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Space Exploration

SpaceX’s Starship has achieved a successful orbit and safely reentered the Earth’s atmosphere, ultimately disintegrating over the Indian Ocean

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The third test flight of Starship was a resounding success. The spacecraft and its booster were launched into space and achieved the primary objectives of this test. Although there were some deviations from the plan, it is worth noting that both components remained intact, which represents progress compared to the previous two flights.

A Starship was launched from SpaceX’s Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas, at 8:26 am local time on March 14. This is the most distant and swiftest that Starship has ever flown. The objective of this experiment was to showcase the effective ascent burn of both the Starship and Super Heavy stages. Regarding Super Heavy, the team initially intended for a gentle splashdown. However, it seems that the descent was a bit too rapid, resulting in a forceful impact comparable to that of an F1 car colliding into the Gulf of Mexico.

Starship successfully entered into orbit and executed a series of complex maneuvers, demonstrating its capabilities in space. These included the precise opening and closing of its payload door, transferring propellant, and achieving the remarkable feat of relighting a Raptor engine while in space for the very first time.

Starship also experienced a failure towards the end, resulting in it burning up during reentry instead of executing a controlled splashdown. In this test, SpaceX did not have plans to recover either Super Heavy or Starship, despite their reusability as space vehicles.

 

As Editor here at GeekReply, I'm a big fan of all things Geeky. Most of my contributions to the site are technology related, but I'm also a big fan of video games. My genres of choice include RPGs, MMOs, Grand Strategy, and Simulation. If I'm not chasing after the latest gear on my MMO of choice, I'm here at GeekReply reporting on the latest in Geek culture.

Space Exploration

The spin of a supermassive black hole has been measured for the first time using a destroyed star

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There are bright bursts of energy called tidal disruption events (TDEs) that happen when a supermassive black hole eats something. Most of the time, it’s a star that was ripped apart because it was so close. Some of the snack is thrown away, but the stellar plasma that is left over forms a hot disk around the black hole. Since this disk shakes, astronomers have now figured out how to use that shaking to figure out how fast black holes spin.

This TDE is known as AT2020ocn. Scientists found that the star’s X-ray emissions seemed to reach their brightest point every 15 days and that this happened more than once. It is thought that this is because the disk’s rotation affects the black hole’s rotation. A supermassive black hole’s gravity is so strong that it bends space-time around it wildly, and when it spins, it pulls space-time with it.

The lens-thirring precession is the name of this effect, but most people can’t see it. Since black holes don’t give off light, the precession can’t be seen. That is, unless all of a sudden you have something that shines, like the remains of a star that just died. They used that theory and guesses to find out that the black hole’s spin is less than a quarter of the speed of light.

Over the 200 days that the object was seen, the X-ray flashes were seen 130 of those days. Once that was over, the disk stopped spinning. The NICER telescope was used to make the observations. It is an X-ray telescope that is attached to the International Space Station. NICE stands for Neutron star Interior Composition ExploreR.

“It was important to catch this early because this precession, or wobble, should only be there early on,” “Any later, and the disk would no longer wobble,” said Dheeraj “DJ” Pasham, the lead author from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Figuring out the spin of supermassive black holes is important because it will help us understand how these objects grow. If supermassive black holes mostly grow by accretion, the small amount of mass falling on them will make them spin faster. Collisions between black holes, on the other hand, would make the spin smaller because the spins of two different black holes would not be aligned.

This first measurement showed that a TDE can be used to figure out the spin of a black hole and that current and future telescopes can gather a group of objects. From these observations in the future, we might be able to get a general idea of how supermassive black holes have changed over time.

“Flows of matter falling into black holes can create some of the brightest events in the universe,” said Chris Nixon, an associate professor of theoretical physics at the University of Leeds and a co-author of the study, in a statement sent. “We still don’t fully understand a lot of things, but there are amazing observational facilities that keep surprising us and giving us new things to learn.” This event is one of those wild cards.

The journal Nature has a paper that talks about the results.

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Space Exploration

NASA’s first black astronaut, Ed Dwight, just made it to space after 60 years

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Ed Dwight really is a Renaissance man for our time. At the age of 90 years, 8 months, and 10 days, he was able to add another accomplishment to his long list of many. He made it to space on Blue Origin’s New Shepard NS-25, a suborbital spacecraft. William Shatner was older than him when he went to space, but he beat him to the record.

Dwight can write well and is also a skilled sculptor. He has made 129 memorial sculptures and more than 18,000 gallery pieces. His high marks in aeronautical engineering earned him the rank of captain in the US Air Force, where he worked as a test pilot. He was one step closer to becoming NASA’s first black astronaut, thanks to his skills and abilities.

In 1961, he was the first African American to go to the Aerospace Research Pilot School. This was the school where NASA chose astronauts before they were trained as pilots. He left the Air Force, though, because he wasn’t chosen. His words to The Guardian were that “racial politics forced him out of NASA and back into the regular officer corps.”

Space for Humanity paid for his seat on NS-25. Space for Humanity is a non-profit organization that wants to enable more people to access space by sending interesting people there to experience the overview effect. Some of the other people on the crew were Gopi Thotakura, Carol Schaller, Sylvain Chiron, and Kenneth L. Hess.

New Shepard has flown 25 times, but not always with a crew. As of now, 37 people have been taken beyond the Karman line, which is 100 kilometers (61 miles) above sea level and is considered to be the edge of space by everyone. Since August 2022, this was the first New Shepard crewed flight.

In September 2022, an unmanned flight had an engine failure and then a fire, which forced the fleet to land. Unmanned flights started up again in December.

This most recent flight lasted almost 10 minutes, and as it rose, the people on board felt like they had no weight.

It was a little dramatic when they went down. Two of the three parachutes were only partially opened. Launch commentators said that the capsule could land safely with only two, but it might have been a little harder than if all three worked.

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Space Exploration

JWST reveals the exposed core of a planet with an exceptionally fluffy composition

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A significant enigma regarding a celestial body seems to have been resolved. The “cotton candy planets” are celestial bodies with an exceptionally low density, which poses a challenge to our existing theories on the formation of planets. Astronomers have successfully determined the origin of black holes by closely observing their internal processes, which is a remarkable accomplishment.

The celestial body under consideration is known as WASP-107b. With a volume exceeding 75 percent of Jupiter’s, yet a mass less than one-tenth of Jupiter’s, this planet possesses one of the lowest densities known among celestial bodies. This world possesses a substantial atmosphere; however, initial models aimed at elucidating the planet’s characteristics yielded disparate and perplexing depictions.

One proposed scenario posits that the Earth consists of a compact core and an expansive atmosphere. While this theory can explain the current observations, it is still unclear how a relatively small rocky structure could gather such a sizable gassy envelope.

Alternatively, there was a significantly bigger central component available. Furthermore, that also presented a predicament. The planet orbits its star at a distance closer than Mercury’s distance from the Sun, yet the star is considerably less bright. Unlike other celestial bodies composed of cotton candy-like substances, WASP-107b does not receive sufficient illumination to generate heat and subsequently cause the expansion of its atmosphere. An increase in the size of the core would result in a decrease in the size of the world.

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) data collected helped to solve the mystery. When the planet aligns with its star and us, some starlight is filtered through the atmosphere. By analyzing the attenuated light, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) successfully identified certain constituents of the atmosphere. Remarkably, the amount of methane present is one thousand times lower than anticipated.

Methane is thought to be a prevalent component in similar celestial bodies, but it is found in limited quantities on WASP-107b. However, there is a substantial abundance of carbon-based molecules. Researchers posit that methane previously existed but underwent a chemical conversion into different molecules, a process that necessitates the presence of heat. More specifically, it is referring to internal heat.

The team posits that the planet’s elliptical orbit is generating tidal heating within its interior. The core of the object is significantly large, with a mass approximately 12 times that of the Earth and twice the size initially predicted. The core is sufficiently hot to induce chemical changes in the planet and cause the atmosphere to expand.

“Examining the internal structure of a planet located hundreds of light-years away may seem nearly impossible. However, by acquiring knowledge about its mass, radius, atmospheric composition, and temperature within its core, one can gather sufficient information to form an understanding of its interior and determine the weight of its core,” stated Professor David Sing, the lead author from Johns Hopkins University. “We can now perform this task on numerous gas planets in different systems.”

The team is currently examining the magnitude of these potential tidal forces on the planet and determining whether they can account for the observed heating. Although there may still be some aspects of WASP-107b that are not completely comprehended, it is no longer as enigmatic as it once was.

The recent study has been published in two papers within the journal Nature, which can be accessed here and here.

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