The best images from Artemis so far. More spacecraft are going to the Moon. Researchers have simulated a wormhole. China now has six people on board its space station. All this and more space news in this week’s Space Bites.
Stunning Images from Artemis I
As the Artemis I mission continues on its journey around the Moon, NASA releases new images and videos from its voyage. We got a fantastic new video that shows many more views of the launch. You see the perspective from the rocket and see the moment when its twin solid rocket boosters detach and fly away. Read deeper into this newsletter because NASA released a second supercut that’s even better.
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More Missions to the Moon
The Moon’s south pole is becoming the focus of lunar exploration, and for a good reason: there are probably valuable deposits of water ice. NASA will soon launch a new Cubesat mission to figure out how much water ice is frozen inside the permanently shadowed craters at the Moon’s south pole. The Lunar Flashlight is equipped with an infrared laser that will fire into the craters as it flies overhead, measuring the reflected light that bounces back. Future astronauts could live off the land from what it finds.
NASA Awards $57M Contract for Moon Infrastructure
NASA has awarded a $57.2 million contract to a Texas-based company called Icon to develop infrastructure for the Moon. This goes under Phase III of NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. Icon develops 3D-printing tech that should be able to use regolith to build structures like landing pads and habitats from the material that can be found on the Moon.
Scientists Simulate a Quantum Wormhole
I’m sure you’ve already heard about this story, but if not, here goes. Scientists have created a quantum computing experiment that allows them to study the dynamics of wormholes – theoretical shortcuts through spacetime. They didn’t make an actual wormhole; they just simulated it on a quantum computing system that calculates how it would work if it were possible to create theoretical “negative matter.” The researchers hope their work will uncover ways to integrate gravity with quantum mechanics.
JWST Teams Up With Kek to See Titan
The James Webb Space Telescope teamed up with the Keck Observatory to capture new images of Saturn’s moon Titan. Even though Saturn is over 1.5 billion km away, Webb and Keck could see its hazy atmosphere and even clouds made from methane that forms over its northern region. The telescopes observed the moon in infrared, penetrating the thick clouds on Titan to show surface features obscured in visible light.
Yet Another Gorgeous Galaxy Seen by Webb
It’s time for another fantastic picture from the James Webb Space Telescope. This time you’re looking at galaxy NGC 1566, seen face-on. The image was captured using JWST’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) and then processed by Judy Schmidt. The reddish areas in the image contain regions of star formation, and the bright core indicates that it’s a Seyfert galaxy with an actively feeding supermassive black hole.
A Black Hole Consumed a Star and Released the Light of a Trillion Suns
Astronomers were using an all-sky survey of the northern night sky when they noticed an extremely bright flash in the sky. Follow-up observations revealed that this flash was probably a blast of radiation emitted by a star as a supermassive black hole consumed it. This is known as a tidal disruption event, where a star is torn apart piece by piece by a black hole. According to the researchers, the black hole is feasting on about half a solar mass of stellar material each year, releasing these bright flashes each time.
More SuperHeavy Tests
SpaceX continues to test its new fully reusable SuperHeavy booster to help carry Starship into orbit. This week they fired up 11 of its Raptor 2 engines in a test that lasted 13 seconds. Once again, nothing exploded, which is always good news. Elon Musk said the next test would last 20 seconds with a filled oxygen tank. After that will be another static fire test, and if that’s successful, we’ll see an orbital launch attempt.
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