Space Thread

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’Ring of fire’ solar eclipse will slice across Americas on Saturday with millions along path
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Marcia Dunn
Published Oct 10, 2023 • 4 minute read

Tens of millions in the Americas will have front-row seats for Saturday’s rare “ring of fire” eclipse of the sun.


What’s called an annular solar eclipse — better known as a ring of fire — will briefly dim the skies over parts of the western U.S. and Central and South America.


As the moon lines up precisely between Earth and the sun, it will blot out all but the sun’s outer rim. A bright, blazing border will appear around the moon for as much as five minutes, wowing skygazers along a narrow path stretching from Oregon to Brazil.

The celestial showstopper will yield a partial eclipse across the rest of the Western Hemisphere.

It’s a prelude to the total solar eclipse that will sweep across Mexico, the eastern half of the U.S. and Canada, in six months. Unlike Saturday, when the moon is too far from Earth to completely cover the sun from our perspective, the moon will be at the perfect distance on April 8, 2024.


Here’s what you need to know about the ring of fire eclipse, where you can see it and how to protect your eyes:

WHAT’S THE PATH OF THE RING OF FIRE ECLIPSE?

The eclipse will carve out a swath about 130 miles (210 kilometers) wide, starting in the North Pacific and entering the U.S. over Oregon around 8 a.m. PDT Saturday. It will culminate in the ring of fire a little over an hour later. From Oregon, the eclipse will head downward across Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and Texas, encompassing slivers of Idaho, California, Arizona and Colorado, before exiting into the Gulf of Mexico at Corpus Christi. It will take less than an hour for the flaming halo to traverse the U.S.

From there, the ring of fire will cross Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia and, finally, Brazil before its grand finale over the Atlantic.


The entire eclipse — from the moment the moon starts to obscure the sun until it’s back to normal — will last 2 1/2 to three hours at any given spot. The ring of fire portion lasts from three to five minutes, depending on location.

WHERE CAN THE ECLIPSE BE SEEN?

In the U.S. alone, more than 6.5 million people live along the so-called path of annularity, with another 68 million within 200 miles (322 kilometers), according to NASA’s Alex Lockwood, a planetary scientist. “So a few hours’ short drive and you can have over 70 million witness this incredible celestial alignment,” she said.

At the same time, a crescent-shaped partial eclipse will be visible in every U.S. state, although just barely in Hawaii, provided the skies are clear. Canada, Central America and most of South America, also will see a partial eclipse. The closer to the ring of fire path, the bigger the bite the moon will appear to take out of the sun.


Can’t see it? NASA and others will provide a livestream of the eclipse.

HOW TO PROTECT YOUR EYES DURING THE ECLIPSE

Be sure to use safe, certified solar eclipse glasses, Lockwood stressed. Sunglasses aren’t enough to prevent eye damage. Proper protection is needed throughout the eclipse, from the initial partial phase to the ring of fire to the final partial phase.

There are other options if you don’t have eclipse glasses. You can look indirectly with a pinhole projector that you can make yourself, including one made with a cereal box.

Cameras — including those on cellphones — binoculars, or telescopes need special solar filters mounted at the front end.

SEEING DOUBLE

One patch of Texas near San Antonio will be in the cross-hairs of Saturday’s eclipse and next April’s, with Kerrville near the center. It’s one of the locations hosting NASA’s livestream.


“Is the city of Kerrville excited? Absolutely!!!” Mayor Judy Eychner said in an email. “And having NASA here is just icing on the cake!!!”

With Saturday’s eclipse coinciding with art, music and river festivals, Eychner expects Kerrville’s population of 25,000 to double or even quadruple.

WHERE’S THE TOTAL ECLIPSE IN APRIL?

April’s total solar eclipse will crisscross the U.S. in the opposite direction. It will begin in the Pacific and head up through Mexico into Texas, then pass over Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, the northern fringes of Pennsylvania and New York, and New England, before cutting across Canada into the North Atlantic at New Brunswick and Newfoundland. Almost all these places missed out during the United States’ coast-to-coast total solar eclipse in 2017.


It will be 2039 before another ring of fire is visible in the U.S., and Alaska will be the only state then in the path of totality. And it will be 2046 before another ring of fire crosses into the U.S. Lower 48. That doesn’t mean they won’t be happening elsewhere: The southernmost tip of South America will get one next October, and Antarctica in 2026.

GOING AFTER THE SCIENCE

NASA and others plan a slew of observations during both eclipses, with rockets and hundreds of balloons soaring.

“It’s going to be absolutely breathtaking for science,” said NASA astrophysicist Madhulika Guhathakurta.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Aroh Barjatya will help launch three NASA-funded sounding rockets from New Mexico’s White Sands Missile Range before, during and after Saturday’s eclipse. The goal is to see how eclipses set off atmospheric waves in the ionosphere nearly 200 miles (320 kilometers) up that could disrupt communications.

Barjatya will be just outside Saturday’s ring of fire. And he’ll miss April’s full eclipse, while launching rockets from Virginia’s Wallops Island.

“But the bittersweet moment of not seeing annularity or totality will certainly be made up by the science return,” he said.
 

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Brief cloud breaks bring cheers from excited partial solar eclipse watchers in B.C.
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Dirk Meissner
Published Oct 14, 2023 • Last updated 1 day ago • 2 minute read

SAANICH, B.C. — Cheers greeted the brief cloud breaks that gave more than 100 people gathered at an astrophysical observatory site near Victoria, B.C., a peak at Saturday’s partial solar eclipse.


Fog and clouds were present for most of the morning at the mountain-top site, but there were moments when the skies parted and the partial eclipse was visible, said Calvin Schmidt, an employee of the non-profit Friends of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Saanich.


Those moments of solar splendor were worth the waiting, he said, though there are reports the skies were almost totally clear in some parts of Victoria, giving those residents a sustained view of the partial eclipse.

“So, it was completely foggy,” Schmidt said. “It’s totally clouded over, however, occasionally the fog would be just thin enough that the optical depth would be just low enough that we could see it without using glasses for a moment or two and then it would disappear.”

“Then we would be able to see it again,” he said. “It was really exciting. People would cheer when it would suddenly appear.”

Pairs of certified eclipse glasses to ensure safe viewing were provided at the event, and people were wearing them, but much of the morning was cloud covered, with short moments of clear skies, Schmidt said.

“I was very hesitant to say everybody could see it without eclipse glasses,” he said. “I would definitely recommend against it because at some point it would be very bright, but that never ended up happening.”

Southwestern B.C. was Canada’s best place to view the eclipse.



It was known as a ring-of-fire eclipse, where the moon passes in front of the sun but doesn’t completely cover it, leaving a fiery rim around the dark moon.

Environment Canada had forecast clouds and showers for much of southwest B.C. during the morning eclipse, where the moon was expected to block out 70 to 80 per cent of the sun, while the rest of the province was set to see 50 to 70 per cent coverage.

North Americans don’t have long to wait for their next shot at seeing the phenomenon, said Laura Flinn, a physics instructor at the Vancouver area Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

A complete solar eclipse will happen on April 8, 2024, and will be viewable over parts of Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador.


Flinn reminded people not to look directly at the sun during the eclipse.

“All of us sort of like just glance at the sun occasionally, but the danger with the eclipse is you get mesmerized watching the moon and you stare at it too long, and then you can damage your eyes,” he said.

Schmidt said the weather conditions were far from perfect for the eclipse watchers, but everybody left the observatory satisfied.

“It was definitely worth it,” he said. “We got to see enough of it and that was a big deal,” he said. “I suppose it would have been more perfect if the clouds were completely gone away so that we could get a continuous view.”
 

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NASA spacecraft launched to rare metal asteroid in first mission of its kind
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Marcia Dunn
Published Oct 13, 2023 • 3 minute read
A helicopter flies near a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket as she sits on Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Friday, Oct. 13, 2023.
A helicopter flies near a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket as she sits on Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Friday, Oct. 13, 2023. PHOTO BY JOHN RAOUX /THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA’s Psyche spacecraft rocketed away Friday on a six-year journey to a rare metal-covered asteroid.


Most asteroids tend to be rocky or icy, and this is the first exploration of a metal world. Scientists believe it may be the battered remains of an early planet’s core, and could shed light on the inaccessible centers of Earth and other rocky planets.


SpaceX launched the spacecraft into an overcast midmorning sky from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Named for the asteroid it’s chasing, Psyche should reach the huge, potato-shaped object in 2029.

“It’s so thrilling,” said Laurie Leshin, director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Added Arizona State University’s Jim Bell, part of the Psyche team: “What a great ride so far.”

An hour later, the spacecraft separated successfully from the rocket’s upper stage and floated away, drawing applause from ground controllers.


After decades of visiting faraway worlds of rock, ice and gas, NASA is psyched to pursue one coated in metal. Of the nine or so metal-rich asteroids discovered so far, Psyche is the biggest, orbiting the sun in the outer portion of the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter alongside millions of other space rocks. It was discovered in 1852 and named after Greek mythology’s captivating goddess of the soul.

“It’s long been humans’ dream to go to the metal core of our Earth. I mean, ask Jules Verne,” lead scientist Lindy Elkins-Tanton of Arizona State University said ahead of the launch.

“The pressure is too high. The temperature is too high. The technology is impossible,” she said. “But there’s one way in our solar system that we can look at a metal core and that is by going to this asteroid.”


Astronomers know from radar and other observations that the asteroid is big — about 144 miles (232 kilometres) across at its widest and 173 miles (280 kilometres) long. They believe it’s brimming with iron, nickel and other metals, and quite possibly silicates, with a dull, predominantly gray surface likely covered with fine metal grains from cosmic impacts.

Otherwise, it’s a speck of light in the night sky, full of mystery until the spacecraft reaches it after travelling more than 2 billion miles (3.6 billion kilometres).

Scientists envision spiky metal craters, huge metal cliffs and metal-encrusted eroded lava flows greenish-yellow from sulfur — “almost certain to be completely wrong,” according to Elkins-Tanton. It’s also possible that trace amounts of gold, silver, platinum or iridium — iron-loving elements — could be dissolved in the asteroid’s iron and nickel, she said.


“There’s a very good chance that it’s going to be outside of our imaginings, and that is my fondest hope,” she said.

Believed to be a planetary building block from the solar system’s formation 4.5 billion years ago, the asteroid can help answer such fundamental questions as how did life arise on Earth and what makes our planet habitable, according to Elkins-Tanton.

On Earth, the planet’s iron core is responsible for the magnetic field that shields our atmosphere and enables life.

Led by Arizona State University on NASA’s behalf, the $1.2 billion mission will use a roundabout route to get to the asteroid. The van-size spacecraft with solar panels big enough to fill a tennis court will swoop past Mars for a gravity boost in 2026. Three years later, it will reach the asteroid and attempt to go into orbit around it, circling as high as 440 miles (700 kilometres) and as close as 47 miles (75 kilometres) until at least 2031.


The spacecraft relies on solar electric propulsion, using xenon gas-fed thrusters and their gentle blue-glowing pulses. An experimental communication system is also along for the ride, using lasers instead of radio waves in an attempt to expand the flow of data from deep space to Earth. NASA expects the test to yield more than 10 times the amount of data, enough to transmit videos from the moon or Mars one day.

The spacecraft should have soared a year ago, but was held up by delays in flight software testing attributed to poor management and other issues. The revised schedule added extra travel time. So instead of arriving at the asteroid in 2026 as originally planned, the spacecraft won’t get there until 2029.

That’s the same year that another NASA spacecraft — the one that just returned asteroid samples to the Utah desert — will arrive at a different space rock as it buzzes Earth.
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India conducts space flight test ahead of planned mission to take astronauts into space in 2025
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Ashok Sharma
Published Oct 21, 2023 • 2 minute read
India successfully carried out Saturday, Oct. 21, the first of a series of key test flights after overcoming a technical glitch ahead of its planned mission to take astronauts into space by 2025, Somanath said.
India successfully carried out Saturday, Oct. 21, the first of a series of key test flights after overcoming a technical glitch ahead of its planned mission to take astronauts into space by 2025, Somanath said.
NEW DELHI (AP) — India successfully carried out Saturday the first of a series of key test flights after overcoming a technical glitch ahead of its planned mission to take astronauts into space by 2025, the space agency said.


The test involved launching a module to outer space and bringing it back to earth to test the spacecraft’s crew escape system, said the Indian Space Research Organization chief S. Somanath, and was being recovered after its touchdown in the Bay of Bengal.


The launch was delayed by 45 minutes in the morning because of weather conditions. The attempt was again deferred by more than an hour because of an issue with the engine, and the ground computer put the module’s lift-off on hold, said Somanath.

The glitch caused by a monitoring anomaly in the system was rectified and the test was carried out successfully 75 minutes later from the Sriharikota satellite launching station in southern India, Somnath told reporters.


It would pave the way for other unmanned missions, including sending a robot into space next year.

In September, India successfully launched its first space mission to study the sun, less than two weeks after a successful uncrewed landing near the south pole region of the moon.

After a failed attempt to land on the moon in 2019, India in September joined the United States, the Soviet Union and China as only the fourth country to achieve the milestone.

The successful mission showcased India’s rising standing as a technology and space powerhouse and dovetails with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s desire to project an image of an ascendant country asserting its place among the global elite.

Signaling a roadmap for India’s future space ambitions, Modi earlier this week announced that India’s space agency will set up an Indian-crafted space station by 2035 and land an Indian astronaut on the moon by 2040.

Active since the 1960s, India has launched satellites for itself and other countries, and successfully put one in orbit around Mars in 2014. India is planning its first mission to the International Space Station next year in collaboration with the United States.
 

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The moon is 40 million years older than thought, ancient crystal suggests
Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Carolyn Y. Johnson, The Washington Post
Published Oct 23, 2023 • 5 minute read

The moon’s surface formed at least 40 million years earlier than previously thought, according to a new study of an ancient crystal embedded in rock collected by Apollo 17 astronauts.


For years, scientists have (mostly) agreed on the basic gist of the moon’s origin story: About 4.5 billion years ago, a giant, Mars-size object called Theia slammed into the nascent Earth, ejecting hot debris that coalesced into our moon. But they have debated many of the details – particularly the timing.


The new atom-by-atom analysis of a 4.46 billion-year-old lunar crystal pushes back the timeline for when the molten moon solidified by 40 million years, according to the study published Monday in the journal Geochemical Perspectives Letters.

“It moves the goal post. It pushes back the minimum age of the moon formation,” said Jennika Greer, a cosmochemist at the University of Glasgow who worked on the study while a graduate student at the Field Museum and the University of Chicago.


“It’s important to point out,” she added, “this is the oldest age to date. It doesn’t mean we now know the age of the moon and we should stop looking.”

The mysterious moon
The matter of the moon’s origin may seem like it should be settled science. We’ve examined it through telescopes, orbited it with a suite of spacecraft, scooped up its rocks and explored its surface in person.

But despite millennia of contemplation and study – and a fairly solid theory of the case – scientists have continued to find inconsistencies, posit alternate possibilities and tweak theories. Reanalysis of samples picked up decades ago by astronauts has played a key role in moving knowledge forward.

When the moon first coalesced, the theory goes, it was covered in an ocean of roiling magma. Lunar zircon crystals are like cosmic timepieces that started ticking once that magma ocean cooled and solidified. Zircon crystals take up radioactive uranium as an impurity, which decays over time into lead. By comparing the ratios of different forms of lead and uranium atoms called isotopes in the sample, scientists can estimate its age.


In 2021, a team of cosmochemists led by Bidong Zhang, now a researcher at the University of California at Los Angeles, and Audrey Bouvier at the University of Bayreuth in Germany, published a paper showing that zircon crystals embedded in an Apollo 17 moon rock might be the oldest yet discovered at 4.46 billion years old. But they added lots of caveats and disclaimers.

The problem for Zhang was that he couldn’t be as sure as he needed to be that the date was accurate. Lead can move around within zircon crystals and get stuck in clusters, like raisins in baking bread, potentially meaning that when researchers measure the ratio of lead isotopes, they might overcount it if they hit a cluster, coming up with an inaccurate date.


When his team first submitted the results to a journal, Zhang recalled, they were criticized because the analysis couldn’t rule out this alternate explanation. When they did eventually publish the results, he said they couched the findings in a “cautious, low-key” way because of those critiques.

“It’s been controversial for the last 50 years, since the 1970s when the astronauts brought back the samples from the moon,” Zhang said. “Apollo rocks were very consistent at 4.3 billion years old. That’s why people are like: ‘Why would this age be different?'”

To answer the critics, Greer and colleagues joined the effort to verify the age of the crystal, using a technique called atom probe tomography, which is more commonly used in materials science for steel failure analysis or semiconductor research. With the technique, the scientists were able to take samples from a tiny sliver of one of the crystals and use a laser beam to evaporate the atoms one by one and identify them, ruling out that the lead atoms had clustered within the crystal.


“This new study shows that some of these zircons did form at 4.46 [billion years ago], only about 100 million years after the first solids formed in the Solar System,” Romain Tartèse, a senior lecturer in the department of Earth and environmental sciences at the University of Manchester, who was not involved in the study, wrote in an email.

Alexander Nemchin, a geochemist at Curtin University in Australia, discovered the previous oldest known lunar crystal, a 4.42 billion-year-old specimen from an Apollo 17 rock. He said the paper was thought-provoking and strengthens the case made by Zhang’s earlier paper.

“The age is probably real,” Nemchin wrote in an email. “With that, we are running into a big problem as a community studying lunar samples.”


Young rocks vs. old crystals
The problem facing lunar scientists is that the samples they’ve analyzed are about 100 million years apart in age. The new find suggests the magma ocean crystallized 4.46 billion years ago. Meanwhile, other types of lunar rock have dates of about 4.35 billion years ago, suggesting the magma ocean stuck around for another 100 million years.

How big of an issue that presents depends on who you ask.

“Something is clearly not right in our big conceptual understanding of how [the] Moon evolved,” Nemchin said.

But Tartèse argues there isn’t necessarily a contradiction in the dates because the crystallization of the magma ocean could have been a 100 million-year-long process that was more complex than the simplest assumptions.


Zhang pointed to the possibility that there were secondary events after the formation of the moon, such as later impacts, that could have heated the younger rocks to high temperatures and reset their clocks.

Benjamin Weiss, a planetary scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said that newer missions to the moon that bring back more samples from different spots might help clarify the timeline of the moon’s origins.

“Fifty one years ago, no one would have thought that we would one day analyze these lunar samples with this new, cutting-edge method,” said Philipp Heck, senior author of the new study who is curator of meteoritics and polar studies at the Field Museum and a professor at the University of Chicago.

“I think our study is one example of the power of sample return. It’s available for multiple generations, [and] future generations of scientists to study with instruments that at that time scientists didn’t even dream up.”
 

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See the cosmic 'bones' of a dead star, captured by NASA

What's left is an ultradense core, called a neutron star

Author of the article:
Washington Post
Washington Post
Heidi Pérez-Moreno
Published Nov 03, 2023 • Last updated 1 day ago • 3 minute read

A composite image illustrating PSR B1509-58 and the surrounding pulsar wind nebula.
A composite image illustrating PSR B1509-58 and the surrounding pulsar wind nebula. Photo by NASA /NASA


The image is at once haunting and beautiful, resembling a ghostly purple and white hand reaching its fingers through the surrounding starry skies.


Released by NASA this week, it shows the remains of a supergiant star, more than 16,000 light-years from Earth, that ran out of fuel and collapsed, according to a NASA news release. What’s left is an ultradense core, called a neutron star.


The image was captured by two of NASA’s X-ray space telescopes – the Chandra X-Ray Observatory and Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer, or IXPE. IXPE observed the neutron star’s nebula, composed of a giant luminescent cloud of dust and gas, over a period of 17 days. That’s the longest the telescope has looked at any single object since it launched in December 2021.

The telescopes captured the star’s magnetic field, generated by the motion of particles within the star’s interior and charged by the rising and falling of hot gas deep in their interiors, according to research from the Center for Astrophysics, operated through the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and Harvard College Observatory. It’s this imaging that captured the purple and white hand-like figure.


“The IXPE data gives us the first map of the magnetic field in the ‘hand,'” Stanford University physics professor Roger Romani, who led the study, said in the news release. “The charged particles producing the X-rays travel along the magnetic field, determining the basic shape of the nebula, like the bones do in a person’s hand.”

When massive stars die in supernova explosions, they leave behind small, rotating neutron stars that have powerful magnetic fields.

Some neutron stars, known as pulsars, shoot matter and antimatter from opposing poles as they rotate, leaving behind pulsar wind nebulas that appear as gas around the stars. In this case, the star’s pulsar is at the very base of the palm of the “hand” and is referred to as PSR B1509-58, and its ghostly purple and white hues that stretch throughout the nebula are referred to as MSH 15-52, according to Heidi Hammel, a planetary astronomer and scientist working for NASA’s James Webb Telescope Project.


“It’s really interesting and beautiful to look at because it looks like a hand, so it makes you want to ask more questions about it,” she said. “But scientifically it’s interesting in this ability to map out magnetic fields for the first time within this nebula for this object, and gives us insight into what happens when stars get to the end of their lives.”

The nebula sits along the Circinus constellation that was discovered by the Einstein X-Ray Observatory in 1982. The constellation, which resembles a drawing compass, spans about 150 light-years, according to the Astrophysical Journal.

Using telescopes to document the magnetic fields of these dead, collapsed stars can reveal the behaviors of energized matter particles and antimatter that remain of the celestial giant, NASA said.


This week’s images, which were recently published in the Astrophysical Journal, are one of several recent eerie celestial sightings that NASA has unveiled.

Earlier this year, NASA’s Juno mission caught what looks like a wide-eyed, distraught face on camera at the far north region of Jupiter. The agency in a Facebook post compared it to a “a Cubist portrait displaying multiple perspectives.”

“OK. I like it. Picasso!” the agency wrote in the post, referring to a popular TikTok sound alluding to one of Cubism’s pioneers, Pablo Picasso.

NASA first captured the pulsar PSR B1509-58 in 2001 using the Chandra space telescope, where it was discovered that the nebula’s pulsar winds resembled the shape of a hand, the agency said. Hammel said accessing the magnetic fields can help scientists learn about how stars will be born.

“It’s an important part of the story to understand how these dying stars affect their environments,” she said.
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NASA spacecraft discovers tiny moon around asteroid during close flyby

Author of the article:
Associated Press
Associated Press
Marcia Dunn
Published Nov 03, 2023 • 1 minute read

asteroid Dinkinesh, 300 million miles from Earth
This photo provided by NASA shows a photo taken by the Lucy spacecraft during Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023 flyby of asteroid Dinkinesh, 300 million miles from Earth. Photo by NASA /THE ASSOCIATED PRESS


CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The little asteroid visited by NASA’s Lucy spacecraft this week had a big surprise for scientists.


It turns out that the asteroid Dinkinesh has a dinky sidekick — a mini moon.


The discovery was made during Wednesday’s flyby of Dinkinesh, 300 million miles (480 million kilometres) away in the main asteroid belt beyond Mars. The spacecraft snapped a picture of the pair when it was about 270 miles out (435 kilometres).

In data and images beamed back to Earth, the spacecraft confirmed that Dinkinesh is barely a half-mile (790 metres) across. Its closely circling moon is a mere one-tenth-of-a-mile (220 metres) in size.

NASA sent Lucy past Dinkinesh as a rehearsal for the bigger, more mysterious asteroids out near Jupiter. Launched in 2021, the spacecraft will reach the first of these so-called Trojan asteroids in 2027 and explore them for at least six years. The original target list of seven asteroids now stands at 11.



Dinkinesh means “you are marvelous” in the Amharic language of Ethiopia. It’s also the Amharic name for Lucy, the 3.2 million-year-old remains of a human ancestor found in Ethiopia in the 1970s, for which the spacecraft is named.

“Dinkinesh really did live up to its name; this is marvelous,” Southwest Research Institute’s Hal Levison, the lead scientist, said in a statement.
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Oldest black hole discovered dating back to 470 million years after the Big Bang
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Marcia Dunn
Published Nov 06, 2023 • 1 minute read
The most distant black hole ever detected in X-rays is pictured in this image.
The most distant black hole ever detected in X-rays is pictured in this image. PHOTO BY CHANDRA AND JWST /supplied
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Scientists have discovered the oldest black hole yet, formed a mere 470 million years after the Big Bang.

The findings, published Monday, confirm what until now were theories that supermassive black holes existed at the dawn of the universe. NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope and Chandra X-Ray Observatory teamed up to make the observations.


Given the universe is 13.7 billion years old, that puts the age of this black hole at 13.2 billion years.

Even more astounding to scientists, this black hole is a whopper — 10 times bigger than the black hole in our own Milky Way.



It’s believed to weigh anywhere from 10% to 100% the mass of all the stars in its galaxies. That is nowhere near the miniscule ratio of the black holes in our Milky Way and other nearby galaxies, scientists said.

“It’s just really early on in the universe to be such a behemoth,” said Yale University’s Priyamvada Natarajan, who took part in the study published in Nature Astronomy.
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Shimmering galaxies revealed in new photos by European space telescope
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Marcia Dunn
Published Nov 07, 2023 • 2 minute read
This undated handout obtained on Nov. 2, 2023 from the European Space Agency ESA shows an alternative crop of an astronomical image of galaxies belonging to the Perseus Cluster taken during ESA's Euclid space mission, which is built and operated by the European Space Agency ESA and with contributions from NASA.
This undated handout obtained on Nov. 2, 2023 from the European Space Agency ESA shows an alternative crop of an astronomical image of galaxies belonging to the Perseus Cluster taken during ESA's Euclid space mission, which is built and operated by the European Space Agency ESA and with contributions from NASA. PHOTO BY HANDOUT/ESA/EUCLID/EUCLID CONSORTIUM/NASA /AFP via Getty Images
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Scientists on Tuesday unveiled the first pictures taken by the European space telescope Euclid, a shimmering and stunning collection of galaxies too numerous to count.


The photos were revealed by the European Space Agency, four months after the telescope launched from Cape Canaveral.


Although these celestial landscapes have been observed before by the Hubble Space Telescope and others, Euclid’s snapshots provide “razor-sharp astronomical images across such a large patch of the sky, and looking so far into the distant universe,” the agency said.

In one picture, Euclid captured a group shot of 1,000 galaxies in a cluster 240 million light-years away, against a backdrop of more than 100,000 galaxies billions of light-years away. A light-year is 5.8 trillion miles.



“Dazzling,” said the space agency’s science director, Carole Mundell, as she showed off the galaxy cluster shot on a large screen at the control centre in Germany.

Euclid’s instruments are sensitive enough to pick up the smallest galaxies, which were too faint to see until now. The results are “crystal-clear and stunning images going back in cosmic time,” Mundell said.

The telescope snapped pictures of a relatively close spiral galaxy that is a ringer for our own Milky Way. Although the Hubble Space Telescope previously observed the heart of this galaxy, Euclid’s shot reveals star formation across the entire region, scientists said.

Euclid also took fresh photos of the Horsehead Nebula in the constellation Orion, a dramatic nursery of baby stars made famous by Hubble.

By measuring the shape and movement of galaxies as far as 10 billion light-years away, astronomers hope to learn more about the dark energy and matter that make up 95% of the universe.

The observatory will survey billions of galaxies over the next six years, creating the most comprehensive 3D map of the cosmos ever made. NASA is a partner in the $1.5 billion mission and supplied the telescope’s infrared detectors.

Launched in July, Euclid orbits the sun some 1.6 million kilometres from Earth. The telescope is named after the mathematician of ancient Greece.
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spaminator

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Oct 26, 2009
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SpaceX launches its giant new rocket but a pair of explosions ends the second test flight
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Marcia Dunn
Published Nov 18, 2023 • 1 minute read
SpaceX
SpaceX's mega rocket Starship launches for a test flight from Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023. PHOTO BY ERIC GAY /THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
SpaceX launched its mega rocket Starship but lost both the booster and the spacecraft in a pair of explosions minutes into Saturday’s test flight.


The rocketship reached space following liftoff from South Texas, but communication suddenly was lost. SpaceX officials said it appears the ship’s self-destruct system blew it up over the Gulf of Mexico.


The flight came to an end as the ship’s engines were almost done firing to put it on an around-the-world path. The first test flight in April also ended in an explosion.

On Saturday, about three minutes into flight, the separated booster also exploded over the gulf. By then, though, its job was done.

Despite the failure, the approximately eight-minute flight lasted twice as long as April’s test. At nearly 400 feet (121 meters), Starship is the biggest and most powerful rocket ever built, with the goal of ferrying people to the moon and Mars.


“The real topping on the cake today, that successful liftoff,” said SpaceX commentator John Insprucker.

Added commentator Kate Tice: “We got so much data, and that will all help us to improve for our next flight.”

SpaceX founder Elon Musk watched from behind launch controllers at the southern tip of Texas near the Mexico border, near Boca Chica Beach. At company headquarters in Hawthorne, California, employees cheered as Starship finally soared at daybreak. The room grew quiet once it was clear that the spaceship had been destroyed and crashed into the gulf. The booster also ended up in the gulf.

SpaceX had been aiming for an altitude of 150 miles (240 kilometers), just high enough to send the bullet-shaped spacecraft around the globe before ditching into the Pacific near Hawaii about 1 1/2 hours after liftoff, short of a full orbit.

Following April’s flight demo, SpaceX made dozens of improvements to the booster and its 33 engines as well as the launch pad. The Federal Aviation Administration cleared the rocket for flight on Wednesday, after confirming that all safety and environmental concerns had been met.
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petros

The Central Scrutinizer
Nov 21, 2008
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Low Earth Orbit
Great confidence builder in the technology. New company slogan "See how much farther can go before blowing up".
You can't fix things that could break without knowing their limits. At $10K an lb to put something in space aint cheap. It's a tough balancing act between lightweight and robust. A gram here or a gram there can add up quickly.
 
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Blackleaf

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_131888821_newpic.jpg

Researchers have located "the perfect solar system", forged without the violent collisions that made our own mix of different-sized planets.

The system, 100 light years away, has six planets all about the same size and is thought to have been formed up to 12 billion years ago.

 

spaminator

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Oct 26, 2009
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Biggest solar flare in years temporarily disrupts radio signals on Earth
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Marcia Dunn
Published Dec 15, 2023 • 1 minute read
This photo provided by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this image of a solar flare, as seen in the bright flash in the upper right, on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2023.
This photo provided by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this image of a solar flare, as seen in the bright flash in the upper right, on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2023. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A NASA telescope has captured the biggest solar flare in years, which temporarily knocked out radio communication on Earth.


The sun spit out the huge flare on Thursday, resulting in two hours of radio interference in parts of the U.S. and other sunlit parts of the world. Scientists said it was the biggest flare since 2017.


Multiple pilots reported communication disruptions, with the impact felt across the country, said the government’s Space Weather Prediction Center. Scientists are now monitoring this sunspot region and analyzing for a possible outburst of plasma from the sun, also known as a coronal mass ejection, directed at Earth. The eruption occurred in the far northwest section of the sun, according to the centre.

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory caught the action in extreme ultraviolet light, recording the powerful surge of energy as a huge, bright flash. Launched in 2010, the spacecraft is in an extremely high orbit around Earth, where it constantly monitors the sun.



The sun is nearing the peak of its 11-year or so solar cycle. Maximum sunspot activity is predicted for 2025.
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spaminator

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Saturn's rings will disappear from Earth's view in 2025
But they won't totally disappear for another 100-300 million years, scientists say

Author of the article:postmedia News
Published Dec 17, 2023 • Last updated 1 day ago • 2 minute read

Saturn’s majestic rings will be invisible from view here on Earth, starting March 2025.


And it’s not because the large space particles caught in the planet’s powerful gravity will all of a sudden drift away. Saturn will tilt at an angle that makes viewing the rings hard to notice.


Vahe Peroomian, a physics and astronomy professor at the University of Southern California, said the view of its rings from Earth slowly changes over time.

When Saturn’s rings go edge-on from Earth’s view every 13 to 15 years, “they reflect very little light, and are very difficult to see, making them essentially invisible,” Peroomian told CBS News.

Peroomian said the exact date of the rings being edge-on is March 23, 2025. And they will be invisible for several months.

The last time this happened was in 2009.


While Saturn is estimated to be 4 billion years old, scientists say the rings were formed more recently — about 100 million years ago.

But they won’t be there forever.

According to James O’Donoghue, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, “rain” from the rings that falls into the gas giant can fill an Olympic-sized pool every 30 minutes, which could cause the rings to disappear in 300 million years.

However, the rings could disappear even faster — in 100 million years — after the Cassini spacecraft determined the material was falling into the planet’s equator.


According to NASA, the rings are thought to be made up of billions of pieces of comets, asteroids, or shattered moons before they reached Saturn’s gravitational pull.

The ice and rocks that make up the rings are likely coated with other materials like dust. They can range in size from a speck of dust to a house, while a few particles are as big as a mountain.

Also, the individual rings orbit the planet at different speeds.
 

spaminator

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Tabby cat named Taters steals show in first video sent by laser from deep space
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Marcia Dunn
Published Dec 19, 2023 • 1 minute read
a frame from a 15-second ultra-high-definition video
This image shows a frame from a 15-second ultra-high-definition video featuring a cat named Taters which was streamed via laser from deep space by NASA on Dec. 11, 2023. PHOTO BY NASA /THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — An orange tabby cat named Taters stars in the first video transmitted by laser from deep space, stealing the show as he chases a red laser light.


The 15-second video was beamed to Earth from NASA’s Psyche spacecraft, 19 million miles (30 million kilometers) away. It took less than two minutes for the ultra high-definition video to reach Caltech’s Palomar Observatory, sent at the test system’s maximum rate of 267 megabits per second.


The video was loaded into Psyche’s laser communication experiment before the spacecraft blasted off to a rare metal asteroid in October. The mission team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, decided to feature an employee’s 3-year-old playful kitty.

The video was streamed to Earth on Dec. 11 and released by NASA this week. Despite the vast distance, the test relayed the video faster than most broadband internet connections here on Earth, said the project’s Ryan Rogalin.


NASA wants to improve communications from deep space, especially as astronauts gear up to return to the moon with an eye toward Mars. The laser demo is meant to transmit data at rates up to 100 times greater than the radio systems currently used by spacecraft far from Earth.

More test transmissions are planned as Psyche heads toward the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. But Taters won’t be making anymore appearances, according to JPL.

Joby Harris, an art director in JPL’s DesignLab, couldn’t be prouder, but doesn’t want his cat’s newfound celebrity to go to his head.

“I’m celebrating his spotlight with him, but making sure he keeps his paws on the carpet,” Harris said in an email Tuesday.
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spaminator

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Tabby cat named Taters steals show in first video sent by laser from deep space
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Marcia Dunn
Published Dec 19, 2023 • 1 minute read
a frame from a 15-second ultra-high-definition video
This image shows a frame from a 15-second ultra-high-definition video featuring a cat named Taters which was streamed via laser from deep space by NASA on Dec. 11, 2023. PHOTO BY NASA /THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — An orange tabby cat named Taters stars in the first video transmitted by laser from deep space, stealing the show as he chases a red laser light.


The 15-second video was beamed to Earth from NASA’s Psyche spacecraft, 19 million miles (30 million kilometers) away. It took less than two minutes for the ultra high-definition video to reach Caltech’s Palomar Observatory, sent at the test system’s maximum rate of 267 megabits per second.


The video was loaded into Psyche’s laser communication experiment before the spacecraft blasted off to a rare metal asteroid in October. The mission team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, decided to feature an employee’s 3-year-old playful kitty.

The video was streamed to Earth on Dec. 11 and released by NASA this week. Despite the vast distance, the test relayed the video faster than most broadband internet connections here on Earth, said the project’s Ryan Rogalin.


NASA wants to improve communications from deep space, especially as astronauts gear up to return to the moon with an eye toward Mars. The laser demo is meant to transmit data at rates up to 100 times greater than the radio systems currently used by spacecraft far from Earth.

More test transmissions are planned as Psyche heads toward the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. But Taters won’t be making anymore appearances, according to JPL.

Joby Harris, an art director in JPL’s DesignLab, couldn’t be prouder, but doesn’t want his cat’s newfound celebrity to go to his head.

“I’m celebrating his spotlight with him, but making sure he keeps his paws on the carpet,” Harris said in an email Tuesday.
View attachment 20470
taters? did taters come from china? 🐈 🐱 🥔 ;)
 

spaminator

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Tucker Carlson reveals UFO fears: 'Really, really dark'
'There are parts of that story that I do not understand at all that are really, really, really dark,' conservative pundit says


Author of the article:Mark Daniell
Published Dec 21, 2023 • Last updated 2 days ago • 4 minute read

Tucker Carlson doesn’t shy away from too many things, but there are two subjects he won’t report on: the 2020 election controversy and UFOs.


The conservative commentator says that the classified UFO information he has already been briefed on would have far-reaching consequences across the planet if it was ever released.


“The more you dig into that and talk to people with actual knowledge. Again, this is another story where there are some fanciful ideas floating around but there just isn’t any evidence that they’re true. But if you talk to people who have actual knowledge of it that they gathered themselves, there are parts of that story that I do not understand at all that are really, really, really dark … That story bothers me,” Carlson said during a recent appearance on the Redacted podcast with hosts Clayton and Natali Morris.

Carlson’s comments come after retired Maj. David Grusch alleged in front of Congress earlier this summer that the U.S. is concealing a longstanding program that retrieves and reverse engineers unidentified flying objects.


“I was informed in the course of my official duties of a multi-decade UAP crash retrieval and reverse engineering program to which I was denied access,” he said [per the Associated Press].

Asked whether the U.S. government had information about extraterrestrial life, Grusch said the U.S. likely has been aware of “non-human” activity since the 1930s.

The Pentagon fired back at Grusch’s claims of a coverup. In a statement, Defense Department spokeswoman Sue Gough said investigators have not discovered “any verifiable information to substantiate claims that any programs regarding the possession or reverse-engineering of extraterrestrial materials have existed in the past or exist currently.”

But in his appearance on Redacted, Carlson hinted that the information that he’s been privy too is “so dark,” he hasn’t shared it with his wife.


“I haven’t verified any of this, but this is not just stuff I read on the Internet,” the pundit said. “But there is some stuff there, like, man, I’m not even sure I know what that means. There’s a spiritual component there that I don’t fully understand. So yes, that story bothers me.”

In an interview with Joe Rogan last month, Grusch alleged that the U.S. government hasn’t been able to fully grasp some the entities that have been recovered. “You’re looking at it and it’s like, I don’t even understand the physiology at all. It’s like what the heck, it’s like way different,” explained Grusch [per The U.S. Sun]. “We have some idea not a complete picture.”

But despite a number of whistleblowers coming out and trying to share news about alien life, Carlson went on to say that the reason the story hasn’t made front-page news is partially because the government doesn’t want people to know about it.


“The public can’t deal with it. It’s too far out. The implications are too profound. I understand that,” Carlson said. “I’ve heard things where I’m like, ‘Oh man, I don’t even really want to know that, honestly.'”

The truth that is out there — somewhere — is “deeply disturbing” and can’t ever be released because it will “scare people,” Carlson continued.

“I feel comfortable saying this as a fact … These are real, whatever they are, and they’re not human, and the government has known that for a long time — possibly going back to the 1930s at least. And of course, there is tons of evidence in the written record, in the physical record, in paintings and in literature, that people have been seeing and interacting with these things for a long time, so we know that.”


But the notion that UFOs, UAPs (Unidentified Aerial Phenomena) and alien life is too much for people to handle is something Carlson genuinely believes is true.

“The justification one often hears is, the government and various presidents who have been read in, they have not all been, haven’t wanted to disclose this because it would scare people. I always thought that’s bulls***, you’re hiding a crime, which they are by the way, in my opinion,” Carlson said.

“But I do think there’s a sense in which that’s not totally crazy. There is some stuff, if it is true, and I’m kind of thinking it may be true, that is so radical that yeah, we don’t want to tell the people we love most about it. Because why would you want to disturb someone like that? So I kind of get that. I hate to admit it. I’m not arguing for hiding things, but I understand the impulse. Like, holy smokes, this is heavy.”

Carlson acknowledged there was a time when he never would have believed any of it, he said with a laugh. “But now, I’m like, ‘Yeah, OK.'”

Watch Carlson’s full interview with Redacted below.



mdaniell@postmedia.com

X: @markhdaniell
 

spaminator

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NASA releases 'Christmas Tree' star images in time for the holidays
Author of the article:Washington Post
Washington Post
Heidi Pérez-Moreno, The Washington Post
Published Dec 25, 2023 • 2 minute read
A rendering of the NGC 2264 as captured by telescopes from NASA and the National Science Foundation. MUST CREDIT:X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO; Optical: T.A. Rector (NRAO/AUI/NSF and NOIRLab/NSF/AURA) and B.A. Wolpa (NOIRLab/NSF/AURA); Infrared: NASA/NSF/IPAC/CalTech/Univ. of Massachusetts; Image Processing: NASA/CXC/SAO/L. Frattare & J.Major
A rendering of the NGC 2264 as captured by telescopes from NASA and the National Science Foundation. MUST CREDIT:X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO; Optical: T.A. Rector (NRAO/AUI/NSF and NOIRLab/NSF/AURA) and B.A. Wolpa (NOIRLab/NSF/AURA); Infrared: NASA/NSF/IPAC/CalTech/Univ. of Massachusetts; Image Processing: NASA/CXC/SAO/L. Frattare & J.Major PHOTO BY X-RAY: NASA/CXC/SAO /Handout
Even thousands of light-years away from Earth, there’s a cluster of stars getting into the Christmas spirit. Images released by NASA this week show a grouping of stars from the NGC 2264 cluster illuminated in bright green, blue and white lights across its Milky Way celestial skies.


Commonly referred to as the “Christmas Tree Cluster,” the formation has a faint triangle-shaped base and stems extending out on its sides, making its structure resemble that of the popular Norway spruce that’s become a holiday staple and tradition.


Researchers at NASA have compiled renderings using data from two telescopes – including from the agency’s own Chandra X-Ray Observatory and the National Science Foundation’s Wisconsin-Indiana-Yale-NOAO (WIYN) Observatory – to show the cluster in a spitting pine green. They also used infrared data from the Two Micron All Sky Survey, an astronomical survey of the sky in infrared light, to animate the stars within the cluster with twinkling bright blue and white dots. The image has also been rotated 160 degrees from its original northern point to better stand as a Christmas tree.


The nebula, a cloud of dust and gas in space, is situated some 2,500 light-years away in the constellation Monoceros, a faint constellation on the celestial equator, according to research from NASA. Many of the stars within the NGC 2264 formation are both smaller and larger than the sun, with some being less than a tenth the sun’s mass.

The formation was discovered in the 1780’s by German-British astronomer William Herschel, and extends about seven light-years in length. The surrounding region is also a hotbed for new stars that have formed, which have gradually eroded the nebula over millions of years, NASA said.

There are countless nebulas that often resemble objects or animals on Earth, such as jellyfish, owls and even an elephant trunk. The NGC 6302 formation, found in the constellation Scorpius, is referred to as the Butterfly Nebula for its fluttering gas clouds that resemble wings.

Scientists oftentimes study nebulas, as well as their magnetic fields, which can be generated by particles within a star’s interior, to analyze their behaviors, and specifically what happens when stars reach the end of their lives and evolve into nebulas.

Magnetic fields generated from NASA’s Chandra X-Ray telescopes have also helped produce similar image renderings, such as a ghastly purple and white hand from the nebula of a supergiant star, 16,000 light-years from Earth, that collapsed into a neutron star, according to a NASA news release.
christmas-stars[1].jpg
 
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spaminator

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U.S. military space plane blasts off on another secretive mission expected to last years
Author of the article:Associated Press
Associated Press
Marcia Dunn
Published Dec 28, 2023 • Last updated 1 day ago • 1 minute read
This undated photo provided by the U.S. Air Force shows an X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
This undated photo provided by the U.S. Air Force shows an X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. PHOTO BY U.S. AIR FORCE VIA AP /THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The U.S. military’s X-37B space plane blasted off Thursday on another secretive mission that’s expected to last at least a couple of years.

Like previous missions, the reusable plane resembling a mini space shuttle carried classified experiments. There’s no one on board.


The space plane took off aboard SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at night, more than two weeks late because of technical issues.

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket carrying the X-37B spaceplane for the U.S. Space Force lifts off from Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Fla. early Saturday, Dec. 23, 2023.
A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket carrying the X-37B spaceplane for the U.S. Space Force lifts off from Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Fla. early Saturday, Dec. 23, 2023. PHOTO BY CRAIG BAILEY /Florida Today via AP
It marked the seventh flight of an X-37B, which has logged more than 10 years in orbit since its debut in 2010.

The last flight, the longest one yet, lasted 2 1/2 years before ending on a runway at Kennedy a year ago.

Space Force officials would not say how long this orbital test vehicle would remain aloft or what’s on board other than a NASA experiment to gauge the effects of radiation on materials.



Built by Boeing, the X-37B resembles NASA’s retired space shuttles. But they’re just one-fourth the size at 29 feet (9 metres) long. No astronauts are needed; the X-37B has an autonomous landing system.

They take off vertically like rockets but land horizontally like planes, and are designed to orbit between 240 kilometres and 800 kilometres high. There are two X-37Bs based in a former shuttle hangar at Kennedy.
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