Issue No. 191

The Orbital Index

Issue No. 191 | Oct 26, 2022

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Do the Beta Taurids hold more Tunguska-scale impactors? The Taurid meteor shower which stretches from October into November occurs when the Earth passes through the trails of dust, micrometeoroids, and other debris from the comet Ecke and the asteroid 2004 TG (which itself might be a large fragment of Ecke). This trail of debris has a 7:2 resonance with the orbit of Jupiter which has caused it to spread out into a large stream, believed to represent the largest such stream of matter in the inner solar system. While we move through the stream heading away from the Sun in October/November, we also intersect with the stream in June/July while we are headed toward the Sun, making it mostly invisible—this cross section of the stream is known as the Beta Taurids. In 2019, new models suggested that the Tunguska event (June 30, 1908) closely matched the timing and trajectory of an object originating from the Beta Taurids. Models suggest that Tunguska-scale events should be very infrequent, occurring every 1,000 to 10,000 years (cf. all the way back to Issue No. 20 for more). However, if the Beta Taurids contain additional 100m+ asteroids, it could be one of the only concentrated sources of Potential Hazardous Objects (PHOs)—and, a source we’d have trouble detecting PHOs from because of glare from the Sun (paper). This year's primary Taurids started on Tuesday and an observation campaign to characterize their potential for hiding more PHO-scale objects is underway. Related: If you'd like to join the Global Meteor Network, you can start with a RaspberryPi and buy or hack together an all-sky meteor camera. ☄️

Earth’s path as it passes through this year’s Taurid meteor stream.

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Space science as a service. Blue Skies Space (BSS), a UK- and Italy-based startup offering commercial science missions in partnership with ESA, announced their upcoming Mauve satellite. Mauve will observe nearby stars which may host exoplanets for stellar flare activity, studying how those energetic events affect the habitability of their planets. (Our Sun is an unusually quiet star, and the massive flares that are more common elsewhere may make the evolution of life challenging.) Mauve will carry a UV spectrometer and a 15 cm telescope. BSS is also working on a second satellite, Twinkle, which will spend seven years spectroscopically observing exoplanet atmospheres and bodies in our solar system. We think BSS’s “space-science-as-a-service” subscription model is quite interesting and is distinct from hosted payload providers like Loft Orbital which provide space-as-a-service, but don’t generally design the payload or mission CONOPS itself. We’d love to hear about other companies with similar business models.

Papers (about stellar cataclysms).


News in brief. Following its mostly-successful first orbital launch, Firefly has added former NASA Administrator Bridenstine to its board of advisors The third and final Tiangong space station module was rolled out to the pad atop its Long March-5B—launch is expected October 31st The ISS had to thrust for 5 minutes to avoid debris from the November 2021 Russian ASAT test (again) Starlink launched an aviation service offering The first Falcon Heavy launch since 2019 is NET Oct 31 NASA bought three more Orion spacecraft from Lockheed Martin for the Artemis VI, VII, and VIII missions, totaling $1.99B The European Commission announced €200M in funding for 49 space-related projects Orbex closed a £40.4M Series C—the company’s upcoming two-stage, biofuel-based Prime vehicle is designed to take 180 kg to LEO An Indian LVM3 delivered 36 OneWeb satellites to orbit, the country’s heaviest payload to date—unfortunately it looks like future OneWeb launches are pushing back the launch of Chandrayaan 3 Ariane 6 has been delayed again, until the end of 2023—ESA’s Hera and Euclid missions will now launch on Falcon 9s, with JUICE slated for the first Ariane 6 launch YASL with 54 Starlink satellites on board in SpaceX’s 48th launch of the year (in 43 weeks)—there are now 3,100 active Starlink satellites, more than all other active sats combined NASA ISS spacewalks will resume after analysis of the March 23rd leaking space suit found no specific hardware flaw Jim McDivitt, commander of Gemini 4 and Apollo 9, passed away at 93Universe Today has a remembrance.

Jim McDivitt on Apollo 9, conducting the first docking and internal crew transfer between two crewed spacecraft. This image was recovered by Andy Saunders and used as the cover of his book “Apollo Remastered”. Credit: NASA / JSC / ASU / Andy Saunders.


JWST recently took a stunning photo of the Pillars of Creation. The iconic star-forming nebula, some of whose stars are merely a few hundred thousand years old, is ~5 light-years tall and 6,500 light-years away. It is only a small part of the even larger Eagle Nebula. Here’s a UI to compare JWST’s view with that of Hubble.

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