JWST’s MIRI is fully operational again. Have astronomers found the first strange star? The first test of an inflatable heat shield. And SLS just got hit by a Hurricane. Again.
As always, the latest episode of Space Bites is here for you. Enjoy the hot fresh yummy bits of space and astronomy news.
JWST Is Fixed
Phew. JWST’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) is fully operational again. Controllers noticed in August that one of MIRI’s modes was experiencing excess friction and took it offline while they searched for the underlying cause. The issue comes from “increased contact forces between sub-components of the wheel central bearing assembly under certain conditions.” They’ve adapted their use of MIRI and plan to make more science operations starting Saturday.
First Strange Star Found?
Neutron stars are bizarre just by themselves, but recently there a really special one was discovered. It might be the lightest neutron star yet, or it might be even more exciting than that. Some speculate that it might be a Strange Star. It means that instead of densely packed neutrons, it could be made of just free quarks. So, either there’s a neutron star that’s below the theoretical limit, or there’s a completely new type of object out there.
SLS Is Delayed. Again
Artemis I seems like it may be cursed. After being fully assembled it already suffered delays due to engine temperature problems, hydrogen leaks and hurricanes. Yes, hurricanes, as just this week it was hit by a second one. Now it’s hurricane Nicole. The rocket was out there on the pad in the wind, so there will be an assessment of its condition, and then we’ll see if it will be ready for the launch. Because if not, there might be even more problems, as parts of the rocket, such as its SRBs might expire.
InSight’s Possible Last Image
It’s my sad duty to report that you’re probably looking at the final image that will ever be sent home from NASA’s InSight lander. Although it was only supposed to last a year on Mars, the spacecraft has been hard at work for four years. Dust accumulates on the lander’s solar panels, reducing the energy available. In the next few weeks, NASA will likely shut the mission down, terminating its data feed once and for all.
China’s Space Station Is Complete
China launched the last major component of its Tiangong Space Station last week. The new laboratory module is called Mengtian (or heavenly dream) and contains new science instruments that the astronauts will use in space. Of course, this launch also risked the planet with another uncontrolled booster re-entry. The Long March 5B booster re-entered the atmosphere and probably crashed in the Philippines Sea.
Black Hole’s Jet Origins
The first black hole discovered was Cygnus X-1, about 7,000 light-years from Earth. It’s consuming material from a companion star, blasting out bright jets visible in the X-ray spectrum. Astronomers have used an X-ray space telescope to map the environment around the black hole. They found that the jets originate from the inner edge of the black hole’s accretion disk, about 2,000 km away from the singularity itself.
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