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Astronomy

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Two space telescopes have captured this week's asteroid strike, the first planetary defense test of its kind. NASA on Thursday released pictures of the dramatic event taken by the Hubble and Webb space telescopes. Telescopes on all seven continents also watched as NASA's Dart spacecraft slammed into the harmless space rock in hopes of altering its orbit. All these pictures will help scientists learn more about the little asteroid Dimorphos, which took the punch and ended up with a sizable crater. NASA and SpaceX, meanwhile, are studying the feasibility of sending a private mission to Hubble to raise the aging telescope's orbit and extend its life.

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NASA's Juno spacecraft has made the closest approach to Jupiter's tantalizing, icy moon Europa in more than 20 years. The Juno spacecraft zoomed past Europa on Thursday, passing within 219 miles. Scientists had hoped to get lucky and capture pictures of possible water plumes shooting from Europa's surface. But none were immediately visible. Close in size to Earth's moon, Europa is thought to have an ocean flowing beneath its thick frozen crust. The latest observations will help NASA plan for its Europa Clipper mission, due to launch in 2024. The European Space Agency also plans close encounters with its spacecraft lifting off next year.

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NASA's moon rocket is safely back inside its hangar as Hurricane Ian approaches Florida, its launch now unlikely before mid-November. Instead of attempting to blast off Tuesday on its first test flight, the 322-foot rocket was moved off its launch pad at Kennedy Space Center. A NASA official says it will be difficult to upgrade the rocket and get it back to the pad for an October launch attempt. The next shot would be Nov. 12. Fuel leaks and engine issues foiled the first two tries a month ago.

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We are currently under intense times now. There is a lot of work ahead but the reward is worth it. Let’s see what we got for you this week:

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A NASA spacecraft has rammed an asteroid in an unprecedented test to see if a potentially menacing space rock could be knocked off course. The galactic grand slam occurred at a harmless asteroid 7 million miles away Monday. The Dart spacecraft plowed into the small space rock at 14,000 mph. Scientists say the impact should have carved out a crater and hurled streams of rocks and dirt into space. Most importantly, though, scientists are hoping the collision altered the asteroid’s orbit. NASA won’t know how much the spacecraft nudged the asteroid for a couple of months.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A NASA spacecraft rammed an asteroid at blistering speed Monday in an unprecedented dress rehearsal for the day a killer rock menaces Earth.

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Hurricane Ian is prompting NASA to move its moon rocket off the launch pad and into shelter. Mission managers decided Monday to return the rocket to its hangar, adding weeks of delay for the lunar-orbiting test flight. The four-mile trip will begin late Monday night. NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is on the fringes of the hurricane’s cone of uncertainty. But the latest forecast showed no improvement and so managers decided to play it safe. NASA isn't speculating when the next launch attempt might be, but it could be off until November.

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NASA is skipping next week's launch attempt of its new moon rocket because of a tropical storm that's expected to become a major hurricane. It's the third delay in the past month for the lunar-orbiting test flight featuring mannequins but no astronauts. Hydrogen leaks and other technical problems caused the previous scrubs. NASA decided Saturday to forgo Tuesday's planned launch attempt and instead prepare the rocket for a possible return to its Florida hangar. Managers will decide Sunday whether to haul the 322-foot rocket off the launch pad. Currently churning in the Caribbean, Tropical Storm Ian is expected to slam into Florida's Gulf coast by Thursday.

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NASA's new moon rocket could face more launch delays, this time by tropical weather. An approaching storm may force NASA to not only delay next week's launch attempt, but also move the rocket from its Florida pad and back into the hangar. Managers said Friday that barring weather, the rocket is ready to blast off Tuesday on its first test flight after a fueling test earlier this week. But a tropical depression in the Caribbean is moving toward Florida and could become a major hurricane. NASA says it will keep monitoring the forecast and decide no later than Saturday on how best to proceed. It takes three days of prep to haul the rocket back to the hangar.

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A NASA spacecraft is about to clobber a small, harmless asteroid millions of miles away. The spacecraft named Dart will zero in on the asteroid Monday, intent on slamming it head-on at 14,000 mph. The impact should be just enough to nudge the asteroid into a slightly tighter orbit around its companion space rock. It's the first save-the-world experiment of its kind. If successful, the test will demonstrate that if a killer asteroid ever heads our way, we'll stand a fighting chance. Dart blasted off on the $325 million mission last fall.

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Saudi Arabia plans to launch a training program with the goal of sending its own astronauts, including a woman, into space next year. The kingdom is actively promoting science and technology as part of its wide-ranging Vision 2030 plan to overhaul its economy and reduce its dependency on oil. The plan, championed by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and de facto leader, Mohammed bin Salman, also calls for greater integration of women into the workforce of the conservative Muslim country. Saudi Arabia lifted a long-standing ban on women driving in 2018. The neighboring United Arab Emirates launched a probe into Mars’ orbit in February 2021 and plans to launch a lunar rover in November.

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NASA's new moon rocket sprouted more fuel leaks in a test ahead of a possible launch attempt next week. The fueling demo had barely begun Wednesday when hydrogen began escaping at the same place and same time as before. Engineers managed to get the leak down to acceptable levels. But another leak cropped up elsewhere, before tapering down. Managers need to review the results of the daylong test in Florida tp determine whether the 322-foot rocket is ready for its first flight, a lunar-orbiting mission with mannequins in place of astronauts. Liftoff could come as soon as Tuesday.

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NASA has released new glamour shots of Neptune, and the planet and its rings haven’t looked this good in decades. The Webb Space Telescope took the stunning photos in the infrared of our solar system’s outermost planet. The pictures show not only Neptune's thin rings, but its faint dust bands, never before observed in the infrared. Launched less than a year ago, Webb is spending most of its time peering deep into the universe. Astronomers hope to see back to almost the beginning of time when the first stars an galaxies were forming.

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