Strange and hidden Jupiter-size exoplanet spotted by astronomers and citizen scientists | Space

A group of astronomers and citizen scientists has uncovered a hidden planet the size of Jupiter in a distant solar system, and they should get the chance to see it again soon.

The planet, designated TOI-2180 b, is relatively close to us here on Earth, at only 379 light-years away. But what makes this world special among the sample of known giant exoplanets is that it takes a whopping 261 days to orbit its host star, much longer than most gas giants discovered outside of our solar neighborhood.

The team spotted the world using data gathered by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS. TESS spots exoplanets by finding very small and repeatable dips in a star’s brightness that are caused by a planet blocking a little bit of the star’s light as it transits, or passes between the spacecraft and the star. While TOI-2180 b’s orbital period is not quite confirmed, scientists predict TESS will see the planet again in February.

Source: Strange and hidden Jupiter-size exoplanet spotted by astronomers and citizen scientists | Space

A kilometer-wide asteroid will make its closest pass by Earth next week – CNN

(CNN)An asteroid estimated to be a kilometer (3,451 feet) wide will fly by Earth on January 18.

It will pass within 1.2 million miles of our planet, moving at 47,344 miles per hour, according to NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies, which tracks potentially hazardous comets and asteroids that could collide with our planet.
The approaching asteroid is known as 7482 (1994 PC1) and it was discovered in 1994, according to NASA.
Nobody expects 7482 (1994 PC1) to hit Earth, but it’s the closest the asteroid will come for the next two centuries, according to NASA projections. The flyby is expected to take place on Tuesday January 18 at 4.51 p.m. ET.

Source: A kilometer-wide asteroid will make its closest pass by Earth next week – CNN

Why can’t we put a space station on the Moon? | Space

A space station on the moon could be very useful to provide future space missions with a stopping point between Earth and deeper space. Why haven’t we built one yet?

One reason we haven’t built a space station on the moon is that we don’t send people there very often. We have only managed to put astronauts on the moon six times so far. These moon landings took place in a three-year period between 1969 and 1972 and were part of a series of space missions called the Apollo missions.

The type of rocket used to get the astronauts to the moon was an extremely powerful one called a Saturn V, which is no longer produced. This means that, at the moment, we do not have a rocket powerful enough to get people to the moon – let alone build a space station there.

We are starting to build powerful rockets again. Space exploration company SpaceX is creating newer and bigger rockets which are capable of taking the weight of astronauts to the moon. NASA is also planning new missions to take astronauts to the moon.

However, there is a big difference between a short trip and building a space station on the moon, which is extremely difficult. One way to do it would be to build it in pieces on Earth, take the pieces to the moon and assemble them there. This would be like how the International Space Station was built: pieces were taken into space and then put together by astronauts aboard the space shuttle.

However, the International Space Station is only 250 miles (400 kilometers) from the surface of Earth. The moon is 230,000 miles (384,000 km). Each trip to the moon would take about three days and would require incredible amounts of fuel, potentially adding to climate problems on Earth.

A much better idea would be to build as much of the base as possible from materials found on the moon. Lunar concrete is being tested on Earth as a possible building material.

On Earth you would make concrete from gravel or sand, cement and water. We have none of those things on the moon, but what we do have is lunar dust and sulphur. These can be melted and mixed together. Once this mixture cools, it produces a solid material that is stronger than many materials we use on Earth.

Related: NASA’s Gateway moon-orbiting space station explained in pictures

Source: Why can’t we put a space station on the Moon? | Space

Michael Strahan and Alan Shepard’s daughter rocket to the edge of space – CNN

Jeff Bezos’ rocket company, Blue Origin, sent Good Morning America host Michael Strahan, the daughter of famed astronaut Alan Shepard, and four paying customers on a supersonic joy ride to the edge of space Saturday morning.

Source: Michael Strahan and Alan Shepard’s daughter rocket to the edge of space – CNN

A Large Asteroid Will Pass by Earth This Week – Is It a Threat to the Planet?

Recent weeks have witnessed a series of medium-to-large-sized asteroids cross paths with Earth’s orbit. The largest of the pack – asteroid 2004 UE – is on track to make its closest approach to the planet November 13.

 

Asteroid 2004 UE is approximately 160 meters in diameter and will travel close to the Earth this week. Any object over 140 meters in diameter could cause major damage to cities or coasts if there were to be a collision, said astronomy professor Leslie Looney. “Asteroid 2004 UE is not considered a safety concern since the closest approach to Earth’s orbit on November 13 will be more than 30 times the Earth-moon distance.” Credit: Photo by L. Brian Stauffer

What are near Earth objects, what are they composed of and how do we know?

Near Earth objects are meteoroids, asteroids, or comets with orbits that bring them close to Earth’s orbit. They are the leftovers of our solar system formation process, which means they are the nearly pristine bits and pieces of ice and rocks from which the planets formed. We know their orbits from tracking them, and we know of their composition from examining their reflected and infrared light and by comparisons to objects that we have visited with space missions.

There seem to be a lot of large NEOs in Earths neighborhood in recent weeks. Is this unusual?

Over the last 20 years, NASA has dramatically increased the number of known NEOs – from knowing of less than a thousand to nearly 28,000. The precise dimensions of NEOs can be difficult to resolve due to their small size and great distances. However, those estimated by NASA to be 140 meters or more along their longest axis – most asteroids are potato-shaped, so their dimensions can be described as roughly spherical – have been mandated by Congress to be classified as NEOs. The increase in the number of objects classified as NEOs was in part due to this mandate. Anything of this size could have a catastrophic impact on Earth, destroying cities with large losses of life. This awareness leads to more reporting of objects.

Source: A Large Asteroid Will Pass by Earth This Week – Is It a Threat to the Planet?

An asteroid barely missed Earth last week, and no one knew it was coming

An asteroid about the size of a refrigerator shot past Earth last week, and astronomers didn’t know the object existed until hours after it was gone.

It was a close call (from a cosmic perspective); the space rock’s trajectory on Oct. 24 carried it over Antarctica within 1,800 miles (3,000 kilometers) of Earth — closer than some satellites — making it the third-closest asteroid to approach the planet without actually hitting it, CNET reported.

Scientists were unaware of the object, dubbed Asteroid 2021 UA1, because it approached Earth’s daytime side from the direction of the sun, so the comparatively dim and small visitor went undetected until about 4 hours after passing by at its closest point, according to CNET.

Source: An asteroid barely missed Earth last week, and no one knew it was coming

All eyes on Venus: 2 spacecraft gear up for close Venus flybys this week | Space

 

BepiColombo and Solar Orbiter will fly by Venus on Monday (Aug. 9) and Tuesday (Aug. 10), respectively.

Venus is about to get double the extra attention. NASA’s Solar Orbiter, in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA), will hone in on Venus on Aug. 9, but it won’t be alone for long. Another ESA spacecraft, BepiColombo (a partnership with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA) will fly by the planet just one day later.

The spacecraft are both headed toward the inner solar system. Solar Orbiter launched in 2020 with a mission to study the sun, while BepiColombo launched in 2018 and has been en route to Mercury ever since.

On Monday (Aug. 9) Solar Orbiter will approach Venus at a distance of about 4,967 miles (7,995 kilometers). Then on Tuesday (Aug. 10) BepiColombo will approach the planet at about 342 miles (550 km).

Related: Watch Venus glide by in this serene video from the BepiColombo spacecraft’s flyby

Source: All eyes on Venus: 2 spacecraft gear up for close Venus flybys this week | Space

Boeing set for rerun of Starliner space capsule test – BBC News

The American Boeing company is about to run another demonstration mission of its new astronaut capsule.

The CST-100 Starliner is set to launch from Florida to showcase how it can ferry crews to and from the International Space Station (ISS).

It will be the second test flight, and conducted with no people aboard.

The previous demonstration, in 2019, encountered software problems that very nearly resulted in the loss of the capsule.

Two years of redesign and upgrades give Boeing another chance to showcase its astronaut vehicle.

A “potentially hazardous” asteroid the size of a skyscraper is zooming past Earth today – CBS News

2021 KT1 is expected to come within 4.5 million miles of Earth, a relatively close encounter. It will fly past at around 40,000 miles per hour, according to scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

But don’t worry, there is no chance of the asteroid hitting Earth. Still, researchers track all asteroids that come close to the planet and are currently looking into ways to deflect ones that could make contact in the future.

Six other asteroids, which are basically leftover rocks that are over four billion years old, are also passing by Earth this week. However, they are all smaller than 2021 KT1.

Source: A “potentially hazardous” asteroid the size of a skyscraper is zooming past Earth today – CBS News

Space Debris Has Hit And Damaged The International Space Station

It was only a matter of time…

The inevitable has occurred. A piece of space debris too small to be tracked has hit and damaged part of the International Space Station – namely, the Canadarm2 robotic arm.

The instrument is still operational, but the object punctured the thermal blanket and damaged the boom beneath. It’s a sobering reminder that the low-Earth orbit’s space junk problem is a ticking time bomb.

Source: Space Debris Has Hit And Damaged The International Space Station

Rand Paul Demolishes Dems Over Billionaire Bailout: ‘Isn’t There Some Remnant of Decency in Congress?’

Poor Jeff Bezos.

His space flight company, Blue Origin, just lost out on a $2.89 billion NASA contract to build a system to land astronauts on the moon in 2024, according to a Fox Business report.

Bezos, who recently became the wealthiest man on the planet, lost to Elon Musk’s SpaceX. NASA reported that the SpaceX bid was lower than Blue Origin’s “by a wide margin,” Fox noted.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Democrat from Washington, where Blue Origin is headquartered, and Sen. Roger Wicker, a Republican from Mississippi, sought to soften the blow by adding an amendment to the $130 billion “Endless Frontier Act.”

According to the Senate website, this legislation seeks to strengthen “national competitiveness in science, research, and innovation to support the national security strategy.” The bill is designed to boost our ability to compete with China.

Source: Rand Paul Demolishes Dems Over Billionaire Bailout: ‘Isn’t There Some Remnant of Decency in Congress?’

Super Flower Blood Moon 2021: Where, when and how to see the supermoon eclipse | Space

On the night of May 25-27, observers in Oceania, Hawaii, eastern Asia and Antarctica will see a lunar eclipse that coincides with the moon’s closest approach to Earth — making it a “supermoon” eclipse that will turn the moon reddish — also known as a “blood moon.” (The dates of this eclipse span two days because the area it will be visible spans the international date line).

Lunar eclipses occur when the moon is on the opposite side of the Earth as the sun. Usually we see a full moon when this happens, but every so often the moon enters the Earth’s shadow, resulting in an eclipse. This doesn’t happen every full moon because the plane of the moon’s orbit is tilted about 5 degrees from the plane of the Earth’s orbit, and the moon “misses” the shadow of the Earth.

Unlike a solar eclipse, which is only visible along a narrow track, lunar eclipses are visible from the entire night side of the Earth; this entire eclipse takes about five hours from start to finish. The timing depends a lot on what time zone you are in, relative to what is called Universal Coordinated Time (effectively the hour in Greenwich, England). In Asia, the eclipse occurs near moonrise in the evening. On the west coast of the Americas, the eclipse happens in the early morning hours, near moonset. The best viewing will be in between those two extremes: Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, the islands of the South Pacific and southwestern Alaska.

Related: Watch a meteor smack the blood moon in this lunar eclipse video!

Source: Super Flower Blood Moon 2021: Where, when and how to see the supermoon eclipse | Space

China lands a rover on Mars, state media says – CNN

(CNN)China has successfully landed its rover on Mars, according to state media, becoming the second country in history to have a rover on the red planet.

The rover, Zhurong, named after a god of fire in Chinese mythology, landed Saturday morning at the pre-selected area in Utopia Planitia on Mars, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.

The six-wheel solar-powered Zhurong rover weighs about 240 kilograms (529 pounds) and carries six scientific instruments. It will be later deployed from the lander for a three-month mission in search of signs or evidence of ancient life on Mars’ surface.
The Tianwen-1 Mars orbiter will relay its signal to the rover during its mission and then conduct a global survey of the planet for one Martian year. The probe has spent three months in orbit reconnoitering the landing area before releasing the rover to the surface.
Tianwen-1 was launched by a Long March 5 rocket from the Wenchang space launch center in Hainan on July 23 last year, and spent seven months en route to Mars before entered its orbit in February.
The spacecraft sent back its first photo of the planet from more than a million kilometers (621,371 miles) away.

Source: China lands a rover on Mars, state media says – CNN

A mysterious ‘hum’ vibrates interstellar space. Voyager 1 has a recording of it. | Live Science

Voyager 1, launched in 1977, left the bounds of the solar system — known as the heliosphere — in 2012. The heliosphere is the bubble of space influenced by solar wind, the stream of charged particles that emanates from the sun. Since popping out of this bubble, Voyager 1 has been periodically sending back measurements of the interstellar medium. Occasionally, the sun sends off a burst of energy known as a coronal mass ejection that disturbs this medium, causing the plasma, or ionized gas, of interstellar space to vibrate. These vibrations are quite useful, as they allow astronomers to measure the density of the plasma — the frequency of the waves through the plasma can reveal how close together the ionized gas molecules are.

Now, though, researchers have realized that Voyager 1 is also sending back a far more subtle signal: the constant “hum” of the interstellar plasma. This low-level vibration is fainter, but much longer-lasting, than the oscillations that occur after coronal mass ejections. According to the new study, published May 10 in the journal Nature Astronomy, the hum lasts at least three years. That’s good news for gaining a better understanding of the interstellar plasma.

Source: A mysterious ‘hum’ vibrates interstellar space. Voyager 1 has a recording of it. | Live Science

Chinese rocket expected to crash into Earth this weekend – CNNPolitics

(CNN)large Chinese rocket that is out of control is set to reenter Earth’s atmosphere this weekend, bringing a final wave of concern before its debris makes impact somewhere on Earth.

The Long March 5B rocket, which is around 100 feet tall and weighs 22 tons, is expected to enter Earth’s atmosphere “around May 8,” according to a statement from Defense Department spokesperson Mike Howard, who said the US Space Command is tracking the rocket’s trajectory.
The rocket’s “exact entry point into the Earth’s atmosphere” can’t be pinpointed until within hours of reentry, Howard said, but the 18th Space Control Squadron is providing daily updates on the rocket’s location through the Space Track website.
The good news is that debris plunging toward Earth — while unnerving — generally poses very little threat to personal safety.
“The risk that there will be some damage or that it would hit someone is pretty small — not negligible, it could happen — but the risk that it will hit you is incredibly tiny. And so I would not lose one second of sleep over this on a personal threat basis,” Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Astrophysics Center at Harvard University, told CNN this week.
The European Space Agency has predicted a “risk zone” that encompasses “any portion of Earth’s surface between about 41.5N and 41.5S latitude” — which includes virtually all of the Americas south of New York, all of Africa and Australia, parts of Asia south of Japan and Europe’s Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece.

Source: Chinese rocket expected to crash into Earth this weekend – CNNPolitics

‘Out-of-control’ Chinese rocket falling to Earth could partially survive re-entry | Space | The Guardian

Part of a huge rocket that launched China’s first module for its Tianhe space station is falling back to Earth and could make an uncontrolled re-entry at an unknown landing point.

The 30-metre high core of the Long March 5B rocket launched the “Heavenly Harmony” unmanned core module into low Earth orbit on 29 April from Wenchang in China’s Hainan province.

The Long March 5B then itself entered a temporary orbit, setting the stage for one of the largest ever uncontrolled re-entries. Some experts fear it could land on an inhabited area.

“It’s potentially not good,” said Jonathan McDowell, Astrophysicist at the Astrophysics Center at Harvard University.

 

Since the weekend it has dropped nearly 80km in altitude and Space

News reported that amateur ground observations showed it was tumbling and not under control. This, and its speed, makes it impossible to predict where it will land when Earth’s atmosphere eventually drags it down, though McDowell said the most likely outcome is that it will fall into the sea, as the ocean covers about 71% of the planet.

Source: ‘Out-of-control’ Chinese rocket falling to Earth could partially survive re-entry | Space | The Guardian

SpaceX Crew Dragon astronauts arrive home with rare pre-dawn splashdown in Gulf of Mexico – CBS News

Four astronauts strapped into their SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, undocked from the International Space Station and plunged to a fiery pre-dawn splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday, closing out the first operational flight of SpaceX’s futuristic touch-screen ferry ship.

Crew-1 commander Michael Hopkins, along with NASA astronauts Victor Glover and Shannon Walker and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi, disconnected from the space-facing port of the station’s forward Harmony module at 8:35 p.m. EDT Saturday.

That set up only the second piloted water landing for NASA’s post-shuttle commercial crew program and just the third night splashdown in space history — the first in nearly 45 years.

Source: SpaceX Crew Dragon astronauts arrive home with rare pre-dawn splashdown in Gulf of Mexico – CBS News

NASA Live: Official Stream of NASA TV  flight on the Red Planet  – YouTube

NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter will attempt to take flight on the Red Planet early Monday morning, and you’ll be able to watch live as the NASA team tracks this historic test from mission control.

Should the four legs of this tiny 4-pound (1.8 kg) helicopter leave the Martian surface, it will become the first time that NASA—or any other space agency—has successfully attained powered controlled flight on an alien planet. Success would introduce an entirely new dimension to exploring the Red Planet.

You can watch the live stream below starting at around 3:30 a.m. EDT (12:30 a.m. PDT) on Monday April 12. NASA hasn’t said yet when images or even video of the flight attempt will be available, but we’re hoping for later on Monday.

Huge asteroid 2021 EQ3 zoomed safely past Earth – CNET

2021 EQ3 passed closest above us at roughly 9:45 p.m. PT, at a distance of around 173,000 miles (278,000 kilometers) — that’s 72% of the distance from the Earth to the moon.

This makes 2021 EQ3 the second largest object to come closer than the moon in 2021.

It’s also different than 2001 FO32, which is an absolute monster with a diameter around a mile. That asteroid passed by on March 21, but at a distance five times farther away than the moon.

Follow CNET’s 2021 Space Calendar to stay up to date with all the latest space news this year. You can even add it to your own Google Calendar.

Source: Huge asteroid 2021 EQ3 zoomed safely past Earth – CNET

New Effort To Clean Up Space Junk Reaches Orbit : NPR

Known as ELSA-d, the mission will exhibit technology that could help capture space junk.

According to a recent report by NASA, at least 26,000 of the millions of pieces of space junk are the size of a softball. Orbiting along at 17,500 mph, they could “destroy a satellite on impact.” More than 500,000 pieces are a “mission-ending threat” because of their ability to impact protective systems, fuel tanks and spacecraft cabins.

A demonstration mission to test an idea to clean up space debris launched Monday morning local time from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Known as ELSA-d, the mission will exhibit technology that could help capture space junk, the millions of pieces of orbital debris that float above Earth.

The more than 8,000 metric tons of debris threaten the loss of services we rely on for Earth-bound life, including weather forecasting, telecommunications and GPS systems.

Source: New Effort To Clean Up Space Junk Reaches Orbit : NPR

Asteroid 2001 FO32: Fast mover expected to be largest to pass by Earth in 2021 – CNN

 

(CNN)The largest asteroid that has been predicted to make a close approach of Earth this year will zip by from a safe distance on Sunday, according to NASA.

Scientists estimate the asteroid is between 1,300 and 2,230 feet wide.
The near-Earth asteroid, known as 2001 FO32, will be 1.25 million miles, or more than five times the distance between Earth and the moon, during its closest approach.
It will also be moving much faster than most asteroids that fly by our planet, rocketing along at 77,000 miles per hour.
The asteroid’s closest approach will occur at 12:03 p.m. ET Sunday.

Source: Asteroid 2001 FO32: Fast mover expected to be largest to pass by Earth in 2021 – CNN

‘Space hurricane’ spotted above Earth for the first time ever

A first-ever “space hurricane” was spotted whirling above the Earth, scientists said.

The 600-mile-wide mass of plasma occurred several hundreds of miles above the North Pole, according to a study in the journal Nature Communications.

“Until now, it was uncertain that space plasma hurricanes even existed, so to prove this with such a striking observation is incredible,” said Mike Lockwood, a space scientist at the University of Reading and co-author of the study, in a statement.

The spectacle was captured by satellites in August 2014, but only recently uncovered during research led by scientists from Shandong University in China.

The space hurricane “rained” electrons instead of water, had multiple spiral arms and lasted eight hours before gradually fizzing, researchers said.

“Tropical storms are associated with huge amounts of energy, and these space hurricanes must be created by unusually large and rapid transfer of solar wind energy and charged particles into the Earth’s upper atmosphere,” Lockwood said.

Source: ‘Space hurricane’ spotted above Earth for the first time ever

NASA delays launch of DART asteroid defense mission | Space

NASA has delayed the launch of its first-ever planetary defense mission aimed at deflecting potentially hazardous asteroids from colliding with Earth.

The mission, called Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), will send a spacecraft to test crash into the near-Earth binary asteroid system called Didymos, in 2022. NASA announced Feb. 17 that this year’s primary launch window of July 21 to Aug. 24 is no longer an option. Instead, the space agency is targeting a backup window that opens Nov. 24 and runs to Feb. 15, 2022, according to a statement from NASA.

The decision to postpone the launch was made by NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD) senior leadership following a risk assessment of the DART project schedule. Delaying the launch of the mission will not affect the spacecraft’s arrival at its target, which is slated for October 2022, NASA officials said.

Related: Potentially dangerous asteroids (images)

Source: NASA delays launch of DART asteroid defense mission | Space

NASA’s Perseverance rover lands on Mars | Fox News

NASA has unveiled the first pictures from its fifth Mars rover, Perseverance, after a successful landing on the red planet’s Jezero crater at approximately 3:55 p.m. Thursday.

“This landing is one of those pivotal moments for NASA, the United States, and space exploration globally – when we know we are on the cusp of discovery and sharpening our pencils, so to speak, to rewrite the textbooks,” acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk said in a press release. “The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission embodies our nation’s spirit of persevering even in the most challenging of situations, inspiring, and advancing science and exploration.”

Source: NASA’s Perseverance rover lands on Mars | Fox News

Largest asteroid to fly past Earth this year is coming soon — and it’s huge

The largest asteroid known to be passing near Earth this year will also be one of the fastest rocks to cruise past our planet, and it’s all happening March 21.

Before you panic, just know this: though it’s been classified as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid — because of its size and frequency of passing near Earth — but there’s no risk of impact, according to EarthSky.

Asteroid 2001 FO32, which is approximately .6 miles in diameter, has been compared to the length of the Golden Gate Bridge, although it’s not quite as long.

If you’re thinking that’s impressive, the rock will be cruising through space at about 76,980 mph — or 21 miles per second, relative to Earth.

By comparison, EarthSky reports our planet travels around the sun at about 18 miles per second.

Source: Largest asteroid to fly past Earth this year is coming soon — and it’s huge

Harvard Plans to Blot Out Sun – Bill Gates Approves? | IE

Called the Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment (SCoPEx), the project is a scientific experiment designed to help us better grasp the possibility of applying stratospheric aerosols in the field of solar geoengineering.

The experiment involves improving the fidelity of simulations (computer models) of solar geoengineering to generate answers to vital questions surrounding the notion. To fully understand both the risks and benefits of solar geoengineering, scientists will rely on these simulations — but there is an inherent risk to relying on simulations: namely, current technology tends to predict an overly optimistic outcome.

This is why SCoPEx will gather quantitative measurements of aerosol microphysics — along with atmospheric chemistry, which are two points of high uncertainty in present-day simulations.

The experiment involves flying a balloon above Sweden to see if it can block sunlight on its way to Earth — with hopes of creating a new way of fighting global climate change.

Source: Harvard Plans to Blot Out Sun – Bill Gates Approves? | IE

Earth is about to lose its second moon, forever | Space

Earth’s second moon will make a close approach to the planet next week before drifting off into space, never to be seen again.

“What second moon,” you ask? Astronomers call it 2020 SO — a small object that dropped into Earth’s orbit about halfway between our planet and the moon in September 2020. Temporary satellites like these are known as minimoons, though calling it a moon is a bit deceptive in this case; in December 2020, NASA researchers learned that the object isn’t a space rock at all, but rather the remains of a 1960s rocket booster involved in the American Surveyor moon missions.

This non-moon minimoon made its closest approach to Earth on Dec. 1 (the day before NASA identified it as the long-lost booster), but it’s coming back for one more victory lap, according to EarthSky.org. Minimoon 2020 SO will make a final close approach to Earth on Tuesday (Feb. 2) at roughly 140,000 miles (220,000 kilometers) from Earth, or 58% of the way between Earth and the moon.

The booster will drift away after that, leaving Earth’s orbit entirely by March 2021, according to EarthSky. After that, the former minimoon will be just another object orbiting the sun. The Virtual Telescope Project in Rome will host an online farewell to the object on the night of Feb. 1.

Source: Earth is about to lose its second moon, forever | Space

Critical engine test for NASA’s Space Launch System megarocket shuts down earlier than planned

NASA fired up the core stage of its massive new rocket — the Space Launch System (SLS) — on Saturday (Jan. 16) in a critical test that ended prematurely when the booster’s engines shut down earlier than planned.

Smoke and flames billowed from the four RS-25 engines that power the behemoth rocket’s core booster, a centerpiece of NASA’s Artemis moon program, as it roared to life atop a test stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Ignition occurred at 5:27  EST (2227 GMT), with 700,000 gallons (2.6 million liters) of cryogenic fuel flowing through the engines as they roared for just over 1 minute, much shorter than planned.

The test was supposed to run for 485 seconds (or just over 8 minutes), which is the amount of time the engines will burn during flight. Following engine ignition, the four RS-25 engines fired for just over 60 seconds, NASA said.

“Not everything went according to script today,” NASA chief Jim Bridenstine said late Saturday after the test. “But we got a lot of great data, a lot of great information.”

The SLS core booster will help launch NASA’s Artemis 1 mission to the moon.

Source: Critical engine test for NASA’s Space Launch System megarocket shuts down earlier than planned

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