NASA teases JWST images, Rocket Lab launches CAPSTONE, mystery rocket’s crash site found on the Moon, how magnetars are created, ISS gets more independent from Russia and more.
If you prefer the news being videoed at you instead of reading them, we’ve got you covered! Here’s a video version of this week’s most important space and astronomy news.
Astronomer Working With Webb Said the new Images “Almost Brought him to Tears”. We’ll see Them on July 12th
NASA continues to tease us with upcoming images from JWST. This week they held a conference where they unveiled some details about what we should expect. The telescope is in very good shape, it’s diffraction limit is almost twice better than expected. As for the first images, there was a hint that we should see ‘the deepest image of the Universe yet’ as well as data on an exoplanet. All that is coming on July 12th.
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For more information on James Webb, check out this week’s episode of Weekly Space Hangout with Lee Feinberg, who is NASA Optical Telescope Element (OTE) Manager for the James Webb Space Telescope at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt. A great interview with lots of amazing insights on JWST.
NASA Funds the Development of a Nuclear Reactor on the Moon That Would Last for 10 Years
When the Artemis program brings humans back to the Moon, they will eventually stay, building up a research station on the lunar surface. They will need a lot of power to heat and cool the station, run their experiments and communications, and generate oxygen from local materials. They can’t rely on solar energy since the Moon is in shadow for two weeks every month. NASA has paid three companies to develop plans for 40 kW fission reactors that could work on the surface of the Moon for ten years.
Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket launches NASA’s CAPSTONE
A new NASA CubeSat was launched this week on top of a Rocket Lab Electron rocket. The mission is called the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment, or CAPSTONE. Its purpose is to travel the same orbit near the Moon that the upcoming Lunar Gateway will take. This will help NASA understand if the orbit is stable and as helpful as they’re hoping, allowing astronauts to reach the surface of the Moon safely with less energy.
Mystery Rocket’s Crash Site Found on the Moon
Earlier this year, we reported that a booster rocket was on a collision course with the Moon and was about to carve out a new crater. The booster was initially identified as a SpaceX booster from NASA’s DSCOVR mission and then as the booster from China’s Chang’e-5 mission. The object crashed into the Moon, as predicted, and a new image reveals a rare double crater. It’s believed that the spacecraft broke up through tidal forces with the Moon, creating the double impact.
Independence from Russia’s Progress is coming for the ISS
A Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo spacecraft recently detached from the International Space Station, carrying garbage away. Before it left, though, it was able to boost the orbit of the ISS. Usually, this maneuver is done by the Russian Zvezda module or spacecraft attached to the station. This demonstrated that the US could keep the station aloft as well, so it’s not reliant on Russia anymore, who has even threatened to let the station crash uncontrollably into the Earth.
Giant Sunspot AR3038 has Doubled in Size and is Pointed Right at Earth. Could be Auroras Coming
The Sun’s activity is steadily increasing as it moves towards the time of solar maximum. This means sunspots, coronal mass ejections, solar flares… and auroras here on Earth. A giant sunspot region suddenly doubled in size and was oriented directly towards the Earth. If it had released a flare, we could have seen increased aurora activity on Earth. It didn’t and has now rotated away from us, but other sunspots will be facing us soon, so get ready to see the Northern Lights (or Southern Lights).
The Most Threatening Asteroid Just got Downgraded to “Harmless”. No Impact in 2052
ESA released some good news on asteroid 2021 QM1. Originally it was considered one of the more dangerous asteroids out there with a risk of a collision with Earth in 2052. More observations were done after 2021 QM1 got out of the Sun’s glare and became visible to our telescopes. New data revealed that it’s not on a collision course with our planet. We will even have a good chance to study it in detail during its close flyby.
Astronomers Found a Pulsar that Could Be Only 14 Years Old
A pulsar in a dwarf galaxy 400 million light years away was first seen in 2018. But when astronomers checked archival data, it appeared that the pulsar wasn’t there in 1998’s data. This means that this particular star can be very young. Literally younger than most of you, who are reading this article.
The Case is Building That Colliding Neutron Stars Create Magnetars
Magnetars defy comprehension. These exotic objects can have magnetic fields which are hundreds of millions of times more powerful than anything we can generate here on Earth. Astronomers know they’re neutron stars, but they rotate less rapidly than pulsars. But one has been found that spins 750 times a second. It’s believed this is a brand new magnetar and could have only gotten spinning this quickly through the collision of two neutron stars. Maybe this is how magnetars form.
A New Map of Mars from MRO
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been at the Red Planet since 2006, imaging its surface with a powerful suite of instruments. One of these is the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer (CRISM), which makes maps of minerals on the Martian surface. Unfortunately, CRISM has run out of coolant and can only record a fraction of the data it once could. NASA is releasing a surface mineral map of Mars made up of 51,000 separate images taken by CRISM.
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