Historical data about solar storms carved in trees, and it’s a bit worrying. Falcon Heavy’s back after 40 months of absence. There’s a meteor shower and a total lunar eclipse in the coming days. And JWST gave us yet another version of Pillars of Creation.
As always, if you prefer to have the latest space and astronomy news being videoed at you, enjoy this week’s episode of Space Bites.
More Pillars of Creation by Webb
Another phenomenal image from JWST. This time we’re looking at the Pillars of Creation (again), but with the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI). MIRI is sensitive to the giant clouds of gas and dust surrounding the newly forming stars in the region. In this view, you can see the faint background clouds in red, which are invisible in other wavelengths. The blue-looking stars have already cleared their surroundings of gas and dust. The densest dust regions show up as the darkest shades of grey—anyway, time to swap out your phone’s background for this one.
Meteor Shower and Total Lunar Eclipse
May 2022’s total lunar eclipse. Credit: Filipp Romanov
Keep your eyes on the sky next week; you might see a few fireballs as part of the annual Taurid meteor shower. Typically this meteor shower is disappointing, giving us about five meteors/hour at the peak. This year will be even worse because the shower coincides with the November 8th full moon. However, the Earth will pass through a cloud of debris, and there could be a rise in meteor activity and especially fireballs. So head outside next week, look up, and you might see a fireball.
On Tuesday, November 8th, Eastern Asia and Western North America will be treated to a total lunar eclipse. This is when the Earth’s shadow falls onto the Moon, obscuring it and turning it into a deep shade of red. The entire eclipse will last for 5 hours and 54 minutes, with the Moon passing through the dark inner region of the shadow for 1 hour and 24 minutes. Unfortunately, this will be the last total lunar eclipse until March 14th, 2025. Read our complete guide.
Star Storms in Tree Rings
Image Credit: Rbreidbrown/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA
If you look at tree rings, they can not only show the age of the tree, but also record astronomical events. Solar storms are one of them. This way scientists could see records of previous powerful solar storms that happened hundreds of years ago. But the worrying thing is that the Carrington Event is not among them. So, does it mean that solar storms of the past were much more devastating?
Heavy Elements from Neutron Stars Merger
Artist’s conception of a neutron star merger. Credit: Tohoku University
In 2017 astronomers detected the first kilonova collision of two neutron stars, and their impact was seen in both gravitational waves and electromagnetic radiation. Astronomers also witnessed a vast cloud of gold generated by the colliding neutron stars. Researchers simulated the merger on a supercomputer and predicted that other heavy elements, like strontium, lanthanum, and cerium, should be visible in the wreckage. Then they imaged the region with powerful telescopes and found the elements as predicted.
InSight Felt a Meteor Strike on Mars
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona.
In December 2021, NASA’s Mars InSight detected a magnitude 4 Marsquake. Unlike the hundreds of other tremblers felt so far, this one resulted from a house-sized meteorite crashing into Mars. The impact site was found using NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which measured about 150-meters across and 21 meters deep. Martian regolith was scooped out of the crater and scattered 37 kilometers away. Because it’s freshly excavated, this could be a fascinating place to send a sample return mission.
Falcon Heavy Is Back
Credit: SpaceX/Space Force
It’s been 40 months since SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket last blasted off. On November 2, we watched the mighty rocket carry a classified payload for US Space Force. The twin side boosters returned to the launch site through the thick fog, but the central core wasn’t reused because it was helping to loft the cargo into a geostationary transfer orbit. This was SpaceX’s 50th launch in 2022, meeting a pace of one rocket launch every 6.1 days.