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Beaver moon eclipsed by Earth's shadow tonight | Georgia Straight Vancouver's News & Entertainment Weekly –



November’s full moon will undergo a partial eclipse after midnight Sunday (November 29) when it slides across the outer (penumbral) edge of Earth’s shadow during the early hours of November 30.

This moon—sometimes called the beaver moon because it comes at a time when beavers are stepping up activities to prepare for the cold winter months ahead—will rise in the east and climb the night sky until the start of the eclipse.

Because the full moon will not cross into the darkest part of our planet’s shadow (the umbra), the eclipse—which will affect about 83 percent of the satellite’s surface—will be seen as a darkening of the affected area.

The partial eclipse will start at 1:42 a.m., when the moon should be high overhead and to the southwest. The moon will take more than four hours to traverse the Earth’s penumbra.

When the moon sets, at 6:56 a.m. Vancouver time, it should be coloured orange.


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Giant predatory worm's ancient fossil burrows discovered –



Millions of years ago, giant predatory worms as long as an adult human terrorized the ocean. The fearsome creatures hid under the sea floor, waiting to seize unwitting prey with their slicing jaws and drag them underground to be consumed — like they do today, recently discovered fossils suggest.

The fossils are “very, very distinctive,” said Shahin Dashtgard, a professor of earth sciences at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C., who co-authored a new study describing them.

“They’re like nothing we’ve ever seen before in the rock record.”

The fossil burrow opening, left, is compared to a modern Bobbit worm burrow opening. The researchers found that the fossil and modern burrows were similar. (Paleoenvironntal Sediment Laboratory/National Taiwan University, Chutinun Mora)

Unlike traditional fossils that are usually formed from the hard parts of an animal’s body, such as its bones or shell, the worm fossils are “trace fossils” consisting of non-biological traces such as footprints or, in this case, a burrow. The fossils are described in a study published this week in the journal Scientific Reports.

Dashtgard noted that because worms have soft bodies, they’re rarely fossilized.

“So, the burrows they make is really the only record we have of what the ecosystem would look like and how diverse the ecosystem was.”

Evoke the monsters of science fiction

The researchers propose that the ancient worm was similar to the modern-day Bobbit worm or sand striker, a marine predator that lives in tropical and subtropical seas in the Indo-Pacific Region and grows up to three metres long. It hides in underground burrows with just its head exposed, striking and grabbing prey, such as fish or shellfish with sharp, scissor-like jaws and dragging them into its burrow.

Bobbit worms are named for the slicing ability of their jaws, which was likened to the slicing that abused wife Lorena Bobbit did to remove her husband’s penis in 1989. They have also been compared to sand crawling monsters in science fiction worlds such as Star Wars, Dune and Tremors.

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Bobbit worms and their relatives are thought to have existed for a very long time. Fossil jaws of what is thought to be the oldest Bobbit worm have been found in a 400 million year old rock formation in Ontario.

But because they’re soft, worms are rarely found in the fossil record.

That’s why researchers have begun looking for trace fossils of soft-bodied marine animals. Ludvig Löwemark, a professor of geosciences at National Taiwan University and Masakazu Nara, a professor of biological sciences at Kochi University in Japan, two co-authors of the study, were looking for trace fossils of another ancient animal when they came across something unusual in a 20 million-year-old sandstone formation in Taiwan.

Figuring out what it was became the project of Yu Yen Pan, a master’s student working with Löwemark who is now a PhD student at Simon Fraser University.

An animation shows how the trace fossil would have formed. (Yu Yen Pan)

Key piece of the puzzle

The rock where the fossils were originally found, Badouzi promontory, was an ancient continental shelf about 30 or 40 metres below the surface of the ocean, said Pan.  It was likely similar to the environment found off the coast of Taiwan today. Other fossil evidence shows that it was likely a coral reef populated by animals such as stingrays and other fish, sea urchins and crustaceans such as shrimp and lobsters.

The first fossils were mostly fragments left behind by erosion, so the researchers decided to look for similar fossils in another part of the same rock layer some distance away in an area called Yehliu Geopark.

It wasn’t long before Löwemark called Pan over. He had found a complete fossil,  starting with a funnel at the top that narrows to a cylindrical tube about three centimetres in diameter, descending straight into the ground for 70 or 80 centimetres, before bending horizontally into an L-shape, reaching a total length of about two metres

“We were super excited,” Pan recalled. “This really could help us to connect the puzzle together and make the story more complete.”

The top part of the fossil burrow, seen from the side, is funnel shaped, with feathery lines from the disturbance of the soil that’s thought to be caused by the worm pulling prey into the burrow. (Paleoenvironntal Sediment Laboratory/National Taiwan University)

In total, the researchers found 319 fossil specimens at the two sites. A chemical analysis of the fossils found they were high in iron, which is typical of burrows made by soft-bodied animals. That’s because they tend to stabilize their burrows with mucus that attracts microbes that enrich the sediment with iron.

The fact that the tunnel was L-shaped also suggested that it was made by a soft-bodied animal, as such animals can’t dig too deep before the ground gets too hard and compacted for them to continue, and they need to start digging horizontally.

The burrows were different in size and shape from burrows made from other animals, such as eels or razor clams. 

But when the researchers compared the fossil burrows to the burrows of modern Bobbit worms, which inhabit modern ecosystems not much different from those that the fossil was found in, they appeared very similar.

Dashtgard suggests that means the worms have been living in a similar environment for quite a long time — about 20 million years.

‘Feathery footprint’ from Taiwan

The researchers named their new fossil Pennichnus formosae. The first part of the name refers to the feathery (“penna” in Latin) “footprint” (“ichnus” in Latin) left in the top “funnel” of the burrow by the way the sediments were disturbed when the animal pulled its prey inside. “Formosae” after Formosa, a former name for Taiwan, honours the place it was found, 

Pan said the fossil is notable because it provides clues about hunting behaviour of an ancient invertebrate, something that is quite rare.

The study coauthors included, from left, Shahin Dashtgard, Ludvig Lowemark, Yu Yen Pan and Masakazu Nara, standing on right. (Paleoenvironmental Sediment Laboratory/National Taiwan University)

David Rudkin was one of the researchers who studied the Ontario Bobbit worm jaw fossils but was not involved in the trace fossil study. Rudkin, a retired assistant curator at the Royal Ontario Museum and a retired lecturer at the University of Toronto, said while he isn’t an expert in trace fossils, he found the interpretation in the new study “pretty convincing.”

“The kicker, of course, would be finding a direct association in the form of either ‘jaw’ elements or soft-body bits within the burrows, left after the animal died in place,” he said in an email.

Unfortunately, the conditions that preserve burrows and those that preserve bodies tend to be quite different, so they’re rarely found together, he said. 

“Under the circumstances,” he said, “I think the authors have done a nice job of making the case for these being Bobbit burrows!”

This is an artistic reconstruction of Websteroprion amrstrongi, a Bobbit worm that lived 400 million years ago in Ontario. Its fossil jaws were discovered and reported by a team of researchers that included David Rudkin at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. (James Ormiston)

More burrows likely to be found

Murray Gingras is professor at the University of Alberta who studies traces made by modern animals and compares them to the fossil record. He wasn’t involved in the new study but has gone to Australia to study the burrows of modern Bobbit worms as part of his own research.

One challenge with trace fossils, he said, is that many animals can make very similar traces and figuring out which one any given trace came from requires some interpretation. But in this case, he thinks the researchers’ interpretation is reasonable and well argued.

“I think it’s a fun discovery,” he said. 

He said he’s surprised such fossil burrows haven’t been found before given how widespread Bobbit worms are and how conspicuous their burrows are.

He suspects that many more will be found now that other researchers know what to look for, and that will help uncover the animals’ movements and distribution over the past 20 million years.

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SpaceX opens up Starlink internet beta program to eligible Canadians – MobileSyrup



Starlink has opened up its beta program to more people, as the website now lets you sign up immediately if your location is eligible.

Reddit users have discovered that if you live in an eligible area, you are now able to sign up for the beta program and purchase the necessary equipment. Prior to this, you could only take part in the beta if you received an email invite from Starlink.

“Enter your email and service address below to participate in Starlink’s beta program. If service is not yet available in your area, we will notify you when it becomes available,” the website reads.

To check if you’re eligible for the beta program, you just need to head to the Starlink website and enter your home address. You’ll then be notified if you’re eligible for the program right away, after which you can place an order for the hardware package.

If your location is not eligible for the program, you can sign up to be notified of future beta opportunities in your area.

In terms of pricing, Starlink internet costs $129 per month in Canada and the equipment costs $649. Some Canadians who are already part of the beta have reported welcome improvements in connectivity.

Starlink aims to leverage an extensive network of hundreds of low-Earth-orbit (LEO) satellites to provide high-speed internet across parts of the U.S. and Canada. SpaceX recently launched its 17th batch of Starlink satellites, putting the total Starlink constellation size at almost 1,000.

Image credit: Starlink 

Source: Reddit Via: Tesla North 

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"Super puff" exoplanet is as big as Jupiter but 10 times lighter, confusing astronomers – Barrie 360 – Barrie 360



Sophie Lewis – CBS News

About 212 light years from Earth, a gas giant light enough to be nicknamed a “super-puff” or “cotton candy” planet is circling extremely close to its host star. The exoplanet is so light, it’s left astronomers questioning everything we previously knew about how gas giants form. 

This super-puff exoplanet, known as WASP-107b, is about the same size as Jupiter, but only about one-tenth the mass — or about 30 times more massive than Earth. According to a new study published Monday in The Astronomical Journal, its core mass is significantly smaller than astronomers thought necessary for the creation of a gas giant planet like Jupiter and Saturn. 

The discovery, made by Ph.D. student Caroline Piaulet under the supervision of professor Björn Benneke at the University of Montreal, indicates that gas giants form much more easily than previously believed. 

“This study pushes the boundaries of our theoretical understanding of how giant-sized planets form. WASP-107b is one of the puffiest planets out there, and we need a creative solution to explain how these tiny cores can build such massive gas envelopes,” coauthor Eve Lee said in a statement

WASP-107b isn’t a brand new discovery — astronomers first detected it in the Virgo constellation in 2017. The planet is very close to its star, over 16 times closer than Earth is to the sun, completing one orbit every 5.7 days. 

WASP-107b is one of the least dense exoplanets scientists have ever found. They have nicknamed similar types of planets — gas giants with the density of cotton candy — super-puffs.

To find the planet’s surprising mass, astronomers studied observations obtained at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii. They used a technique called the radial velocity method, which studies the wobbling motion of a planet’s star caused by a planet’s gravitational pull, in order to calculate the mass. 

Scientists were shocked to conclude that the solid core of WASP-107b has a mass that is no more than four times that of the Earth, meaning more than 85% of its mass stems from the thick gaseous layer surrounding the core. This is a dramatically different breakdown from Neptune, which has a similar mass but holds just 5% to 15% of it within its gas layer. 

Based on their knowledge of Jupiter and Saturn, scientists previously believed that a solid core at least 10 times the mass of Earth would be needed to acquire enough gas for a gas giant planet to form. WASP-107b challenges that theory. 

“This work addresses the very foundations of how giant planets can form and grow,” Benneke said. “It provides concrete proof that massive accretion of a gas envelope can be triggered for cores that are much less massive than previously thought.”

Lee posits that, “The most plausible scenario is that the planet formed far away from the star, where the gas in the disc is cold enough that gas accretion can occur very quickly. The planet was later able to migrate to its current position, either through interactions with the disc or with other planets in the system.”

While studying the planet, the team stumbled upon another in the same system, WASP-107c. It has a mass that is about one-third that of Jupiter and takes three years to orbit its host star once. 

The planet’s oval-shaped orbit suggests that the astronomers’ new hypothesis is on the right track. 

“WASP-107c has, in some respects, kept the memory of what happened in its system,” said Piaulet. “Its great eccentricity hints at a rather chaotic past, with interactions between the planets which could have led to significant displacements, like the one suspected for WASP-107b.”

The team hopes to continue studying the strange planet with the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope this year. 

banner image: Artistic rendition of the exoplanet WASP-107b and its star, WASP-107. Some of the star’s light streams through the exoplanet’s extended gas layer. ESA/HUBBLE, NASA, M. KORNMESSER

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