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NASA’s Asteroid Spacecraft Lucy Ready To Launch This Week For 12-Year Mission

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NASA’s upcoming mission to explore asteroids in order to learn about the earliest era of our solar system is ready to launch. The spacecraft named Lucy is expected to take off this week on a mission that is estimated to take 12 years. The spacecraft is looking at a possible launch date of October 16 and will be travelling to the outer solar system during the course of the 12-year project window. Once in the outer solar system, Lucy will be exploring over seven ancient asteroids, known as the Trojan asteroids that circle the Sun.

The Trojan asteroids orbit in the same path as Jupiter, the planet. By exploring them, Lucy will also be the first spacecraft to visit asteroids in this region. The spacecraft will aid in procuring data to help scientists delve deep into the solar system’s ancient history, which in turn could help decipher more details on how the universe came to be.

NASA has described Trojan asteroids as the “time capsules from the birth of our solar system”. According to the space agency, Trojan asteroids “circle the Sun in two swarms, with one group leading ahead of Jupiter in its path, the other trailing behind it.” They have been named after characters in Greek mythology.

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Speaking about the project, NASA scientist Tom Statler said in a statement, “With Lucy, we’re going to eight never-before-seen asteroids in 12 years with a single spacecraft. This is a fantastic opportunity for discovery as we probe into our solar system’s distant past.”

The mission itself takes its name from the fossilised human ancestor whose skeleton provided unique insight into humanity’s evolution. The skeleton was dubbed “Lucy” by her discoverers. Drawing a parallel, NASA believes that Lucy’s mission will “revolutionise our knowledge of planetary origins and the formation of the solar system.”

During the course of the 12 years, Lucy will explore a “record-breaking number of asteroids,” NASA says. “The spacecraft will fly by one asteroid in the solar system’s main belt and seven Trojan asteroids. Lucy’s path will circle back to Earth three times for gravity assists, which will make it the first spacecraft ever to return to our planet’s vicinity from the outer solar system.”

You can also be a part of the historic launch by watching it online via NASA TV. The liftoff has been currently scheduled for October 16 at 2:34am PT (3:04pm IST).


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"Mirror World" Behind One Of Space’s Mysteries: Study

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A mirror world is a common trope in fantasy and fiction, but it may also be the answer to one of Space’s biggest mysteries today. A group of scientists behind a new research paper suggest that a “mirror world” of particles that remains unseen from us may be the answer to the Hubble Constant problem. The Hubble constant problem refers to the discrepancy in the theoretical value of the rate of expansion in the universe and the actual rate of expansion as observed by measurements. The issue remains to reconcile the two without upending the entire cosmological model as it stands today. As doing so would ruin the agreements with the current scientific models and the observed phenomenon in Space like the cosmic microwave background.

“Basically, we point out that a lot of the observations we do in cosmology have an inherent symmetry under rescaling the universe as a whole. This might provide a way to understand why there appears to be a discrepancy between different measurements of the Universe’s expansion rate,” said lead researchers Francis-Yan Cyr-Racine from the University of New Mexico, and Fei Ge and Lloyd Knox at the University of California.

Their observations were published in the paper titled Symmetry of Cosmological Observables, a Mirror World Dark Sector, and the Hubble Constant, which was released recently in Physical Review Letters.

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“The mirror world idea first arose in the 1990s but has not previously been recognised as a potential solution to the Hubble constant problem. This might seem crazy at face value, but such mirror worlds have a large physics literature in a completely different context since they can help solve an important problem in particle physics,” said Cyr-Racine. “Our work allows us to link, for the first time, this large literature to an important problem in cosmology.”

Apart from the mirror world idea, scientists have also considered the possibility of measurement errors to be behind the discrepancy. But as measurement tools have gotten better, the deviation between the theoretical and observed value has only increased, leading many to believe that measurement errors are not the reason behind the discrepancy.

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NASA Satellite Captures Unique View of Total Lunar Eclipse That Occurred on May 15

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A NASA satellite, named Lucy which was launched in October 2021, managed to capture a unique perspective on the total lunar eclipse, which occurred on May 15-16. The satellite was launched for a 12-year journey to probe eight different asteroids, including one asteroid from the main asteroid belt in the solar system. The other seven asteroids that the satellite will probe are from Jupiter’s trojans asteroid cluster.

The satellite was already at a distance of 64 million miles (100 million km) from the Earth, roughly 70 percent of the distance between the Earth and the Sun, when it observed the total lunar eclipse.

“While total lunar eclipses aren’t that rare – they happen every year or so – it isn’t that often that you get a chance to observe them from an entirely new angle,” said planetary scientist Hal Levison of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), who is the principal researcher of the mission in a statement.

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“When the team realized Lucy had a chance to observe this lunar eclipse as a part of the instrument calibration process, everyone was incredibly excited,” Levison added.

“Capturing these images really was an amazing team effort. The instrument, guidance, navigation and science operations teams all had to work together to collect these data, getting the Earth and the Moon in the same frame,” said Acting Deputy Principal Investigator Dr. John Spencer, also from SwRI.

The satellite took 86 one-millisecond exposure shots in order to make a 2-second timelapse of the first half of the eclipse. The video was published by NASA on its website. People can see a cross-sectional view of the eclipse in the short but mesmerising video.

The video can be found on the following link.

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This Battery-Like Device Can Absorb Carbon Dioxide While Charging

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Researchers at the University of Cambridge have designed a battery-like device that can take us a step further to solve the carbon dioxide emission problems in the present world. This supercapacitor device can selectively absorb CO2 during its charging process. When the battery-like device discharges, it will release the carbon dioxide in a controlled manner in such a way that can be collected to reuse or dispose of it later.

According to an article by EurekAlert, almost 35 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere every year. Hence, the world is in need of urgent solutions to eliminate these emissions to solve the climate change problems.

There have been efforts in this direction, to control, capture, reuse and eliminate carbon emissions from the atmosphere. But the most advanced technologies, in this field, use a lot of energy and are highly expensive. The supercapacitor at the University of Cambridge is designed to capture and store carbon using low-cost technology.

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The supercapacitor is as small as a coin. It is partly made using sustainable materials like coconut shells and seawater. Grace Mapstone, the co-author of the study, said, “The best part is that the materials used to make supercapacitors are cheap and abundant. The electrodes are made of carbon, which comes from waste coconut shells.”

Dr Alexander Forse from Cambridge’s Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry led the research. He said, “We found that by slowly alternating the current between the plates we can capture double the amount of CO2 than before.” He added, “The charging-discharging process of our supercapacitor potentially uses less energy than the amine heating process used in industry now. Our next questions will involve investigating the precise mechanisms of CO2 capture and improving them. Then it will be a question of scaling up.”

The research, which has been published in the journal Nanoscale, describes the supercapacitor. It uses two electrodes of positive and negative charge. Unlike a rechargeable battery, it does not use chemical reactions to store energy. Instead, it stores energy by the movement of electrons between the electrode plates. This gives it a longer lifespan.

Grace Mapstone said, “We want to use materials that are inert, that don’t harm environments, and that we need to dispose of less frequently. For example, the CO2 dissolves into a water-based electrolyte which is basically seawater.”

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