Space Thread

Blackleaf

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UK's third astronaut speaks to Sky News

ESA_Astronaut_Class_of_2022_Rosemary_Coogan_article.jpg

The United Kingdom's third astronaut Rosemary Coogan has spoken to Sky News about her upcoming mission.

Speaking to Kay Burley, the astronaut looked ahead to the next crewed mission to the Moon after being selected by the European Space Agency (ESA).

Born in Northern Ireland, Coogan, 31, will be the first person born on the island of Ireland to go into space.

Two of Britain's three astronauts have been women.

 
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spaminator

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NASA Orion capsule safely blazes back from moon, aces test
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Marcia Dunn
Publishing date:Dec 11, 2022 • 22 hours ago • 4 minute read
In this still image taken from NASA TV, NASA's unmanned Orion spaceship splashes down in the Pacific Ocean off Baja California, Mexico, on Dec. 11, 2022.
In this still image taken from NASA TV, NASA's unmanned Orion spaceship splashes down in the Pacific Ocean off Baja California, Mexico, on Dec. 11, 2022. PHOTO BY JOSE ROMERO/NASA TV /AFP via Getty Images
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. —

NASA’s Orion capsule made a blisteringly fast return from the moon Sunday, parachuting into the Pacific off Mexico to conclude a test flight that should clear the way for astronauts on the next lunar flyby.


The incoming capsule hit the atmosphere at Mach 32, or 32 times the speed of sound, and endured reentry temperatures of 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,760 degrees Celsius) before splashing down west of Baja California near Guadalupe Island. A Navy ship quickly moved in to recover the spacecraft and its silent occupants — three test dummies rigged with vibration sensors and radiation monitors.

NASA hailed the descent and splashdown as close to perfect, as congratulations poured in from Washington..


“I’m overwhelmed,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said from Mission Control in Houston. “This is an extraordinary day … It’s historic because we are now going back into space — deep space — with a new generation.”

The space agency needed a successful splashdown to stay on track for the next Orion flight around the moon, targeted for 2024 with four astronauts who will be revealed early next year. That would be followed by a two-person lunar landing as early as 2025 and, ultimately, a sustainable moon base. The long-term plan would be to launch a Mars expedition by the late 2030s.

Astronauts last landed on the moon 50 years ago. After touching down on Dec. 11, 1972, Apollo 17’s Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt spent three days exploring the valley of Taurus-Littrow, the longest stay of the Apollo era. They were the last of the 12 moonwalkers.

Orion was the first capsule to visit the moon since then, launching on NASA’s new mega moon rocket from Kennedy Space Center on Nov. 16. It was the first flight of NASA’s new Artemis moon program, named after Apollo’s mythological twin sister.

“From Tranquility Base to Taurus-Littrow to the tranquil waters of the Pacific, the latest chapter of NASA’s journey to the moon comes to a close. Orion back on Earth,” announced Mission Control commentator Rob Navias.

While no one was on the $4 billion test flight, NASA managers were thrilled to pull off the dress rehearsal, especially after so many years of flight delays and busted budgets. Fuel leaks and hurricanes conspired for additional postponements in late summer and fall.

In an Apollo throwback, NASA held a splashdown party at Houston’s Johnson Space Center on Sunday, with employees and their families gathering to watch the broadcast of Orion’s homecoming. Next door, the visitor centre threw a bash for the public.

Getting Orion back intact after the 25-day flight was NASA’s top objective. With a return speed of 40,000 km/h — considerably faster than coming in from low-Earth orbit — the capsule used a new, advanced heat shield never tested before in spaceflight. To reduce the gravity or G loads, it dipped into the atmosphere and briefly skipped out, also helping to pinpoint the splashdown area.

All that unfolded in spectacular fashion, officials noted, allowing for Orion’s safe return.

“I don’t think any one of us could have imagined a mission this successful,” said mission manager Mike Sarafin.

Further inspections will be conducted once Orion is back at Kennedy by month’s end. If the capsule checks find nothing amiss, NASA will announce the first lunar crew amid considerable hoopla in early 2023, picking from among the 42 active U.S. astronauts stationed at Houston’s Johnson Space Center.

“People are anxious, we know that,” Vanessa Wyche, Johnson’s director, told reporters. Added Nelson: “The American people, just like (with) the original seven astronauts in the Mercury days, are going to want to know about these astronauts.”

The capsule splashed down more than 482 kilometres south of the original target zone. Forecasts calling for choppy seas and high wind off the Southern California coast prompted NASA to switch the location.

Orion logged 2.25 million kilometres as it zoomed to the moon and then entered a wide, swooping orbit for nearly a week before heading home.

It came within 130 kilometres of the moon twice. At its farthest, the capsule was more than 430,000 kilometres from Earth.

Orion beamed back stunning photos of not only the gray, pitted moon, but also the home planet. As a parting shot, the capsule revealed a crescent Earth — Earthrise — that left the mission team speechless.

In this handout video grab courtesy of NASA TV the Earth is visible as a crescent in the minutes after Orion finished its engine burn around the moon on Dec. 5, 2022.
In this handout video grab courtesy of NASA TV the Earth is visible as a crescent in the minutes after Orion finished its engine burn around the moon on Dec. 5, 2022. PHOTO BY HANDOUT/NASA TV /AFP via Getty Images
Nottingham Trent University astronomer Daniel Brown said the flight’s many accomplishments illustrate NASA’s capability to put astronauts on the next Artemis moonshot.

“This was the nail-biting end of an amazing and important journey for NASA’s Orion spacecraft,” Brown said in a statement from England.

The moon has never been hotter. Just hours earlier Sunday, a spacecraft rocketed toward the moon from Cape Canaveral. The lunar lander belongs to ispace, a Tokyo company intent on developing an economy up there. Two U.S. companies, meanwhile, have lunar landers launching early next year.

— The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
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spaminator

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Those glowing swirls by the North Pole? They're just space hurricanes
Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Kasha Patel, The Washington Post
Published Dec 15, 2022 • 5 minute read

We have another scientific marvel for Hollywood to someday butcher: space hurricanes.


Last year, scientists announced they had discovered cyclone-like auroras near the North Pole. Over 600 miles in diameter with multiple arms that rotate counterclockwise, they contain a calm center, or eye, and “rain” electrons into the upper atmosphere. The team dubbed them “space hurricanes” for their 3D funnel shape.


“[They’re] occurring where nobody looked and occurring under conditions where nobody thought anything was happening,” said Larry Lyons, who is co-author of a study on the space hurricanes as well as a space physicist at UCLA. “It’s just a matter of opening your eyes.”

In a new study, researchers shed even more light on these mysterious phenomena, showing when, where and how they occur in unprecedented detail.


Auroras are one of the most visible manifestations of the sun’s impact on Earth, as their soft glow is caused by particles from the sun exciting molecules in our upper atmosphere. The identification of this new type of aurora highlights another highway that solar particles can ride and transfer large amounts of energy into Earth’s system – entering at higher latitudes than typical auroras.

“People have known there’s been some bright aurora or some forms of aurora in that region before, but nobody had really put it together into this cohesive picture,” Lyons said. “It’s really strong, and the aurora can be very, very bright.”

Space hurricanes, in other words, are like Cap’n Crunch’s Chocolate Caramel Crunch cereal: They resemble the original but have their own flavor. (Also, you probably did not know either existed before this article.)


When we think of auroras, we often picture narrow and elongated curtains of light dancing across the sky in the east-west direction. Space hurricanes, too, shine brightly in the same green, red, blue and pink hues. Both move at similar speeds and heights (about 100 to 250 kilometers high).

But now the chocolate caramel flavor comes in. The study found these cyclonic auroras form at high latitudes near the North Pole, well above where bright elongated auroras have been observed. They can spin for eight hours, while traditional auroras last minutes. They also appear during periods of low geomagnetic activity, when disturbances in Earth’s magnetic field by solar particles have been believed to be very low.

Lyons said people on the ground would be likely to see a space hurricane if they were around 80 degrees north latitude near the North Pole. (Santa would perhaps see it many times, if he were real.) Astronauts could also probably spot it from the International Space Station, if they were taught where and what to look for.


Even though we may not easily see them, the presence of a space hurricane is felt in other ways. Like other auroras, they have interrupted radio waves passing through the upper atmosphere, affecting satellite communication and navigation systems, study co-author Zhang Qing-He wrote in an email. They also cause the upper atmosphere to heat up, which could affect the orbits of satellites and space debris. But the hurricanes do not pose an exceptional risk to spacecraft or astronauts’ health.

“From both the communications and the navigation points of view, this looks like it will be something we want to add to our predictions for aircraft flying polar routes,” Qing-He, professor at the Institute of Space Science and Physics in China, wrote in an email. “The study of space hurricanes is just beginning.”


Lyons said he stumbled upon space hurricanes unintentionally. He and his colleagues were looking at satellite data for a different project but noticed unusually strong flows of plasma – or extremely hot, energetically charged gas – in the polar cap. The polar cap is a semicircular region at the highest latitudes on Earth, near the north pole.

Typically, researchers do not look for auroras in the polar cap because it is above the auroral oval, which is a belt at the boundary of the polar cap where the northern lights appear. When an influx of solar particles disturbs Earth’s magnetic field, the auroral oval moves toward the equator. During rare, strong geomagnetic storms, people can sometimes see the dancing lights as far as south as Georgia. Generally though, auroras are much weaker in the polar cap region – or so Lyons thought.


Looking closer at the data, he started seeing a very dramatic auroral intensification at the polar cap associated with the strong plasma flows.

“You look more closely at it and I say, ‘Wait a minute, these flows are sort of floating around in a circle. And in the center, there’s a great big auroral spot, very bright aurora. Gee, this is interesting. Let’s look more closely at it,'” Lyons recalled.

For decades, scientists have seen glimpses of bright auroras in the polar cap region and knew of the circular plasma flows, but no one has put together a cohesive picture of the events until recently, Lyons said. In its new study, the team analyzed more than 300 space hurricanes over 11 years – about 30 observations per year but more could have occurred when the satellite was not watching. They most often appeared in the afternoon during summer.


But how do these cyclonic lights form?

To understand how space hurricanes take shape, let’s first look at how traditional auroras are generally formed.

The sun is constantly emitting a stream of charged particles, called the solar wind. Sometimes the solar wind can be strengthened by explosions on the sun. The process for an aurora begins when the blast of particles and energy from the sun disturbs Earth’s magnetosphere, which is an invisible magnetic shield mostly formed by electric currents in Earth’s core and protects our planet from high-energy radiation and damaging solar particles. This burst changes the configuration (such as shape and direction) of some of Earth’s magnetic field lines.

Some electrons are trapped along the magnetic field lines and are accelerated into the upper atmosphere. Here, they bump and temporarily excite nitrogen and oxygen molecules and release photons of light. That is what we know as the aurora borealis, or northern lights.


Similarly, space hurricanes are caused by electrons raining down into the atmosphere and exciting molecules. But they form at latitudes within the polar cap that are higher than where traditional auroras are created, Lyons said.

It is possible space hurricanes are not exactly “new,” said Maria Walach, a space plasma physicist who was not involved in the study. They look physically similar to a previously observed phenomenon called a high-latitude dayside aurora, she said, questioning whether scientists are seeing a new discovery at all or just higher-resolution. The study’s authors said these are different from previous observations of a high-latitude dayside aurora because they are much brighter, contain strong circular flows in the ionosphere and can have hurricane-like arms.

In any case, Walach, at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom, said the new observations can help scientists create a more complete account of the conditions under which these types of aurora occur.

So sorry, Hollywood, space hurricanes are not a doomsday scenario, but feel free to make a flick with Ryan Reynolds explaining auroral physics.
 

spaminator

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NASA Mars lander InSight falls silent after 4 years
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Marcia Dunn
Published Dec 20, 2022 • 2 minute read
This image released by NASA on Monday, Dec. 19, 2022, shows NASA's InSight lander on Mars.
This image released by NASA on Monday, Dec. 19, 2022, shows NASA's InSight lander on Mars. PHOTO BY NASA /THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — It could be the end of the red dusty line for NASA’s InSight lander, which has fallen silent after four years on Mars.


The lander’s power levels have been dwindling for months because of all the dust coating its solar panels. Ground controllers at California’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory knew the end was near, but NASA reported that InSight unexpectedly didn’t respond to communications from Earth on Sunday.


“It’s assumed InSight may have reached the end of its operations,” NASA said late Monday, adding that its last communication was Thursday. “It’s unknown what prompted the change in its energy.”

The team will keep trying to contact InSight, just in case.

InSight landed on Mars in 2018 and was the first spacecraft to document a marsquake. It detected more than 1,300 marsquakes with its French-built seismometer, including several caused by meteoroid strikes. The most recent marsquake sensed by InSight, earlier this year, left the ground shaking for at least six hours, according to NASA.


The seismometer readings shed light on Mars’ interior.

Just last week, scientists revealed that InSight scored another first, capturing a Martian dust devil not just in pictures, but sound. In a stroke of luck, the whirling column of dust blew directly over the lander in 2021 when its microphone was on.

The lander’s other main instrument, however, encountered nothing but trouble.

A German digging device — meant to measure the temperature of Mars’ interior — never made it deeper than a couple feet (half a meter), well short of the intended 16 feet (5 metres). NASA declared it dead nearly two years ago.

InSight recently sent back one last selfie, shared by NASA via Twitter on Monday.

“My power’s really low, so this may be the last image I can send,” the team wrote on InSight’s behalf. “Don’t worry about me though: my time here has been both productive and serene. If I can keep talking to my mission team, I will — but I’ll be signing off here soon. Thanks for staying with me.”



NASA still has two active rovers on Mars: Curiosity, roaming the surface since 2012, and Perseverance, which arrived early last year.

Perseverance is in the midst of creating a sample depot; the plan is to leave 10 tubes of rock cores on the Martian surface as a backup to samples on the rover itself. NASA plans to bring some of these samples back to Earth in a decade, in its longtime search for signs of ancient microscopic life on Mars.

Perseverance also has a companion: a mini helicopter named Ingenuity. It just completed its 37th flight and has now logged more than an hour of Martian flight time.

— The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
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Blackleaf

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All solar system's planets visible in night sky​

BBC News
Thursday 29th December 2022

Planets


There will be a chance to see all the planets in the solar system in the night sky on Thursday.

Five should be visible with the naked eye, while the two furthest away, Uranus and Neptune, will be better viewed with binoculars.

It will be challenging to see Mercury and Venus in the UK due to their low position in the sky.

The best time to see the spectacle is shortly after sunset.

Those further south, including southern Europe or closer to the equator, are more likely to be able to see all the planets appear in a vertical line up into the sky.

Mercury will also be more visible further south.

Unlike stars, planets do not twinkle. Saturn and Jupiter will be brightest, and Mars will be a salmon red colour.

"Mars at the moment is at its best from the UK now until about 2032. It's going to be quite a long time before we see this one again, so it's well worth taking a look now," Dr Robert Massey of the Royal Astronomical Society told BBC News.

Dr Massey advises sky-watchers to try to find a clear vantage point to look towards the south-west horizon shortly after sunset.

Venus should appear the brightest, low in the south-west towards the horizon, but it will be a challenge from the UK.

Jupiter is the next brightest planet, and should appear higher in the sky where Saturn should also be visible.

Anyone looking through a telescope should be able to see details like the moons of Jupiter and perhaps cloud systems or dark markings on Jupiter and Mars, Dr Massey says.

Skies are forecast to be clearest in the south-west of England and the south and west of Wales. But in the north of England and Scotland clouds could obscure the view.

In June Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn were visible when they aligned in a rare planetary conjunction.

 

Tecumsehsbones

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I'd rather not view Uranus, with or without binoculars, thanks.

And planets do twinkle, if they're faint enough, for the same reason stars do. Diffraction of the light by the atmosphere.
 
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spaminator

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Old NASA satellite falls harmlessly from sky off Alaska
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Marcia Dunn
Published Jan 09, 2023 • 1 minute read

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — After almost 40 years circling Earth, a retired NASA science satellite plunged harmlessly through the atmosphere off the coast of Alaska, NASA reported Monday.


The Defense Department confirmed that the satellite — placed in orbit in 1984 by astronaut Sally Ride — reentered late Sunday night over the Bering Sea, a few hundred miles from Alaska. NASA said it’s received no reports of injury or damage from falling debris.


Late last week, NASA said it expected most of the 5,400-pound (2,450-kilogram) Earth Radiation Budget Satellite to burn up in the atmosphere, but that some pieces might survive. The space agency put the odds of falling debris injuring someone at 1-in-9,400.

Space shuttle Challenger carried the satellite into orbit and the first American woman in space set it free. The satellite measured ozone in the atmosphere and studied how Earth absorbed and radiated energy from the sun, before being retired in 2005, well beyond its expected working lifetime.
 

spaminator

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Astronomers discover Milky Way galaxy's most-distant stars
Author of the article:Reuters
Reuters
Will Dunham
Published Jan 12, 2023 • 3 minute read
An undated illustration shows the Milky Way galaxy's inner and outer halos. A halo is a spherical cloud of stars surrounding a galaxy.
An undated illustration shows the Milky Way galaxy's inner and outer halos. A halo is a spherical cloud of stars surrounding a galaxy. PHOTO BY NASA, ESA, AND A. FEILD (STSCI) / HANDOUT /REUTERS
WASHINGTON — Astronomers have detected in the stellar halo that represents the Milky Way’s outer limits a group of stars more distant from Earth than any known within our own galaxy — almost halfway to a neighbouring galaxy.


The researchers said these 208 stars inhabit the most remote reaches of the Milky Way’s halo, a spherical stellar cloud dominated by the mysterious invisible substance called dark matter that makes itself known only through its gravitational influence. The furthest of them is 1.08 million light years from Earth. A light year is the distance light travels in a year, 5.9 trillion miles (9.5 trillion km).


These stars, spotted using the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea mountain, are part of a category of stars called RR Lyrae that are relatively low mass and typically have low abundances of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium. The most distant one appears to have a mass about 70% that of our sun. No other Milky Way stars have been confidently measured farther away than these.


The stars that populate the outskirts of the galactic halo can be viewed as stellar orphans, probably originating in smaller galaxies that later collided with the larger Milky Way.

“Our interpretation about the origin of these distant stars is that they are most likely born in the halos of dwarf galaxies and star clusters which were later merged – or more straightforwardly, cannibalized – by the Milky Way,” said Yuting Feng, an astronomy doctoral student at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who led the study, presented this week at an American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle.

“Their host galaxies have been gravitationally shredded and digested, but these stars are left at that large distance as debris of the merger event,” Feng added.


The Milky Way has grown over time through such calamities.

“The larger galaxy grows by eating smaller galaxies – by eating its own kind,” said study co-author Raja GuhaThakurta, UC Santa Cruz’s chair of astronomy and astrophysics.

Containing an inner and outer layer, the Milky Way’s halo is vastly larger than the galaxy’s main disk and central bulge that are teeming with stars. The galaxy, with a supermassive black hole at its center about 26,000 light years from Earth, contains perhaps 100 billion–400 billion stars including our sun, which resides in one of the four primary spiral arms that make up the Milky Way’s disk. The halo contains about 5% of the galaxy’s stars.

Dark matter, which dominates the halo, makes up most of the universe’s mass and is thought to be responsible for its basic structure, with its gravity influencing visible matter to come together and form stars and galaxies.


The halo’s remote outer edge is a poorly understood region of the galaxy. These newly identified stars are almost half the distance to the Milky Way’s neighbouring Andromeda galaxy.

“We can see that the suburbs of the Andromeda halo and the Milky Way halo are really extended – and are almost ‘back-to-back,'” Feng said.

The search for life beyond the Earth focuses on rocky planets akin to Earth orbiting in what is called the “habitable zone” around stars. More than 5,000 planets beyond our solar system, called exoplanets, already have been discovered.

“We don’t know for sure, but each of these outer halo stars should be about as likely to have planets orbiting them as the sun and other sun-like stars in the Milky Way,” GuhaThakurta said.
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spaminator

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Space Debris Game: Why space junk is a growing problem
Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Shikha Subramaniam, Rekha Tenjarla and Christian Davenport, The Washington Post
Published Jan 13, 2023 • 4 minute read

In 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first satellite, Sputnik. Since then, the space above Earth has been flooded with thousands of satellites, spent rocket stages and the debris from several catastrophic events. As a result, Earth’s lower orbit has been littered with an increasing amount of junk that is careening through space at intense speeds, threatening satellites and even the International Space Station.


Last year, the problem became serious enough to prompt the Biden administration to call for the abolishment of tests that destroy satellites in orbit. The announcement came after Russia blew up a dead satellite in 2021, creating a massive debris field that threatened the ISS astronauts along with other satellites.


In the future, if the international community cannot come up with a way to regulate the Wild West of space, the debris problem will get worse. Every year there are dozens of near-collisions between active satellites or pieces of debris. The more satellites that flood Earth’s orbit, the greater the chances that one will happen. The more collisions, the more debris – all of which fuels what many fear could become a destructive cycle.


Earth’s lower orbit is crowded by a number of objects – including working satellites as well as space debris like defunct satellites, spent rocket stages, and the detritus from missile strikes and collisions.

Working satellites
There are more than 6,000 active satellites rotating around Earth as of Jan. 9, according to LeoLabs, a company that tracks satellites and debris in Earth’s lower orbit. Some are small, the size of a shoe box; others are much larger. Their functions vary widely, from providing television and internet service, to GPS and weather monitoring.

Defunct satellites
Satellites can’t live forever. They run out of fuel eventually, or malfunction and become giant pieces of garbage whizzing around the Earth. Currently, there are more than 1,800 defunct satellites in lower orbit. Under the current rules, the United States requires satellites to deorbit – or burn up in Earth’s atmosphere – after 25 years. But many think that regulation is far too lax and that satellites should be deorbited earlier.


Fragments
Over the years, astronauts on spacewalks have dropped a camera lens cap, a screwdriver and even a spatula – adding to the curious collection of things in orbit, which includes eroded spacecraft parts and baseball-sized chunks of garbage.

Even small pieces of debris – a nut or even a fleck of paint – can cause enormous damage in space.

Spent rocket stages
As rockets launch to orbit, they often discard upper stages that have their own engines and propellant. If they don’t burn up in the atmosphere or fall back to Earth, they join the cloud of space debris in low Earth orbit. Several of these are the size of a school bus, spinning wildly as they move through space. In total, there are nearly 1,000 spent rocket stages of varying sizes in Earth’s lower orbit.


The United States and private companies like LeoLabs track tens of thousands of pieces of space debris, including operational and nonoperational satellites, rocket stages and unknown objects. But there are many more pieces too small to see. NASA estimates that there are roughly 500,000 objects between 1 and 10 centimeters in diameter orbiting Earth, and that there are more than 100 million particles larger than 1 millimeter. (The agency said that as of January last year, the amount of material in orbit was more than 9,000 metric tons.)

And as more companies flood Earth’s orbit with an increasing number of satellites, there is growing concern that collisions – which would only make more debris – are inevitable, as theorized by NASA scientist Donald J. Kessler in 1978.


If nothing is done, space could become so polluted that it is unsafe for human exploration and could leave some of the world’s most sensitive satellites, which are used for GPS and missile warnings, at risk.

Despite the growing amount of launches and space debris, there are very few rules of the road in space. While the Pentagon issues warnings about possible collisions, it cannot order one spacecraft operator to move out of the way.

Thankfully, there are a number of steps governments and companies are taking to curb the problem of space junk. The Biden administration has called for a ban on all destructive antisatellite tests, and recently, the Pentagon launched a program, called Orbital Prime, under the U.S. Space Force that will give companies seed money to develop the technology needed to clean up space.


That includes grappling large bodies and pulling them out of orbit (one company that is working with the European Space Agency proposes using a spacecraft with large arms that would function like a Venus’ flytrap), or refueling or repairing them so they can last longer and maneuver in space.

To track orbital debris, the Pentagon and commercial companies rely on a network of ground-based radar and optical telescopes. Radars can measure the distance to their targets and some can even track more than one object at a time, according to the Secure World Foundation, a think tank. Telescopes collect light reflected by debris and can cover large areas quickly and at high altitudes. The U.S. Space Force says it tracks more than 40,000 objects in space the size of a fist or larger. But there are at least 10 times as many smaller objects in orbit that the Pentagon can’t reliably track.

Ultimately, many space officials say that cleaning up space will require foreign governments to work together.
 

spaminator

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Canada hopes to position itself as future leader in space launches
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Published Jan 20, 2023 • 1 minute read

LONGUEUIL, Que. — Canada is hoping to capitalize on its vast geography and space expertise to position itself as the next global player in commercial space launches.


Transport Minister Omar Alghabra announced today that the federal government will develop the regulatory requirements, safety standards and licensing conditions necessary to authorize commercial satellite space launches from Canada within the next three years.


He told reporters at the Canadian Space Agency headquarters in Longueuil, Que., that the country is also ready to approve launches in the interim period on a case-by-case basis, and he invited private companies to come forward with projects.

Montreal-area MP and former astronaut Marc Garneau said Canada has a number of geographic advantages when it comes to satellite launch locations, including a vast, sparsely populated territory and a wide range of possibilities for high-inclination orbits.

He said that while Canada has previously launched suborbital rockets — which go up into space and fall back down — it has not yet launched an orbital space flight.

Alghabra says a number of companies have expressed interest in launching from Canada, including Maritime Launch, which is planning to build the country’s first spaceport in northeastern Nova Scotia.
 

Taxslave2

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Those glowing swirls by the North Pole? They're just space hurricanes
Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Kasha Patel, The Washington Post
Published Dec 15, 2022 • 5 minute read

We have another scientific marvel for Hollywood to someday butcher: space hurricanes.


Last year, scientists announced they had discovered cyclone-like auroras near the North Pole. Over 600 miles in diameter with multiple arms that rotate counterclockwise, they contain a calm center, or eye, and “rain” electrons into the upper atmosphere. The team dubbed them “space hurricanes” for their 3D funnel shape.


“[They’re] occurring where nobody looked and occurring under conditions where nobody thought anything was happening,” said Larry Lyons, who is co-author of a study on the space hurricanes as well as a space physicist at UCLA. “It’s just a matter of opening your eyes.”

In a new study, researchers shed even more light on these mysterious phenomena, showing when, where and how they occur in unprecedented detail.


Auroras are one of the most visible manifestations of the sun’s impact on Earth, as their soft glow is caused by particles from the sun exciting molecules in our upper atmosphere. The identification of this new type of aurora highlights another highway that solar particles can ride and transfer large amounts of energy into Earth’s system – entering at higher latitudes than typical auroras.

“People have known there’s been some bright aurora or some forms of aurora in that region before, but nobody had really put it together into this cohesive picture,” Lyons said. “It’s really strong, and the aurora can be very, very bright.”

Space hurricanes, in other words, are like Cap’n Crunch’s Chocolate Caramel Crunch cereal: They resemble the original but have their own flavor. (Also, you probably did not know either existed before this article.)


When we think of auroras, we often picture narrow and elongated curtains of light dancing across the sky in the east-west direction. Space hurricanes, too, shine brightly in the same green, red, blue and pink hues. Both move at similar speeds and heights (about 100 to 250 kilometers high).

But now the chocolate caramel flavor comes in. The study found these cyclonic auroras form at high latitudes near the North Pole, well above where bright elongated auroras have been observed. They can spin for eight hours, while traditional auroras last minutes. They also appear during periods of low geomagnetic activity, when disturbances in Earth’s magnetic field by solar particles have been believed to be very low.

Lyons said people on the ground would be likely to see a space hurricane if they were around 80 degrees north latitude near the North Pole. (Santa would perhaps see it many times, if he were real.) Astronauts could also probably spot it from the International Space Station, if they were taught where and what to look for.


Even though we may not easily see them, the presence of a space hurricane is felt in other ways. Like other auroras, they have interrupted radio waves passing through the upper atmosphere, affecting satellite communication and navigation systems, study co-author Zhang Qing-He wrote in an email. They also cause the upper atmosphere to heat up, which could affect the orbits of satellites and space debris. But the hurricanes do not pose an exceptional risk to spacecraft or astronauts’ health.

“From both the communications and the navigation points of view, this looks like it will be something we want to add to our predictions for aircraft flying polar routes,” Qing-He, professor at the Institute of Space Science and Physics in China, wrote in an email. “The study of space hurricanes is just beginning.”


Lyons said he stumbled upon space hurricanes unintentionally. He and his colleagues were looking at satellite data for a different project but noticed unusually strong flows of plasma – or extremely hot, energetically charged gas – in the polar cap. The polar cap is a semicircular region at the highest latitudes on Earth, near the north pole.

Typically, researchers do not look for auroras in the polar cap because it is above the auroral oval, which is a belt at the boundary of the polar cap where the northern lights appear. When an influx of solar particles disturbs Earth’s magnetic field, the auroral oval moves toward the equator. During rare, strong geomagnetic storms, people can sometimes see the dancing lights as far as south as Georgia. Generally though, auroras are much weaker in the polar cap region – or so Lyons thought.


Looking closer at the data, he started seeing a very dramatic auroral intensification at the polar cap associated with the strong plasma flows.

“You look more closely at it and I say, ‘Wait a minute, these flows are sort of floating around in a circle. And in the center, there’s a great big auroral spot, very bright aurora. Gee, this is interesting. Let’s look more closely at it,'” Lyons recalled.

For decades, scientists have seen glimpses of bright auroras in the polar cap region and knew of the circular plasma flows, but no one has put together a cohesive picture of the events until recently, Lyons said. In its new study, the team analyzed more than 300 space hurricanes over 11 years – about 30 observations per year but more could have occurred when the satellite was not watching. They most often appeared in the afternoon during summer.


But how do these cyclonic lights form?

To understand how space hurricanes take shape, let’s first look at how traditional auroras are generally formed.

The sun is constantly emitting a stream of charged particles, called the solar wind. Sometimes the solar wind can be strengthened by explosions on the sun. The process for an aurora begins when the blast of particles and energy from the sun disturbs Earth’s magnetosphere, which is an invisible magnetic shield mostly formed by electric currents in Earth’s core and protects our planet from high-energy radiation and damaging solar particles. This burst changes the configuration (such as shape and direction) of some of Earth’s magnetic field lines.

Some electrons are trapped along the magnetic field lines and are accelerated into the upper atmosphere. Here, they bump and temporarily excite nitrogen and oxygen molecules and release photons of light. That is what we know as the aurora borealis, or northern lights.


Similarly, space hurricanes are caused by electrons raining down into the atmosphere and exciting molecules. But they form at latitudes within the polar cap that are higher than where traditional auroras are created, Lyons said.

It is possible space hurricanes are not exactly “new,” said Maria Walach, a space plasma physicist who was not involved in the study. They look physically similar to a previously observed phenomenon called a high-latitude dayside aurora, she said, questioning whether scientists are seeing a new discovery at all or just higher-resolution. The study’s authors said these are different from previous observations of a high-latitude dayside aurora because they are much brighter, contain strong circular flows in the ionosphere and can have hurricane-like arms.

In any case, Walach, at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom, said the new observations can help scientists create a more complete account of the conditions under which these types of aurora occur.

So sorry, Hollywood, space hurricanes are not a doomsday scenario, but feel free to make a flick with Ryan Reynolds explaining auroral physics.
Well this could explain the climate truthers claim that the polar region temperature is rising faster than the rest of the world.
I'm waiting for the explanation as to how burning fossil fuels caused this.
 

spaminator

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Remote Labrador location potential training ground for astronauts
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Hina Alam
Published Jan 22, 2023 • 4 minute read
Discovery Hill near the Mistastin crater in Labrador is shown in a handout photo.
Discovery Hill near the Mistastin crater in Labrador is shown in a handout photo. PHOTO BY HANDOUT PHOTO/GORDON OSINSKI /THE CANADIAN PRESS
When scientists determined in the mid-1970s that the Mistastin crater in Labrador had lunar-like properties, the last Apollo mission had flown and it was too late for astronauts to take advantage of the site for training.


But now, as Artemis astronauts prepare for the next moon mission, one Canadian expert says the remote crater could provide vital insight into what awaits them.


Gordon Osinski, a professor in the department of Earth sciences at Western University in London, Ont., said Mistastin was found to be an impact crater in the mid-1970s.

An impact crater is created when an asteroid or meteorite crashes into the Earth, melting and recrystallizing rock through shock waves. One of the unique things about Mistastin, he said, is that it is formed from anorthosite — a light-coloured, highly reflective stone — that makes up large parts of the moon’s surface called lunar highlands.

“That also makes it one of the best training sites for the Artemis astronauts,” Osinski said. “My dream would be every astronaut who walks on the moon in the next few years will have visited this impact crater up in northern Labrador because of those attributes.”


A Canadian astronaut is to be part of Artemis II, planned for May 2024. This would make Canada the second country to have an astronaut fly around the moon. During the 10-day mission, the crew is expected to set a record for the farthest human travel beyond the far side of the moon. Artemis III, currently set for 2025, is expected to take humans back to the moon’s surface to explore for the first time the region near the lunar South Pole.

Mistastin, also known as Kamestastin, is on the traditional hunting grounds of the Mushuau Innu First Nation. George Rich from the Innu Nation said they welcome the scientists as long as they get the required permission to be on their traditional lands.

A spokeswoman for the Canadian Space Agency said no decisions have been made regarding astronaut training at the moment.


“We’d be happy to support opportunities for the profile and training when the time comes,” Sarah Berjaoui said in an email.

Apollo astronauts trained at Arizona’s Meteor Crater, which at just over a kilometre across, is much smaller than the gaping 28-kilometre-wide Mistastin. Astronauts from the Apollo 16 and 17 missions in the early 1970s trained in Sudbury, Ont., because of its lack of greenery and extensive bedrock, which gave the crew a feeling of being on the moon.

Cassandra Marion, a science adviser at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa who has been to the Mistastin crater six times, described the place as “breathtakingly beautiful.” The crater sits on the tundra-taiga line and is accessible via a cargo plane that lands on one of two airstrips.


It is quiet and its rocks are similar to those found on the lunar surface, she said, but Mistastin differs in several respects, including having abundant blueberry bushes and a lake that is a remainder from the last Ice Age.

Osinski, who has been to the crater twice, said Mistastin could be used to train astronauts in field geology, teaching them how to record observations of a totally new area.

“These are obviously critical, because the astronauts wouldn’t be the ones looking at samples when they come back to Earth,” he said.

“It would be scientists, so making sure they capture all the observations that we need is important.” The Mistastin crater could be a training ground for selecting the best rocks for study and making notes for researchers, he said.


“Faced with dozens and dozens of potential samples, how do we choose the best ones to bring back to answer the questions that the scientists have?”

In September 2021, Canadian astronaut Joshua Kutryk and NASA astronaut Matthew Dominick, a member of the Artemis team, spent some time training at the Mistastin crater where they learned to identify rocks that can be seen on the moon. Most of the rocks are accessible through cliff faces and outcrops, and are millions of years old.

“I’ve been in discussions already about returning this coming September with a bigger group of both Canadian and U.S. astronauts,” Osinski said.

The prevailing theory is that the moon was formed out of debris from when a Mars-sized body struck Earth billions of years ago. The molten surface cooled over time and the lighter rocks known as anorthosite floated to the top, he explained. Those rocks make up much of the lunar surface and give the moon its white shimmer, but they are rare on Earth. Marion said the area where Artemis hopes to land on the far side of the moon in the south polar region is mainly made up of anorthosite.

For all but a select few, Mistastin is about as close to a lunar landscape as it’s possible for a human to get.

The crater that was sculpted about 36 million years ago when an asteroid crashed into the Earth’s landscape is striking, Osinski said.

“You have this magnificent bull’s-eye of this meteorite impact crater. It’s definitely one of the most unique geological sites that I’ve ever been to.”
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Tecumsehsbones

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During the Space Race, they used to train astronauts out in the desert on the Navajo Rez.

Legend has it that one day an elderly Navajo man and his grandson were herding their sheep nearby, and stopped to watch the training. After a while, they came down off the hill and asked what they were doing, with the non-English speaking (damn foreigners!) old man using his grandson to translate. The NASA techs answered that they were preparing to send a man to the moon. The old man thought it over, and asked if he could send a message to the moon with the astronauts. The techs thought this was the coolest idea ever, so they dug up a tape recorder, set it up, and told the old man to go. He spoke a couple of short sentences, and signalled he was done. The techs asked his grandson for a translation, but the two just walked off.

Well, for the next few days the techs went half crazy driving around the Rez and asking every Navajo (or other Native) they saw if they would translate the tape. A few agreed, but when they heard the tape, merely smiled and refused to translate. Finally, the techs found a man who agreed to translate. When they played the tape, he smiled and said "Hastiin says 'Watch out for these guys. They're coming to take your land.'"
 
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spaminator

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How to see green comet passing Earth for first time in 50,000 years
Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Matthew Cappucci
Published Jan 23, 2023 • 5 minute read
This handout picture obtained from the NASA website on January 6, 2022 shows the Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) that was discovered by astronomers using the wide-field survey camera at the Zwicky Transient Facility this year in early March
This handout picture obtained from the NASA website on January 6, 2022 shows the Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) that was discovered by astronomers using the wide-field survey camera at the Zwicky Transient Facility this year in early March PHOTO BY DAN BARTLETT /NASA/AFP via Getty Images
Fifty-thousand years ago, the Sahara Desert was wet and fertile. The Stone Age in Africa was just beginning, and the world’s first sewing needle was invented. It was also the most recent time that Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) swung past Earth.


The long-forgotten comet has recently returned to Earth’s night skies, appearing as a faint eraser-smudge that some have even spotted with the naked eye in the darkest areas. Catching a glimpse of it won’t be easy, but considering it’s your last (and first) shot, it may be worth a try.


Experts point to Feb. 1 or 2, which is when the comet will make its closest pass to Earth, as the most opportune time but – with binoculars or a telescope – you can spot it starting now provided you have clear skies.

What is a comet?

Comets are large bodies made of dust and ice. They orbit the sun in elliptical paths, accelerating as they approach perihelion (an object’s nearest pass to the sun), and slow somewhat as they recede to the far outer reaches of the solar system.


Every comet has its own period, or the time it takes to complete an orbit and begin a new one. Short-period comets may pass by the sun once every 200 years or less. Said comets don’t travel very far out in the solar system (usually only to the Kuiper belt, or a region just beyond Neptune), and begin their return trips more swiftly.

Other “long-period” comets may take as much as 250,000 years to revisit the center of the solar system. Those intrepid bodies operate on orbits that take them to the system’s distant outskirts – often 50,000 times farther than short-period comets. Those long-period comets compose the Oort cloud, or a band of cometary debris on the fringes of the solar system.

Structure of comets

The frozen core of a comet, known as a nucleus, is usually less than 10 miles wide. That’s about the size of a small city, or the volume of a single extremely large mountain.


Comets heat up as they approach the sun. That causes some of the ice to ablate into gas. As gas escapes the comet, it can carry dust with it. The combination gas/dust patch swallows the comet’s nucleus in a cloud known as a “coma,” then streams away in the form of a gently arcing tail.

A second wake, known as an “ion tail,” which is tied to ultraviolet solar radiation causing electrons to leap from the coma, always points directly away from the sun because of the “solar wind.”

What’s the deal with Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF)?

Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) was discovered by two astronomers on March 2, 2022. They were using the Zwicky Transient Facility, made up of an ultrasensitive camera attached to the Samuel Oschin Telescope at the Palomar Observatory in California’s Palomar Mountain Range.


At that point, it was orders of magnitude too dim to be seen with the naked eye (or even with regular telescopes). By November, it had brightened to the point of almost being visible to the highest-quality binoculars from dark areas. It was found to have a period of roughly 50,000 years.

Why is it green?

It is believed that C2, or diatomic carbon (picture two carbon atoms bonded together), is present in the head of the comet. When excited by incoming solar radiation, it emits photons (packets of light) at wavelengths we see to be green.

Where has it been this whole time?

In a land far, far away. Until comets approach Earth and become bright enough that humankind’s most light-sensitive technology can spot a “new” unidentified object in the night sky, we simply can’t know about their existence.


How can I see it?

Darker skies due to this weekend’s new moon may allow viewing opportunities, but probably not with the naked eye unless you’re far away from any light pollution.

“By January 19, it could just be seen with the naked eye in this rural sky with little light pollution from a location about 20 kilometers from Salamanca, Spain,” NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day website said. “Still, telescopic images are needed to show any hint of the comet’s pretty green coma, stubby whitish dust tail, and long ion tail.”

Viewing will improve in the Northern Hemisphere toward the end of this month into early February when the comet makes its closest approach. That said, it is estimated that the comet will peak only a bit brighter than magnitude 6, which is astronomer talk for “barely visible.” That will be complicated by the waxing crescent moon, which will peak as full on Feb. 5.

If you’re hoping to catch a glimmer of its distant and muted splendor, find a dark location isolated from city lights. Binoculars probably will do the trick, but you’ll also need a little patience. A telescope would provide the clearest view.

The comet is located in the northern sky (in the northern hemisphere). This weekend it is near the constellation Boötes (see sky chart).

“On the nights of Jan. 26 and Jan. 27, it can be conveniently found passing several degrees to the east of the bowl of the Little Dipper,” writes Space.com. “On the evening of Jan. 27, it will be 3.5° to the upper right of orange Kochab, the brightest of the two outer stars in the bowl. On the evening of Feb. 1, when C/2022 E3 (ZTF) is passing closest to Earth, it will be within the boundaries of the vague and dim constellation of Camelopardalis.”

By the middle of February, the comet will disappear from our skies the same way it appeared – with little fanfare. The comet was estimated to have a period of 50,000 years based on its trajectory. However, there are simulations that indicate it could “escape” the solar system and essentially outrun the sun’s gravitational forces, which might mean it will never return – or at least won’t make an appearance for millions of years.

This article was updated to include more information on where to look for it in the night sky.
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spaminator

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Asteroid coming exceedingly close to Earth, but will miss
It will zoom 3,600 km above southern tip of South America on Thursday night

Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Marcia Dunn
Published Jan 25, 2023 • 1 minute read
This diagram made available by NASA shows the estimated trajectory of asteroid 2023 BU, in red, affected by the Earth's gravity, and the orbit of geosynchronous satellites, in green. On Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023.
This diagram made available by NASA shows the estimated trajectory of asteroid 2023 BU, in red, affected by the Earth's gravity, and the orbit of geosynchronous satellites, in green. On Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023. PHOTO BY NASA / JET PROPULSION LABORATORY-CALTECH /THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — An asteroid the size of a delivery truck will whip past Earth on Thursday night, one of the closest such encounters ever recorded.


NASA insists it will be a near miss with no chance of the asteroid hitting Earth.


NASA said Wednesday that this newly discovered asteroid will zoom 2,200 miles (3,600 km) above the southern tip of South America. That’s 10 times closer than the bevy of communication satellites circling overhead.

The closest approach will occur at 7:27 p.m. EST (9:27 p.m. local.)

Even if the space rock came a lot closer, scientists said most of it would burn up in the atmosphere, with some of the bigger pieces possibly falling as meteorites.

NASA’s impact hazard assessment system, called Scout, quickly ruled out a strike, said its developer, Davide Farnocchia, an engineer at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.


“But despite the very few observations, it was nonetheless able to predict that the asteroid would make an extraordinarily close approach with Earth,” Farnocchia said in a statement. “In fact, this is one of the closest approaches by a known near-Earth object ever recorded.”

Discovered Saturday, the asteroid known as 2023 BU is believed to be between 11 feet (3.5 metres) and 28 feet (8.5 metres) feet across. It was first spotted by the same amateur astronomer in Crimea, Gennady Borisov, who discovered an interstellar comet in 2019. Within a few days, dozens of observations were made by astronomers around the world, allowing them to refine the asteroid’s orbit.

The asteroid’s path drastically will be altered by Earth’s gravity once it zips by. Instead of circling the sun every 359 days, it will move into an oval orbit lasting 425 days, according to NASA.
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