Monday, March 4, 2019

Post 4

     The main camera of the Hubble Telescope has gone dark and scientists have yet to figure out why. The Advanced Camera for Surveys glitched on February 28th, with the error indicating that the software had not loaded correctly inside the camera. During a routine computer check, the error popped up and has not been fixed since. A group of Hubble technicians, software experts and flight controllers is working to identify the problem and organize a plan to fix it as soon as possible. The other instruments of the Hubble are still in good working condition, including the Wide Field Camera 3, the Cosmic Origins spectrograph, and the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph. The camera that is down was installed in 2002, making it 17 years old. This glitch is the latest in a group of malfunctions in recent months. The Wide Field Camera 3 took itself offline after detecting unusual voltage readings, but this was just a software glitch and the readings were actually normal. In 2018 an onboard gyroscope had an issue that stalled all science operations for most of October. However, with a planned life expectancy of 15 years, the Hubble Telescope has lasted nearly twice as long as planned. Even if you are past your prime, we still love you Hubble.

     A large asteroid passed by the Earth today, March 4th. The NEO, or Near Earth Object 2015 EG, passed at a comfortable distance of 274,440 miles from the Earth. The asteroid is approximated at 63 by 141 feet, a size comparable to a jumbo jet. The asteroid was scheduled to be the closest flyby of any asteroid so far in 2019, but two even closer asteroids were discovered in February the closest flyby being 2019 CN5, coming within 73,500 miles of Earth. Though thousands of objects like these have been discovered by NASA and other observatories, it is estimated that at least 17,000 have not been discovered yet. 

     Just like people get sunburned on Earth due to the sun's rays, this happens to the Moon as well except on a much larger and more devastating scale. The sun releases a constant flow of particles called solar wind which drift about in our solar system. Now, the Earth has no problem dealing with the solar wind because of our natural magnetic field's ability to deflect these particles. However, the Moon is not so lucky. The weaker magnetic field of the Moon allows the particles to reach some areas of the lunar surface and leave devastating spots of radiation. The small, localized magnetic fields of the Moon are not as powerful as the Earth's global magnetic field, therefore it is more vulnerable to this solar wind. These findings are useful however. Scientists think it is possible to create an artificial magnetic to field to protect future astronauts on missions to the Moon. See a picture here.

Question of the Day: What is the oldest man-made object still in Space?

     The Vanguard 1 is the oldest man-made object in Space. The Vanguard 1 was designed to test the capabilities of a three-stage launch vehicle as a part of Project Vanguard. It's goal was to observe the effects of Space on a satellite and its systems as it orbits the Earth. It was also used to obtain geodetic measurements through orbit analysis. It is projected to have a lifespan of around 240 years, and it was launched in 1958 so it has been orbiting for 61 years. If you want to read about design, specific data, goals, and other information about Vanguard 1, click here.

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