New Findings Of Chandra X-Ray Observatory

New Findings Of Chandra X-Ray Observatory

In 2020, astronomers added a new member to a family of exotic objects, i.e the discovery of a magnetar. NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has made new observations, stating that the magnetar also acts as a pulsar. But what’s a pulsar? A magnetar? Well, let’s demystify this space jargon!

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What Is The Chandra X-ray Observatory?
Called one of the great observatories like Hubble telescope, it is a space telescope launched aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1999, during STS-93 by NASA. It is sensitive to X-ray sources 100x fainter than any previous X-ray telescope, enabled by the high angular resolution of its mirrors. 

Known as the Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility (AXAF) previously, it was later renamed after the Nobel Prize-winning Indian-American astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar.

What Is A Magnetar?
It is a star which is made up of tightly packed neutrons, formed from the collapsed core of a massive star during a supernova.

How Is It Different From Other Stars?
Also called a magnetic star, it has the most powerful magnetic field in the universe. For context, Earth’s magnetic field is 1 Gauss, a refrigerator magnet is 100 Gauss while a magnetar measures a million billion Gauss! This intensity heats the surface to 18 million° F.

How Was The Latest One Detected?
Using NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift Telescope in 2020. Dubbed as J1818.0-1607, it is the youngest (500 years old) and 31st known magnetar, out of the 3,000 known neutron stars.

How Is This Age Estimation Done?
Based on how quickly the rotation rate is slowing and the assumption that it was born spinning much faster. This one spins faster than any previously known magnetar, rotating once every 1.4 seconds.

What Did Chandra Find Out Then?
It gave astronomers the first high-resolution view of the magnetar, revealing a point source where it was located, 21,000 light-years from Earth and how it gives off radio waves.

Only 5 magnetars have been recorded like this, making them 0.2% of the known neutron star population. Moreover, J1818.0-1607 is also converting energy more efficiently from its decreasing rate of a spin into X-rays, and this efficiency matches the range of pulsars.

What Does This Mean?
The magnetar has properties similar to a “rotation-powered pulsar,” a neutron star which gives off beams of radiation, detected as repeating pulses of emission as it rotates and slows down.

  • NASA’s series of Great Observatories satellites are four large, powerful space-based astronomical telescopes launched between 1990 and 2003. They were built with different technology to examine specific wavelength/energy regions of the electromagnetic spectrum: gamma rays, X-rays, visible and ultraviolet light, and infrared light.
  • Edwin Powell Hubble was an American astronomer. He played a crucial role in establishing the fields of extragalactic astronomy and observational cosmology. The Hubble telescope is named after him.
  • Riccardo Giacconi was an Italian-American Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist who laid down the foundations of X-ray astronomy. In 1976 the Chandra X-ray Observatory was proposed to NASA by Riccardo Giacconi.

Raja Chari, An Indian-American Selected For NASA and SpaceX Missions

Raja Chari: Indian-American selected for NASA and SpaceX Missions

Remember Kalpana Chawla, Sunita Williams, Rakesh Sharma? Well, the next Indian origin astronaut to make us proud is Raja Chari. He will not only be a part of NASA’s Artemis Mission but will also lead the next SpaceX Crew mission to ISS.

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Let us get acquainted with Raja Chari, the Indian-American, who is selected for NASA and SpaceX Missions.

Time To Go To NASA
After being selected for NASA Astronaut Group 22 in 2017, Raja Chari was chosen to be a part of the Artemis team and the commander for SpaceX’s next crew mission in December 2020.

What Is The Artemis Program?
Funded by the US, it is an international human spaceflight program that has the main goal of landing “the first woman and the next man” on the Moon,  at the lunar south pole region by 2024.

“A Cosmic Kiss”
It is the title given to the European segment of the SpaceX-3 Commercial crew program, that Chari is the first to be selected from the Astronaut 22 group.

Other Three Indians In Space

Rakesh Sharma
In 1984, he became the first Indian citizen to travel into space as he flew aboard the Soviet Soyuz T-11 rocket to the space station Salyut 7, as a part of the ISRO and the Soviet Intercosmos space programme.

  • Rakesh had famously said, “Saare Jahaan Se Achcha” on seeing India from outer space.
  • Awards: ‘Hero of Soviet Union’ and the Ashok Chakra.

Kalpana Chawla
She was the first woman of Indian origin to go to space, who first flew on Space Shuttle Columbia in 1997 as a mission specialist and primary robotic arm operator. In 2003, she was one of the 7 crew members who died in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. She was posthumously called the National Hero of India, awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, and several streets and institutions were named in her honor.

Sunita Williams
She holds the record of longest spaceflight of 195 days for a female space traveller and the most spacewalking time by a woman i.e 50 hours and 40 minutes over 7 career excursions. This NASA astronaut had also participated in the Boston Marathon while in space.

  • Air Commodore (Retd) Ravish Malhotra was the backup to Rakesh Sharma in the 1984 Mission. He is a recipient of the Kirti Chakra and fought in the 1971 Indo-Pak war.
  • A biographical Hindi-language film titled, Saare Jahaan Se Achcha (formerly “Salute”), is under pre-production since 2018.
  • “Sare Jahan Se Accha” is an Urdu language patriotic song for children written by poet Muhammad Iqbal in the ghazal style of Urdu poetry. Publicly recited by Iqbal in 1905 at Government College, Lahore, British India, it quickly became an anthem of opposition to the British Raj.

SpaceX Regular Crew Flights And Starlink Beta Testing

SpaceX Regular Crew Flights And Starlink Beta Testing

SpaceX has successfully launched 4 astronauts in a Falcon 9 rocket, at 5:57 am IST of 14th November, as part of its Commercial Crew Program with NASA. In fact, SpaceX has also started doing public beta testing for its internet providing, Starlink satellites. Let’s see Elon Musk’s space plans in depth now.

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SpaceX Crew-1 Mission
Four astronauts, NASA’s Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker and JAXA’s Soichi Noguchi were launched to the International Space Station, ISS. The Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket, with the Crew Dragon capsule, lifted off from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, last Sunday.

This launch comes months after Demo-2, Crew Dragon’s first human test flight, was successfully launched on 31 May with 2 astronauts, Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken.

What’s Special About This Launch?
This is the first crew rotation flight of SpaceX spacecraft after NASA certified it for regular flights to the ISS, as part of its Commercial Crew Program. Musk could monitor this from afar this time as he tweeted that he “most likely” had a moderate case of Covid-19.

Who Is Resilience?
The Crew Dragon spacecraft, Resilience, is named by astronauts in dedication of the teams involved with the mission, during this year’s toughest times of Covid-19.

When Will They Return?
It is scheduled to be the longest human space mission (6 months) launched from the US. The astronauts will stay aboard the orbiting laboratory to conduct scientific experiments and will return in spring 2021.

What Are The Mission Objectives?
Among the science and research investigations the crew will perform a study, using chips with tissue, that mimics the structure and function of human organs. This will help them understand the role of microgravity on human diseases and and translate those findings to improve human health on Earth.

They shall also grow radishes in different types of light and soils as part of ongoing efforts to produce food in space. Moreover, they will test a new system to remove heat from NASA’s next-generation spacesuit, the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU).

SSS – SpaceX’s Starlink Service
SpaceX is sending out email invitations titled “Better Than Nothing Beta”, for public beta testing of Starlink, their upcoming satellite internet service. As per Ars Technica, in order to participate, users must purchase the Starlink ground equipment for $499, and then pay a $99 monthly fee for active service. An iOS and Android mobile app have also been released, to help beta users set up and manage the service.

What’s The End Goal?
Currently SpaceX has about 900 Starlink satellites in orbit. Since May 2019, SpaceX has been launching Starlink satellites in batches of about 60, with the goal of creating a megaconstellation which shall consist of thousands of small, broadband-beaming satellites. This network will provide global internet coverage from space. However NASA seems to have objected to this idea, in lieu of the increasing space clutter.

  • Buzz Lightyear is a fictional character in the Toy Story franchise. Buzz Lightyear’s name was in honor of Apollo 11 astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, the second person to walk on the Moon.
  • The Martian is a 2011 science fiction novel written by Andy Weir. The story follows an American astronaut, Mark Watney, as he becomes stranded alone on Mars in 2035 and must improvise in order to survive.
  • The Celestri Multimedia LEO System was a planned Low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation, which was intended to offer global, low-latency broadband Internet services via Ka-band radio links. It was planned by Motorola in 1997-1998 as one of the earliest “Internet in the sky” constellations.

NASA Helicopter Ingenuity To Explore Mars

NASA Helicopter Ingenuity To Explore Mars

NASA is all set to fly a drone-like helicopter in the atmosphere of the red planet. The craft named Ingenuity, will hitch a ride to Mars aboard the Perseverance lander, making it the first experimental flight on another planet.

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Ingenuity – The Mars Helicopter
The Ingenuity craft is a wheeled, robotic rover that has a mission to drive across the planet’s rugged surface. It will launch from Earth this summer, with the touchdown scheduled for 18 February 2021 on Mars. The craft is 50 cm high with four blades, mounted on twin, counter-rotating rotors covering 1.2 m. The size of the rotors was needed to be huge enough to fly in Mars’s thin atmosphere.

How Good A Photographer Is Ingenuity
Ingenuity carries a black-and-white navigation camera and images are beamed by short-range radio links to Perseverance, which then relays them to one of the  NASA spacecrafts in Mars orbit. Subsequently, they are transmitted back to Earth. Dr. Bob Balaram, Ingenuity’s chief engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) says multiple images can then be stitched into a panorama using ground software tools.

The helicopter attached to the belly of NASA’s Perseverance rover, will be deployed onto the Martian surface. Source: JPL

What Is The Mission
The rover’s mission is astrobiological i.e it will search for signs of past microbial life. It will then characterize the planet’s climate and geology, collect samples for future passage back to Earth.

The helicopter’s main focus would be to return engineering data from the test flights that will provide valuable feedback to refine future designs and pave way for further human exploration of Mars. The primary plan is for it to complete five flights over a period of 30 days for now.

Part Of The Bigger Picture?
The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission is part of a larger program that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. Charged with returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024, NASA will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028 through NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration plans.

This is just the beginning. Source: NASA
  • The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center in the city of La Cañada Flintridge. The laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of planetary robotic spacecraft and has managed all four successful robotically operated Mars rovers.
  • Mars Cube One (or MarCO) was a Mars flyby mission that consisted of two nano spacecraft, MarCO-A and MarCO-B, that provided a real-time communications link to Earth. The two spacecraft were nicknamed by JPL engineers as WALL-E and EVE in reference to the main characters in the animated film WALL-E.
  • The Martian is a 2015 science fiction film starring Matt Damon. The film depicts an astronaut’s lone struggle to survive on Mars after being left behind, and efforts to rescue him and bring him home to Earth.

NASA to Conduct Manned Space Flight after a Decade with the Help of SpaceX

NASA SpaceX Crew Dragon

NASA has announced that it is planning to send two astronauts to International Space Station (ISS) aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft around mid-to-late May this year. This will be the first mission since 2011 in which American astronauts are being sent aboard the nation’s own spacecrafts from American soil.

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About the Mission
SpaceX will become NASA’s first Commercial Crew Program (CCP) partners. Its Demonstration Mission-2 (Demo-2 or DM-2) of Crew Dragon spacecraft will send NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station (ISS) for probably 1.5 to 3 months.

The aim behind the extension could be that the US Space Agency does not want to keep one of its astronaut aboard ISS alone for a long time as two of its members would be departing for Earth in late Spring. Behnken, a veteran spacewalker, can also help another NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy with Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA), as per NASA.

A Decade Long Wait
NASA retired its 30-year old space shuttle fleet in 2011. As per NASA instructor Robert Frost, Space Shuttle program was costly to operate and people required to maintain and operate spaceflights remained limited as most of them devoted their work to build the ISS. Moreover, President George Bush, in 2004, had announced that the fleet would retire by 2010 and NASA will focus on completing ISS. Currently, NASA’s astronauts are sent aboard the Soyuz spacecraft of the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos.

About Commercial Crew Program (CCP)
CCP is a US program to send astronauts to ISS on private spacecrafts. It is administered by NASA. Boeing and SpaceX had received the contracts for the same. However, Boeing’s debut orbital flight test of Starliner spacecraft failed with as many as 61 areas of improvement. SpaceX with its Crew Dragon spacecraft will be the first private operator to launch astronauts into space.


Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) is a human spaceflight development program that is funded by the U.S. government and administered by NASA. CCDev will result in US and international astronauts flying to the International Space Station (ISS) on privately operated crew vehicles. Operational contracts to fly astronauts were awarded in September 2014 to SpaceX and Boeing. More Info

Extravehicular activity (EVA) is any activity done by an astronaut or cosmonaut outside a spacecraft beyond the Earth’s appreciable atmosphere. The term most commonly applies to a spacewalk made outside a craft orbiting Earth such as the International Space Station. On March 18, 1965, Alexei Leonov became the first human to perform a spacewalk, exiting the capsule during the Voskhod 2 mission for 12 minutes and 9 seconds. More Info

The International Space Station (ISS) is a space station (habitable artificial satellite) in low Earth orbit. The ISS programme is a joint project between five participating space agencies: NASA (United States), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada). The ISS serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in which crew members conduct experiments in biology, human biology, physics, astronomy, meteorology, and other fields. The station is suited for the testing of spacecraft systems and equipment required for missions to the Moon and Mars. The ISS maintains an orbit with an average altitude of 400 kilometres (250 mi) by means of reboost manoeuvres using the engines of the Zvezda module or visiting spacecraft. It circles the Earth in roughly 92 minutes and completes 15.5 orbits per day. More Info