The last known world record for avian flight was recorded in 2007 when a female bar-tailed godwit was recorded flying 11,680 kilometres
A 12,000-kilometre non-stop round-the-world flight from Alaska to New Zealand would tire out even the most seasoned air traveller, without the help of a snack, a nap or some distracting entertainment. For the male bar-tailed godwit, on the other hand, it’s a piece of cake.
Scientists say the bird has set a new world record for avian non-stop flight, after tracking its route over 11 days from southwest Alaska to a bay near Auckland, flying at speeds of up to 55 km/h.
“They are designed like a jet fighter. Long, pointed wings and a really sleek design which gives them a lot of aerodynamic potential,” Dr. Jesse Conklin told the Guardian of the bird’s feat. Conklin is a scientist with the Global Flyaway Network, a worldwide partnership between researchers who study epic migratory patterns.
Researchers at the Pūkorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre, southeast of Auckland, had caught and tagged the bird and 20 others in late 2019. The bird, labelled as 4BBRW due to the blue, blue, red and then white rings on its legs, had been fitted with a satellite tag on its back. Scientists say the bird, along with four others, left from the Alaskan mudflats on Sept. 16, where they had feasted for two months on clams and worms.
The birds, according to the scientists, headed south over the Aleutian Islands and then onto the Pacific Ocean, passing over Hawaii and Fiji. Scientists believe strong easterly winds along the way prolonged the birds’ journey and pushed them towards Australia.
“They are flying over open ocean for days and days in the mid-Pacific; there is no land at all. Then they get to New Caledonia and Papua New Guinea where there are quite a few islands and, we might be anthropomorphising, but it really looks like they start spotting land and sort of think: ‘Oh, I need to start veering or I will miss New Zealand’,” Conklin told the Guardian.
The satellite recorded a point-to-point flight of 12,854 kilometres, but scientists have estimated that the distance travelled will have been around 12,200 kilometres once rounding errors are accounted for. The previous longest non-stop flight on record was by a bird that flew 11,680 kilometres. That effort was recorded in 2007, and it was also by a bar-tailed godwit (on that occasion female).
While the male bird, which weighs between 190 grams and 400 grams, can double in size before a long flight, scientists say it’s also able to shrink its internal organs to lessen the carried load.
Scientists believe, but have not yet proven, that the birds do not sleep on their journey, despite flapping their wings non-stop. “They have an incredibly efficient fuel-to-energy rate,” Conklin said.
“There are other birds that make similar-scale flights of say 10,000 (kilometres) but there are not a whole load of places in the world where it is necessary,” Conklin said. “So it is not necessarily that this is the only bird capable of it – but it is the only bird that needs to do it.”
The route along the Pacific functions as an ‘ecological corridor,’ scientists suggest, mostly because it is relatively free of disease and predators. However, climate change could soon render it an unsuitable route, as the frequencies and strengths of the winds along the passage change.
Incredible moment Nasa probe lands on ‘doomsday asteroid’ Bennu to collect biggest Space sample since Apo – The Irish Sun
NASA’s OSIRIS-REX spacecraft briefly touched down on the asteroid Bennu on Tuesday evening, tagging the surface as part of a collection mission that’s been 16 years in the making.
It is hoped that the any dirt collected will help with future research into our solar system – including how to potentially prevent an asteroid crashing into Earth.
The spacecraft made contact with the surface of Bennu shortly after 11pm GMT.
It is hoped that NASA will know by Saturday whether the extraction has been successful.
Any materials collected could help unlock secrets into how our solar system was formed 4.5 billion years ago.
Last December, scientists selected the sample site known as Nightingale – a fairly smooth patch on what is an asteroid strewn with boulders.
Measuring roughly 20 feet wide and is the size of an SUV, OSIRIS-REX was tasked with navigating a target site of just 26 feet in diameter.
The mission has been 16 years in the making and was led by University of Arizona researchers.
The touchdown happened over 200 million miles away from Earth.
Bennu itself is travelling through space at a speed of 63,000 miles per hour.
Once landed, the spacecraft released an 11-foot-long robotic arm to collect a small sample of rubble.
Ahead of the landing, NASA scientists said it could take some time before they can identify just how much material has been collected.
It will be flown back to Earth in 2023 if the sample is good enough and is expected to arrive in 2023.
We should then be able to unravel some of the mystery surrounding the asteroid and its origins.
The mission is uncharted territory, though, so smooth sailing is not guaranteed.
Why does Nasa want to study Bennu?
Ancient asteroid Bennu contains the ingredients for life, according to Nasa experts.
Ahead of the sampling, experts have been piecing together what they think they know so far about the near Earth asteroid.
Nasa explained: “NASA’s first asteroid sample return mission now knows much more about the material it’ll be collecting in just a few weeks.
“In a special collection of six papers published today in the journals Science and Science Advances, scientists on the OSIRIS-REx mission present new findings on asteroid Bennu’s surface material, geological characteristics, and dynamic history.
“They also suspect that the delivered sample of Bennu may be unlike anything we have in the meteorite collection on Earth.”
The researchers relied on high resolution mapping that has been done around Bennu since a spacecraft began to orbit it back in 2018.
It’s hoped that their work will fill in crucial gaps in our understanding of asteroids.
Nasa claims Bennu hosts ingredients that we know are essential for life on Earth.
It said: “One of the papers, led by Amy Simon from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, shows that carbon-bearing, organic material is widespread on the asteroid’s surface, including at the mission’s primary sample site, Nightingale, where OSIRIS-REx will make its first sample collection attempt on October 20.
“These findings indicate that hydrated minerals and organic material will likely be present in the collected sample.
“This organic matter may contain carbon in a form often found in biology or in compounds associated with biology.
“Scientists are planning detailed experiments on these organic molecules and expect that the returned sample will help answer complex questions about the origins of water and life on Earth.”
There is a theory that life on Earth started because of an asteroid impact bringing water and the right organic molecules.
There’s also slight concern that an asteroid like Bennu could end lives on Earth.
Bennu is a possible security risk for our planet as there’s a 1 in 2,700 chance it could collide with us in the 2100s.
This may be a slim chance but it makes studying the asteroid even more important.
Bright ‘veins’ on the asteroid’s boulders are also being used to suggest Bennu formed when a larger watery asteroid was smashed into and broken up.
The water could have created the veins and left behind the patterns we can still see today.
Bennu – the key facts
Here’s what you need to know
- 101955 Bennu is a large asteroid that was first discovered on September 11, 1999
- It’s official designated as a “potentially hazardous object”, because it could one day hit Earth
- Space scientists say it has a 1-in-2,700 change of impacting Earth between 2175 and 2199
- It’s named after the Bennu, an Ancient Egyptian mythological bird associated with the Sun
- The asteroid has an approximate diameter of 1,614 feet
- Bennu is the target of the ongoing Osiris-Rex mission, which is designed to return samples from the asteroid to Earth in 2023
- The Osiris-Rex spacecraft arrived at Bennu on December 3, 2018 – following a two-year journey
- It will map out Bennu’s surface and orbit the asteroid to calculate its mass
- An asteroid of Bennu’s size can be expected to hit Earth approximately once every 100,000 to 130,000 years
- Bennu will make a close approach (460,000 miles) to Earth on September 23, 2060
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Ultimate absentee ballot: US astronaut votes from space station – Phys.org
At least she didn’t have to wait in line.
A US astronaut cast her ballot from the International Space Station on Thursday, making her voice heard in the presidential election despite being 253 miles (408 kilometers) above the Earth.
“From the International Space Station: I voted today,” crew member Kate Rubins, who began a six-month stint aboard the orbiting station last week, said on US space agency NASA’s Twitter account.
The post featured a photograph of Rubins, her blonde hair floating in the zero-gravity environment, in front of a white enclosure with a paper sign that reads “ISS voting booth.”
Rubins and NASA described the process as a form of absentee voting.
A secure electronic ballot generated by a clerk’s office in Harris County, home of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, was sent up via email to the ISS.
Rubins filled out the ballot in the email and it was downlinked and delivered back to the clerk’s office.
She is no stranger to the process: Rubins cast her vote from the ISS during the 2016 election. Congress passed legislation in 1997 that made voting from space possible.
“We consider it an honor to be able to vote from space,” she said in a video before she and two Russian cosmonauts launched from the Russian-operated Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on October 14.
“If we can do it from space then I believe folks can do it from the ground too.”
Three other American astronauts were also expected to vote from space but their October 31 trip to the ISS was delayed.
© 2020 AFP
Ultimate absentee ballot: US astronaut votes from space station (2020, October 23)
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OSIRIS-REx collects sample from Bennu asteroid after 2-year orbit – KOKI FOX 23
“Even though we have some work ahead of us to determine the outcome of the event — the successful contact, the TAGSAM gas firing, and back-away from Bennu are major accomplishments for the team. I look forward to analyzing the data to determine the mass of sample collected,” Dante Lauretta said in a statement, according to CNN. Lauretta is the principal investigator for the mission and is a professor at the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.
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