Comet visitor from outside our Solar System will wow scientists for months - The Verge - Canadanewsmedia
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Comet visitor from outside our Solar System will wow scientists for months – The Verge

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Astronomers have almost certainly detected a second interstellar comet zooming through our Solar System, but there’s still quite a lot of work to be done to find out more about this alien space rock. In the weeks and months to come, astronomers will continue to observe this visitor with as many ground and space-based telescopes as possible to determine if it is, indeed, interstellar and figure out where it came from.

An amateur astronomer, Gennady Borisov, first spotted this object on August 30th with his own telescope in Crimea. At the time, it wasn’t immediately clear that the object — named C/2019 Q4 — wasn’t from around here. As time has passed and more people looked at this thing, they’ve realized that the path that C/2019 Q4 is on does not loop around the Sun. Additionally, it’s going super fast: about 93,000 miles per hour (150,000 kilometers per hour), which is faster than any object from the outer fringes of our neighborhood would be traveling. As NASA and an international team of experts announced last week, the signs all point to it passing through our Solar System on its way from some distant origin.

The astronomy community hasn’t officially confirmed that C/2019 Q4 is interstellar yet, though everyone is nearly certain about its status. “After getting enough data, I suspect we’ll be assigning a permanent designation to say this object is interstellar,” Davide Farnocchia, who is studying the comet atNASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at JPL, tells The Verge. “But basically, there’s no doubt from the trajectory that it is interstellar.” The good news is that if this comet is truly from outside our Solar System, we caught it at a great time — when it was moving on its way in toward us, rather than on its way out. That means astronomers will have more than a year to continue observing this thing, allowing them to potentially refine its trajectory or even tell us what this mysterious rock is made of.

“I’m sure there will continue to be active orbit updating,” Michele Bannister, a planetary astronomer at Queen’s University Belfast, tells The Verge. “Everyone is waiting with bated breath for another batch of data to come in.”

Up until very recently, astronomers had never spotted an interstellar comet, despite the fact that these extrasolar objects are thought to visit our Solar System all the time. They’re usually just moving too fast and are too faint to be seen by telescopes here on Earth.


Then in 2017, a telescope in Hawaii detected what many considered to be the first observed interstellar space rock, which was eventually named `Oumuamua. Unfortunately, astronomers spotted `Oumuamua while it was on its way out of the Solar System, so the only time researchers could observe it was when it was hurtling away from Earth at breakneck speeds. Just a few months after it was found, it became too faint to see anymore. The scant information we were able to glean from watching `Oumuamua was tantalizing but also baffling. For one thing, it didn’t exactly exhibit comet behavior, which led to some wild theories that it may not have been a rock at all (though it most likely is a rock).

With C/2019 Q4, it’s a completely different story. The comet will make its closest approaches to both Earth and the Sun in December of this year before it starts heading away from us and diminishing in brightness. Sadly, C/2019 Q4 won’t get as close to us as `Oumuamua got during its visit. But astronomers expect it will still be relatively bright until April of next year, and that they’ll be able to observe it until October 2020.

And unlike `Oumuamua, there is really no doubt that this object is truly a comet. The first pictures taken of the object by the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii reveal a very average comet-looking rock. It’s sporting the gaseous atmosphere and iconic tail that most comets have, which is created when all the ice and volatile materials within the rock get heated up by the Sun and turn into gas.

Now, scientists want to know exactly what’s in that gas as well as what’s in the rock itself. By looking at the light from this object, scientists will eventually be able to say how much of certain types of gases and materials are present in and around C/2019 Q4. And then they’ll compare those types of materials to the one found in comets we’ve observed before. “I think that’s going to be one of the driving issues with this comet: how much does it look like the ones that we see from our Solar System?” Karl Battams, an astrophysicist at the Naval Research Laboratory who works on the Sungrazer Project to discover comets, tells The Verge.

The comets in our Solar System are thought to have remained relatively unchanged since they first formed during the birth of the planets. That means they provide a snapshot of the materials that were present when the Solar System first came into being. A comet from another planetary system could also serve as a baby picture for another distant cosmic neighborhood.

“If it turns out that this comet is really similar to what we find in our system, maybe that tells us a lot about how planetesimal formation tends to work in planetary systems,” says Bannister. “But my guess is it’s probably going to be different. That would be more fun.”

Researchers are also continuing to refine the object’s trajectory. Right now, the International Astronomical Union has given C/2019 Q4 a provisional designation as an interstellar comet. But everyone expects a permanent designation to come soon. “The orbit continues to be interstellar basically, and there’s no reasonable way that that would change at this point,” says Battams.

Refining the orbit will help astronomers predict with more certainty where the comet will be in the coming months. And eventually, they might be able to narrow down potential home systems for this rock. “I mean, what would be amazing is at some point, we could figure out, ‘Oh, it looks like it came from this specific star system,’ says Battams. “I don’t know if we would be able to get an orbit that unambiguously points to a single star system, but that would be the ultimate goal.”

For now, C/2019 Q4 will continue to be a very popular target, with many astronomers requesting time on powerful telescopes to observe the object over the months ahead. It’s not every day we get a visit from another star system, which makes C/2019 Q4 a planetary celebrity for 2019 and 2020. “We are actually getting a sample from another system coming to us, and that’s such a unique opportunity,” Farnocchia says. “We only had one so far; this is the second. And so we want to understand as much as we can.”

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A giant full beaver moon set to dazzle Metro Vancouver skies – Vancouver Courier

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While it is getting darker earlier in Metro Vancouver, this month’s full beaver moon promises to illuminate the night sky.

The November full moon is thought to have derived its funny name because it occurred during the optimal time to trap the furry creatures. In fact, both colonial Americans as well as the Algonquin tribes referred to it as such.

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“Why this name? Back then, this was the month to set beaver traps before the swamps froze, to ensure a supply of warm winter furs,” reports Farmer’s Almanac.

While it is commonly known as the beaver moon, it was also called the Full Frost Moon by other North American Tribes.

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the moon will be fullest during the day on Tuesday, Nov. 12. However, Vancouver stargazers will still be able to see the nearly-full moon in all her celestial glory the night before (Nov. 11) as well as later that night (Nov. 12).

What’s more, this full moon casts long, hauntingly beautiful shadows in the Northern Hemisphere. They are similar to those cast by the midday summer sun, as the moon is extremely high in the sky during this time.

Stargazers should opt to travel as far away from city lights as possible in order to avoid light pollution that will obscure the clarity of heavenly bodies. While this works best the in more remote places, anywhere that has a higher elevation will also provide more ideal viewing conditions.

Click here for original article.

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All-female space walk a starry-eyed achievement: The Statesman – The Straits Times

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NEW DELHI (THE STATESMAN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – It is a starry-eyed achievement almost literally.

Christina Koch and Jessica Meir, two NASA astronauts, have crafted space history by embarking on what they call the first all-female space walk.

Tasked with replacing a failed power control unit, their performance has been decidedly spectacular as they floated feet-first out of the International Space Station’s (ISS) Quest airlock on Friday (Oct 18).

The spacewalk, known as an extra-vehicular activity (EVA) in the jargon of astronauts, took place seven months after the originally scheduled date for an “all-female outing”, which had to be dropped because the ISS had only one medium-sized spacesuit on board.

The agency sent up a second medium spacesuit in October.

From space to ground zero, the happiest thought at the moment must be that both the achievement and empowerment of women are now manifest in the rarified atmosphere of space.

Very appropriately has the significance of the spacewalk been summed up by Christina: “I think it’s important because of the historical nature of what we’re doing,” she said ahead of the spacewalk.

“In the past, women haven’t always been at the table. It’s wonderful to be contributing to the space programme at a time when all contributions are being accepted, when everyone has a role. That can lead in turn to increased chance for success.”

On closer reflection, more than the space-walk, it is the assignment that is historic to fix a failed power control unit.

Previously, 14 women and 213 men had carried out spacewalks. The first woman was the Russian cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya, who went outside the USSR’s Salyut 7 space station in 1984.

Video footage from the astronauts’ helmet cameras, as they dangled 260 miles above Earth, provided a live stream of the painstaking operation to carry the new hardware, install it and then return the faulty battery to the airlock for a postmortem back on Earth into why it failed.

Their work in space will, therefore, be followed up by the labs on Earth.

Exceptional must be the projected coordination between space science and pure science as the world knows it.

At 40, Christina is due to remain on the ISS until February, bringing her total time in space to 328 days, the longest single spaceflight by a woman and just short of Scott Kelly’s 340-day record.

Researchers are collecting extensive biomedical data on the impact of spaceflight on her system.

The majority of data available is on male astronauts, but there is some evidence that there are sex differences in response to a space environment.

One study found that women are more likely than men to suffer faintness as a result of “orthostatic hypotension”, a cardiovascular issue.

Men appear more prone to vision changes caused by spaceflight associated neuroocular syndrome (Sans).

A flight to space has a lot to bear on human health. The contretemps notwithstanding, NASA has reached a milestone.

The Statesman is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 24 news media entities.

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NASA Invites Media to Next SpaceX Space Station Cargo Launch – PRNewswire

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WASHINGTON, Oct. 22, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Media accreditation is open for the launch of the next SpaceX delivery of science investigations, supplies, and equipment to the International Space Station.

A SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft is scheduled to launch on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida no earlier than Wednesday, Dec. 4 at 12:48 p.m. EST.

Media prelaunch and launch activities will take place at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and neighboring CCAFS. Credentialing deadlines are as follows:

  • International media without U.S. citizenship must apply by 4:30 p.m. EDT Sunday, Oct. 27.
  • U.S. media must apply by 4:30 p.m. EST Friday, Nov. 15.

All media accreditation requests should be submitted online at:

https://media.ksc.nasa.gov

For questions about accreditation, please email ksc-media-accreditat@mail.nasa.gov. For other questions, contact Kennedy’s newsroom at 321-867-2468.

Each resupply mission to the station delivers scientific investigations in the areas of biology and biotechnology, physical sciences, Earth and space science. Advances in these areas will help to keep astronauts healthy during long-duration space travel and demonstrate technologies for future human and robotic exploration beyond low-Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars. Space station research through the ISS National Lab also provides opportunities for other U.S. government agencies, private industry, and academic and research institutions, to conduct microgravity research that leads to new technologies, medical treatments, and products that improve life on Earth.

Highlights of space station research that will be facilitated by research aboard this SpaceX Dragon mission include testing the effectiveness of a device to separate and capture water droplets suspended in an air stream, delivering a next-generation spaceborne system to image Earth in higher spectral resolution than currently possible onboard the TERRA satellite, and testing conditions to develop an inexpensive and scalable process to manufacture optical materials in space.

Cargo resupply from U.S. companies ensures a national capability to deliver critical science research to the space station, significantly increasing NASA’s ability to conduct new investigations at the only laboratory in space. This is the 19th SpaceX mission under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract.

The International Space Station is a convergence of science, technology and human innovation that demonstrates new technologies and enables research not possible on Earth. The space station has been occupied continuously since November 2000. In that time, 239 people and a variety of international and commercial spacecraft have visited the orbiting laboratory. The space station remains the springboard to NASA’s next great leap in exploration, including future missions to the Moon and eventually to Mars.

For launch countdown coverage, NASA’s launch blog, and more information about the mission, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/spacex

SOURCE NASA

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http://www.nasa.gov

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