Space Current Affairs - 2019

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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.

Voyager 2: NASA’s Solar System Explorer reaches interstellar space

NASA’s Voyager 2  has exited heliosphere and has entered interstellar space. It is now at 11 billion miles from the earth. Information from the spacecraft takes 16.5 hours to reach earth at the speed of light. (Light from the sun takes 8 minutes to reach earth)

The spacecraft joined its twin voyager 1 on December 10, 2018. The Voyagers were launched to study the outer solar system up close. Voyager 2 will target Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune and Uranus.

Evidence

Till November 5, 2019, the space around the spacecraft was surrounded by plasma flowing out from the sun. This outflow is called solar wind and envelopes the planets in the solar system. However, recently, scientists detected no electrical current of plasma to detect density, pressure, temperature. This confirms that the spacecraft has left the heliosphere and entered inter stellar space.

The firsts

  • Voyager 2 is the first spacecraft to study all four planets together. It includes Jupiter, Neptune, Saturn and Uranus
  • It is the first spacecraft that discovered 14th moon of Jupiter.
  • It is the first human-made object to fly by Neptune
  • Voyager 2 also discovered 5 moons of Neptune. It identified a “Great Dark Spot” at Neptune. Also the spacecraft discovered that there are four rings around Neptune.