Between Astronaut arrivals, auroras and missed asteroid impacts, we can say that March was an eventful month in the name of science and space.
Let’s jump right into the most recent and exciting space news for March!
#1 Astronaut Finally Home After Breaking The American Record
The American Astronaut, Mark Vande Hei, landed with his two Russian crewmates, Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov, in Kazakhstan after their 355 day mission orbiting the Earth.
Mark Vande Hei’s journey was a record breaker for the US as the longest single spaceflight completed by an American astronaut. After initially touching down in Kazakhstan, Vande Hei was then flown to Houston, arriving at NASA Johnson’s Space Center (JSC) on March 31.
Before Vande Hei clocked his total time in space at 355 days, astronaut Scott Kelly held the US record previously at 340 days in 2014-2015.
Russian cosmonaut, Valery Poliyakov, holds the world record for a single spaceflight, as he was on the Soviet-Russian Mir Space Station for 438 days in 1994-1995.
Mark Vande Hei was greeted by family, colleagues and space fans as he set foot in Houston as the newest record holder for the US space program.
Want to learn more about Mark and his 355 days in space? You can read more about his journey here: https://www.csbsju.edu/news/welcome-home-mark-vande-hei
#2 Solar Storms And Auroras – Expected To Increase Over Next 3 Years
The solar system is full of phenomenal feats of science as experts recently noticed an increase in our sun’s surface activity.
Maybe we’ll have a hotter-than-average summer! But is that a good thing?
The corona is the sun’s upper atmosphere.
It will emit CME’s, or coronal mass ejections, which are huge expulsions of magnetized particles.
Are CME’s Dangerous?
According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), they warn that there are two CME’s that are being shot out by an overactive sunspot from the sun’s corona.
These two CME’s could lead to an impressive trigger of geomagnetic storms that could potentially wreak havoc on the planet’s magnetic field.
This could lead to major disruptions to satellites, electric grids and telecommunication networks.
Don’t worry, these coronal mass ejections won’t trigger world ending events.
But they will, however, give us some stunning aurora displays!
Areas as far south as Iowa and Pennsylvania may be able to see the beautiful aurora’s because of the expansion of aurora ovals, thanks to weaker magnetic fields above the Earth’s poles.
During powerful solar storms, these aurora ovals expand further out, gracing those unlikely areas with the breathtaking aurora lights.
According to scientists, the sun’s currently increasing activity is part of solar cycle 25. Our sun has recently been in a lower state of activity, but that has spiked and will continue to increase until the year 2025.
Want to understand more about CME’s and the sun’s recent increase in activity?
You can check out the article here: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11207-020-01723-y for more information.
#3 Another Near Miss Asteroid- This Time It Was The Size Of A House
NASA and other scientists around the world spend hours every day observing satellite feeds and other data to keep watch for potentially disastrous asteroid strikes to our planet.
There are always small asteroids flying by Earth, but what about the big ones?
Larger asteroids are certainly a concern, but according to NASA scientists, they are always watching for them. A much smaller asteroid, called 2022 EB5, was discovered by astronomer, Krisztián Sárneczky, about 2 hours before its impact with Earth, only it burned up over the Norwegian Sea, leading to no damages to land or infrastructure.
The most recent asteroid, 2022 FB2, was quite a bit larger than the EB5, predicted to measure about 49 feet across, but it thankfully avoided Earth by about 93,000 miles.
Just to put into perspective how close that really is, our moon is about 239,000 miles from Earth.
Talk about a close call!
If you’re looking for more information on the EB5 and FB2 asteroid, you can find details in the full article here: https://www.space.com/house-sized-asteroid-2022-fb2-earth-flyby
#4 James Webb Space Telescope Sends First Image Of A Star
The James Webb Space Telescope continues to be a hot topic for science and space fanatics and professionals as it sends in its first, clear image of a star.
The telescope’s million mile journey that started in December has been an exciting and pivotal step in understanding space and our surrounding galaxies.
JWST is essential to the future discoveries of space and our solar system.
The “final phase” of the spacecraft’s preparations, calibrations and other optical parameters were finally completed on March 11.
Needless to say, NASA feels pretty confident in the JWST’s abilities to complete its scientific objectives.
20 Years In The Making Paid Off Big With The JWST
About 20 years ago, NASA set out to build the best telescope anyone has ever seen, and they did just that with the James Webb Space Telescope.
Its massive mirror is the strength behind its observing power, sending in the first image of a star in the constellation Ursa Major, located some 241 light-years from Earth.
Not only did the JWST capture this stunning star, but it was able to even capture images of other stars and galaxies far in the background.
Pretty cool right?
Well, the JWST has just started its mission and has many more discoveries to come!
If you’d like to read more, check out the full article on its most recent discovery here: https://tucson.com/news/science/ua-camera-helps-powerful-space-telescope-take-first-clear-image-of-star/article_d8e74e9a-a54f-11ec-ad90-1b9ff586907d.html