JUICE is having problems extending its radar antenna. Astronomers watch a star eat its planet. A design for a space station with artificial gravity.
JUICE Has Problems
ESA’s Jupiter Ice Moons Explorer spacecraft is on its way to the Jovian System, where it’ll be mapping out several of its icy moons. Unfortunately, a critical antenna has failed to deploy. The 16-meter radar antenna should have been fully deployed, but it’s only unfolded about a third of the way. Engineers think a tiny pin might be protruding out and blocking it from extending. Their next plan is to try firing its engines to shake the spacecraft and deploy the antenna. They’ve still got time. Juice won’t arrive at Jupiter until 2031.
A Sun-Like Star Eats its Planet
Astronomers witnessed a star devouring one of its planets. In the past, we’ve seen evidence of such events but never saw it actually happen. A hot Jupiter got to close to its parent star and got destroyed by the tidal forces. It was just 12,000 light-years away, so pretty close. Actually, the Earth might one day follow the same path when the Sun becomes a red giant and expands.
Although SpaceX’s Starship cleared the launch pad, it didn’t make it to orbit. Instead, the enormous rocket gouged out a giant hole in the concrete at its launch pad and rained debris around it. The flight termination system failed to destroy the rocket as quickly as SpaceX had hoped. Because of these issues, the FAA has placed an indefinite hold on rocket launches from Boca Chica while SpaceX fixes the problems. According to Elon Musk, they’ll be ready for another test in 6-8 weeks, but we’ll see if they clear the regulatory hurdles by then.
Space Station With Artificial Gravity
Airbus showed a concept of an orbital space station called Loop. One interesting aspect of it is a centrifuge at the bottom. It is designed to provide some extent of artificial gravity to mitigate the negative effects that weightlessness has on the human body. So far there have been few realistic concepts of space stations that incorporate artificial gravity. However, it is worth noting that Loop is also just a concept for now with no announced plans for development or launch.
Most planets we know about rotate roughly within the same orbital plane. For example, all planets in the Solar System are aligned within several degrees of the ecliptic. However, an exoplanet seems to be breaking these rules. Astronomers knew about an exoplanet called WASP-131b for a while, but just recently they were able to measure the rotation of its star. It appears that the planet’s plane of rotation is tilted 160 degrees. So, practically, it rotates backwards at a very weird angle. For now, it’s unclear how it turned out this way. Captured rogue planet? More research is needed.
Black Hole Eats a Star
Almost every galaxy in the Universe contains a supermassive black hole at its heart, and every 10,000 years or so, each of these black holes rips apart a star that got too close. Astronomers have found the closest example of one of these “tidal disruption events” (TDE) in a galaxy that’s merely 137 million light-years away (that’s close, cosmologically speaking). They found the event by searching through infrared images of the sky, which has provided a promising way to find more of them.
China Finally Admits What Happened to Zhurong
China’s Mars rover, Zhurong, is officially dead. We have known it for quite a while now, but finally, we have an official statement from China. As expected, it didn’t survive the Martian winter and succumbed to the cold and dust. There’s still a very little glimpse of hope it can revive but it’s highly unlikely. After such a time without power, its batteries are most probably dead.
Looking Inside The Moon’s Permanently Shadowed Craters
NASA released a series of images captured by its ShadowCam instrument. It’s onboard the Korean Danuri spacecraft, revealing the Moon’s low-light regions with 200 times more sensitivity than other lunar orbiters. Thanks to ShadowCam, NASA could look into the permanently shadowed craters at the Moon’s South Pole, which are never lit up by the Sun. Regions seen by ShadowCam are illuminated by indirect sunlight reflecting off nearby rocks as well as Earthshine.