Discover more from KOSMOSEST
Kosmosest Newsletter #12: May Round-up
Here’s a selection of latest in space: May 2023, touching upon topics from a newly discovered supernova to space tourism.
Hey, That Wasn’t There Before! A Newly Discovered Supernova in the Pinwheel Galaxy (M101)
Astronomers and skywatchers worldwide are thrilled by a newly discovered supernova in the Pinwheel Galaxy (M101). The supernova, designated SN 2023ixf, was first spotted by Koichi Itagaki in Japan and confirmed by the Zwicky Transient Facility in California. The supernova will likely brighten and remain visible to telescopes for months (long-exposure photographs enhance its visibility).
A supernova occurs when a massive star exhausts its fuel and collapses under gravity. This collapse releases an immense amount of energy, resulting in a massive explosion. Supernovae play a crucial role in enriching the universe with heavy elements and they allow us to learn more about how massive stars explode and the role they play in stellar life cycles.
It’s SunDay ☀️
The National Science Foundation's Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope has shared eight incredible new images of our closest star. These images, captured by the Visible-Broadband Imager, offer a peek into the Sun's diverse landscapes, from sunspots to serene regions. By studying these images in extraordinary detail, scientists hope to unravel the mysteries of the Sun's magnetic field and understand the powerful storms it generates.
As the recently inaugurated Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope enters its Operations Commissioning Phase, scientists are exploring its capabilities. This learning and transitioning period will bring the observatory to its full operational potential.
Read more: nso.edu
NASA Selects Blue Origin’s for a Major Moon Lander Contract
Blue Origin (American aerospace company) has been awarded a $3.4 billion contract by NASA for the second Human Landing System (HLS) as part of the Artemis program. Blue Origin's moon lander, called Blue Moon, will serve as an additional option for NASA's astronauts to reach the lunar surface alongside SpaceX's Starship. Blue Origin aims to have the lander ready for the Artemis 5 mission in 2029, following test launches and landings. The mission involves launching Blue Moon on an undisclosed rocket, docking with the lunar outpost Gateway, and transporting two astronauts to the moon's south pole for a week-long mission.
"An additional, different lander will help ensure that we have the hardware necessary for a series of landings to carry out the science and technology development on the surface of the moon," explained NASA Administrator Bill Nelson during the press conference.
Huge congratulations to my friend Susie who will work on this project as a Payload Engineer!
Read more: blueorigin.com
Virgin Galactic successfully completed its fifth test flight to suborbital space, indicating that the company is on track to begin commercial operations in June.
The mission, named Unity 25, was the first trip to space for Virgin Galactic since July 2021. The company uses an air-launch system with a two-pilot, six-passenger space plane named VSS Unity and a carrier aircraft called VMS Eve. Unity 25 reached a maximum speed of nearly three times the speed of sound and a peak altitude of 87 kilometers or 54.2 miles, qualifying it as a spaceflight according to NASA and the U.S. Air Force. The mission successfully landed at Spaceport America, concluding the Unity 25 mission.
An upcoming commercial flight in June will be a research flight booked by the Italian Air Force.
Planning the JWST Second Year of Observations
In one of the previous newsletters (Where to Point for the Next Discoveries?), I gave a brief overview on how the schedule of operations is prepared for J. W. Space Telescope (JWST), the advanced infrared space telescope. Astronomers around the world submitted their proposals for science that could be done, pitching where to point the space telescope. The competition among astronomers was fierce: the proposals requested almost 36,500 hours, compared to the 5000 available.
The announcement of the scientific program for Cycle 2 was the culmination of a peer-review process to select the most compelling and best justified (both technically and scientifically) programs. The abstracts of the selected programs are publicly available on the STScI site. More in-depth look will follow in a future newsletter, but for those curious, you can read more about the astronomy topics to be covered here (link to Scientific American).
The proposal which I contributed to did not get accepted, but fortunately we received valuable feedback for the next round.
Read more about the proposal process: blogs.nasa.gov
Thanks for reading!
In case you missed it: I’ll be sharing additional newsletters for those who’d like to get more frequent updates as part of the paid subscription option. (More on this in the previous newsletter.)
A huge thank you for everyone who supports my work in outreach.
A reminder: my first ebook is available!
The aim of this ebook is to make the journey of becoming an astrophysicist more accessible through personal recollections, lessons learned, and practical tips. At the same time, it's an informational read for anyone interested in space with plenty of astronomy facts woven into the story.
Wishing you a great new week ahead!