Everything Still Looks Good for Monday's Artemis 1 Launch

NASA’s Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft for Artemis I on the pad at Launch Complex 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

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 the Artemis 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.

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Artemis 1 Goes Back to the Launch pad, Getting Ready for its August 29th Blastoff

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard is seen atop the mobile launcher as it moves up the ramp at Launch Pad 39B, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky.

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.

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Recent Supernovae Produced Giant Cavities in the Orion Nebula

This image of the Orion Nebula shows the puzzilng Barnard's Loop feature, a structure made of gas first identified in 1898, Image Credit: Michael Foley

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.

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We’ve Now Seen Planet-Forming Disks Around Hundreds of Young Stars. What Do They Tell Us?

ALMA's high-resolution images of nearby protoplanetary disks, which are results of the Disk Substructures at High Angular Resolution Project (DSHARP). Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), S. Andrews et al.; NRAO/AUI/NSF, S. Dagnello

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.

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New Images of Artemis in the VAB; Rollout for SLS Launch Rehearsal Test Now Scheduled for March 17

The stack of the Space Launch System rocket in the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center. Credit and copyright: Alan Walters, for Universe Today.

Every journey begins with a single step, and the first step of NASA’s return to the Moon begins with a four-mile rollout to the launchpad. NASA announced their target date for rolling out the Space Launch System rocket for the four-mile crawl to the launch pad is March 17. The full rocket stack will spend about a month at the pad undergoing several tests before heading back to the Vehicle Assembly Building. If all goes well with the tests, NASA hopes to launch its uncrewed Artemis test flight, likely by early summer.

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A New Image Reveals Orion’s Flame Nebula in Infrared

Do not let the image and the name of the depicted cosmic object fool you! What you see in this picture is not a wildfire, but the Flame Nebula and its surroundings captured in radio waves. The Flame Nebula is the large feature on the left half of the central, yellow rectangle. The smaller feature on the right is the reflection nebula NGC 2023. To the top right of NGC 2023, the iconic Horsehead Nebula seems to emerge heroically from the “flames”. The three objects are part of the Orion cloud, a giant gas structure located between 1300 and 1600 light-years away. The different colours indicate the velocity of the gas. The Flame Nebula and its surroundings are moving away from us, with the red clouds in the background receding faster than the yellow ones in the foreground. The image in the rectangle is based on observations conducted with the SuperCam instrument on the ESO-operated Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) on Chile’s Chajnantor Plateau. The background image was taken in infrared light with ESO’s Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile.

The ESO has released some stunning new images of Orion’s Flame Nebula. They’re from a few years ago but are newly processed as part of the Orion cloud complex study. The images have led to discoveries in the often-observed Orion cloud complex.

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A New Study Says That Betelgeuse Won’t Be Exploding Any Time Soon

Computer simulation of Betelgeuse in all its Red Supergiantyness - C. Space Engine Pro by Author

I have stood under Orion The Hunter on clear evenings willing its star Betelgeuse to explode. “C’mon, blow up!” In late 2019, Betelgeuse experienced an unprecedented dimming event dropping 1.6 magnitude to 1/3 its max brightness. Astronomers wondered – was this dimming precursor to supernova? How cosmically wonderful it would be to witness the moment Betelgeuse explodes. The star ripping apart in a blaze of light scattering the seeds of planets, moons, and possibly life throughout the Universe. Creative cataclysm.

Only about ten supernova have been seen with the naked eye in all recorded history. Now we can revisit ancient astronomical records with telescopes to discover supernova remnants like the brilliant SN 1006 (witnessed in 1006AD) whose explosion created one of the brightest objects ever seen in the sky. Unfortunately, latest research suggests we all might be waiting another 100,000 years for Betelgeuse to pop. However, studying this recent dimming event gleaned new information about Betelgeuse which may help us better understand stars in a pre-supernova state.

This comparison image shows Betelgeuse, before and after its unprecedented dimming
ESO / M. Montargès et al.
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A Mysterious Burst of Gravitational Waves Came From a Region Near Betelgeuse. But There’s Probably No Connection

Betelgeuse was the first star directly imaged -- besides our own Sun, of course. Image obtained by the Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: Andrea Dupree (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA), Ronald Gilliland (STScI), NASA and ESA

Gravitational waves are caused by calamitous events in the Universe. Neutron stars that finally merge after circling each other for a long time can create them, and so can two black holes that collide with each other. But sometimes there’s a burst of gravitational waves that doesn’t have a clear cause.

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Orion Capsule Passes Key Launch Abort Test. Next Stop: The Moon!

The Ascent Abort -2 flight test proved that the abort system can pull crew to safety in the unlikely event of an emergency during ascent. Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray and Kevin O’Connell

When it comes to the future of space exploration, a number of systems will come into play. In addition to the Space Launch System (SLS) that will send astronauts beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO), there is also the Orion capsule. This is the vehicle that will take astronauts to the Moon again as part of Project Artemis (which is currently slated for 2024) and facilitate missions to Mars by the 2030s.

In preparation, the Orion capsule is being put through its paces to show that it’s up to the challenge. This past Tuesday, July 2nd, NASA successfully conducted the Ascent Abort-2 (AA-2) test, bringing the Orion one step closer to completion. The launch took place during the early morning hours and involved the capsule being launched from NASA’s Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral aboard a modified Peacekeeper missile.

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Newborn Stars in the Orion Nebula Prevent Other Stars from Forming

The Orion Nebula, one of the most studied objects in the sky. Image: NASA
The Orion Nebula, one of the most studied objects in the sky. Image: NASA

The Orion Nebula is one of the most observed and photographed objects in the night sky. At a distance of 1350 light years away, it’s the closest active star-forming region to Earth.

This diffuse nebula is also known as M42, and has been studied intensely by astronomers for many years. From it, astronomers have learned a lot about star formation, planetary system formation, and other bedrock topics in astronomy and astrophysics. Now a new discovery has been made which goes against the grain of established theory: stellar winds from newly-formed massive stars may prevent other stars from forming in their vicinity. They also play a much larger role in star formation, and in galaxy evolution, than previously thought.

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