Space Thread

spaminator

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Alien 'super-Jupiter' breaks the mold on where planets can exist
Author of the article:
Reuters
Reuters
Will Dunham
Publishing date:
Dec 08, 2021 • 18 hours ago • 3 minute read •
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This handout photo released on Dec. 8, 2021 by the European Southern Observatory shows the most massive planet-hosting star pair to date, b Centauri, and its giant planet b Centauri b.
This handout photo released on Dec. 8, 2021 by the European Southern Observatory shows the most massive planet-hosting star pair to date, b Centauri, and its giant planet b Centauri b. Photo by European Southern Observatory /AFP via Getty Images
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WASHINGTON — One of the largest planets ever detected orbits at an enormous distance around two stars with a combined mass up to 10 times greater than our sun, an extreme celestial family that shatters assumptions about the type of places where planets can exist.
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The planet, located about 325 light years from Earth, is a gas giant apparently similar in composition to Jupiter but about 11 times more massive, researchers said on Wednesday. It belongs to a planetary class called “super-Jupiters” exceeding the mass of our solar system’s largest planet.

It orbits a pair of stars gravitationally bound to one another, called a binary system. It has what might be the widest orbit of any known planet – about 100 times wider than Jupiter’s orbit around our sun and about 560 times wider than Earth’s.

Until now, no planet had been found orbiting a star more than three times the sun’s mass. Stars larger than that emit so much radiation that they were thought to torch the planetary formation process. This discovery dashes that view.
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“Planet formation appears to be an incredibly diverse process. It has surpassed our imagination many times in the past, and will probably keep doing so in the future,” said astronomer Markus Janson of Stockholm University in Sweden, lead author of the research published in the journal Nature.

Since the discovery in the 1990s of the first planets beyond our solar system – so-called exoplanets – scientists have sought to learn whether or not our solar system represents standard “architecture.”

“From the trend seen so far, our solar system is not the most common type of planetary system architecture that exists,” said study co-author Gayathri Viswanath, a Stockholm University astronomy doctoral student.

“For instance, there are planetary systems with so-called ‘hot Jupiters’ where massive Jupiter-size planets orbit their host stars at a very close distance. A vast majority of the discovered planets also seem to have a size between that of Earth and Neptune, a size range in which our solar system has no planets,” Viswanath said.
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The larger of the tandem stars in the b Centauri system in which the newly discovered planet resides has a mass around five to six times that of the sun and is more than three times hotter, unleashing large amounts of ultraviolet and X-ray radiation.

It is a so-called B-type star, a category of extremely luminous blue stars. It is quite young in cosmic terms, at around 15 million years old. In comparison, the sun is roughly 4.5 billion years old.

Less is known about the smaller of the tandem. It is estimated at anywhere from one-tenth to four times the sun’s mass. The two stars orbit relatively close to one another, within about the distance of the Earth from the sun. They can be seen with the naked eye from Earth in the constellation Centaurus.
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The European Southern Observatory’s Chile-based Very Large Telescope captured an image of the planet, named b Centauri (AB)b. Like Jupiter, it is believed to be comprised mostly of hydrogen and helium.

Scientists had doubted that stars larger than three times the sun’s mass could host planets because they would present an unfriendly environment for planetary formation.

Planets form from material coming together inside huge disks of swirling gas and dust surrounding newborn stars. Big stars, it was thought, give off so much high-energy radiation that this material might be evaporated. The newly identified planet coalesced so far from its stars that it may have avoided this cauldron.

“The distance from the stars probably matters a lot, at least it did when the planet formed,” Janson said.
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Tecumsehsbones

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It's far past time our society addressed these cruel and arbitrary limits imposed on superJovians.

It's just plain old hateful worldism. . .
 

spaminator

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NASA launches revolutionary space telescope to give glimpse of early universe

Author of the article:
Reuters
Reuters
Steve Gorman
Publishing date:
Dec 25, 2021 • 18 hours ago • 4 minute read •
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Arianespace's Ariane 5 rocket, with NASAÕs James Webb Space Telescope onboard, launches from EuropeÕs Spaceport, the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana December 25, 2021 in a still image from video.
Arianespace's Ariane 5 rocket, with NASAÕs James Webb Space Telescope onboard, launches from EuropeÕs Spaceport, the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana December 25, 2021 in a still image from video. Photo by NASA TV /via REUTERS
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NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, built to give the world a glimpse of the universe as it existed when the first galaxies formed, was launched by rocket early Saturday from South America’s northeastern coast, opening a new era of astronomy.
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The revolutionary $9 billion infrared telescope, described by NASA as the premiere space-science observatory of the next decade, was carried aloft inside the cargo bay of an Ariane 5 rocket that blasted off at about 7:20 a.m. EST (1220 GMT) from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) launch base in French Guiana.
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The flawless Christmas Day launch, with a countdown conducted in French, was carried live on a joint NASA-ESA webcast.

“From a tropical rain forest to the edge of time itself, James Webb begins a voyage back to the birth of the universe,” a NASA commentator said as the two-stage launch vehicle, fitted with double solid-rocket boosters, roared off its launch pad into cloudy skies.
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After a 27-minute, hypersonic ride into space, the 14,000-pound instrument was released from the upper stage of the French-built rocket about 865 miles above the Earth, and should gradually unfurl to nearly the size of a tennis court over the next 13 days as it sails onward on its own.

Live video captured by a camera mounted on the rocket’s upper stage showed the Webb gliding gently away after it was jettisoned, drawing cheers and applause from jubilant flight engineers in the mission control center.

Flight controllers confirmed moments later, as the Webb’s solar-energy array was deployed, that its power supply was working.

Coasting through space for two more weeks, the Webb telescope will reach its destination in solar orbit 1 million miles from Earth – about four times farther away than the moon. And Webb’s special orbital path will keep it in constant alignment with the Earth as the planet and telescope circle the sun in tandem.
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By comparison, Webb’s 30-year-old predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope, orbits the Earth from 340 miles away, passing in and out of the planet’s shadow every 90 minutes.

Named after the man who oversaw NASA through most of its formative decade of the 1960s, Webb is about 100 times more sensitive than Hubble and is expected to transform scientists’ understanding of the universe and our place in it.

COSMOLOGICAL HISTORY LESSON

Webb mainly will view the cosmos in the infrared spectrum, allowing it to gaze through clouds of gas and dust where stars are being born, while Hubble has operated primarily at optical and ultraviolet wavelengths.

The new telescope’s primary mirror – consisting of 18 hexagonal segments of gold-coated beryllium metal – also has a much bigger light-collecting area, enabling it to observe objects at greater distances, thus farther back into time, than Hubble or any other telescope.
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That, astronomers say, will bring into view a glimpse of the cosmos never previously seen – dating to just 100 million years after the Big Bang, the theoretical flashpoint that set in motion the expansion of the observable universe an estimated 13.8 billion years ago.

Hubble’s view reached back to roughly 400 million years following the Big Bang, a period just after the very first galaxies – sprawling clusters of stars, gases and other interstellar matter – are believed to have taken shape.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, speaking during the launch webcast by video link, hailed the new telescope as a “time machine” that will “take us back to the very beginnings of the universe.”
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Aside from examining the formation of the earliest stars and galaxies, astronomers are eager to study super-massive black holes believed to occupy the centers of distant galaxies.

Webb’s instruments also make it ideal to search for evidence of potentially life-supporting atmospheres around scores of newly documented exoplanets – celestial bodies orbiting distant stars – and to observe worlds much closer to home, such as Mars and Saturn’s icy moon Titan.

The telescope is an international collaboration led by NASA in partnership with the European and Canadian space agencies. Northrop Grumman Corp was the primary contractor. The Arianespace launch vehicle is part of the European contribution.

Webb was developed at a cost of $8.8 billion, with operational expenses projected to bring its total price tag to about $9.66 billion, far higher than planned when NASA was previously aiming for a 2011 launch.

Astronomical operation of the telescope, to be managed from the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, is expected to begin in the summer of 2022, following about six months of alignment and calibration of Webb’s mirrors and instruments.

It is then that NASA expects to release the initial batch of images captured by Webb. Webb is designed to last up to 10 years. (Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Cynthia Osterman, Barbara Lewis and Hugh Lawson)
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spaminator

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Canadian scientists involved in James Webb space telescope say it's a dream come true

Author of the article:
Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Virginie Ann
Publishing date:
Dec 25, 2021 • 10 hours ago • 4 minute read •
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In this handout image provided by the U.S. National Aeronatics and Space Administration (NASA), Arianespace's Ariane 5 rocket launches with NASA's James Webb Space Telescope onboard, from the ELA-3 Launch Zone of Europes Spaceport at the Guiana Space Centre at Europes Spaceport, at the Guiana Space Center on Dec. 25, 2021, in Kourou, French Guiana.
In this handout image provided by the U.S. National Aeronatics and Space Administration (NASA), Arianespace's Ariane 5 rocket launches with NASA's James Webb Space Telescope onboard, from the ELA-3 Launch Zone of Europes Spaceport at the Guiana Space Centre at Europes Spaceport, at the Guiana Space Center on Dec. 25, 2021, in Kourou, French Guiana. Photo by Bill Ingalls /NASA via Getty Images
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MONTREAL — As the world tuned in on Christmas morning to see NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope lift off, Canadian scientists who played a crucial part in its creation were emotional.
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The collaboration between European and Canadian space agencies soared from French Guiana on South America’s northeastern coast on Saturday, riding a European Ariane rocket into the Christmas morning skies.

Rene Doyon, principal investigator of the telescope, said seeing the launch in-person was the best Christmas gift he could have ever hoped for. COVID-19 requirements meant most Canadian scientists who worked on the project had to stay home.

“It was an intense moment, absolutely incredible emotions after 20 years of working on the project,” Doyon said in an interview Saturday.

“I could have never imagined that it would have happened on Christmas. It was a good moment for Canada.”

Nathalie Ouellette, outreach scientist for the Webb at the Universite de Montreal, was with her family watching the long-awaited launch in Montreal.
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“To see the telescope leave Earth, what a joy for Christmas,” Ouellette said.

“I cried. We took a video to commemorate the moment. The launch went perfectly.”

The telescope will search for unprecedented details on the first galaxies created after the Big Bang, and on the development of potentially life-friendly planets beyond our solar system.

For Lisa Campbell, president of the Canadian Space Agency, the launch was the culmination of a 30-year-old dream.

“What an exceptional day,” Campbell said.

“It’s the most powerful and complex space observatory ever built.”

Canada has been working on the James Webb Space Telescope almost from the start and will be among the first countries to study its discoveries, she said.
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“It is a new step in astronomy, in understanding the universe, and our place in it,” Campbell said.

“And these scientific discoveries will be possible thanks to Canada’s expertise in astronomy.”

At least half of the 600 scientists in the Canadian Astronomical Society have been involved with the telescope and dozens of engineers are part of its design team.

Ouellette noted that the Webb’s work is only beginning.

Most people are familiar with Hubble Space Telescope — which was launched in 1990 — but the Webb is set to be 100 times more powerful, she said.

“We often talk about Webb as Hubble’s successor,” she explained.

“Webb is much bigger, it will capture more distant objects with low luminosity, look further into the history of the universe.”
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The $10 billion telescope started to hurtle toward its destination 1.6 million kilometres away, or more than four times beyond the moon, on Saturday. It will take a month to get there and another five months before its infrared eyes are ready to start scanning the cosmos.

Key to that work will be the Fine Guidance Sensor, which helps aim the telescope, and the Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph, which helps analyze the light it observes.

Both have been designed and built in Canada.

“We are the eyes of the telescope, it’s Canadian eyes that allow all observations,” Ouellette said. “Canada has never been involved at this level in this kind of project.”

Innovation Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne issued a statement to congratulate Canadian’s expertise, saying past investments in space technologies made it possible for the country to be “an active partner in this exciting mission.”
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“Once again, Canada’s space sector is pushing the frontier of science and, more so, of astronomy,” Champagne said. “Webb is the largest space science project in the 60-year history of Canada’s space program.”

For Daryl Haggard, a professor of physics at Montreal’s McGill University and James Webb Space Telescope co-investigator, the telescope is an undeniable source of pride.

“We were looking at the launch video, and my husband was pointing out that he could see the logo for NASA, but also the Canadian Space Agency, right there on the rocket,” she said, her voice breaking with emotion.

“It’s pretty awesome.”

Haggard said she hopes the project will put Canada on the map for its astronomical expertise.

People usually refer to Canadarm from the Canadian Space Agency, but this country does much more than that, she said. Canadarm is a robotic arm that supported American space shuttle missions for about 30 years from 1981.

In exchange for Canada’s contribution on the telescope, the country is guaranteed at least five per cent of the telescope’s observation time, once data starts to come in about six months.

Campbell said this will allow Canadian scientists to further their studies on exoplanets and black holes among other things.

“We will be able to see phenomena at the origin of the creation of our universe, its history,” she said.

“We often wonder why we explore space, but it will tell us so much.”

— With files from The Associated Press

— With files from Bob Weber in Edmonton
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spaminator

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Two galaxies hidden by cosmic dust discovered, more to be found with Canada's help

Canada is one of NASA's partners in the just-launched James Webb Space Telescope
Author of the article:
Spiro Papuckoski
Publishing date:
Dec 26, 2021 • 10 hours ago • 2 minute read •
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Two distant galaxies previously hidden by cosmic dust were recently discovered.
Two distant galaxies previously hidden by cosmic dust were recently discovered. Photo by mik38 /iStock / Getty Images
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The size of the universe may be unknown, but astronomers keep discovering galaxies farther and farther away.
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Two previously invisible galaxies 29 billion light-years away were located by researchers at the University of Copenhagen’s Niels Bohr Institute, according to a recent study published in Nature.

That’s far away — to put it mildly — as one light-year is the equivalent to 9.46 trillion kilometres. Multiply that by 29 billion and see if you can bust your calculator.

The researchers explain that the two galaxies hidden behind a thick layer of cosmic dust that surrounds them were invisible to the optical lens of the Hubble Space Telescope.

But by using the Atacama Large Millimeter Array telescopes in Chile’s Atacama Desert, astronomers were able to capture radio waves from the distant galaxies.

“We were looking at a sample of very distant galaxies, which we already knew existed from the Hubble Space Telescope,” Pascal Oesch, the Cosmic Dawn Center associate professor at the Niels Bohr Institute, told the university’s website .
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“And then we noticed that two of them had a neighbour that we didn’t expect to be there at all. As both galaxies are surrounded by dust, some of their light is blocked, making them invisible to Hubble.”

What this new discovery suggests is that more galaxies formed in the early universe than what was previously estimated.

“Our discovery demonstrates that up to one in five of the earliest galaxies may have been missing from our map of the heavens. Before we can start to understand when and how galaxies formed in the universe, we first need a proper accounting,” said Oesch.

To help locate the missing galaxies, the Canadian Space Agency, NASA and European Space Agency launched a newly-built super telescope — the James Webb Space Telescope — i nto orbit on Christmas Day.

Once in place, the new telescope will help astronomers further map out the universe’s origins.

“The next step is to identify the galaxies we overlooked, because there are far more than we thought,” said Oesch.

“That’s where the James Webb Telescope will be a huge step forward. It will be much more sensitive than Hubble and able to investigate longer wavelengths, which ought to allow us to see these hidden galaxies with ease.”
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Blackleaf

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JWST is about to reach its destination at Lagrange 2, around 1 million miles from Earth....

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spaminator

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NASA's new space telescope reaches destination in solar orbit
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Steve Gorman
Publishing date:Jan 25, 2022 • 15 hours ago • 3 minute read • Join the conversation
In this still picture from a NASA TV broadcast, the James Webb Space Telescope separates from Arianespace's Ariane 5 rocket after launching from Europe's Spaceport, the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana, Dec. 25, 2021.
In this still picture from a NASA TV broadcast, the James Webb Space Telescope separates from Arianespace's Ariane 5 rocket after launching from Europe's Spaceport, the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana, Dec. 25, 2021. PHOTO BY NASA TV /AFP via Getty Images
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NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, designed to give the world an unprecedented glimpse of infant galaxies in the early stages of the universe, arrived at its gravitational parking spot in orbit around the sun on Monday, nearly a million miles from Earth.

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With a final five-minute, course-correcting thrust of its onboard rocket, Webb reached its destination at a position of gravitational equilibrium known as the second Sun-Earth Lagrange point, or L2, arriving one month after launch, NASA officials said.

The thruster was activated by mission control engineers at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, with radio signals confirming Webb was successfully “inserted” into its desired orbital loop around L2.

From there, Webb will follow a special “halo” path that keeps it in constant alignment with Earth but out of its shadow, as the planet and telescope circle the sun in tandem. The prescribed L2 orbit within the larger solar orbit thus enables uninterrupted radio contact, while bathing Webb’s solar-power array in non-stop sunlight.

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By comparison, Webb’s 30-year-old predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope, orbits the Earth from 340 miles (547 km) away, passing in and out of the planet’s shadow every 90 minutes.

The combined pull of the sun and Earth at L2 – a point of near gravitational stability first deduced by 18-century mathematician Joseph-Louis Legrange – will minimize the telescope’s drift in space.

But ground teams will need to fire Webb’s thruster briefly again about once every three weeks to keep it on track, Keith Parrish, the observatory’s commissioning manager from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, told reporters on Monday.

Mission engineers are preparing next to fine-tune the telescope’s primary mirror – an array of 18 hexagonal segments of gold-coated beryllium metal measuring 21 feet, 4 inches (6.5 metres) across, far larger than Hubble’s main mirror.

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Its size and design – operating mainly in the infrared spectrum – will allow Webb to peer through clouds of gas and dust and observe objects at greater distances, thus farther back in time, than Hubble or any other telescope.

These features are expected to usher in a revolution in astronomy, giving a first view of infant galaxies dating to just 100 million years after the Big Bang, the theoretical flashpoint that set the expansion of the known universe in motion an estimated 13.8 billion years ago.

Webb’s instruments also make it ideal to search for signs of potentially life-supporting atmospheres around scores of newly documented exoplanets – celestial bodies orbiting distant stars – and to observe worlds much closer to home, such as Mars and Saturn’s icy moon Titan.

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It will take several more months of work to ready the telescope for its astronomical debut.

The 18 segments of its principal mirror, which had been folded together to fit inside the cargo bay of the rocket that carried the telescope to space, were unfurled with the rest of its structural components during a two-week period following Webb’s launch on Dec. 25.

Those segments were recently detached from fasteners and edged away from their original launch position. They now must be precisely aligned – to within one-ten-thousandth the thickness of a human hair – to form a single, unbroken light-collecting surface.

Ground teams will also start activating Webb’s various imaging and spectrographic instruments to be used in the three-month mirror alignment. This will be followed by two months spent calibrating the instruments themselves.

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Mirror alignment will begin by aiming the telescope at a rather ordinary, isolated star, dubbed HD-84406, located in the Ursa Major, or “Big Dipper,” constellation but too faint to be seen from Earth with the naked eye.

Engineers will then gradually tune Webb’s mirror segments to “stack” 18 separate reflections of the star into a single, focused image, Lee Feinberg, Webb’s optical telescope element manager at Goddard, said during Monday’s NASA teleconference.

Alignment is expected to start next week when the telescope, whose infrared design makes it super-sensitive to heat, has cooled down enough in space to work properly – a temperature of about 400 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (-240 Celsius).

If all goes smoothly, Webb should be ready to begin making scientific observations by summer.

Sometime in June, NASA expects to make public its “early release observations,” a ‘greatest hits’ collection of initial images used to demonstrate proper functioning of Webb’s instruments during its commissioning phase.

Webb’s most ambitious work, including plans to train its mirror on objects farthest from Earth, will take a bit longer to conduct.

The telescope is an international collaboration led by NASA in partnership with the European and Canadian space agencies. Northrop Grumman Corp was the primary contractor.
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spaminator

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Scientists amazed by blinking star's 'totally unexpected' behaviour
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Will Dunham
Publishing date:Jan 27, 2022 • 13 hours ago • 3 minute read • Join the conversation
An artist's impression of an object located roughly 4,200 light years from our solar system that may be a type of neutron star - the dense, collapsed core of a massive star that exploded as a supernova - called a magnetar, in this handout image obtained Jan. 27, 2022.
An artist's impression of an object located roughly 4,200 light years from our solar system that may be a type of neutron star - the dense, collapsed core of a massive star that exploded as a supernova - called a magnetar, in this handout image obtained Jan. 27, 2022. PHOTO BY COURTESY OF INTERNATIONAL CENTRE FOR RADIO ASTRONOMY RESEARCH/ /Handout via REUTERS
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WASHINGTON — Scientists have detected what appears to be an incredibly dense star behaving unlike anything else ever seen – and suspect it might be a type of exotic astrophysical object whose existence has until now been only hypothesized.

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The object, spotted using the Murchison Widefield Array telescope in outback Western Australia, unleashed huge bursts of energy roughly three times per hour when viewed from Earth during two months in 2018, the researchers said.

It may be the first known example of what is called an “ultra-long period magnetar,” they said. This is a variety of a neutron star – the compact collapsed core of a massive star that exploded as a supernova – that is highly magnetized and rotates relatively slowly, as opposed to fast-spinning neutron star objects called pulsars that appear from Earth to be blinking on and off within milliseconds or seconds.

“It’s mind-bogglingly wonderful that the universe is still full of surprises,” said radio astronomer Natasha Hurley-Walker at the Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) in Australia, lead author of the study published this week in the journal Nature .

The object may be continuously beaming strong radio waves from its north and south poles. As that beam swept through the line of sight from Earth’s vantage point, it appeared to switch on every 18 minutes and 11 seconds for about 30 to 60 seconds, then off again. That is an effect similar to a lighthouse with a rotating light that seems to blink on and off from the perspective of a stationary observer.

It was found in a broader research effort mapping celestial sources of radio waves.

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“This is an entirely new kind of source that no one has ever seen before,” Hurley-Walker said. “And while we know the Milky Way must be full of slowly spinning neutron stars, no one expected them to be able to produce bright radio emission like this. It’s a dream come true to find something so totally unexpected and amazing.”

It is located relatively close to Earth in cosmic terms, roughly 4,200 light years – the distance light travels in a year, 9.5 trillion kilometres – away.

“It’s incredibly bright when it’s ‘on.’ It’s one of the brightest radio sources in the sky,” said study co-author Tyrone O’Doherty, a Curtin ICRAR node doctoral student who found the object.

It fits into a category called “transients” – astrophysical objects that appear to turn on for limited amounts of time. “Slow transients” like a supernova can suddenly appear then disappear a few months later as the stellar explosion dissipates. Pulsars are “fast transients,” rapidly blinking on and off. Transients between these two extremes had remained elusive until now.

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Neutron stars including pulsars are among the universe’s densest objects. They are roughly 12 kilometres in diameter – akin to the size of a city – but with more mass than our sun. A neutron star with an extreme magnetic field, a magnetar, could potentially power the radio pulsations, the researchers said.

As for why its rotation is so slow, it could be that it is very old and has slowed over time, according to Curtin ICRAR node astrophysicist and study co-author Gemma Anderson.

“This is more likely to be the ‘first of its kind’ rather than ‘one of a kind,” Anderson said.

It also perhaps could be another type of dead star called a white dwarf or something completely unknown, Hurley-Walker said.

The researchers have not detected it since 2018.

“We are now monitoring this object using many different radio telescopes in the hope it switches ‘on’ again,” Anderson said.
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spaminator

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SpaceX rocket will crash into moon after 7-year 'chaotic orbit': Experts
The finding shines new light on the potential rising issues surrounding space junk

Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Timothy Bella
Publishing date:Jan 27, 2022 • 12 hours ago • 6 minute read • Join the conversation
In this Feb. 11, 2015 file photo, a Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket lifts off from launch complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla.
In this Feb. 11, 2015 file photo, a Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket lifts off from launch complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla. PHOTO BY JOHN RAOUX /AP
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Bill Gray was tracking a SpaceX rocket orbiting near the moon from his home in Maine when his computer software gave him a reading he didn’t expect.

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Gray said he had kept track of the “chaotic orbit” of the Falcon 9 booster, which launched in 2015 as part of a mission to send a space weather satellite on a million-mile journey. The rocket’s derelict second stage has since hurtled through space for years.

This month Gray, an independent researcher in orbital dynamics, figured out why he couldn’t get readings on the booster to show up on his Project Pluto software after early March: The SpaceX rocket is on a collision course with the moon, he said.

“I realized that my software complained because it couldn’t project the orbit past March 4,” Gray, who has tracked space junk, asteroids and objects near Earth for about 25 years, told The Washington Post. “And it couldn’t do it because the rocket had hit the moon.”

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Since his blog post this month, other space observers have confirmed the data and agreed that the rocket, which weighs about 4 metric tons, is set to crash into the far side of the moon in March, in what Gray believes might be “the first unintentional case” of space junk hitting the moon. The expected crash will create a new crater, but it will not significantly damage the moon, Gray said, noting that it’s “built to take this sort of abuse.” The rocket is projected to touch down at a velocity of about 2.58 km a second, or about 5,770 mph.

While some astronomers have noted that the news of the rocket hitting the moon is interesting but “not a big deal,” Gray’s finding has shined new light on the potential rising issues surrounding space junk floating in deep space.

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“As more players get into deep space, we need to have more attention paid to the junk that we’re leaving out there,” said Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who confirmed Gray’s findings. “It’s not as much about what SpaceX does now because it’s a perfectly standard practice to leave your junk in deep Earth orbit and just abandon it.”

A spokesman with SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

SpaceX launched its first interplanetary mission in February 2015 from Cape Canaveral, Fla. The Falcon 9 travelled 1 million miles – a distance nearly four times farther than the moon – to help the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Deep Space Climate Observatory start its journey to Lagrange Point 2, a gravitationally stable solar orbit on the opposite side of the sun from our planet.

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But after the rocket’s second stage completed a long burn to reach a transfer orbit, it was so high that the booster did not have enough fuel to return to Earth’s atmosphere. Meteorologist Eric Berger explained in Ars Technica that the rocket also “lacked the energy to escape the gravity of the Earth-Moon system,” which resulted in the booster’s chaotic orbit for nearly seven years.

“For launches of spacecraft intended to orbit the Earth, the best practice is to reserve enough fuel in a rocket’s upper stage to return it to Earth’s atmosphere, where it will burn up. This is what SpaceX and most Western rocket companies customarily do to help control debris in low Earth orbit,” Berger wrote. “The moon, of course, has no atmosphere for the stage to burn up in.”

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Gray, 57, said there are at any given time dozens of objects in high orbits around the moon that move slowly enough for him and colleagues to take a short series of observations. He’s been tracking the SpaceX rocket every few weeks or months and updating its orbit using his software.

The expert, whose Project Pluto astronomical software provides commercial and freeware data research to amateur and professional astronomers, knew there were three possibilities for an object traveling in such a chaotic orbit: The rocket could hit the moon, hit Earth or pick up enough energy so that it goes past the moon and is thrown around the sun.

“I’ve always been hopeful for one to hit the moon because we really don’t learn anything from the other cases,” he said.

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Once he saw Jan. 14 that the rocket was expected to crash into the moon, Gray reached out to a group of astronomers to confirm that the data was correct. He noted the group consisted of several amateur-level astronomers in the United States and Europe who “do professional-level work” – and that their observations matched with his.

“When a couple of them sent in their results, they confirmed the initial data and made the actual impact time and location considerably more certain,” Gray said.

Space junk and debris has long been an issue. The Associated Press reported last fall that NASA tracks about 20,000 pieces of space junk, including old and broken satellites. NASA abruptly called off a spacewalk shortly before it was set to begin in November after receiving a notification that space junk could threaten the astronauts outside the International Space Station. The notice came weeks after Russia fired a missile that destroyed a dead satellite, polluting low Earth orbit with more than 1,500 pieces of debris that forced the astronauts and cosmonauts to evacuate the space station and board their spacecraft in case they had to flee.

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A NASA spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment.

Private space companies have had other notable instances of space junk hitting the moon. In April 2019, Beresheet, the lunar lander for Israel Aerospace Industries, became the first private spacecraft to land on the moon. But when Beresheet crashed, the lunar lander spilled thousands of tardigrades – microscopic animals also known as water bears that are regarded as the toughest animals on the planet – onto the moon, according to Wired.

McDowell said he hopes lawmakers will give the same amount of attention to space junk in deep orbit as they have in recent years for space junk floating near the planet.

“It’s a big space out there, and if something ends up hitting the moon or ends up reentering the Earth’s atmosphere or going into orbit around the sun, the attitude has kind of been, ‘So be it.’ That may change as we get busier on the moon,” he said. “Deep-space junk is by no means a threat or a crisis at the moment, but it is something that we’re in the early stages now.

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“This SpaceX case is a marker that deep space is just starting to get busier, and it’s time to start thinking about our policies for deep space,” he said.

Gray said the rocket’s collision with the moon will probably go unobserved from Earth. He and McDowell highlighted how the booster’s crash would result in a fresh lunar crater caused by an object whose properties researchers understand and can learn from.

What astronomers learn from the crash is likely to be incremental, Gray said, but the March 4 collision could offer a fresh look below the lunar surface. Gray said he wonders if the expected crash could increase interest in learning about space junk in deep space.

“People are understandably concerned about the amount of space junk that’s out there,” he said. “But when it comes to tracking stuff going around the moon, I have not heard of anyone else paying attention to it.”
 

spaminator

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Study finds space travel destroys red blood cells, complicating Mars mission
“If we can find out exactly what’s causing this anemia, then there is a potential to treat it or prevent it — both for astronauts and for patients here on Earth.”

Author of the article:Andrew Duffy
Publishing date:Jan 27, 2022 • 2 days ago • 3 minute read • Join the conversation
Astronaut Tim Peake tweeted picture of his first blood draw completed in space. The sample was taken as part of the MARROW investigation.
Astronaut Tim Peake tweeted picture of his first blood draw completed in space. The sample was taken as part of the MARROW investigation. PHOTO BY NASA /Handout
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Astronauts destroy 54 per cent more red blood cells during space travel than on Earth, according to a new Ottawa study that holds important implications for both rehab medicine and future Mars missions.

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Published in the journal Nature Medicine , the study followed 14 astronauts and found they all suffered “space anemia” throughout six-month missions to the International Space Station.

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Previously, it was believed that space anemia was a temporary condition and that astronauts’ bodies adjusted to it after a few weeks in microgravity.

But the Ottawa-led study discovered the phenomenon is sustained throughout the full duration of an astronaut’s space travel.

Researchers found astronauts were destroying three million red blood cells every second while in space: 54 per cent more than on Earth. Results were the same for the 11 male and three female astronauts in the study.

A 2018 file photo of the International Space Station, photographed by Expedition 56 crew members from a Soyuz spacecraft. The study followed 14 astronauts — 11 men, three women — and found they all suffered “space anemia” throughout six-month missions to the space station.
A 2018 file photo of the International Space Station, photographed by Expedition 56 crew members from a Soyuz spacecraft. The study followed 14 astronauts — 11 men, three women — and found they all suffered “space anemia” throughout six-month missions to the space station. PHOTO BY HANDOUT /Reuters
“If we can find out exactly what’s causing this anemia, then there is a potential to treat it or prevent it — both for astronauts and for patients here on Earth,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Guy Trudel, a rehab physician and researcher at The Ottawa Hospital.

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NASA says a human mission to Mars would require astronauts to endure the rigours of space travel for two years or more.

Trudel says researchers need to understand how long the human body can maintain the high rate of red blood cell production needed to offset the rapid destruction of those cells in space.

“How long can that hypermetabolism continue? We don’t know that. That’s a knowledge gap,” said Trudel, a University of Ottawa professor.

Space anemia is not a problem when astronauts are weightless, he said, but, as soon as they land on Earth, Mars or the Moon, it can affect their energy, endurance and strength levels. “The effects of anemia are only felt once you land and must deal with gravity again,” Trudel said.

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On Earth, those with clinical anemia lack enough healthy red blood cells to carry a fully supply of oxygen to their tissues. The condition is often accompanied by weakness and exhaustion.

The space anemia study, financed by the Canadian Space Agency, is part of a larger project examining bone marrow health and blood production in space.

Since the human body has evolved to function under Earth’s gravity, the weightlessness of space flight creates challenges. When not subject to Earth’s gravity, weight-bearing bones lose up to 1.5 per cent of their mineral density each month. Astronauts also lose muscle mass faster than on Earth.

What’s more, in the microgravity of space, more blood goes to the head and chest. Scientists used to believe astronauts compensated for this by destroying red blood cells to reach a new equilibrium.

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But Trudel’s research team found the destruction of red blood cells continued unabated in space. “What we found was a surprise,” Trudel said.

The phenomenon slowed as soon as the astronauts returned to Earth, but researchers found they were still destroying red blood cells at an accelerated rate one year later.

The study had an unusual design. The 14 astronauts enrolled in the study collected breath and blood samples throughout their time on the space station.

The study’s lead author is Dr. Guy Trudel, a rehab physician and researcher at The Ottawa Hospital and a professor the University of Ottawa.
The study’s lead author is Dr. Guy Trudel, a rehab physician and researcher at The Ottawa Hospital and a professor the University of Ottawa. PHOTO BY BRUNO SCHLUMBERGER /Postmedia files
Those samples, stored in metal canisters, were sent back to Earth in a Space X cargo spacecraft and eventually delivered to researchers in Ottawa, where they were analyzed in a modified gas chromatograph capable of detecting carbon monoxide at the parts-per-billion level.

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When a red blood cell dies, it releases one molecule of carbon monoxide. By measuring how many carbon monoxide molecules were in breath samples taken from the astronauts, researchers could discover how many of their red blood cells were being destroyed.

Trudel says he suspects space anemia is caused by the same mechanism that leads to anemia in hospital patients who spend weeks in intensive care beds.

A study conducted last year among 20 men who were on bedrest for 60 days found that they, too, destroyed significantly more red blood cells (23 per cent) than in the two weeks before they became inactive.

Trudel hopes to uncover the mechanism causing space anemia by studying why ICU patients and others immobilized for long periods of time develop anemia.
 

Tecumsehsbones

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Free fall is really bad for humans. As is hard vacuum and stellar radiation.

All problems that can be overcome, but only by time and hard brainwork.
 

spaminator

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Hitchhiking in Earth's orbit, Trojan asteroid may be with us for 4,000 years
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Will Dunham
Publishing date:Feb 01, 2022 • 10 hours ago • 3 minute read • Join the conversation
An undated illustration shows the asteroid called 2020 XL5, an asteroid companion to Earth that orbits the sun along the same path as our planet, that is about 1.2 kilometres in diameter. It is known as a Trojan asteroid and is only the second one known around Earth.
An undated illustration shows the asteroid called 2020 XL5, an asteroid companion to Earth that orbits the sun along the same path as our planet, that is about 1.2 kilometres in diameter. It is known as a Trojan asteroid and is only the second one known around Earth. PHOTO BY NOIRLAB/NSF/AURA/J. DA SILVA/SPACEENGINE /Handout via REUTERS
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WASHINGTON — An asteroid that was discovered riding along in Earth’s orbit is about three-quarters of a 1.2 kilometre wide and might remain as a hitchhiker with our planet for at least 4,000 more years while posing no danger, scientists said on Tuesday.

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Using observations from telescopes in Chile, Arizona and the Canary Islands, researchers provided the most comprehensive description yet of the asteroid, named 2020 XL5 and first detected two years ago. They confirmed it is one of only two of what are called Trojan asteroids traveling as a companion with Earth.

Trojan asteroids can be wanderers in the solar system – as appears to be the case with this one – or material left over from their home planet’s formation. They become ensnared by the planetary gravitational grip and subsequently orbit the sun along the same path as that planet.

This one looks to be a so-called C-type asteroid – one of the most common kinds in the solar system, according to planetary scientist Toni Santana-Ros of the University of Alicante and the University of Barcelona’s Institute of Cosmos Sciences in Spain, lead author of the study published in the journal Nature Communications .

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These are dark in colour and contain a lot of carbon along with rocks and minerals.

“2020 XL5 poses no threat to Earth. We expect it will remain in its current stable orbit for at least the next 4,000 years,” said telescope scientist and study co-author Cesar Briceño of the U.S. National Science Foundation’s NOIRLab.

Its location varies between about 90 million kilometres and 270 million kilometres from Earth.

The asteroid occupies one of five so-called Lagrange points – positions in space where objects tend to stay put. These five locales allow for stable orbits due to the competing gravitational forces of Earth and the sun. This one resides at what is called the L4 point.

The only other Trojan asteroid seen around Earth, discovered 12 years ago, also at the L4 point, and called 2010 TK7, is smaller, with a diameter of about 400 metres. It, too, is thought to have been captured by Earth’s pull while meandering through the solar system.

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2020 XL5, first detected in December 2020 using a telescope in Hawaii, may have been captured by Earth’s gravitational pull somewhere between 500 to 1,000 years ago, Santana-Ros said.

Numerous Trojan asteroids populate our solar system, with the largest planet Jupiter known to have almost 10,000 of them, Santana-Ros said. NASA launched a spacecraft called Lucy last October to explore them. Trojan asteroids also have been found around Neptune (28 of them), Mars (four), Uranus (two) and Venus (one).

“Jupiter is a giant in all senses, also in terms of mass. It cleaned its neighboring region of other objects and gathered thousands of objects on its L4 and L5 points,” Santana-Ros said. “However, the Earth has a more delicate environment, with close gravitational competitors like Venus, Mars or even the moon. Therefore, gravitational perturbations on 2020 XL5 will eventually allow this object to escape from the L4 stability point.”

Santana-Ros said there could be more Trojan asteroids around Earth awaiting detection. The two Lagrange points where they might exist, L4 and L5, are notoriously difficult to observe from Earth.

“Any asteroid orbiting around these points will only be visible during a short time window close to twilight, at very low elevations above the horizon,” Santana-Ros added. “But if we point our largest telescopes low above horizon and close to twilight I am certain we will find more surprises.”
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spaminator

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ISS it will plunge into the ocean when it retires in 2031: NASA
Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Jennifer Hassan, The Washington Post
Publishing date:Feb 03, 2022 • 11 hours ago • 2 minute read • Join the conversation
The International Space Station (ISS) photographed by Expedition 56 crew members from a Soyuz spacecraft after undocking, Oct 4, 2018.
The International Space Station (ISS) photographed by Expedition 56 crew members from a Soyuz spacecraft after undocking, Oct 4, 2018. PHOTO BY NASA/ROSCOSMOS /Handout via REUTERS
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The International Space Station cannot stay in orbit 250 miles above us forever – which is why NASA has shared updated plans outlining when, where and how the huge structure will fall to Earth.

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In January 2031, the station – which launched in the year 2000 and is 356 feet (109 meters) from end to end – will plunge into the waters of Point Nemo, an uninhabited part of the southern Pacific Ocean, where spacecraft and satellites go to die. Or, as it’s put in NASA’s newly published transition report, to “de-orbit.”

Some analysts call the remote location the “spacecraft cemetery,” and others refer to it as the “loneliest place on Earth” because the nearest mainland is 1,670 miles away. As the National Ocean Service puts it: “You can’t get farther away from land than ‘Point Nemo.’ ”

Stijn Lemmens, a space debris expert, said in 2018 that 250 to 300 spacecraft are believed to be buried in Nemo’s waters.

The space lab, which also serves as an observatory, has been continuously occupied by astronauts for more than 20 years and will operate until 2030, under a commitment from the Biden administration.

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“While the ISS will not last forever, NASA expects to be able to operate it safely through 2030,” the report published Monday reads.

In a 24-hour period, the station orbits Earth 16 times, traveling through 16 sunrises and sunsets, according to NASA.

It has for over two decades been at the forefront of research and discoveries, with Robyn Gatens, director of the International Space Station at NASA headquarters, calling it “a groundbreaking scientific platform in microgravity” that seeks to benefit humanity and shape the future of space exploration and travel.

But the ISS is aging and must eventually retire.

Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight at NASA headquarters, said the plan delivered to Congress outlines a “smooth transition to commercial destinations after retirement of the International Space Station in 2030.”

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The future of space science remains an intense focus for NASA and in many other countries, with organizations poised to execute a number of missions that include exploring the moon and Mars.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, which was founded by Jeff Bezos (who owns The Washington Post), continue to experiment in space tourism, with both companies hoping to offer groups fleeting rocket trips to space this year.

Even Alexa may be venturing into space in the near future, with Amazon confirming that astronauts may one day be able to “ask for near real-time data about the spacecraft and the mission” while inside the capsule.

Because of its giant size, the station’s return to Earth must be expertly controlled, and operators will need assistance from visiting vehicles to safely lower its altitude.

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According to the “de-orbit plan,” detailed in NASA’s newly published transition report, operators will undertake a range of maneuvers to “ensure safe atmospheric entry.”

Operated by five space agencies representing 15 countries, the station includes several sleeping quarters, a gym and a 360-degree viewing window. But while the floating structure is vast, those on board have reported leaks and remain alert for flying space junk.

In 2016, one of the lab’s windows was hit, and the European Space Agency said the resulting chip in the glass was probably caused by something as unassuming as a flake of paint.