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All systems go for Artemis 1 mission to Moon – Phys.org

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The Artemis 1 rocket on Launch Pad 39B at the Kennedy Space Center.

Fifty years after the last Apollo mission, the Artemis program is poised to take up the baton of lunar exploration with a test launch on Monday of NASA’s most powerful rocket ever.

The goal is to return humans to the Moon for the first time since the last Apollo mission in 1972—and eventually to Mars.

The 322-foot (98-meter) Space Launch System (SLS) rocket is scheduled to blast off at 8:33 am (1233 GMT) from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida.

The mission, more than a decade in the planning, may be uncrewed, but is highly symbolic for NASA, which has been under pressure from China and private rivals such as SpaceX.

Hotels around Cape Canaveral are booked solid with between 100,000 and 200,000 spectators expected to attend the launch.

The massive orange-and-white rocket has been sitting on KSC’s Launch Complex 39B for a week.

“Ever since we rolled out to the pad last week, you can feel the excitement, the energy,” said Janet Petro, director of KSC. “It’s really, really palpable.”

The objective of the flight, baptized Artemis 1, is to test the SLS and the Orion crew capsule that sits atop the rocket.

Mannequins equipped with sensors will take the place of crew members, recording acceleration, vibration and .

Cameras will capture every moment of the 42-day trip and include a selfie of the spacecraft with the Moon and Earth in the background.

The White Flight Control Room at the Johnson Space Center's Mission Control Center in Houston, Texas
The White Flight Control Room at the Johnson Space Center’s Mission Control Center in Houston, Texas.

Splashdown in Pacific

The Orion capsule will orbit around the Moon, coming within 60 miles (100 kilometers) at its and then firing its engines to get to a distance 40,000 miles beyond, a record for a spacecraft rated to carry humans.

One of the primary objectives of the mission is to test the capsule’s , which at 16 feet in diameter is the largest ever built.

On its return to the Earth’s atmosphere, the heat shield will have to withstand a speed of 25,000 miles per hour and a temperature of 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2,760 degrees Celsius).

Orion, its descent slowed by parachutes, will end its voyage with a splashdown off the coast of San Diego in the Pacific.

Monday’s liftoff will be at the mercy of the weather, which can be unpredictable in Florida at this time of year, and NASA has built in a two-hour launch window.

The Artemis 1 rocket on the launch pad at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida
The Artemis 1 rocket on the launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

If the rocket is unable to take off on Monday, September 2 and 5 have been penciled in as alternative flight dates.

Otherwise, it’s all systems go.

NASA gave the for the mission on Tuesday after a detailed inspection known as a flight readiness review.

That doesn’t mean things can’t go wrong with a rocket and a capsule flying for the first time.

‘Inherent risk’

“We’re doing something that is incredibly difficult to do and does carry inherent risk in it,” said Mike Sarafin, the Artemis 1 mission manager.

Because it is an uncrewed flight, Sarafin said the mission will continue in conditions that would not be acceptable for a flight with astronauts.

“If we had a failed solar array deployment we would proceed, and that is something that we wouldn’t necessarily do on a crewed flight,” he said.

  • A mock-up trainer module of Gateway's Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO) module in Houston, Texas
    A mock-up trainer module of Gateway’s Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO) module in Houston, Texas.
  • How the US plans to return to the Moon
    Graphic on NASA’s Artemis program to establish a mini-space station orbiting the Moon before landing on the surface in 2024.

A complete failure would be devastating for a program that is costing $4.1 billion per launch and is already running years behind schedule.

The next mission, Artemis 2, will take astronauts into orbit around the Moon without landing on its surface. The crew of Artemis 3 is to land on the Moon in 2025 at the earliest.

While the Apollo astronauts who walked on the Moon were exclusively white men, the Artemis program plans to include the first woman and person of color.

NASA's Artemis 1 rocket is rolled out to Launch Pad Complex 39B at Kennedy Space Center, in Cape Canaveral, Florida
NASA’s Artemis 1 rocket is rolled out to Launch Pad Complex 39B at Kennedy Space Center, in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

And since humans have already visited the Moon, Artemis has its sights set on another lofty goal—an eventual crewed to Mars.

The Artemis program is to establish a lasting human presence on the Moon with an orbiting space station known as Gateway and a base on the surface.

Gateway would serve as a staging and refueling station for a voyage to Mars that would take a minimum of several months.

“I think it’s going to inspire even more than Apollo did,” Bob Cabana, associate NASA administrator and a former astronaut, said of Artemis. “It’s going to be absolutely outstanding.”


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NASA ‘go for launch’ for planned Artemis I moon mission


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Astronomers identified the most distant globular clusters ever discovered – Tech Explorist

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The Canadian NIRISS Unbiased Cluster Survey (CANUCS) team discovered the most distant globular clusters ever found using the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). These dense groups of millions of stars may be relics that contain the first and oldest stars in the universe.

This discovery in Webb’s First Deep Field already provides a detailed look at the earliest phase of star formation, confirming the incredible power of JWST.

The nine billion light-year-away “Sparkler galaxy” was the focus of the exquisitely detailed Webb’s First Deep Field image, said the astronomers. The researchers called these compact objects around this galaxy “sparkles,” which appeared as small yellow dots.

According to the research team, these sparkles might either be new clusters of stars actively developing that were formed three billion years after the Big Bang at the height of star formation or old globular clusters. Globular clusters are old collections of stars from the beginning of a galaxy, providing information about the early stages of its development and expansion.

From their initial analysis of 12 of these compact objects, the researchers determined that five of them are not only globular clusters but among the oldest ones known.

Kartheik G. Iyer, Dunlap Fellow at the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Toronto and co-lead author of the study, said, “Looking at the first images from JWST and discovering old globular clusters around distant galaxies was an incredible moment, one that wasn’t possible with previous Hubble Space Telescope imaging.”

“Since we could observe the sparkles across a range of wavelengths, we could model them and better understand their physical properties, like how old they are and how many stars they contain. We hope the knowledge that globular clusters can be observed from such great distances with JWST will spur further science and searches for similar objects.” 

Lamiya Mowla, Dunlap Fellow at the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Toronto and co-lead author of the study, said, “These newly identified clusters were formed close to the first time it was even possible to create stars. Because the Sparkler galaxy is much farther away than our own Milky Way, it is easier to determine the ages of its globular clusters.

“We are observing the Sparkler as it was nine billion years ago, when the universe was only four-and-a-half billion years old, looking at something that happened a long time ago. Think of it as guessing a person’s age based on their appearance—it’s easy to tell the difference between a 5- and 10-year-old, but hard to tell the difference between a 50- and 55-year-old.”

The Sparkler galaxy is special because it is magnified by a factor of 100 due to an effect called gravitational lensing—where the SMACS 0723 galaxy cluster in the foreground distorts what is behind it like a giant magnifying glass. Moreover, gravitational lensing produces three separate images of the Sparkler, allowing astronomers to study the galaxy in greater detail.

CANUCS team lead Chris Willott from the National Research Council’s Herzberg Astronomy, and Astrophysics Research Centre said, “Our study of the Sparkler highlights the tremendous power in combining the unique capabilities of JWST with the natural magnification afforded by gravitational lensing. The team is excited about more discoveries when JWST turns its eye on the CANUCS galaxy clusters next month.” 

The researchers combined new data from JWST’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) with HST archival data. NIRCam detects faint objects using longer and redder wavelengths to observe past what is visible to the human eye and even HST. Both magnifications due to the lensing by the galaxy cluster and the high resolution of JWST made observing compact objects possible.

The Canadian-made Near-Infrared Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (NIRISS) instrument on the JWST confirmed that the objects are old globular clusters because the researchers did not observe oxygen emission lines—emissions with measurable spectra given off by young clusters that are actively forming stars. NIRISS also helped unravel the geometry of the triply lensed images of the Sparkler.

Marcin Sawicki, Canada Research Chair in Astronomy, professor at Saint Mary’s University, and study co-author, said, “JWST’s made-in-Canada NIRISS instrument was vital in helping us understand how the three images of the Sparkler and its globular clusters are connected. Seeing several of the Sparkler’s globular clusters imaged three times made it clear that they are orbiting around the Sparkler galaxy rather than being simply in front of it by chance.” 

Journal Reference:

  1. The Sparkler: Evolved high-redshift globular cluster candidates captured by JWST. The Astrophysical Journal Letters (2022). DOI: 10.3847/2041-8213/ac90ca

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NASA Releases Most Detailed Photos Of Jupiter Moon Europa In Decades – Fatherly

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NASA keeps dropping more photos of incredible, jaw-dropping outer space in views we’ve never seen before. The newest images don’t come from the James Webb Space Telescope, though, which has been giving us wow-worthy images lately. These new photos come from NASA’s Juno probe — and they show the first photos of Jupiter’s Europa in decades.

The Juno probe is part of NASA’s New Frontiers Program and was launched into space in 2011 to get close to Jupiter and learn more about the distant planet. According to NASA, the probe reached its destination in 2016, and the new photos were taken when the probe made its closest pass in 22 years to the icy moon known as Europa.

“Rugged terrain features are easily seen, including tall shadow-casting blocks, while bright and dark ridges and troughs curve across the surface. The oblong pit near the terminator might be a degraded impact crater,” JPL officials wrote of Juno’s flyby imagery on September 29.

The moon near Jupiter is similar in size to Earth’s moon. However, it has a much different history and formation, per NASA. Europa has a cold crust overtop an ocean that researchers have long thought may be capable of supporting life similar to what we have here on our planet.

In the latest flyby, the Juno probe returned some of the “highest-ever resolutions pictures,” according to Space.com. And scientists were able to get a good look at the atmosphere and environment of the icy moon.

NASA/SWRI/MSSS

“The science team will be comparing the full set of images obtained by Juno with images from previous missions, looking to see if Europa’s surface features have changed over the past two decades,” said Candy Hansen, a Juno co-investigator who leads planning for the camera at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona. “The JunoCam images will fill in the current geologic map, replacing existing low-resolution coverage of the area.”

During the flyby, the trajectory of the Juno probe was modified a bit to help reduce the time it takes for it to orbit Jupiter. Instead of taking 43 Earth days to orbit, it will only take 38 days, hopefully allowing researchers to continue to get more data on the sixth largest Moon in our solar system.

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'Shiny, sparkly object' in James Webb space image – BBC

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NASA

Astronomers have made a sparkling discovery in what was the very first full-colour image released from the new super space telescope James Webb.

The picture, presented to the world in July by US President Joe Biden, shows a fantastically deep view of the cosmos, billions of years into the past.

And it’s in that remarkable vista that researchers have now picked out what they believe to be the most distant globular clusters ever identified.

Globulars are dense star collections.

What’s more, these stars are generally really quite old and relatively pristine: they have fewer of the heavier chemical elements that taint more modern stars such as our Sun.

Our Milky Way Galaxy, in which our Sun lives, has more than 100 of these compact groupings littered around itself, but when and how they formed is still something of a puzzle.

The Biden Webb image should improve our understanding.

The Sparkler graphic

The picture, called SMACS 0723, is an example of what’s referred to as a gravitational lens. It shows a set of massive foreground galaxies that have magnified and bent the light coming from galaxies in the background.

And it’s one particularly pretty galaxy in the far distance that’s caught the eye of astronomers at the University of Toronto.

They’ve dubbed it “the Sparkler Galaxy” because it’s surrounded by small yellow-red dots – by “sparkles”.

Only with James Webb’s extraordinary power are these dots resolvable. You couldn’t see them with that other great observatory, Hubble, for instance.

The Toronto team wondered at first whether the sparkles were even associated with the Sparkler Galaxy. Was it possible they were just sitting out there on their own instead, a long way in front or behind the Sparkler? But it soon became obvious that they were associated because the Sparkler Galaxy itself is projected three times in the SMACS 0723 image.

That’s just how gravitational lenses work sometimes: they can not only magnify background objects but also distort them and multiply their appearance.

And in each of the three versions of the Sparkler Galaxy, the same dots are present.

Sparkler graphic

The team’s contention is that the sparkles are globular clusters just like the globulars seen around our Milky Way today, except we’re seeing these dots much, much earlier in the history of the Universe.

We see the Sparkler as it was nine billion years in the past, or about 4.5 billion years after the Big Bang.

“We are finding these globular clusters to be very massive,” explained Dr Lamiya Mowla from Toronto’s Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics. “We also find them to be very old.

“They could have formed in a burst at what we call ‘cosmic noon’, at the peak of star formation at about 10 billion years ago. But their colour isn’t right. For something to be relatively young, it has to be bluer, and what we’re finding is that they’re much redder than we expected them to be, which means they must be older, even at that very early time,” she told BBC News.

The team contends the stars in these globular sparkles probably formed just a few hundred million years after the Big Bang. It’s even possible, the astronomers say, that the sparkles contain some of the very first stars ever to form in the Universe.

“They’re the Holy Grail, right?” said Dr Mowla.

“Everyone is looking for those stars and when we first opened the SMACS image, we too were searching for the furthest stuff, the farthest things. And then we literally got sidetracked by the most shiny, sparkly object.”

The Toronto research programme, called the CAnadian NIRISS Unbiased Cluster Survey (CANUCS), will now examine five more gravitationally lensed views from James Webb similar to its SMACS image.

“That’s really going to push up the number of galaxies that we find with sparkles around them,” said Dunlap Institute postdoctoral fellow Dr Kartheik Iyer.

“We want to know how ubiquitous these sparkles are. Did we just find a special galaxy or is this something we can expect to see more of when we have a representative sample from Webb,” he told BBC News.

The Toronto Sparkler research is published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

JWST history

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