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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.

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.

Physics

Light is the fastest thing that can “move” across a surface

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Einstein’s theory of special relativity says that it is impossible to move faster than light in a vacuum.

Things that don’t have mass have to move at the speed of light. But things that do have mass can’t get close to 299,792,458 meters per second (983,571,056 feet per second) without using up all of their energy. Physicists and sci-fi authors have tried to get around this by using concepts like the warp drive. But it’s likely that these will be illegal because of those pesky physics laws. Traveling faster than light can cause paradoxes that break the rules of the universe.

You are not in a dark room, though, because there is something in this room right now that can slow down or stop light. It is possible for shadows to go faster than light, and they can even smash through it.

You might ask things like, “What the hell are you talking about?” Imagine that you have a flashlight that is strong enough to light up some of the moon. If you quickly move your finger across the front of the flashlight, the shadow it casts can move across the moon’s surface at speeds much faster than light.

If you wave a laser across the night sky, you can get the same kind of effect. Think of a huge dome that is, say, 100 light-years across and surrounds you. When this laser hits that dome 100 years from now, the points will fly across it at speeds much faster than light.

But these two examples are just tricks.

Astrophysicist Michio Kaku told Big Think, “There is no message, no net information, and no physical object that actually moves along this image. There is only the image of the beam as it races across the night sky.”

No, the laser point isn’t really moving. What you’re seeing are photons hitting the dome and then different photons hitting a different part of the dome 100 years later after you moved your laser.

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The universe and physics stayed the same because nothing really moved faster than light, and no information was sent.

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Space Exploration

Someone in high school builds a model rocket that can land vertically, like a Falcon 9 Booster

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After three years of hard work, a high school student has finished a big project: making a model rocket that lands vertically.

It’s really rocket science to say that landing a rocket vertically is not easy. And SpaceX will tell you that they have blown up many a rocket stage while trying to land rocket boosters. But sometimes they do land before they blow up.

A student named Aryan Kapoor started building his own vertical lander in August 2021. At the end of May 2024, he finally hit the ground.

In a video for his YouTube channel JRD Propulsion, Kapoor said, “This rocket works differently than other model rockets of its kind.” “My rockets don’t have fins to keep them stable; instead, they use thrust vector control.” Thrust vector control lets the rocket’s engine move like a gimbal, giving the pilot control over the rocket’s path in space.

Even more impressive is the fact that software controls the rocket’s flight on its own.

“To guide the rocket, a flight computer makes all inflight decisions, such as steering the rocket and deciding when to ignite the landing motor.”

The onboard barometer gave the wrong reading of the rocket’s altitude during its first test flight in 2023. Kapoor wrote on his JRD Propulsion website, “The rocket did well in all other ways and collected useful data.” “Future flights will use only the accelerometer to measure altitude, providing much higher accuracy and precision.”

On his fifth attempt, Kapoor has landed successfully once more.

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Space Exploration

The Moon’s first cave has been found – Is it ready to be lived in?

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Atunnel has been found for the first time under the moon’s surface, right where people first set foot on the Sea of Tranquility. Although this isn’t the most likely place to build a colony, there are probably more caves in the area, which makes it more likely that people will move there in the future.

Even though the cost of launch is going down, it will still be very expensive to send heavy things to the moon for a while. Being able to get as much as possible on site is important for even a short-term base, let alone something permanent. A lot of attention has been paid to finding water sources lately, but shelter is also very important.

If future astronauts want to stay on the Moon for a long time, they will need to be well protected from space radiation and the huge changes in temperature that happen there. Also, we want something that is strong enough to survive a small asteroid strike, which happens a lot when there is no atmosphere to protect it. It would be much better if this was found naturally instead of having to build or dig our own.

In a statement, Professor Lorenzo Bruzzone stated that the Miniature Radio-Frequency (Mini-RF) instrument discovered a pit in Mare Tranquilitatis in 2010 as part of the ongoing Luna Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) NASA mission. After a while, we looked at these data once more using sophisticated signal processing techniques and discovered radar reflections from the pit area that are only consistent with an underground cave conduit. This finding is the first direct proof of a lava tube that can be reached below the moon’s surface.

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There have been more than 200 observations of pits like the one Bruzzone and his colleagues looked at. It is called the Mare Tranquillitatis pit. Some or all of these look like they were made when the ceiling of a lava tube caved in. But the fact that there is a pit like this doesn’t mean there is a cave below that is big enough to be useful.

That’s why the Mare Tranquillitatis pit looked like a good place to begin. It’s about 100 meters (328 feet) across, and the walls are so steep that they might hang over. For that reason, it’s one of the few big enough for the LRO’s radar to be able to pick up on internal features.

Orbital synthetic aperture radar images taken from the side by the LRO show a bright spot on the west side of the pit. Based on simulations, it looks like a pipe that is 30 to 80 meters (98 to 262 feet) long and 45 to 148 meters wide. It might not be big enough for a city, but it would be a good place for a lunar village. It is thought that the cave’s floor is flat enough to be useful. There are more than 100 meters (328 feet) between the cave entrance and the surface, but since the moon has low gravity, that might not be a big problem.

The authors made two models of the pit and cave that were based on different assumptions about their sizes. The main difference was the height of the rock pile that formed when the pit’s ceiling collapsed, which affected how steep the floor was.

gif of entering a lava tube on the Moon

The Sea of Tranquility is like New York: it’s a great place to visit, but we wouldn’t want to live there. That’s because it doesn’t have ice, which is another important thing about living on the moon. There is probably frozen water at the poles of the moon, especially at the south pole, which is what started the race to land there.

Mare Tranquilitatis is a flat equatorial plane. Any ice that was close to the surface of this plane would have melted in the hot lunar days. Being about 7 degrees north of where Armstrong took “one small step” won’t make up for not having anything to drink.

However, the work makes it more likely that these kinds of lava tubes could exist at the poles. What’s more, it may be more important that we can find them in space with a little better detail. “People have thought about these caves for more than 50 years, but this is the first time we have proven they exist,” Bruzzone said.

The study was written up in Nature Astronomy.

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