Hubble snaps dying carbon star shrouded in cobwebs of orange dust
Friday, October 29, 2021: The Hubble Space Telescope observed a dying carbon star that's been strangely changing its appearance over the past 15 years.
The star, called CW Leonis, is the nearest carbon star to Earth, located only 400 lightyears away. CW Leonis is the so-called Red Giant, a star that has run out of hydrogen in its core and is now collapsing on itself. Because the star was originally very massive, the pressure in its core is now so high that it fuses helium into carbon. This carbon, permeating the star's atmosphere, now provides it with its distinct orange color. In the future, this carbon spread into the surrounding universe might give rise to future planets.
The most intriguing feature of CW Leonis are the bright rays of light emanating outwards from its center. Over the past 15 years, their brightness has changed. To see an observable change in a Red Giant in such a short period of time is rather unusual, NASA said in a statement. The exact cause of these changes is unknown, but astronomers speculate it might be caused by gaps in the dust shroud, which allow beams of starlight to pierce through. -- Tereza Pultarova
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Crew-3 poses with their rocket just before launch pad roll-out
Thursday, October 28, 2021: NASA astronauts Kayla Barron, Raja Chari and Thomas Marshburn, and Europe's Matthias Maurer pose with the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule Endurance just before its launch pad rollout.
Crew-3 will launch for their six-month mission to the International Space Station on Sunday (Oct. 31) from launch pad 39 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. At the space station, they will replace Crew-2 astronauts NASA's Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough, European Space Agency's Thomas Pesquet and Japan's Akihiko Hoshide.
Chari shared the picture on Twitter on Wednesday (Oct. 27), saying:
"Amazing what a day can do. Crew3 checked out Endurance in the
SpaceX hangar last night before pad roll-out," Chari said. "Now it’s at NASA Kennedy
atop launch pad 39a where many NASA astronauts started their journeys to space."
Crew-3 will arrive at the orbital outpost on Monday (Nov. 1). The departure date of Crew-2 has not yet been announced but is expected to be in early November.
Currently at the space station are also Russian cosmonauts Petr Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov, as well as NASA's Mark Vende Hei. Dubrov and Vende Hei were originally expected to depart this month with Oleg Novitsky, but had their missions postponed to allow a Russian film crew to spend two weeks at the space station. -- Tereza Pultarova
A piece of asteroid Ryugu
Wednesday, October 27, 2021: A tiny piece of the distant asteroid Ryugu retrieved by the Japanese Hayabusa2 spacecraft in 2019 is being studied by scientists at NASA's Johnson Space Center.
The precious sample arrived at NASA's facilities in June 2021, being one of the first fragments of the space rock to have been allowed to leave Japan after the Hayabusa2 capsule landing in December 2020.
A team of scientists at Johnson examined the tiny fragment in the Scanning Electron Microscopy Lab, hoping to find hints about Ryugu's formation and evolution. Ryugy is a so-called carbonaceous asteroid, the most common type of asteroid found in the solar system. These small bodies, lacking volcanism and weather processes, provide a unique window into the solar system's past as their geology barely changed over billions of years. -- Tereza Pultarova
SpaceX's brand new crew capsule arrives at launch site ahead of space station trip
Tuesday, October 26, 2021: SpaceX's new Crew Dragon spacecraft, which will carry a quartet of astronauts to the International Space Station later this week, has arrived at the launch site for final preparations ahead of the space trip.
The maiden spaceflight of the capsule, dubbed Endurance, will be the third crewed flight operated by SpaceX. The previous two crews travelled on Crew Dragon capsules named Resilience and Endeavour.
Crew-3, as this new batch of astronauts is called, will take off from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center on Sunday (Oct. 31). Inside the Endurance capsule will be NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, and Kayla Barron, as well as European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Matthias Maurer. The spacecraft is expected to reach the station on Monday (Nov. 1). Crew-3 will remain at the orbital outpost for six months, replacing Crew-2 astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur of NASA, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Akihiko Hoshide and ESA's Thomas Pesquet. Crew-2 is expected to return to Earth in early November. -- Tereza Pultarova
SpaceX completes test engine firing ahead of first orbital launch
Monday, October 25, 2021: SpaceX's Starship prototype fired its vacuum Raptor engine for the first time on Thursday last week ahead of a possible debut orbital flight in November.
The test took place at the company's Starbase facilities near the South Texas town of Boca Chica. The 65-foot-tall (50 meters) Starship prototype called SN20 fired one of its two Raptor engines, which is designed to operate in the vacuum of space.
The test paves the way for a possible debut space flight, which, the company's CEO Elon Musk said, could happen as early as next month, pending regulatory approval by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.
Once operational, Starship, powered by liquid methane, will provide twice the amount of thrust of the Apollo-era Saturn V rocket. Starship will be capable of launching large payloads, paving the way for crewed deep space exploration and possible colonization of the moon and Mars. -- Tereza Pultarova
Fires still burning in Russia despite winter onset
Friday, October 22, 2021: An image captured last week by a European satellite shows an unusual early winter peat fire near Russia's town of Yekaterinburg, raging well past the end of the wildfire season.
This year's wildfire season in Russia started early and produced a record amount of greenhouse gas emissions. As it appears, it is not yet over. While the majority of wildfires this summer were clustered in northeastern parts of Siberia, a new breakout has now been reported in the central region of Russia, north of Kazakhstan and the Ural mountain range.
In a statement, the E.U.'s Copernicus Earth observation program described the current wildfires, which are devouring local peat deposits, as "violent". Peatland fires are unusual at this time of year, according to Copernicus, and their presence makes Russia's 2021 wildfire season one of the longest in history. The fires are raging in spite of relatively cold temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius). -- Tereza Pultarova
La Palma volcanic eruption: one month after
Thursday, October 21, 2021: One month after the onset of the La Palma volcanic eruption, a series of satellite images reveals how the unstoppable force of nature bulldozed swaths of the popular holiday island.
Satellites of the European Union's Copernicus Earth observation program have been monitoring the La Palma eruption since the Cumbre Vieja volcano first started spitting out lava on Sept. 19. A side by side comparison of images captured on Sept. 30 and Oct. 10, 15 and 20 by the Sentinel 2 satellite show the evolution of the lava flow as it found its way to the coast.
According to the latest data (opens in new tab) by the Copernicus Emergency Monitoring Service, 2,185 buildings have perished in the scorching lava, more than 200 in the last 48 hours. Over 3.3 square miles (8.5 square kilometers) of land have been submerged by the glowing molten rock.
The eruption, accompanied by mild Earth tremors, is still not showing any signs of letting up, Copernicus said in a statement (opens in new tab).
In the images, a thick layer of ash can be seen covering areas around the volcano as well as infrastructure and dwellings.
The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), which monitors the spread of the sulfur dioxide plume emitted by the volcano, said today (opens in new tab) that pollution from Cumbre Vieja combined with Saharan dust caused air quality problems and lowered visibility as far as Puerto Rico and other areas of the Caribbean. -- Tereza Pultarova
Orion space capsule mounted on world's most powerful rocket
Wednesday, October 20, 2021: Preparations for the unmanned test mission to the moon and back are in full swing at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida with the Orion capsule being integrated with the most powerful rocket ever built.
The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, 322 feet high (100 meters), will launch the Orion capsule for its historic moon trip as part of the uncrewed Artemis I mission later this year or in early 2022.
On Tuesday (Oct. 19), the capsule and the rocket finally met inside the iconic Apollo-era Vehicle Assembly Building, where the SLS rocket had been assembled in summer.
The Orion capsule was moved from the neighboring Launch Abort System Facility on Monday, where its emergency crew-rescue system had previously been fitted and tested.
Late in the evening on Tuesday, engineers attached the Orion capsule to one of the five overhead cranes inside the Vehicle Assembly Building and began lifting it above the rocket. NASA said in a blog post earlier today that the capsule will be connected to the rocket's Orion Stage Adapter later today.
The Artemis I mission will test critical technology required for a human flight to the moon, which is currently scheduled for September 2023. -- Tereza Pultarova
Orion ready for rocket integration ahead of historic moon trip
Tuesday, October 19, 2021: The Orion spacecraft that will fly to the moon and back in a few months' time to test critical technology ahead of a crewed mission in 2023 has been transported to the iconic Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida ahead of its integration with the Space Launch System Rocket.
The spacecraft, consisting of a crew capsule and a service module, has previously undergone a series of tests of its Launch Abort System, designed to bring a future crew to safety in case of a failure during launch or ascent.
The launch abort system, the long pointy structure atop the capsule, consists of three solid rocket motors that will push the capsule away from the potentially malfunctioning rocket. The Orion spacecraft is expected to launch for its debut moon-bound trip as part of the Artemis I mission either in late 2021 or in early 2022. The crewed mission, the first since the Apollo era to take humans to the moon, is expected to follow in September 2023. -- Tereza Pultarova
Russian film crew returns home
Monday, October 18, 2021: Russian actress Yulia Peresild, cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky and film director Klim Shipenko celebrate their return to Earth from the International Space Station after their historic mission.
Peresild and Shipenko, who arrived at the orbital outpost on Oct. 5, became the first professional film crew to fly to space and shoot a movie on board of the International Space Station. The movie, called the Challenge, tells a story of a heart surgeon (Peresild) sent on an emergency mission to the space station to perform a surgery on a cosmonaut stricken by a heart attack. The role of the ailing space farer went to Novitsky while his colleagues Peter Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov played bit parts.
Dubrov and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei were originally expected to return to Earth with Novitsky but their missions were extended by another six months to accommodate the film project.
Peresild, Shipenko and Novitsky departed the space station at 9:13 p.m. EDT on Saturday (0135 GMT on Sunday) aboard the Russian Soyuz capsule. They landed safely in a Kazakh steppe three hours later. -- Tereza Pultarova
New high-res images of fiery La Palma volcanic eruption
Thursday, October 15, 2021: New high-resolution satellite images reveal lava rivers spilling from the Cumbre Vieja volcano on the Spanish island of La Palma as the devastating eruption shows no signs of stopping nearly a month after it started.
The images, captured by a satellite of the U.S. Earth observation company Maxar Technologies on Thursday (Oct. 14), show the thick plume of smoke rising from the crater, forming a dark heavy cloud above the island. Glowing streams of lava flow down the flank of the mountain range towards the coast.
The Canary Islands Volcanology Institute (Involcan) shared terrifying footage from the ground on Friday (Oct. 15), showing a fast moving stream of scorching lava running past abandoned buildings.
"One of our crews was able to film a real lava "tsunami" today," Involcan tweeted. " Impressive speed and overflow of the lava channel."
But the infernal spectacle is far from entertaining for locals. According to the European Union's Copernicus Emergency Monitoring Service, 1,548 buildings have perished in the boiling lava since the beginning of the eruption on Sept. 19. More than 2.6 square miles (6.7 square kilometers) of land have been submerged while the volcano keeps spewing more lava without a pause.
The cloud of sulfur dioxide emitted by the volcano is spreading over Europe, reaching altitudes of up to 3.1 miles (5 kilometers), according to the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS). It is expected to cross Europe from west to east over the coming days, CAMS senior scientist Mark Parrington said on Twitter. -- Tereza Pultarova
Captain Kirk in awe of planet Earth
Thursday, October 14, 2021: Hollywood actor William Shatner who portrayed Captain Kirk in the original Star Trek series in the 1960s enjoys the view from the Blue Shepard capsule during his suborbital space trip in this image released by Blue Origin on Thursday (Oct. 14).
Shatner, who became the oldest person ever to fly to space at age 90, was reduced to tears by the experience.
"What you have given me is the most profound experience I can imagine," Shatner told Jeff Bezos, the founder of Blue Origin, which flew the actor to space on their second crewed flight on Wednesday (Oct. 13) "I'm so filled with emotion about what just happened ... it's extraordinary."
Shatner was accompanied for his space ride by Glen de Vries, vice chair for life sciences and healthcare at the French software company Dassault Systèmes and Chris Boshuizen, co-founder of the Earth-observation company Planet. Also with them was Audrey Powers, Blue Origin's vice president of mission and flight operations. -- Tereza Pultarova
Brain of spacecraft that will return humans to moon heads to U.S.
Wednesday, October 13, 2021: The Europe-built service module for the Orion spacecraft that will take humans to the moon in 2023 has departed Germany for Kennedy Space Center to commence integration with the crew capsule.
The European Service Module for the Artemis II mission, the first with human crew on board, was built by a consortium of European companies led by aerospace giant Airbus. The module, which has been assembled in the city of Bremen in the north of Germany, was loaded into an Antonov aircraft on Wednesday (Oct. 13) and dispatched to the U.S. for integration with the Orion crew capsule at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Once the two components are mated together, the spacecraft will undergo extensive testing ahead of its launch to the historical trip to the moon, which is now scheduled for September 2023.
The European Service Module provides propulsion and power for the spacecraft but also handles life support and thermal control for the four astronauts inside the capsule. The first Europe-built Orion service module is currently waiting for its debut trip without a crew, which is expected to take place later this year or in early 2022. -- Tereza Pultarova
James Webb Telescope arrives at launch site
Tuesday, October 12, 2021: The James Webb Telescope has arrived in French Guiana today aboard the MN Colibri cargo ship after a 1,500-mile (2,400 kilometers) voyage from California.
James Webb, the largest and most complex space science observatory ever built, survived 16 days at sea sealed inside a custom-built, environmentally controlled container.
The telescope will now be transported to the European Spaceport in Kourou to begin preparations for its Dec. 18 launch atop an Ariane 5 rocket.
The telescope's journey started on Sept. 24 when it departed the facilities of aerospace company Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, California, accompanied by a police escort. It was driven through the streets of Los Angeles to Naval Weapons Sea Beach where it was loaded onto the MN Colibri.
The ship then sailed down the Pacific coast of central America to Panama, where it slipped through the Panama Canal into the Caribbean Sea and down the coast of Venezuela to its destination.
The telescope, a partnership between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency, was conceived in the early 1990s as a successor of the legendary Hubble Space Telescope. Once operational, Webb will look into the most distant universe and reveal unprecedented information about the earliest phases of its evolution. It will also search for habitable worlds around other stars and attempt to answer some of the longstanding questions about the physics governing the universe, such as proving the existence of dark matter.
"The James Webb Space Telescope is a colossal achievement, built to transform our view of the universe and deliver amazing science," NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement. "Webb will look back over 13 billion years to the light created just after the big bang, with the power to show humanity the farthest reaches of space that we have ever seen. We are now very close to unlocking mysteries of the cosmos, thanks to the skills and expertise of our phenomenal team.! -- Tereza Pultarova
Giant dust devil whirls across Martian plains
Monday, October 11, 2021: A dust devil whirling across the surface of Mars' Amazonis Planitia can be seen in this image taken by the European/Russian ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter in May this year.
The false-color composite photo, taken by the satellite's CaSSIS camera, shows the wind vortex in blue and its trail.
Dust devils frequently form in late spring and summer in Amazonis Planitia, one of the smoothest areas of Mars, which is located north of the planet's northern tropic. The mechanism behind the dust devil formation on Mars is the same as on Earth, except that those on Mars can grow into sizes much greater than the most damaging tornadoes on Earth. In some cases, they can reach up to 5 miles (8 kilometers) high.
The Amazonis Planitia can give rise to several dust devils every afternoon during the warm season. As the sun's rays warm the ground, the hotter air starts to rise from the surface creating an updraft. The cooler air from above sinks down to fill the place of the hot air, triggering a vertical vortex. When this vortex interacts with a horizontal gust of wind, a travelling dust devil forms. When the speed of the vertical vortex accelerates enough, the rising air starts lifting up dust from the surface, creating a visible trail, or a dust track, in its wake.
This image, taken on May 19 this year, which is the middle of spring on the northern hemisphere of Mars, was released by the European Space Agency (ESA) on Monday (Oct. 11) -- Tereza Pultarova
New images reveal scale of La Palma eruption
Friday, October 8, 2021: New satellite images of the Spanish island of La Palma reveal a broad swath of lava flowing down the flank of the erupting Cumbre Vieja volcano into the Atlantic Ocean where a new peninsula has formed since the lava reached the coast last week.
The images, taken on Thursday (Oct. 7) by satellites of U.S. Earth observation company Maxar Technologies, provide a natural-color view of the scene.
The eruption, which started on Sept. 19, has already destroyed more than a thousand buildings. The European Copernicus Earth observation program reports that the sulfur dioxide plume from the volcano has already spread to the U.K. and is about to reach the Caribbean. -- Tereza Pultarova
Ship tracks in the Pacific Ocean from space
Thursday, October 7, 2021: A Weather forecasting satellite captures the formation of ship tracks in the atmosphere above the northern Pacific Ocean.
The false-color imagery, captured by the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) West satellite operated by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on Oct 5 and 6, reveals moving streaks above the ocean surface, which are caused by aerosol particles from the ship exhaust. These aerosol particles act as cloud condensation nuclei around which moisture from the atmosphere can condense.
First observed in 1965, ship tracks help scientists study how human-made emissions affect the climate, which is difficult to study in polluted urban areas. -- Tereza Pultarova
Cyclone dumps year's worth of rain in Arabian desert
Wednesday, October 6, 2021: Coastal desert areas along the Gulf of Oman can be seen submerged in water after Cyclone Shaheen dumped a year's worth of rain on the area earlier this week.
The two images taken by the European Copernicus Sentinel-2A and Sentinel-2B satellites on Sept. 30 and Oct. 5 show the coast of Oman in the north-eastern parts of the Arabian Peninsula before and after the deluge.
Shaheen, the first cyclone in history to hit Oman originally formed above the Bay of Bengal as Cyclone Gulab and brought heavy rain to northeast India. It then disintegrated while crossing the Indian sub-continent only to reform again above the warm Arabian Sea. The revitalized tropical storm, renamed as Shaheen, then made landfall on Sunday (Oct. 3) near the town of al-Khaburah, west of Oman's capital Muscat, accompanied by 150 km/h winds.
According to Yale Climate Connection, Shaheen dumped more than one year's worth of rain on the area, causing widespread flooding along the coast. The city of Al-Marat, where the average annual rainfall amounts to some 3.5 inches (90 millimeters) per year, reported 14.5 inches (369 millimeters) of rain.
At least 13 people have died in the floods and ensuing landslides. Shaheen is moving further to the west and disintegrating. It is still expected to bring heavy rain and strong winds to the United Arab Emirates where residents in several areas have been advised to stay indoors. -- Tereza Pultarova
Russian actress headed to International Space Station
Tuesday, October 5, 2021: Russian actress Yulia Peresild strapped inside the Soyuz capsule shortly before the launch to the International Space Station on Tuesday at 4:55 a.m. EDT (0855 GMT).
Peresild and movie director Klim Shipenko are the first professional film makers to visit the orbital outpost. During their two-week stay, they will film a movie called The Challenge. The film's plot involves an astronaut getting a heart attack during a space walk and a surgeon being sent to the space station to perform emergency surgery before the stricken space farer could be returned to Earth.
The two artists launched to the space station with veteran cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov from Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan atop a Soyuz 2.1a rocket that was specially decorated for the movie.
Peresild and Shipenko will return to Earth with cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky on Oct. 17. To accommodate the film, the stays of Russian cosmonaut Peter Dubrov and NASA astronaut Vande Hei stays were extended for another six months. They will land with Shkaplerov in March, after 365 days in space. Vande Hei will have completed the single longest spaceflight by an astronaut in U.S. history. -- Tereza Pultarova
Satellite watches first ever cyclone bring flash floods to Arabian desert
Monday, October 4, 2021: The first cyclone in history bringing flash floods to the desert-covered Arabian Peninsula is seen in this video captured by a European weather forecasting satellite.
The cyclone, called Shaheen, originally formed above the Bay of Bengal as Cyclone Gulab and brought heavy rain to northeast India. It then disintegrated while crossing the sub-continent only to reform again above the warm Arabian Sea as Cyclone Shaheen.
The cyclone, captured in this video by the European Meteosat satellite, made landfall yesterday in North West Oman, bringing torrential rain and up to 93 mph (150 km/h) winds to the country's capital Muscat, where it killed at least four people. The storm brought about 500 mm of rain in a few hours where usual annual rain averages amount to less than 100 mm per year.
The cyclone now began to disintegrate again but is still expected to cause disruption as it moves westward through the Gulf of Oman toward the United Arab Emirates.
According to meteorologists, only four tropical storms since 1950, made landfall in Oman but none has made it this far into the Gulf of Oman while maintaining such an intensity. -- Tereza Pultarova
Typhoon Mindulle looks pretty from space but is actually wreaking havoc in Japan
Friday, October 1, 2021: The creamy swirl of Typhoon Mindulle can be seen in this image taken by Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide from the International Space Station.
Mindulle, also called Typhoon No. 16, brought strong winds and heavy rain to the Pacific coast of eastern Japan on Friday (Oct.1), causing disruption to airlines and train services, according to local media.
"Typhoon No. 16 approaches Japan. Everyone, please be careful," Hoshide tweeted early in the morning on Friday.
With sustained winds of nearly 75 mph (120 km/h) and gusts of up to 95 mph (150 km/h), Mindulle will move further to the north over the weekend and will continue affecting weather in the northeast of Japan in the upcoming days. -- Tereza Pultarova