s.s. nautilus
slashdot le : 21/11/2022 18:00:18
Nasa's Orion capsule reached the moon on Monday, whipping around the back side and passing within 80 miles of the surface on its way to a record-breaking lunar orbit. From a report: The close approach occurred as the crew capsule and its three test dummies were on the far side of the moon. Because of the half-hour communication blackout, flight controllers in Houston did not know if the critical engine firing went well until the capsule emerged from behind the moon, more than 232,000 miles from Earth.

It's the first time a capsule has visited the moon since Nasa's Apollo program 50 years ago, and represented a huge milestone in the $4.1bn test flight that began last Wednesday after Orion launched into space atop the massive Artemis rocket. Orion's flight path took it over the landing sites of Apollo 11, 12 and 14 -- humankind's first three lunar touchdowns. The moon loomed ever larger in the video beamed back earlier in the morning, as the capsule closed the final few thousand miles since blasting off last Wednesday from Florida's Kennedy Space Center, atop the most powerful rocket ever built by Nasa. "This is one of those days that you've been thinking about and talking about for a long, long time," flight director Zeb Scoville said while waiting to resume contact. As the capsule swung out from behind the moon, onboard cameras sent back a picture of Earth, a blue dot surrounded by blackness.

slashdot le : 17/11/2022 12:00:16
The James Webb space telescope has revealed its latest image of celestial majesty, an ethereal hourglass of orange and blue dust being shot out from a newly forming star at its center. The Guardian reports: The colourful clouds are only visible in infrared light, so had never been seen before being captured by Webb's Near-Infrared Camera (Nircam), Nasa and the European Space Agency said in a statement on Wednesday. The very young star, known as protostar L1527, is hidden in darkness by the edge of a rotating disk of gas at the neck of the hourglass. However, light spills out from the top and bottom of the disk, lighting up the hourglass-shaped clouds.

The clouds are created by material ejected from the star colliding with surrounding matter, the statement said. The dust is thinnest in the blue sections and thickest in the orange parts, it added. The protostar, which is just 100,000 years old and at the earliest stage of star formation, is not yet able to generate its own energy. The surrounding black disk, which is about the size of our solar system, will feed material to the protostar until it eventually reaches "the threshold for nuclear fusion to begin," the statement said. "Ultimately, this view of L1527 provides a window into what our sun and solar system looked like in their infancy," it added. The protostar is located in the Taurus molecular cloud, a stellar nursery home to hundreds of nearly formed stars around 430 light years from Earth.

slashdot le : 16/11/2022 10:00:17
NASA's Artemis 1 rocket blasted off the Kennedy Space Center in the early hours of Wednesday, "lighting up the night sky and accelerating on a journey that will take an astronaut-less capsule around the moon and back," reports the New York Times. From the report: At around 1:47 a.m. Eastern time, the four engines on the rocket's core stage ignited, along with two skinnier side boosters. As the countdown hit zero, clamps holding the rocket down let go, and the vehicle slipped Earth's bonds. A few minutes later, the side boosters and then the giant core stage dropped away. The rocket's upper engine then ignited to carry the Orion spacecraft, where astronauts will sit during later missions, toward orbit. Less than the two hours after launch, the upper stage will fire one last time to send Orion on a path toward the moon. On Monday, Orion will pass within 60 miles of the moon's surface. After going around the moon for a couple of weeks, Orion will head back to Earth, splashing down on Dec. 11 in the Pacific Ocean, about 60 miles off the coast of California.

This flight, evoking the bygone Apollo era, is a crucial test for NASA's Artemis program that aims to put astronauts, after five decades of loitering in low-Earth orbit, back on the moon. For NASA, the mission ushers in a new era of lunar exploration, one that seeks to unravel scientific mysteries in the shadows of craters in the polar regions, test technologies for dreamed-of journeys to Mars and spur private enterprise to chase new entrepreneurial frontiers farther out in the solar system. [...] The launch occurred years behind schedule, and billions of dollars over budget. The delays and cost overruns of S.L.S. and Orion highlight the shortcomings of how NASA has managed its programs. The next Artemis mission, which is to take four astronauts on a journey around the moon but not to the surface, will launch no earlier than 2024. Artemis III, in which two astronauts will land near the moon's south pole, is currently scheduled for 2025, though that date is very likely to slip further into the future.
NASA posted a video of the liftoff on their Twitter. Additional updates are available @NASA_SLS.

slashdot le : 15/11/2022 09:00:17
China just completed construction on what is now the world's largest telescope array at the edge of the Tibetan Plateau. The country plans to aim it at our sun as part of what one expert is calling "the golden age of solar astronomy." Popular Mechanics reports: As reported in Nature earlier today, the Daocheng Solar Radio Telescope (DSRT) cost 100 million yuan ($14 million USD), and is comprised of over 300 antenna dishes situated in a 3 kilometer (1.87 miles) circumference formation. Initial testing will begin in June 2024, and will focus on an upcoming increase in solar activity over the next few years, particularly on how solar eruptions affect Earth.

"China now has instruments that can observe all levels of the sun, from its surface to the outermost atmosphere," Hui Tian, a solar physicist at Beijing's Peking University, told Nature. Compared to similar telescopic arrays, the DSRT will be more finely tuned, and thus potentially capture weaker signals from high-energy particles emitted during CME events. As the sky above us becomes increasingly -- and sometimes problematically -- crowded by satellites, developing more reliable, accurate, and detailed analysis of solar activity will be critical to further expansion.

slashdot le : 11/11/2022 09:00:17
A large section of the destroyed space shuttle Challenger has been found buried in sand at the bottom of the Atlantic, more than three decades after the tragedy that killed a schoolteacher and six others. CBC.ca reports: NASA's Kennedy Space Center announced the discovery Thursday. "Of course, the emotions come back, right?" said Michael Ciannilli, a NASA manager who confirmed the remnant's authenticity. When he saw the underwater video footage, "My heart skipped a beat, I must say, and it brought me right back to 1986 ... and what we all went through as a nation." It's one of the biggest pieces of Challenger found in the decades since the accident, according to Ciannilli, and the first remnant to be discovered since two fragments from the left wing washed ashore in 1996.

Divers for a History Channel TV documentary first spotted the piece in March while looking for wreckage of a Second World War plane. NASA verified through video a few months ago that the piece was part of the shuttle that broke apart shortly after liftoff on Jan. 28, 1986. All seven on board were killed, including the first schoolteacher bound for space, Christa McAuliffe. The underwater video provided "pretty clear and convincing evidence," said Ciannilli. The piece is more than 4.5 metres by 4.5 metres, and likely bigger because part of it is covered with sand. Because there are square thermal tiles on the piece, it's believed to be from the shuttle's belly, Ciannilli said.

The fragment remains on the ocean floor just off the Florida coast near Cape Canaveral as NASA determines the next step. It remains the property of the U.S. government. The families of all seven Challenger crew members have been notified. "We want to make sure whatever we do, we do the right thing for the legacy of the crew," Ciannilli said.