Mysterious region of space directly above Earth’s atmosphere causes spacecraft to slow down
A mysterious region of outer space just above Earth’s atmosphere is causing spacecraft to slow down, and researchers are trying to figure out why. The same area has interfered with GPS and other technology, prompting NASA to launch a recent mission to determine the cause.
“At about 250 miles above Earth, the spacecraft feel more drag, as if they hit an obstacle,” said Mark Conde, a physicist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and principal investigator for NASA’s Cusp Region Experiment-2, or CREX-2 mission, in a press release announcing the new work.
According to the same release, the air at this altitude and at this location above the North Pole is “noticeably denser” than the rest of the air in the spacecraft’s orbit, which led to the deceleration. However, as the release notes, “no one knows why or how.”
In trying to solve this mystery, the researchers first looked at the area of space that caused this strange effect. And they discovered that it’s not just spacecraft that are having these problems.
“Strange things are happening in Earth’s atmosphere at high latitudes,” the release explains. “Around local noon, when the Sun is at its highest point, a funnel-shaped tear in our planet’s magnetic field passes overhead.
Earth’s magnetic field normally protects us from the stream of charged particles known as the solar wind, but this periodic tear above the North Pole allows this wind to penetrate directly into Earth’s atmosphere, causing all sorts of trouble.
“Radio and GPS signals behave strangely as they pass through this part of the sky,” the study release notes, and then talks about the most recent mystery.
“Over the past 20 years, scientists and spacecraft operators have noticed something else unusual when spacecraft pass through this area: They slow down.”
That’s where NASA’s CREX-2 mission is headed.
When it arrives, “the rocket will eject 20 containers the size of soda cans, each with its own small rocket engine, in four directions.
These containers are designed to burst at different altitudes, where they will release vapor beacons, which are essentially particles found in fireworks that glow. Researchers hope these particles will form a three-dimensional grid around the target area, allowing the team behind the mission to figure out the cause of the spacecraft’s mysterious slowdown.
“The wind will paint the sky with these glowing clouds,” the release explains, “showing how the air moves in this unusual area of the atmosphere.”
“The team is optimistic,” the same release adds, “The sun is in a more active stage of its natural cycle this time, increasing the chances that space weather conditions will be favorable for their mission to study an unusually dense region of the atmosphere.”
“The team is optimistic,” the same release adds, “The Sun is in a more active stage of its natural cycle this time, increasing the chances that space weather conditions will be favorable for their mission to study the unusually dense region of the atmosphere.”
According to a December 1 NASA update, “The CREX-2 payload was successfully launched at 3:25 a.m. ET from the Andøya Space Center in Norway.”
In addition, “Preliminary reports indicate that the flight was successful, and the vapor ampoules worked as planned. Good data were obtained, including data from the vapor imaging team.”
Now we await the results and, hopefully, the solution to the mystery.
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
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.
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.
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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