Huge DART Success, JWST Sees Weird Rings, Moon’s True Origin

DART’s results are in and they exceed all expectations. The Moon might just be a big chunk of the Earth that formed in just hours. Webb sees bizarre rings around a star, and SLS gets a new launch date… at night.

As always, if you prefer a video version of space news to accompany your morning coffee or other activities, here’s the latest episode of Space Bites. Delicious space news nuggets.

DART Exceeds NASA’s Expectations

When NASA directed its DART mission to slam into Asteroid Dimorphos, it hoped to shorten its orbital period around Asteroid Didymos. Seventy-three seconds was the bare minimum; 10 minutes would have been excellent. But when they ran the numbers, it looked like DART shortened the asteroid’s orbital time by 32 minutes. Before the impact, Dimorphos took 11 hours and 55 minutes to orbit; now, it’s 11 hours and 23 minutes. This provides a baseline that astronomers can use to calculate how difficult it’ll be to prevent a dangerous asteroid from hitting Earth.

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More about DART success

How Did the Moon Form

Where did the Moon come from? The evidence is leaning towards the theory that a Mars-sized object crashed into the Earth billions of years ago, and the rubble collected together into the Moon. This goes partway to explaining the Moon, but there are a few outstanding mysteries, like how to explain the Moon’s orbit, which doesn’t orbit around the Earth’s equator. A new theory suggests that a single large asteroid strike blasted two huge chunks of the Earth into space. One crashed back down, but it gave a boost to the other chunk, leaving it in orbit to become the Moon.

More about Moon’s formation

This is Not an Optical Illusion

Take a look at this picture of a star system taken by JWST. There appears to be some chromatic aberration or lens flare, but these concentric rings are really there. They are formed by a binary star system where their gravitational interaction causes one star to release a cloud of dust every eight years. The second star passes through the cloud and drags it along as it orbits. Then the combined light pressure from the two stars pushes the dust out into space, creating these concentric rings.

More about Webb’s image

SLS Has a New Launch Date

We’ve got a new launch date for the upcoming Artemis 1 mission: November 14th. If the rocket blasts off that day, it should be an incredible sight. That’s because it’s scheduled for 12:07 am EST… a night launch! These are always spectacular, with the bright exhaust from the rocket illuminating the landscape. This launch date would allow the uncrewed Orion Capsule to spend 25.5 days in space and at the Moon, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean on December 9th. There are backup windows on November 16th and 19th.

More about the upcoming Artemis I launch

Starship Got Fully Stacked Again

SpaceX has been testing the Super Heavy booster with more and more of its Raptor 2 engines firing simultaneously, but the rocket was always on its own. This week, SpaceX showed off a picture of Super Heavy with the Starship stacked on top, held in place by Mechazilla. Does this mean that Starship is about to make an attempt to fly to orbit? Elon Musk hinted that the rocket was likely to fly in mid-November, similar to the new schedule for SLS. I wonder who’ll launch first?

More about SpaceX’s progress on Starship

CAPSTONE is Back

A few weeks ago, NASA announced its CAPSTONE CubeSat mission was tumbling uncontrollably. Fortunately, they maintained a communications link to the spacecraft, attempting to stop its tumble and get it back on track. This week we learned that the recovery efforts were successful, and CAPSTONE is no longer out of control. It’s good timing since it needs to make an orbital insertion maneuver in mid-November. From there, it’ll help chart out a rectilinear lunar halo orbit, the exact orbit the Lunar Gateway will take when it’s constructed at the Moon.

More about CAPSTONE recovery

SpinLaunch Performs Its 10th Test

The weight of rockets is mainly made up of fuel. They also generate a lot of greenhouse gases as they blast into orbit. A new startup called Spinlaunch uses an electric catapult that spins up projectiles so fast that they’re thrown into space. At least, that’s the plan. Spinlaunch just completed the 10th test of a prototype launcher that can only hurl payloads on suborbital trajectories, but a future version will send them to orbit. NASA and other partners sent test instruments on the most recent launch to measure the extreme forces.

More about the progress of SpinLaunch

If Europa Has Lakes, We Will Find Them

Scientists believe there are vast seas of liquid water under an icy shell on Europa; the perfect place to search for life. However, this water could be under dozens of kilometers and almost impossible to reach. He’s believed this water can see upward through the ice forming subsurface lakes. The upcoming Europa Clipper mission is equipped with an ice-penetrating radar instrument that can peer through the ice and map out any subsurface lakes. It’s due for launch in 2026, arriving at Europa in 2030.

More about Clipper’s future instruments

Interviews

Coronographs will soon be in every major telescope. They can block the light from the star and reveal things around it, like exoplanets. There’s so much amazing science behind them. Like, did you know coronographs can be adaptive? We dive into all that with Dr Lucie Leboulleux.

Audio version of the interview with Dr Lucie Leboulleux

How understanding the Sun can change our view of all the other stars in the Universe. What will current instruments and future mission will bring. And what are the mysteries that are waiting to be solved in this field.

Audio version of the interview with Colin Stuart

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