Scientists find out how to stop the melting of Arctic glaciers, and NASA’s satellite photographed the birth of the island: News Digest

Selection of the most interesting space news for the week: Startup Morpheus Space created a revolutionary software for space flight planning; China taught an AI robot to extract oxygen for colonization of the Moon and Mars, and we tell who the Anunnaki are and where they came from.

“The human spirit must prevail over technology.”

― Albert Einstein

What meteor showers can be seen at the end of November

The last autumn month is the time of activity of several quite powerful meteor showers, among which the “double” Taurids stand out, as well as the Leonids, known for their impressive bursts every 32–33 years. However, now astronomers do not expect big surprises from them. During the peak period, coming this year on the night of November 17-18, this shower will “produce” from 20 to 30 meteors per hour.  

The Leonids belong to 13 major meteor showers, the zenithal hourly number of which (number of meteors observed, taking into account visibility conditions) reaches 10 or more annually during the epoch of the maximum. Some of them give us meteor showers from time to time — this is what bursts of activity are called when it is possible to observe more than a thousand meteors per hour. In addition to the main most powerful showers, about three dozen minor ones are known, the activity of which even at the maximum does not exceed 10 meteors per hour, and most often reaches only 3-5. Similar showers include the November Orionids, which peak on the 27th. Another weak meteor shower of the end of autumn is Andromedids, the maximum of which is also expected on November 27. Its peak power does not exceed a dozen meteors.

Scientists find a way to stop the melting of ice in Antarctica

Scientists are very concerned that glaciers in West Antarctica may completely melt in the next few decades. They have developed a way to prevent this phenomenon by spraying aerosols in the upper atmosphere. However, it turned out that it also matters where exactly they need to be launched. Various scenarios of this process have been modelled in the current study. The researchers looked at what consequences they would lead to.In general, 11 different cases of aerosol injection into the stratosphere were simulated. Three cases covered several latitudes — this was considered the most possible approach to how aerosol dispersal in the atmosphere could be implemented — with target temperatures 1.5, 1 and 0.5°C above the pre-industrial level. 

The simulation, which covered the time period from 2035 to 2070, included a scenario of moderate emissions without aerosol injection into the stratosphere, which served as a key comparison point. In general, spraying proved effective in subtropical and tropical latitudes of the Southern Hemisphere. It would allow diverting warm currents from the ice continent, which strongly affect it. It is noteworthy that at the same time, three scenarios turn out to be such that they not only do not stop the melting of ice, but also accelerate it. This is due to the fact that in these cases the winds shift to the south and bring with them warm precipitation.

NASA satellite spotted the birth of a new island

NASA’s Landsat-9 satellite has spotted a new island rising out of the water off the coast of Iwo Jima. It was born due to an underwater volcanic eruption that took place in late October. The distance from it to Tokyo is 1200 km.

Interestingly, no traces of the eruption were found in the photos taken by the same satellite on October 18. According to the Japanese Meteorological Agency, the underwater eruption itself began on October 21. The underwater volcano is known to have risen above the ocean surface in two places and started scattering debris around. Initially, the new island  was about 50 meters long, but later it grew to 100 meters. It is located one kilometer off the coast of Iwo Jima and consists of volcanic pumice.

Morpheus Space startup created a simple program for planning space missions

The developer of space engines Morpheus Space presented its new product — a platform for modelling and designing space missions called Journey. The platform was developed in just two years. 

Journey combines data that is usually dispersed between Excel tables, Python code and other cumbersome modelling systems, and quickly forms a mission concept and system design. Users can enter their measurements, manoeuvres, launch date and other requirements. The program is designed to be convenient even for non-specialized users, offering ready-made working templates, for example, the size of the satellite or the height of the orbit. The Journey platform is not limited to using only Morpheus engines. Depending on the needs of the mission, it can recommend engines from other companies and various modules for satellites, such as positioning and communication systems.

Artificial intelligence has learned to extract oxygen on Mars

Chinese scientists have used an artificial intelligence robot to synthesize oxygen in Martian conditions. The “electronic chemist” was able to synthesize the necessary catalyst from local materials. It accomplished the work that would have taken humans 2000 years.

“The AI chemist’s brain performed quantum chemical and molecular dynamics calculations for 30,000 high-entropy hydroxides with different elemental ratios and calculated the catalytic activity using density functional theory. The simulation data is used to train a neural network model to quickly predict the activity of catalysts with different elemental compositions. The artificial intelligence then used Bayesian statistics to predict the combination of available Martian ores needed to synthesize the optimal catalyst. Scientists say that in two months of operation, the machine solved as many problems as it would have taken them 2000 years to do.

Photo of the week: Photographer documented JWST assembly for 12 years

The JWST assembly. Photo: NASA/Christopher Gunn

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is currently peering into the depths of space, providing us with precious images. But the telescope’s path to the stars was quite thorny and took 30 years. Thanks to photographer Chris Gunn, we can now see the stunning images documenting how this most complex instrument of mankind was assembled over 12 years. Gunn has a book of his photographs published. It is titled Inside the Star Factory. The pictures in there are accompanied by an in-depth review of James Webb by science writer Christopher Wanjek. For more photos, see here.

Interesting figure  — 6,000 kilometres

The new image of the Earth may not seem too expressive and exciting at first glance. But if you understand the details, then you will be fascinated by this photo. The image of our planet was taken from a height of about 6 thousand kilometres using a tiny camera equal in size to the edge of a 20-euro cent coin, e.g. only 2.14 millimetres. This tiny camera is mounted on the European Space Agency’s (ESA) TRISAT-R CubeSat satellite. Its lens is made of transparent borosilicate glass, which protects it from radiation and cosmic rays. The lens is attached directly to the image sensor, which has a resolution of 320 x 320 pixels. 

Something to read on the weekend


Anyone who has heard the word “Anunnaki” knows that it refers to aliens from outer space who are of reptilian origin. They are believed by various sects or just people with a weak psyche and a low level of education. However, in reality, this word does not mean what everyone thinks it means. Who are the Anunnaki and where did they come from tells our author Olexandr Burlaka.

In the coming days, we can witness the most anticipated space event of 2023. SpaceX will conduct the second orbital test of the new Starship spacecraft. But why does its flight get so much attention? And can Starship really revolutionize space travel, Nikita Litvinov tells us.

Read also: Virgin Galactic to stop tourist flights into space, and oxygen can be extracted on the Moon: News Digest

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