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ATLANTIC SKIES: How big is the universe? – SaltWire Network

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The joy of my life, my granddaughter Scarlet, asked me the other day, “Poppy, how big is the universe?”

Her boundless curiosity never ceases to amaze me. I attempted to explain to her, as best I could to an eight-year-old who has never travelled further than Halifax, N.S., that the universe, as we currently understand it, is very large – so large, in fact, that we have to measure it, not in terms of kilometers, but, rather, in light-years. Even then, the numbers are extremely big.

I am not sure my explanation of exactly what a light-year is (how far light travels through space in the course of one year, or approximately 9.5 trillion kilometers), and, how when multiplied by how far (in light-years) we can see out into space, did much to answer her initial query, as the resulting silence and quizzical expression on her face told me she couldn’t really grasp such distances (who can blame her?).

Her response just about summed up what, I imagine, most people would say: “Guess that really is pretty big, isn’t it, Poppy?”

“Yes, my darling, it certainly is,” I replied.

In the 1920s, the American astronomer, Edwin Hubble (after whom the Hubble Space Telescope is named) and his assistant, Milton Humason, proved that the galaxies they were studying and photographing were, in fact, moving outward as viewed from Earth, or receding, into deep space, and further, that the more distant the galaxy, the faster it was receding. This became known as Hubble’s Law.

Hubble’s discovery actually grew out of earlier work by Albert Einstein, who, in 1917, predicted that the universe was expanding, because space itself was expanding. Although, at the time, Einstein wasn’t confident enough in his expanding universe theory to publish it, it later formed the basis for his famous General Theory of Relativity.

When I use the term “universe” here, I mean the observable universe, the farthest point that we can see out into space with our best astronomical telescope – the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). In 2016, the HST photographed what, to date, is the most distant object – the galaxy GN-z11. Taking the expansion of the universe into consideration, it is approximately 32 billion light-years, or approximately 3.04 sextillion (3.04 followed by 21 zeros) kilometers away; a truly mind-boggling distance.

However, astronomers theorize that the actual universe is much, much larger. Starting at the moment of the universe’s theoretical creation (called the “Big Bang”, though not an actual explosion), the accepted age of the universe is now thought to be approximately 13.8 billion years. As the universe continues to expand, the most distant point in space from which we will ultimately receive light back from distant galaxies (which are increasingly moving away from us), known as the “cosmic horizon”, is estimated to be about 46 billion light-years away.

It is theorized that, due to the increasingly rapid rate of expansion of the universe as a whole, we will never see any light from objects beyond the cosmic horizon. However, when the James Webb telescope (a much larger and more sophisticated telescope than the HST) is launched on Oct. 31, 2021, the boundaries of the known universe will, undoubtedly, be extended.

Though the above distance figures are truly mind-blowing. and may make you feel incredibly small, it should, at the very least, underscore just how unique our life-bearing planet Earth is in the great infinite vastness of the cosmos and how wonderfully precious it is to have children and grandchildren who challenge you to think about it.

This week’s sky

Mercury remains too close to the sun to be visible this coming week. Venus (magnitude -4.2) is visible, as it has been these past few weeks, in the pre-dawn sky. It rises around 2:45 a.m., reaching its highest point at 34 degrees above the eastern horizon, before fading from sight as dawn breaks around 6:15 a.m.

Mars (magnitude -1.8) is visible in the early morning sky, rising in the east around 10:30 p.m., and achieving its highest altitude (50 degrees) above the southern horizon by about 4:20 a.m., before becoming lost in the dawn twilight by 6:15 a.m.

Jupiter and Saturn remain early evening objects, both visible side-by-side (bright Jupiter to the right) above the southeast horizon by about 8:30 p.m. Jupiter (magnitude -2.58) disappears from view around 12:40 a.m., when it sinks below seven degrees above the southeast horizon, followed by Saturn (magnitude +0.31) around 1:30 a.m., when it sinks below 10 degrees above the southwest horizon.

When the full moon closest to the Autumnal Equinox (Sept. 22), occurs in October, as it does this year on Oct. 1, it is known as the “Harvest Moon”. September’s Full Moon (Sept. 2) is referred to as the “Corn Moon,” the name given to it by Native American tribes, as this was when they usually harvested their corn crops.

Until next week, clear skies.

Events:

  • Sept. 2 – Full (corn) moon
  • Sept. 6 – Moon at apogee (farthest from Earth)

Glenn K. Roberts lives in Stratford, P.E.I., and has been an avid amateur astronomer since he was a small child. He welcomes comments from readers at glennkroberts@gmail.com.

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Venus is a Russian planet — say the Russians – CNN Philippines

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(CNN)— No longer confined to territories here on Earth, Russia has now staked its claim on Venus, saying it is a “Russian planet.”

This week, Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Russian space corporation Roscosmos, revealed that the country plans to send its own mission to Venus in addition to “Venera-D,” the planned joint mission with the US, the Russian state news agency TASS reported.

Rogozin was addressing reporters at the HeliRussia 2020 exhibition, an international expo of the helicopter industry in Moscow.

“Resuming Venus exploration is on our agenda,” he told reporters Tuesday.

“We think that Venus is a Russian planet, so we shouldn’t lag behind,” he said.

“Projects of Venus missions are included in the united government program of Russia’s space exploration for 2021-2030.”

The statement came the day after scientists revealed that a gas on Earth called phosphine had also been detected in the atmosphere of Venus.

Venus is similar in size to Earth and is our closest planetary neighbor, but it spins backward compared to other planets.

The study authored by Cardiff University professor Jane Greaves and her colleagues was published Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy.

The discovery of phosphine on Venus elevates it to an area of interest worth exploring in our solar system alongside the ranks of Mars and “water world” moons like Enceladus and Europa, Seager said.

“Our hoped-for impact in the planetary science community is to stimulate more research on Venus itself, research on the possibilities of life in Venus’ atmosphere, and even space missions focused to find signs of life or even life itself in the Venusian atmosphere,” Seager said.

According to the European Space Agency, the Russians do have significant experience when it comes to Venus.

Its website states: “Between 1967-1984 Venusian studies carried out in Russia were at the forefront of international research into this planet.

“Since then, Russia has still preserved its unique expertise in designing and developing landing craft for Venus and continues to define scientific tasks for those craft.”

This story was first published on CNN.com, “Venus is a Russian planet — say the Russians.”

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Florida man survives alligator attack while walking dog, gets 65 stitches – FOX 5 Atlanta

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Florida man out walking his dog was attacked by an alligator and nearly dragged into a canal behind his home.

Mark Johnson, 61, said he was walking along the canal last Sunday in Port. St. Lucie with his 8-year-old golden retriever when he saw a gator turn towards them.

Johnson said his foot got stuck in mud moments before he saw “the lunge” as the alligator grabbed his leg.

HURRICANE SALLY: MASSIVE ALLIGATOR CAPTURED SWIMMING IN ALABAMA STORM SURGE

“He starts clamping down pretty tight, and he started to pull, and the next thing I do … I poke [the gator] through the eye,” he told WPLG-TV.

Johnson told Treasure Coast Newspapers that after he stuck his finger in the gator’s eye, the reptile immediately let go and swam away.

After limping home with blood dripping from his leg, Johnson’s wife cleaned the wound and wrapped the leg in a towel before taking him to a hospital.

Johnson said he suffered 12 puncture wounds that required 60 stitches, plus another five to mend the index finger that was cut on the gator’s eye socket.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said a trapper captured the gator involved in the attack on Wednesday.

AUSTRALIAN RANGERS TRAP 770-POUND CROCODILE NEAR OUTBACK TOURIST SPOT

Officials said the alligator measured 8 feet, 6 inches and weighed nearly 250 pounds. The reptile has since been relocated to an alligator farm.

Johnson said that even though the reptile was trying to drag him into the water, staying calm was what helped him survive.

“You cannot panic,” he told the paper. “I bass fish all the time, too. I’ll reach down and lift up the bass with my hand. I just got lucky.”

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Johnson said when he’s able to walk his dog again, he’ll probably carry some sort of weapon for protection.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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China volcanic eruption discovers 125 million-year-old dinosaur – haveeruonline

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A new kind of burrowing dinosaur was found in the Lu Jiatun Bed, the oldest floor of the famous Xian layer in northeastern China. According to the press release. Scientists believe they were trapped in a volcanic eruption while resting at the bottom of the cave.

Pascal Gode Freud, a paleontologist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, said: “These animals were quickly covered with microscopic sediments during life and shortly after death.”

Two conserved skeletons of Changmiania liaoningensis (A/B and C). Red arrows indicate gastric or stone clusters.

The scientist said the effect would be very similar to what happened in Pompeii. According to the press release, the new species was named Changmiania liaoningensis. Changmian means “eternal sleep” in Chinese.

Scientists deduce that ornithopods lived in the Cretaceous Period and were small herbivores that could run very quickly, depending on the length of the tail and the composition of the legs. It was about 1.2 meters (about 4 feet) long.

“However, certain characteristics of the skeleton suggest that the spear mia can be burrowed like a rabbit today,” Godefroit said.

“The neck and forearm are very short, but they are sturdy, the scapula excavates the spine, and the upper part of the snout is shovel-shaped.

A complete study of their findings PeerJ Scientific Journal.

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