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Biggest piece of ISS space junk will tumble down to Earth in a few years



(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

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.

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Alien space debris stuck in Earth’s orbit, researchers say




Recently, a group of experts from Harvard University, led by physics
professor Avi Loeb, announced the possible presence of alien space
debris in Earth’s orbit, reports the Daily Star.

space research expert Professor Loeb is confident that the discovery of
such “interstellar objects could help expand our knowledge of possible
alien civilizations and technologies. A team of scientists is conducting
research to confirm that some of the objects in our orbit may be
connected to other star systems.

During an interview with Live
Science, Professor Loeb explained that these objects could enter the
solar system from interstellar space, defying Jupiter’s gravitational
pull and occupying limited orbits around the sun.

Some of them may
have technological origins similar to the probes sent by mankind into
interstellar space, such as Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, Pioneer 10 and 11
and New Horizons.

despite these interesting assumptions, Professor Loeb did not specify
what specific objects he was talking about. In his research report, he
notes that there could be “a significant number” of potentially
detectable objects in Earth’s orbit.

To confirm their assumptions,
the team of scientists uses computer simulations and the Vera Rubin
Observatory (Chile) with a high-resolution camera of 3.2 billion pixels.
This will allow for regular observations of the Southern sky and the
possibility of detecting several captured objects about the size of a
football field.

It is assumed that these interstellar objects passed through the
boundaries of the solar system and may carry unique information about
other civilizations and their technologies. If we could confirm the
origin of these objects, the mysteries that open before us, this would
be a real breakthrough in space exploration.

Professor Loeb
expresses hope that the new research will not only help expand our
knowledge of extraterrestrial technologies, but may also lead to the
discovery of new alien civilizations . Answers to such questions can be
of global significance and influence our understanding of the place of
mankind in the Universe.

while there are still many questions and assumptions, the study by
Professor Loeb and his team opens a new chapter in space exploration.
Each new discovery can be the key to deciphering the mysteries of the
cosmos and the possibility of encountering alien life forms.

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Betelgeuse is acting strange again




Betelgeuse, a red giant on the brink of death, continues to show
unusual behavior. After the Great Blackout, which occurred in late 2019
and early 2020, the star became unusually bright. It is now the seventh
brightest star in the sky, while it normally ranks tenth. This has led
to speculation that Betelgeuse is preparing to explode in a
spectacularly large supernova.

However, scientists believe it’s too early to tell, and it’s likely
that this behavior is due to ongoing fluctuations after the Great
Blackout of 2019, and the star will return to normal within a decade.

Betelgeuse is one of the most interesting stars in the sky. It is
about 700 light-years from Earth and is a red giant in the last stage of
its life. It is also an unusual star for a red giant because it was
previously a monster blue-white O-type star, the most massive class of

Betelgeuse has changed its spectral type because it has almost
exhausted its hydrogen reserves. It now burns helium into carbon and
oxygen and has expanded to a gigantic size: about 764 times the size of
the Sun and about 16.5 to 19 times its mass.

Eventually it will run out of fuel to burn, become a supernova, eject
its outer material, and its core will collapse into a neutron star.

Before the Great Blackout, Betelgeuse also had periodic fluctuations
in brightness. The longest of these cycles is about 5.9 years and the
other is 400 days. But it seems that the Great Blackout caused changes
in these oscillations.

A new paper by astrophysicist Morgan McLeod of the
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has shown that the 400-day
cycle appears to have been halved. This pulsational cycle is probably
caused by expansion and contraction within the star. According to
simulations carried out by MacLeod and his colleagues, the convective
flow inside Betelgeuse may have risen and become material that separates
from the star.

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