In this week’s breaking space news: CAPSTONE mission was lost and found again, James Webb gets another stunning image, Mars plane can follow Ingenuity, a mystery of first quasars possibly solved, incredibly fast star discovered and more.
For those who prefer the news being videoed at you by none other than Fraser Cain, we got you! Here’s a video version of this week’s most important space and astronomy news.
CAPSTONE Goes Offline and Back Online Again
Last week NASA launched the CAPSTONE mission on Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket. The primary goal of the mission is to check the stability of a lunar rectilinear halo orbit. However, on July 4th NASA lost communication with the spacecraft. The radio silence lasted until July 7th. The team has already identified the problem and now CAPSTONE is healthy and is back on track with its mission.
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JWST Takes Deepest Image of the Universe Without Even Trying
Scientists working with James Webb produced the deepest image ever taken of the Universe. It wasn’t their intention; they were calibrating the Fine Guidance Sensor (FGS) instrument on board the telescope, making 72 exposures over 32 hours. Because it was just a calibration image, it wasn’t designed for science data, but there are galaxies in this image that have never been seen before. Of course, this record will likely be broken on July 12th when we see the first scientific images from Webb.
How Quasars Grew So Big So Fast
Astronomers now believe there are supermassive black holes in the hearts of most galaxies. Even the most distant galaxies, seen less than a billion years after the Big Bang, already have sizable black holes. How did they form? Mergers between stellar-mass black holes don’t happen quickly enough, so astronomers think these monsters formed directly out of vast clouds of hydrogen and helium. There were probably stars with tens of thousands of times the Sun’s mass that collapsed directly into black holes.
A Mars Plane Can Follow the Mars Helicopter
NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter has proven that flying vehicles have a role to play in the exploration of Mars. But it can only fly for short distances, a minute at a time. Would an airplane work on Mars? Engineers at the University of Arizona are working on sailplane designs that could fly in the thin Martian atmosphere. Using the high winds and updrafts, a Martian glider could stay aloft for hours or even days, mapping out the terrain in high resolution.
Our Solar System is Safe for Quite a While
Latest supercomputer simulations show that our Solar System won’t be disturbed by any passing star for at least 100 billion years. Of course, the Sun would be long gone by that time, as it only has another ~5 billion years to live, but it means that it will rest in peace for quite a while. Even the merger between the Milky Way and Andromeda shouldn’t change that.
More News From SagA* Region: Incredibly Fast Star!
The Milky Way’s supermassive black hole was discovered by observing how stars at the core of the galaxy orbited an invisible spot in space. This was later identified as SagA*, a supermassive black hole with 4.1 million times the mass of the Sun. Over the decades, astronomers have been tracking these stars and discovered that the closest one takes only four years to orbit the Sun. At the nearest point in its orbit, it’s traveling at 8,000 km/s or almost 3% the speed of light.
Psyche Mission Will Not Fly in 2022
Psyche, one of the most exciting space missions that was supposed to launch in 2022 gets delayed due to software testing problems. NASA announced that the mission will miss this year’s launch window which ends in October. As a result the team will need to wait for the next opportunity to get a gravity assist by Mars and get to asteroid 16 Psyche, the biggest metal asteroid out there.
Starship Shows Off All Its Raptors
SpaceX shared a new image this week showing off its new Starship rocket with dozens of Raptor V2 engines installed. The Super Heavy Booster has 33 engines configured for sea-level operation, while the Starship has three sea-level engines and three vacuum engines. If all goes well, the rocket will blast off from Texas, separating after 3 minutes. Super Heavy will return and soft-land in the ocean off the coast of Texas, while Starship will orbit the Earth for 90 minutes before soft-landing off the coast of Hawaii. We’re probably just a few weeks away from a launch attempt.
This week Fraser interviewed two members of the Universe Today team. This time in the Expanding Universe Today podcast series the guests were Alan Boyle and Matt Williams. Both interviews are great, you should definitely check them out.
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