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The oldest material on Earth has been found in a meteorite – CTV News

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Fifty years ago, a meteorite fell to Earth and landed in Australia, carrying with it a rare sample from interstellar space. A new analysis of the meteorite revealed stardust that formed between five to seven billion years ago. That makes the meteorite and its stardust the oldest solid material ever discovered on Earth.

Our sun is around 4.6 billion years old, meaning this stardust existed long before our sun or solar system were even a reality. The stardust found on the meteorite are called presolar grains because they formed before our sun.

Stars are born when gas, dust and heat combine in just the right way. They can exist for millions or even billions of years before dying and expelling their key ingredients into space. This in turn helps new stars to be born, creating a space daisy chain.

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Meteorites, if they don’t knock into too many things, can act like time capsules of the materials trapped within them, like stardust. That’s why the discovery of the presolar grains is such a rarity — only 5% of meteorites found on Earth contain them. Their impossibly tiny size is difficult to fathom.

One hundred of the largest found presolar grains could fit on a period, according to a release by the Field Museum in Chicago.

A new study of presolar grains from the Murchison meteorite recovered in Australia published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.

“This is one of the most exciting studies I’ve worked on,” said Philipp Heck, lead study author and a curator at the Field Museum. “These are the oldest solid materials ever found, and they tell us about how stars formed in our galaxy. They’re solid samples of stars.”

The meteorite was recovered in 1969 and presolar grains were isolated from it.

“It starts with crushing fragments of the meteorite down into a powder,” said Jennika Greer, study co-author and a graduate student at the Field Museum and the University of Chicago. “Once all the pieces are segregated, it’s a kind of paste, and it has a pungent characteristic. It smells like rotten peanut butter.”

Dissolving the paste in acid reveals the presolar grains, allowing the researchers to determine their age and the type of star they once belonged to.

The researchers were able to measure the exposure of the grains to cosmic rays, highly energized particles zipping through our galaxy.

“Some of these cosmic rays interact with the matter and form new elements,” Heck said. “And the longer they get exposed, the more those elements form. I compare this with putting out a bucket in a rainstorm. Assuming the rainfall is constant, the amount of water that accumulates in the bucket tells you how long it was exposed.”

Many of the grains recovered were between 4.6 and 4.9 billion years old, while others were older than 5.5 billion years.

They also learned that seven billion years ago, more stars began forming.

“We have more young grains than we expected,” Heck said. “Our hypothesis is that the majority of those grains, which are 4.9 to 4.6 billion years old, formed in an episode of enhanced star formation. There was a time before the start of the solar system when more stars formed than normal.”

Astronomers have argued about the rate of star formation. Some believe it’s steady and unchanging, while others believe there are peaks and dips.

“Some people think that the star formation rate of the galaxy is constant,” Heck said. “But thanks to these grains, we now have direct evidence for a period of enhanced star formation in our galaxy seven billion years ago with samples from meteorites. This is one of the key findings of our study.”

They also determined that the presolar grains have a habit of clumping together in granola-like clusters, which they didn’t think possible, Heck said.

Understanding the grains has shed light not only on stars and how long their stardust can last but also more on galaxies and their timelines.

“With this study, we have directly determined the lifetimes of stardust. We hope this will be picked up and studied so that people can use this as input for models of the whole galactic life cycle,” Heck said. “It’s so exciting to look at the history of our galaxy. Stardust is the oldest material to reach Earth, and from it, we can learn about our parent stars, the origin of the carbon in our bodies [and] the origin of the oxygen we breathe. With stardust, we can trace that material back to the time before the sun.”

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How to watch the Axiom-2 mission depart from the ISS on Tuesday – Digital Trends

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This Tuesday, the crew of the second-ever all-private mission to the International Space Station will be returning to Earth. The Axiom 2 or Ax-2 mission launched last week and saw private astronauts Peggy Whitson, John Shoffner, Ali Alqarni, and Rayyanah Barnawi traveling to the ISS on a SpaceX Crew Dragon launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Axiom Mission 2 Undocks From the International Space Station (Official NASA Broadcast)

Now, the crew of four will be traveling back to Earth in the same Crew Dragon, and NASA will be livestreaming the departure of the spacecraft from the station. A separate stream will also be available showing the Crew Dragon splashing down off the coast of Florida. We’ve got the details on how to watch both below.

How to watch the mission departure

The Axiom Mission-2 and Expedition 69 crew members pose for a portrait together during dinner time aboard the International Space Station. NASA

Coverage of the departure of the Crew Dragon from the ISS will begin at 9 a.m. ET (6 a.m. PT) on Tuesday, May 30. NASA will show a short introduction before the closing of the hatch of the station’s Harmony module at 9:10 a.m. ET (6:10 a.m. PT). There will then be a short break in coverage, which will resume at 10:45 a.m. ET (7:45 a.m. PT) to show the undocking of the Dragon at 11:05 a.m. ET (8:05 a.m. PT), with coverage ending 30 minutes after undocking.

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You can watch the livestream of the hatch closing and the undocking on NASA’s YouTube channel, or by using the video embedded near the top of this page.

The crew will then travel back to Earth throughout Tuesday and into Wednesday, May 31. When the Crew Dragon is approaching Earth for splashdown, you’ll be able to tune into a livestream from Axiom Space. That will be available on Axiom’s website, but the company has not yet confirmed the exact time that coverage is expected to begin on Wednesday. You can find the latest updates on Axiom Twitter.

What to expect from the mission departure

The Ax-2 crew will have spent 10 days in space before heading home, and they will be bringing around 300 pounds of cargo back with them. The mission is notable for including the first two astronauts from Saudi Arabia, Ali Alqarni and Rayyanah Barnawi, as well as famous American astronaut Peggy Whitson who has spent more days in space than any other American or any other woman.

Axiom Space launched its first private mission to the ISS in April last year, with a third mission planned for November this year and a fourth planned for 2024.

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NASA's New Horizons Spacecraft Captures ''Heart-Shaped'' Glacier On Pluto's Surface – NDTV

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Pluto was once considered the ninth planet in the solar system

Space agency NASA routinely captures stunning images of our universe, leaving space lovers mesmerized. On Sunday, NASA shared a stunning image on Instagram taken by its New Horizons spacecraft showing a heart-shaped glacier on Pluto’s surface. The heart-shaped region is known unofficially as Tombaugh Regio and is made of nitrogen and methane.

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The image was captioned as ”Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Our New Horizons spacecraft captured this heart-shaped glacier. It lies on Pluto’s surface, which also features mountains, cliffs, valleys, craters, and plains, thought to be made of methane and nitrogen ice ”

See the image here:

It described the image as ”Pluto’s surface is marked with cracks and craters in shades of brown. The partially visible heart appears in the lower right of the small world, which is surrounded by black space.⁣”

New Horizons launched in January 2006 and reached Pluto in July 2015, flying within 7,800 miles of its surface, and becoming the first probe to fly by Pluto and its moons. The far-traveling spacecraft also visited a distant Kuiper Belt object Ultima Thule (2014 MU69) in January 2019. 

Instagram users loved the picture and shared a variety of comments.  One user wrote, ”Wouahh what a great capture, thanks to New Horizon spacecraft.” Another commented, ”For me, Pluto will always be a planet.” 

A third said, ”Why is Pluto, not a plane? it literally has a heart!” A fourth added, ”Being afar doesn’t mean you aren’t part of the family.”

Pluto was once considered the ninth planet in the solar system, however, it was demoted in 2006 and reclassified as a dwarf planet. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) downgraded the status of Pluto to that of a dwarf planet because it did not meet the three criteria the IAU uses to define a full-sized planet.

Pluto is slightly over 1,400 miles (2250 km) wide or about half the breadth of the United States or two-thirds the width of the Moon. With its average temperature of -387F (-232C) – Pluto’s surface is coated in ice made of water, methane, and nitrogen and is believed to have a rocky core and possibly a deep ocean. 

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This Week @NASA: Private Astronaut Mission, Autonomous Snake-Like Robot Explorer, TROPICS Launch – SciTechDaily

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Illustration of the Exobiology Extant Life Surveyor (EELS) concept. Credit NASA/JPL-CalTech

The second all-private astronaut mission to the space station …

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Completing the set of tiny severe weather trackers …

And a robotic explorer – with a twist …

A few of the stories to tell you about – This Week at <span class="glossaryLink" aria-describedby="tt" data-cmtooltip="

NASA
Established in 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government that succeeded the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). It is responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. Its vision is &quot;To discover and expand knowledge for the benefit of humanity.&quot; Its core values are &quot;safety, integrity, teamwork, excellence, and inclusion.&quot; NASA conducts research, develops technology and launches missions to explore and study Earth, the solar system, and the universe beyond. It also works to advance the state of knowledge in a wide range of scientific fields, including Earth and space science, planetary science, astrophysics, and heliophysics, and it collaborates with private companies and international partners to achieve its goals.

” data-gt-translate-attributes=”["attribute":"data-cmtooltip", "format":"html"]”>NASA!

[embedded content]

Second Private Astronaut Mission to the Space Station

On May 21, a <span class="glossaryLink" aria-describedby="tt" data-cmtooltip="

SpaceX
Commonly known as SpaceX, Space Exploration Technologies Corp. is a private American aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company that was founded by Elon Musk in 2002. Headquartered in Hawthorne, California, the company designs, manufactures, and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. SpaceX's ultimate goal is to reduce space transportation costs and enable the colonization of Mars.

” data-gt-translate-attributes=”["attribute":"data-cmtooltip", "format":"html"]”>SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Axiom Mission 2, the second all private astronaut mission to the International Space Station.

The four-person crew, commanded by former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, is scheduled to spend several days conducting research, outreach, and commercial activities on the space station.

Rocket Lab TROPICS CubeSats

Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket lifts off from Launch Complex 1 at Māhia, New Zealand at 11:46 a.m, on May 25, 2023, carrying two TROPICS CubeSats for NASA. Credit: Rocket Lab

Final Pair of Storm-Observing CubeSats Launched

The final two CubeSats for NASA’s TROPICS mission launched from Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand on May 26. The small satellites will join two other identical spacecraft that launched to orbit earlier this month.

All four will fly, as a constellation, in a unique low Earth orbit that will allow them to observe tropical cyclones, including hurricanes and typhoons, more often than what is possible with
current weather satellites.

Snake Robot EELS at Ski Resort

Team members from JPL test a snake robot called EELS at a ski resort in the Southern California mountains in February. Designed to sense its environment, calculate risk, travel, and gather data without real-time human input, EELS could eventually explore destinations throughout the solar system. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Autonomous Snake-Like Robotic Explorer

A team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is creating and testing a snake-like robot called EELS, short for Exobiology Extant Life Surveyor. The self-propelled, autonomous robot is
being developed to go where other robots can’t go.

Although it was inspired by a desire to look for signs of life in the sub-surface ocean on <span class="glossaryLink" aria-describedby="tt" data-cmtooltip="

Saturn
Saturn is the sixth planet from the sun and has the second-largest mass in the Solar System. It has a much lower density than Earth but has a much greater volume. Saturn's name comes from the Roman god of wealth and agriculture.

” data-gt-translate-attributes=”["attribute":"data-cmtooltip", "format":"html"]”>Saturn’s icy moon, Enceladus, EELS is not currently part of any NASA mission.

Hot Fire RS-25 Certification Engine

NASA completed a crucial hot fire test of the RS-25 engine, part of a 12-test certification series for future Artemis missions. This achievement brings NASA one step closer to landing the first woman and person of color on the Moon, as well as establishing a long-term lunar presence. Credit: NASA / Stennis

Artemis Rocket Engine Test Series Continues

On May 23, NASA’s Stennis Space Center conducted a hot fire test of an RS-25 rocket engine. It was the eighth hot fire of the current 12-test series to certify production of new RS-25s.

Four of the engines will help power NASA’s Space Launch System rocket on future Artemis missions to the Moon.

That’s what’s up this week @NASA.

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