Rocket Lab is launching the first-ever private mission to Venus. Europe is considering space-based solar power. A new method to detect exoplanets. More evidence about the Moon’s origins. Webb’s largest every image. All that and more in this week’s episode of Space Bites.
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First Private Mission to Venus by Rocket Lab
Rocket Lab are going for an unprecedented move. They announced that they will fund a private mission to Venus. It will fly on the Electron rocket, which will take it to an orbit of 165 km. From there the Rocket Lab’s Photon spacecraft will take a 20 kg probe to Venus. It will then dive into the planet’s atmosphere reaching altitudes between 48 and 60 km. The science payload onboard will be designed to analyze gases and look for signs of possible life. The mission is set to launch in May 2023 and arrive to Venus in October later that year.
MIT Space Bubbles Could Help Fight Climate Change
Humans are heating the planet, and we see the consequences every day. Ideally, we’ll learn to draw down our CO2 emissions and live a more sustainable future, but if that doesn’t work, scientists have suggested more dramatic ways of changing the Earth to reduce climate change. Instead of changing the Earth’s oceans or atmosphere, MIT researchers propose that we launch a constellation of “space bubbles” to block radiation from the Sun and buy us time to reduce our emissions.
More Evidence that Moon Came from Earth
The evidence is growing that the Moon was formed when a Mars-sized protoplanet crashed into the Earth billions of years ago. But a recent discovery clinches it. Scientists have discovered several meteorites in Antarctica traced back to the Moon, blasted off millions of years ago by meteor impacts. In tiny pockets of glass inside the meteorite, they found trace gases like neon and helium that perfectly match the ratio of these chemicals inside the Earth.
Why Betelgeuse Dimmed After All
Back in 2019 the star Betelgeuse went through an unprecedented phase of dimming. Many people speculated that it was a sign of it going supernova, as the star is at the end of its lifecycle in a red giant phase. But since then Betelgeuse has come back to its original brightness. Now astronomers have used data from Hubble Space Telescope to give more insights about the dimming of the star and explained the behaviour of the star in more details than before.
Thanks to GAIA We Know Exactly How the Sun Dies
Astronomers used data from GAIA to construct the most comprehensive Hertzsprung-Russell diagram of nearby stars. Some call this chart the most important table in all astronomy. It shows the stellar evolution by plotting stars’ colour against their luminosity. So, using data from Gaia, astronomers were able to predict the Sun’s destiny better than ever before. When it will get to its maximum temperature, when it will undergo a red giant phase and when it will eventually become a white dwarf.
New Way to Look for Exoplanets
Astronomers have discovered thousands of exoplanets but primarily used the transit or radial velocity method. The problem with these techniques is that they require the planet to pass close to the star from our vantage. A new strategy proposes that planets could be discovered when flares from their star interact with the planet’s magnetosphere, generating a burst of radio waves. This is exciting because life on Earth depends on protection from our magnetic field. By discovering planets with this technique, we could also find worlds that are potentially more habitable.
Photon Ring of M87
In 2019 we saw the first image of a black hole’s event horizon, located at the heart of galaxy M87. Since then, astronomers have been working with the data captured by the Event Horizon Telescope. They’ve teased out the polarization data in the region around the black hole, and now, it appears they’ve detected the photon ring for the first time. This is a region so close to the black hole that light orbits around like planets are going around a star. Any closer and even light are pulled into the black hole.
The Largest Image Webb Has Taken So Far
A team of astronomers has released a new image from the James Webb Space Telescope, but it’s made up of 690 individual frames – the most assembled so far. This giant survey is about eight times bigger than the first deep field image released from Webb on July 12th, and it’s packed with galaxies, many of which have never been seen before. It’s likely that one is the most distant galaxy ever seen, although that record seems to get broken every week or so.
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