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No More Big Rip, Pillars of Creation, Biggest Gamma-Ray Burst

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The Pillars of Creation revealed by JWST. It seems like Big Rip isn’t happening after all. Black holes twisting spacetime into knots. Jets that seem to be going faster than the speed of light.

If you prefer to sit back, relax and get all the most important space news of the week, we’ve got you covered! Great new images, new discoveries in astronomy, determining the future of the Universe and more in the latest episode of Space Bites.

Pillars of Creation by Webb

It’s time to update your computer’s desktop wallpaper. We’ve finally got Webb’s version of the Pillars of Creation, made famous by the Hubble Space Telescope, which released images in 1995. Because JWST is an infrared telescope, it can peer through gas and dust, obscuring all the newly forming stars. Intense radiation from all the new stars is blasting away at the pillars, wearing them down and revealing the young stars. It’s a beautiful picture and scientifically fascinating.

 

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The Big Rip Averted

Astronomers use Type 1a supernovae to measure distances in the Universe. They always detonate with the same amount of energy, so it’s possible to calculate how far away they are. A new catalog of Type 1a supernovae has been completed called Pantheon+, which contains over 1,500 Type 1a supernovae. From this, astronomers have been able to accurately measure the ratios of dark matter and dark energy at different periods in the Universe.

More about dark energy and the death of the Universe.

Black Holes Spacetime Knots

In 2020, astronomers detected the gravitational waves from the collision between two black holes. One had more than 40 times the mass of the Sun and was rotating as quickly as the laws of physics allow. As the two black holes were about to collide, they tangled up spacetime in the region. Astronomers could measure this in the shape of the gravitational wave signal detected by LIGO. This helped to confirm one of Einstein’s predictions about relativity in one of the most extreme environments in the Universe.

More about black holes merger.

Most Powerful Gamma Ray Burst Ever Recorded

Gamma-ray bursts are the most powerful explosions in the Universe, shining briefly with more radiation than the rest of their galaxy. It’s believed they’re caused by the collapse of the most massive stars in the Universe. On October 12th, astronomers detected a GRB that defied comprehension, the most powerful ever seen. Even though the explosion happened 2.4 billion light-years away, spacecraft detectors were overwhelmed, and the radiation ionized the Earth’s atmosphere, disrupting long-range communications.

More about the record-breaking gamma-ray burst.

2017 Kilonova Aftermath

One of the most important astronomical discoveries in the last decade was the detection of a kilonova, the collision of two neutron stars. This was special because astronomers detected both the gravitational waves from the impact and the bright flash of radiation. Years after the kilonova was first seen, astronomers have used the Hubble Space Telescope to study the wreckage. One fascinating discovery is that the region has developed giant jets blasting radiation into space which appear to be going faster than the speed of light (but it’s just an illusion).

More about ‘faster than light’ jets.

A Warning Sign for Supernovae

It’s believed that red supergiant stars will fade before they detonate as supernovae. This is because they shed material in the final years of their lives, which obscures our view, making it look like they’re dimming. This is why astronomers were so excited when Betelgeuse dimmed a few years ago. It appears that Betelgeuse didn’t dim fast enough. A new theory suggests that red supergiants will hurl off 10% of their mass in the last year of their life, dimming by a factor of 100. When Betelgeuse disappears from the night sky, that might mean it’s about to explode.

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NASA's Artemis 1, Over 400,000 Kms From Earth, Sets A New Record – NDTV

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New Delhi:

NASA’s Artemis 1 Orion has set a new record for the spacecraft designed to carry humans to deep space by travelling 419,378 kilometres from Earth. The record was previously set during the Apollo 13 mission at 248,655 miles from our home planet.

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For the next six days, Orion will remain in lunar orbit. It will then put the spacecraft on a trajectory back to Earth, followed by a Sunday, December 11, splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, a press release by NASA said.

NASA, in a build-up to the landmark event, said, “Today, NASA Orion Spacecraft will break the record for farthest distance of a spacecraft designed to carry humans to deep space and safely return them to Earth. This record is currently held by Apollo 13.” The text was attached to a video featuring the Apollo astronauts and flight directors who spoke about the future of Artemis. Take a look: 

NASA is expected to use innovative measures to learn more about the Moon’s South Pole. The agency will also try to understand the lunar surface with the help of the Gateway Space Station in orbit, the press note added.  

The spacecraft has a sensor named Commander Moonikin Campos attached to it. It will help provide information on what crew members may experience in flight. The Campos is named after Arturo Campos, the key player in bringing Apollo 13 safely back to Earth. 

Answering questions at a discussion conducted by NASA on Twitter,  Jim Geffre, Orion’s spacecraft integration manager, said,  “Artemis 1 was designed to stress the systems of Orion and we settled on the distant retrograde orbit as a really good way to do that.”
 

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YouTuber Mark Rober drops eggs from space to land in Victor Valley – VVdailypress.com

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Former NASA engineer Mark Rober, the YouTuber best known for his Backyard Squirrel Maze and Exploding Glitter Bomb videos, recently dropped a couple of eggs from space that fell in the Victor Valley.

The 42-year-old Rober and his team of scientists dropped both eggs, with the intention of them not breaking, from a height of nearly 19 miles and with the help of a high-altitude balloon provided by Night Crew Labs.

The launch occurred earlier this year, but the “Egg Drop From Space” video was uploaded to YouTube on Black Friday.

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It includes shots of the team driving on Bear Valley Road toward Deadman’s Point in Apple Valley. Also shown are Bell Mountain, Interstate 15 and an area west of I-15 and near the Dale Evans Parkway offramp. 

A shot from the weather balloon in space showed the Victor Valley, including landmarks such as Spring Valley Lake and the Mojave River. 

The egg-drop project

When Rober started conceptualizing his egg drop project nearly three years ago, he knew that a successful record drop would come from his experience of landing scientific gear on other planets when he worked for NASA.

A graduate of USC, Rober worked at NASA for nine years, seven of them on the Mars Curiosity project. He also spent five years at Apple working on advanced virtual reality technology for autonomous vehicles before quitting to become a full-time YouTuber.

Rober confessed that before he embarked on the egg drop project, he didn’t know that it would be the most “physically, financially and mentally draining video” he would ever attempt. 

The plan

Rober’s team included rocket and propulsion specialist Joe Barnard, of BPS Systems, which helped with the rocket’s guidance system and design.

Rober’s original plan was to affix an egg onto a rocket, which would be lifted by a large weather balloon. Once in space, the rocket would be released and would guide the rocket to an area over the drop target. 

At 300 feet above the ground, the egg would be released and free-fall toward a specially designed mattress. 

After determining the terminal velocity of the egg to be 74 mph, he successfully tested the speed inside his Crunch Lab located near San Francisco

Rober and his team then headed to the Northern California town of Gridley for three low-altitude tests, which all failed. 

‘A fatal flaw’

Rober sought the guidance of NASA engineer Adam Steltzner, who works for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and on several flight projects including Galileo, Cassini, Mars Pathfinder and the Mars Exploration Rovers.

After listening to Rober and details about his project, Steltzner found a “fatal flaw” in the project and asked him, “How did you not get busted by the FAA?”

Rober realized that his project was akin to creating a precision-guided missile, which is frowned upon by the federal government. 

Heading to the High Desert

After going back to the drawing board, Rober’s team decided to conduct a rocket launch with a general egg drop target area in the High Desert. 

The launch would use a weather balloon, which would lift a larger and heavier rocket to guarantee the egg would reach supersonic speed on its way down. 

The helium-filled balloon would release the rocket, which would begin separating. 

A portion of the rocket, carrying the egg, would slow before losing its nose cone and deploying a parachute and cushioned airbags, which were borrowed from the Spirit and Opportunity landing projects.

Just before liftoff, Rober discovered that the newly designed, the two-piece rocket might unexpectedly separate at Mach 2. 

Rober and his team fixed the rocket’s connection point and ran vacuum and heat tests on the egg chamber.

They also built redundancy into the system, which included creating a custom beach ball, filled with packing materials to protect a second egg.

The entire payload, suspended from the balloon, would detach and simply fall to earth over the target. 

The launch

Rober’s friend, JPL systems engineer Allen Chen, traveled to the Victor Valley for Rober’s second launch. 

In 2012, Chen uttered the famous words, “Touchdown confirmed, we’re safe on Mars,” after the Curiosity Rover had survived the harrowing plunge and landed on the red planet.

Somewhere near Apple Valley, the lift-off of Rober’s balloon, rocket, beach ball and eggs was successful. 

As the team drove and arrived at the projected landing site, they discovered that the balloon had surpassed the 100,000-foot mark. 

As the group celebrated, moments later, they discovered that the balloon had suddenly lost altitude and came crashing down to earth. 

As the balloon ascended, the cord that held the rocket, beach ball and eggs had wound so tight that it pulled down on the balloon, causing it to come hurtling down at 150 mph, “Which is way faster than the eggs could survive,” Rober explained. 

As the team looked for the wreckage, they spotted the parachute, the rocket and the beach ball. 

Rober was excited that at 20,000 feet, the payload had autonomously detached itself from the balloon. 

Rober held back his excitement as he opened the rocket to inspect the egg. 

As a smiling Rober pulled an uncracked egg from the rocket and held it high, Chen joyously said, “Touchdown confirmed, we’re safe on earth.”

That was repeated when Rober ripped open the beach ball and pulled out a second uncracked egg that he kissed. 

“Two for two, baby!” shouted Rober as he high-fived Chen. “Two for two!”

Rober ended the video by saying that the egg drop from space project reminded him that in life things rarely unfold how we think they will. 

“But by learning from your failures, coupled with a bit of tenacity, us humans can accomplish a feat as incredible as the world’s smartest Martian robot or as ridiculous as the world’s tallest egg drop,” Rober said. 

Daily Press reporter Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227 or RDeLaCruz@VVDailyPress.com. Follow him on Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz

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In a B.C. first, UVic mini-satellite launched into space after four years of work

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A University of Victoria satellite the size of a two-litre milk carton, designed to calibrate light, was fired into space Saturday, after four years of work by dozens of students, faculty and researchers.

ORCASat started its journey to space at 11:20 a.m. Saturday as part of NASA’s SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Early this morning, about 4 a.m., the satellite is scheduled to be taken on board the International Space Station where it will wait for a few weeks before being fired into space to orbit the Earth for as long as it can survive.

Saturday’s successful launch was extra-sweet because a planned Tuesday launch was postponed due to poor weather. Watchers from UVic returned home after the delayed launch.

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A nervous Alex Doknjas, ORCASat project manager, went into his family’s living room at 10:30 a.m. Saturday where he waited with loved ones and about 20 others on a video chat, including a UVic group, to watch the event together. Cheers and claps erupted when the rocket launched on time. “It’s great. It’s fantastic,” he said.

There was a little wind picking up on the launch site shortly before liftoff was scheduled and Doknjas said he was worried it was about to get scrubbed again, but that didn’t happen.

The excitement has been years in the making thanks to about 140 people who have been part of a team at the University of Victoria Centre for Aerospace Research.

Full-time researchers, co-op and volunteer students from UVic Satellite Design, UBC Orbit, and Simon Fraser University Satellite Design have all contributed.

The ORCASat (for Optical Reference Calibration Satellite) measures 10 centimetres by 10 centimetres by 23 centimetres and weighs 2.5 kilograms.

Doknjas said as far as he knows this is the first “Cubesat” designed and built in this province. “That’s a pretty big milestone.”

The estimated date to launch ORCASat is between Dec. 29 and the first week in January.

ORCASat will be doing a 400-kilometre orbit around Earth and travelling at 7.5 kilometres a second. “It’s pretty fast.”

It is not known exactly how long it will last but it could be six to eight months, up to 18 months, Doknjas said. Factors such as sun flares, solar radiation, pressure and more can all impact the life of the satellite.

ORCASat is basically an artificial star, a reference light source in orbit that can be viewed by telescopes on Earth.

Astronomers can measure how bright ORCASat appears, just as they would an astronomical object.

At the same time, the satellite, using two laser light sources, will measure the amount of light that an astronomical object is emitting.

This will allow ground-based telescopes to be calibrated to measure the absolute brightness of an astronomical object, not how they appear after passing through the atmosphere and the optics of a telescope.

This is the first satellite ever to carry a light source capable of performing this experiment to this level of accuracy.

It is a proof-of-concept technology which in the future could be developed to be applicable in such areas as climate change, Earth observation and methane gas research, Doknjas said.

parrais@timescolonist.com

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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