Dustin Franz/For The Washington Post via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- After nearly two years in space, the small, mysterious spacecraft X-37B landed this week amid rampant speculation about just what it was doing in orbit.
Run by the Air Force, the X-37B has fascinated space enthusiasts since it first launched in 2010.
The ship looks like a miniature version of the recognizable NASA space shuttle. Only 29 feet long, it has a wingspan of just 15 feet, making it look practically miniscule next to the wingspan of a commercial jet.
The military has kept the mission of the X-37B, leaving spacecraft fans to run wild with their guesses.
Brian Weeden, a former Air Force officer who worked as an orbital analyst, said many space enthusiasts have been curious about the mission of the X-37B spacecraft and some have even attempted to track it in orbit.
Weeden, now a technical advisor for the Secure World Foundation, said speculation seemed to run rampant specifically because so little has been disclosed.
"Because it is a secret military space plane, there is tons and tons of speculation about what it's doing in orbit," Weeden said.
Popular online theories included that "it's testing the ability to drop bombs in orbit or covertly going up and disabling satellites," he said.
Weeden said looking at past instances of American spacecraft, he believes the spacecraft is more likely involved in something less shocking.
"What I think is more practical is that it's setting up technology for surveillance," said Weeden, who pointed out the military has relied heavily on satellite surveillance for decades.
Weeden also said the fact that the spacecraft can be reused and can return unmanned can allow faster turnaround on experiments.
Weeden said the ship might provide a kind of fast-track space for the military to try out new equipment in orbit before it is sent via satellite. If new equipment breaks on a satellite in orbit, it can be difficult to fix. However, if it breaks in on a returnable spacecraft, engineers can make changes before it returns to orbit.
The Air Force as an online page listing general areas of study for the spacecraft, including advanced guidance, navigation and control, thermal protection systems, and aircraft electronic systems, but has not released detailed information about these experiments.
iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Hurricane Gonzalo made a direct hit on Bermuda Friday night, unleashing pounding rains and dangerous winds.
Though Gonzalo weakened to a Category 2 storm before landfall, the large system was still one of the largest to hit the island. Winds reached up to 105 miles per hour, taking out trees and power lines in its path.
The storm left approximately 28,850 customers without power.
On Saturday Bermuda Governor George Fergusson tweeted that there have been no deaths or serious injuries.
This is the second storm in a row to hit Bermuda, following tropical storm Fay last weekend.
Getty Images/Thomas Campean - Anadolu Agency(HONG KONG) -- After a night of fighting in Hong Kong, talks have been scheduled for Tuesday between the government and the students leading pro-democracy protests.
Hong Kong Chief Secretary Carrie Lam said, "I'm pleased to say that good progress has been made in the preparations for the dialog between representatives of the Hong Kong Federation of Students and the Constitutional Development Task Force."
"This dialog is now likely to take place next Tuesday afternoon," Lam said. "In fact this is the earliest of three days that we have given to the Federation of Students." "I am very much looking forward to having this dialog with the student representatives."
The announcement came after fighting broke out between riot police and the protesters Friday night. Thirty-three people were arrested.
Michael Fitzsimmons/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(KOBANI, Syria) -- U.S. military forces launched seven more airstrikes around Kobani on Friday, striking operations headed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Fighter aircraft struck six targets near Kobani where reports indicated they destroyed two ISIS fighting positions and two vehicles and struck three buildings. The strikes also suppressed three more ISIS fighting positions.
A separate airsrike took place near Shadadi. That strike was the first to target an ISIS oil operation, which consisted of tanks of petroleum, oil and lubricants and a pump station -- "part of the terrorist group's oil producing, processing and transportation infrastructure." That operation aimed to "destroy a portion of [ISIS]'s ability to operate oil tanker trucks at oil collection points," said a release from U.S. Central Command.
NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team(HAMILTON, Bermuda) -- Hurricane Gonzalo reached Bermuda Friday and pounded the island with winds over 100 mph.
The Category 3 hurricane -- packing maximum sustained winds of 125 mph -- forced officials in Bermuda to issue a Hurricane Warning. On Friday afternoon, local officials said thousands of homes were without power.
While the storm will continue to weaken, loss of life and property remains a genuine concern. Storm surge could top 10 feet at the shore, waves could climb above 20 feet and winds could surpass 100 mph.
It's been a while since Bermuda has taken a hit as strong as this may be. Hurricane Fabian in 2003 brought winds to 120 mph and killed at least four people.
Watch a live stream from Bermuda as Hurricane Gonzalo approaches, courtesy of PTZtv.com:
iStock/Thinkstock(SEOUL, South Korea) -- At least 16 people are dead and nearly a dozen injured after the ventilation grate they were standing on collapsed at an outdoor pop concert in South Korea Friday, officials said.
The crowd had climbed up a 13 square feet steel grate to get a better view of the stage, and their weight caused the grate to collapse -- sending their bodies crashing 40 feet below, rescue authorities told ABC News.
Hundreds of people were gathered at the show in Seongnam, just south of Seoul, to watch 4Minute, a popular girls' band, perform as part of a local festival.
Many of the concert-goers were female students, witnesses said.
The Kremlin(MILAN, Italy) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Milan to meet with a number of European leaders this week, sitting down with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko for "positive" talks on Friday, after arriving late for a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel the night before.
Putin, who arrived in Milan from Serbia where a military parade was held in his honor, was scheduled to meet with Merkel before a dinner meeting consisting of European and Asian leaders. The Russian leader, however, arrived in the middle of the dinner in the middle of the host's toast.
The meeting between Putin and Merkel, which took place after dinner -- four hours after it was scheduled -- lasted about two and a half hours.
The Kremlin later posted a photo from the late meeting to its website.
According to the Kremlin, Putin also met with leaders from Australia, France, Italy, Japan, and Romania during the Asia-Europe Meeting.
File photo. iStock/Thinkstock(BAGHDAD) -- A trio of car bombs exploded in the Baghdad area on Friday, killing at least 26 people and injuring more than 80 others.
Police told ABC News that one of the bombs went off in the area of Baladiyat, in eastern Baghdad. That explosion killed at least 14 and injured 50 more.
The second explosion occurred in Sulaikh, in the northern part of the city. At least three people were killed and 19 injured in that attack.
Police said a third attack in Karradah, in central Baghdad, killed nine and injured 27.
In their most recent report, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraqi announced that 1,119 Iraqis were killed and 1,946 injured in terror attacks and acts of violence in September. The largest numbers of injuries and deaths were reported in Baghdad, where 352 were killed and 983 hurt.
NASA(HOUSTON) -- A once in a million years cosmic event will grace the heavens this weekend when a comet is expected to have a close encounter with Mars.
Comet Siding Spring will pass within 87,000 miles of the Red Planet on Sunday, Oct. 19 -- that's about one-third the distance between the Earth and the moon, according to NASA scientists.
The comet is expected to come closest to Mars at 2:27 p.m. ET that day, moving at about 34 miles per second.
The best view of the rare show can be viewed via binoculars or telescope from the Southern Hemisphere, with South Africa and Australia having the best views as the comet grazes past Mars, scientists said.
The rest of the world can look forward to incredible images captured by NASA's fleet of spacecraft, which have taken up prime positions to capture images, and information about the size, rotation and gas composition of Siding Spring, agency officials said.
John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, called the event a "cosmic science gift that could potentially keep on giving."
The comet is comprised of icy debris that researchers believe are remnants from the formation of the solar system. Its dramatic brush past the Red Planet is expected to yield new insights into the materials that existed during the formation of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago.
iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- The four men arrested in London on terrorism charges allegedly had a silenced weapon and had conducted "hostile reconnaissance" of a police station and an army barracks, police said Friday.
A post on the London's Metropolitan Police website lays out a list of accusations against the four men, who were all arrested over the last two weeks, in connection to the charge that they, "with the intention of committing acts of terrorism, or assisting others to commit such acts...engaged in conduct in preparation for giving effect to that intention."
Four men, including 21-year-old Tarik Hassane, nicknamed "The Surgeon," are accused of, among other things, taking an "oath of allegiance" to the brutal Iraqi terror group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), acquiring a silenced handgun and ammunition, using code words when discussing money or firearms, looking at Instagram images of individual cops, and using Google Street View to conduct "hostile reconnaissance" of a police station and army barracks.
The men had also allegedly downloaded "jihadi material" including issues of the Al Qaeda magazine Inspire.
A fifth man faces weapons charges for allegedly providing the gun.
In another post on the MET website Friday, National Policing Lead for Counter Terrorism Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley wrote that the MET has made over 200 arrests this year and is running "exceptionally high numbers of counter-terrorism investigations, the likes of which we have not seen for several years."
"These plots are of varied sophistication, from individuals planning to carry out spontaneous yet deadly attacks to more complex conspiracies, almost all seemingly are either directed by or inspired by terrorism overseas," he said. "Public safety is our number one priority and we will always focus our disruption activity against those posing the greatest and most imminent threat. Sometimes this means intervening very early -- essential to prevent attacks, but presenting enormous challenges in securing sufficient evidence to charge."
Reeva Steenkamp's parents at the Pistorious trial. Pool/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(PRETORIA, South Africa) -- Oscar Pistorius tried to influence his sentence by giving money to the parents of Reeva Steenkamp, the girlfriend he is convicted of shooting to death, the prosecutor in the trial of the Olympic athlete claimed Friday.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel addressed the $530 (R6,000) monthly payments that Pistorius has made to June and Barry Steenkamp since shortly after Reeva Steenkamp's death in February 2013. Pistorius also recently sold his car for $33,000 (R375,000) and offered the money to the Steenkamps.
The payments were revealed this week when the Steenkamps said they would remain "neutral" during the penalty phase of the trial and not testify against the man who killed their daughter.
"The offer is nothing but an attempt to influence sentence," Nel said during closing arguments in sentencing proceedings Friday while referring to the lump sum payment.
Nel said he was saddened when he heard that Steenkamp's parents were so financially strapped they had to take money from Pistorius. Barry Steenkamp's eyes moistened and he tugged on his white beard as he struggled to keep his composure.
The prosecutor questioned why the offer was made between Pistorius' conviction and the sentencing proceedings.
"If I heard that after this case was finalized Mr. Pistorius donated money...it would be different. But no," Nel said.
Nel said the parent's choice to remain neutral on sentencing was to avoid further trauma after months of grief following Steenkamp's death. He said the parents had Reeva Steenkamp's cousin, Kim Martin, speak on the family's behalf.
The prosecutor pointed out that June Steenkamp had rejected Pistorius' lump sum offered as "blood money."
The family said they would pay back the monthly payments, which totaled more than $9,000. Their lawyer claimed their financial situation has improved significantly since they were forced by their circumstances to accept the money from Pistorius.
Pistorius' lawyer Barry Roux, referred the court to a statement issued by the Steenkamps about the issue earlier this week, in which they admitted receiving a monthly payment from Pistorius since shortly after their daughter's death. They also explained in the statement that they indicated their dire financial position to Pistorius' lawyers, after which he offered the money.
Nel Friday asked the court to sentence Pistorius to at least 10 years in prison while Pistorius lawyer urged the court spare him prison, claiming Pistorius is devastated with grief and broke spiritually and financially. Culpable homicide carries a maximum sentence of 15 years, but the judge has the discretion to set a lower punishment, even no prison at all.
Judge Thokozile Masipa said she will pronounce her sentence on Tuesday.
Willis’s second tweet was retweeted thousands of times. Some Twitter users replied with offers of assistance, while others offered book recommendations, not that Willis was picking out any books during his time in Waterstones.
“I was too scared to even touch anything,” Willis said. “I didn’t want them to think that I hid in the store.”
Just over two hours after his first tweet, police and the store manager arrived to free Willis.
We're pleased to announce that @DWill_ is a free man once more. Thanks for your concern and tweets!
Werner Beukes/SAPA/Gallo Images/Getty Images(PRETORIA, South Africa) -- Oscar Pistorius should be sent to prison for at least 10 years for shooting his girlfriend, a prosecutor said Friday while Pistorius' lawyer invoked the spirit of Ubuntu, an African term that includes compassion.
Judge Thokozile Masipa told the court she will impose her sentence on Pistorius next Tuesday.
The legless Olympic athlete was found guilty of culpable homicide last month in the death of Reeva Steenkamp, a model who was shot through a locked bathroom door on Valentine's Day 2013. The conviction carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison with no minimum prescribed sentence. During the penalty phase of the trial, several witnesses urged the court to sentence Pistorius to house arrest.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel cited the testimony of Steenkamp's cousin, Kim Martin, who tearfully told the court this week about the devastating effect Steenkamp's death had on her family.
"Every other mother who heard her evidence felt the pain. I felt the pain," Nel said.
The prosecutor said Martin was not just the voice of the family, she was the voice of society, adding that her plea to have her Pistorius sent to jail cannot be ignored.
"The minimum that society will be happy with will be 10 years in prison," Nel said. "This is a serious case."
The prosecutor rejected arguments that Pistorius, 27, should be spared prison in the spirit of Ubuntu.
"It's not even a principle that can be considered. The interest of society demands a prison term," Nel said.
Pistorius' lawyer Barry Roux, however, said Ubuntu is appropriate in this case arguing that the sprinter known as the Blade Runner was anguished by Steenkamp's death, had been vilified in the press, would be vulnerable to attacks in prison because of his disability, and was broke spiritually and financially.
Tears streamed down Pistorius' face as Roux described his condition.
"My Lady, that is what is happening. He lost everything. This man was a global icon. He has nothing left, he can't even pay his legal fees," Roux said.
Roux said that the spirit of Ubuntu -- an African term referring to essential human virtues, like compassion and humanity, and restorative justice -- should be taken into account. He said that the basic principle of Ubuntu was to do something good in society, coupled with an apology, to pay back society and the victim.