The inner disc of the system PDS 70, rocky planets has been found with water vapours. And it is discovered by the Webb telescope. This is located 370 lightyears away.

Rocky Planets
Artist’s impression of the PDS 70 system

If you want to read more about this discovery, and its impact on further scientific studies, then this blog post is intended for you. But, let’s read the latest news first!

Water Vapours Near Developing & Rocky Planets in Distant Star System

Scientists have found water in the area around a star that already has two or more developing planets. Water is crucial for life on Earth, and researchers are trying to understand its existence here. And if the same process happens on distant rocky planets orbiting other stars.

They’re studying the PDS 70 system. Which has an inner and outer disc with a gap of eight billion km between them. Within this gap, two gas-giant planets have been identified. Using MIRI, scientists detected water vapor in the inner disc, at distances of less than 160 million km from the star. This region is significant because it’s where rocky planets, similar to Earth, might be forming.

Giulia Perotti, the lead author from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA) in Heidelberg, Germany, said:

“We’ve observed water in other discs, but never this close and in a system where planets are actively forming. Thanks to Webb, we can now make this kind of measurement.”

Surprising Water Discovery Near Old Star Challenges & Rocky Planet Formation Theories

Henning is also the co-principal investigator of Webb’s MIRI (Mid-InfraRed Instrument). And the principal investigator of the MINDS (MIRI Mid-Infrared Disk Survey) program responsible for gathering the data.

Thomas Henning, the MPIA director and a co-author of the study, added:

“This discovery is incredibly exciting. Because it allows us to study the region where rocky planets, similar to Earth, typically come into existence.”

PDS 70 is a type of star know as K-type, which is cooler than our Sun. It’s relatively old, about 5.4 million years old, especially for stars with planet-forming discs. The presence of water vapor in this system was surprising because as planet-forming discs age, they usually lose their gas and dust.

As time goes on, the material in these discs decreases either because the star’s radiation and winds push it away, or the dust starts clumping together to form larger objects like planets. Previous studies of similarly aged discs didn’t find any water in their central regions, leading astronomers to suspect that harsh stellar radiation might have evaporated the water, making it difficult for rocky planets to form in such dry conditions.

If you want to know more about the composition of these rocky planets, and their building blocks, then the following part will highlight it.

Water Vapor and Building Blocks Found Around Star PDS 70 ( Rocky Planets)

Astronomers have not yet found any planets forming close to a star called PDS 70, but they have discovered the building blocks for rocky worlds, known as silicates. They also detected water vapor, suggesting that if rocky planets are forming there, they will have water right from the start.

Water Vapours Detected by Webb
Spectrum of the PDS 70 system

One of the researchers, Rens Waters from Radboud University in the Netherlands, said they found a lot of tiny dust grains in the inner disc and combined with the presence of water vapor, it makes the inner disc a fascinating place to study.

What Could be the Potential Source & Cause of this Water?

Now, scientists are wondering where this water came from. They have two possible explanations for the finding. One idea is that water molecules are forming right there in the inner disc when hydrogen and oxygen atoms come together. The other possibility is that ice-coated dust particles are moving from the cooler outer disc to the hotter inner disc. When they reach the inner disc, the water ice turns into vapor. This would be surprising because the dust would have to cross a large gap created by two giant planets.

The discovery also raises the question of how water can survive so close to the star, where the star’s ultraviolet light could break apart water molecules. The team believes that surrounding materials like dust and other water molecules act as a protective shield, allowing the water to survive on rocky planets.

To learn more, the team plans to use two of Webb’s other instruments, the Near-InfraRed Camera (NIRCam) and the Near-InfraRed Spectrograph (NIRSpec) to study the PDS 70 system. These findings were part of the Guaranteed Time Observation program 1282.

The following part of the blog will highlight the significant information about the Webb Telescope, and its remarkable contributions. So, let’s read it too!

ESA’s Key Role in Launching Webb Telescope- That is Where International Collaboration Makes History

The Webb telescope is the biggest and most powerful telescope ever sent into space. A collaboration between NASA, ESA, and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), launch this. As part of this collaboration, provided the telescope’s launch service using the Ariane 5 launch vehicle.

ESA played a significant role in the Webb mission. They were responsible for adapting and qualifying the Ariane 5 rocket for the Webb mission. And they also procured the launch service through Arianespace. Additionally, ESA contributed important instruments to Webb, such as the spectrograph NIRSpec and half of the mid-infrared instrument MIRI. A group of European Institutes known as the MIRI European Consortium develop this. Along with a partnership from JPL and the University of Arizona. This international cooperation made Webb possible, bringing together the expertise and resources of multiple space agencies to create this incredible telescope.

TRAPPIST-1 c Atmosphere’s Analysis

A team of scientists from around the world used NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to calculate the amount of heat energy emitted by TRAPPIST-1 c, a rocky exoplanet. The findings indicate that, if there is indeed an atmosphere, it is remarkably tenuous.

TRAPPIST-1 c
This artist’s concept shows what the hot rocky exoplanet TRAPPIST-1 c could look like based on this work. TRAPPIST-1 c, the second of seven known planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system, orbits its star at a distance of 0.016 AU (about 1.5 million miles), completing one circuit in just 2.42 Earth days. TRAPPIST-1 c is slightly larger than Earth but has around the same density, which indicates that it must have a rocky composition. Webb’s measurement of 15-micron mid-infrared light emitted by TRAPPIST-1 c suggests that the planet has either a bare rocky surface or a very thin carbon dioxide atmosphere.
Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, Joseph Olmsted (STScI)

TRAPPIST-1 c, with a dayside temperature of approximately 380 kelvins, currently holds the record for being the coolest rocky exoplanet characterized by thermal emission. The accuracy required for these measurements showcases the effectiveness of the Webb telescope in analyzing rocky exoplanets similar in size and temperature to those within our solar system.

The recent breakthrough in research marks a momentous stride in unraveling the mystery of whether planets circling diminutive red dwarfs such as TRAPPIST-1, the most abundant kind of stars in our galaxy, can sustain life-sustaining atmospheres akin to what we recognize.

Clues to Atmospheric Composition

Sebastian Zieba, a graduate student at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany and the lead author of the published results in Nature, stated, “We want to know if rocky planets have atmospheres or not. In the past, we could only really study planets with thick, hydrogen-rich atmospheres. With Webb, we can finally start to search for atmospheres dominated by oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide.”

TRAPPIST-1 c is one of seven rocky planets orbiting an ultracool red dwarf star, approximately 40 light-years away from Earth. The presence of similar size and mass notwithstanding, the question of whether these planets possess atmospheres akin to the inner rocky planets in our solar system remains shrouded in uncertainty. During the initial billion years of their existence, M dwarfs emit intense X-ray and ultraviolet radiation capable of stripping away a young planetary atmosphere. In addition, it’s possible that not enough water, carbon dioxide, or other volatile chemicals were present during the planets’ creation to support significant atmospheres.

TRAPPIST- 1 c, the Venus Twin

Laura Kreidberg, also from Max Planck and a co-author, explained, “TRAPPIST-1 c is interesting because it’s essentially a twin of Venus: it shares a similar size and receives a comparable amount of radiation from its host star as Venus does from the Sun. We speculated that it could possess a dense carbon dioxide atmosphere akin to Venus.”

To address these inquiries, the team employed Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) to observe the TRAPPIST-1 system on four separate occasions as the planet passed behind the star, resulting in a secondary eclipse. The team determined the amount of mid-infrared light, specifically at 15 microns, emitted by the planet’s dayside by comparing the brightness when the planet is beside the star (combining light from the star and planet) with the brightness when the planet is behind the star (representing only starlight).

Rocky Exoplanet
This light curve shows the change in brightness of the TRAPPIST-1 system as the second planet, TRAPPIST-1 c, moves behind the star. This phenomenon is known as a secondary eclipse. Astronomers used Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) to measure the brightness of mid-infrared light. When the planet is beside the star, the light emitted by both the star and the dayside of the planet reaches the telescope, and the system appears brighter. When the planet is behind the star, the light emitted by the planet is blocked and only the starlight reaches the telescope, causing the apparent brightness to decrease.
Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, Joseph Olmsted (STScI)

This methodology mirrors the approach employed by another research group to determine that TRAPPIST-1 b, the innermost planet in the system, likely lacks any atmosphere. A planet’s amount of mid-infrared radiation is strongly related to its temperature, which is determined by the composition of its atmosphere. Carbon dioxide gas selectively absorbs 15-micron light, causing the planet to appear dimmer at that wavelength. However, clouds can reflect light, making the planet appear brighter and concealing the presence of carbon dioxide.

Furthermore, a substantial atmosphere of any composition would redistribute heat from the dayside to the nightside, resulting in a lower dayside temperature than would be observed without an atmosphere. TRAPPIST-1 c is thought to be tidally locked, with one side always in the light and the other always in the dark, as it orbits its star nearby (about 1/50th the distance between Venus and the Sun).

TRAPPIST- 1 c’s Carbon Dioxide Cover

Although these initial measurements do not provide definitive information about the nature of TRAPPIST-1 c, they help narrow down the potential possibilities. Zieba noted, “Our results are consistent with the planet being a barren rock with no atmosphere, or the planet possessing an extremely thin CO2 atmosphere (thinner than Earth or even Mars) devoid of clouds. If the planet had a thick CO2 atmosphere, we would have observed a very shallow secondary eclipse or none at all. This is because the CO2 would absorb all the 15-micron light, and we wouldn’t detect any coming from the planet.”

Moreover, the data suggest that TRAPPIST-1 c is unlikely to be a true Venus analog with a thick CO2 atmosphere and sulfuric acid clouds.

Habitable Atmospheres In TRAPPIST-1

The absence of a dense atmosphere implies that the planet may have formed with minimal water. If the other cooler, temperate TRAPPIST-1 planets formed under similar conditions, they might also have started with limited amounts of water and other essential components required for a habitable planet.

The sensitivity required to differentiate between various atmospheric scenarios on such a distant and small planet is genuinely remarkable. The decrease in brightness detected by Webb during the secondary eclipse was merely 0.04 percent, akin to observing a display of 10,000 small light bulbs and noticing that only four have extinguished.

TRAPPIST-1
This graph compares the measured brightness of TRAPPIST-1 c to simulated brightness data for three different scenarios. The measurement (red diamond) is consistent with a bare rocky surface with no atmosphere (green line) or a very thin carbon dioxide atmosphere with no clouds (blue line). A thick carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere with sulfuric acid clouds, similar to that of Venus (yellow line), is unlikely. Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, Joseph Olmsted (STScI)

Kreidberg expressed her awe, stating, “It is extraordinary that we can measure this. There have been questions for decades now about whether rocky planets can retain atmospheres. Webb’s capabilities truly allow us to compare exoplanet systems to our solar system in a way we have never been able to before.”

Web Telescope Insights

This research was conducted as part of Webb’s General Observers (GO) program 2304, one of the eight programs dedicated to fully characterizing the TRAPPIST-1 system during Webb’s first year of scientific operations. The full orbits of TRAPPIST-1 b and TRAPPIST-1 c will be observed in a follow-up examination in the future year, according to researchers. They will be able to track temperature fluctuations on the day and night sides of the two planets, which will provide them with more information about the existence or lack of atmospheres.

News:

The Vulcan Centaur launch schedule proceeded with the necessary test. The next-generation Vulcan Centaur rocket from United Launch Alliance (ULA) recently made a significant advancement toward its initial launch.

If you are wondering what is the Vulcan Centaur’s launch date, then it is recently launched on the evening of June 7. As we all know that being a launch vehicle, it has accomplished a significant milestone by performing a successful engine test.

This was the inaugural instance where both first-stage engines were simultaneously ignited on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
The quick test, known as a flight readiness firing (FRF), happened on June 8 at 9:05 p.m. EDT (0105 p.m. GMT).

And if we dig deep into the starting time of engines, then at T-4.88 seconds, the engine start process started. After two seconds of throttling up to the desired level, the engines then powered down. According to a statement from ULA tonight, six seconds made up the whole FRF.

Vulcan Centaur Rocket's First-Stage Engines on Launch Pad for the First Time
Vulcan Centaur Rocket’s First-Stage Engines on Launch Pad for the First Time

The ULA has Atlas V and Delta IV launch vehicles that been replaced with the futuristic, 202-foot-tall (62-meter) Vulcan Centaur rocket launch.

Vulcan Centaur Rocket Ready for Launch Pad Testing at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station
(Image credit: ULA ) ULA’s First Vulcan Centaur Rocket Ready for Launch Pad Testing at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station

How Big is Vulcan Centaur? 

ULA’s upcoming rocket, the Vulcan Centaur, standing at an impressive height of 202 feet (equivalent to 62 meters). And it is set to supplant ULA’s longstanding Atlas V and Delta IV launch vehicles.

The reason for it long standing height lies behind the company’s cutting-edge space exploration vehicle.

First Launch of Vulcan Centaur:

When we look deeper into the news then we find out that two BE-4 engines from Blue Origin are used in the Vulcan Centaur first launch, while two RL-10 engines are used in the Centaur V upper stage.

Furthermore, the spacecraft has space for up to six additional solid rocket boosters that are attached to the main rocket.

What is Geostationary Orbit? 

When the rocket is fully functional, it will have the ability to launch Vulcan Centaur payloads weighing up to 7.7 tons (7 metric tons) into a high orbit around the Earth called geostationary orbit. Although it has not yet taken flight, ULA is striving to alter that, as seen by today’s test.
According to the company’s report from tonight,

“We are more than 98% complete with the Vulcan reusable qualification program, with the remaining items associated with the final Centaur V testing.”

The crew is continuing to look into the Centaur V test stand anomaly while also evaluating the data from the systems used in today’s test, they said.

“We will develop a launch plan pending the data review and the findings of the investigation.”

On March 29, a Centaur burst on a test stand at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama following a hydrogen leak, resulting in the anomaly mentioned in that update. Before that event, ULA had planned to launch the Vulcan Centaur for the first time in early May.

Where Will Vulcan Centaur Launch?

As ULA has launched the one of the biggest, and interesting heavy two staged launch vehicle, now comes the position, where it will be launched.

So, tonight marks the inaugural test fire of United Launch Alliance’s newly developed Vulcan Centaur rocket, which will take place on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

Now, let’s talk about the peregrine. What is it actually about?

Vulcan Centaur Peregrine, A Lunar lander From Aerospace

Astrobotic, a Pittsburgh-based company, has developed the Peregrine lunar lander, which will embark on its inaugural mission to the moon. ULA representatives have indicated that the mission might potentially launch sometime this summer.

However, an exact launch date has not yet been announced by the company.
In tonight’s update, ULA stated that testing is a crucial component of their development program for launch vehicles and that they would only fly when they felt it was safe to do so.

On May 25, ULA made an attempt to execute the FRF but had to cancel the test during the countdown due to a booster-related technical issue.

Following the cancellation, the company smoothly conducted an inspection and study of the Vulcan Centaur, which was subsequently moved off the pad and into its Vertical Integration Facility hangar.

Difference Between Vulcan Centaur and Falcon 9

There is a clear difference between these two in many terms. The Vulcan Centaur has a payload capacity of 60,000 pounds (27.2 tons) for low Earth orbit (LEO) and 14,300 pounds (6.5 tons) for geosynchronous orbit (GEO).

In contrast, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 has the ability to transport 50,000 pounds (23 tons) to LEO and 18,300 pounds (8.3 tons) to GEO.

 

How Many Successful Launches has ULA Had?

Apart from Vulcan Centaur ULA, it has many successful launches so far. Let’s have a glance at the keen launches, and see how they had made a difference.

The most seasoned and dependable launch service provider in the nation, ULA boasts a rich legacy spanning over a century. Over the years, ULA has achieved pleasing success by flawlessly executing over 150 missions to orbit.

These missions have played a pivotal role in providing essential capabilities for soldiers deployed in the field. Which further aids the meteorologists in monitoring severe weather conditions.

It will not help to gather important pieces of news for weather, but also facilitate GPS navigation on personal devices. Since its inception, ULA’s rockets have been instrumental in positioning the satellite assets worth over $70 billion into orbit.

So, it has been clear seen that besides the heavy Vulcan Centaur’s launch, ULA has launched many successful satellites that has benefited in many ways.

Following its groundbreaking cloud-imaging mission last month, NASA’s Curiosity rover continues to astound scientists with captivating observations, including the recent discovery of a hardcover-shaped feature on April 15, marking the mission’s 3,800th Martian day (or sol). Geologists, akin to meticulous librarians, carefully examine the evidence surrounding them to unravel the mysteries of Mars’ past. NASA officials suggest that the distinctive shape of rocks like this one is typically attributed to water flowing through the region billions of years ago, during a time when the Red Planet boasted a significantly wetter environment.

What did JPL reveal about the discovery regarding wind erosion?

The world is now considerably drier and windier. “After eons of being sand-blasted by the wind, softer rock is carved away, and the harder materials are all that’s left,” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California, which manages Curiosity’s mission, revealed of the discovery on Thursday (May 11).

J. Paul Getty Museum:

While writing is supposed to have started in ancient Sumer (near the modern-day Persian Gulf) some 5,400 years ago, the manner in which humans record information is numerous, according to the J. Paul Getty Museum. 

What is the argument presented by the 2023 study regarding the “dots” in a cave picture?

One 2023 study argues that the “dots” in a cave picture could be a kind of writing from 20,000 years ago, while the conclusion is debatable. Modern forms of writing have been placed on rock walls, clay tablets, and scrolls, to name a few reading styles. 

British Library:

According to the British Library, what we now term “books” began with codices, initially as wax tablets and subsequently as parchment in the Mediterranean and Mesopotamian areas. Dating is difficult, but the format has been quite common in Greco-Roman times, if not before.

According to JPL, Curiosity has been exploring Mars’ Gale Crater since August 2012, with critical results in science papers including the discovery of persistent liquid water on ancient Mars, potential evidence of old life through organics, and examinations of radiation at the surface.

What is the purpose of the Perseverance mission on Mars?

Perseverance, a successor mission, is working in the Jezero Crater area of Mars, caching tubes (or lightsabers) of samples for future return to Earth. The sample return effort is scheduled to pick up with the launch of a relay spacecraft and a handful of mini-helicopters in the late 2020s.

Late on Friday (April 28), a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket with three satellites failed its attempt to launch. SpaceX called off the launch of its heavy-lift Falcon Heavy rocket at 8:26 p.m. EDT (00:26 GMT) from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Although the rocket’s 27 first-stage engines—nine on each of its three core boosters—were about to fire, it did not do so. 

The first thing that comes to mind is,

What is the reason behind the cancellation of the Falcon Heavy launch?

Well, it is still not known what led to the cancellation. However, there is a probability that the abortion was due to the weather condition. The Falcon Heavy launch scheduled for later this year will be SpaceX’s sixth use of the heavy-lift rocket since its introduction in 2018. ViaSat-3 Americas, a 14,000-pound (6,400 kilogram) satellite built for the California-based business Viasat to provide broadband services, is the rocket’s main payload for this mission.

In addition, the rocket is carrying two smaller satellites: the tiny communications cubesat GS-1 made by Gravity Space in Washington and Arcturus, the first satellite produced by the Astranis firm.

Now, let’s see,

What do experts say about the mission’s attempt?

“We did call an abort at T-59 seconds. The vehicle and payload remain healthy,” SpaceX propulsion engineer Atticus Vadera said after the abort. “Keep in mind, the purpose of the countdown is to help us catch potential issues prior to flight. There are thousands of ways to launch a rocket and there’s only one way that it can go right.”

You should also know that,

Will non-reusable core boosters impact SpaceX’s long-term sustainability goals?

Although, like their smaller Falcon 9 counterparts, Falcon Heavy rockets are intended to have reusable first stages that land, SpaceX does not intend to reuse the core boosters from this mission in order to use the propellant typically reserved for landing to deliver its massive payload into orbit. 

Now about,

Falcon Heavy’s Epic Sixth Launch Attempt:

After an aborted first attempt, SpaceX plans to launch its powerful Falcon Heavy rocket for the sixth time ever this coming Sunday (April 30), and you can catch all the action as it happens. Sunday, April 30 has a 57-minute launch window opening at 7:29 p.m. EDT (23:29 GMT) for SpaceX’s next Falcon Heavy attempt.

SpaceX Falcon Heavy
SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch aborted about 1 minute prior to launch on April 28, 2023. (Image credit: SpaceX)

If you are wondering,

Where I can stream the launch?

At SpaceX, you can watch the launch live. The webcast from SpaceX should start around 15 minutes prior to launch. After being delayed by weather for days, the Falcon Heavy is set to take off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 7:29 p.m. EDT (23:29 GMT). It will be taking three satellites into a faraway orbit called geostationary orbit. On April 28, a launch attempt failed 59 seconds before liftoff.

After spending more than a year together on Mars, NASA’s Perseverance rover and its traveling “pet rock” have finally parted ways. Despite many strenuous attempts to remove it, the rock had lodged in the rover’s front left wheel on its 341st Martian day and accompanied it for more than half of its stay on the Red Planet. Although the rock did not endanger the rover’s scientific mission, it occasionally interfered with photography. Hitchhiking rocks has caused problems for other Mars rovers, but Perseverance has managed to continue its mission successfully.

The backstory of the “Pet Rock”!

On February 4th, 2022 or Sol 341, Perseverance rover inadvertently acquired a pet rock lodged in its front left wheel. Although the rock did not pose a threat to the rover’s scientific objectives, it intermittently disrupted images and persisted despite attempts to dislodge it through various forceful maneuvers. The situation was aptly compared by mission scientists to “having a pebble stuck in your shoe.”

A Perseverance student collaborator from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Eleni Ravanis wrote a mission update. According to Ravanis: “If this pet rock could talk, it might tell us about the changes it’s noticed as we traveled back north through the Octavia E. Butler landing site, and then west, passing the spectacular remains of the former extent of the delta, ‘Kodiak,’ on our journey to the western Jezero delta,”.

NASA’s Perseverance rover has successfully dislodged a rock that had become lodged in its front left wheel for over a year, akin to a pebble stuck in a shoe. The rock had accompanied the rover for more than half of its mission on Mars. However, this will not be posing any obstacle to the rover’s mission. This separation marks the end of an interesting hitchhiking experience for the rock, and a continued successful mission for the Perseverance rover.

NASA released an image on April 18 (Sol 768) which shows the front left wheel of the Perseverance rover. The image indicates the lodged rock had been dislodged. The rock had been present in the rover’s wheel for approximately 439 days or 427 sols, which accounts for about 55% of the time that the Perseverance rover has been on Mars since its touchdown on February 18, 2021. During their time together, the two of them walked about 6.2 miles (10 kilometers).  It is noteworthy that a sol, or a Martian day, is 37 minutes longer than an Earth day.

Perseverance Rover
Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SWNS)

Throughout its mission, the Perseverance rover has accumulated multiple smaller rocks in its various wheels. Yet, all of these were dislodged within a few days or weeks of becoming stuck and did not pose any danger to the rover. But it should be said that rocks that got stuck in other parts of the rover have caused problems in the past.

In December 2021, Perseverance inner machinery was impeded by a cluster of small pebbles, resulting in the rover shutting down for almost a week. Mission scientists had to carefully analyze the situation to determine the best course of action for safely removing the obstructions before the rover could resume its operations.

Now we should also keep this in mind,

Other Rovers who faced the same problems:

The phenomenon of hitchhiking rocks has caused plenty of difficulties for other Mars rovers as well. Just like in December 2004, the operators of NASA’s Spirit rover had to execute a sharp turn to dislodge a “potato-sized” stone from its right-rear wheel. This action was taken because mission scientists were concerned that the rock could cause severe damage to the rover, as confirmed by NASA.

 

Published by: Sky Headlines

In a major test flight of SpaceX largest rocket, the massive Starship took off from a launch pad in southern Texas today. However, the rocket exploded before reaching space and cut short the flight. In a recent launch attempt, Starship and its booster successfully lifted off from the launch pad and ascended to a height of 39 kilometers. However, the spacecraft unexpectedly lost control and unfortunately exploded just four minutes into the flight before the planned separation could occur. During a webcast of the launch attempt, John Insprucker, the principal integration engineer for SpaceX, which constructed Starship, stated that the situation was not normal.

SpaceX has achieved a significant milestone with its most ambitious rocket. It successfully launched from the pad with up to 33 engines firing in synchrony. This achievement is a major step forward for the company. According to Insprucker, the Starship provided a remarkable conclusion to an already remarkable test.

SpaceX has set the upcoming Starship flights to usher in a fresh era of space exploration, which includes transporting people to the Moon and Mars. This development could also pave the way for novel forms of astrophysics and planetary science. The rocket had no crew on its inaugural test flight.

The rocket with the highest power:

In a recent development, it has been revealed that Starship boasts of almost double the power of NASA’s latest deep-space rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), which took its maiden flight in November. Until now, Starship had only undergone a few tests at low altitudes above SpaceX’s spaceport in Boca Chica, Texas. Today’s mission was to achieve space travel and orbit most of the planet before landing in the ocean near Hawaii.

According to Laura Forczyk, the executive director of Astralytical, a space consulting company in Atlanta, Georgia, the successful demonstration of Starship’s ability to reach orbit by SpaceX would have a significant impact on future developments.

SpaceX has announced its plans to utilize the Starship spacecraft to establish a human settlement on the planet Mars. NASA has set its sights on utilizing the vehicle to assist in landing astronauts on the Moon’s surface soon as a component of its proposed Artemis missions. Scientists are envisioning the potential of utilizing Starship’s vast size to transport large telescopes for planetary missions into the depths of space.

During the Space Symposium held in Colorado Springs, Colorado on April 18th, Julianna Scheiman, the director of NASA satellite missions at SpaceX, expressed her enthusiasm for the potential of utilizing Starship to advance scientific research.

Crafts that can be reused:

The Starship spacecraft resembles a colossal metal tube. It stands at a towering height of 120 meters. When combined with its Super Heavy rocket booster, it becomes even taller. Moreover, scientists have developed a new spacecraft that can transport up to 150 tonnes of equipment into space. The designers have innovatively crafted a fully reusable transportation system for future space missions, making it cost-effective. In a bid to reduce the expenses of space travel, SpaceX has announced its intention to recover and reuse its components.

According to Jennifer Heldmann, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, the limitations of space flight have always been mass, volume, and cost. Starship effectively removes all of these limitations.

Between 1981 and 2011, NASA completed 135 missions to low Earth orbit with its space shuttles. These shuttles were designed for routine space access. NASA has decided to retire the shuttle. Instead, they will focus on developing a more advanced SLS. This will enable deeper space exploration.

SpaceX has successfully created smaller rockets that are partially reusable, including the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy series. Various users, including governments and companies, frequently use these rockets to launch satellites. SpaceX plans to utilize its Starship spacecraft for the deployment of larger objects, including the upcoming Starlink communications satellites. However, some astronomers have raised concerns about the potential impact of these satellites on nighttime observations.

Challenges Faced by Rockets:

By Forczyk, the ability of SpaceX to deliver on its commitment to frequent and also cost-effective Starship flights remains uncertain. The potential of Starship to deliver smaller rockets is advantageous for the spacecraft. NASA has endorsed it as a crucial component of their Moon exploration initiative, which further strengthens its potential.

As demonstrated by today’s flight, the development of any new rocket remains a difficult task. Shortly, it is highly probable that SpaceX will conduct tests on several other Starships that have already been constructed. According to Forczyk, there is a possibility of witnessing substantial advancements this year. The possibility remains uncertain.

 

Published by: Sky Headlines

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx is an ongoing mission that visited and collected a sample from asteroid 101955 Bennu, with the aim of returning the sample to Earth on Sept. 24, 2023.

 

What is so Exciting About the OSIRIS-REx Mission?

On Sunday morning, above the Utah desert, a parachute will deploy, gently lowering a capsule carrying approximately 250g of rubble to the ground. As it makes its descent, four helicopters, transporting scientists, engineers, and military safety personnel, will speed across the dry landscape to retrieve this valuable cargo.

Osiris-Rex mission
Nasa recovery teams in Utah participate in field rehearsals to prepare for the retrieval of the sample return capsule from the Osiris-Rex mission. Image: Keegan Barber/AP

This isn’t ordinary soil; it comprises chunks of space rock dating back 4.6 billion years. These fragments have the potential not only to provide insights into the formation of planets but also to offer clues about the origins of life itself.

Ashley King of the Natural History Museum (NHM) in London, says:

“These are some of the oldest materials formed in our solar system. Samples from asteroids [such as this] tell us what all those ingredients were for making a planet like the Earth and they also tell us what the recipe was – so how did those materials come together and start mixing together to end up with [habitable environments]?”

The final act of NASA’s Osiris-Rex mission may resemble the opening scene of an action movie, but it marks the culmination of a seven-year journey. During this, a robotic spacecraft, roughly the size of a transit van, was dispatched to investigate. And subsequently, gather resources from – the debris heap that forms the asteroid Bennu.

Bennu Samples
Source: Nasa

Diving Down Towards Earth & Details About Its Speed:

The capsule carrying this collection is anticipated to be released from the spacecraft at 06:42 AM EDT (11:42 AM BST) on Sunday. It will hurtle into Earth’s atmosphere four hours later at a speed of 27,650 miles per hour. As it descends towards Earth, its trajectory will be closely monitored, and parachutes will be deployed to gradually reduce its speed to around 11 miles per hour upon landing.

After the team retrieves the capsule, it will be placed in a sturdy metal crate, securely wrapped, and transported by helicopter to a temporary facility. By Monday, it will be swiftly transported to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

While scientists assert that there is minimal risk of the samples posing a threat to Earth, they emphasize the importance of preventing any potential contamination in the opposite direction. To achieve this, filtered air will be permitted to flow into the capsule during its descent to Earth to prevent any potential leaks that might lead to contamination. Subsequently, the capsule will be connected to a stream of nitrogen.

One of the mission’s objectives is to gain a better understanding of how to predict and safeguard Earth from potential asteroid impacts. Analyzing the physical properties of the collected samples, such as their density and porosity, is expected to contribute significantly to this endeavor, according to King.

OSIRIS-REx spacecraft
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft captured this image of the asteroid Bennu using its MapCam imager on Dec. 12, 2018. (Image credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

Spacecrafts Involved in the Examination of Asteroids:

The spacecraft was equipped with five instruments that conducted an exhaustive examination, mapping, and analysis of the asteroid, offering an unprecedented level of detail:

OSIRIS-REx Visible and Infrared Spectrometer (OVIRS) – OVIRS carried out its investigations by gauging visible and near-infrared light, with a specific focus on identifying organics and other mineral compositions.

OSIRIS-REx Thermal Emission Spectrometer (OTES) – OTES, using thermal infrared technology, determined Bennu’s temperature and produced maps detailing the distribution of minerals and chemicals. The collaborative efforts of OVIRS and OTES covered a spectrum of wavelengths to pinpoint the optimal location for collecting samples from the asteroid.

OSIRIS-REx Camera Suite (OCAMS) – OCAMS consisted of three cameras designed to map Bennu comprehensively. PolyCam, the largest of the cameras, captured the initial images of Bennu from a distance of 1.2 million miles (2 million kilometers) and also obtained high-resolution images of the chosen sample site. MapCam, on the other hand, scouted for satellites and dust plumes surrounding the asteroid, compiled colour maps of the asteroid’s surface, and took photographs essential for crafting topographic maps. SamCam documented the entire sample collection process, from its gathering to its secure capture.

OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA) – OLA meticulously scanned the entirety of Bennu’s surface, transmitting data that facilitated the creation of exceptionally precise 3D models of the asteroid’s surface. During the primary mission, one of the two Canadian-manufactured lasers ceased functioning, but it had exceeded its anticipated instrument lifespan and had successfully collected all the necessary data for OSIRIS-REx’s landing, as confirmed by investigators.

Regolith X-ray Imaging Spectrometer (RExIS) – RExIS concentrated on studying X-ray emissions emanating from Bennu, with the goal of generating a comprehensive map illustrating the distribution of various elements on the asteroid’s surface. Unlike other imaging tools, RExIS delved into the asteroid’s composition at the level of individual atomic elements.

Will OSIRIS-REx hit Earth?

The team operating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, an acronym representing Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security-Regolith Explorer, has recently released fresh data. According to this data, there is an extremely low probability, specifically a one-in-2,700 chance, that the asteroid could collide with our planet. This potential impact event is estimated to occur nearly 159 years from now, specifically on September 24, 2182.

What did this mission discover?

The OSIRIS-REx mission journeyed to Bennu, an asteroid abundant in carbon, preserving the ancient history of our Solar System. This mission’s goal is to retrieve a portion of Bennu and return it to Earth. Bennu is believed to hold potential molecular building blocks that could shed light on the origins of life and even the formation of Earth’s oceans.

What is OSIRIS-REx and why is it important?

Indeed, OSIRIS-REx stands for “Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer.” The primary objective of this mission is to acquire a sample weighing a minimum of 2.1 ounces (59.5 grams) from the near-Earth asteroid 101955 Bennu, previously identified as 1999 RQ36, and subsequently transport this sample back to Earth.

Did OSIRIS-REx return?

On September 24, 2023, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission will achieve a historic milestone by bringing back samples from the asteroid Bennu to Earth following seven years in the depths of space. This mission, initiated in 2016, successfully reached the asteroid Bennu in October 2020 and obtained samples from the surface of this near-Earth asteroid.

What is this mission powered by?

OSIRIS-REx is equipped with two solar panels attached to the zenith panel of the spacecraft, which serve as power generators. When unfurled, these solar arrays provide the spacecraft with an impressive wingspan of 6.2 meters, covering a total active area of 8.5 square meters.

Who built OSIRIS-REx?

The spacecraft for the OSIRIS-REx mission is being constructed by Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver. This mission represents the third instalment in NASA’s New Frontiers Program. Oversight and management of the New Frontiers Program on behalf of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington are handled by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, situated in Huntsville, Alabama.

How does this mission communicate with Earth?

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is equipped with a high-gain antenna located on its sun-facing side, which facilitates communication with Earth. On the opposite side of the spacecraft is the TAGSAM, short for Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism. TAGSAM is a 3.4-meter-long, folding arm designed to extend. And collect a sample from the mission’s target, the near-Earth asteroid Bennu.

When the moon graces the night sky, capturing our attention and admiration, how many of us stop to wonder if tonight’s moon is any different from the last one we admired? You might be surprised to learn that not all full moons are created equal. Among the celestial phenomena that intrigue skywatchers, Micromoons are a hidden gem, quietly competing for attention with their glamorous counterpart, the Supermoon.

What is a Micromoon?

So, what makes a Micro-moon different? Picture this: you’re standing in your backyard, the night is clear, and the moon is rising. It’s beautiful but appears somewhat distant and subdued. That’s a Micromoon for you—a full moon at its apogee, the point in its orbit where it’s farthest from Earth. Though it may not be the belle of the lunar ball like a Supermoon, a Micromoon has its own special charm and a unique set of experiences to offer.

The Science Behind a Full Moon

Imagine the Moon and Earth in a cosmic dance around each other. This dance isn’t perfectly choreographed; the Moon’s orbit isn’t a perfect circle but an ellipse. This makes our lunar friend sometimes come closer to us (perigee) and sometimes drift away (apogee). When the moon decides to dance at its farthest point from Earth during a full moon, we’re treated to a Micromoon.

Micromoon or Micro Full Moon
Image Credit: NASA/Bill Dunford

Myth and Folklore

Just as every culture has its stories, so does every moon. While Supermoons and Harvest Moons are the rockstars of lunar folklore, Micromoons have their place as well. They might not be the main characters in ancient myths, but they do represent the idea of ‘less is more’ or the notion that sometimes, things that appear smaller can have deep, intrinsic value.

How Much Smaller is a Micromoon?

Picture your typical Supermoon, large and luminous, dominating the sky. Now, imagine something 14% smaller; that’s your Micromoon. In hard numbers, a Micromoon is about 405,500 km away compared to a much closer 363,300 km for a Supermoon. While this might not be glaringly obvious to the casual observer, telescope aficionados will appreciate the nuance.

The Impact on Tides

If you’re an avid surfer or someone who keeps an eye on the tides for whatever reason, you’ll notice the subtler pull of a Micromoon. The waves may not roar as loudly, but they have their own subdued eloquence during this time.

Micromoons and Astrology

Now, if you’re someone who flips to the astrology column in the morning paper, you might find astrologers talking about Micromoons as times for introspection. It’s like the universe’s way of saying, “Take a step back and reflect.”

Photographing a Micromoon

For photography enthusiasts, a Micromoon offers its own set of challenges and rewards. Your photos might not have the immediate “wow” factor that a Supermoon provides, but a Micromoon’s dimmer light can reveal details on the lunar surface that are often washed out during a Supermoon. It’s like capturing a candid shot versus a posed one—each has its own value.

Micromoons vs. Supermoons

If the moon were a celebrity, the Supermoon would be the one hogging all the limelight, making headline news and trending on social media. The Micromoon, on the other hand, is like the indie film star—less conspicuous but equally talented.

Super Moon vs Micromoon
Image Credit: Catalin Paduraru

When Can You See a Micromoon?

Keep an eye on those celestial calendars; Micromoons don’t like to announce their presence with a bang. Unlike Supermoons, which you might accidentally stumble upon because everyone is talking about it, Micromoons are for those who seek them out.

Upcoming Micromoons: Mark Your Calendars

For those eager to witness this celestial marvel, we’ve got some dates for you to mark on your calendar. Whether you’re an amateur astronomer, a photography enthusiast, or simply someone who enjoys the night sky, these are the upcoming Micromoons you won’t want to miss:

  • 2023

    • Saturday, 7 January: Micro Full Moon
    • Sunday, 5 February: Micro Full Moon
    • Wednesday, 16 August: Micro New Moon
  • 2024

    • Saturday, 24 February: Micro Full Moon
    • Monday, 25 March: Micro Full Moon
    • Wednesday, 2 October: Micro New Moon

Plan ahead to make the most of these celestial events. Whether you’re looking to take stunning photographs or hoping to experience a quiet moment of reflection, these Micromoons offer unique opportunities for both.

Spiritual Significance of the Micromoon

In a world that often shouts, a Micromoon whispers. If you’re someone who finds spirituality in the whispers of the world, the Micromoon is your time for silent contemplation, for letting go of material worries and focusing on the spiritual and emotional.

Does Earth Have Micro-Moons?

On a side note, did you know Earth occasionally captures “micro-moons”? These aren’t smaller versions of our Moon but transient little visitors like asteroids that get caught in our gravitational field. A fascinating tidbit, but remember, they’re not to be confused with a Micromoon, which is always our one and only Moon at its farthest point from us.

Cultural and Spiritual Significance

Each type of moon has its own fan club. While Supermoons are all about spectacle and grandeur, Micromoons attract those who find beauty in subtlety and nuance.

Final Thoughts

The sky has always been a source of wonder and mystery for humans, captivating our imaginations and sparking our curiosity. While Supermoons often steal the spotlight, Micromoons offer an equally intriguing celestial display. These quieter, more subdued full moons offer a unique opportunity for contemplation and appreciation of the subtler aspects of our universe.

Whether you’re a photographer looking for a different kind of lunar shot, a surfer interested in tidal variations, or simply someone who enjoys stargazing, Micromoons are worth looking out for. In our always-on, constantly connected world, they offer a welcome invitation to slow down, reflect, and appreciate the nuanced beauty all around us.

The scientific community recently found a new planet called TOI-733b. It is situated 245 light-years away from Earth. It’s a bit smaller than Earth but has a unique feature – its atmosphere.

Lost Atmosphere & Oceanic World:

Experts have two possible explanations for this planet. First, it might have lost its atmosphere, or second, it could be a “highly irradiated (exposed to radiations) oceanic world.

Less Denser Than Earth & More Denser Than Mars:

This information comes from a study in the specialized astronomy journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, which also mentions that TOI-733b has a density of 3.98 grams per cubic centimeter. To put it simply, it’s a bit less dense than Earth but denser than Mars.

New planet TOI-733B discovered has a massive ocean and it’s not too far from Earth

The Astronomy & Astrophysics article also mentions that TOI-733b orbits a star slightly smaller than the Sun and completes its orbit in just 4.9 days.

This close proximity to the star is a key factor in explaining the first of the two scenarios proposed by scientists regarding its atmosphere.

Currently, TOI-733b is a dry, rocky planet without a gaseous layer. Scientists suggest this could be due to its close proximity to its Sun, causing its atmosphere to evaporate over time.

However, there’s another hypothesis they are considering. It’s possible that TOI-733b might actually be an oceanic planet.

TOI-733b is similar to a mini Neptune

Another noteworthy finding emphasized in the article is the resemblance between TOI-733b and other planets with similar traits, albeit on a smaller scale compared to Neptune. These types of planets share a common feature – they are gradually shrinking due to the loss of their atmospheres.

While this recent discovery appears to lend support to this theory, it remains uncertain what or who is accountable for this phenomenon. The question of whether it’s the proximity to their parent stars or the heat they emit themselves that causes this remains unanswered.

When was TOI 733b discovered?

It is an exoplanet categorized as a super-Earth, and it circles a G-type star. It has a mass equivalent to 5.72 times that of Earth, completes one orbit around its star. This was discovered in 2023.

How far is Toi 733b?

This exoplanet is located about 245.5 light-years (75.3 pc) away from Solar System.

Has a planet like Earth been discovered?

Leveraging data from NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, researchers have pinpointed a planet named TOI 700 e, which shares the size of Earth and orbits within the habitable zone of its star. This zone represents the region around a star where conditions are conducive to the existence of liquid water on a planet’s surface. TOI 700 e is almost 95% the size of Earth.

Does TOI-733b have water?

The research team turned their attention to TOI-733b following the acquisition of data from NASA’s TESS telescope. The planet’s density provides two possible explanations: it’s either completely enveloped in water, or it has completely lost its atmosphere. Indications lean towards the notion that TOI-733b’s atmosphere is gradually dissipating over time.

Other moons and new planets that may have oceans

For centuries, the existence of extraterrestrial life has ignited our collective curiosity and drive for exploration. Today, we’re focusing that curiosity on a very specific type of celestial body: exoplanets and moons that might host oceans. That is why Toi-733b has been recently discovered.

Scientists believe that these water-bearing worlds could potentially harbor life, making them a focal point in our search for extraterrestrial organisms. Below is an overview of these intriguing celestial bodies and discusses the ongoing efforts to study and conserve them.

Exoplanets with Potential Oceans

The detection of exoplanets, which are planets circling stars beyond our solar system, has revolutionized our search for extraterrestrial life. Some of these newly found planets, due to their favorable conditions, hold promise as potential hosts for oceans.

  • Proxima Centauri b

Proxima Centauri b, the nearest exoplanet to our solar system, orbits within the habitable zone of its host star. Its mass indicates it likely has a rocky makeup, and whether it has liquid water on its surface is a subject of ongoing scientific research.

  • TRAPPIST-1 Planets

The TRAPPIST-1 system, situated approximately 40 light-years away, contains seven Earth-sized planets, which have garnered significant attention.

  • Kepler-22b

Kepler-22b is the first known exoplanet located within the habitable zone of a star similar to our Sun. There’s a possibility that it could have liquid water, but scientists are still working to figure out the makeup of this super-Earth-sized planet. It is much like Toi-733b.

Moons with Potential Oceans

In our own solar system, several moons show signs of harboring subsurface oceans, fueling the possibility of life.

  • Europa

This Jupiter moon, heated by the gravitational pull of Jupiter, probably has a subsurface ocean twice the size of all the Earth’s oceans combined. The icy surface strongly suggests the presence of this hidden saltwater ocean.

  • Enceladus

Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus has a subsurface ocean beneath its southern pole. Scientists think that the water vapor plumes shooting out from its surface are direct proof of this concealed ocean.

  • Titan

Saturn’s moon Titan is unique among moons because it has a significant atmosphere. Radar and infrared observations have shown the existence of lakes filled with hydrocarbons. While these aren’t water, they still qualify as liquid surface reservoirs.

Exploration of Exoplanets and Moons: Paving the Way into Further Study of Toi-733b:

We’re exploring distant planets like Toi-733b and need to be cautious not to harm them with Earth microbes, following planetary protection rules like the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. COSPAR sets guidelines for spacecraft cleanliness. Our technology limits our study of ocean worlds, but upcoming missions like NASA’s Europa Clipper and the European Space Agency’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) will help. Protecting these places is crucial as we search for alien life in the vast cosmic ocean, where unimaginable life forms might exist.