KOSMOSEST #6: New Year's Greeting & A Look at 2022 Highlights
What were the firsts and what starstruck people outside the daily routine in 2022?
Happy New Year! Let’s welcome 2023 with a special issue of Kosmosest, and look back at the highlights of astronomy and space exploration in 2022.
What were the firsts and what starstruck people outside the daily routine? Here’s a brief selection.
Black hole image
In May 2022, astronomers revealed the first image of the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way galaxy. Since black holes don’t emit any light, this image actually shows the emission from hot plasma that surrounds the black hole and is being pulled into it. This announcement was made by ESO, the European Southern Observatory, and the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) involving a global research team. EHT combined images taken from observatories at different places on Earth to gain a higher picture resolution.
The image might look blurry to us, but it's actually one of the highest resolution images ever taken: resolving the final image was like spotting a donut on the surface of the Moon from Earth.
JWST (J. W. Space Telescope)
In January 2022, the largest space telescope to date arrived to a special orbit 1.5 million kilometres (or 1 million miles) from the Earth. The first, highly anticipated batch of images were released in July, and their comparison with Hubble made it look like we put on a new pair of glasses to see the universe.
Ahead of JWST's first year of observations, scientists from 41 countries around the globe submitted their proposals. The committee of STScI (Space Telescope Science Institute) selected the proposals it found to be the most transformative. The committee then gave each proposal a certain number of hours of observation time. Ultimately, they selected a total of 266 proposals. JWST has been busy collecting data for these planned science programmes, and we’ll be hearing lots more about the science results in 2023.
Asteroid deflection test
The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission intentionally slammed a spacecraft into asteroid Dimorphos in September 2022. Acronyms really are as important as science itself to space scientists. 🎯
DART demonstrated one of the methods for changing an asteroid’s path (the method is called a kinetic impactor). The asteroid Dimorphos does not pose threat to Earth, but the technique helps space agencies understand whether we'd be up for the task if ever needed. DART's target was a system of two asteroids. The smaller asteroid, Dimorphos has a diameter of just 160 m (525 feet). The goal was to determine how much the impact would change Dimorphos' velocity in space. That was done by measuring the change in its orbit around the larger asteroid Didymos: it provided a frame of reference. The goal was to shorten the orbit by 1%—about 10 minutes—but a reduction of 32 minutes was announced based on the analysis of data obtained over two weeks following the crash.
In a longer time frame, the European Space Agency's (ESA) Hera mission will continue investigating the impacted asteroid with an advanced set of instruments. They’ll analyze the outcome of the crash in detail, the structure of asteroids and their chemical composition.
South Korea's first lunar orbiter Danuri was launched into space in August and was inserted into orbit around the Moon in December.
Artemis I: the first test flight of the NASA Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the Orion spacecraft was completed. Launched in November and returned to Earth after a journey to the Moon and back in December, Orion consists of a space capsule (Crew Module), and the European Service Module that is next planned to make a flyby of the Moon with a crew on board.
Thanks for reading!
I wish the best for you in the new year; to stay curious, and to keep looking up ✨
If you enjoyed this week’s glimpse into the universe, please consider spreading the word about it on social media. Let’s keep written content a thing!
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