A tiny swarm of asteroids will come waltzing through our neck of the cosmic woods this weekend, as planet Earth is in for a series of close encounters on Saturday. Three space rocks are due to cruise by Earth tomorrow, in a multi-asteroid flyby that will bring one of the objects as close as 1.3 million miles from our planet’s surface. The three objects will swing by at different times throughout the day, each of them making an individual close approach rather than buzzing our planet as a group. The rocks couldn’t be more different from one another, as they vary in speed, size, and moment of discovery. However, these objects do share a common trait, as all of them are classified as Apollo-type asteroids.
The first one to make the trip through our corner of the solar system on December 21 is a 128-foot asteroid known as 2019 YM. The rock was discovered merely a day ago and is the smallest and fastest of the bunch. According to a report released yesterday by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the tiny asteroid orbits the sun once every 1,157 days, or 3.1 years, and is currently embarked on its second-ever flyby of Earth. The rock previously visited our planet in early December 2015, when it came within 17.1 million miles of the terrestrial surface. The object will creep in a lot closer to Earth tomorrow, marking the closest approach of the day.
The newfound space rock is expected to swing by in the early hours of the morning, reaching its closest point to Earth at 4:12 a.m. EST. The asteroid will safely hurtle past us at speeds of a little over 38,300 mph, flying as close as 5.5 times the distance between our planet and the moon.
After tomorrow’s close brush with Earth, it will be quite sometime before the rock returns to our corner of space. The asteroid will pass by Jupiter in 2021 as it treks the outer solar system and won’t double back until nearly four decades after, in 2058. Its next flyby of Earth will bring the rock only 7.1 million miles from our planet.
A little over 10 hours after asteroid 2019 YM darts past us on Saturday, a slightly larger Apollo asteroid will cruise by Earth in what will be the slowest and farthest approach of the day. Our second celestial visitor is called 2013 XY20 and is estimated to be about 154 feet wide. The space rock will gracefully float by at a speed of just 4,272 mph, or 5.5 times the speed of sound, reaching Earth’s vicinity at 2:35 p.m. EST. As it does so, the object will come within 4.3 million miles of our planet, or 18.2 times the distance to the moon.
As its name suggests, this second celestial interloper has been on NASA’s radar for quite some time. Asteroid 2013 XY20 was discovered six years ago, about three weeks before it swung by Earth in mid-December 2013. This Apollo asteroid circles the sun once every 439 days, or 1.2 years, frequently passing by our planet as it journeys around the giant star. Sometimes, the rock swings by on consecutive years; other times, it leaves a six-year gap between its visits.
NASA predicts that the asteroid will double back in six years’ time, making its next flyby of Earth in 2025. After that, the rock will return in 2026.
The third and final close encounter of the day will get planet Earth re-acquainted with another frequent traveler through our cosmic neighborhood — a 213-foot Apollo asteroid dubbed 2017 XQ60. The rock was first spotted two years ago, exactly one week before it buzzed Earth on December 21, 2017. The asteroid is gearing up for yet another December 21 close approach and will pop by in the late hours of the evening, flying past us at 9:10 p.m. EST. At the time, the rock will be some 2.6 million miles from Earth, or 11 times the lunar distance, cruising through space at a velocity of 19,800 mph.
JPL data shows that the asteroid, which is the heftiest of the group, takes around a year to complete a full orbit around the sun. The rock has been buzzing Earth on a yearly basis since 2001 and will continue its annual flybys up until the year 2037.
The multi-asteroid flyby comes hot on the heels of another close approach that occurred this morning, when planet Earth was visited by a massive 1,771-foot Apollo asteroid, as previously covered by The Inquisitr.
Hubble Space Telescope captures a dazzling star cluster – Space.com
Sure, the Webb telescope is getting most of the attention these days — and it should. It’s a monumental achievement!
NASA and ESA, who co-manage Hubble, have just released (opens in new tab) a new spectacular image of globular cluster NGC 6638, a star cluster in the constellation Sagittarius. The image was created from observations by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 and the Advanced Camera for Surveys.
Prior to Hubble, it was nearly impossible to discern the individual stars in a globular cluster, which is a dense collection of ancient stars numbering in the tens of thousands to millions. Because ground-based telescopes have to peer through the Earth’s atmosphere in order to see the stars, their view can sometimes become distorted.
That’s less of an issue for Hubble, which orbits Earth at 340 miles (547 kilometers) above the surface. By comparison, Webb is about 1 million miles (1.5 million kilometers) from Earth, far beyond though it primarily operates in the infrared spectrum, while Hubble operates in the visible-light spectrum.)
That means Hubble is technically located within the atmosphere, which extends out 6,200 miles (10,00 kilometers). In fact, it’s even close enough that astronauts can visit to perform repairs. (Or at least they could when the space shuttle flew.) But Hubble is located at a point in which the atmosphere is so thin that it doesn’t obscure the observatory’s view of the stars.
As such, Hubble has been instrumental in globular cluster research, and it continues to make new discoveries regularly.
While Hubble is already more than 30 years old, the telescope still has quite a bit of life left in it, and scientists will continue to use it in conjunction with the James Webb telescope to answer the biggest questions about the cosmos.
The new image was released on Aug. 1.
Nunavut's ancient Qikiqtania fish fossil helps shed new light on evolution – CBC.ca
Nunavut’s rich fossil record has a new star, the roughly 365-million-year-old Qikiqtania Wakei.
It was named after the Qikiqtani region of Nunavut, where it was found, and the late David Wake, an acclaimed evolutionary biologist.
“Some of the fossils that are coming out of Ellesmere Island and northern Canada are so important for how we as scientists and people in general understand this period of life on earth,” said Tom Stewart, an assistant professor at Penn State, who recently reported about Qikiqtania in the journal Nature.
Millions of years back, it was a different world: When Qikiqtania lived in the polar region, the now-treeless land would have resembled today’s Amazon River delta.
In its waters were fish, some of which had started to move on to the land.
But, among those fish which left behind fossil traces, Qikiqtania has revealed itself to be a new creature.
“It’s exciting for a few reasons,” Stewart said.
They knew Qikiqtania was new and “also something very unusual,” he said.
“From a first impression, we could tell this was an animal that is closely related to the first animals that had fingers and toes. “
But Qikiqtania’s fins showed it was quite different from those first animals.
That’s because they didn’t see any muscles which would have needed to be move onto land.
“It was doing something very different. This fish was not [out of the water.] We think this was the evolution of a fish that used to live on the ground,” he said.
Looking at animals today, Stewart said it’s not “so crazy” to think of a fish transitioning from water to land or back and forth over time.
Some frogs also live wholly in the water, while others live mainly on the land, he said.
But to see a similar dynamic taking place so long ago, through Qikiqtania, was “really exciting and unexpected for us,” Stewart said.
But the revelation wasn’t immediate.
It started on a 2004 trip to Ellesmere near the eastern arm of Bird Fiord, where Neil Shubin, now at the University of Chicago, had picked up the fossil, which was lying exposed on the ground.
Members of the team would walk on the rocks on hillsides looking for a particular colour or texture that might indicate a fossil.
In the case of Qikiqtania, the scales of the fish were white and they had bumps on them, so they knew there was a fossil.
In 2004, the fossil was bundled up and taken south, along with hundreds of others, for painstaking study.
Finally two years ago, Stewart and his team brought the fossil to Shubin’s laboratory for a CT scan.
“We could look inside the fossil and see a whole lot of preserved parts of the animal that we didn’t know existed,” said Stewart, adding it was new but “also something very unusual.”
Fossils of an ancient fish species Tiktaalik roseae were also found during that 2004 trip to Ellesmere.
Tiktaalik is one of the best-known ancient transitional species between fish and land-dwelling tetrapods, or animals with two pairs of limbs.
Both Qikiqtania and Tiktalik will remain at the Nunavut fossil collection of the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa until a museum facility can welcome them home.
Research on Qikiqtani took place thanks to people in Resolute Bay and Grise Fiord, the Iviq Hunters and Trappers of Grise Fiord, and Nunavut’s Department of Heritage and Culture.
To them— and on behalf of the entire research team, Stewart said “nakurmiik.”
An award-winning photographer tells you how to take pictures of the night sky – CBC.ca
Dave Brosha is a professional photographer who, over the last 15 years, has taken highly stunning pictures of the Canadian wilderness.
It was when he was living in Yellowknife — before he pursued photography full time — that he first became interested in pointing his lens toward the skies.
“Yellowknife is known as one of the best areas on the planet for displays of the aurora borealis,” he said. “I found myself outside many, many nights under the stars.”
Since then Brosha has been short-listed multiple times for the Astronomy Photography of the Year Awards, and in 2010 he was the first runner-up in the category of land and space.
Now that he’s based in P.E.I., he splits his time between doing commercial assignments and teaching photography to people across Canada and in other parts of the world.
Every summer, he holds a workshop on the Island with his colleague, Paul Zizka, on sunset and nighttime photography that features astrophotography, the art of capturing a picture of an object in space.
“There’s people that are more into deep-space photography, actually photographing the galaxies and close-ups of planets and stars and stuff like that,” Brosha said. “But to me, astrophotography is really just going out into the world once the light disappears and just exploring the beauty of that.”
Though his workshop just ended, Brosha took some time to tell CBC what beginners need to know to get into this hobby, which he says at its most barebones doesn’t require more than a fairly basic DSLR camera or a good smartphone — not even a fancy location.
“My favourite nighttime photographs have always just kind of come in my own backyard. I don’t have to drive anywhere, and it’s right there,” he said.
“Whether exploring star trails or aurora borealis or Milky Way photographs, or just being able to go outside in your own backyard, it’s [all] pretty wonderful.
“It helps to live in the countryside.”
Switching to manual
All good nighttime photographers — and all good photographers in general — must have a firm grasp on the concept of exposure. That’s the amount of light that’s allowed to reach the camera sensor. A picture that’s underexposed is one that looks too dark.
“You have to understand the principles of capturing very small amounts of light over a longer time. So you have to know how to be able to operate your camera to capture those miniscule bits of light,” Brosha said. “It really forces you to slow down and think.”
For starters, that means ditching your camera’s auto settings.
“You can’t really shoot night photography effectively in just auto mode. You have to learn the exposure triangle,” he said. “It takes a little bit of work, for sure. But the rewards are tremendous.”
Keep it steady
The longer the camera’s shutter remains open, the larger the amount of light the camera takes in. As such, in a night photography environment, it’s common to see shutter speeds of over 20 to 30 seconds.
But a slow shutter speed means the camera is very sensitive to any motion.
That’s great if you’re trying to capture the movement of celestial bodies such as when taking a “star trail” photograph, but even a slight movement could lead to blurry images.
Brosha said that for long exposures, it’s important to keep your camera steady. That means a good tripod is almost a must.
“If all else fails, I’ve improvised by propping my camera up on a solid surface,” Brosha said. “Using a timer on your camera rather than pressing your shutter also helps reduce camera shake.”
Check your ISO
Cranking up the ISO allows for more light to get in the camera at the expense of quality.
That could compensate for a faster shutter speed when capturing a moving object, such as when trying to capture the outlines of bright northern lights.
And having both a slow shutter speed and a high ISO could lead to highly detailed images of the night sky, such as this self-portrait with the Milky Way as a backdrop. It was taken with a 3200-ISO, and a 30-second shutter speed.
“When you go out there, and you even just let your eyes adjust for the dark, and you’re out there an hour, it’s remarkable how much more you see. The camera can take that even further,” Brosha said. “[It] picks up so much more.”
Brosha said that other than avoiding pouring rain, there are no real “ideal” conditions as to when to venture out, and that all types of weather can lead to interesting pictures.
“Cloudy? Reflected light pollution can actually look interesting in a long exposure. Full moon? Not the best conditions for shooting the Milky Way, but great conditions for being able to see your foregrounds,” he said.
A pitch-black night is a prime setting for taking pictures of stars. And if you’re looking to take a picture of the northern lights, you better look, well, north.
“It’s generally easier to photograph on the North Shore, when the aurora borealis is predicted. So that’s what I would probably recommend to people,” Brosha said.
Go out there and shoot
Brosha said that astrophotography may look intimidating on the surface, but that it’s not as complicated as most people might think.
“All you have to grasp to begin is the concept of long exposure. And that usually I find for people is something that they can get the hang of pretty quickly. It just takes a little bit of practice,” he said.
Once you got that nailed down, Brosha said you can get really creative with it. And the setting allows for that.
“Every time you turn on a light, like a flashlight, your eyes kind of lose the adjustment to the nighttime that you’ve gained,” he said.
“So you really try to function with as little light as possible. And so everything becomes slower and more deliberate.”
Plus, Brosha said, it’s a fine excuse to go outdoors.
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