|Artist's illustration of a magnetar, a neutron star with an extremely strong magnetic field that emits radio waves (red). Magnetars are a promising candidate for the source of Fast Radio Bursts.|
(Image credit: Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF)
From a solar plant planned in space to a black hole roaming our galaxy, here is some of the biggest science news this week.
From a mysterious fast radio blast from space and a stellar black hole streaming through our galaxy to the infamous asteroid Apophis being used to test our planetary defense system, and China wants to build a space solar power station, this week has been a very busy one for science enthusiasts out there. Here, we've compiled a list of some of the biggest space and science news this week.
A mysterious fast radio explosion has been detected for the second time ever.
Fast Radio Burst is a signal detected by astronomers from a galaxy believed to be approximately 3 billion light-years away (FRB). This fast radio burst (FRB 20190520B) is said to be "co-located with a compressed, continuous radio source that is associated with a dwarf host galaxy of highly specific star formation."
FRBs are brief flashes of radio frequency emissions that last milliseconds. This is usually repeated several times. Scientists still need to fully understand the phenomena that were first discovered in 2007. This is the second time they have ever been discovered. The main candidate for what generates FRBs is a magnetar, which is a neutron star with a really strong magnetic field that emits radio waves.
Chinese space solar power station
According to recent reports, China intends to launch a solar power plant into orbit as early as 2028, two years earlier than previously proposed. The space-faring country will launch an experimental project on a 400-kilometer-high satellite in 2028.
This satellite will convert solar energy into electricity and then convert that electricity into microwave radiation which can be transmitted to various stationary targets on our planet. The microwave radiation can then be converted back into electricity and used. The pilot project will generate only about 10 kilowatts, which is just enough to power a few homes. But this proof-of-concept can later be expanded to become an important source of energy.
Using Apophis to test our defense
Named after the Egyptian god of chaos and darkness, Apophis was identified as one of the most dangerous asteroids that could collide with Earth soon after its discovery in 2004. But as astronomers better tracked Apophis, they ruled out the possibility of an asteroid endangering it. At least another 100 years.
But to test the operational readiness of planetary defense systems, astronomers used Apophis' close approach as a mock encounter with a new, potentially dangerous asteroid.
They removed Apophis data from an asteroid data clearinghouse to test whether international systems could detect the asteroid. Not only was Apophis "rediscovered" by various astronomical surveys, but the possibility of a collision was quickly ruled out.
A rehearsal for Artemis I Moon Mission was scheduled
After several failed attempts, NASA sets a rehearsal for the Artemis I mission on June 20 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The team will practice operations for loading propellant into the missile's tank and perform a full simulated countdown. They will also deplete the tanks and practice the schedules and procedures used at launch.
The rehearsal will take place over two days and can be viewed alongside live commentary on NASA TV, the NASA App, and the NASA website. Once completed and successfully tested, the SLS rocket that will carry out the Artemis missions will be the most powerful rocket ever built.
The Hubble Space Telescope discovers the mass of an isolated black hole in the Milky Way
The Hubble Space Telescope has provided direct evidence of a single black hole drifting through space with precise measurements, for the first time ever.
Until now, measurements of black holes have usually been inferred statistically or by their interactions in a binary system or in the core of a galaxy. As a result, large black holes are usually discovered along with their companion stars, making the newly discovered "wandering" black hole an exception.
It is about 5,000 light-years from Earth, in the Carina-Sagittarius arm of the Milky Way. With its discovery, astronomers estimate that the closest stellar-mass black hole may be close to 80 light-years away. To put that in perspective, the closest star to Earth, Proxima Centauri, is about 4.2 light-years away.