Science, Space, Health & Robotics News - Page 2
China's top secret space plane lands after nearly an entire year of flight
China has brought down its mysterious space plane after a mission that lasted nearly an entire year with a total of 276 days spent in Earth's orbit.
The top secret space plane has ended its second orbital mission for China, and according to China's state-run Xinhua news agency, the mysterious space plane landed safely back on Earth at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China on May 8. According to Xinhua, the grounding of the space plane demonstrates the success of the overall experiment and a "breakthrough in China's research on reusable spacecraft technologies". Notably, the space plane launched from Jiuquan on August 4, 2022, and publicly there wasn't much known about the mission.
Regardless of the ambiguous details of the mission, the space plane was still tracked by astronomers and those interested. On October 31, China's experimental reusable spacecraft ejected an object into orbit. What exactly that object was is unknown, but some hypothesized it was a service module, which indicates the plane was preparing to land back on Earth. However, given the many more days the space plane stayed in orbit, this hypothesis proved unlikely. Other officials suggested it may have ejected a small satellite that's designed to monitor the space plane, which publications write is likely the correct guess.
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Europe's newest weather satellite snaps its 1st phenomenal photo of Earth
The European Space Agency (ESA) has taken to its blog to announce its latest weather satellite, the Meteosat Third Generation Imager, has sent back its first image of Earth from space.
The Meteosat Third Generation Imager (MTG-I1) was launched on the back of an Ariane 5 rocket on December 13, 2022, and is slated to be the first of a brand new generation of weather satellites aimed at upgrading weather forecasting across Europe. To highlight MTG-I1's capabilities, the ESA has showcased the weather satellite's first image of Earth, snapped on March 18, 2023. The above image shows Northern and Western Europe, as well as Scandinavia, shrouded in clouds, with Africa dominating the majority of the frame.
So, what's so special about this image? Simply, the new level of detail that has been achieved, which can be attributed to the advanced instruments that the third-generation Meteosat is carrying. According to the ESA, the MTG-I1 satellite will be able to take much higher resolution imagery at a more frequent rate when compared to the previous second-generation weather satellites. More specifically, the ESA writes that the image above showcases an upgraded level of detail in cloud structures, in particular at Earth's higher latitudes.
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NASA confirms physics-defying object 10 million times brighter than the Sun
NASA has taken to its website to announce a type of object that is currently defying our understanding of physics as its more than 100 times brighter than it should be.
These objects, as detailed in NASA's recent blog post, are called ultra-luminous X-ray sources (ULXs), and the levels of brightness they give off seemingly bypass the physical boundary of how bright an object can be. This boundary is called the Eddington limit, and according to a recent study published in The Astrophysical Journal, researchers have conducted a first-of-its-kind measurement using NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array.
The results of this measurement confirm these objects are breaking the Eddington limit, leaving scientists and astronomers to hypothesize how this could even be possible. An example would be a ULX called M82 X-2, which is a neutron star or the dead remains of a star once very active like our Sun. While neutron stars are much smaller in size, their surface gravity is about 100 trillion times stronger than the gravity we experience on Earth. Due to the intense gravitational pull, when matter collides with the surface of the neutron star, energy is released, generating an explosive effect.
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NASA thinks it may have uncovered big secrets about Uranus' moons
Scientists have re-looked over data acquired by NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft and combined their new perspective with updated computer modeling to discover a watery presence on Uranus' five moons.
NASA has taken to its blog on its website to detail a new study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, which looks at Uranus' five large moons: Ariel, Umbriel, Titania, Oberon, and Miranda. Notably, Uranus has a total of 27 moons orbiting the ice giant, but only four of them are considered to be large moons, with the largest being Titania at a diameter of 980 miles and the smallest being Ariel at 720 miles in diameter. The other large moons range in size between the aforementioned figures.
As for the recently published study, NASA writes it's the first to detail the evolution of the interior makeup and structure of Uranus' large moons, and its results indicate the presence of oceans dozens of miles below each of the moon's surface. Using data from NASA's Voyager 2 fly-by of Uranus in 1980, combined with ground-based observations from NASA's Galileo, Cassini, Dawn, and New Horizons, the researchers were able to gauge how porous the surface of each of Uranus' large moon's are. The study found that the Uranian moons' surfaces are insulated enough to retain heat, a vital element in a body being able to host an internal ocean.
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Scientists see Earth's future by witnessing a star violently eat a planet
A new study published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Nature has detailed what is described as a very first observation of an aging star engulfing a planet.
NASA has taken to its blog to shine a light on the fascinating observation, which the researchers say is a glimpse into Earth's distant future as the same fate will befall our humble planet. According to the study, the star consumed the planet when it got close to its end of life, a stage in the star's life when its fuel begins to dwindle, and it grows in size, engulfing anything that gets too close. The planet was one of those unlucky objects, and as the star grew, its outer atmosphere surrounded the entire planet, causing the planet's orbit to shrink and eventually drop below the surface of the star.
When the planet sunk below the surface, it began to burn up like a meteor entering Earth's atmosphere. This energy exchange caused the star to grow in size and brightness temporarily. Researchers who observed the event reported the star becoming a few hundred times brighter before it returned to its normal size of brightness levels. Researchers used the Caltech-led Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) based at Palomar Observatory in Southern California and the NEOWISE observatory to observe the destruction of the planet.
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Elon Musk reveals when SpaceX is expected to launch Starship again
Slated to be the mode of transportation that will put humans on the surface of Mars, Starship, SpaceX's newest rocket, maybe taking to the skies again for its second orbital launch attempt sooner than you might think.
SpaceX's Starship launch vehicle is the world's biggest and most powerful rocket, with the company only recently conducting the 394-foot-tall rocket's very first orbital test launch. Starship took to the skies on April 20, with its 33 Raptor engines generating a stunning 16.5 million pounds of thrust, which pushed the behemoth rocket above its launch tower and to an altitude of 24 miles before it was intentionally blown up by SpaceX engineers. SpaceX's objective was to see Starship's upper stage separate from its lower booster stage, which would send its upper stage on a quick journey around Earth that would result in a splashdown near Hawaii.
Unfortunately, SpaceX's first orbital test didn't go as planned as Super Heavy, Starship's lower stage booster failed to separate from its upper stage, causing the entire rocket to start tumbling and lose altitude. The malfunction made the mission objective impossible, and SpaceX employees were forced into initiating Starship's rapid disassembly protocol. Explode the rocket mid-air. Despite the failure to reach the objective, both SpaceX and company CEO Elon Musk celebrated the launch as the rocket achieved much more than they expected, with many predicting that Starship wouldn't even be able to get off the launch pad.
Continue reading: Elon Musk reveals when SpaceX is expected to launch Starship again (full post)
NASA's Webb telescope closes in on major breakthrough in discovering alien life
A group of researchers may be on the cusp of a major breakthrough in exoplanet science, which by extension, assists the search for life outside of Earth.
Astronomers have pointed NASA's James Webb Space Telescope's highly advanced instruments at the distant exoplanet called GJ 486 b, which orbits a red dwarf star in the Virgo Constellation 26 light-years away from Earth. This exoplanet has the mass of three times Earth, but is less than a third of our planet's size and orbits its host red dwarf star in less than 1.5 Earth days. Notably, GJ 486 b is likely tidally locked to its host star, which means that it will forever show one face of the planet to its host star, similar to how we can only see one side of the Moon.
So, why has GJ 486 b become of such interest to astronomers? Astronomers have observed GJ 486 b and discovered water vapor around the exoplanet, which could indicate the presence of an atmosphere on the planet. If this is proven to be true, it would be a massive discovery for exoplanet science as it would change how astronomers approach searching for habitable worlds in the universe, and, thus, the search for life outside of Earth. However, astronomers say that GJ 486 b's host star may be the culprit behind the water vapor and not the exoplanet's possible atmosphere.
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Scientists say Earth is leaking signals that advanced aliens may soon detect
Humans have been searching for any evidence of life outside of Earth for many years now, and so far, we have drawn up a big blank. But what if alien life has already found us?
A team of researchers from two universities, The University of Manchester and the University of Mauritius proposed the question of if aliens are aware of life on Earth, how would they have become aware of it in the first place. More specifically, the team of scientists looked at how global radio signal leakage may be planetary flares for advanced alien civilizations to detect, which would essentially mean that currently, Earth is shining a spotlight out into pitch-black space.
The new study was published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society journal, and according to its results, the team found that only advanced alien civilizations would be able to detect Earth's radio signal leakage.
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Researchers say China's Mars rover has made an unprecedented discovery
A new study published in the journal Science Advances on April 28 states that China's Mars rover has discovered evidence of liquid water, a claim that contradicts the general consensus that water can only exist in solid or gaseous states on Mars.
The study was led by Prof. Xiaoguang Qin from the Institute of Geology and Geophysics (IGG) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), and according to its results, China's Zhurong rover has found proof of liquid water traces at low latitudes where temperatures are more warm and suitable for the ingredients of life. It should be noted that humans have discovered large amounts of frozen water on Mars, but due to the planet's incredibly thin atmosphere, it's thought the presence of liquid water on the Red Planet is impossible.
However, in 2008 salty droplets of water landed on the arm of NASA's Phoenix Lander, which led researchers to believe that liquid water could exist in the higher latitudes of the planet. Now, researchers are suggesting the very same for the low latitudes. Zhurong's scientific instruments analyzed the surface of sand dunes, discovering that their composition was rich with hydrated sulfates, silica, oxide minerals, and possibly chlorides. Additionally, Zhurong's instruments revealed important morphological features on the surface of the dunes, such as crusts, cracks, granulation, polygonal ridges, and water traces.
Continue reading: Researchers say China's Mars rover has made an unprecedented discovery (full post)
SpaceX's violent Starship explosion pushes FAA to ground the program
SpaceX launched its Starship launch vehicle on April 20, and after nearly four minutes of flight, the rocket was intentionally blown up, causing debris to scatter much further than initially anticipated.
SpaceX has been developing Starship for quite some time, and on April 20, the company conducted its very first orbital test flight of the nearly 400-foot-tall rocket. Starship is slated to be the transportation method astronauts will take to the surface of the Red Planet, and its first orbital test flight was a monumental milestone on the long road to achieving that goal. SpaceX's next-generation rocket featured 33 Raptor engines, which generated a whopping 16.5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff.
Prior to the orbital test flight SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said in a Twitter Spaces held on April 16 that there was a real risk of Starship exploding. In fact, Musk said it was more likely that it would explode rather than reach orbit. Musk was right. Just four minutes after achieving flight, SpaceX was forced to initiate its mission termination process, or what officials called a "rapid unscheduled disassembly". The rocket's first stage, or booster called Super Heavy failed to separate from its second stage, Starship, which caused the rocket to tumble and lose altitude.
Continue reading: SpaceX's violent Starship explosion pushes FAA to ground the program (full post)