Planet 10 times Earth's mass may have smacked Jupiter long ago - The London Free Press - Canadanewsmedia
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Planet 10 times Earth's mass may have smacked Jupiter long ago – The London Free Press

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WASHINGTON — Jupiter, the solar system’s largest planet, may have been smacked head-on by an embryonic planet 10 times Earth’s mass not long after being formed, a monumental crash with apparent lasting effects on the Jovian core, scientists said on Thursday.

The violent collision, hypothesized by astronomers to explain data collected by NASA’s Juno spacecraft, may have occurred just several million years after the birth of the sun roughly 4.5 billion years ago following the dispersal of the primordial disk of dust and gas that gave rise to solar system.

“We believe that impacts, and in particular giant impacts, might have been rather common during the infancy of the solar system. For example, we believe that our moon formed after such an event. However, the impact that we postulate for Jupiter is a real monster,” astronomer Andrea Isella of Rice University in Houston said.

Under this scenario, the still-forming planet plunged into and was consumed by Jupiter.

Jupiter, a gas giant planet covered in thick red, brown, yellow and white clouds, boasts a diameter of about 89,000 miles (143,000 km). Interior models based on Juno data indicated Jupiter has a large “diluted” core representing about 5 to 15 percent of the planet’s mass comprised of rocky and icy material unexpectedly mixed with light elements like hydrogen and helium.

“Juno measures Jupiter’s gravity field to an extraordinary precision. Scientists use that information to infer Jupiter’s composition and interior structures,” said Shang-Fei Liu, associate professor of astronomy at Sun Yat-sen University in Zhuhai, China, and lead author of the research published in the journal Nature.

Computer models indicated that a head-on collision with a protoplanet – a planet in its formative stages – of roughly 10 Earth masses would have broken apart Jupiter’s dense core and mixed light and heavy elements, explaining Juno’s findings, the researchers said.

This protoplanet, with a composition similar to Jupiter’s primordial core, may have been slightly less massive than the solar system’s most distant ice giant planets Uranus and Neptune and would have become a full-fledged gas giant if it had not been swallowed by Jupiter, Liu said.

Jupiter already would have been fully formed at the time, with its strong gravitational pull perhaps precipitating the collision. Jupiter’s mass is about 320 times that of Earth.

Liu said tens of thousands of computer simulations indicated at least a 40% chance that Jupiter was hit by a protoplanet early in its history, with this impact scenario offering “by far the best explanation” for the nature of Jupiter’s core.

(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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Most distant world ever explored gets new name: Arrokoth – TVNZ

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The most distant world ever explored 4 billion miles away finally has an official name: Arrokoth.

That means “sky” in the language of the Native American Powhatan people, NASA said yesterday.

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew past the snowman-shaped Arrokoth on New Year’s Day, three and a half years after exploring Pluto.

At the time, this small icy world 1.6 billion kilometres beyond Pluto was nicknamed Ultima Thule given its vast distance from us.

“The name ‘Arrokoth’ reflects the inspiration of looking to the skies,” lead scientist Alan Stern of Southwest Research Institute said in a statement, “and wondering about the stars and worlds beyond our own”.

The name was picked because of the Powhatan’s ties to the Chesapeake Bay region.

New Horizons is operated from Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Maryland. The Hubble Space Telescope — which discovered Arrokoth in 2014 — has its science operations in Baltimore.

The New Horizons team got consent for the name from Powhatan Tribal elders and representatives, according to NASA.
The International Astronomical Union and its Minor Planet Centre approved the choice.

Arrokoth is among countless objects in the so-called Kuiper Belt, or vast Twilight Zone beyond the orbit of Neptune. New Horizons will observe some of these objects from afar as it makes its way deeper into space.

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Greenland's oldest and thickest sea ice is melting twice as fast as other ice | Mapped – Daily Hive

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According to new research, the oldest and thickest Arctic sea ice is diminishing at double the rate of ice in the rest of the Arctic Ocean.

A new study from the American Geophysical Union‘s journal Geophysical Research Letters concludes that ice north of Greenland in the Arctic Sea is more mobile than what was once thought.

It is estimated that atmospheric winds and ocean currents are likely moving the thick, old ice found above Greenland to other locations in the Arctic.

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Because of this movement, the mass of the ice in the area — “the last place researchers think will lose its year-round ice cover” — is depleting twice as quickly as ice in the rest of the Arctic, according to the new findings.

Potentially as early as 2030, climate models predict that summers in the Arctic may be ice-free, meaning that less than one million square kilometres of summer sea ice will cover the Arctic Ocean.

A majority of the ice covering the Arctic is between one and four years old, according to data retrieved by Science Daily.

When thin, young ice melts over future summers, it will leave only a 2,000-kilometre arc of ice between the western Canadian Arctic Archipelago and Greenland’s northern coast.

Western Greenland. This is a consequence of the phenomenon of global warming and catastrophic thawing of ice (Vadim Petrakov/Shutterstock)

This region of the Arctic is known to experts as the Last Ice Area.

The Last Ice Area is one of the only remaining portions of the Arctic to possess ice that is older than five years. However, this new study shows that the ice is becoming thinner in the two subregions of Greenland and Canada.

According to Kent Moore, an atmospheric physicist at the University of Toronto and lead author of the new study, “We can’t treat the Last Ice Area as a monolithic area of ice which is going to last a long time. There’s actually a lot of regional variability.”

For animals and other wildlife that depend on sea ice for their survival, the Last Ice Area provides refuge and is the last place they can escape to in a world that continues to grow warmer.

last-ice-area

Greenland. Research of a phenomenon of global warming and catastrophic thawing of ices. (Denis Burdin/Shutterstock)

The authors of the study claim that gaining further comprehension surrounding how the Last Ice Area alters throughout the year could assist in figuring out which locations are best suited to supply a safe haven for wildlife that relies on sea ice.

For example, sites with less ice movement could potentially lend more suitable conditions for a wildlife refuge because the ice will stay there longer.

Moore states that this new study will provide context for policymakers to take into account when establishing protection policies for areas in the Arctic:

“Eventually the Last Ice Area will be the region that will repopulate the Arctic with wildlife. If we lose all the ice, we lose those species. This area will be a refuge where species can survive and hopefully expand their regions once the ice starts returning.”

climate-change-greenland

Climate Change and Global Warming. Icebergs from melting glacier in icefjord in Ilulissat, Greenland. Arctic (Michal Balada/Shutterstock)

The Last Ice Area possesses the Arctic’s thickest and oldest ice because of ocean currents and atmospheric winds that carry blocks of floating ice in a circular pattern.

These masses of ice collide with one another and stack up on the northern edges of Greenland and Canada.

However, Science Daily reports that researchers do not know much about how ice in this region melts and moves during the year.

This insufficient knowledge motivated Moore and his colleagues to follow the changes in the Last Ice Area.

“In the new study, the team modelled sea ice cover, thickness and motion across the zone from 1979 to 2018.”

greenland

Walrus lying on beach (BMJ/Shutterstock)

In both regions, the sea ice was thinner and spanned less area in the summer and early fall than in the Arctic Winter.

According to Moore, the loss of ice in the Last Ice Area is likely a result of ice moving out of the region, specifically in the west.

The AGU posted a video earlier this week that demonstrates the age of the Arctic sea ice between 1984 and 2019. The video portrays the older ice cover, shown in white, dissipating substantially over the years.

greenland-ice

Polar bear, Greenland (BMJ/Shutterstock)

It is sad but true that ice melting is not new information. The planet is continuing to increase in temperature melting glaciers that reveal landscapes not seen for thousands of years.

Hopefully, with new research like this, policymakers will take notice and implement intensive strategies to ensure that these remaining areas are preserved and protected.

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Boeing received 'unnecessary' contract boost for astronaut capsule: Watchdog – The London Free Press

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This NASA handout photo released Nov. 4, 2019 shows Boeings CST-100 Starliners four launch abort engines and several orbital manoeuvring and attitude control thrusters as they ignite in the companys Pad Abort Test, pushing the spacecraft away from the test stand with a combined 160,000 pounds of thrust, from Launch Complex 32 on White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.


HO/NASA/AFP via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Boeing’s multibillion dollar contract to build U.S. astronaut capsules received an “unnecessary” extension from NASA, a watchdog report said on Thursday, the latest management blunders in the agency’s program to restart domestic human spaceflight.

NASA agreed to pay Boeing Co a US$287-million premium for “additional flexibilities” to accelerate production of the company’s Starliner crew vehicle and avoid an 18-month gap in flights to the International Space Station. NASA’s inspector general called it an “unreasonable” boost to Boeing’s fixed-priced $4.2 billion dollar contract.

Instead, the inspector general said the space agency could have saved $144 million by making “simple changes” to Starliner’s planned launch schedule, including buying additional seats from Russia’s space agency, which the United States has been reliant on since the 2011 retirement of its space shuttle program.

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Boeing and Elon Musk’s SpaceX have received nearly $7 billion combined since 2014 from NASA to develop separate capsule systems designed to end U.S. reliance on Russia’s Soyuz rocket for astronaut flights to the International Space Station. The program has been set back years by testing mishaps at both providers.

NASA justified the additional funds to avoid a gap in space station operations. But SpaceX, the other provider, “was not provided an opportunity to propose a solution, even though the company previously offered shorter production lead times than Boeing,” the report said.

NASA also justified the additional expense to ensure Boeing “continued as a second commercial crew provider,” the report said.

Boeing was not immediately available for comment.

In a response to the inspector general’s report, NASA “strongly” disagreed with the report’s findings that it overpaid Boeing, though it did agree the “complex and extensive” negotiations with the aerospace company could have resulted in a lower price.

“However, this is an opinion, three years after the fact and there is no evidence to support the conclusion that Boeing would have agreed to lower prices,” the agency said in a letter to the inspector general.

The report comes as Boeing faces scrutiny over its management of NASA’s Space Launch System — a massive rocket whose development has been beset with delays and billions of dollars in cost overruns. It has also faced harsh criticism from U.S. lawmakers over its best-selling 737 MAX aircraft, which was grounded after two deadly crashes in five months killed 346 people.

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