Triumph, exoplanets and mysterious SpaceX killer whales: this week in space and science


CNN – This week marked the beginning of a new era of manned spaceflight, with the launch and return of SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule, the first commercially-designed spacecraft designed to carry astronauts. It is not for the moment that humans are shuttling, but they contain an interesting cargo.

Scientists have discovered a mysterious new type of killer whale: asteroids look nothing like "Armageddon" and the Milky Way weighs heavily. Exoplanets also had their moment in the sun this week.

And there was the discovery of the tragic site of a mass sacrifice of the 15th century, involving 137 children and over 200 juvenile lamas who could have had their hearts cut off. You may want to read this another time, when you are not about to have a brunch.

Here is everything you missed this week in space and science. And do not forget to move your clocks forward one hour this weekend!

A big win for SpaceX, Ripley and Little Earth

The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule was launched on March 2 and completed its historic mission on Friday. The capsule moored at the International Space Station to deliver supplies, spent the week tied to the station and then descended to Earth. It was designed to transport astronauts to the space station as early as June or July, but no human was on board for this historic test flight.

Anne McClain, NASA astronaut, tweeted that it was "the dawn of a new era for manned spaceflight", accompanied by a photo of the capsule.

Vice President Mike Pence called on the station's astronauts to congratulate them on this feat and all that that entails for the future.

But Crew Dragon was not without its entertaining pleasures. For the ride, Ripley, a model adapted to the space and christened Ellen Ripley in the movies "Alien".

Ripley was destined to make sure that the spacecraft would be safe and comfortable for humans. Ripley even has small sensors at key points such as the head, neck and spine to see what this experiment could be for astronauts who could use it later this year.

And then there was Little Earth, an adorably wonderful stuffed toy representing our planet. Little Earth, also known as Buddy, had a hectic week with the astronauts. While Crew Dragon is back on Earth with Ripley on board, Little Earth will enjoy extended vacations until July. That means he'll have the chance to see McClain and Christina Koch lead the first outing in the all-female space this month.

Throughout the week, McClain shared on Twitter great photos of the plush that accompanied him during tasks, experiences, workouts and even dinners.

And of course, Little Earth was able to see Big Earth from the best point of view. "Yes, buddy, it's your Mother Earth, she's not beautiful?" McClain tweeted, accompanied by a photo too cute for words.

You can see the full summary of his big week here. And do not worry, we will continue to report on Little Earth's shenanigans.

The shock waves are beautiful

The speed of the sound (not the Coldplay song) is associated with sonic boom and supersonic jets. But have you ever wondered what it looks like? Tip: You have never seen anything like it.

Courtesy of NASA

It took 10 years to develop the technology that would allow air-to-air photography to capture the shock wave interaction of two supersonic aircraft. The two US T-38 supersonic jet aircraft conducted a test flight in California 30 feet apart to create interacting shockwaves.

A NASA B-200 King Air plane flew 2,000 feet below planes and took pictures at 1,400 frames per second.

The shock waves that we see in the photo create supersonic puffs when they blend into the atmosphere, breaking the wall of sound. Supersonic flights that do not make this noise but rather a weaker rumor could lift the restrictions on supersonic overflight over the earth. These photos can help researchers test and develop this technology.

"I'm ecstatic about the result of these images," said Dr. T. Heineck, a scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center, in a statement. "We have never dreamed that it would be as clear, as beautiful."

New whale, who say?

A new type of whale has been spotted, "Type D" to be exact. What does it mean? D-type whales resemble killer whales or killer whales, but have a more rounded head, smaller white markings around the eyes, and a different body shape.


An international team of scientists spotted them off the coast of Cape Horn in Chile and did small biopsies to study them.

"We are very excited about future genetic analyzes," said Bob Pitman, a researcher at NOAA Fisheries' Southwest Fisheries Science Center. "Type D killer whales could be the largest undescribed animal on the planet and make it clear that we know very little about life in our oceans."

Asteroid threat

Besides the fact that Hollywood was totally wrong to know what it could be to fly through an asteroid field (thanks, "Star Wars"), the film industry was also wrong to say that It was easy to remove an asteroid (thanks, "Armageddon").

A new study simulated a small asteroid, whose diameter covered a little over a kilometer, colliding with a larger one about 16 miles. The big asteroid was almost unscathed. Gravity could even help to collect all the disturbed fragments.

It will take a lot more power and energy to destroy an asteroid that, for example, goes to Earth.

In order to be able to sleep at night, NASA and other space organizations around the world focus on the detection of the threat of objects, asteroids and comets close to Earth, whose orbits place them at less than 30 million kilometers from the Earth.

How much would the Milky Way weigh if the Milky Way could be weighed?

Consider this as your free tip: The Milky Way is heavy. But now scientists have a better idea of ​​its weight.

The Milky Way; CNN

It is not as if the Milky Way, or even the stars and planets, could be scaled. Using data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and the European Space Agency's Gaia satellite, astronomers have determined the most accurate measure of its mass: our vast galaxy has 1.5 trillion solar masses.

A solar mass is the mass of our sun, which is 2 times 10 to 30 kilograms of power.

So where does all this weight come from? Surprisingly, only a small percentage of this is due to the 200 billion stars of the galaxy and the supermassive black hole of 4 million solar mass in the center. The rest is due to dark matter, the elusive substance that keeps the universe together.

Astronomers are still trying to find evidence of dark matter to determine whether there is a particle or something else. But they know that he is present, even though he can not yet be detected.

And for galaxies, ours is heavy compared to others, but it is also suitable given its brightness. Lighter galaxies weigh about one billion solar masses. The heaviest are 30 trillion solar masses.

So, it's as heavy as necessary.

Hot jupiters, so hot now

Congratulations to Kepler-1658 b. It was finally considered a planet after being discovered by the Kepler Space Telescope 10 years ago. Kepler's mission revolutionized the search for other worlds outside our solar system and ended in October. Rest in peace, Kepler, and thanks for all the exoplanets.

An artist concept of the Kepler-1658 system; CNN

It's rare, a hot Jupiter around an evolved subgiant star with an incredibly close orbit that launches it every 3.8 days.

Hot Jupiters – gas giants similar to the largest planet in our own system but much closer to their host stars – were common discoveries at the start of the exoplanet hunt because they were easy to find, but they do not represent now that about 1% of known exoplanets. .

The star has 50% more mass than our sun, and is three times larger. The planet orbits closely, at about twice the diameter of the star. This makes the planet one of the closest to its host star, which is a more advanced star that reflects what our sun will be in the future.

If you could stand on the planet, the star would appear 60 times larger in diameter than the sun when we see it from Earth.

Image of the artist representing life on a planet orbiting a system of binary stars, visible in the form of two suns in the sky; Mark Garlick via CNN

Another study this week suggests that binary or two-star systems can host planets more likely to be in the habitable zone – this position of Goldilocks is neither too hot nor too cold and can withstand liquid water on the surface. This is called the habitable zone because we associate the presence of water with the possibility of living.

So, this magnificent double sunset of "New Hope" could mean that there is a better chance to live, even if "the sand becomes everywhere" on Tatooine. At least there is life.

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