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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 journalNature Astronomy, the hum lasts at least three years. That’s good news for gaining a better understanding of the interstellar plasma.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.”
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.
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 it2020 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 ratherthe 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.
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.
SpaceX’s upgraded Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down at 8:26 p.m. EST on Wednesday west of Tampa off the Florida coast, marking the return of the company’s 21st contracted cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station for NASA.
AN ASTEROID which has been described by NASA as being “near Earth” is set to shoot by our planet
An asteroid which has been designated the name 2021 AX1 is gearing up for a close approach to our planet. NASA has revealed that the asteroid will make its closest approach to Earth onJanuary 12. The asteroid was only discovered in the past few days by astronomers at the Mt Lemmon Survey in Tuscon, Arizona.
The 28 fastest days on record (since 1960) all occurred in 2020, with Earth completing its revolutions around its axis milliseconds quicker than average. That’s not particularly alarming — the planet’s rotation varies slightly all the time, driven by variations in atmospheric pressure, winds, ocean currents and the movement of the core. But it is inconvenient for international timekeepers, who use ultra-accurate atomic clocks to meter out the Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) by which everyone sets their clocks. When astronomical time, set by the time it takes the Earth to make one full rotation, deviates from UTC by more than 0.4 seconds, UTC gets an adjustment.
Until now, these adjustments have consisted of adding a “leap second” to the year at the end of June or December, bringing astronomical time and atomic time back in line. These leap seconds were tacked on because the overall trend of Earth’s rotation has been slowing since accurate satellite measurement began in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Since 1972, scientists have added leap seconds about every year-and-a-half, on average, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The last addition came in 2016, when on New Year’s Eve at 23 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds, an extra “leap second” was added.
The object in question traveled toward our solar system from the direction of Vega, a nearby star 25 light-years away, and intercepted our solar system’s orbital plane on Sept. 6, 2017.
On Sept. 9, its trajectory brought it closest to the sun. At the end of September, it blasted at about 58,900 miles per hour past Venus’ orbital distance, and then, on Oct. 7, it shot past Earth’s before “moving swiftly toward the constellation Pegasus and the blackness beyond,” Loeb writes in the book.
The object was first spotted by an observatory in Hawaii containing the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) — the highest definition telescope on earth.
The space object was dubbed ‘Oumuamua (pronounced “oh moo ah moo ah”), which is Hawaiian for — roughly — “scout.”
As space travelers go, it was relatively small at just about 100 yards long, but it was a big deal in the scientific community.
For starters, it was the first interstellar object ever detected inside our solar system. Judging from the object’s trajectory, astronomers concluded it was not bound by the sun’s gravity — which suggested it was just traveling through.
Invisible Glow Finding planets out in the Universe is pretty hard. I say this despite the fact that two planets in Earth’s skies are aligning tomorrow to form one of the brightest objects seen in hundreds of years. But while the brilliant Jupiter and Saturn are always visible to the naked eye, Neptune wasn’t directly … Continue reading “Radio Emissions Have Been Detected from an Exoplanet”
That’s launch number 26 for SpaceX, its most ever in a year.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX launched a clandestine U.S. spy satellite into space for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) Saturday (Dec. 19) , marking its 26th rocket of the year.
The mysterious payload, called NROL-108, lifted off from Pad 39A here at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at 9 a.m. (1400 GMT) , during a planned three hour launch window.
A used two-stage Falcon 9 rocket carried the spy satellite aloft, as part of a government mission called NROL-108, marking SpaceX’s 26th launch of 2020, a new record for the company. Approximately nine minutes after liftoff, the booster’s first stage produced some dramatic sonic booms as it made its way back to terra firma, touching down at SpaceX’s Landing Zone-1 (LZ-1) at the nearby Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.