The Weekly Space Recap: August 27 – September 2, 2023

The Last Blue Moon of the Year – August 30, 2023

On August 30th, skywatchers worldwide had the opportunity to witness the Super Blue Moon, one of the year’s largest and brightest moons.

This celestial event occurred when the full moon rose over the eastern horizon in the Aquarius constellation just after sunset, setting before sunrise on August 31st.

blue moon

The term “Blue Moon” refers to either the third full moon in a season with four full moons or, more commonly, the second of two full moons within a calendar month.

This Blue Moon was also a “supermoon,” appearing slightly larger and brighter due to its proximity to Earth.

Photographers from around the world captured stunning images of this Super Blue Moon.

These photos showcased the moon rising behind iconic landmarks such as the Royal Liver Building in the UK, the Apollo Temple in Greece, and the Statue of Liberty in the US.

Additionally, photographers in locations like India, Serbia, China, Portugal, Italy, Turkey, and Australia captured breathtaking images of the moon’s beauty against various backdrops.

One particularly striking image showed the Super Blue Moon next to a spinning Ferris wheel at Santa Monica Pier in California, highlighting the festive atmosphere created by the moon’s radiance and the Ferris wheel’s LED lights.

Overall, this Super Blue Moon event provided an opportunity for sky enthusiasts to capture the moon’s splendor in various picturesque settings, creating a collection of stunning photographs from around the world.

Soviet Satellite No More – August 30, 2023

soviet satellite disintegrated

A Soviet satellite, believed to be either Kosmos-2143 or Kosmos-2145, has disintegrated in orbit around 870 miles (1,400 kilometers) above Earth, likely due to a collision with space debris.

Astrophysicist and space debris expert Jonathan McDowell reported the event, highlighting the growing concern of space debris posing threats to operational satellites in Earth’s orbit.

Old Soviet satellites and used rocket stages, positioned above 500 miles (800 km), are of particular concern as they cannot naturally deorbit and have been involved in previous incidents.

In 2009, Kosmos 2251, a satellite similar to the affected one, collided with an operational Iridium satellite, resulting in a cloud of space debris.

Additionally, a 2007 Chinese anti-satellite missile test and a recent incident involving a dead Soviet spy satellite and a used Soviet rocket stage underscore the dangers of space debris.

Earth-based radars track objects larger than 4 inches (10 centimeters). But there are approximately 34,550 known objects of this size in Earth’s orbits.

An estimated 1 million debris objects between 0.4 to 4 inches (1 cm to 10 cm) and 130 million fragments smaller than 0.4 inches.

Even small fragments can cause significant damage, as demonstrated when a space debris fragment just millimeters wide punctured a 16-inch (40 cm) wide hole in one of Europe’s Earth-observing satellites’ solar panels in 2016.

The situation is raising concerns about the Kessler Syndrome, a scenario in which the increasing number of fragments from orbital collisions renders Earth’s orbital space unusable due to a cascade of collisions triggered by each debris impact.

SpaceX Ties Launch Record – September 2, 2023

spacex falcon 9 launch
Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX successfully launched a set of 13 advanced military satellites into orbit for the U.S. Space Force’s Space Development Agency (SDA) on September 2nd.

The launch took place at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California after a two-day delay due to technical issues.

The Falcon 9 rocket, on its 13th flight, carried the spacecraft into orbit, with the first stage booster successfully returning to Vandenberg.

This launch marked SpaceX’s 61st of 2023, matching the previous year’s record.

These satellites are part of the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture (PWSA), aimed at creating a network of satellites in low Earth orbit to enhance global military communication and missile warning capabilities.

The mission, known as “Tranche 0,” is the second in support of PWSA and follows a previous launch in April.

Tranche 0 is just the beginning of the larger plan, which involves deploying hundreds of small satellites over time to increase resilience and capabilities in orbit.

The deployment timeline for these satellites remains undisclosed for national security reasons. The successful launch and landing of the Falcon 9 booster marked SpaceX’s 222nd overall recovery of an orbital-class rocket and its 260th launch overall.

The webcast for the launch ended shortly after the booster’s first stage landed, as per the Space Development Agency’s request, maintaining the mission’s secrecy.

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