12 min Science The sky is not the limit | James Webb is ready, news from Mars and more

12 min Science The sky is not the limit |  James Webb is ready, news from Mars and more

In the world of astronomy, the second week of the year was marked by news about space exploration. News of missions to Mars has arrived, but not all very exciting.

Perseverance, for example, had difficulties with a sample collection and its instrument may be clogged. On the other hand, James Webb is doing very well, thank you, and is ready to be prepared for the start of observations. There have also been discoveries in the more distant universe, such as strange exoplanets, moons larger than Earth and black holes devouring stars.

Check below the summary of the main space news of the week!

James Webb is ready but could collide with space junk

Simulation of the James Webb telescope in space (Image: Reproduction/Adriana Manrique Gutierrez/NASA)

The James Webb Space Telescope has completed the deployment of its primary mirror, the last major step necessary for scientific operations to begin. The mirror is the largest ever sent into space, the result of decades of work — no wonder it was a moment of great anticipation for NASA scientists.

Despite their enthusiasm, they are prepared for some “accidents” that the telescope will face over time. It’s just that as it orbits the Sun, Webb will encounter some meteorites and space junk debris, potentially hitting its mirrors. However, the space observatory must survive the damage long enough to complete its mission.

Perseverance faces anomaly in its 6th sample collection

Inside the Perseverance storage tube (Image: Reproduction/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The Perseverance rover managed to collect its 6th sample of Martian rock, but faced an anomaly when trying to seal the storage tube. According to NASA, something, perhaps small pebbles, obstructed the mechanism that was supposed to seal the titanium tube.

As sampling on another planet is a delicate procedure, NASA doesn’t want to damage what has already been collected by the rover, so it will take the time to remove the troublesome debris that prevents the tube in question from closing before proceeding. with the rover mission.

InSight probe enters safe mode

Simulation of the InSight probe investigating the crust and mantle of Mars (Image: Reproduction/IPGP/Nicolas Sarter)

The InSight spacecraft, which is on Mars investigating the planet’s crust, mantle and core, has entered safe mode after a massive dust storm. The “dust devil,” as the dusty whirlpools on Mars are called, reduced the sunlight that powers the lander’s panels to power the equipment.

During the period it is in safe mode, InSight will have all its non-essential functions suspended to save power, but everything should be back to normal within the next week.

A planet deformed by its own star

This graphic shows the properties of the exoplanet WASP-103b, deformed by the tidal forces between it and its star (Image: Reproduction/ESA)

Planets are often spherical because of their own gravity, but this does not apply to WASP-103b. This “hot Jupiter” is so close to its star that, in addition to completing an orbit in less than an Earth day, it has gained an elongated shape, similar to an American football or rugby ball.

This is because of tidal forces, the same forces that move Earth’s oceans, causing the tides we know. This is an effect of gravity when two bodies are close enough together that one of them attracts one side of the second object with greater force than the opposite side.

Black hole devoured a star decades ago and no one saw it

A black hole feeds on a star in this illustration (Image: Reproduction/Sophia Dagnello/NRAO/AUI/NSF)

Radio telescope data on the Very Large Array (VLA) showed that a black hole devoured a star in the 1980s, but no one noticed the event. It is only now that two high school students and interns at the observatory have seen a glow that has disappeared in later data.

When astronomers saw the notes left by the students, they combed through the data and found that the glow was the “burp” of a black hole devouring a relatively massive object, such as a star. Over the years, the brightness has diminished, and it is now 500 times darker. This is the first event of its kind to be detected at a relatively close distance.

“Supermoon” in another star system?

Illustration of the moon candidate and its planet in another star system (Image: Reproduction/Helena Valenzuela Widerström)

A moon 2.6 times the size of Earth would be orbiting a Jupiter-sized exoplanet about 5,500 light-years from us. It remains to be confirmed that the observed is indeed an exomoon, but its detection could show that moons orbiting exoplanets are as common in the universe as the exoplanets themselves.

According to the study, the moon would be gaseous; so scientists do not rule out the possibility that the object was “born” as a planet, being later captured by a much larger and more massive world, and then becoming a natural satellite.

Organic molecules in Martian meteorite would have geochemical origin

The Allan Hills 84001 meteorite (Image: Reproduction/NASA/JSC/Stanford University)

Meteorite (ALH) 84001, considered one of the oldest objects to come to Earth from Mars, was the subject of a new study that tried to determine the origin of its organic compounds. Found in 1984, the rock is a rare opportunity to study the chances of life on another planet.

According to the research, however, the organic molecules found in the meteorite may be the result of non-biological, or geochemical, processes. Two possibilities were raised: volcanic activity and carbonization, related to interactions between rocks and slightly acidic water, with dissolved carbon dioxide.

While these reactions are not biological, they are responsible for much of the organic compounds from which life could evolve. This means that, perhaps, Mars possessed at least some of the fundamental ingredients to generate life forms in the past.

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