James Webb telescope marks second anniversary with an image of the Penguin and the Egg galaxies

NASA and its partners, the European and Canadian space agencies, are celebrating the second year since the James Webb Telescope started sending back photos of the universe by releasing an image of the Penguin and the Egg galaxies. These are interacting galaxies collectively known as Arp 142 located 326 million light-years from Earth, captured by the James Webb in interactive light. 

The galaxies first interacted between 25 and 75 million years ago, causing new star formation. Based on previous research, 100 to 200 stars have formed per year in the Penguin — yes, that is the galaxy at the center of the image that looks like a bird's head — whereas the Milky Way only produces between six and seven new stars per year. In this image taken by the James Webb, the interaction between the two galaxies is marked by a faintly glowing upside-down U. Take note that while the Penguin appears bigger than the Egg galaxy at its left, they have approximately the same mass. If either galaxy were smaller, they would've already merged. 

In addition to the galaxies prominently featured in the image, you'll also see more distant galaxies in the background. The space agencies said it's a "testament to the sensitivity and resolution of Webb's infrared cameras." NASA and its partners launched the James Webb Telescope in late 2021 after more than a decade of delays caused by spiraling costs and construction woes. The agencies released the first image it ever captured, the deepest image of the distant universe, in July 2022. Last year, they also commemorated its first anniversary with an image of a nearby stellar nursery. 

A smatter of galaxies against a black background.
NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/james-webb-telescope-marks-second-anniversary-with-an-image-of-the-penguin-and-the-egg-galaxies-143052704.html?src=rss

A new spacesuit design can recycle astronauts’ urine into purified, drinkable water

The life of an astronaut may sound like a glamorous career but it requires a lot of hard work and sacrifice. They have to spend weeks or even months at a time away from Earth, their loved ones and the warm embrace of gravity. They have to endure an endless stream of “Tang” jokes. Sometimes they even have to drink recycled wastewater.

We say “sometimes” because not every drop of astronaut urine is recycled into palatable water. The urine they expel into their spacesuits is simply flushed away or discarded when they return to the spacecraft. A new space suit designed by scientists at Weill Cornell Medicine and Cornell University inspired by Frank Herbert’s Dune novels could make spacewalks longer and less disgusting by recycling their expelled urine in a special filtration backpack. The research and design teams from both schools published a paper of their findings in the scientific journal Frontiers.

These suits are referred to as “stillsuits” in the Dune universe and can capture moisture to recycle it into drinkable water as soldiers trek and battle across the barren desert world of Arrakis. The real-life, proposed stillsuits do roughly the same thing. The new stillsuits have a “vacuum-based external catheter leading to a combined forward-reverse osmosis unit” that astronauts carry on their back, says the study’s lead author and research staff member Sofia Etlin in a press release.

stillsuit
Karen Morales

The suits were designed with future NASA space missions in mind including the Artemis II and Artemis III missions that will orbit the moon and touch down on its south pole in the next two years. NASA and Axiom Space have already approved a spacesuit design for its moon missions but it looks like this new filtration system could be added to them. The stillsuits can also be used for the manned Mars space mission in the early 2030s.

The stillsuits will not only quench the astronauts’ thirst during spacewalks but it will also make them more hygienic. The traditional NASA spacesuit design that’s been in circulation since the 1970s only comes with a superabsorbent polymer to catch astronauts’ urine. That means pretty much every astronaut who’s gone on a space or moon walk has peed in their space pants.

This outdated waste system has also led to hygiene and medical issues for astronauts like urinary tract infections (UTIs) and gastrointestinal problems. That’s why you’ve never seen Paul Atreides struggling with diverticulitis.

NASA hasn’t officially adopted Weill Cornell Medicine and Cornell University’s new spacesuit design for any of its upcoming space missions. We imagine that we’d urge NASA to fasttrack it if we had been on the International Space Station and ever had to endure a long spacewalk after drinking too much Tang.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/a-new-spacesuit-design-can-recycle-astronauts-urine-into-purified-drinkable-water-175235587.html?src=rss

ESA’s new heavy-lift rocket, Ariane 6, is poised to launch for the first time on Tuesday

Ariane 6, the European Space Agency’s next-gen heavy-lift rocket, is expected to take its inaugural flight on July 9, ending a yearlong gap in Europe’s ability to access space on its own. The launch vehicle, made by ArianeGroup, replaces Ariane 5, which was retired last July following its 117th mission. The launch window opens at 2PM ET on Tuesday (8PM CEST).

Ariane 5 was in operation from 1996 to 2023 and was ESA’s main launch system. Ariane 6 was supposed to take over right away after its predecessor’s retirement, but years of delays in its development meant it ultimately wasn’t ready in time. As a result, ESA has had to rely on other launch providers, like SpaceX, to get science missions off the ground over the last year. If all goes smoothly with Ariane 6, Europe will be back in the game. “Ariane 6 marks a new era of autonomous, versatile European space travel,” ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher said in June, adding that it “will re-establish Europe’s independent access to space.”

Ariane 6 will launch from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana. It’ll be streamed on ESA Web TV, with coverage expected to start 30 minutes before liftoff.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/esas-new-heavy-lift-rocket-ariane-6-is-poised-to-launch-for-the-first-time-on-tuesday-172813576.html?src=rss

NASA gives SpaceX the privilege of crashing the ISS into the sea

SpaceX just won a $843 million contract to, basically, crash the International Space Station (ISS) into the sea. It’s part of a NASA program to safely deorbit the ISS within the next ten years.

The ISS has been continuously operating since 1998 and, like all things, has been aging. The space station is due to end its orbital tenure in or around 2030. However, NASA doesn’t want the whole thing just careening into Earth’s atmosphere, throwing dangerous junk everywhere like season two of Breaking Bad. The agency wants a nice and controlled re-entry. That’s where SpaceX comes in.

According to the terms of the contract, SpaceX will develop a spacecraft called the “US Deorbit Vehicle” to safely bring the ISS back to Earth without any undue risk to population centers. SpaceX’s rocket will guide it into the Pacific Ocean, where it can bother a bunch of fish and not humans.

The ISS isn’t heading to just any part of the Pacific Ocean. It’s going to the spookily-namd “spacecraft cemetery,” which is an uninhabited area between New Zealand and South America that’s absolutely littered with the remains of space stuff. All told, nearly 300 spacefaring vehicles have been laid to rest in this section of the ocean, including capsules, cargo craft, rockets and more. Many of these ships were actually used to reach the ISS, so this will be a homecoming, of a sort.

The project won’t be easy for SpaceX. The ISS is nearly a million pounds and is too massive to burn up upon re-entry. The company’s deorbiting vehicle is expected to take several years to both develop and test. The ISS will undergo a phased disintegration, meaning that the process should unfold in three stages. The rocket will first guide the solar arrays and radiators to the sea, followed by the individual modules and, finally, the primary structure, typically called the truss.

“Selecting a US Deorbit Vehicle for the International Space Station will help NASA and its international partners ensure a safe and responsible transition in low Earth orbit at the end of station operations,” said Ken Bowersox, associate administrator for Space Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters.

The ISS is the largest structure ever built in space and was a collaborative effort between the US, Europe, Japan, Canada and Russia. The US and its partners promise to maintain operations right to the end, but Russia’s commitment finishes in 2028. The space station costs around $3.1 billion per year to run. It is hoped that the private space industry will pick up the slack here, constructing orbiting stations that astronauts can use on a pay-per-visit basis.

To that end, plenty of private organizations have previewed their own space stations. Vast and SpaceX plan to launch one in 2025 and Blue Origin has a station called Orbital Reef preparing for launch toward the latter part of the decade. Voyager, Lockheed Martin and Nanoracks don't expect to operate their Starlab facility until at least 2027.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/nasa-gives-spacex-the-privilege-of-crashing-the-iss-into-the-sea-155755209.html?src=rss

China’s rock samples from the far side of the Moon have returned to Earth

The first-ever samples from the far side of the Moon have touched down on Earth. China’s Chang’e 6 capsule landed on Tuesday in Inner Mongolia, carrying rocks that could confirm or debunk scientists’ current theories about the Moon’s origin.

The samples could help scientists confirm the current hypothesis about the Moon’s origin: that molten Earth collided with a body around the size of Mars, ripping off material that took orbit next to us and created the Moon.

“Think about the geology of the Earth: If you only landed in North America, you’d be missing a big part of the story, right?” Richard Carlson, director emeritus of the Earth and Planets Laboratory at Carnegie Science, told NPR.

Researchers believe that if China’s rock samples show the same age as what NASA’s Apollo program brought home last century, it would confirm the hypothesis. If it doesn’t, it would throw a wrench into the works, forcing us to revise our understanding of the Moon’s birth.

“It’s pretty clear that the far side and the near side have many, many differences,” Jim Head, a planetary scientist at Brown University, said to NPR. “It’s a really critical issue. You can’t understand the origin of a planet with one hemisphere.”

Chang’e 6 landed on the Moon’s far side early this month, only the second successful mission to the end of Earth’s neighbor that always faces away from it. The pair rotates synchronously, keeping one side perpetually hidden from our view. This makes landings difficult because Earth has no direct line of communication with the far side, forcing China’s space program to rely on a satellite relay instead.

China has offered to share some of the samples with American scientists in a sign of cooperation during otherwise tense times between the two nations. NASA has given the green light for US researchers to submit proposals to study the historical samples.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/chinas-rock-samples-from-the-far-side-of-the-moon-have-returned-to-earth-154645797.html?src=rss

Starliner astronauts’ return trip has been pushed back even further

Astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams, who flew on the much-delayed first crewed flight of Boeing’s Starliner craft, won’t be coming home from the International Space Station until sometime next month, well past their originally planned return date of June 14. NASA announced last night that it's pushing the date of their return trip back even further in order to allow for more reviews into problems that arose with Starliner during its flight, and to avoid conflicts with upcoming spacewalks. As of now, there’s no date set for the flight back to Earth.

Starliner launched on June 5 and delivered Wilmore and Williams to the ISS about a day later. Their stay was only supposed to last a week or so. During the flight, however, four small helium leaks sprung in the propulsion system, on top of the one that had already been identified prior to launch. And, when Starliner first attempted to approach the ISS on June 6 and begin docking, five of its 28 thrusters went offline. Boeing was able to get four of them back up and running. NASA also revealed a few days after launch that the teams were looking into an issue with a valve in the service module that was “not properly closed.”

The space agency had already pushed the date of the return trip back a few times over the last week and most recently landed on June 26, but now says the flight won’t take place until after the spacewalks planned for June 24 and July 2 have been completed. “We are letting the data drive our decision making relative to managing the small helium system leaks and thruster performance we observed during rendezvous and docking,” said Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, on Friday.

“Starliner is performing well in orbit while docked to the space station,” Stich also said. “We are strategically using the extra time to clear a path for some critical station activities while completing readiness for Butch and Suni’s return on Starliner and gaining valuable insight into the system upgrades we will want to make for post-certification missions.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/starliner-astronauts-return-trip-has-been-pushed-back-even-further-174336571.html?src=rss

The Webb Telescope’s dazzling nebula image supports a long-held theory

The image of the Serpens Nebula you see above, taken by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), not only looks mesmerizing but also captures a never-before-seen phenomenon. The aligned, elongated “protostellar outflows” visible in the top left support a longstanding theory. As suspected, the jets shoot out in alignment from the swirling disks of surrounding material, showing evidence that clusters of forming stars spin in the same direction.

NASA says the bright and clumpy streaks in the image’s upper-left area, which somewhat resemble JJ Abrams-style lens flare, represent shockwaves caused by outward-shooting jets that emerge when the interstellar gas cloud collapses inwards. As forming stars condense and twirl more rapidly, some material shoots out perpendicular to the disk.

“Astronomers have long assumed that as clouds collapse to form stars, the stars will tend to spin in the same direction,” Klaus Pontoppidan of NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory wrote in a blog post. “However, this has not been seen so directly before. These aligned, elongated structures are a historical record of the fundamental way that stars are born.”

Perpendicular jets (seen as thin beams of light, similar to lens flare) beaming out from a reddish forming cluster of stars.
The aligned jets (which look a bit like JJ Abrams-style lens flare) indicate the forming stars spin in the same direction.

The Serpens Nebula is only one or two million years old and sits around 1,300 light years from Earth. NASA says the dense cluster of protostars at the image’s center includes stars less than 100,000 years old. Serpens is a reflection nebula, meaning the gas and dust cloud shines by reflecting light from stars inside or nearby.

The JWST’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) captured the image, which covers about 16 trillion miles by 11 trillion miles. The black rectangles you see at the full image’s lower left and upper left represent missing data. NASA says its next step is to use the telescope’s Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) to study the Serpens Nebula’s chemical breakdown.

You can check out NASA’s instructional video below for a closer look at specific details from the glorious image.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-webb-telescopes-dazzling-nebula-image-supports-a-long-held-theory-210229206.html?src=rss

The Webb Telescope’s dazzling nebula image supports a long-held theory

The image of the Serpens Nebula you see above, taken by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), not only looks mesmerizing but also captures a never-before-seen phenomenon. The aligned, elongated “protostellar outflows” visible in the top left support a longstanding theory. As suspected, the jets shoot out in alignment from the swirling disks of surrounding material, showing evidence that clusters of forming stars spin in the same direction.

NASA says the bright and clumpy streaks in the image’s upper-left area, which somewhat resemble JJ Abrams-style lens flare, represent shockwaves caused by outward-shooting jets that emerge when the interstellar gas cloud collapses inwards. As forming stars condense and twirl more rapidly, some material shoots out perpendicular to the disk.

“Astronomers have long assumed that as clouds collapse to form stars, the stars will tend to spin in the same direction,” Klaus Pontoppidan of NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory wrote in a blog post. “However, this has not been seen so directly before. These aligned, elongated structures are a historical record of the fundamental way that stars are born.”

Perpendicular jets (seen as thin beams of light, similar to lens flare) beaming out from a reddish forming cluster of stars.
The aligned jets (which look a bit like JJ Abrams-style lens flare) indicate the forming stars spin in the same direction.

The Serpens Nebula is only one or two million years old and sits around 1,300 light years from Earth. NASA says the dense cluster of protostars at the image’s center includes stars less than 100,000 years old. Serpens is a reflection nebula, meaning the gas and dust cloud shines by reflecting light from stars inside or nearby.

The JWST’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam) captured the image, which covers about 16 trillion miles by 11 trillion miles. The black rectangles you see at the full image’s lower left and upper left represent missing data. NASA says its next step is to use the telescope’s Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) to study the Serpens Nebula’s chemical breakdown.

You can check out NASA’s instructional video below for a closer look at specific details from the glorious image.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-webb-telescopes-dazzling-nebula-image-supports-a-long-held-theory-210229206.html?src=rss

NASA’s 47-year-old Voyager 1 probe is back in action after months of technical issues

NASA engineers have managed to get the long-running Voyager 1 space probe fully back in working order after some seven months of technical difficulties. In November 2023, the spacecraft — which is more than 15 billion miles from Earth — started sending back strange, unreadable data, and the team has been working ever since to get to the root of the issue. While Voyager 1 seemed to be receiving and executing commands just fine, none of the science and engineering data it sent home made sense.

In April, the team traced the problem to some corrupted memory in the probe’s flight data subsystem (FDS) computer and was later able to get two of its instruments sending science data again. Now, all four of Voyager 1’s instruments are back to sending readable data, NASA says. Voyager 1 launched in 1977, so the fact that it’s still going in any capacity is incredible. But now, it can resume its duties directly studying interstellar space.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/nasas-47-year-old-voyager-1-probe-is-back-in-action-after-months-of-technical-issues-192057182.html?src=rss

Boeing’s Starliner overcomes last-second problems to dock with the ISS

Boeing’s Starliner has successfully docked with the ISS — but not without some last-minute problems. The company’s first crewed test flight to the space station linked up at 1:34 PM ET after missing its first shot due to several thrusters malfunctioning. Astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Sunita “Suni” Williams plan to spend the next eight days onboard the ISS before returning to Earth.

The capsule docked with the ISS in an orbit about 260 miles over the Indian Ocean. The pair is now circling the planet at around 17,500 mph.

“Nice to be attached to the big city in the sky,” Wilmore spoke over comms to mission control in Houston after the successful docking. The capsule carries 760 pounds of cargo, including about 300 pounds of food and other supplies requested by the four US astronauts and three Russian cosmonauts onboard.

View from the ISS of the Boeing Starliner capsule approaching. Clouded Earth seen behind it.
NASA TV

Initially scheduled for 12:15 PM ET, the link-up was delayed after five of Starliner’s 28 reaction control thrusters went down. Several were lost due to a helium propulsion leak. NASA and Boeing concluded that the loss didn’t compromise the mission, and Wilmore and Williams restarted three of them, providing enough redundancy to move forward.

On Wednesday, a small helium leak was detected during liftoff and ascent. Later, two more leaks appeared.

The problems are emblematic of Boeing’s struggles to get its capsules certified for regular flights. Various problems and delays, including orbital flight test issues, valve problems, software glitches and a bum parachute system, have plagued Starliner. Boeing's rival, SpaceX, reached the ISS for the first time in 2020, approximately when this Starliner mission was originally slated to launch.

Boeing is seeking NASA certification to join SpaceX as a regular ride to the ISS. The government agency wanted to have multiple private-sector ferries make routine trips to the space station. Despite Boeing’s troubles, it may get there in the end.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/boeings-starliner-overcomes-last-second-problems-to-dock-with-the-iss-194801249.html?src=rss