Selection of the most interesting space news for the week: James Webb noticed the strongest jet stream on Jupiter; Juno flew record-close near Io; and we tell you how the air launch will change the space industry.
“Nature never appeals to intelligence until habit and instinct are useless. There is no intelligence where there is no need of change.”
― H.G. Wells, The Time Machine
The Earth’s inner core is located inside the outer one. Until now, it was believed that it was a solid mass of metal. However, recent experiments have shown that the atoms in it can move freely. Researchers recreated the pressure in the inner core in the laboratory and observed iron atoms behaving under these conditions. Then the scientists entered this data into a machine learning program to create a simulated virtual core, which they called a “supercell.” Using it, they saw that iron atoms could actually move even in a dense crystal structure. Moreover, quite large groups of atoms can move in the core, but its structure remains unchanged at the same time. Also, now researchers will be able to understand more about other properties of a piece of metal in the center of our planet. For example, the way it creates its magnetic field.
On October 15, the Juno spacecraft made a record flight of the volcanic moon Io. It passed at a distance of only 11,700 km from its surface. The last flyby was the closest visit of an Earth Messenger to Io since 2001, when the Galileo spacecraft visited it. The images taken by Juno demonstrate how much this moon differs from other moons of the planets. There are practically no impact craters on its surface, although it has a unique color. There you can find shades of white, red, black, green and yellow. Such a motley color scheme, because of which the moon is sometimes compared to pizza, is explained by the consequences of constant eruptions. Volcanic eruptions covered Io’s surface with numerous sulfur compounds and silicates.
The incessant eruptions also explain why there are practically no craters on Io. Their traces quickly disappear under a layer of volcanic deposits. Instead of shock formations, viscous lava flows can be found on the surface of the moon, the length of which can be measured in hundreds of kilometers, lakes of molten sulfur, as well as calderas several kilometers deep.
Recently, a new hero has appeared in the art world, who combines a talented director and a videographer. Erik Wernquist, formerly known as the creator of the cult meme Crazy Frog since the late 2000s, abruptly changed his creative course and gave preference to space themes. One of his latest masterpieces, the short film One Revolution Per Minute, created and produced by him, is a vivid example of his new direction.
This famous animator attracts attention with his incredible creativity, which inspires thinking about outer space and the possibilities of exploring it. The film tells the story of the SSPO Esperanta space station, which travels to different parts of our Solar System. Esperanta was designed to be more than just a space station. Its author describes it as a “hotel” or “cruise ship” for space. In different parts of the film, viewers can notice mirrored walls and relaxing living rooms with filled glasses of wine, created in incredibly impressive detail.
India plans to create a manned space program in the next 15 years that will be able to compete with the American and Chinese. This was stated in the speech of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which he gave on October 17. He gave it to the engineers and scientists of the country’s space agency. The meeting was dedicated to the upcoming test of the Gaganyaan spacecraft. It is scheduled to take place this Saturday. This will be an unmanned mission designed to ensure the safety of all systems. If it turns out to be successful, then next year India will send three astronauts into orbit at once.
However, this is where the country’s space plans are just beginning. According to Modi’s statement, the Bharatiya Antariksha Station space station is planned to be launched into orbit as early as 2035. And by 2040, India’s first astronaut should get to the Moon.
The main goal of the new James Webb research theater was Jupiter, the largest planet in our Solar System. Astronomers have previously paid attention to this gas giant and its moons, but JWST provided a completely different view. Thanks to the infrared equipment of the JWST, some phenomena in the atmosphere of Jupiter have become brighter and clearer. The images obtained with the help of this telescope revealed previously unknown features before our eyes.
The most impressive part was the jet stream over Jupiter. This stream has a length of more than 4800 km and moves at a speed of 514 km/h. Scientists had not noticed such a phenomenon before, so they were extremely puzzled by this discovery. They believe that the jet stream on Jupiter, which moves at a speed exceeding the speed of a category 5 hurricane on Earth, can reveal to us the secrets of the planet’s turbulent atmosphere. The extremely fast jet is located at an altitude of about 40 kilometers above the cloud tops of the planet, so if lower winds have significantly lower speed, this is most likely the result of wind shifts.
Photo of the week: In the ring of fire
An annular solar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes the apogee of its orbit and its angular size in the Earth’s sky is smaller than the size of the Sun. Thus, it cannot completely cover the solar disk. Therefore, instead of a solar corona, a ring of fire can be observed in the sky.
Preparation for the picture took several months. At first, the photographer had to find a point with good visibility, through which the Sun should have passed at the moment of the phase of the fiery arc. Such a place was found in the state of Rio Grande do Norte in eastern Brazil. Maragni visited more than 20 peaks and mountains in the vicinity of the local beach to get a point with the right azimuth angle. Further, Maragni made an accurate calculation of the time at which the Sun would pass through this point. In total, the photographer had a five-second window during which he could take the desired photo.
Interesting figure — 400, 000 galaxies
Astronomers have created a new digitally detailed atlas of our cosmic environment. It contains information about almost 400,000 large galaxies closest to the Milky Way. The atlas was created on the basis of three studies carried out between 2014 and 2017. They were conducted at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) and Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO), as well as at the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory. During these studies, astronomers obtained images in the optical and infrared ranges. They cover an area of 20 thousand square degrees, which is equivalent to almost half of the sky.
Something to read on the weekend
Air launch is a promising way to launch spacecraft from airplanes. Theoretically, it should significantly reduce the cost of launching and make the procedure much more flexible and faster. But as decades of development in this area have shown, it’s not that simple. The Ukrainian writer Radii Radutnyi talks about how the air launch will change the space industry.
In science fiction, one can often find various scenarios of catastrophic events associated with large-scale natural processes: earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, floods, asteroid impacts, etc. These phenomena are astonishing and awe-inspiring, and they evoke fear of the unconquerable power of nature. However, we don’t always think about the powerful processes that are constantly taking place deep in the Earth’s interior and how they affect our daily lives. What will happen when the core of our planet cools down explains our author, PhD in Geology, Tetiana Koshliakova.
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