We finally got JWST data about TRAPPIST-1. An Earth-sized rogue planet was found. More information about China’s plans for the Moon.
JWST Reveals Trappist-1 Data
Finally! The data we’ve been hoping to see is rolling in JWST’s observations of the famous TRAPPIST-1 system, where seven Earth-sized worlds are orbiting a red dwarf star, several of which are in the habitable zone. Today we learned about the innermost planet in the system, TRAPPIST-1 b, which orbits so close to the star that its dayside temperatures reach 500 kelvin, midway between Earth’s average temperature and Mercury. JWST also failed to detect any atmosphere at 1b. Stay tuned for the next world in the system; it looks like we’re going to get them one at a time.
Kazakhstan Seizes Russia’s Facility at Baikonur
Kazakhstan has seized control of the Biaterek launch complex at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. It’s not the main site where the Soyuz rockets are launched from. The Biaterek is mainly used for the development of the Soyuz 5 rocket, which Russia was working on with Kazakhstan. Roscomos has lost almost all their business connections since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. So, it looks like there are even more tensions with the partners they have left.
Rogue Planets Found in Older Data
Scientists have found what appear to be rogue planets hidden in old survey data. A terrestrial mass planet and a Neptune mass planet have been discovered free-floating in the Milky Way. They were found by analyzing micro-lensing events when a rogue planet passes in front of a background star and distorts its light.
China’s Moon Plans
China proposed research goals for their future Moon base. They plan to establish a basic version of a station by 2028, and subsequently expand it into an international facility. There were also some new details about upcoming Chang’e landers and rovers. China’s traditionally not very public about their plans, but the Moon program is definitely looking serious.
Water in Lunar Regolith
When China’s Chang’e-5 mission returned samples of the Moon’s south pole to Earth, scientists were excited to discover tiny glass beads mixed in with the rock and regolith. These are evidence of ancient asteroid impacts on the Moon, turning the regolith into glass with extreme heat and pressure. They were surprised to discover water was trapped inside the glass spheres, created by hydrogen from the solar wind striking the Moon, mixing with local oxygen atoms. They estimate trillions of tonnes of water bound up in lunar regolith that could be available to future lunar explorers.
3D Printing Batteries on The Moon
Going to the Moon to stay means that we will need to bring a lot of heavy things there. One of the ways to minimize the required effort and cost is to make things from the stuff that’s already available on the Moon. One of the heaviest, yet very necessary things for future lunar exploration, will be batteries. So, there are several promising technologies that should be able to 3D-print batteries from lunar regolith. If this works, this can be a game changer.
Europa’s Crust is Detached From Its Core
One of the most surprising discoveries made by NASA’s Voyager missions was the possibility of a vast ocean of liquid water on Jupiter’s moon Europa. This is surrounded by a thick sheet of ice that could descend for tens of kilometers. With further research, planetary scientists have discovered that the ice shell is detached from the solid core of the moon and pushed along by ocean currents under the ice. This could also explain why Europa’s surface is covered in enormous cracks.
Delays for Vulcan and Starliner
Two setbacks were revealed this week. Boeing Starliner’s first manned flight will be delayed at least until summer, which was announced by NASA. Also, the maiden flight of Vulcan will be delayed. According to ULA’s Tory Bruno, there was an anomaly when testing the Centaur second stage. It’s unclear now what exactly was the problem and how serious it is. But, as Tory Bruno said, Vulcan will fly when it’s ready.