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. Still.
As always, the latest episode of Space Bites is here for you. Enjoy fresh and delicious 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 excessive friction and took it offline while they investigated the underlying cause. The problem stems from “increased contact forces between sub-components of the wheel center bearing assembly under certain conditions”. They have adapted their use of MIRI and plan to do more scientific operations from Saturday.
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Learn more about troubleshooting MIRI issues.
Discovery of the first strange star?
Neutron stars are weird on their own, but recently a very special one was discovered. It could be the lightest neutron star yet, or it could be even more exciting than that. Some think it could be a strange star. This means that instead of dense neutrons, it could be composed only of free quarks. So either there’s a neutron star that’s below the theoretical limit, or there’s a whole new type of object out there.
Learn more about quarks.
SLS is delayed. Still
Artemis I appears to be cursed. After being fully assembled, it has already suffered delays due to engine temperature issues, hydrogen leaks and hurricanes. Yes, hurricanes, because this very week he was hit by a second. Now it’s Hurricane Nicole. The rocket was there on the pad in the wind, so there will be an assessment of its condition, and then we will see if it will be ready for launch. Otherwise, there could be even more problems, as parts of the rocket, such as its SRBs, could expire.
The last possible image from InSight
It is my sad duty to report that you are probably watching the final image that will ever be sent home by NASA’s InSight lander. While 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 available power. In the coming weeks, NASA will likely terminate the mission, ending its data feed once and for all.
Learn more about InSight’s mission.
China’s space station is complete
China launched the last major component of its Tiangong space station last week. The new lab module is called Mengtian (or Celestial Dream) and contains new scientific instruments that astronauts will use in space. Of course, this launch also risked the planet with another uncontrolled booster reentry. The Long March 5B booster re-entered the atmosphere and likely crashed into the Philippine Sea.
Learn more about Tiangong in China.
The origins of the Black Hole jet
The first black hole discovered was Cygnus X-1, about 7,000 light-years from Earth. It consumes material from a companion star, shooting out bright jets visible in the X-ray spectrum. Astronomers used an X-ray space telescope to map the environment around the black hole. They found that the jets originated from the inner edge of the black hole’s accretion disk, about 2,000 km from the singularity itself.
Learn more about black hole jets.
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