Artemis 2 Orion spacecraft recovery training
Monday, July 31, 2023: Ahead of the launch of NASA's Artemis 2 mission in 2024, U.S. Navy personnel have begun training to recover the Orion spacecraft using a Crew Module Test Article (CMTA), a mock capsule similar to the one in which the Artemis 2 crew will ride around the moon and back.
"The U.S. Navy has many unique capabilities that make it an ideal partner to support NASA," military officials stated in a video accompanying the training.
The U.S. Navy has been a key partner for NASA for these recovery operations ever since the earliest days of the American space program. Navy helicopters and vessels conducted the recovery operations for the first crewed mission by humans in 1961, Freedom 7.
Falcon Heavy watches another SpaceX rocket streak to orbit.
Friday, July 26, 2023: For SpaceX's 50th launch of 2023, the company launched a batch of Starlink satellites aboard a Falcon 9 rocket. Just downrange, another of SpaceX's rockets, a Falcon Heavy, stood at Launch Complex-39A, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, in Florida.
The two were scheduled to launch on the same night, but an early evening post from SpaceX revealed Falcon Heavy was delayed for the second day in a row. The scrub meant Falcon Heavy was still on the pad for the Starlink liftoff, allowing SpaceX photographer Ben Cooper to capture the image.
It's some Barbie girls, but they're not on this world -- Pair of astronaut dolls float around International Space Station
Thursday, July 25, 2023: These two DreamStar dolls were sent to the International Space Station (ISS) last year as a part of a project to highlight women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). This photo was shot last year by NASA astronaut Kayla Barron, inside the station's Cupola module, though it recently seems deserving of resurgence .
James Webb Space Telescope captures pair of baby stars in near-infrared picture
Wednesday, July 26, 2023: The James Webb Space Telescope's near-infrared camera has captured this image of Herbig-Haro 46 and 47, two stars forming in a inside a gaseous cloud, 1470 light-years away. The pair lie in the center of the bright red starburst emanating from the cloudy disc, which contributes to the stars' growing mass.
Herbig-Haro 46 and 47 were first discovered in the 1950s, but have not been captured with such detail until now. The ability of JWST's near-infrared camera to see past the nebula, which appears blue in this picture, has given astronomers the first high-definition near-infrared images of these stars.
New planetary system forms out of flaming cosmic "phoenix"
Tuesday, July 25, 2023: Astronomers have captured the image of a nebulous cloud they believe to be the formation of a gas giant around a newly formed star. Both celestial bodies are accumulating matter from the discarded fiery remnants of an even older star, long dead.
The phenomenon is located approximately 5,000 light-years away, in the constellation Monoceros. The image was created using observations from the Very Large Telescope (VLT) and Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA).
Studying planetary formations such as this one can give astronomers clues as to how planets in our own solar system formed, such as Jupiter. Once it's complete, scientists hope to use the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), currently under construction, to study the gas cloud further.
Satellites observe Greece on fire
Monday, July 24, 2023: A wildfire that erupted last week has burnt a massive scar across the Greek holiday island of Rhodes, which is visible in this image from the European Earth-observing satellite Sentinel-2.
More than 60 wildfires have been reported across Greece since last week amid a record-breaking heatwave that has sent temperatures soaring to more than 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees Celsius) in some areas.
The wildfire that struck the popular aegean island early last week has forced tens of thousands of locals and tourists to leave their accommodation in a desperate attempt to flee the choking clouds of smoke.
This image captures the situation on Sunday, July 23. According to reports, firefighters still struggle to get the blaze under control. — Tereza Pultarova
Hubble spots boulder swarm around DART-impacted asteroid Dimorphos
Friday, July 21, 2023: Using the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have been able to identify a swarm of boulders surrounding the asteroid Dimorphos, months after its collision last year with NASA's DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) spacecraft.
DART's mission was to slam into Dimorphos, to see if its orbit around a larger asteroid, Didymos, would be altered. Scientists think the boulders visible in the Hubble image were shaken loose from the surface of Dimorphos as part of an ejecta plume resulting from DART's impact.
The boulders are estimated to measure between 3 and 22 feet (1-6.7 meters), and appear to be slowly drifting away form the asteroid.
Astronomers discover 'Trojan' double planet
Thursday, July 20, 2023: Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) spotted a strange "Trojan planet," the first evidence of two planetary siblings sharing the same orbit around a star.
The possible co-orbital "Trojan planet" consists of a cloud of dust sharing the same orbit as the distant exoplanet PDS 70b, located just 400 light-years from Earth.
This cloud, about the size of two of Earth's moon, could eventually form into a planet, which would result in two worlds sharing the same orbit.
Sunrise from 259 miles (417 km) above Earth
Wednesday, July 19, 2023: Astronauts aboard the International Space Station took this photograph of an orbital sunrise as seen from 259 miles (417 kilometers) above the U.S. territory of Guam in the Pacific Ocean.
An orbital sunrise occurs as a spacecraft, in this case the International Space Station (ISS), circles the planet much faster than it rotates, causing the sun to disappear and reappear behind the curve of the Earth from the spacecraft's vantage point. This means that astronauts aboard the space station see 16 sunrises each day, according to NASA.
Read more: Track the ISS: How and where to see it
Chandrayaan-3 mission launch success
Friday, July 14, 2023: This celebratory image was captured during the launch of India's Chandrayaan-3 lunar mission from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre on the coastal island of Sriharikota today (July 14) at 5:05 a.m. EDT (0905 GMT; 2:35 p.m. local time in Sriharikota).
Chandrayaan-3 separated from the LVM3 as planned and entered orbit around Earth, kickstarting its month-long journey to the moon. If the rest of the plan goes smoothly, India will soon become the fourth country — after the United States, the former Soviet Union and China — to successfully land on the moon.
The mission is expected to land at the moon's south pole around Aug. 23 or Aug. 24. From there the lunar lander and separate rover will conduct scientific experiments on the surface for 14 Earth days (a single day on the moon). - Daisy Dobrijevic
Amazing 1st-year photo by JWST
Wednesday, July 12, 2023: This spectacular view of the stellar nursery Rho Ophiuchi was captured by the James Webb Space Telescope and released today to mark one year of amazing science peering deep into the universe.
NASA's Webb telescope is the most powerful space telescope ever launched and officially began its science mission in July 2022 after a Dec. 25, 2021 launch. This image shows a region 390 light-years from Earth bristling with star formation. At least 50 young stars are visible amid the colorful dust cloud, all of them with masses similar to that of our sun, NASA said in a description.
Extremely Large Telescope takes shape
Tuesday, July 11, 2023: The European Southern Observatory (ESO) shared this image of its new Extremely Large Telescope, announcing the instrument is now half-finished.
Upon completion, the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) will be the largest telescope in the world, capable of observations in both visible and infrared light. The telescope is located atop the mountain Cerro Armazones in Chile's Atacama Desert and when completed will feature a main mirror consisting of 798 hexagonal segments.
If all goes according to plan, the telescope will begin scientific observations in 2028.
Related: The 10 biggest telescopes on Earth
Euclid spacecraft seen 435,000 miles (700,000 km) away
Monday, July 10, 2023: The Virtual Telescope Project took this image of the European Space Agency's Euclid spacecraft while it was at a distance of 435,000 miles (700,000 km) from Earth, roughly halfway through its voyage to its 'parking spot' in space. The image above was made using three 180-second exposures with a 14-inch (35 cm) Celestron telescope in Manciano, Italy.
Euclid is a groundbreaking mission designed to study the 'dark universe,' the energy and matter that drive the universe's expansion and evolution despite being invisible to the human eye and our scientific instruments.
Euclid launched on July 1 from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The dark energy-hunting space telescope will now spend roughly a month reaching its destination where it will then spend a few months getting calibrated before beginning its mission.
Unseasonal storm batters the Netherlands
Friday, July 7, 2023: Europe's Earth-observing satellite Sentinel-3 witnesses a powerful summer storm batter the Netherlands.
Storm Poly, which hit the western European country on July 5, was the strongest summer storm the Netherlands has ever experienced. With wind gusts of up to 90 mph (146 km/h), the storm caused widespread damage, disrupting train services and grounding flights. – Tereza Pultarova
Europe's Ariane 5 rocket rises into the air for the final time
Thursday, July 5, 2023: Europe's heavy-lift rocket Ariane 5 rose into the air for the final time on Wednesday, July 5, to cap nearly three decades of service before retirement.
The workhorse rocket, first launched in 1996, lofted some eminent payload into Earth's orbit during its time including the James Webb Space Telescope, the European comet chaser Rosetta and more recently the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (Juice).
During its final liftoff from the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, the rocket injected into orbit the French military satellite Syracuse 4B and German experimental craft Heinrich-Hertz.
Hailed for its reliability, Ariane 5 was once a customer favorite, but in recent years the rocket and its operator Arianespace have been losing out to SpaceX's reusable Falcon 9 rocket.
Arianespace is now working to get the successor Ariane 6 off the ground, but has been plagued by years of delays. – Tereza Pultarova
Supermoon rises above a Portuguese castle
Wednesday, July 5, 2023: A stunning supermoon rises above the Fort of Santa Luzia in central Portugal in this image taken by astrophotographer Sérgio Conceição on July 3.
A supermoon is a larger than normal full moon that appears when Earth's natural satellite aligns with the planet and the sun at a closer than average distance from Earth. The moon's trajectory around our planet is not circular but somewhat squashed. As a result, the moon's distance from the planet varies from 223,000 to 250,000 miles (360,000 to 400,000 kilometers). When the full moon occurs when the moon is at its closest to Earth, its disk appears larger and brighter to observers on Earth, a phenomenon known as the supermoon.
Conceição told Space.com he spent two years preparing to take this image as "it's difficult to frame the moon with this monument" because of the presence of other buildings and infrastructure in the vicinity.
Conceição took the image at a distance of 0.7 miles (1.2 km) from the castle at 8:52 p.m. local time on July 3 using his Canon EOS R camera with a 400mm lens. – Tereza Pultarova
Winter sea ice in Antarctica at record low
Monday, July 3, 2023: The extent of winter sea ice in Antarctica hit a record low in June, remaining well below the previous minimum for this part of the year.
Satellite measurements revealed that sea ice around the coast of the frozen continent is failing to replenish this year, remaining about 1 million square miles (2.5 million square kilometers) below the average June extent, according to the European Union's environment-monitoring agency Copernicus.
This year's extent of Antarctic sea ice is also about 0.5 million square miles (1.3 million square kilometers) — an area about five times the size of the U.K. — below the previous June record low, the U.K. weather forecasting authority Met Office said in a statement.
"Antarctic sea ice extent reaches a maximum around the end of September and a minimum around the end of February," Ed Blockley, the head of the Met Office's Polar Climate Group, said in the statement. "At the end of June, the extent of sea ice should be building to a mid-point between the maximum and the minimum. However, this year the ice is expanding very slowly with the consequence that the extent is way below the long-term average."
Scientists don't fully understand why the sea ice is not replenishing this year, but they think that higher than normal air temperatures and "anomalous" atmospheric circulation patterns around the continent might be to blame.
Satellites began monitoring sea ice levels all over the world in 1979, so scientists now have a record that goes back more than 40 years. This year's absolute sea ice extent minimum, which took place toward the end of the Antarctic summer in February, was also the lowest ever measured. – Tereza Pultarova
The sky above the U.K. crackles with lightning in images from a new weather satellite
Monday, July 3, 2023: The sky above the U.K. crackles with lightning in first images from a new space-borne instrument designed to improve the monitoring of thunderstorms in Europe.
The images were taken by the Meteosat-12 satellite operated by the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT) from the geostationary orbit some 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) above Earth.
The satellite, launched in December 2022, is the first in Europe's new family of weather satellites designed to help the continent's meteorologists better forecast extreme weather events that arrive with an increasing frequency and severity due to progressing climate change.
Satellites of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have used lightning imagers before, but Meteosat-12, is the first to provide this type of information to European weather forecasters. – Tereza Pultarova
Stunning image reveals smoke from Canadian wildfires choking Afghanistan
Friday, June 30, 2023: Smoke from record-breaking wildfires in Canada has drifted across the Atlantic Ocean in the last week of June, reaching as far as Siberia and Afghanistan.
In this image taken by the Japanese weather satellite Himawari 9, a cloud of blue-tinged smoke hovers above a stretch of the Asian continent, covering an area of more than 380,000 square miles (1 million square kilometers.)
"[Smoke from Canadian fires] has traveled across the Atlantic and Europe and is now stretching from Afghanistan to Lake Baikal," Simon Proud, an Earth-observation scientist at the U.K. National Centre for Earth Observation, said in a Tweet, sharing the image. "That means the smoke covers an area of more than 1 million sq. km!"
Himawari 9 took the image from its perch in the geostationary orbit some 22,000 miles (36,000 km) above Earth. Proud processed the image and highlighted the wispy cloud with a red outline seen toward the edge of the globe just above the twilight zone.
The wildfires that have plagued Canada since May this year have produced an unprecedented amount of carbon emissions. The record-breaking blazes have erupted after an unusually dry spring amid a prolonged spell of hot weather in May. – Tereza Pultarova
Italian space tourists enjoy Virgin Galactic suborbital flight
Thursday, June 29, 2023: Italian space tourists Walter Villadei, Angelo Landolfi and Pantaleone Carlucci are posing with an Italian flag during a Virgin Galactic suborbital flight on Thursday, June 29.
The three men flew a set of experiments aboard the company's SpaceShipTwo spaceplane, which took them to the altitude of 55 miles (89 kilometers), just short of reaching the edge of space. During the flight, the passengers experienced about five minutes of weightlessness and enjoyed stunning views of our planet. The flight was Virgin Galactic's first commercial and second fully occupied ride to space. The company's owner Richard Branson was among the passengers on the first flight. – Tereza Pultarova
Euclid's main mirror
Wednesday, June 28, 2023: This image of the main 1.2-meter main mirror of the dark energy-hunting telescope Euclid was taken during assembly and testing.
The telescope, built by the European Space Agency (ESA), will launch on Saturday, July 1, from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The spacecraft will join the James Webb Space Telescope in the Lagrange Point 2 some 900,000 million miles (1.5 million kilometers) from Earth and look for evidence of dark energy and dark matter by studying the distribution of galaxies in the distant universe.
Dark matter is the invisible material that makes up over 80% of all stuff that fills the universe that astronomers think must exist for the universe to make sense. Only when dark matter is taken into account do the gravitational forces observed in the universe stack up. Dark energy, on the other hand, is a similarly invisible force that seems to have something to do with the expansion of the universe. Euclid will take six years to answer the question whether these two mysterious forces actually exist. – Tereza Pultarova
Smoke from Canadian wildfires arrives in Europe
Monday, June 26, 2023: Smoke from wildfires in Canada has drifted across the Atlantic Ocean over the weekend and reached the coast of western Europe.
This image, taken by the European weather satellite Meteosat-10 on Sunday, June 25, shows a large plume of smoke spreading into the U.K. and Ireland and reaching Scandinavia.
Canada is experiencing one of its worst wildfire seasons following an extremely dry spring. According to Earth observation scientist Mark Parrington, of the European environment monitoring agency Copernicus, the fires are producing a record-breaking amount of carbon dioxide emissions. – Tereza Pultarova
Satellites observe futile race to rescue lost Titanic submarine crew
Friday, June 23, 2023: Earth-observation satellites of U.S. company Maxar Technologies photographed ships involved in the search for the lost Titan submarine which disappeared earlier this week during a descent to the wreck of the Titanic.
Multiple vessels were involved in the rescue operation which concluded on Thursday, June 22, after pieces of the missing submarine were found by an autonomous submersible near the Titanic wreckage. The nature of the discovered debris indicated that the Titan sub suffered a catastrophic implosion, which must have killed all passengers onboard in an instant. – Tereza Pultarova
Tropical depression Four follows tropical storm Bret across the Atlantic
Thursday, June 22, 2023: The 2023 Atlantic hurricane season is beginning to pick up momentum early as a new tropical depression forms in the trail of tropical storm Bret, which nearly became this year's first hurricane.
This video sequence was taken by the U.S. weather satellite GOES East from its perch in the geostationary ring, an orbit at the altitude of 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers), where spacecraft appear suspended above a fixed spot on Earth.
The video shows Bret, which currently packs maximum sustained winds of 70 miles per hour (113 km/h), approaching islands in the eastern Caribbean Sea. Weather forecasters have issued warnings for residents in St. Lucia, Dominica and Martinique to prepare for strong winds and heavy rain later on Thursday (June 22).
Weather forecasters expect Bret to skirt Haiti and Cuba and begin to disintegrate above the Gulf of Mexico before reaching the strength of a hurricane. On Bret's heels follows tropical depression Four. The depression, which has formed in the early hours of Thursday, might strengthen later this week and become tropical storm Cindy, the third named tropical storm of the 2023 hurricane season.
The North Atlantic ocean is currently experiencing a spell of unusually high water temperatures, which might fuel further storm activity. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) expects this year's hurricane season, which began on June 1, to be "near normal" with 12 to 17 named storms, five to nine hurricanes and one to four major hurricanes stronger than category 3. The first tropical storm of this season sprung up above the Atlantic Ocean already on June 3 but weakened within a few days. – Tereza Pultarova
Summer solstice from space
Wednesday, June 21, 2023: The Northern Hemisphere has woken up into the longest day of the year as our planet reached the moment of the summer solstice today, June 21, at 10:57 a.m. EDT (14:57 GMT).
This image shows our planet split by the terminator line that divides the dayside from the nightside of Earth, and was taken by the European weather forecasting satellite Meteosat-11 from its perch in the geostationary orbit, an orbit at the altitude of 22,200 miles (36,000 kilometers), where spacecraft appear suspended above a fixed spot on Earth's equator.
The changing length of the day and night on our planet is a result of Earth's tilt toward the plane in which it orbits the sun. As a result, the Southern and Northern Hemispheres receive varying amounts of sunlight each day of the year. The summer solstice marks the day when the Northern Hemisphere is the most tilted toward the sun, resulting in the longest day and warmest weather. From tomorrow on, days will begin to shorten in the north again, while the south will begin to move toward lighter and warmer days. – Tereza Pultarova
Return to Mercury
Friday, June 15, 2023: The European-Japanese BepiColombo probe took this image of its target planet Mercury as it approached it during a gravity-assist maneuver designed to reduce the spacecraft's speed.
The image was taken about seven hours before the closest approach on Monday (June 19) at a distance of about 75,000 miles (121,000 kilometers) from Mercury.
BepiColombo, which launched in 2018, is following a long and winding trajectory through the inner solar system designed to help the spacecraft shed kinetic energy with the help of planets Earth, Venus and Mercury. The probe, which currently orbits the sun, is constantly accelerated by the star's gravitational pull and needs to brake in order to slow down enough to be captured by the tiny Mercury in December 2028. The latest flyby, which took place on Monday (June 19) was already BepiColombo's third at Mercury. The probe previously performed one flyby of Earth and two of Venus. The spacecraft will revisit Mercury three more times before it will be finally able to enter its orbit. – Tereza Pultarova
The Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) is taking shape
Monday June 18, 2023: In Chile's Atacama desert, high in the mountains, the world's largest optical telescope is taking shape.
Construction of the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) is going well as the steel frame of the telescope's dome is pierced together, bit by bit. When finished, the entire dome will weigh 6,100 tonnes and will house the primary mirror made up of almost 800 individual segments.
The ELT will be capable of collecting more light than all the existing 8- to 10-meter telescopes on the planet, combined. — Daisy Dobrijevic
Hubble inspects translucent galaxy for supernova remnants
Friday, June 16, 2023: The Hubble Space Telescope imaged a thin, hazy galaxy in search for remnants of a five-decade-old supernova.
The galaxy in question is called NGC 7292 and is located 44 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation Pegasus. In 1964, astronomers observed a giant star in that galaxy explode in a supernova and they hope Hubble will help them find traces of that explosion. Massive stars explode in supernovas when they run out of fuel in their cores. These explosions are so bright that they temporarily outshine entire galaxies. These explosions also have powerful effects on their neighborhoods, which astronomers want to study.
Even without a recent supernova, NGC 7292 is a curious object to observe. It has relatively few stars, which gives the galaxy its translucent look. Astronomers think the galaxy is held together mostly by the gravity of dark matter, the invisible stuff that according to theoretical models makes up 85% of all matter in the universe. – Tereza Pultarova
Europe hands over Orion service module for Artemis 2 mission
Thursday, June 15, 2023: The European Space Agency (ESA) officially handed over the service module for the Artemis 2 Orion spaceship, which will take humans to the moon next year, to NASA on Wednesday, June 15.
The Europe-built service module will propel Orion on its ground-breaking journey and provide water, air, electricity and temperature control to the four astronauts inside the capsule. The mission will last for about two weeks and will be the first in 50 years to take humans for a lunar roundtrip.
The European Service Module-2 will go through further tests before being mated to the Orion crew capsule later this year, ESA said in a statement. – Tereza Pultarova
Astronaut snaps a threatening cyclone approaching India
Wednesday, June 14, 2023: United Arab Emirates astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi took this photograph of cyclone Biparjoy swirling above the Indian Ocean earlier this week as the cyclone grew into the region's first major tropical storm of the season.
Classified as a very severe tropical cyclone, Biparjoy has forced thousands of people in India and Pakistan to leave their homes over the past few days. Packing maximum sustained winds of up to 90 miles per hour (145 kilometers per hour), Biparjoy is expected to make landfall on Thursday evening, according to weather forecasters.
AlNeyadi, who arrived at the International Space Station in March this year as part of the SpaceX Crew-6, posted the picture on his Twitter account on Wednesday, June 14. – Tereza Pultarova
The Great Lakes glint in moonlight in an eerie shot taken from the space station
Tuesday, June 13, 2023: This odd pattern of silverish blotches on a dark background is actually a nighttime image of the Great Lakes on the Canada–U.S. border.
The image, shared on Twitter by the Canadian Space Agency, was taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station. Believe it or not, the strange spots are caused by moonlight reflecting off the lakes' surface, the space agency said in the tweet. – Tereza Pultarova
Hawaii's Kīlauea volcano continues to erupt
Monday, June 12, 2023: One of the world's most active volcanoes, Hawaii's Mount Kīlauea, continues to erupt as Earth-observing satellites fly overhead.
This image of the famous volcano on Hawaii's Big Island was taken by the European Earth-observing satellite Sentinel-2 on Sunday, June 11, and shared on Twitter by remote-sensing scientist Pierre Markuse who processed the data.
The eruption, while spectacular, currently poses no risk to inhabited areas as the boiling lava flows remain contained within a closed area of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Kīlauea is the most active of Hawaii's five major volcanoes and one of the most active in the world. Its latest eruption began on June 7 after a quiet period of only three months. – Tereza Putarova
Hawaii's most active volcano wakes up
Friday, June 9, 2023: A satellite sees one of Hawaii's most active volcanoes wake up.
This image of the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island was taken by a satellite operated by the U.S. Earth-observation company Maxar Technologies on Thursday, June 8, one day after the 4,100-foot-high (1,247 meters) volcano began spewing lava after a three-month hiatus.
The lava burst 200 feet high above the crater before spreading as glowing rivers of molten rock across the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. According to local authorities, inhabited areas are currently not at risk. – Tereza Pultarova
Satellite observes New York suffocate in Canadian wildfire smoke
Thursday, June 7, 2023: A thick blanket of smoke produced by wildfires in Canada hangs over New York and other major cities in the U.S. Northeast in this image captured by Europe's Sentinel 3 satellite.
The toxic smoke comes from dozens of wildfires that have been ablaze in Canadian provinces of Quebec and Nova Scotia since late May. The smoke spread hundreds of miles southward thanks to a low pressure system above the northwestern parts of the Atlantic Ocean that is funneling the orange-tinged cloud to the U.S.
According to CNN, the ash-filled haze had such an effect on air quality in New York that the city temporarily reached the rank of the world's worst air pollution hotspot on Tuesday, June 7. Under normal circumstances, New York sits comfortably outside the top 100, which is dominated by cities in India, Pakistan and China.
According to the Independent, the wildfire smoke may continue affecting air quality in the U.S. Northeast until the end of this week. – Tereza Pultarova
Satellite observes wildfire pollution spread across North America
Wednesday, June 7, 2023: The U.S. weather forecasting satellite GOES East observes how toxic air pollution from wildfires in Canada spreads southward to the U.S. Northeast.
High concentrations of harmful particles in the atmosphere have been reported from multiple regions in the north of the U.S. including New York City and Detroit with local authorities recommending sensitive people to limit their time outdoors.
The toxic air is wafting from Canada where powerful wildfires have been raging since last month. The record-breaking blazes erupted after an unusually hot month of May and an exceptionally dry spring. Air pollution from the wildfires has been detected as far south as South Carolina, according to NBC News. – Tereza Pultarova
Water escaping from destroyed dam in Ukraine seen from space
Tuesday, June 6, 2023: Satellite images by U.S. Earth observation company Planet reveal the extent of damage caused by an explosion to the Nova Kakhovka water dam in Ukraine that resulted in a catastrophic flooding in southeastern parts of the country.
The dam on Ukraine's largest river Dnipro partially collapsed after an explosion at about 3 a.m. on Tuesday, June 6. Some believe that Russia, which has been seen as losing its war to control Ukraine, is behind the explosion.
Since the explosion, water from the damaged reservoir has flooded the city of Nova Kakhovka and several municipalities in the region's largest city Kherson. The reservoir also provides drinking water to the Crimea peninsula, which is still controlled by Russia. – Tereza Pultarova
Smoke from Canadian wildfires spreading across the Great Lakes
Monday, June 5, 2023: Smoke from wildfires in Canadian provinces Ontario and Quebec can be seen spreading across the Great Lakes in this sequence captured by the U.S. weather satellite GOES-16.
The smoke can affect air quality on the U.S. side of the border especially in central and southwest Wisconsin and the greater Chicago area, according to the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies at University of Wisconsin-Madison, which released the image sequence on Monday, June 5.
Devastating wildfires have broken out in several Canadian provinces last month after a spell of unexpectedly warm temperatures and an unusually dry spring. – Tereza Pultarova
Astronauts see Canada on fire from space
Friday, June 2, 2023: Astronauts aboard the International Space Station photographed a raging wildfire in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia that has nearly tripled in size in the past few days.
The fire that broke out near the town of Shelburne in late May has been described by local authorities as the worst ever to have hit Nova Scotia. On May 29, when this image was taken, the blaze was ravaging a forested area larger than 65 square miles (170 square kilometers) according to NASA.
Multiple fires broke out across Canada in late May amid a spell of unusually hot and dry weather which followed a spring of below average rainfall. Firefighters still struggle to contain the Shelburne fire, which has forced thousands of residents to leave their homes. – Tereza Pultarova
Artemis II Orion service module nearly assembled
Thursday, June 1, 2023: The service module that will power the Orion space capsule during the crewed Artemis 2 mission to the moon and back is nearly assembled.
The module, developed and built in Europe, has recently been moved to the Final Assembly and System Testing Cell at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida where it will be integrated with the crew module, NASA said on Twitter. The completed space ship will then be handed over for fuelling. Artemis 2 follows the uncrewed Artemis 1 test mission that completed a successful lunar round trip in November and December 2022. Artemis 2 is expected to lift off at the earliest in November 2024. – Tereza Pultarova
Ax-2 mission splashes down in the Gulf of Mexico
Wednesday, May 31, 2023: The SpaceX Dragon crew capsule Freedom splashed down safely in the Gulf of Mexico with four crew members of the Ax-2 mission on board, ending Axiom Space's second privately funded visit to the International Space Station.
The mission, commanded by former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, lasted ten days and brought to the orbital outpost the first two Saudi nationals, astronauts Ali AlQarni and Rayyanah Barnawi. American businessman John Shoffner also took part in the flight. – Tereza Pultarova
Ax2 astronauts working on space station prior to Earth return
Tuesday, May 30, 2023: Ax-2 astronauts Rayyanah Barnawi and her colleague Ali Alqarni work on life science experiments at the International Space Station.
The two astronauts, both Saudi nationals, arrived at the space station on Monday, May 22, as part of the second private mission to the orbital outpost operated by the U.S.-based company Axiom Space.
Barnawi and Alquarni are the first Saudis ever to visit the orbital outpost. Barnawi is also the nation's first woman in space. The two arrived at the space station together with former NASA astronaut, now an Axiom employee Peggy Whitson, and businessman John Shoffner. The crew is set to return to Earth aboard SpaceX's Freedom crew capsule later today.
Axiom conducted its first mission in April last year. – Tereza Pultarova
Monday, May 29, 2023: . Flying in space can be serious work, but that doesn't mean there isn't time to have some fun. Here, Saudi Space Commission astronaut Rayyanah Barnawi takes a break from science experiments on the International Space Station to pose for a fun snapshot during her Ax-2 mission last week. Barnawi is the first female astronaut from Saudi Arabia to fly in space as one of two Saudi mission specialists on the Ax-2 mission by Axiom Space. – Tariq Malik
Europe's Jupiter moon explorer JUICE completes instrument deployment
Friday, May 26, 2023: The European Space Agency's (ESA) Jupiter mission JUICE has completed the deployment of its instruments six weeks after its launch.
The spacecraft, officially called the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, unfolded the antennas of its Radio & Plasma Wave Investigation (RPWI) instrument on Friday, May 26, completing a challenging early phase of its mission. Previously, the spacecraft's operators struggled to deploy the 52-foot-long (16 meters) antenna of the probe's ice-penetrating radar. The instrument was jammed for three weeks because of a stuck pin, and it took some ingenuity to release it.
With the deployments complete, JUICE will continue its eight-year voyage to the solar system's largest planet where it is scheduled to arrive in 2031. – Tereza Pultarova
Virgin Galactic aces test flight
Thursday, May 25, 2023: Virgin Galactic has successfully completed a test flight that will pave the way for the company to commence commercial space tourism operations.
The flight was the fifth suborbital sortie for Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity space plane and the first since July 11, 2021, when Virgin Group founder Richard Branson was one of the passengers. That flight, however, deviated from its approved path during its return to Earth, prompting an investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration due to concerns the mishap may have put other aircraft at risk.
The Thursday flight saw Virgin Galactic's twin-fuselage mothership Eve carry the VSS Unity spaceplane to an altitude of roughly 50,000 feet (15,000 meters). After its release from the mothership, the spaceplane continued to the edge of space, to the altitude of 50 miles (80 kilometers), treating its eight passengers to about three minutes of weightlessness. The plane successfully landed at Spaceport America in New Mexico about 1 hour and 15 minutes after take off. – Tereza Pultarova
LEGO sends 1,000 astronauts to space and lands them safely in a mini space-shuttle
Wednesday, May 24, 2023: One thousand LEGO astronauts traveled to the edge of space on a stratospheric balloon last weekend and returned safely to Earth on a specially designed landing platform.
The Legonauts took off from a small airport in Slovakia, seated on a 3D-printed space shuttle-like platform made of a sturdy but lightweight carbon composite material. The shuttle was designed by a team of space architects and engineers from Slovakia and the Czech Republic passionate about inspiring future generations to learn about space, according to the website Czech Crunch.
The balloon took the mini-spacefarers to the altitude of 21 miles (34 kilometers) where it burst. The landing platform then returned to Earth under a parachute. According to space architect Tomas Rousek, the team had to make sure that none of the astronauts fell off the roof-less shuttle during the early stages of the platform's descent. Two cameras filmed the experiment throughout the ride, one monitoring the crew compartment, the other, attached to a boom, filming a view of the entire platform.
The LEGO astronauts will now be put up as a prize in a draw in the Czech Republic and Slovakia for those who buys and register a new LEGO set. – Tereza Pultarova
Hubble may have found a rare medium-sized black hole
Tuesday, May 23, 2023: The Hubble Space Telescope may have found a rare medium-sized black hole. Although scientists are not sure yet.
The black hole may be lurking at the heart of a globular cluster in our Milky Way Galaxy some 6,000 light-years away from Earth.
Most known black holes are either quite small, the so-called stellar black holes, most of which are only a few times as massive as our sun, or extremely large. The latter category are the supermassive black holes at the center of most galaxies. These cosmic monsters have masses equivalent to millions or billions of solar masses.
A stellar black hole is born when a massive star collapses at the end of its life. By gradually devouring matter and by merging with other black holes, the black hole grows. At least in theory. The problem is that until now, scientists have not seen many medium-sized black holes, which should represent the natural step in the evolution of black holes from stellar to supermassive.
The new suspected black hole, which appears to reside in the globular cluster Messier 4, may have a mass of about 800 masses, according to the European Space Agency. Although the Hubble Space Telescope can't see the black hole directly, the motion of stars inside the cluster tells astronomers that some invisible heavy object must be present. – Tereza Pultarova
Shaun the Sheep to the moon and baa-ck on Baa-Temis I
Monday, May 22, 2023: An image taken at the Mission Evaluation Room of the European Space Agency (ESA) technical center ESTEC in Noordwijk, the Netherlands shows it receiving a very distinguished visitor, Shaun the Sheep.
The first lunar "lamb-bassador" of Europe, and probably of anywhere else, was at the ESA center on Thursday, May 19, to check up on the Orion spacecraft. The sheep and the spacecraft have a special bond, as it was Orion that carried Shaun to space as part of the Artemis I mission.
During his visit, the wooliest astronaut ever to journey to space met with engineers who had monitored Orion during its 25-day mission to the moon and back. The unmanned but not unsheeped Artemis I mission carried Shaun to within around 80 miles (130 kilometers) of the lunar surface as it gained a gravity boost taking him 267,000 miles (430,000 km) from Earth, farther than any sheep (or human) has traveled before.
Traveling back to Earth, Shaun and Orion sped through the atmosphere at a wool-raising speed 24 times faster than a bullet from the Farmer's rifle.
After inspecting banks of computers and huge screens, the VIS (Very Important Sheep), returned to his home at Mossy Bottom Farm.
Space.com has it on good authority that despite kicking up his hooves, the sheep is ready at a moment's notice to step back in the breech and return to space… Even if it is just to get away from the Naughty Pigs. ESA is not considering Shaun's request to rename the Artemis mission, Baa-Temis, however. — Rob Lea
Rocket, meet rocket
Friday, May 19, 2023: A stunning image shows the moment that a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, lighting up the early morning sky. It launched within view of a second Falcon 9 rocket, visible in front.
The space-bound SpaceX rocket lifted off today (May 19) at 02:19 EDT (0619 GMT), carrying a payload of carrying 22 second-generation Starlink satellites to orbit. After dropping off the upper stage and the units, known as "V2 minis," the first stage of the Falcon 9 returned to Earth with the duration between lift-off and landing just eight and a half minutes.
The upper stage of the rocket, meanwhile, continued into space with the payload of 22 satellites jettisoning them around 65 minutes after the launch. They join the over 4,400 Starlink broadband satellites in a low-Earth orbit.
Despite their name, the V2 minis are still larger than the first generation of satellites that makes up the majority of the Starlink constellation. The "mini" in their name refers to the fact that they are smaller than the full-size Starlink V2 satellites, which will be launched by SpaceX's huge Starship rocket.
The launch on Friday morning marked 30 flights for the Falcon 9 this year and 32 orbital missions for SpaceX as a whole. — Rob Lea
Smoldering spiral galaxy
Thursday, May 18, 2023: A smoky-looking spiral galaxy glows in the dark in a fresh image captured with the Víctor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) in Chile. NGC 1808, shown in this image with the Dark Energy Camera, is a barred spiral situated in the constellation Columba.
"The core of NGC 1808 is thought to house a supermassive black hole, characterized by its accretion of material and higher-than-normal brightness," officials with the National Science Foundation's National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory (NOIRLab) wrote in a statement. "The smoldering center is closely surrounded by a faint blue ring populated with star clusters and supernova remnants."
Numerous young stars litter the region, which may be due to close encounters with another nearby galaxy, NGC 1792. The resulting ripples of gravity would compress gas clouds, potentially leading to the formation of stellar nurseries. — Elizabeth Howell
Baghdad's shiny lights evoke the Islamic Golden Age
May 17, 2023: An astronaut from the United Arab Emirates paid tribute to the fame of Baghdad. From the International Space Station, Sultan Al Neyadi showed off the Iraqi capital in a photo on Twitter, released earlier today.
"Here is the beautiful and historical city of #Baghdad, the cornerstone of the Golden Age of knowledge," Al Neyadi said. "Scholars from this great city sparked the flames of discovery, setting the course for modern science. Their legacy reminds us to keep reaching for the stars."
Al Neyadi is referring to what some scholars call the Islamic Golden Age, referring to how scholars in the region spread scientific knowledge through trade routes and other connections. Greek, Roman and other ancient knowledge was diffused widely, especially after the Emperor Justinian closed pagan academies in Athens in 529, according to Britannica. Islamic scholars were among the people translating and copying Greek texts, allowing this information to be preserved. — Elizabeth Howell
Galactic mushrooms search for gravitational waves
Tuesday, May 16, 2023: Are these galactic mushrooms? In fact, they're gravitational wave-hunting telescopes. The European Southern Observatory activated a new set of three telescopes, called BlackGEM. The trio, situated at La Silla Observatory in Chile, will search for gravitational waves.
Gravitational waves are indications of huge events, like black holes or neutron stars merging and colliding. "With BlackGEM, we aim to scale up the study of cosmic events with both gravitational waves and visible light," principal investigator Paul Groot of Radboud University, in the Netherlands said in a statement. "The combination of the two tells us much more about these events than just one or the other."
Using both gravitational waves and visible light will make it easier to locate the source of these huge cosmic events, and to look for heavy elements such as gold and platinum, ESO officials added. — Elizabeth Howell
Stratolaunch drops Talon-0 hypersonic prototype
Monday, May 15, 2023: Stratolaunch's first Talon-0 hypersonic vehicle prototype drops free of its Roc carrier plane for the first time in this stunning photo captured by the company's photographer Ethan Wagner during a test on May 13. The moment marked the first time Stratolaunch has ever conducted a drop test from its massive Roc carrier plane, which is the largest aircraft in the world. The test was conducted off of California's central coast in the Western Range overseen by the U.S. Space Force's Vandenberg Space Force Base. - Tariq Malik
Volcanic plume showcases Earth observation acuity
Friday, May 12, 2023: This dramatic volcanic image from 2021 was highlighted today (May 12) by the European Space Agency as an example of how Earth observation can keep populations safe in case of natural disaster.
Here a volcanic plume erupts from the Japanese island of Nishinoshima, in the northwest Pacific Ocean. The image was captured by the powerful Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite. The island continues to grow as lava and ash accrue, as Nishinoshima has been periodically erupting and contributing to growth since at least 1974.
"The yellowish discolouration of the water around the island is due to volcanic minerals, gas and seafloor sediment that is being stirred up by the volcanic activity. It stretches for about 10 km (6 miles) to the southeast, where ocean currents turn it into bright green swirls," ESA officials wrote.
Satellite data can track the movement of the volcanic plumes, to adjust aircraft paths to reduce corrosion of jet engines or contamination of oxygen. Gases and aerosols can also drift over large, populated areas, so satellite predictions assist with reducing hazards to humans when air quality plummets. — Elizabeth Howell
Chinese space station has a cargo shipment on its way
Thursday, May 10, 2023: A Long March 7 rocket with the robotic Tianzhou 6 cargo ship lifted off from Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan island Wednesday (May 10) at 9:22 a.m. EDT (1322 GMT; 9:22 p.m. local time on Hainan).
Tianzhou 6 is on its way to the Tiangong space station, which China finished assembling in low Earth orbit in 2022. The launch "successfully sent the spacecraft into the predetermined orbit," according to an update from the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (Google provided the translation to English.)
Tianzhou 6 includes clothes, drinking water and food for Tiangong's current crew, who are the three astronauts of the Shenzhou 15 mission and future Shenzhou 16 astronauts, according to the state-run Chinese broadcaster CCTV. — Elizabeth Howell
Powerful jet of starstuff blasts into space
May 10, 2023: A stellar nursery shot out a large jet of material into space. The object, known as 244-440, resides in the Orion Nebula and is roughly 1,350 light-years from Earth.
The powerful emanation appears to be S-shaped and was captured by the Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) instrument on the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT) in northern Chile.
The strange curve in the jet may be due to one star orbiting another star, according to an ESO statement. "The S-shaped jet of 244-440 suggests that what lurks at the center of this object isn’t one but two stars orbiting each other," officials wrote. "This orbital motion periodically changes the orientation of the jet, similar to a water sprinkler." — Elizabeth Howell
NASA's Super Guppy ships orbital hardware to Axiom Space
Tuesday, May 9, 2023: NASA's Super Guppy aircraft lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 25, carrying a Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) on board. MPLM was used during the space shuttle program to send cargo to and from the International Space Station (ISS), and was carried up into space periodically within the shuttle's payload bay.
The MPLM on board Guppy is now being used by Houston-based Axiom Space, which is aiming to build a set of modules on the ISS that will eventually detach into a free-flying space station. Axiom has already sent up one private mission of its own, Ax-1, and aims to bring its second (Ax-2) into space no earlier than May 21.
Three MPLMs were built by Thales Alenia Space Italia (TASI) for the Italian Space Agency. Two of those modules, Leonardo and Raffaello, flew to space; it is Raffaello that Axiom plans to repurpose. Leonardo is in space permanently now after conversion into an ISS storage module. In 2017, Lockheed Martin announced it will refurbish the Donatello module into a test and training module for astronauts aiming to do deep-space missions. — Elizabeth Howell
Hubble spots a galaxy with ripples of space-time
Monday, May 8, 2023: The Hubble Space Telescope captured a stunning set of galaxies from afar, known as a galaxy cluster. The cluster is called eMACS J1823.1+7822 and is about nine billion light-years from Earth in the constellation Draco.
Hubble turned its optics to this region to learn more about gravitational lensing. That phenomenon occurs when huge wells of gravity, like this galaxy cluster, bend light around them. The light creates distortions in the backgroun