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Bright, rare comet lighting up Canadian skies for next few days – CityNews Vancouver

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WINNIPEG (CITYNEWS) – Stargazers across Canada and the world have been catching rare glimpses of the brightest comet of the last two decades – and there’s still time to do so.

Comet Neowise, named after the satellite that first discovered it, is headed toward Earth and will continue to light up the night sky for the next few days. The best times to see it are just after sunset and around 3 a.m.

Scott Young, manager of the Planetarium at the Manitoba Museum says the comet, which is composed of rock and ice, dates back to the origin of the solar system. 

“Most of the time, these are not something you can see without a telescope,” said Young. “But once in a while, one of these comets surprises us and gets brighter than expected, and that is what we are seeing here. It is visible to the unaided eye and from a location away from city lights.

“It’s really cool to see a comet like this. This is probably, almost certainly, the first time that any humans have seen this particular object.”

Young says the comet will get as close as 100 million kilometres from Earth, which is normally too far to be seen with the naked eye.

“For whatever reason, this comet has melted a lot and the tail has grown very big and bright, and that’s what we’re able to see from this distance,” he said.

Photographer Shannon Bileski has captured several snapshots of the comet in the last few days. She says her photos were made even better by the presence of very vibrant clouds in the upper atmosphere.

“They’re very incredible to see and I knew the spot that I wanted to hit, try to hit the comet and that’s where I went,” said Bileski, whose bucket list included photographing a comet. “Get out, see it, shoot it. It’s pretty amazing to see.”

The last time a comet of this calibre was visible from Earth was Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997, according to Young. He says Comet Neowise is not expected to re-enter our solar system for another 6,000 years.

“They could happen at any time,” said Young. “They’re very unpredictable. We don’t know where they all are, and sometimes a new discovery like this one will come out of nowhere and just surprise us.

“Astronomers have basically dropped everything they are doing to take advantage of this limited opportunity.”

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Early Mars was covered in ice sheets, not flowing rivers: study – Phys.org

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Early Mars was covered in ice sheets, not flowing rivers
UBC researchers have concluded that early Martian landscape probably looked similar to this image of the Devon ice cap. Credit: Anna Grau Galofre

A large number of the valley networks scarring Mars’s surface were carved by water melting beneath glacial ice, not by free-flowing rivers as previously thought, according to new UBC research published today in Nature Geoscience. The findings effectively throw cold water on the dominant “warm and wet ancient Mars” hypothesis, which postulates that rivers, rainfall and oceans once existed on the red planet.

To reach this conclusion, lead author Anna Grau Galofre, former Ph.D. student in the department of earth, ocean and atmospheric sciences, developed and used new techniques to examine thousands of Martian valleys. She and her co-authors also compared the Martian valleys to the subglacial channels in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and uncovered striking similarities.

“For the last 40 years, since Mars’s valleys were first discovered, the assumption was that rivers once flowed on Mars, eroding and originating all of these valleys,” says Grau Galofre. “But there are hundreds of valleys on Mars, and they look very different from each other. If you look at Earth from a satellite you see a lot of valleys: some of them made by rivers, some made by glaciers, some made by other processes, and each type has a distinctive shape. Mars is similar, in that valleys look very different from each other, suggesting that many processes were at play to carve them.”

The similarity between many Martian valleys and the subglacial channels on Devon Island in the Canadian Arctic motivated the authors to conduct their comparative study. “Devon Island is one of the best analogues we have for Mars here on Earth—it is a cold, dry, polar desert, and the glaciation is largely cold-based,” says co-author Gordon Osinski, professor in Western University’s department of earth sciences and Institute for Earth and Space Exploration.

Early Mars was covered in ice sheets, not flowing rivers
Collage showing Mars’s Maumee valleys (top half) superimposed with channels on Devon Island in Nunavut (bottom half). The shape of the channels, as well as the overall network, appears almost identical. Credit: Anna Grau Galofre

In total, the researchers analyzed more than 10,000 Martian valleys, using a novel algorithm to infer their underlying erosion processes. “These results are the first evidence for extensive subglacial erosion driven by channelized meltwater drainage beneath an ancient ice sheet on Mars,” says co-author Mark Jellinek, professor in UBC’s department of , ocean and atmospheric sciences. “The findings demonstrate that only a fraction of valley networks match patterns typical of surface water erosion, which is in marked contrast to the conventional view. Using the geomorphology of Mars’ surface to rigorously reconstruct the character and evolution of the planet in a statistically meaningful way is, frankly, revolutionary.”

Grau Galofre’s theory also helps explain how the valleys would have formed 3.8 billion years ago on a planet that is further away from the sun than Earth, during a time when the sun was less intense. “Climate modelling predicts that Mars’ ancient climate was much cooler during the time of network formation,” says Grau Galofre, currently a SESE Exploration Post-doctoral Fellow at Arizona State University. “We tried to put everything together and bring up a hypothesis that hadn’t really been considered: that channels and valleys networks can form under ice sheets, as part of the drainage system that forms naturally under an when there’s water accumulated at the base.”

These environments would also support better survival conditions for possible ancient life on Mars. A sheet of ice would lend more protection and stability of underlying water, as well as providing shelter from solar radiation in the absence of a magnetic field—something Mars once had, but which disappeared billions of years ago.

While Grau Galofre’s research was focused on Mars, the analytical tools she developed for this work can be applied to uncover more about the early history of our own planet. Jellinek says he intends to use these new algorithms to analyze and explore erosion features left over from very early Earth history.

“Currently we can reconstruct rigorously the history of global glaciation on Earth going back about a million to five million years,” says Jellinek. “Anna’s work will enable us to explore the advance and retreat of ice sheets back to at least 35 million years ago—to the beginnings of Antarctica, or earlier—back in time well before the age of our oldest ice cores. These are very elegant analytical tools.”


Explore further

Study estimates amount of water needed to carve Martian valleys


More information:
Valley formation on early Mars by subglacial and fluvial erosion, Nature Geoscience (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41561-020-0618-x , www.nature.com/articles/s41561-020-0618-x

Citation:
Early Mars was covered in ice sheets, not flowing rivers: study (2020, August 3)
retrieved 3 August 2020
from https://phys.org/news/2020-08-early-mars-ice-sheets-rivers.html

This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no
part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

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'I prayed for this one – Space.com

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A relieved SpaceX CEO Elon Musk welcomed home the first NASA astronauts to fly to space on his company’s Crew Dragon vehicle.

Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken returned to Earth after two months in orbit and safely splashed down in the Gulf Coast waters off Florida on Sunday (Aug. 2). The astronauts, finally back on their home planet, then caught a plane ride home to Houston, where NASA’s astronaut corps is based. There, Musk joined NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine to welcome the pair home from the test flight and share his excitement about what comes next.

“I do think what this heralds really is fundamentally a new era in spaceflight,” Musk said. “We’re going to go to the moon, we’re going to have a base on the moon, we’re going to send people to Mars and make life multiplanetary and I think this day heralds a new age of space exploration. That’s what it’s all about.”

In photos: SpaceX’s historic Demo-2 test flight with astronauts

SpaceX founder Elon Musk spoke at the welcoming ceremony for Demo-2 astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken held on Aug. 2, 2020. (Image credit: NASA TV)

Hurley and Behnken’s flight, dubbed Demo-2, was the first crewed flight in NASA’s commercial crew program to outsource astronaut rides to the space station to companies, an initiative that began in 2014. A second company, Boeing, also holds a contract with the program and is expected to refly an uncrewed test flight of its Starliner vehicle after a mishap in December left the capsule unable to reach the space station.

Spaceflight is always risky, but particularly so during a test flight, a fact that astronauts and mission leaders alike have acknowledged throughout the lead-up to the Demo-2 flight. Musk referenced the riskiness obliquely in his welcoming remarks.

“I think, like, my entire adrenaline just dumped, you know? Like, thank God,” Musk said. “I’m not very religious, but I prayed for this one.”

Musk also pointed to the context in which Hurley and Behnken made their flight. The pair flew to and from space as a pandemic ravaged the country, among other ongoing crises.

“I think this is something that the whole world can take some pleasure in and can really look at this as an achievement of humanity,” Musk said. “These are difficult times, when there’s not that much good news. I think this is one of those things that is universally good, no matter where you are on planet Earth. This is a good thing, and I hope it brightens your day.”

Email Meghan Bartels at mbartels@space.com or follow her on Twitter @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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Love him or hate him, Elon Musk is enjoying spectacular run – Hindustan Times Auto News

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Whether you find him admirable or obnoxious, Elon Musk is having a fantastic year.

SpaceX, the company he founded in 2002, blasted two American astronauts to the International Space Station in late May and brought them safely home in a historic splashdown Sunday, heralding a new age of private-sector space travel. Tesla Inc., his electric car-maker, recently celebrated its fourth straight quarter of profit and may soon join the S&P 500 Index. This year’s share rally has made the California company the world’s most valuable automaker, with a market value of roughly $267 billion as of Friday’s close.

And then there’s Musk himself. The 49-year-old South African immigrant, who is a Los Angeles-based celebrity as much as a Silicon Valley CEO, is now the 10th richest person in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

While the chief executive officers of the Big Four tech companies — Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc., Facebook Inc., and Google Inc. — were derided as “Cyber Barons” during a grilling by Congress last week on antitrust issues, Musk basked in Style-section treatment in the Sunday New York Times.

It’s a remarkable turnaround from the dark days of 2018, when Tesla struggled to ramp up production of the Model 3 sedan, scores of executives quit and Musk was sued by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over his infamous “go private” tweet.

Coronavirus Controversy

File photo – A demonstrator holds a sign outside Tesla’s primary vehicle factory in Fremont, California after CEO Elon Musk announced he was defying local officials’ orders to stay shut, (REUTERS)

Since then, he’s not endeared himself to everyone. Musk has come under fire for downplaying the coronavirus pandemic, tweeting in early March that “coronavirus panic is dumb” and then predicting the US would probably have “close to zero new cases” by the end of April. In California, where Tesla’s massive auto plant employs roughly 10,000 workers, Musk defied public health authorities in Alameda County by closing down the plant late and reopening it early, daring anyone to arrest him.

(Also read – Timeline: Elon Musk vs California authorities vs Covid-19)

Yet in a year when much of the nation is hunkered down or retrenching in the face of surging virus infections and widespread economic anxiety, Musk is ebullient and expanding. Tesla, which has 55,000 employees globally, is hiring and is building a new auto plant in Austin, Texas, for its forthcoming electric pickup truck. Musk suggested Friday that Tesla’s workforce could grow to 65,000 by the end of the year.

“We’re full of admiration” for the whole team at Tesla, James Anderson of Scottish money manager Baille Gifford, Tesla’s second-largest shareholder after Musk himself, said in an email. “What they are doing is a rare but central shaft of light in a dark world.”

Baillie Gifford declined to comment on the success of SpaceX, in which it’s also an investor. Musk’s privately held company, which is in the midst of raising $1 billion in funds, is among the most valuable venture-backed companies in the US.

SpaceX Successes

SpaceX — formally Space Exploration Technologies Corp. — has been best known for launching the Falcon 9 reusable rocket for customers that include commercial satellite operators, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the U.S. military. The successful flight of astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley marks the first time that SpaceX has flown humans — a huge proof point for a company founded with the goal of colonizing Mars.

“Welcome back to Planet Earth and thanks for flying SpaceX,” said Mission Control, after the astronauts in the Dragon capsule splashed down into the Gulf of Mexico. Congratulations poured in via Twitter from President Donald Trump and his predecessor Barack Obama, as well as competitors like Blue Origin and Boeing Co.

Now that the “Demo-1″ test flight is complete, SpaceX can begin operational trips for NASA. The Crew-1 mission is planned for late September.

SpaceX is also testing Starship, the next-generation rocket that will fly humans to the Moon and then Mars. It’s also preparing to launch its own space-based Internet service called Starlink. And later this month, Musk vows to give a “progress update” on Neuralink, his brain-machine interface startup.

“If you want the person is who going to change the world, you are going to have some rough edges,” Gene Munster, managing partner of Loup Ventures, said of Musk in an interview Sunday. “Ultimately, is success speaks for itself. And while it feels like everything has come together for him this year, he’s been laying the groundwork for the past decade.”

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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