Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Space Highlights - May 3, 2017

May 3, 2017

SpaceX successfully launched a U.S. spy satellite into orbit, its first such launch on behalf of the National Reconnaissance Office.

Iridium plans to launch four more batches of next generation communications satellites later this year.  Each batch is launched in a cluster of 10 Next satellites that will eventually form a global network.

The Brazilian government expects to have its first military communications satellite launched later this week, following delays at Arianespace's launch facility in French Guiana, due to a workers' strike.

The Cassini spacecraft has completed its second "ring dive" orbit, passing between Saturn and its innermost ring.  The new orbit is expected to end in a finale in a few months time, as the spacecraft, having nearly exhausted its fuel, crashes into the gas giant.

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has captured images showing sedimentary rock layers in part of the Valles Marineris canyon system.

NASA's Dawn spacecraft, currently in orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres, has lost its remaining reaction wheels - which are used to help orient the spacecraft during complex maneuvers.  It is expected that the spacecraft will be able to complete its mission from its current orbit, but future orbital maneuvers are unlikely without the precision control that the reaction wheels would have afforded.

A newly discovered exoplanet has been identified some 13,000 light years away.  Although the planet is believed to be similar in size to the Earth, its orbit would render it an icy, frozen world.

A recent experiment conducted by CERN - using a special telescope focused on the sun - has failed to turn up evidence for axions - one of the leading candidates for the missing "dark matter" of the universe.  Axions, if they exist, are predicted to interact with magnetic fields, making it possible to detect axions that might be emitted by the sun.  The absence of evidence for Axions further narrows the field for what dark matter particles might exist.

Observations of distant galaxies being conducted by the Chandra X-Ray Observatory suggest that a "fuzzy dark matter" model - which calls for the mass of dark matter particles to be much lower than most theories currently in favor - may better match the observed early galaxy formations.

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