Axiom Space says it’s working with the Saudi Space Commission to send two spacefliers from the Arab kingdom, including the first Saudi woman to go into orbit, to the International Space Station as early as next year.
The inclusion of a female astronaut is particularly notable for Saudi Arabia — where women were forbidden to drive motor vehicles until 2018, and where the status of women is still a controversial subject.
On September 26th, NASA’s Double-Asteroid Redirect Test (DART) will rendezvous with the Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA) Didymos. By 23:14 UTC (06:14 PM EDT; 03: 14 PM PDT), this spacecraft will collide with the small moonlet orbiting the asteroid (Dimorphos) to test the “kinetic impactor” method of planetary defense. This method involves a spacecraft striking an asteroid to alter its orbit and divert it from a trajectory that would cause it to collide with Earth. The event will be broadcast live worldwide and feature data streams from the DART during its final 12 hours before it strikes its target.
Remember all the habitable planets we’ve seen in science fiction movies? There’s wintry Hoth, for example, and overwhelmingly hot Dune. The folks in Interstellar visited an ocean world and a desolate rocky world. For all their differences, these places were still what they call on Star Trek M-class habitable worlds. Sure they weren’t all like Earth, but that made them excitingly alien for the lifeforms they did support. In the real universe, it seems that alien worlds not quite like ours could be the norm. Earth could be the real alien world.
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is the most complex and sophisticated observatory ever deployed. Using its advanced suite of infrared instruments, coronographs, and spectrometers – contributed by NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) – this observatory will spend the next ten to twenty years building on the achievements of its predecessor, the venerable Hubble. This includes exoplanet characterization, star and planet formation, and the formation and evolution of the earliest galaxies in the Universe.
However, one of the main objectives of the JWST is to study the planets, moons, asteroids, comets, and other celestial bodies here in the Solar System. This includes Mars, the first Solar planet to get the James Webb treatment! The images Webb took (recently released by the ESA) provide a unique perspective on Mars, showing what the planet looks like in infrared wavelengths. The data yielded by these images could provide new insight into Mars’ atmosphere and environment, complimenting decades of observations by orbiters, landers, rovers, and other telescopes.
“It has been three decades since we last saw those faint, dusty bands, and this is the first time we’ve seen them in the infrared,” astronomer Heidi Hammel, an interdisciplinary scientist on the JWST team who specializes in Neptune, said today in a news release. Neptune’s brighter rings stand out even more clearly.
The problem with looking for life on other worlds is that we only know of one planet with life. Earth has a wondrous variety of living creatures, but they all evolved on a single world, and their heritage stems from a single tree of life. So astrobiologists have to be both clever and careful when looking for habitable worlds, even when they narrow the possibilities to life similar to ours.
Have you ever attended a star party, where amateur astronomers set up telescopes and invite the public to take a look at the night sky? If so, then you understand and appreciate how much these part-time but incredibly enthusiastic stargazers love to share the wonders of our Universe with others.
That type of passion and generosity of heart is the basis of a new organization that hopes to harness the proven capability of astronomy to bring hope, wonder and science to marginalized and isolated students and communities around the world.
James Webb is currently experiencing problems with its MIRI instrument. The problem is due to increased friction in one of MIRI’s mechanisms in the Medium-Resolution Spectroscopy (MRS) mode. The observatory is otherwise healthy, but the team decided to stop observations using MRS mode until they find a solution.
For the first time, a spacecraft has detected acoustic and seismic waves from impacts on Mars. NASA’s InSight lander made the detections from four meteoroids that crashed on Mars in 2020 and 2021. Ever since the mission landed on the Red Planet in 2018, scientists have been hoping to be able to detect impacts with InSight’s seismometer, which was mainly designed to sense Marsquakes. But these impacts are the first the lander has detected.
An article published in Nature Astronomy makes a strong case to declare the orbital space around earth an ecologically protected environment. It was part of a submission to the US Court of Appeals in August last year and was filed by several organisations in response to license amendments granted by the FAA to SpaceX for Starlink satellites. To understand why this is so important, it may help to remember that orbital space is a “common” area, like “International Waters” in our oceans, so it is not currently protected by a single country or organization.