SpaceRanger: Asteroids, Fuzzy Planets, and Heartbeats

Space is massive, expansive, more than the mind could possibly imagine. Events on the universal scale, events of massive proportion, happen every hour of every day, but it’s rare to hear about them in the mainstream. So, when a number of outlets start reporting on them, it’s big.

This week, the biggest of these stories was the announcement that asteroid 2002 NN4 passed as close as 3.2 million miles to Earth, and coming in at between 870 and 1870 feet in diameter- an absolute monster of a rock! Initial estimates said the asteroid could approach as close as 100,000 miles of earth, however even at that distance it would’ve safely passed earth with no incident. The asteroid made its closest approach on June 6th, meaning those who put asteroid impact on their 2020 bingo cards will have to hold out a little longer.

While not happening this week, another important achievement in recent times was the successful beginning of the ChEoPs satelite by the European Space Agency. CHEOPS, which stands for CHaracterizing ExOPanetS, is the newest mission attempting to understand Earth’s distant cousins. As opposed to previous exoplanet survey missions like Hubble, Kepler, and TESS, CHEOPS is designed to image already discovered exoplanets and learn about their properties. This includes the planet’s size, mass, composition, and atmosphere.

And, finally, on a more humbling note, scientists have recently discovered the longest living “heartbeat” in a black hole, after having lost it nine years ago. A black hole’s heartbeat is caused when matter falls into a black hole. This causes a large release of energy in a cyclical pattern. The black hole in question is known as J-1034+396, a supermassive black hole at the center of a black hole some 600 million light-years away. Originally discovered in 2007, scientists lost it when the satelite monitoring it transited to the other side of the sun, blocking its view. However, it was rediscovered in 2018 by the ESA, revealing that its “heartbeat” was still going strong.

While i could rant on about SpaceX’s first launch of an American craft to the ISS, or a million other things that happened this week, this is where I’ll leave you. Space is vast, and topics like SpaceX’s launch have already been done to death. I plan on using this little section to catch up on fascinating smaller stories throughout the week, with occasional commentary on larger subjects. See you same day next week, and watch the skies!