Red, purple and green streamers of the aurora borealis dazzled viewers in North America on Friday and were seen much farther south than normal, with people in California, Arizona and Texas reporting they could see it, according to AccuWeather, Inc. Typically, the spectacular display is only visible in northern locales like Alaska, North Dakota, Canada and Iceland.
SpaceX crew docks at International Space Station
The autonomously flying spacecraft, carrying four crew members, docked successfully on Friday morning.
A SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule has arrived safely at the International Space Station (ISS), carrying two US astronauts, a Russian cosmonaut and a United Arab Emirates astronaut to begin a six-month science mission.
The autonomously flying spacecraft dubbed Endeavour docked at the space station shortly after 06:40 GMT on Friday, nearly 25 hours after launching from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The coupling was confirmed as the ISS and capsule flew in tandem at 28,164 km/h (17,500 miles per hour) some 240km (250 miles) above Earth across the coast of East Africa, according to a live NASA webcast of the rendezvous.
The four-member team was assigned to conduct more than 200 experiments and technology demonstrations on board the space station, ranging from research on human cell growth in space to controlling combustible materials in microgravity.
Some of the research will help pave the way for future long-duration human expeditions to the Moon and beyond under NASA’s Artemis programme, its successor to Apollo, the US space agency said.
The ISS crew is also responsible for performing maintenance and repairs on board the station, and to prepare for the arrival and departure of other astronauts and cargo payloads.
Designated Crew 6, the mission marks the sixth long-duration ISS team that SpaceX has flown for NASA since the private rocket venture founded by billionaire Elon Musk began sending American astronauts to orbit in May 2020. Musk is CEO of electric carmaker Tesla and social media platform Twitter.
The latest crew was led by Stephen Bowen, 59, a former US Navy submarine officer who has logged more than 40 days in orbit as a veteran of three Space Shuttle flights and seven spacewalks.
Fellow NASA astronaut Warren “Woody” Hoburg, 37, an electrical engineer, computer science expert and commercial aviator designated, was making his first spaceflight.
The Crew 6 mission was also notable for its inclusion of UAE astronaut Sultan al-Neyadi, 41, the second person from his country to fly to space and the first to launch from US soil as part of a long-duration space station team.
Rounding out the four-man Crew 6 was Russian cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev, 42, who, like al-Neyadi is an engineer and spaceflight rookie designated as a mission specialist for the team.
Fedyaev is the second cosmonaut to fly on board an American spacecraft under a renewed ride-sharing deal signed in July by NASA and the Russian space agency Roscosmos, despite heightened tensions between Washington and Moscow over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
On arrival, the crew prepared to conduct a series of standard leak checks and to pressurise the passageway between the capsule and the ISS before they could open the hatch to the interior of the space station.
The Crew 6 team will be welcomed on board the space station by seven current ISS occupants – three NASA crew members, including commander Nicole Aunapu Mann, the first Indigenous American woman to fly to space, along with three Russians and a Japanese astronaut.
Those seven are expected to end their mission and depart the space station this month. Four will return in the SpaceX Dragon they rode to orbit in October, and three others will ride home in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft flown empty to the ISS last week to replace one that sprang a coolant leak while docked to the station in December.
Solar Storm That Caused Dazzling Auroral Display Could Linger
A coronal mass ejection, an explosion of magnetic fields and plasma from the sun’s atmosphere, hit Earth early Friday with more force than initially forecast. These events can disrupt Earth’s magnetic field causing auroral displays, as well as disrupting satellites, communication and electric grids.
Read more: A Swedish Resort Lets You See the Northern Lights From Your Room
The US Space Weather Prediction Center had originally expected a G2 level storm Friday on its five-step scale, the event measured in at G4, one of the strongest triggered on Earth since 2017.
The impacts from the coronal mass ejection have trailed off, but energy coming from what scientists call a “coronal hole” will continue at least through Saturday and that could mean the aurora could be seen by viewers across Europe, Asia and North America through Sunday, the UK Met Office said on its website.
There are currently eight sunspot clusters visible on the side of the sun facing Earth, however another coronal mass ejection blasting toward us isn’t forecast, the UK Met Office said.
An airplane-sized asteroid will pass between the Earth and moon’s orbits Saturday
An asteroid dubbed “city killer” for its size will pass harmlessly between the moon and the Earth Saturday evening.
The asteroid 2023 DZ2 will pass at a distance of over 100,000 miles, less than half the distance between the Earth and the moon. It’s about 160 feet long — about the size of an airliner. An asteroid that size could cause significant damage if it hit a populated area, hence its nickname.
“While close approaches are a regular occurrence, one by an asteroid of this size (140-310 ft) happens only about once per decade, providing a unique opportunity for science,” NASA Asteroid Watch tweeted.
Astronomers from the International Asteroid Warning Network, established about 10 years ago to coordinate international responses to potential near-Earth object impact threats, will be monitoring and learning from this asteroid.
NASA Asteroid Watch called the opportunity “good practice” in case “a potential asteroid threat were ever discovered.”
Near-Earth objects are asteroids or comets that pass close to the Earth’s orbit, and they generally come from objects that are affected by other planets’ gravity, moving them into orbits that push them close to Earth, according to the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs.
The European Space Agency maintains a risk list of 1,460 objects, which catalogs every object with a non-zero chance of hitting Earth over the next 100 years. Asteroid 2023 DZ2, which is in orbit around the sun, is not on the risk list.
Large asteroid to zoom between Earth and Moon
On Saturday, the 2023DZ2 will come within a third of the distance from the Earth to the Moon.
A large asteroid will safely zoom between Earth and the Moon on Saturday, a once-in-a-decade event that will be used as a training exercise for planetary defence efforts, according to the European Space Agency.
The asteroid, named 2023 DZ2, is estimated to be 40 to 70 metres (130 to 230 feet) wide, roughly the size of the Parthenon, and big enough to wipe out a large city if it hit our planet.
At 19:49 GMT on Saturday, it will come within a third of the distance from the Earth to the Moon, said Richard Moissl, the head of the ESA’s planetary defence office.
Though that is “very close”, there is nothing to worry about, he told AFP news agency.
Small asteroids fly past every day, but one of this size coming so close to Earth only happens about once every 10 years, he added.
The asteroid will pass 175,000km (109,000 miles) from Earth at a speed of 28,000 kilometres per hour (17,400 miles per hour). The Moon is roughly 385,000km (239,228 miles) away.
An observatory in La Palma, one of Spain’s Canary Islands, first spotted the asteroid on February 27.
Last week, the United Nations-endorsed International Asteroid Warning Network decided it would take advantage of the close look, carrying out a “rapid characterisation” of 2023 DZ2, Moissl said. That means astronomers around the world will analyse the asteroid with a range of instruments such as spectrometers and radars.
The goal is to find out just how much we can learn about such an asteroid in only a week, Moissl said. It will also serve as training for how the network “would react to a threat” possibly heading our way in the future, he added.
The asteroid will again swing past Earth in 2026, but poses no threat of impact for at least the next 100 years – which is how far out its trajectory has been calculated.
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