Happy 2022! Welcome to the beginning of the next space race

Plus: The latest on COVID-19 omicron variant, a fossilized dinosaur embryo inside its egg, digital unwrapping of a mummy, the brightest X-ray laser ever created, the efficacy of at-home COVID-19 tests and much more! ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌  ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌  ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌  ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌  ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌  ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌  ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌  ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌  ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ 

Happy New Year!

Humanity onboard, Earth has completed yet another expedition around the sun, bringing us a hopeful new set of 365 days as it embarks on the journey once again. But between champagne popping and holiday baking, if you haven’t had a moment to look up at the stars or consider the latest on fossils, you’re in the right place.

Here’s what’s been going on.

We can’t enter 2022 without talking about the outstanding James Webb Space Telescope liftoff that took place this past Christmas morning. If you couldn’t catch it, or are still in the dark about the revolutionary probe, we have all you need to know about Webb on CNET. This year could also see a reinvigorated space race, as the number of active satellites has more than quadrupled in the last decade. Commercial spaceflight and a growing market for low-Earth orbit real estate are projected to push forth the trend. Oh, and scientists are on the brink of developing the brightest X-ray laser that could seriously enhance our knowledge of subatomic and atomic particles -- that's huge.

Experts are steadily learning more about how to control COVID-19, invoking new assessments of at-home test efficacy and vaccine booster effectiveness in children. They’re also diligently documenting US cases, which are skyrocketing particularly due to new variant omicron. If you haven’t gotten vaccinated and boostered yet, here is your sign to do so.

Reaching into the past, one group of scientists digitally "unwrapped" the mummy of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh to reveal the beloved ruler’s facial features as well as his unexpected postmortem saga. Another team discovered a fossilized dinosaur egg with an embryo still inside. I know, I couldn’t believe it either. While you let that sink in, here’s the mail!
📧The Mailbag📧

Andrea asks: When the probe gets a bit closer over the coming years are there protective measures to sustain the information that can be gathered?

Hi Andrea! When thinking about NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, I have to agree with you that my mind goes to: Well, how does it not melt? First, there’s a counterintuitive bit of science to note. To sustain a high temperature, particles need to be moving super fast. So naturally, particles surrounding the sun have a really high temperature because they’re moving super fast. But remember -- space is very, very empty. That means high temperature, zippy particles hanging out near our star are pretty sparse, so there’s a relatively low amount of them around Parker. Because of that, the spacecraft interacts with fewer of those particles and therefore takes in a lot less heat than you might expect. NASA compares the concept to putting your hand into a pot of boiling water, with lots of high temperature particles, to dangling it in an oven, which would have much fewer high temperature particles. The latter situation will technically feel cooler than the former. Please don't try this, I can assure you the science is sound.

“While Parker Solar Probe will be traveling through a space with temperatures of several million degrees, the surface of the heat shield that faces the Sun will only get heated to about 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit,” says NASA.

Of course, though, NASA also took a ton of other measures to make sure Parker is safe from those 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. That includes a heat shield made of carbon layers, wires covered in sapphire crystal tubes, a water cooling system and even the autonomous ability to adjust itself and avoid excessive heat. Hope that answers your Q, Thanks Andrea!

You can send any questions, thoughts, comments, chats to my email or message me on Twitter! And if you're enjoying this email, please do forward it to your friends!

Enim scientia et astra!
-- Monisha
Monisha Ravisetti Monisha Ravisetti
Science Writer, CNET
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope launch: What's next
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