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Space Exploration

Europe’s Ariane 6 rocket is on the verge of being launched. The following explanation will outline the reasons why this matter is significant

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Soon, Europe will be able to go into space on its own again, as Ariane 6 is set to launch for the first time this summer. We’ll let you know soon, but it’s likely to be between the middle of June and the end of July. A lot of people in Europe and beyond are scared because a lot is riding on this.

The European Space Agency (ESA) is getting a new rocket called Ariane 6. It will replace Ariane 5, which was very useful. From 1996 to 2023, Ariane 5 made 117 launches, and 112 of them were successful. Ariane 5 launched JWST into orbit. Since Arianespace produced Ariane 6, it has a lot of history to live up to and overcome. It will be taller than Ariane 5, but it will be lighter, and it will cost less to launch each time.

“The Ariane 5 rocket was Europe’s main way to send heavy and medium-sized satellites into space.” The Ariane 6 will be more up-to-date, less expensive, and able to do more. “That gives it more freedom to leave satellites in different orbits,” said Dr. Josef Aschbacher, Director General of the ESA.

“Every day, satellites help us with navigation, communication, and watching the Earth. But we also use the satellites that we send into space on our Ariane rockets to learn more about the universe.”

Coming up are missions to find habitable worlds, build X-ray observatories, and chase comets
ESA will use Ariane 6 for a variety of upcoming exciting missions. It will look for habitable worlds around stars like the Sun when it launches in 2026. It is called PLATO, which stands for planetary transits and oscillations of stars. The Atmospheric Remote-Sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large- Survey (ARIEL) mission is smaller but related. It will take its time to study the atmospheres of about 1,000 known worlds, building on the ground-breaking work that JWST is already doing.

ARIEL and its companion mission, Comet Interceptor, are set to take off in 2029. At first, the spacecraft won’t do much. It will just stay in space, far from Earth. But if a comet from the edge of the solar system or even one from between the stars gets close, it will be sent out to study the object that hasn’t been found yet. It was definitely a one-of-a-kind mission.

LISA and ATHENA live further in the future, but they have a lot of hopes for the future. LISA will be the first space observatory for gravitational waves. It will measure the vibrations in space-time in a way that we can’t do on Earth or even the Moon. The Advanced Telescope for High-Energy Astrophysics (ATHENA) will replace the following generation of X-ray observatories. It is expected to be 10 times better than the current ones. NASA is slowly cutting back on funding for its Chandra X-ray observatory, so 2035 can’t come fast enough.

“These missions will be sent off by Ariane 6,” said Dr. Aschbacher. “We are now getting ready for the next one, which is PLATO.” The big ones are definitely LISA and ATHENA, which are coming out in ten years. That’s what ESA is doing to help us understand the universe and figure out its mysteries. The Ariane 6 rocket will be needed to put those telescopes into orbit.

A future vehicle with a crew?
The Ariane 6 will launch more times than the Ariane 5. It will make sure that people can go to space on a regular basis, Dr. Aschbacher said, but his hope for this rocket is in the recently agreed-upon cargo transport vehicle. At the Space Summit between the European Union and ESA last November, a plan was made to have a reusable cargo vehicle carrying goods to and from the International Space Station by 2028. This vehicle could be converted into a crewed one after showing that it is safe and reliable.

“Right now, we don’t have this ability to re-enter Europe.” Without a doubt, this vehicle is important, and we’d like to improve this technology, which is a big step forward in exploration. This could become a crewed vehicle after it has flown a few times to make sure it is reliable and works well. “Of course that means for astronauts,” Dr. Aschbacher said with great excitement. But he was careful to say that the dream hasn’t thought through how projects are agreed upon and paid for in ESA yet.

“Just to be clear, this hasn’t been decided yet.” “I would need the member states to agree to this for it to happen,” he said. “This cargo or maybe crew vehicle would also be sent into space by Ariane 6 depending on how things go.” We’re not quite there yet, but this is how we think Ariane 6 could continue to grow.

Two types of the heavy-lift rocket Ariane 6 will be made: the 62, which has two boosters, and the 64, which has, you guessed it, four boosters. Both will be used to send things into geosynchronous transfer orbit, low-Earth orbit, and even further. The Ariane 6 upper stage will have a new Vinci engine that can be turned on and off. This will allow satellites or payloads to be put into any orbit that is needed.

An Ariane 6 and SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy have been compared a lot with the goal of letting businesses go into space. Ariane 6 can’t be used again, but compared to Ariane 5, it cuts costs by almost half. Launches on the Falcon fleet usually have a financial edge.

The edge of Ariane 6 might be in how much it can carry. Falcon Heavy’s expendable version, which costs more than the Ariane 64, can carry more cargo than the Ariane 64. For the version that can be used more than once, the fuel needed to safely bring back the rockets and booster cuts into the payload. A rocket must have enough thrust to carry its own weight, its fuel, and everything it needs to carry.

“Putting together a rocket is not simple; it takes a lot of teamwork.” “When I became Director-General of ESA three years ago, I looked at the progress of the [Ariane 6] project and saw that we had a lot of issues,” Dr. Aschbacher told. “Really, I spent 60% of my time with many team members getting the development of Ariane 6 back on track with the help of our industry partners.” We were able to solve all of the technical issues, which makes me very proud and happy.

Europe will soon have a whole new way to get to space after the launch in just a few weeks. But ESA isn’t just sitting back and waiting to see how Ariane 6 grows. The agency is already looking for the next launcher, which could be ready by the end of the 2030s.

“The next rocket after Ariane 6 will, of course, be reusable, which will cut costs even more and make it more useful for the European space industry and for everyone else.” A launcher may sound very complicated and technical, but it is useful for everyone. It sends solons into space. Not a launcher, not a space. There is no space, no way to connect to the Internet from space, no navigation systems, and no ways to watch Earth. This is really the most important thing that makes our standard of living possible. Dr. Aschbacher

It will take off from the European Space Port of Kourou in French Guiana, which is in South America and is part of France. On its first trip, it will carry many things, including a small satellite called “the witness” that will record the whole flight, from launch to deorbit and burn. The ESA’s newest space workers planned and constructed it.

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

Soon, “One Of The Rarest Space Events Of Our Lives” will happen around the world

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So far, this decade has been pretty good for seeing cosmic events. In addition to the total solar eclipse and the sun getting close to its busiest time, which will create beautiful auroras on Earth, T. Coronae Borealis will soon go nova, which was first written about in a medieval manuscript.

There are still a few more treats in store for us in this decade, like a visit from the asteroid 99942 Apophis. According to observations, Apophis was at level 2 on the Torino impact hazard scale when it was first found in 2004. A score of 0 means there is almost no chance of impact, and a score of 10 means “a collision is certain, capable of causing a global climatic catastrophe that may threaten the future of civilization as we know it, whether impacting land or ocean.”

Even though Level 2 is low, it’s for things that are “making a somewhat close but not highly unusual pass near the Earth” and need more astronomers’ attention. It was raised to level 4 in December of that year, though, because there was a 1.6% chance that the asteroid would hit Earth in 2029.

NASA says that level 4 is “a close encounter that deserves astronomers’ attention.” “Right now, calculations show that there is a 1% or higher chance of a collision that could destroy a region.” It’s likely that new telescopic observations will lead to a move to Level 0. If the meeting is less than ten years away, the public and public officials should pay attention.

Over the years that scientists have been looking for and keeping an eye on near-earth objects (NEOs), none of them have gotten above level 4. Because they could be dangerous to Earth, they named one of them Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and destruction. More observations showed that there would not be a collision in 2029, 2036, or 2068. However, they will still come very close.

“We no longer think that the asteroid will hit Earth in 2068,” Davide Farnocchia of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies said. “Our calculations don’t show any impact risk for at least the next 100 years.”

This asteroid will come very close to Earth in 2029, coming within 32,000 kilometers (20,000 miles) of the surface. That’s closer than some of our satellites. The European Space Agency called the asteroid’s passing “one of the rarest space events of our lives,” and people in the Eastern Hemisphere should be able to see it without a telescope or binoculars.

The event is very rare because the object is so big—its average diameter is 375 meters (1230 feet)—and so close to Earth.

An X post from ESA said, “The 2029 flyby is a very rare event.” Scientists think that an asteroid as big as Apophis only comes this close to Earth once every 5,000 to 10,000 years. They found this by looking at the sizes and orbits of all known asteroids and impact craters around the solar system.

NASA wants to visit the asteroid during its approach with its OSIRIS APEX mission. This mission repurposed the asteroid sampler that used to be called OSIRIS-REx and sent it to meet the asteroid soon after it flew by.

“Our planet’s gravitational pull is expected to alter the asteroid’s orbit, change how and how fast it spins on its axis, and possibly cause quakes or landslides that will alter its surface,” NASA says about their planned mission. Researchers on Earth will be able to see these changes thanks to OSIRIS-APEX. Apophis is a “stony” asteroid made of silicate (or rocky) material and a mix of metallic nickel and iron. The OSIRIS-APEX spacecraft will also dip toward the surface of Apophis and fire its engines to kick up loose rocks and dust. By doing this, scientists will be able to determine the composition of the material just below the asteroid’s surface.

The ESA also wants to visit the asteroid because a flyby will teach us more about how to protect the Earth from these kinds of objects.

“Earth’s gravity will’stretch’ and’squeeze’ Apophis, triggering landslides and revealing lots about the asteroid’s material, structure, density, and cohesion,” ESA said. “This knowledge will help us protect Earth in the future.”

ESA said again that the asteroid is not a threat in 2029; it is just a beautiful sight and a chance to do some cool science in space.

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Astronomy

The exciting Lunar Standstill will be streamed live from Stonehenge

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People are very interested in Stonehenge, which is one of those famous landmarks. It is very clear that it lines up with the sun at the solstices, but no one is sure what the monument is for. But over the next few months, scientists will look at a different kind of alignment: some stones may be lined up with the lunar standstill.

In the sky, things move around. The sun moves around during the year because the planet is tilted with respect to its orbit. This means that the times when it rises and sets are often different. Stonehenge is set up so that the first rays of dawn on the summer solstice and the last rays of sunset on the winter solstice both pass through the middle.

But outside the stone circle are the so-called station stones, whose purpose is unknown. They don’t seem to be linked to the sun, but to the moon. The position of the moonrise and moonset changes because the moon’s orbit is tilted relative to the earth. This is similar to how the sun moves. But it doesn’t happen every year. The cycle goes around and around for 18.6 years.

When the Moon is at the fullest point of its cycle, it moves from 28.725 degrees north to 28.725 degrees south in just one month. The next one won’t happen until January 2025. This time is called the major lunar standstill (lunistice). So, scientists will be going to Stonehenge several times over the next few months, even during the major standstill, to figure out how the monument might line up with our natural satellite.

Talked to Heather Sebire, senior property curator at Stonehenge. “I think the moon in general would have been very important to them.” “And you know, maybe they could do things they couldn’t do other times when there was a full moon because there was more light.”

“They think the lunar standstill might have something to do with this because there are four rocks out in the middle of the ocean that are called “station stones.” Only two of them have been found so far. Together, they form a rectangle, which some people think may have something to do with the setting outside the circle.

When the Moon is in a minor standstill, its distance from the Earth is between 18.134° north and south. It will happen again in 2034.

As archaeologists continue to look into this interesting alignment, Stonehenge wants everyone to join in the fun. As usual, people will be able to enter the circle for the solstice, which this year is the earliest since 1796. However, the next day will be all about the lunistice.

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As the moon rises, the lunar standstill event can only be seen online. You can watch the livestream from the comfort of your own home and wonder with the researchers if this great monument was also lined up with the Moon.

 

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Astronomy

It’s true that the Earth is not orbiting the sun right now

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Some of the diagrams and animations that show how the planets move around the sun are not quite accurate. To be more precise, they are making the planets’ orbits easier to understand so that teachers don’t have to explain barycenters to kids who are still getting used to the idea that Earth isn’t the only planet in the universe.

Most of the time, the way you learn about how planets move around the sun looks like the video below.

But this version is easier to understand. The Sun has about 1,048 times the mass of Jupiter, making it the largest object in the Solar System. However, gravity works both ways. For the same reason that the Earth pulls on itself, you pull on the Earth as well, though it is much smaller.

“Kepler’s third law describes the relationship between the masses of two objects mutually revolving around each other and the determination of orbital parameters,” NASA says.

“Think about a small star that circles a bigger star. The two stars actually move around the same mass center, which is called the barycenter. That’s always the case, no matter how big or heavy the things are. Using a massive planet to measure how fast a star moves around its barycenter is one way that planetary systems linked to faraway stars have been found.

To keep things simple, we say that the planets go around the Sun. But because the Sun has the most mass, the barycenter of the Solar System’s objects is usually close to it. However, because of Jupiter and Saturn’s orbits and effects, it is almost never inside the Sun. The paths look a bit more like the video below, which was made by planetary astronomer and science communicator James O’Donoghue.

Because of this, the Earth is not orbiting a point inside the Sun right now because the barycenter is not there. We are not going around the sun, but that point in space.

“Planets orbit the Sun in general terms,” O’Donoghue says on Twitter, “but technically, they don’t orbit the Sun alone because the gravitational influence of (mainly) Jupiter means planets must orbit a new point in space.”

“The planets do orbit the Sun, of course; we are just being pedantic about the situation,” he said. “The natural thinking is that we orbit the Sun’s center, but that very rarely happens, i.e., it’s very rare for the solar system’s center of mass to align with the Sun’s center.”

Things that are smaller, like planets and their moons, are the same way. The Earth and Moon go around a point about 3,100 miles (5,100 kilometers) from the Earth’s center. This path changes as the moon moves farther away from the earth.

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