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Young Super-Jupiter Circles Its Binary Star Once Every 15,000 Years



Astronomers on the hunt to confirm the possible presence of a Planet Nine within the outer parts of the Solar System have confirmed that

Astronomers are still searching for a hypothetical Planet Nine in the distant reaches of the Solar System, but an 11-Jupiter-mass planet called HD 106906b is looking more and more like the Planet Nine of its planetary system.

HD 106906 is a binary star system located 336 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Crux.

The system is about 15 million years old, and hosts a giant planet, HD 106906b, discovered by the Magellan Telescopes at the Las Campanas Observatory in 2013.

However, astronomers did not then know anything about the planet’s orbit.

This required something only the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope could do: collect very accurate measurements of HD 106906b’s motion over 14 years with extraordinary precision.

A research team led by Meiji Nguyen from the University of California, Berkeley, determined that the planet circles the twin host stars at a distance of 730 AU once every 15,000 years, making it a distant cousin of Planet Nine.

The planet’s orbit is very inclined, elongated and external to a dusty debris disk that surrounds the stars.

“To highlight why this is weird, we can just look at our own Solar System and see that all of the planets lie roughly in the same plane,” Nguyen said.

“It would be bizarre if, say, Jupiter just happened to be inclined 30 degrees relative to the plane that every other planet orbits in.”

“This raises all sorts of questions about how HD 106906b ended up so far out on such an inclined orbit.”

The prevailing theory to explain how HD 106906b arrived at such a strange orbit is that it formed much closer to its stars — at a distance of about 3 AU.

However, drag within the system’s gas disk caused the planet’s orbit to decay, forcing it to migrate inward toward its stellar hosts.

The gravitational forces from the whirling twin stars then kicked it out onto an eccentric orbit that almost threw it out of the system and into the void of interstellar space.

Then a star passed very close by to this system, stabilising the exoplanet’s orbit and preventing it from leaving its home system.

This scenario to explain HD 106906b’s bizarre orbit is similar in some ways to what may have caused the hypothetical Planet Nine to end up in the outer reaches of our Solar System, beyond the Kuiper Belt.

“Despite the lack of detection of Planet Nine to date, the orbit of the planet can be inferred based on its effect on the various objects in the outer Solar System,” said Dr. Robert De Rosa, an astronomer at ESO.

“This suggests that if a planet was indeed responsible for what we observe in the orbits of trans-Neptunian objects it should have an eccentric orbit inclined relative to the plane of the Solar System.”

“This prediction of the orbit of Planet Nine is similar to what we are seeing with HD 106906b.”

The team’s paper was published in the Astronomical Journal.

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Astroscale Launches Pioneering Mission to Clean Up Space Junk: A Giant Leap Towards Orbital Sustainability




In an era where space exploration and satellite deployment are more frequent than ever, the issue of orbital debris, or “space junk,” has become a pressing concern for the global space community. A pioneering space startup, Astroscale, is at the forefront of addressing this challenge, having recently initiated tests aimed at removing an abandoned piece of a Japanese rocket that has been orbiting Earth uncontrolled for over a decade. This endeavor not only highlights the growing problem of space debris but also underscores the innovative solutions being developed to ensure the sustainability of future space activities.

Tackling the Orbital Debris Challenge

Orbital debris consists of defunct satellites, spent rocket stages, and fragments from disintegration, erosion, and collisions. According to the European Space Agency (ESA), there are about 34,000 objects larger than 10 cm, 900,000 objects from 1 cm to 10 cm, and 128 million objects from 1 mm to 1 cm orbiting Earth. These objects pose a significant risk to operational satellites and human spaceflight, particularly the International Space Station (ISS), due to the high velocities at which they travel.

Astroscale’s mission represents a critical step towards mitigating these risks. The company’s approach involves deploying spacecraft equipped with magnetic docking plates to capture and safely deorbit defunct satellites and debris. This method not only aims to remove existing debris but also sets a precedent for responsible satellite management and end-of-life disposal practices.

The Significance of Astroscale’s Mission

Astroscale’s efforts are part of a broader movement within the space industry to address the sustainability of space activities. The startup’s initiative is supported by significant investment, indicating the industry’s recognition of the importance of debris removal. Moreover, Astroscale’s collaboration with government agencies and international partners reflects the global nature of the space debris issue and the need for a coordinated response.

The significance of Astroscale’s mission extends beyond the immediate goal of debris removal. It also contributes to the development of technologies and methodologies for on-orbit servicing, including refueling, repairing, and upgrading satellites. This capability could revolutionize satellite operations, extending the lifespans of valuable assets and potentially reducing the cost and frequency of launches.

Challenges and Future Prospects

Despite the promising potential of Astroscale’s technology, the mission faces several challenges. The technical complexity of rendezvousing with and capturing high-speed debris in the vastness of space cannot be understated. Additionally, the legal and regulatory frameworks governing space debris removal and on-orbit activities are still evolving. Ensuring compliance with international space law and avoiding interference with other countries’ satellites are crucial considerations for Astroscale and similar ventures.

Looking ahead, the success of Astroscale’s mission could pave the way for more ambitious debris removal projects and on-orbit servicing operations. As the space industry continues to grow, with increasing numbers of satellites launched by both governmental and commercial entities, the need for effective space traffic management and debris mitigation strategies will become ever more critical. Astroscale’s pioneering work is a promising step towards a sustainable future for space exploration and utilization.

In conclusion, Astroscale’s initiative to begin tests targeting orbital junk marks a significant milestone in the ongoing effort to address the challenges posed by space debris. By developing and demonstrating technologies for debris removal and on-orbit servicing, Astroscale is not only contributing to the safety and sustainability of space activities but also opening up new possibilities for the future of satellite operations. As the space community continues to grapple with the complexities of orbital debris, the work of Astroscale and its partners will undoubtedly play a crucial role in shaping the trajectory of space exploration and utilization in the decades to come.

For further details on Astroscale’s mission and the broader context of space debris challenges, readers are encouraged to explore authoritative sources such as the European Space Agency’s website on space debris (ESA Space Debris) and the official Astroscale website (Astroscale), which provide comprehensive information and updates on efforts to ensure the long-term sustainability of space activities.

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The Dawn of a New Era: Spaceplanes Harness Cutting-Edge Technology for the Future of Space Travel




In the ever-evolving landscape of space exploration, the concept of spaceplanes is undergoing a significant renaissance, promising to redefine our approach to missions beyond Earth’s atmosphere. With the retirement of NASA’s space shuttle in 2011, the focus shifted towards capsule designs for deep space exploration, such as the Orion spacecraft, aimed at destinations like the Moon. However, recent advancements have sparked a renewed interest in spaceplane technology, offering a blend of atmospheric flight capabilities and orbital versatility.

The Return of the Spaceplane

The spaceplane, capable of gliding through Earth’s atmosphere and landing on runways, presents a stark contrast to traditional capsules that rely on parachutes for ocean or ground landings. This design not only enhances maneuverability during re-entry but also expands potential landing zones, offering a gentler descent that benefits both crew and cargo. The United States Space Force’s X-37B and China’s Shenlong are current examples, conducting classified missions and demonstrating the spaceplane’s strategic value.

Yet, the spaceplane’s complexity and the necessity for a robust thermal protection system (TPS) to withstand re-entry temperatures pose challenges. Despite these hurdles, the potential for reuse makes spaceplanes an attractive proposition for future space endeavors.

Historical Context and Evolution

The spaceplane concept isn’t new; it dates back to the early days of spaceflight, with projects like the US’s Dyna-Soar and the operational success of the space shuttle. Although the shuttle’s anticipated reusability and launch frequency faced obstacles, it showcased the feasibility of returning large cargos and astronauts from orbit. However, the high costs associated with spaceplane programs led to the cancellation of several projects worldwide, including Europe’s Hermes and Japan’s HOPE vehicle.

Overcoming the Heat Barrier

A critical aspect of spaceplane development is managing the intense heat generated during atmospheric re-entry. The space shuttle’s TPS, comprising heat-resistant ceramic tiles and a reinforced carbon-carbon matrix, was a testament to engineering ingenuity, despite the tragic loss of Columbia in 2003 highlighting the system’s vulnerabilities. Modern spaceplanes aim to mitigate these risks with advanced materials and design strategies, ensuring safer returns from space missions.

The Present and Future of Spaceplanes

The X-37B and Shenlong represent the current state of operational spaceplanes, with Sierra Space’s Dream Chaser on the horizon as the first commercial spaceplane capable of orbital flight. Dream Chaser’s anticipated role in resupplying the International Space Station underscores the growing demand for spaceplanes’ unique capabilities, especially for returning sensitive cargo to Earth.

Looking ahead, the ambition for single-stage-to-orbit (SSTO) spaceplanes remains a formidable challenge, yet one that could revolutionize space travel if overcome. Innovations in design, materials, and propulsion are gradually paving the way for this future, with entities across the globe investing in spaceplane technology’s promise.


As we stand on the cusp of a new chapter in space exploration, spaceplanes emerge as a symbol of human ingenuity’s boundless potential. Their development not only signifies a leap towards more versatile and efficient space travel but also reaffirms our commitment to conquering the final frontier. With each technological breakthrough, we edge closer to a future where spaceplanes are an integral part of our journey among the stars.

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NASA and UAE Embark on a Historic Partnership to Orbit the Moon: A New Chapter in Space Exploration




In an unprecedented move, NASA has teamed up with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to develop the first space station that will orbit the Moon, heralding a new era in lunar exploration. This collaboration, as reported by Bloomberg, signifies a monumental step in space exploration, combining the expertise and resources of two of the world’s most advanced space programs.

The Lunar Gateway: A Hub for Future Exploration

The project, known as the Lunar Gateway, is part of NASA’s broader Artemis program, which aims to return humans to the Moon and establish a sustainable presence by the end of the decade. The Gateway will serve as a vital outpost, orbiting the Moon and providing support for long-term human exploration of the lunar surface. It will also act as a staging point for future missions to Mars and beyond, playing a crucial role in the next generation of interplanetary exploration.

A Testament to International Collaboration

This partnership between NASA and the UAE underscores the importance of international collaboration in space exploration. The UAE, having successfully launched the Mars probe Hope in 2020, has emerged as a significant player in the global space community. This collaboration is a strategic alignment of the UAE’s ambitious space goals with NASA’s deep-rooted expertise and resources. The UAE’s investment in space technology and its commitment to fostering a knowledge-based economy have positioned it as a valuable partner in this historic endeavor.

Technological and Scientific Implications

The Lunar Gateway is set to be a marvel of modern space technology. It will include living quarters for astronauts, laboratories for scientific research, and docking ports for visiting spacecraft. This project is not just about reaching the Moon; it’s about establishing a sustainable model for space exploration that can be replicated for future missions, including those to Mars.

The scientific community is particularly excited about the potential for research on the Gateway. The unique environment of lunar orbit provides opportunities for groundbreaking research in fields such as astrophysics, earth science, and heliophysics. This research could lead to significant advancements in our understanding of the universe and our place in it.

Economic and Strategic Benefits

The economic implications of the Lunar Gateway project are vast. It represents a significant investment in space infrastructure, which will have long-term benefits for both NASA and the UAE. The project is expected to create jobs, stimulate technological innovation, and foster new industries related to space exploration and research.

Strategically, this partnership enhances the geopolitical standing of both nations in the realm of space exploration. For the UAE, it marks a significant step in its journey to become a leading nation in space technology and exploration. For NASA, it reinforces the United States’ commitment to maintaining its leadership in space and its willingness to collaborate with emerging space nations.

Challenges and Future Prospects

Despite the excitement, the project is not without its challenges. Building and maintaining a space station in lunar orbit is a complex and costly endeavor. It requires advanced technology, significant financial investment, and international cooperation. However, the potential rewards of this project far outweigh the challenges.

Looking ahead, the Lunar Gateway is just the beginning. It lays the groundwork for a new era of space exploration, where international partnerships and collaboration are key. The knowledge and experience gained from this project will be invaluable as humanity continues to reach for the stars.

In conclusion, the partnership between NASA and the UAE to build a space station orbiting the Moon is a landmark achievement in space exploration. It represents a fusion of ambition, technology, and international collaboration, setting the stage for a new chapter in humanity’s quest to explore the cosmos. As we look to the future, the Lunar Gateway stands as a beacon of what can be achieved when nations come together to push the boundaries of what is possible.

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