Last week, we were reminded that spaceflight is still hard when Jeff Bezos-owned Blue Origin’s rocket crashed back to Earth shortly after launch. Fortunately, no one was aboard the spacecraft and nobody was injured during the mishap. Read more about the crash and other interesting news on our weekly space news recap.
Blue Origin rocket crash
Bright yellow flames shot off the New Shepard rocket’s bottom shortly after launch. At that point, the capsule’s emergency launch abort system kicked in and lifted the craft off the top, after which it parachuted down onto the ground.
At the time of the accident, the rocket was travelling at approximately 1,126 kilometres per hour and was at an altitude of 8,500 metres. Since it was an uncrewed mission, no one was on board the spacecraft but it used the same kind of rocket that sends paying customers to space. According to AP, the rockets are grounded until an investigation reveals what happened.
NASA sets new Artemis I launch date
After two failed attempts, NASA announced that it is targeting a September 27 launch date for the uncrewed Artemis I mission to the moon. The launch window opens at 11.37 AM EDT (9.07 PM IST) on that day. The space agency said that it is also reviewing a potential backup launch window option for October 2.
This backup launch date is under review because SpaceX’s Crew-5 to the International Space Station is scheduled to launch on October 3. The Elon Musk-owned private space company and NASA are reviewing pre-launch milestones to ensure that there are no clashes. The backup launch date is important because the space agency’s Range Flight Safety Program is still processing the request that the current testing requirement for the flight termination system (FTS) be extended. If the request is not accepted, it is possible that the SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft will be rolled back into the Vehicle Assembly Building.
‘Strange’ diamonds in a meteorite
Scientists confirmed the existence of lonsdaleite in ureilite meteorites that came from a distant dwarf planet. Lonsaleite is a rare hexagonal form of diamond that could potentially be stronger than conventional diamonds.
Interestingly, the research produced evidence that the lonsdaleite was formed by a supercritical chemical vapour deposition process that is similar to how “lab-grown” diamonds are manufactured. Scientists propose that this process happened on the dwarf planet after a “catastrophic collision.”
The ‘Lobster Nebula’ in dazzling red
NOIRLab released this image of the nebula NGC 6357 captured by the Dark Energy Camera. The star-forming nebula is also known as the “Lobster Nebula.” The Dark Energy Camera’s original purpose is to help the Fark Energy Survey discover and understand dark energy but it also occasionally captures stunning images of distant cosmic objects.
The Lobster Nebula is about 8,000 light-years away from the Earth and has the open star cluster Pismois 24 near its centre. This cluster is home to some unusually massive and bright stars, which can be seen in the image. While most of the nebula is overwhelmingly red-coloured, the areas surrounding the young stars have a bluish glow caused by the emission of ionised hydrogen gas from the star-forming regions.
The Orion Nebula and its massive young hot stars
The Webb telescope captured an image of the Orion Nebula and its young stars cocooned in disks of gas and dust. This image is actually a composite of several filters which represent emissions from ionised gas, hydrocarbons, molecular gas, dust and scattered starlight.
At the top right of the image, the Trapezium Cluster is visible, It is a group of young stars that are very hot and massive. This cluster emits ultraviolet radiation that is slowly eroding away the most prominent feature in the image—the Orion Bar that stretches from the top left of the image to the bottom right.
Turning back the clock on a supernova remnant
This image of the supernova remnant called SNR 0519-69.0 is a composite image created using X-ray data from the Chandra X-ray telescope and optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope. Astronomers studying SNR 0519 have discovered clues that can help determine the timeline of the star’s explosion.
SNR 0519 is the result of a supernova that is classified as Type Ia. Scientists use Type Ia supernovae for a wide range of scientific studies, from studying thermonuclear explosions to measuring the distance to galaxies that are billions of light-years away.
‘Baby planet’ in the making
Planets are formed from protoplanetary disks, which are rings of dust and gas that surround young newly-born stars. Hundreds of such disks have been spotted throughout the universe but astronomers have rarely actually observed actual planetary birth and formation.
Scientists at the Harvard & Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics stumbled upon some observations that could help detect “newborn planets” in the future. While examining ALMA data of a protoplanetary disk, researchers observed two separate and bright bunches of materials orbiting within the disk. According to the researchers, these clumps serve as evidence of a planet forming in the disk.