Space news weekly recap: NASA SpaceX launch, Dimorphos’ tail after DART and more

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The International Space Station welcomed four new residents on Thursday with the arrival of NASA astronauts Nicole Aunapu Mann and Josh Cassada, Japanese astronaut Kichi Wakata, and Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina. The four-member Crew-5 mission launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Read about that and more in our weekly space news recap.

Dinosaur-killing asteroid generated a tsunami

New research proposes that the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs also triggered a massive tsunami that scoured the ocean floor thousands of kilometres away from the impact site on the Yucatan Peninsula.

The study simulated the Chicxulub impact and its effects using computer models. After modelling the impact, the researchers compared the results to geological records of more than 100 sites around the world and found evidence that supported the models’ predictions about the tsunami’s strength and path.

Earth like planets It is more likely that a terrestrial exoplanet will have an overabundance of either landmass or oceans. (Image credit: Europlanet Science Congress 2022)

Search for new Earths should look for ‘pale yellow dots’

According to a new study, it is unlikely that Earth-like planets will have the near balance of land and water that we take for granted on our planet. The study proposes that the search for new Earths should look for “pale yellow dots” instead of “pale blue dots,” which is how astronomer Carl Sagan described our planet.

The research suggests that there is an 80 per cent probability of terrestrial exoplanets being mostly covered by land, followed by a 19 per cent probability of such planets being oceanic worlds. They found that there is only a minute one per cent chance of such planets having a balance of land and ocean like can be found on Earth.

DART mission: Dimorphos debris tail Dimorphos’ 10,000 kilometre long debris tail can be seen in this image taken by the SOAR Telescope two days after the DART crash. (Image credit: NOIRLab)

Dimorphos sprouts new tail

After the impact from NASA’s DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) spacecraft, the asteroid Dimorphos got a huge tail of dust and debris, as can be seen from the image taken by the 4.1-metre Southern Astrophysical Research (SOAR) Telescope at the NOIRLab’s Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile

Researchers took the image two days after the impact and it shows a massive dust trail that is pushed in one direction due to radiation pressure from the Sun, just like how it happens with a comet’s tail. Astronomers estimate that this tail is around 10,000 kilometres long.

NASA SpaceX launch and arrival at ISS

The four-member astronaut team, including the Russian cosmonaut and the first Native American woman in orbit, safely docked with the International Space Station (ISS) in their SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule called Endeavour.

The capsule’s rendezvous with the orbiting space station happened at 2.30 AM IST on October 7. Endeavour was launched into orbit by a SpaceX Falco 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The main objective of Chandrayaan-2 mission was to demonstrate ISRO’s capability to make a soft landing on the moon (PTI, file)

Chandrayaan’s spectrometer maps sodium abundance on Moon

Chandrayaan-2’s CLASS X-ray spectrometer has mapped an abundance of Sodium on the Moon for the first time. The orbiter’s X-ray Fluorescence Spectrometer (C1XS) detected sodium with the help of its characteristic line in X-rays.

A study finds that part of the sodium signal could be coming from a “thin veneer” of sodium atoms weakly bound to the lunar grains. These sodium atoms can be pushed out of the surface more easily than if they were part of lunar minerals and crystals.

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