(Planet-Today) An enormous lump of space junk that the International Space Station (ISS) dumped on March 11 is slated to fall back to Earth in two to four years, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
(Article by Virgilio Marin republished from NaturalNews.com)
The 2.9-ton piece of space junk, a pallet of old nickel-hydrogen batteries given the name “Exposed Pallet 9” or “EP9,” is the largest thing that the ISS has ever jettisoned. NASA is assuring that it will burn up harmlessly in the atmosphere when it makes its descent to Earth. But not everyone is convinced that that will be the case.
“This strikes me (haha, a pun given the circumstances) as dangerous. It seems big and dense so unlikely to burn up completely,” astronomer and author Phil Plait, who previously worked at NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, tweeted on March 12.
Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist based at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, agreed with Plait but noted that China’s Tiangong-1 was even bigger at more than eight tons. The bus-size prototype space station burned up on its way down to Earth in 2018, breaking apart into several pieces as it crashed into the Pacific Ocean.
“I would say given how dense EP9 is, it’s concerning, albeit at the low end of concerning,” McDowell tweeted in reply to Plait.
How a rocket launch failure led to ISS space dump
The ISS did not intend to dispose of its old batteries this way. It sent previous batches back to the planet aboard Japan’s disposable supply spaceships, the H-II Transfer Vehicles (HTVs), which burned up in the atmosphere along with the batteries they carried.
But the 2018 launch failure of a Russian Soyuz rocket that carried American astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin disrupted this pattern. Both astronauts safely landed after a launch abort sequence, but Hague was supposed to assist in the battery swaps. With Hague still on Earth, managers had to adjust and send an HTV away without an old battery pallet.
EP9 was intended to be flown home through the ninth and final HTV. But the battery pallet that came immediately before it had to take its ride because of the adjustment. At the same time, Japan had already stopped making HTVs because it is developing a next-generation supply spaceship. As such, there were no more HTVs coming to the station to retrieve and get rid of EP9.
The ISS then decided to maroon the ninth battery pallet to space. Ground controllers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston commanded the station’s robotic arm to jettison EP9. The space junk moved safely away from the outpost and entered orbit around Earth.
Threats posed by space pollution
The SUV-sized pallet joined some 3,000 dead satellites and 34,000 discarded objects that are at least four inches wide. Though these objects are defunct, they can still collide with each other or with active satellites. In 2009, for example, a retired Russian satellite destroyed an operational American satellite after crashing into it. Initial estimates showed that the collision scattered around 500 pieces of debris.
To avoid damage, live satellites have to move out of the way through collision avoidance maneuvers. In the ISS’s case, the space station has carried out 25 debris avoidance maneuvers since 1999.
The United Nations has urged all organizations to remove their satellites from orbit within 25 years after the end of their mission. But there is currently no established method of doing this, though experts have proposed various removal mechanisms, such as firing lasers to heat up the satellite and using magnets.
Organizations are also exploring ways to reduce space waste. The European Space Agency, for example, plans to launch a suicide robot that will pull space debris out of orbit. Moreover, Elon Musk’s SpaceX aims to equip its next-generation reusable rocket Starship with the ability to collect debris.
For more stories about space, visit Space.news.
There’s one last place Planet Nine could be hiding
A study recently submitted to The Astronomical Journal
continues to search for the elusive Planet Nine (also called Planet X),
which is a hypothetical planet that potentially orbits in the outer
reaches of the solar system and well beyond the orbit of the dwarf
The goal of this study, which is available on the pre-print server arXiv,
was to narrow down the possible locations of Planet Nine and holds the
potential to help researchers better understand the makeup of our solar
system, along with its formation and evolutionary processes. So, what
was the motivation behind this study regarding narrowing down the
location of a potential Planet 9?
Dr. Mike Brown, who is a Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor of
Astronomy at Caltech and lead author of the study, tells Universe Today,
“We are continuing to try to systematically cover all of the regions of
the sky where we predict Planet Nine to be. Using data from Pan-STARRS
allowed us to cover the largest region to date.”
Pan-STARRS, which stands for Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid
Response System, is a collaborative astronomical observation system
located at Haleakala Observatory and operated by the University of
Hawai’i Institute of Astronomy. For the study, the researchers used data
from Data Release 2 (DR2) with the goal of narrowing down the possible
location of Planet Nine based on findings from past studies.
In the end, the team narrowed down possible locations of Planet Nine
by eliminating approximately 78% of possible locations that were
calculated from previous studies. Additionally, the researchers also
provided new estimates for the approximate semimajor axis (measured in
astronomical units, AU) and Earth-mass size of Planet Nine at 500 and
6.6, respectively. So, what are the most significant results from this
study, and what follow-up studies are currently being conducted or
“While I would love to say that the most significant result
was finding Planet Nine, we didn’t,” Dr. Brown tells Universe Today. “So
instead, it means that we have significantly narrowed the search area.
We’ve now surveyed approximately 80% of the regions where we think
Planet Nine might be.”
In terms of follow-up studies, Dr.
Brown tells Universe Today, “I think that the LSST is the most likely
survey to find Planet Nine. When it comes online in a year or two it
will quickly cover much of the search space and, if Planet Nine is
there, find it.”
LSST stands for Legacy Survey of Space and Time, and is an
astronomical survey currently scheduled as a 10-year program to study
the southern sky and take place at the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in
Chile, which is presently under construction.
Objectives for LSST include studying identifying near-Earth asteroids
(NEAs) and small planetary bodies within our solar system, but also
include deep space studies, as well. These include investigating the
properties of dark matter and dark energy and the evolution of the Milky
Way galaxy. But what is the importance of finding Planet Nine?
Dr. Brown tells Universe Today, “This would be the 5th
largest planet of our solar system and the only one with a mass between
Earth and Uranus. Such planets are common around other stars, and we
would suddenly have a chance to study one in our own solar system.”
Scientists began hypothesizing the existence of Planet Nine shortly
after the discovery of Neptune in 1846, including an 1880 memoir
authored by D. Kirkwood and later a 1946 paper authored by American
astronomer, Clyde Tombaugh, who was responsible for discovering Pluto in
More recent studies include studies from 2016 and 2017 presenting
evidence for the existence of Planet Nine, the former of which was
co-authored by Dr. Brown.
This most recent study marks the
most complete investigation of narrowing down the location of Planet
Nine, which Dr. Brown has long-believed exists, telling Universe Today,
“There are too many separate signs that Planet Nine is there. The solar
system is very difficult to understand without Planet Nine.”
He continues by telling Universe Today that “…Planet Nine explains
many things about orbits of objects in the outer solar system that would
be otherwise unexplainable and would each need some sort of separate
“The cluster of the directions of the orbits is the best know, but
there is also the large perihelion distances of many objects, existence
of highly inclined and even retrograde objects, and the high abundance
of very eccentric orbits which cross inside the orbit of Neptune. None
of these should happen in the solar system, but all are easily
explainable as an effect of Planet Nine.”
Michael E. Brown et al, A Pan-STARRS1 Search for Planet Nine, arXiv (2024). DOI: 10.48550/arxiv.2401.17977
‘October Surprise’: Russia To Launch Nukes in Space
The ‘national security threat’ announced on Wednesday is
about Russia planning to launch nuclear weapons in space, causing some
to speculate whether it’s really an election year ploy.
The panic began when House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Turner
(R-Ohio) asked President Biden to declassify information about a
“serious national security threat”.
Modernity.news reports: The weapon would reportedly be designed to be used to take out satellites.
Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) responded by telling reporters he wanted “to assure the American people, there is no need for public alarm.”
The big, scary threat is serious business and involves a space-based nuke controlled by evil dictator Putin, but it’s also “not an immediate crisis,” according to what three members of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee have told Politico.
Okay, then. Just for election season, is it?
Zero Hedge reports: “So, the question is – was this:
a) a distraction from Biden’s broken brain, or
2) a last desperate attempt to get more funding for anything-but-the-US-border, or
iii) a path to pitching Putin as the uber-bad-guy again after his interview with Tucker Carlson.”
Just by coincidence, Mike Turner recently returned from Ukraine having lobbied for billions more in weapons and aid for Zelensky’s government.
Some questioned the timing, suggesting it might all be a deep state plot to keep American voters afraid when they hit the ballot box.
Speculation will now rage as to whether this is “the event,” real or imagined, that billionaires and elitists the world over have been building underground survival bunkers in preparation for.
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