JUICE is having trouble extending its radar antenna. Astronomers watch as a star eats its planet. A design for an artificial gravity space station.
JUICE has problems
ESA’s Jupiter Ice Moons Explorer spacecraft is en route to the Jupiter system where it will map several of its icy moons. Unfortunately, a critical antenna could not be used. The 16-meter radar antenna should be fully extended, but it’s only deployed about a third of the way. Engineers believe a tiny pin could be sticking out and blocking deployment. Her next plan is to fire her thrusters to shake the spacecraft and extend the antenna. You still have time. Juice will not reach Jupiter until 2031.
More on JUICE antenna issues
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A sun-like star is eating its planet
Astronomers witnessed a star engulfing one of its planets. In the past we have seen evidence of such events but never seen it actually happen. A hot Jupiter got too close to its parent star and was destroyed by tidal forces. It was only 12,000 light-years away, so pretty close. In fact, Earth could one day follow the same path as the Sun becomes a red giant and expands.
More on how the planet is being eaten by its star
Although SpaceX’s spacecraft left the launch pad, it did not make it into orbit. Instead, the giant rocket tore a huge hole in the concrete at its launch pad, raining debris around it. The flight abort system failed to destroy the rocket as quickly as SpaceX had hoped. Because of these issues, the FAA has indefinitely suspended rocket launches from Boca Chica while SpaceX troubleshoots the issues. Elon Musk says they’ll be ready for another test in 6-8 weeks, but we’ll see if they’ve cleared the regulatory hurdles by then.
More about SpaceX spacecraft
Artificial Gravity Space Station
Airbus showed a concept of an orbital space station called Loop. An interesting aspect of this is a centrifuge on the floor. It is designed to provide some level of artificial gravity to mitigate the negative effects of weightlessness on the human body. So far, there are few realistic concepts of space stations with artificial gravity. However, it’s worth noting that Loop is just a concept for now, with no announced development or launch plans.
More about the Airbus Loop space station
Most of the planets that we know of rotate in roughly the same orbital plane. For example, all of the planets in the solar system are aligned within a few degrees of the ecliptic. However, one exoplanet appears to be breaking these rules. Astronomers have known about an exoplanet called WASP-131b for some time, but only recently have they been able to measure its star’s rotation. It appears that the planet’s plane of rotation is tilted 160 degrees. So it’s practically rotating backwards at a very odd angle. So far it is unclear how this came about. Captured rogue planet? Further research is required.
More about the strange exoplanet
Black hole eats a star
Almost every galaxy in the universe contains a supermassive black hole at its heart, and every 10,000 years or so each of these black holes ruptures a star that got too close. Astronomers have found the closest example of one of these “tidal disruption events” (TDE) in a galaxy just 137 million light-years away (that’s close, cosmologically speaking). They found the event by searching infrared images of the sky, which offered a promising way to find more of them.
More about a black hole destroying a star
China finally admits what happened to Zhurong
China’s Mars rover Zhurong is officially dead. We’ve known for quite a while, but finally we have an official statement from China. As expected, it did not survive the Martian winter, succumbing to the cold and dust. There’s still a very small glimmer of hope that it can revive, but it’s highly unlikely. After such a period of no power, his batteries are most likely dead.
More on China’s Mars Rover
View into the permanently shadowed craters of the moon
NASA released a series of images captured by its ShadowCam instrument. It is on board Korea’s Danuri spacecraft and will show the moon’s dimly lit regions with 200 times greater sensitivity than other lunar orbiters. Thanks to ShadowCam, NASA was able to peer into the permanently shadowed craters at the moon’s south pole, which are never illuminated by the sun. Regions seen by ShadowCam are illuminated by indirect sunlight reflecting off nearby rocks and earthshine.
More about the ShadowCam results
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