NASA Current Affairs - 2019

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NASA renames Ultima Thule to ‘Arrokoth’

The US Space Agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has recently renamed farthest cosmic body, earlier known as ‘Ultima Thule’ to ‘Arrokoth’ or Sky. NASA has renamed the distant space rock after it was criticized over the old name’s Nazi connections.

Key Highlights

The rock which was studied in the farthest flyby ever conducted by a spacecraft was previously named as Ultima Thule to mean something like “farthest place”, but immediately attracted controversy because the word ‘Thule’has been associated with Nazis in the past. Therefore, the object will now be known as Arrokoth, a Native American term meaning ‘Sky’.

The new name Arrokoth symbolizes ‘icy-object’ which was undisturbed since the solar system was formed about 4.5 billion years ago. The name also reflects the wondering about the stars and looking at the sky and was given because of its natural position.

The name was proposed by members of New Horizons team, who led the mission to study the object. They presented the new name to International Astronomical Union (IAU) and Minor Planet Center (MPC) which officially names and categorises Kuiper Belt objects.

NASA: A Huge X Ray burst detected from outer space

NASA’s NICER (Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer) telescope detected a sudden spike of X Rays. The spike was caused by a massive thermo nuclear flash on the surface of a pulsar.

Pulsar

  • A Pulsar is a neutron star whose compact core is left behind when a massive star runs out of fuel. It later collapses under its own weight and explodes.
  • A Pulsar spins rapidly and becomes a host to several X-Ray emitting hotspot. As the object spins it produces regular pulses of high-energy radiation.

Findings

  • The Explosion releases as much as energy in 20 seconds as that released by the sun in 10 days.
  • The Explosion was caused as the hydrogen gas accredited and formed a disk. As the disk becomes denser, the gas ionizes. This traps more and more energy inwards causing the explosion

Significance

Like other astronomical bodies, the sun emits X Rays as well. Therefore, studying about these sources will help to learn about the future of the sun.