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Asteroid named for Egyptian chaos god may be on collision course with Earth

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TORONTO —
Scientists are tracking an asteroid that is speeding up as it hurtles through our solar system, and warning that it could hit the Earth within the next 50 years.

The asteroid Apophis – named, appropriately enough, for the Egyptian god of chaos – was first discovered in 2004. At the time, astronomers estimated that there was a 2.7 per cent chance it would hit the Earth in 2036.

That is no longer believed to be the case, but new research suggests there is a smaller chance the asteroid could collide with our planet at a later date.

“The 2068 impact scenario is still in play,” David Tholen said at a conference of the American Astronomical Society.

Tholen, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii, told the conference that observations of Apophis earlier this year detected signs of Yarkovsky acceleration – a process by which asteroids get a “tiny push” from the heat they radiate, altering their speed and trajectory.

CLOSE APPROACH COMING SOON

It will be nearly another decade before astronomers are able to better project exactly where Apophis will travel in 2068.

Those clues will come from a close approach in 2029 – “on, of all dates, Friday the 13th in April,” as Tholen put it. It will be visible with the naked eye, shining as brightly as one of the stars in the Big Dipper.

On that day, the asteroid is expected to come about as close to our planet as communications satellites are. The exact distance will determine whether its path will take it smack-dab into our planet 39 years later.

“We’ll know after that occurs exactly where it was as it passed the Earth, and that will make it much easier for us to predict your impact scenarios,” Tholen said.

“If it passes at just the right distance from the Earth, the gravitational pull of the Earth will change the orbit just enough to have it come back and hit the Earth in [2068].”

WHAT COULD HAPPEN?

When an asteroid enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it becomes a meteor. When it falls to the ground, it becomes a meteorite.

Meteorites are a common occurrence. Some of them even get very close to our planet without being detected. Most of the time, they’re tiny. Not so with Apophis.

According to NASA, the Earth is hit by a falling cosmic body the size of a football field approximately once every 2,000 years. Apophis is three times that size, with a diameter of 323 metres. It’s as long as the Eiffel Tower is tall.

If Apophis hits Earth and mostly stays intact as it falls to the ground, NASA says, its size could lead to significant localized damage. That said, it isn’t big enough to cause a worldwide catastrophe, as the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs did.

Still, the potential for impact is there – and that means astronomers will be eagerly awaiting the 2029 fly-by, anxious to gather as much information as they can.

“We need to track this asteroid very carefully,” Tholen said.

Source:- CTV News

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Telescope Collapse – SaultOnline.com

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PUERTO RICO, USA – The Arecibo Observatory collapsed on December 1, 2020.

The telescope was the biggest of it’s kind in the world until China built a bigger one in 2016.

Its 305-meter main dish was on the ground while the suspended platform weighing in at 150 tons carried antennas and other equipment suspended over it.

One of the main cables supporting the platform broke in August and then the rest let go Tuesday.

During its lifespan, it made numerous discoveries and was used as a radar to ping near-earth asteroids. It would document size, spin, orbit, and rotation. Without this telescope, there is not another one in the world with the precision capability to do so.

There have been calls on social media to rebuild however no plans for the future of the telescope have been completed.

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NASA buying Moon dust for US$1 – CTV News

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The U.S. space agency NASA awarded contracts to four companies on Thursday to collect lunar samples for US$1 to $15,000, rock-bottom prices that are intended to set a precedent for future exploitation of space resources by the private sector.

“I think it’s kind of amazing that we can buy lunar regolith from four companies for a total of $25,001,” said Phil McAlister, director of NASA’s Commercial Spaceflight Division.

The contracts are with Lunar Outpost of Golden, Colorado for $1; ispace Japan of Tokyo for $5,000; ispace Europe of Luxembourg for $5,000; and Masten Space Systems of Mojave, California for $15,000.

The companies plan to carry out the collection during already scheduled unmanned missions to the Moon in 2022 and 2023.

The firms are to collect a small amount of lunar soil known as regolith from the Moon and to provide imagery to NASA of the collection and the collected material.

Ownership of the lunar soil will then be transferred to NASA and it will become the “sole property of NASA for the agency’s use under the Artemis program.”

Under the Artemis program, NASA plans to land a man and a woman on the Moon by 2024 and lay the groundwork for sustainable exploration and an eventual mission to Mars.

“The precedent is a very important part of what we’re doing today,” said Mike Gold, NASA’s acting associate administrator for international and interagency relations.

“We think it’s very important to establish the precedent that the private sector entities can extract, can take these resources but NASA can purchase and utilize them to fuel not only NASA’s activities, but a whole new dynamic era of public and private development and exploration on the Moon,” Gold said.

“We must learn to generate our own water, air and even fuel,” he said. “Living off the land will enable ambitious exploration activities that will result in awe inspiring science and unprecedented discoveries.”

Any lessons learned on the Moon would be crucial to an eventual mission to Mars.

“Human mission to Mars will be even more demanding and challenging than our lunar operations, which is why it’s so critical to learn from our experiences on the Moon and apply those lessons to Mars,” Gold said.

“We want to demonstrate explicitly that you can extract, you can utilize resources, and that we will be conducting those activities in full compliance with the Outer Space Treaty,” he said. “That’s the precedent that’s important. It’s important for America to lead, not just in technology, but in policy.”

The United States is seeking to establish a precedent because there is currently no international consensus on property rights in space and China and Russia have not reached an understanding with the United States on the subject.

The 1967 Outer Space Treaty is vague but it deems outer space to be “not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.”

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Nasa to pay $1 to collect rocks from moon – Yahoo News Canada

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Life support of $41.5M given to West White Rose, but no guarantee oil project will restart

Husky Energy is getting $41.5 million from the Newfoundland and Labrador government to keep the idled West White Rose offshore oil project going, particularly to “protect the option of re-starting” in the next year — although there is no guarantee that will happen.The announcement came Thursday morning in a news conference that involved Premier Andrew Furey, provincial Energy Minister Andrew Parsons, federal Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan and Husky senior vice-president Jonathan Brown. The money is coming from the government’s Oil and Gas Industry Recovery Fund, and is the first project to get financial help from that source.The $41.5 million is half the total project cost. Husky Energy will be kicking in the other half. Furey said the work related to the project will happen in 2021, and it will mean 331 jobs. Specifically, there will be 169 positions in project management and engineering, and 162 tradespersons at the Port of Argentia and a fabrication facility in Marystown.The money keeps the project — one of Newfoundland and Labrador’s biggest offshore operations — alive for now.> The signal you’ve received from Husky today is that they’re planning to move forward. – Andrew FureyIt’s known as “warm suspension,” and it’s only an option, not a certainty, that the project will fully re-start.”Everyone wants a crystal ball, but of course we don’t have one and we don’t have that certainty,” Furey told reporters following the conference.”But I think the signal you’ve received from Husky today is that they’re planning to move forward. They recognize the value of this project.”‘One heck of a Christmas surprise’: O’ReganO’Regan called the announcement “one heck of a Christmas surprise for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and their families.”He said the announcement was not merely a “government handout” but instead called it a “strategic investment” in the offshore oil industry, which was thrown into turmoil this spring when the COVID-19 pandemic caused oil prices to plummet. “We believe in our workers, we believe in this industry and we believe in its future,” O’Regan added. O’Regan acknowledged there will not be an entirely smooth road in the coming months. “Spring is coming and the vaccines are coming, but we have a hard winter ahead,” he said.A ‘first step back in the right direction,’ says Husky VPBrown, Husky’s senior vice-president for the Atlantic region, said the announcement will put the project in a better position for a 2022 restart, allowing project capability and skilled workers in the province to be retained.”This is the first step back in the right direction for the White Rose project,” Brown said. “But one of many steps still ahead.”Brown said the announcement is positive news in what has been a “year of tough decisions” on the project, which has suspended construction until 2021.He said work in Marystown will continue on projects like life boats, helipads and a flare tower, while the maintenance and preservation program will continue in Argentia.Opposition, NDP looking for guaranteesFollowing the press conference, NDP Leader Alison Coffin voiced concern over the project’s continued precariousness, citing the agreement’s reliance on unnamed “conditions.””We’ve been given no idea of what those conditions are,” she told reporters Thursday.”Do we have to put even more money into this? Are the conditions that the price of oil has to go up?…We have no guarantees.”PC Leader Ches Crosbie echoed a similar sentiment, saying Furey “should be moving heaven and earth” to restart the project. He also questioned the number of new jobs to come from the announcement.”What we’re hearing is that the 331 jobs that they’re claiming, more than half of those … are already in existence,” he said. “So the actual number of jobs created by all that money is not what they’re claiming it’s going to be.”Coffin said the money could have been better spent diversifying the economy, opening more work opportunities for those who may not be able to re-enter the oil and gas sector.”I think there are better ways to spend this money, to ensure that the workers who need to go back to work have employment,” she said.Latest development in a roller coaster ride for workers, projectThat Oil and Gas Industry Recovery Fund was announced Sept. 25, with the federal government allocating $320 million for the N.L. government to support direct and indirect employment. Furey appointed a task force with the same name, chaired by Bill Fanning and Karen Winsor, who were also on hand for Thursday’s announcement. The announcement is the latest development in a saga that started in April, when Husky announced it was stopping construction on the project, as the global pandemic battered oil markets. Hundreds of workers were laid off.At the time, the project was nearly 60 per cent complete.In October, Husky said construction was cancelled for 2021 as well.That news came just days after Cenovus Energy announced it would buy Husky Energy in a deal worth nearly $4 billion. In a statement, Cenovus said regarding Husky’s operations in the province “the WWR [West White Rose] project is key to extending the life of the White Rose field. As we have said before, all options are on the table and accelerating abandonment remains a possibility.”When asked about Cenovus walking away from the project once the merger is complete, Brown said it’s too early to know. He said his team is committed to continuing the West White Rose project.”I think that really understates the level of commitment that we’ve already shown to the project,” he said. “The responsibility everyone feels to completing the project and the effort … don’t underestimate the importance of that.”He said a review of Husky’s East Coast operations that the corporation had announced in September are also still ongoing.”We have to create a path forward,” Brown said.”Yes, I’d love to have a decision tomorrow, but I’d also like … the economy to stabilize, the oil prices to improve, because they’ll provide a better basis for that decision.”Take that decision too early, it might not be the one you want.”Husky has been asking both the federal and provincial governments for money to save West White Rose, but both governments have rejected the company’s pitch to buy a stake in the project.Newfoundland and Labrador, through its Crown corporation Nalcor Energy, already owns a five per cent stake in the project.Read more stories from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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