Space Coffee #7: Big stars void of planets, many lives of a satellite, and more
Curated space stories from the Internet for your weekend digging pleasure.
I downloaded NASA’s entire exoplanet archive to mess with the data and see if I could pick out any cool trends! I was having plenty of harmless fun sifting through the data over the weekend, but upon filtering the catalog by the mass of planets’ host stars, I noted something rather peculiar—not one of our dozens of exoplanet hunting missions has yet detected a planet around a star that is greater than 10 solar masses.
On its second life, ISEE-3 completed the first deep survey of Earth's magnetic tail, detected a large plasmoid of electrified gas ejected from Earth's magnetosphere, and made five complex flybys of the Moon. Then it was sent on a trajectory to fly by Comet Giacobini-Zinner. The new target came with a name change; ISEE-3 became ICE, the International Cometary Explorer.
The quest to understand our solar system begins close to home. Earthquake science paves the way for the study of quakes on icy ocean worlds like Jupiter’s moon Europa. South America’s driest deserts serve as testing grounds for the robots that search for life on Mars. Volcanoes around the world help researchers interpret evidence of volcanic activity on the Moon and beyond.
Much like how a close encounter with a planet can change a spacecraft’s velocity, as in the case of Voyagers, it can also alter the spacecraft’s inclination. In 1992, Ulysses passed closely over Jupiter’s north pole and the planet’s intense gravity bent the spacecraft’s trajectory southward. This put Ulysses in a solar orbit that would take it past the Sun’s north and south poles at an inclination of 80° from the orbital plane of the planets.
When the space station must rotate for operations such as docking of resupply vehicles, it uses thrusters that run on propellant costing nearly $10,000 per pound. This demonstration successfully rotated the station 90 and 180 degrees without propellant, saving more than 1 million dollars worth of propellant on the 180-degree maneuver. The new technology uses gyroscopes, or spinning momentum-storage devices powered by solar energy, to maneuver along special attitude trajectories.