Orion Passes Acoustic Tests

NASA: Orion’s service module for NASA’s Artemis 1 mission completed acoustic testing inside the Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida last week. The tests were the latest step in preparing for the agency’s first uncrewed flight test of Orion on the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.

Teams completed the test May 25, 2019, and technicians will analyze the data collected during the tests to check for flaws uncovered by the acoustic environment. During the testing, engineers secured the service module inside the test cell and then attached microphones, strain gauges and accelerometers to it. They conducted a series of five tests, with acoustic levels ranging from 128 to 140 decibels – as loud as a jet engine during takeoff.

Artemis 1 will be the first mission launching Orion on the SLS rocket from Kennedy’s Launch Pad 39B. The mission will take Orion thousands of miles past the Moon on an approximately three-week test flight. Orion will return to Earth and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California, where it will be retrieved and returned to Kennedy.

Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

Hubble’s View of Messier 59

Here’s the SEDS page for M-59 check out the picture and see the difference.

Hubble et al. (via ESA): This luminous orb is the galaxy NGC 4621, better known as Messier 59. As this latter moniker indicates, the galaxy was listed in the famous catalogue of deep-sky objects compiled by French comet-hunter Charles Messier in 1779. However, German astronomer Johann Gottfried Koehler is credited with discovering the galaxy just days before Messier added it to his collection.   

Modern observations show that Messier 59 is an elliptical galaxy, one of the three main kinds of galaxies along with spirals and irregulars. Ellipticals tend to be the most evolved of the trio, full of old, red stars and exhibiting little or no new star formation. Messier 59, however, bucks this trend somewhat; the galaxy does show signs of star formation, with some newborn stars residing within a disc near the core.

Located in the 2000-strong Virgo Cluster of galaxies within the constellation of Virgo (The Virgin), Messier 59 lies approximately 50 million light-years away from us. This image was taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys.

Image: ESA/Hubble & NASA, P. Cote; CC BY 4.0

Testing ExoMars

ExoMars — Testing Locomotion

The first few “steps” of a Mars rover are probably the most perilous. All will be for naught if in the process of getting off the lander platform results in a crash. Pretty nerve-racking process I bet.

Test and Test Again

The first test firing of the new NGIS OmegA rocket first stage was said to be a “success” — I don’t know but it didn’t end so well. That’s why they test though.

Pretty impressive just the same.

Scott Manley has a good video out about the test too – check it out.

June is Going to be Fun

Going to plan on seeing Mercury. If I have decent skies that is and that’s a big “if”. It has been terrible for any kind of observing and has been terrible for a good long time.

I have had just one good opportunity to see the StarLink satellites and I don’t know what happened because they did not show up. Of course that was very early on.

We were supposed to have mostly clear skies yesterday but it seemed hazy. Turned out it was hazy because of smoke from wild fires 3,700 km (2300 miles) away.

Hopefully the weather turns around and dries out. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Proton-M Rocket Launches Yamal-601

I missed this launch by 10 minutes, got my snowblower fixed though (haha).

The launch is about 30 minutes into the video so you may want to fast forward if you are short on time.

Credit : Роскосмос via space googlevesaire

To Light Speed (Almost)

NASA: One hundred years ago, on May 29, 1919, measurements of a solar eclipse offered proof for Einstein’s theory of general relativity. Even before that, Einstein had developed the theory of special relativity, which revolutionized the way we understand light. To this day, it provides guidance on understanding how particles move through space — a key area of research to keep spacecraft and astronauts safe from radiation.

The theory of special relativity showed that particles of light, photons, travel through a vacuum at a constant pace of 670,616,629 miles per hour — a speed that’s immensely difficult to achieve and impossible to surpass in that environment. Yet all across space, from black holes to our near-Earth environment, particles are, in fact, being accelerated to incredible speeds, some even reaching 99.9% the speed of light.

Scientists suspect magnetic reconnection is one way that particles are accelerated to nearly light speed. This illustration depicts the magnetic fields around Earth, which snap and realign, causing charged particles to be flung away at high speeds. Find out all three ways that this acceleration happens.

Image Credit: NASA

Ejected Stars

NASA: Neutron stars form when a massive star explodes as a supernova and the core of the star collapses onto itself. Under certain conditions, these gargantuan blasts that create the neutron star are not symmetric. The recoil effect can kick the star with such force that it is expelled from the galaxy where it resides. These new Chandra results show that sometimes a companion star is forced to exit the galaxy as well.

“It’s like a guest that’s asked to leave a party with a rowdy friend,” said Xiangyu Jin of McGill University in Montreal, Canada, who led the study. “The companion star in this situation is dragged out of the galaxy simply because it’s in orbit with the star that went supernova.”

How do astronomers look for these banished pairs? If the companion star is close enough, then matter from it will swirl toward the denser neutron star and form a disk around the neutron star. The strong gravitational forces from the neutron star cause the material in this disk to move more rapidly as it approaches the neutron star, and frictional forces in the disk heat the gaseous disk to tens of millions of degrees. At these temperatures, the disk glows in X-ray light.

Jin and her collaborators found signatures of so-called X-ray binaries outside of galaxies in a comprehensive study of the Fornax galaxy cluster made with Chandra data taken between 1999 and 2015. This cluster is relatively nearby at a distance of some 60 million light years from Earth in the constellation sharing its name.

By combining the large Chandra dataset with optical observations, researchers made a census of X-ray sources within about 600,000 light years of the central galaxy in the Fornax cluster. Astronomers concluded that about 30 sources in the Fornax cluster were likely to be pairs of stars that had been kicked out of the center of their host galaxies.

“Rather than being tethered to a particular galaxy, these pairs of stars now exist in the space between galaxies, or are on their way out of their home galaxy,” said co-author Meicun Hou, from Nanjing University in China.

The team also found about another 150 sources that appear to be outside the stellar boundaries of the galaxies within the cluster. These were determined, however, to have origins other than expulsion. One possibility is that they reside in the halos, or far outer reaches, of the Fornax cluster’s central galaxy, where they were formed. A second possibility is that they are X-ray binaries that were pulled away from a galaxy by the gravitational force of a nearby galaxy during a flyby, or X-ray binaries left behind as part of the remnants of a galaxy stripped of most of its stars by a galactic collision. Such interactions are expected to be relatively common in a crowded region like the one in the Fornax cluster.

“This is like the end of a party, where the people attending head off in different directions, and only the hosts are left behind,” said co-author Zhenlin Zhu, also of Nanjing University. “In the case of Fornax, the extreme case is that the original galaxies don’t really exist any more.”

The Chandra observations involved a total exposure time of 15 days, enabling the team to discover 1,177 X-ray sources within their search region, which covers 29 galaxies in the Fornax cluster. The team estimated how many of these sources likely belong to galaxies in the cluster, and how many are much more distant sources not contained in the cluster. This left them with about 180 sources located well outside the main stellar regions of galaxies in the cluster.

“While we are very excited about what we found, our data suggest that there may be many more of these evicted binaries that are too faint to be seen in the Chandra data,” said co-author Zhiyuan Li, also of Nanjing University. “We will need longer Chandra observations to detect this population of fainter sources.”

A paper describing these results appears in the May 1st, 2019 issue of The Astrophysical Journal and appears online: https://arxiv.org/abs/1902.03733.

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the Chandra program for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, controls Chandra’s science and flight operations.

Credits: NASA/CXC/Nanjing University/X. Jin et al.


Mars Express in Numbers

ESA has their share of epic spacecraft and one of those is the Mars Express.

ESA: Launched in June 2003, ESA’s Mars Express has been studying all aspects of the Red Planet for more than 15 years. Later this year it will celebrate its 20 000th orbit of Mars. This graphic highlights some of the mission’s impressive numbers to date, which will certainly continue to increase over time.

Thanks to ESA / S. Poletti for the graphic

Get Your Name On Mars2020

You can get your name on NASA’s Mars2020 rover. Super simple here’s the details:

NASA: Although it will be years before the first humans set foot on Mars, NASA is giving the public an opportunity to send their names — stenciled on chips — to the Red Planet with NASA’s Mars 2020 rover, which represents the initial leg of humanity’s first round trip to another planet. The rover is scheduled to launch as early as July 2020, with the spacecraft expected to touch down on Mars in February 2021.

The rover, a robotic scientist weighing more than 2,300 pounds (1,000 kilograms), will search for signs of past microbial life, characterize the planet’s climate and geology, collect samples for future return to Earth, and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.

“As we get ready to launch this historic Mars mission, we want everyone to share in this journey of exploration,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) in Washington. “It’s an exciting time for NASA, as we embark on this voyage to answer profound questions about our neighboring planet, and even the origins of life itself.”

The opportunity to send your name to Mars comes with a souvenir boarding pass and “frequent flyer” points. This is part of a public engagement campaign to highlight missions involved with NASA’s journey from the Moon to Mars. Miles (or kilometers) are awarded for each “flight,” with corresponding digital mission patches available for download. More than 2 million names flew on NASA’s InSight mission to Mars, giving each “flyer” about 300 million frequent flyer miles (nearly 500 million frequent flyer kilometers).

From now until Sept. 30, you can add your name to the list and obtain a souvenir boarding pass to Mars here: https://go.nasa.gov/Mars2020Pass

Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech