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‘Extreme planet’ orbits star in three Earth days, has temperatures of 3120 degrees Celsius



Research on data from a new satellite is revealing strange new details about one of the “most extreme planets” in our known universe, and the blue, oddly-shaped star it orbits.

WASP-189b is 322 light years away from Earth in the constellation of Libra, has a permanent dayside and night side, and takes less than three Earth days to fully orbit its star — far faster than our 365 days.

“It is 20 times closer to [its star] than Earth is to the Sun,” Monika Lendl, lead author of the study from the University of Geneva, said in a press release.

WASP-189b is a gas giant, but it’s not any old gas giant. It is around one and a half times as large as Jupiter, and is part of a group called “ultra-hot Jupiters,” which are gas giants that are much larger and hotter than any planet we see in our solar system.

And this planet is even hotter than most other ultra-hot exoplanets scientists have identified. A paper published in the Astronomy & Astrophysics journal last week which detailed the new research described WASP-189b as “one of the most highly irradiated planets known thus far.”

It not only orbits incredibly close to its star, but the star itself, known as HD 133112, is one of the hottest stars we know of that has its own planetary system, at around 2,200 degrees Celsuis hotter than our Sun.

“Because it is so hot, the star appears blue and not yellow-white like the sun,” Willy Benz, professor of astrophysics at the University of Bern and head of the CHEOPS consortium, said in the release.

The dayside of the WASP-189b — the side that faces the star — is roughly 3,400 Kelvin, which is more than 3,120 degrees Celsius. It’s so hot that if there were iron present in the planet’s makeup, it would be gaseous.

In our solar system, the way that our planets spin while they rocket around the sun in their orbit gives them a night and day and allows multiples sides of the planet to get some face time with the sun. This isn’t the case for planetary objects like WASP-189b.

“They have a permanent day side, which is always exposed to the light of the star, and, accordingly, a permanent night side,” Lendl explained.

These details were discovered using data from the CHaracterising ExOPlanets Satellite (CHEOPS), the first European Space Agency (ESA) mission dedicated solely to extra-solar planets. The mission was launched in partnership with Switzerland, and benefitted from contributions from numerous European countries.

The satellite, with its mounted telescope, was launched in December of 2019, and has been orbiting 700 km above Earth ever since. Unlike many previous exoplanet-focused missions, CHEOPS is not interested in identifying new exoplanets, but was designed to peer closely at systems where we already knew an exoplanet is present.

Exoplanets — or extrasolar planets — are planets orbiting stars outside of our solar system, and because they’re so far away, we identify them not by finding a coloured speck in the sky, but by measuring dips in the light from stars.

When a star dims, it means something has passed in front of it, blocking some of the light from reaching the Earth. Using this “transit method,” researchers can figure out how large exoplanets are, how big or long their orbit is, and even what materials they are likely composed of.

There is also a change in light when a particularly bright planet goes behind its star, something called an “occultation.”

“Only a handful of planets are known to exist around stars this hot, and this system is by far the brightest,” Lendl said in an ESA release. “WASP-189b is also the brightest hot Jupiter that we can observe as it passes in front of or behind its star, making the whole system really intriguing.

“As the planet is so bright, there is actually a noticeable dip in the light we see coming from the system as it briefly slips out of view.”

While CHEOPS was pointed at WASP-189b, cataloguing all of its strange properties, researchers discovered that the star was unusual for more than just its bright blue colour.

It is spinning so rapidly that it is actually thicker at the equator, distorting the shape itself.

“The star itself is interesting — it’s not perfectly round, but larger and cooler at its equator than at the poles, making the poles of the star appear brighter,” said Lendl. “It’s spinning around so fast that it’s being pulled outwards at its equator! Adding to this asymmetry is the fact that WASP-189 b’s orbit is inclined; it doesn’t travel around the equator, but passes close to the star’s poles.”

This misaligned orbit implies that the planet had been formed further away from the star, and then been somehow pushed closer to it. Lendl suggested that this could mean the planet had interacted with other planets, or even other stars that had changed its orbital path.

According to the research, the planetary and star system is fairly young, which means researchers will be able to use this system to track the “atmospheric evolution of close-in gas giants.”

The new research is exciting to scientists not only for what it reveals about this planet and star, but for what it reveals about the telescope that provided such clear information.

“This first result from Cheops is hugely exciting: it is early definitive evidence that the mission is living up to its promise in terms of precision and performance,” Kate Isaak, CHEOPS project scientist at ESA, said in the ESA release.

Researchers point out in the paper that CHEOPS allowed them to refine and correct the size of the planet, which had been estimated incorrectly years earlier when the exoplanet’s existence was discovered by telescopes on the ground on Earth.

The paper concludes that the levels of the precision in the data shows that CHEOPS will be an invaluable tool in studying more exoplanets.

“We are expecting further spectacular findings on exoplanets thanks to observations with CHEOPS,” Benz said. “The next papers are already in preparation.”

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NASA astronaut Kate Rubins votes from the ISS: “If we can…



This story is part of 2020 elections, CNET’s coverage of the November vote preparations.

Whichever way you cast your vote, you must admire this NASA astronaut who managed to cast her vote from space. Kate Rubins, currently on duty aboard the International Space Station, posted a photo of herself in front of a padded booth labeled “ISS Voting Booth” with the text “From the International Space Station: I voted today”.

NASA notes that this is not Rubins’ first vote from space. She did this in 2016 when she was also on the ISS.

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“I think it’s really important that everyone votes,” said Rubins in a video uploaded by NASA. “And if we can get it out of space, then I believe people can do it from the ground too.” Rubins’ six-month ISS mission began on October 14, which was also her 42nd birthday.

Most astronauts choose the Texas resident election because they move to Houston to train. However, NASA said those wishing to vote as residents of their home state can take special precautions.

Ballot papers from the district in which the astronaut is registered are tested on a training computer at the space station. The actual voting slip is then generated and forwarded to the ISS with the log-in information specific to the crew in order to ensure safety. The completed voting slip is electronically returned to Earth for official return.

“Voting in space has been possible since 1997, when a law was passed that allowed legal voting in space in Texas,” NASA said in a statement. “Since then, several NASA astronauts have performed this civic duty from orbit. As NASA works towards sending astronauts to the moon and eventually Mars in 2024, the agency plans to continue to ensure that astronauts who want to vote in space are able no matter where in the solar system they may be. ”

NASA had expected the U.S. astronauts to vote with Rubins from space on the SpaceX Crew 1 mission to the ISS, but their mission has been postponed until early to mid-November so they can now vote from Earth.

Look at that:

Make a plan to vote for the November elections


Source: – AlKhaleej Today

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SpaceX reaches 100 successful launches with Starlink mission – SpaceNews



WASHINGTON — SpaceX launched another set of Starlink satellites Oct. 24, marking the 100th time the company has placed payloads into orbit.

The Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 11:31 a.m. Eastern. The rocket’s upper stage deployed the payload of 60 Starlink satellites into orbit 63 minutes after liftoff. The first stage, making its third flight, landed on a droneship in the Atlantic Ocean.

This was the 100th successful launch in the company’s history. That total includes 95 Falcon 9, three Falcon Heavy and two Falcon 1 launches. The company also suffered three Falcon 1 launch failures and one Falcon 9 launch failure; another Falcon 9 was destroyed in 2016 during preparations for a static-fire test.

The launch was the third Starlink mission in less than two weeks, after Falcon 9 launches Oct. 6 and Oct. 18 that each carried 60 Starlink satellites into orbit. The company has now launched 895 Starlink satellites, 55 of which have reentered either because of passive orbital decay or by being actively deorbited.

SpaceX has boasted in filings with the Federal Communications Commission of the high reliability of the Starlink satellites. That included an Oct. 15 filing about an ex parte meeting between SpaceX and FCC staff where the company noted “the successful launch and operation of nearly 300 additional satellites without a failure” since an earlier report filed with the FCC.

That streak, though, may have been broken on the previous launch. Satellite observers noted that one of the satellites on the Oct. 18 launch, identified as Starlink-1819, was not raising its orbit like the other 59. Tracking data showed that satellite’s orbit was instead decaying, suggesting it had malfunctioned.

SpaceX and its competitors have debated the reliability of Starlink satellites in a series of FCC filings in recent weeks. Viasat has argued that the failure rate of Starlink satellites is far higher than what SpaceX has promised, although the company made that argument in part on the apparent deliberate deorbiting of the original 60 “v0.9” Starlink satellites launched in May 2019.

The recent surge in Starlink launches is taking place as two other Falcon 9 missions remain on hold. The last-second scrub of a Falcon 9 launch of a GPS 3 satellite Oct. 2 has yet to be rescheduled, and the investigation into the gas generator problem that caused the scrub led NASA to postpone the Falcon 9 launch of the Crew-1 commercial crew mission, which had been scheduled for Oct. 31.

The Crew-1 launch remains on hold. In a series of tweets Oct. 21, Kathy Lueders, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said investigators were making “good progress” on understanding the engine issue, but that they were not ready to report the cause of the problem.

She did note that SpaceX will replace one Merlin engine on both the booster that will be used for the Crew-1 mission and the booster for the launch of the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich ocean science satellite, scheduled for Nov. 10 from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich launch remains on schedule for that launch even with the engine swap, she said.

The earliest Crew-1 would launch is mid-November, Lueders said. “We will want a few days between Sentinel-6 and Crew-1 to complete data reviews and check performance. Most importantly, we will fly all our missions when we are ready.”

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SpaceX launches 60 more Starlink internet satellites from Cape Canaveral – CBS News



A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched 60 more Starlink internet relay satellites on Saturday, boosting the total number launched to date to 895 as the company builds out a planned constellation of thousands designed to provide global high-speed broadband service.

Running two days late because of an on-board camera issue, the Falcon 9’s twice-flown first stage thundered to life at 11:31 a.m. EDT, pushing the 229-foot-tall rocket away from pad 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It was the California rocket builder’s 19th launch so far this year and its 15th Starlink flight.

The climb out of the lower atmosphere went smoothly and, as usual for SpaceX, the Falcon 9’s first stage flew itself back to landing on an off-shore drone ship. After two second stage engine firings, all 60 Starlink satellites were released to fly on their own, chalking up the company’s 95th successful Falcon 9 flight and 100th overall.

SpaceX’s Starlink operation has regulatory approval to launch more than 12,000 of the small satellites in multiple orbital planes, providing commercial users with line-of-sight access to space-based broadband signals from any point on Earth. The company already is testing the service in selected areas.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket climbs away from Cape Canaveral carrying a 15th batch of Starlink internet satellites and boosting the total number launched to date to 895.

William Harwood/CBS News

With Saturday’s launch, SpaceX has put 895 Starlinks into orbit, 180 of them — more satellites than any other company owns — in less than three weeks.

Astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell, a noted spaceflight analyst, reports 53 Starlinks have been deliberately deorbited to date, two re-entered on their own after failures and another 20 no longer appear to be maneuvering. Including the 60 launched Saturday, that leaves some 820 presumably operational Starlinks in orbit.

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