SLS successful tests, ‘Death Star’ destroying alien worlds and two new ‘hot Jupiter’ exoplanets

nasaNASA successfully tests rocket engines designed for deep space

NASA says that its latest tests are a milestone towards the next stage of space exploration — and Mars. It successfully fired an RS-25 rocket engine for 500 seconds on Thursday, March 10th. This is the same engine that will eventually send astronauts on the first deep-space mission in more than 45 years. It’s a key part of NASA’s new Space Launch System, aimed at taking humans to nearby asteroids and, after that, the red planet. Four of these engines power the SLS — making up a combined thrust of two million pounds.

The space agency and its contractor, the appropriately-named AeroJet Rocketdyne, ran several tests on the same engine last year, focused on the controller and testing out different operating conditions on the SLS. After this week’s success, the two organizations will start on new flight engine controllers while further testing the engines. NASA is also working on a test stand similar to the rocket’s eventual first flight. The stand will attach to the core stage while NASA attempts to fire four RS-25es at once.

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Real-life ‘Death Star’ continues to destroy alien worlds

The real-life “Death Star” that astronomers recently caught in the act of destroying a planet is continuing to disintegrate nearby orbiting objects, researchers say. This finding could shed light on how dead stars rip apart their planetary systems — a phenomenon that could happen in Earth’s solar system billions of years from now, scientists added.

Recently, astronomers detected a dead star tearing apart a planetesimal — a small planetary body, such as a dwarf planet, large asteroid or moon. The dead star is a white dwarf known as WD 1145+017, which lies about 570 light-years from Earth in the constellation Virgo.

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Astronomers discover two new ‘hot Jupiter’ exoplanets

1-astronomersdA team of Chilean astronomers recently detected two new “hot Jupiters” using the data from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft operating in a new mission profile called K2. The planets, designated EPIC210957318b and EPIC212110888b, were discovered via the radial velocity method, and are excellent candidates for further orbital and atmospheric characterization via detailed follow-up observations. A research paper describing the discovery appeared online on Mar. 5, on the arXiv server.

The so-called “hot Jupiters” are gas giant planets, similar in characteristics to the solar system’s biggest planet, with orbital periods of less than 10 days. They have high surface temperatures as they orbit their parent stars very closely—between 0.015 and 0.5 AU—while Jupiter orbits the sun at 5.2 AU. To date, about 250 transiting “hot Jupiters” have been found, mostly by ground-based photometric surveys. Now, the researchers have made use of a space-borne telescope to detect new, interesting hot giant exoworlds.

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