SpaceX’s Rocket Caught Traveling At 8,221 Km/h During Second Launch In A Day!

SpaceX launched its second rocket late in the evening eastern time yesterday. The mission saw the Falcon 9 rocket launch the SES 18 and SES 19 satellites for the European connectivity firm SES S.A. The launch was SpaceX’s 19th mission of the year, and it took place a little over four hours after another Falcon 9 booster had launched from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in Flordia with a batch of 51 Starlink satellites. However, unlike the Starlink mission, this placed the spacecraft in a higher orbit, with the satellite deployment occurring close to forty minutes post-launch.

SpaceX Launches 218th Mission To Date and Lands Falcon 9 For 180th Time

Yesterday’s SES launch was SpaceX’s ninth launch for SES, as it continued a historic partnership between the two companies. As SpaceX’s presenter, Kate Tice, pointed out during the launch live stream, SES was SpaceX’s first customer that entrusted the Falcon 9 with a precious commercial satellite that was launched to a synchronous orbit. It was also the first company to launch a satellite on a reused Falcon 9.

The Falcon 9 launched the SES 18 and SES 19 satellites to a geosynchronous transfer orbit, as it lifted off right on time at 7:38 pm local time from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Since the launch took place in the evening, the background of the Falcon 9 rocket turned black as all of its nine Merlin 1D engines fired up for launch.

SpaceX’s latest launch for SES marked its ninth mission for the satellite firm. The new satellites launched today will cover the U.S. and provide users with fifth-generation (5G) internet connectivity. Out of these, the SES 18 is slated to start operations in June and replace an existing satellite in SES’s constellation.

SpaceX Falcon 9 SES launch March 2023

The other, SES 19, will be co-located with the SES 22 satellite launched at 135 degrees West meridian by SpaceX last year and was the firm’s previous launch for the European satellite company. In satellite communications, colocation refers to placing two satellites close together in orbit so that they appear as a single unit to the ground stations. Yesterday’s launch was the final SES launch to repurpose the C band spectrum in the U.S.

During the launch, as the rocket lifted off, on-ground cameras continued to track its flight. They captured the rocket traveling at whopping 8,221 kilometers per hour just as its main engines shut off and the first and second stages prepared to separate from each other. Then, both the stages were caught separating and racing away from each other at an altitude of more than 87 kilometers. Finally, some of the best visuals of the day came as the second stage’s fairings deployed.

These fairings, which measure 40 feet in length and 17 feet in diameter (when joined together), were visible as tiny dots in the sky alongside the first and the second stages. SpaceX used one of the halves for the third time and the other for the seventh time. The second stage landed close to the nine-minute mark, completing its sixth landing.

AUKUS nuclear pact ‘great news’ for global security: British premier

First UK submarines will be delivered in late 2030s, according to official statement

U.S. President Joe Biden (C), Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of the United Kingdom (R) and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese of Australia (L) arrive for the Australia – United Kingdom – United States (AUKUS) Partnership meeting at Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego, California, United States on March, 13, 2023.


British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Monday that the AUKUS nuclear pact has been “great news” for both global security and British jobs. 

AUKUS is a three-way strategic defense alliance between Australia, the UK and the US initially to build a class of nuclear-propelled submarines.

But Its primary objective is “to uphold peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific and to deter and defend against rapidly evolving threats to the international order and system there,” according to the US White House.

It is also designed to enhance cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, where the rise of China is seen as a growing threat, and to develop wider technologies.

“The AUKUS partnership, and the submarines we are building in British shipyards, are a tangible demonstration of our commitment to global security. This partnership was founded on the bedrock of our shared values and resolute focus on upholding stability in the Indo-Pacific and beyond,” Sunak said in a statement.

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said the pact will support thousands of jobs across the UK, particularly in the northwest of England, adding “this endeavor will boost prosperity across our country and showcase the prowess of British industry to our allies and partners.”

A new fleet of submarines will be built by the UK and Australia based on the UK’s nuclear-powered submarine design.

The first UK submarines will be delivered in the late 2030s to replace the current Astute-Class vessels and the first Australian submarines will follow in the early 2040s.

The agreement is seen by many as significant because it marks the first time the US has shared nuclear propulsion technology with an ally other than the UK.

In 2021, as a result of this alliance, Australia decided to cancel a contract with France which was awarded in 2016 to build 12 diesel electric-powered submarines to replace its existing Collins Class submarine fleet.

Mysterious gold Bronze Age ring found in Norfolk field

An “incredibly mysterious” gold Bronze Age penannular ring has been unearthed by a metal detectorist.

The tiny ring was discovered in September 2022.

The 14.5mm (0.5in) ring, which was found in north Norfolk, was made more than 3,000 years ago.

Finds liaison officer Helen Geake said an “amazing amount of workmanship” went into creating the ring, which is gold-plated over a metal core.

Norfolk Coroner’s Court has opened an inquest into the find and Norwich Castle Museum hopes to acquire it.

About 12 gold penannular rings have been found in the county since the Portable Antiquities Scheme was set up in 1997.

Bronze Age penannular ring
Image caption,The people who had the skill to work metal were “seen as almost wizards” during the Bronze Age

Dr Geake said they were “incredibly mysterious” and their exact use was not clear.

If they were created to decorate an ear or nose, it was not clear how they were attached, she added.

“All we know is having a lot of gold was important to Bronze Age people and they made the most of the tiniest bits, from sources such as natural gold nuggets,” she said.

A penannular ring is a ring with a small part of its circumference missing.

  • Experts claim breakthrough in ancient tools puzzle
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  • Bronze Age jewellery a ‘notable’ find

Dr Geake said the Bronze Age produced the first people to work in metal and “we’ve got strong indication that the people who could do this were seen as almost wizards, as they could take something solid and use fire to change its nature”.

An “amazing amount of workmanship” was required to create the small ring, she said, adding: “First they had to find the gold, cast a bronze core and then put on the gold so flush and beautifully that it looks like solid gold.

“So if you could do this you could be very powerful – or useful to those in power.”

The treasure inquest will be held on 23 March.

This Mysterious Planet Could Be Transforming Into a Water World

A mysterious exoplanet just 138 light-years from Earth could be in the process of transforming.

This artist’s impression shows an ultra-hot exoplanet, a planet beyond our Solar System, as it is about to transit in front of its host star. When the light from the star passes through the planet’s atmosphere, it is filtered by the chemical elements and molecules in the gaseous layer. With sensitive instruments, the signatures of those elements and molecules can be observed from Earth. Using the ESPRESSO instrument of ESO’s Very Large Telescope, astronomers have found the heaviest element yet in an exoplanet’s atmosphere, barium, in the two ultra-hot Jupiters WASP-76 b and WASP-121 b.

An analysis of an exoplanet named HD-207496b reveals that the world, clocking in at 6.1 and 2.25 times the mass and radius of Earth, respectively, either has a gaseous atmosphere, a global ocean, or a mixture of both – and it could be shrinking down to become a super-Earth.

This could help astronomers resolve a mystery in exoplanet detections, a gap between the masses of rocky planets bigger than Earth and gaseous planets smaller than Neptune. But it will take a closer look at the enigmatic exoplanet to characterize its atmosphere.

It’s a diverse galaxy out there, with many very different exoplanets. Astronomers have discovered and confirmed around 5,300 worlds outside the Solar System at the time of this writing, with nearly twice that many unconfirmed candidates.

With this information, scientists can conduct statistical analyses to figure out trends in planetary systems. And one interesting thing we’ve learned is that there is a glaring scarcity of exoplanets between 1.5 and 2 times the mass of Earth with orbits shorter than around 100 days.

This is known as the small planet radius valley. Below it, we generally find rocky worlds like Earth, Venus, and Mars; we call them super-Earths.

Above it, we find worlds with thick atmospheres, like miniature Neptunes, and we call them mini-Neptunes.

The reasons for the valley aren’t entirely clear, but a growing body of evidence is beginning to suggest that close proximity to the host star has something to do with it. It’s possible that below a certain critical threshold, an exoplanet just doesn’t have enough mass to keep a gravitational grip on its atmosphere (the gas is evaporated by the star’s radiation).

We’ve detected a few worlds that contain clues about this process, and scientists are looking for more, using the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) on the European Southern Observatory’s 3.6-meter telescope at La Silla Observatory in Chile, following up on candidates identified by NASA’s space-based exoplanet-hunting telescope TESS.

This is what brought an international team led by astrophysicist Susana Barros of the University of Porto in Portugal to HD-207496b.

TESS looks for exoplanets by staring at a patch of sky, its sensitive instruments tuned to the very faint dips in starlight that could be evidence of an orbiting exoplanet passing, or transiting, between us and the star.

If these transits occur with regularity, astronomers can easily infer the presence of an orbiting body and determine its period.

If the star’s brightness is known, the depth of the transit dips – how much starlight is blocked – allows astronomers to calculate the radius of the orbiting body.

HARPS detects another metric. As an exoplanet orbits with a star, it exerts a gravitational pull of its own. The exoplanet doesn’t, technically, orbit the star; rather, the two bodies orbit a mutual center of mass, known as the barycenter. Because stars are so much more massive than their worlds, they don’t move much, instead just wiggling about on the spot minutely.

This is what HARPS can measure. As the star wiggles towards and away from us, the wavelength of its light changes, compressing when the star moves closer and stretching as the star moves away. How much the star moves depends on the exoplanet’s mass, so astronomers can calculate that, too.

Once you know the mass and radius of an exoplanet, you can put them together to calculate its density. This is where it gets really interesting because density can be used to infer what the exoplanet is made of.

When TESS picked up an exoplanet close to the radius valley, with a radius 2.25 times that of Earth and an orbit of 6.44 days with an orange dwarf star named HD-207496, they took to HARPS for a closer look. The HARPS data revealed that HD-207496b has a mass about 6.1 times that of Earth.

That means the exoplanet’s density is around 3.27 grams per cubic centimeter. That’s considerably less dense than Earth’s 5.51 grams per cubic centimeter and implies that the composition of HD-207496b is not entirely rocky. So the researchers performed modeling to see what the world is made of.

“We find that HD-207496b has a density lower than Earth, and hence we expect that it has a significant amount of water and/or gas in its composition,” the researchers write in their paper. “From internal structure modeling of the planet, we conclude that the planet has either a water-rich envelope, a gas-rich envelope, or a mixture of both.”

Evaporation modeling reveals that if the exoplanet has a gas-rich atmosphere of hydrogen and helium, that state is temporary: The star will strip the exoplanet completely within 520 million years. It’s also possible that the atmosphere has already gone, and HD-207496b is already a bare ocean world.

“In general,” the researchers write, “we expect that the planet would have both water and a H/He envelope and be in between both these models.”

The star, HD-207496, is relatively young, around 520 million years old. That means it represents a rare opportunity to study the youth of one of these exoplanets before transformation to a bare super-Earth, if that is indeed in store for HD-207496b.

Follow-up studies to characterize the atmosphere, if there is one, should reveal the true nature – and ultimate fate – of this mysterious world.

The research has been accepted in Astronomy & Astrophysics and is available on arXiv.

Director of National Intelligence delivers the Congressional Annual Report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena! Finally!

It’s a bit late (due October 31st, 2022) but it is now in the public’s hands -at least the unclassified version is!

There are a few nuggets that are interesting but the report mostly details procedures going forward as to how to categorize UAP, methods to evaluate reports, and how multiple government agencies like Dod and NASA, and civilian organizations will interact. While not mentioned in the report, MUFON has been providing assessments to the new All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO) under the jurisdiction of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).

The meat of the report for UFO researchers and enthusiasts is on page 5. The report suggests that a little less than half of the reports garnered in the last year remain unidentified!  Page 5 reads in part as follows:

Since its establishment in July 2022, AARO has formulated and started to leverage a robust analytic process against identified UAP reporting. Once completed, AARO’s final analytic findings will be available in their quarterly reports to policymakers. AARO’s initial analysis and characterization of the 366 newly-identified reports, informed by a multi-agency process, judged more than half as exhibiting unremarkable characteristics:
 26 characterized as Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) or UAS-like entities;
 163 characterized as balloon or balloon-like entities; and
 6 attributed to clutter.
Initial characterization does not mean positively resolved or unidentified. This initial characterization better enables AARO and ODNI to efficiently and effectively leverage resources against the remaining 171 uncharacterized and unattributed UAP reports. Some of these uncharacterized UAP appear to have demonstrated unusual flight characteristics or performance capabilities, and require further analysis.


Spacing Out

I spend a lot of time staring off into space.

To clarify, I don’t mean that literally – I don’t have a super-powered Webb Telescope, you know – but these pockets of deep thought are meant to lead to some creative thoughts and interesting answers to odd questions. 

While sometimes it’s a miss, in most cases I’m able to light on an idea and run with it. When I write fiction for fun, I tend to focus more on themes that fall within the high fantasy genre, but my tenure here at Stardock has helped to ebb me a bit more toward Science Fiction on some days.

An image taken by the Hubble Telescope of the Pillars of Creation in 2014

Space is kind of our “thing” here at Stardock, and as a result I’ve grown rather fond of it myself. My favorite game to explore in is Star Control: Origins – not only because of the quirky and delightful writing, but also because of the thrill of finding rare worlds and encountering new alien races.

Playing games where exploring a vast and mysterious galaxy are at the center of gameplay make me think about the kind of exploration we do in the real world. While I’m not keen to go into space myself – I rather enjoy staying on the ground, thanks – I appreciate that there have been so many advancements made in tech throughout the years that let me imagine having that experience in different ways.

Images provided by technology like the James Webb telescope only serve to spur the imagination as they make you wonder about what mysteries lurk in the corners of our solar system and beyond. Back in October, the telescope glimpsed the dark side of what we call the “Pillars of Creation,” which are located 6,500 light-years away in the Eagle Nebula.

A zoomed-in image of the Pillars of Creation, taken by the James Webb Telescope in 2022

The images are breathtaking, haunting, and awe-inspiring all at once. These iconic towers are comprised of interstellar dust and gas and glimmer with young stars. They’re absolutely massive at about 5 light-years in length (for context, a light-year is about 6 trillion miles). 

Catching the pillars in mid-infrared light showcases a twisted snarl of ghostly figures leaping across the cosmos out of the gray and velvet-like dust. Although most of the stars are hidden by the dust, some of them shine through the darkness thanks to the infrared light (which is invisible to the human eye normally).

The Webb telescope’s ability to capture images in infrared light means paving the way for a whole new understanding of the pillars and the rest of the incredible phenomenon we observe through our universe. It’s really rather incredible; I find myself staring at these images in awe and am always excited to see what new ones the Webb telescope captures.

What about space exploration fascinates you? What is one of your favorite space exploration games? I’d love to hear about it!