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A car-sized asteroid just made the closest fly-by of Earth on record — and NASA didn't see it coming – Barrie 360 – Barrie 360

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Sophie Lewis – CBS News

A car-sized asteroid just made the closest-known approach to Earth without actually colliding with the planet. And researchers didn’t know about it until hours after it had already passed.

Asteroid 2020 QG, formerly known as ZTFoDxQ, zoomed past Earth on Sunday at 12:08 a.m. EDT, getting as close as 1,830 miles (3,000 kilometres) away. It marks the closest asteroid flyby ever recorded in which the object actually survived, according to NASA.

For comparison, the International Space Station is 254 miles (400 kilometres) away.

“Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) pass by Earth all the time, but
2020 QG passed closer to Earth than any other known NEA without actually
impacting,” a NASA spokesperson told CBS News on Tuesday.

2020 QG was first observed at the Palomar Observatory a whopping six hours after
it passed over the southern Indian Ocean.

“It’s quite an accomplishment to find these tiny close-in asteroids in the first place, because they pass by so fast,” said Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “There’s typically only a short window of a couple of days before or after close approach when this small of an asteroid is close enough to Earth to be bright enough but not so close that it moves too fast in the sky to be detected by a telescope.”

The asteroid was travelling at 27,600 miles per hour, or nearly 8 miles per second, which NASA said is a little slower than average. On average, an asteroid of its size passes this closely just a few times each year.

Being only about 10 to 20 feet in diameter, the
asteroid was not actually big enough to pose a serious threat. If it had been
on a collision course, it would have likely ended up as a fireball — an extremely bright meteor — as it broke up in Earth’s
atmosphere.

The asteroid “approached Earth from the direction of the Sun
and was not discovered until after it passed and could be observed in the night
sky by ground-based observatories,” NASA confirmed. “By some
estimates, there are hundreds of millions of small asteroids the size of 2020
QG, but they are extremely hard to discover until they get very close to
Earth.”

NASA carefully tracks near-Earth objects, but it’s only aware of a fraction of them due to such observational limitations.

The circled streak in the centre of this image is asteroid 2020 QG, which came closer to Earth than any other non-impacting asteroid on record. It was detected by the Zwicky Transient Facility on Sunday, Aug. 16 at 12:08 a.m. EDT (Saturday, Aug. 15 at 9:08 p.m. PDT).  ZTF/Caltech Optical Observatories

Scientists at NASA are developing a telescope that
could detect asteroids coming from the direction of the sun, eliminating the
current blind spot in their observations. The Near-Earth Object Surveillance Mission could launch as early as 2025.

NASA is also planning to launch the Double Asteroid
Redirection Test (DART) in July 2021. DART will purposely crash into a harmless asteroid moon in
the fall of 2022 to attempt to change its motion, in the first test for
planetary defense.

banner image shows asteroid 2020 QG’s trajectory bending during its close approach to Earth – courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

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Water on Mars: discovery of three buried lakes intrigues scientists – Nature.com

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An image of Mars

Scientists have long thought that there could be water trapped beneath the surface of Mars.Credit: Steve Lee, Univ. Colorado/Jim Bell, Cornell Univ./Mike Wolff, SSI/NASA

Two years ago, planetary scientists reported the discovery of a large saltwater lake under the ice at Mars’s south pole, a finding that was met with excitement and some scepticism. Now, researchers say they’ve confirmed the presence of that lake — and found three more.

The discovery, reported on 28 September in Nature Astronomy1, was made using radar data from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) orbiting Mars Express spacecraft. It follows the detection of a single subsurface lake in the same region in 2018 — which, if confirmed, would be the first body of liquid water ever detected on the red planet and a possible habitat for life. But that finding was based on just 29 observations made from 2012 to 2015, and many researchers said they needed more evidence to support the claim. The latest study used a broader data set comprising 134 observations from between 2012 and 2019.

“We identified the same body of water, but we also found three other bodies of water around the main one,” says planetary scientist Elena Pettinelli at the University of Rome, who is one of the paper’s co-authors. “It’s a complex system.”

The team used a radar instrument on Mars Express called the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS) to probe the planet’s southern polar region. MARSIS sends out radio waves that bounce off layers of material in the planet’s surface and subsurface. The way the signal is reflected back indicates the kind of material that is present at a particular location — rock, ice or water, for example. A similar method is used to identify subsurface glacial lakes on Earth. The team detected some areas of high reflectivity that they say indicate bodies of liquid water trapped under more than one kilometre of Martian ice.

The lakes are spread over about 75,000 square kilometres — an area roughly one-fifth the size of Germany. The largest, central lake measures 30 kilometres across, and is surrounded by three smaller lakes, each a few kilometres wide.

Salty lakes

On the surface of Mars, the low pressure that results from the planet’s lack of a substantial atmosphere makes liquid water impossible. But scientists have long thought that there could be water trapped under Mars’s surface, perhaps a remnant of when the planet once had seas and lakes billions of years ago. If such reservoirs exist, they could be potential habitats for Martian life. On Earth, life is able to survive in subglacial lakes in places such as Antarctica.

But the amount of salt present could pose problems. It’s thought that any underground lakes on Mars must have a reasonably high salt content for the water to remain liquid. Although this far beneath the surface there may be a small amount of heat from the interior of Mars, this alone would not be enough to melt the ice into water. “From a thermal point of view it has to be salty,” says Pettinelli.

Lakes with a salt content about five times that of seawater can support life, but as you approach 20 times that of seawater life is no longer present, says John Priscu, an environmental scientist at Montana State University.

“There’s not much active life in these briny pools in Antarctica,” says Priscu, whose group studies microbiology in icy environments. “They’re just pickled. And that might be the case [on Mars].”

Heated debate

The presence of the Martian lakes themselves is also still debated. After the 2018 discovery, researchers raised concerns such as the lack of an adequate heat source to turn the ice into water. And although the latest finding supports the 2018 observation and involves much more data, not everyone is yet convinced that the regions identified are liquid water.

“If the bright material really is liquid water, I think it’s more likely to represent some sort of slush or sludge,” says Mike Sori, a planetary geophysicist at from Purdue University, in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Jack Holt, a planetarty scientist at the University of Arizonasays that while he thinks the latest data are fine, he isn’t sure about the interpretation. “I do not think there are lakes,” says Holt, who is on the science team for the Mars Shallow Radar sounder (SHARAD) on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). “There is not enough heat flow to support a brine here, even under the ice cap.”

A Chinese mission that is on its way to Mars might offer one way to check the claims. The Tianwen-1 mission will enter orbit in February 2021, and as well as deploying a rover onto the surface, the orbiter will carry a suite of scientific instruments. These include radar equipment that could be used to make similar observations. “Its capabilities are similar to MARSIS and SHARAD,” says David Flannery from the Queensland University of Technology.

For the time being, the prospect that these lakes are remnants of Mars’s wet past remains an exciting possibility. “There may have been a lot of water on Mars,” says Pettinelli. “And if there was water, there was the possibility of life.”

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Watch for the rare blue moon appearing this Halloween – iNFOnews

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A Blue Moon, the second full moon in the month, will take place on Halloween this year.
Image Credit: Courtney McLaughlin

September 28, 2020 – 8:00 AM

Halloween promises to be a little more special this year, and the reason has nothing to do with the global pandemic.

The next blue moon will come on Oct. 31 this year, just in time for Halloween.

According to EarthSKy.org, it’s called a Blue Moon because it’s the second of two full moons to occur on a single calendar month, not because it’s coloured blue.

The first of the two full moons for next month occurs on Oct. 1.

The last blue moon occurred on March 31, 2018.

A blue moon can also be the third of four full moons in a single season, the next seasonal full moon coming on Aug. 22, 2021.

The Farmers’ Almanac says the appearance of a full moon on Halloween is a rare event.

The last time a Halloween full moon appeared was in 1944, and the next time we’ll see it will be 2039, so enjoy this year’s special moonlit night of trick or treating.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to tips@infonews.ca and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © iNFOnews, 2020

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NASA Launching $23 Million Toilet to International Space Station – TMZ

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