boarded the Soyuz 1 and just like he predicted, ended up dying. This picture is Komarov's remains.

Been under a rock? See what else happened this year in our Best of 2011 series.

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