The Orion Nebula is one of the brightest star-forming regions in the sky, easily visible in a small telescope. But you’ve never seen anything like these new images from JWST. Researchers have created enormous mosaics of the region in both short and long-wavelength channels. An interactive interface from ESA allows you to zoom in and out of the image and switch between the views. You can see details in the stellar discs and outflows in the short-wavelength version, while the long-wavelength version reveals the network of dust and organic compounds.
The new images also reveal some mind-boggling enigmas.
On December 11th, at 09:40 a.m. PST (12:40 p.m. EST), NASA’s Artemis I mission splashed down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California. The return of the uncrewed Orion spacecraft marks the end of the Artemis Program’s inaugural mission, which launched on November 16th and validated the spacecraft and its heavy launch vehicle – theSpace Launch System(SLS). During its 25.5-day circumlunar flight, the Orion spacecraft traveled more than 2.25 million km (1.4 million mi) and flew beyond the Moon’s orbit, establishing a new distance record.
NASA just released a new supercut of high-resolution video from the Artemis I launch on November 16, 2022. Much of the footage is from cameras attached to the rocket itself, allowing everyone to ride along from engine ignition to the separation of the Orion capsule as it begins its journey to the Moon.
The Orion spacecraft made its first close flyby of the Moon on Monday, November 21, coming as close as 81 statute miles (130 km) from the lunar surface. As the Artemis 1 mission’s uncrewed spacecraft flew past the far side of the Moon, Orion’s orbital maneuvering system engine fired for 2 minutes and 30 seconds to successfully put the capsule into the desired orbit for the mission, called a distant retrograde orbit around the Moon.
“This burn is setting Orion up to orbit the Moon, and is largest propulsive event so far, as Artemis is hunting the Moon,” said Mike Sarafin, Artemis Mission Manager at a briefing on Monday.
It really, finally, actually happened. The long-waited Space Launch System (SLS) rocket carrying the Orion capsule launched successfully and is now on its way to the Moon. After years of delays — and then two scrubbed launch attempts and a rollback of the rocket to the Vehicle Assembly Building this fall — this is the first time in 50 years that a human capable spacecraft is going to the Moon. In a way, it is fitting that Artemis launched in the dark, as the last human-rated spacecraft that launched to the Moon – Apollo 17 – also had liftoff at night.
“It’s taken a lot to get here, but Orion is now on its way to the Moon,” said Jim Free, NASA deputy associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate. “This successful launch means NASA and our partners are on a path to explore farther in space than ever before for the benefit of humanity.”
Lockheed Martin announced that NASA has ordered three more Orion spacecraft for future Artemis missions. The new order includes capsules for the Artemis VI, VII and VII missions, which are expected to launch in the late 2020s to early 2030s. The three additional capsules are on order for $1.99 billion.
Addendum: Today’s launch was scrubbed due to an engine issue that occurred during fueling. The backup date of Sept. 2nd is now targeted.
On Monday, August 29th, NASA will make history with the launch of theArtemis I mission. As the first flight in the Artemis Program, the mission will consist of a fully-stacked Space Launch System (SLS) and an Orion spacecraft taking off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Once in orbit, the uncrewed Orion spacecraft and European Space Module (ESM) will fly beyond the Moon before returning to Earth. This mission will validate the key systems and components of the Artemis Program and be a dress rehearsal for the crewed Artemis II mission in 2024.
According to the Flight Readiness Review, the Artemis I mission is a GO for launch and will launch no earlier than 02:33 PM EST (11:33 PM PST). While the mission is uncrewed, the crew module will still carry two mannequins (Helga and Zohar), occupying two of the capsule’s passenger seats. Helga and Zohar will carry over 5600 sensors to measure the radiation load during the circumlunar journey. Shaun the Sheep, a character from the popular animated series Wallace and Grommit, will occupy the third seat as part of a global social media campaign.
The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft now sits on the launchpad, ready for liftoff on a journey around the Moon. This is the first time since 1972 that NASA has a human-rated spacecraft is ready to go beyond Earth orbit.
The Orion Nebula is a well-known feature in the night sky and is visible in small backyard telescopes. Orion is a busy place. The region is known for active star formation and other phenomena. It’s one of the most scrutinized features in the sky, and astronomers have observed all kinds of activity there: planets forming in protoplanetary disks, stars beginning their lives of fusion inside collapsing molecular clouds, and the photoevaporative power of massive hot stars as they carve out openings in clouds of interstellar gas.
But supernova explosions are leaving their mark on the Orion Nebula too. New research says supernovae explosions in recent astronomical history are responsible for a mysterious feature first formally identified in the night sky at the end of the 19th century. It’s called Barnard’s Loop, and it’s a gigantic loop of hot gas as large as 300 light-years across.
Is our Solar System comparable to other solar systems? What do other systems look like? We know from exoplanet studies that many other systems have hot Jupiters, massive gas giants that orbit extremely close to their stars. Is that normal, and our Solar System is the outlier?
One way of addressing these questions is to study the planet-forming disks around young stars to see how they evolve. But studying a large sample of these systems is the only way to get an answer. So that’s what a group of astronomers did when they surveyed 873 protoplanetary disks.