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  Rockets, black holes, & asteroidsDec 03, 2018 10:27 PM PST | url
Added 1 new A* page:There was kind of a slew of space news on the BBC today : o :
Soyuz rocket: First crewed launch since failure docks at ISS - Back to business as usual at the International Space Station, after a break to work out the kinks in the Russian astronaut delivery system that had caused an emergency landing following a launch in October.
Gravitational waves: Monster black hole merger detected - The three LIGO-VIRGO giant laser interferometers that can detect minute space warps hitting their miles-long laser beams picked up yet another merger of black holes, a careful parsing of previous data has shown: black holes 50 and 34 times as massive as the Sun smooshed together to form a single big hole 5 billion light years away. This is the biggest merger detected so far. The data reprocessing also picked up three smaller mergers, and confirmed another one that had been a bit iffy before. The giant detectors are offline now, being upgraded: they're due back in spring at twice the detection range, which would in theory increase their detection rate eightfold, since they could "see" that much bigger a volume of space.
One of the three detectors is at the Hanford site here in Washington state, about 100 miles away from where I live now! (It's the most contaminated nuclear site in the US, whee! : P)
Osiris-Rex: Nasa probe arrives at Asteroid Bennu - Weird names. : o 101955 Bennu is a near-Earth, 500 meter asteroid that has something like a "probability of 0.037% in the interval 2175 to 2196" of hitting our planet, which would be bad. In 2060 it will pass within 750,000 km of Earth—about twice the distance to the Moon; but in 2135 it will pass closer than the Moon: the estimate is 300,000 km, but could be as close as 100,000 km, depending on how the 2060 pass affects it—and depending on how the 2135 pass goes, the next time around, it could (though very unlikely) hit us. (Projections in the millions of years range forecast a 48% chance the asteroid will eventually fall into the Sun, and a greater chance of it hitting Venus (26%) than Earth (10%).)
Bennu's name came from a worldwide naming contest among students: "Third-grade student Michael Puzio from North Carolina proposed the name in reference to the Egyptian mythological bird Bennu. To Puzio, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft with its extended TAGSAM arm resembles the Egyptian deity, which is typically depicted as a heron."
OSIRIS-REx is a NASA probe launched in 2016, hoping to return some material from Bennu to Earth by 2023—which would be a first for the US (Japan's Hayabusa probe returned "micrograms" of dust from an asteroid in 2010). Now that it's arrived at the asteroid, it will orbit it for a while before going in for a scoop, making Bennu the smallest body ever orbited by an Earthly satellite.
But the name! In typical NASA fashion, it's an unlikely acronym, for: "Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer." Osiris of course is the Egyptian god of the afterlife; the actual pronunciation of the Egyptian hieroglyphics (which efficiently but somewhat inconveniently do not include vowels) might be something like Asar, Yasar, Aser, Asaru, Ausar, Ausir, Wesir, Usir, Usire or Ausare. You know, NASA could have saved themselves some trouble and just made an acronym out of the transliteration of the hieroglyphics themselves, "wsjr."
(What the original name meant is still an object of considerable debate. German Egyptologist Wolfhart Westendorf, who passed away in February at the age of 93, proposed that "wsjr" came from "wꜣst-jrt," "she who bears the eye"—that etymology inspired the name of A* episode 27's Selenis-moon-invading corporation, Wasat-jret: I changed the Egyptian "waset" to the Arabic "wasat," for "middle way"; "jrt" or "iret" is Egyptian for "eye," so eh Wasat-jret was "the middle eye" or something, and that was why their helmets had a big triple eye logo on them. ^_^)
So anyway "Osiris" kind of fits with the Egyptian name given to the asteroid the probe is visiting. The "REx" part strikes me as much iffier, if it's supposed to be the title "Rex," for King, since that came from Latin, not Egyptian.
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