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Comet NEOWISE: 10 big questions (and answers) about the icy wanderer – Space.com

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See Comet NEOWISE?

(Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Naval Research Lab/Parker Solar Probe/Brendan Gallagher)

If you spot Comet NEOWISE, let us know! Send images and comments to spacephotos@space.com to share your views.

Comet NEOWISE has is delighting skywatchers around the Northern Hemisphere. But what makes this comet so special? 

The comet made its closest approach to the sun on July 3 but, until now, was only visible in the sky before dawn. Now, for keen observers in the Northern Hemisphere, the comet has been getting higher in the evening sky, sparkling northwest below the Big Dipper constellation, according to Joe Masiero, deputy principal investigator of NEOWISE (NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, the NASA space telescope that first spotted the comet).

One of the most fascinating details about Comet NEOWISE is that it won’t return to our skies for another 6,800 years. But that’s not the only thing that makes this icy space rock special. So let’s take a dive into what makes Comet NEOWISE unique — and a little weird.

Related: How to see Comet NEOWISE in the evening sky now 

What is Comet NEOWISE?

Comet NEOWISE, as photographed by Joy Ng, a multimedia producer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.  (Image credit: Joy Ng)

Officially known as C/2020 F3, Comet NEOWISE is a comet that was discovered on March 27, 2020, by NEOWISE, the asteroid-hunting afterlife of the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission. 

Comets, often nicknamed “cosmic snowballs,” are icy, rocky objects made up of ice, rock and dust. These objects orbit the sun, and as they slip closer to the sun most comets heat up and start streaming two tails, one made of dust and gas and an “ion tail” made of electrically-charged gas molecules, or ions.

Can I see it?

This NASA sky map shows the location of Comet NEOWISE in the evening sky for viewers in the Northern Hemisphere in July 2020. (Image credit: NASA)

Yes! Because it is especially bright, the comet is visible in the night sky with the naked eye. Skywatchers in the Northern Hemisphere can spot the object just after sunset, to the northwest just under the Big Dipper constellation

In fact, the comet is so bright that scientists are “able to get a lot more and better data than we typically do for most comets,” Kramer said. “We’re able to study it with a wide variety of different telescopes, and that’ll allow us to do really interesting studies.”

Related: How to photograph Comet NEOWISE: NASA tips for stargazers

Do I need a telescope? 

No! Because Comet NEOWISE is an especially bright object, it is relatively easy for astronomy enthusiasts to spot it in the night sky with just the naked eye, although binoculars or a small telescope will give you a better view.

“The fact that we can see it is really what makes it unique,” Kramer said. “It’s quite rare for a comet to be bright enough that we can see it with a naked eye or even with just binoculars.”

More: Best telescopes for the money — 2020 reviews and guide

What does it look like in the sky?

Astrophotographer Bill Dunford, a NASA social media specialist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, captured this view of Comet NEOWISE when it was visible in the predawn sky in early July 2020. (Image credit: NASA/Bill Dunford)

To those spotting the comet with the naked eye, without any tools or instruments like a telescope, it looks like a fuzzy star with a little bit of a tail. You do need to be away from city lights, though.

With binoculars or a small telescope, the comet will be more clear and the tail will be easier to spot. 

Related: Amazing photos of Comet NEOWISE from the Earth and space

How much water is in the comet? 

An unprocessed image from the WISPR instrument on NASA’s Parker Solar Probe shows Comet NEOWISE on July 5, 2020, shortly after its closest approach to the sun. The sun is out of frame to the left. The small black structure near the lower left of the image is caused by a grain of dust resting on the imager’s lens. (Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Naval Research Lab/Parker Solar Probe/Brendan Gallagher)

There is “about 13 million Olympic swimming pools of water,” in Comet NEOWISE, Emily Kramer, a science team co-investigator forNASA’s NEOWISE at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said during a news conference July 15. “So that’s a lot of water.” 

“Most comets are about half water and half dust,” she added.

Does it have a tail?

These false-color images of Comet NEOWISE show the concentration of sodium atoms in the comet’s dusty ion tail. Astronomers created the images using the Planetary Science Institute’s Input/Output facility near Tucson, Arizona. The image on the left shows light reflected off of cometary dust, while the image on the right shows light emitted by sodium atoms. (Image credit: Jeffrey Morgenthaler/Carl Schmidt/Planetary Science Institute)

Comet NEOWISE has two tails that typically accompany every comet.

As a comet nears the sun, it warms up and material pulls away from the surface into a tail. Often, dust is pulled away along with gases from sublimating (going directly from solid to a gas) ice. This dust tail is the sweeping trail seen in most comet images. Comets also have an ion tail made up of ionized gas blown back by the solar wind. 

Researchers studying Comet NEOWISE might actually also have a sodium tail. By observing what they believe to be atomic sodium in the comet’s tail, researchers can glean keen insight into the object’s makeup.

How big is Comet NEOWISE?

An unprocessed image from the WISPR instrument on NASA’s Parker Solar Probe shows Comet NEOWISE on July 5, 2020, shortly after its closest approach to the sun. The sun is out of frame to the left. The small black structure near the lower left of the image is caused by a grain of dust resting on the imager’s lens. (Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Naval Research Lab/Parker Solar Probe/Brendan Gallagher)

Comet NEOWISE is about 3 miles (5 kilometers) in diameter, “which is a reasonably large but roughly average-size comet,” Kramer said.

“It’s rare to see something that’s this bright,” she added. “There are comets that are of this size that we see regularly, but most of them are so from Earth that they don’t get this bright. They’re too far from the sun and the Earth to be able to see them in the way that we’re seeing this Comet NEOWISE.”

How fast is Comet NEOWISE?

Astrophotographer Chris Schur captured this view of Comet NEOWISE F3  from Payson, Arizona before dawn on July 5, 2020. (Image credit: Chris Schur/Chris Schur Astrophotography)

The comet is traveling at about 40 miles per second (that’s about 144,000 mph, or 231,000 km/h). 

Joe Masiero, deputy principal investigator of the NEOWISE mission, said the the comet is moving about twice as fast as the Earth’s speed around the sun. But don’t expect that rapid clip to last.  

Because of the comet’s extremely elliptical orbit, it will slow down as it reaches its farthest point from the sun, then fall back toward the inner solar system and accelerate again when it heads back round the sun. That trip around the sun is over for Comet NEOWISE’s current orbit and it’s moving back to the outer solar system.

“And so as it goes farther from the sun, [it] will be slowing down as it climbs back up that gravity well,” Masiero said.

Will it hit Earth?

Comet NEOWISE as seen from the International Space Station in a photograph shared by Russian cosmonaut Ivan Vagner on July 4, 2020. (Image credit: Ivan Vagner/Roscosmos/NASA)

Have no fear, Comet NEOWISE will not hit Earth. 

“This particular comet has no possibility of impacting the Earth. It crosses the plane of Earth orbit well inside of recovery orbit and almost near the orbit of Mercury, so there’s absolutely no hazard from this comet,” Lindley Johnson, the planetary defense officer and program executive of NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office at NASA Headquarters, said during the news conference. 

The comet orbits the sun every 600 to 700 years, Johnson said. The comet is currently about 70 million miles (111 million kilometers) away from Earth.

Is it from interstellar space?

No, Comet NEOWISE originates in our own solar system. To date, only two interstellar objects have been discovered: ‘Oumuamua and Comet Borisov

“This one we know it’s not Interstellar object. By watching its motion, we can see that it’s bound to the sun’s gravity,” Kramer said. “So it’s coming in very rapidly and then it’s going to go far back out again and then but then should come back in again in about 6,800 years.”

Email Chelsea Gohd at cgohd@space.com or follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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COVID-19: Alberta researcher recognized with innovation award for salt mask – Global News

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Salt that crystallizes with sharp edges is the killer ingredient in the development of a reusable mask because any COVID-19 droplets that land on it would be quickly destroyed, says a researcher who is being recognized for her innovation.

Ilaria Rubino, a recent PhD graduate from the department of chemical and materials engineering at the University of Alberta, said a mostly salt and water solution that coats the first or middle layer of the mask would dissolve droplets before they can penetrate the face covering.

Read more:
CDC now says face masks can protect wearer from coronavirus

As the liquid from the droplets evaporates, the salt crystals grow back as spiky weapons, damaging the bacteria or virus within five minutes, Rubino said.

“We know that after the pathogens are collected in the mask, they can survive. Our goal was to develop a technology that is able to inactivate the pathogens upon contact so that we can make the mask as effective as possible.”

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Rubino, who collaborated with a researcher at Georgia State University in Atlanta to advance the project she started five years ago, was recognized Tuesday with an innovation award from Mitacs. The Canadian not-for-profit organization receives funding from the federal government, most provinces and Yukon to honour researchers from academic institutions.






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The reusable, non-washable mask is made of a type of polypropylene, a plastic used in surgical masks, and could be safely worn and handled multiple times without being decontaminated, Rubino said.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

The idea is to replace surgical masks often worn by health-care workers who must dispose of them in a few hours, she said, adding the technology could potentially be used for N-95 respirators.


Click to play video 'This is what makes a good face mask, according to experts'



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This is what makes a good face mask, according to experts


This is what makes a good face mask, according to experts – May 21, 2020

The salt-coated mask is expected to be available commercially next year after regulatory approval. It could also be used to stop the spread of other infectious illnesses, such as influenza, Rubino said.

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Dr. Catherine Clase, an epidemiologist and associate professor of medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, said the “exciting” technology would have multiple benefits.

Clase, who is a member of the Centre of Excellence in Protective Equipment and Materials in the engineering department at McMaster, said there wasn’t much research in personal protective equipment when Rubino began her work.

“It’s going to decrease the footprint for making and distributing and then disposing of every mask,” she said, adding that the mask could also address any supply issues.

Read more:
Mask myths, debunked: No, wearing a mask won’t ‘shut down’ your immune system

The Public Health Agency of Canada recently recommended homemade masks consist of at least three layers, with a middle, removable layer constructed from a non-woven, washable polypropylene fabric to improve filtration.

Conor Ruzycki, an aerosol scientist in the University of Alberta’s mechanical engineering department, said Rubino’s innovation adds to more recent research on masks as COVID-19 cases rise and shortages of face coverings in the health-care system could again become a problem.

Ruzycki, who works in a lab to evaluate infiltration efficiencies of different materials for masks and respirators, is also a member of a physician-led Alberta group Masks4Canada, which is calling for stricter pandemic measures, including a provincewide policy on mandatory masks.

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China Kickstarts A New Era In The Space Race – OilPrice.com

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China Kickstarts A New Era In The Space Race | OilPrice.com

ZeroHedge

The leading economics blog online covering financial issues, geopolitics and trading.

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China Space Race

In what could mark the beginning of another era of the “space race“, China has officially launched an unmanned spacecraft to the moon with plans of bringing back lunar rocks. It marks the first attempt by any nation to retrieve rocks from the moon since the 1970s. On Monday, Reuters confirmed the launch:

China’s probe, the Chang’e-5, sets off with the goal of China learning more about the moon’s origin and formation. If China succeeds, it will be only the third country to have retrieved samples from the moon – behind the U.S. and Soviet Union, according to CNN.

The goal of the mission to collect 4.5 pounds of samples in a previously untouched area called Oceanus Procellarum, or “Ocean of Storms”. The U.S. Apollo missions had previously landed 12 astronauts and brought back a total of 842 pounds of rocks and soil. The Soviet Union’s Luna missions had brought 6 ounces of samples in the 70s.

Both countries visited different areas of the moon than the Chinese aspire to visit.  

Source: CNN

James Head, a planetary scientist at Brown University, said: “The Apollo-Luna sample zone of the moon, while critical to our understanding, was undertaken in an area that comprises far less than half the lunar surface.”

Related: Growing Crude Inventories Put A Cap On Oil Prices

Once it’s on the moon, the probe will deploy two vehicles and a lander will drill into the ground. Samples of the moon’s surface will then lift off to another module in orbit. Eventually, they will make their way back to Earth in a return capsule. 

China has visited the moon with probes in 2013 and 2019. The country says it has plans to establish a “robotic base station” on the moon within the next decade. It plans on doing so using its Chang’e 6, Chang’e 7 and Chang’e 8 missions. 

The country has also publicly said it has aspirations of getting samples from Mars before 2030. 

By Zerohedge.com

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Many Canadians gaining weight during COVID-19: poll – BarrieToday

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OTTAWA — A new poll suggests many Canadians are gaining weight because they’re eating more and exercising less during COVID-19 pandemic. 

Nearly one-third of respondents in the survey conducted by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies said they have put on weight since March, compared to 15 per cent who said they lost weight over that time.

As well, about one-third of respondents said they’re exercising less, while 16 per cent said they’re working out more since the first wave of the pandemic landed in Canada in the spring.

Jack Jedwab, president of the Association for Canadian Studies, suggested that one reason may be a rush for comfort food to deal with pandemic-related anxieties.

Respondents in the survey who said they were “very afraid” of COVID-19 were more likely to report gaining weight, eating more and exercising less. 

“The more anxiety you have, the more likely it is that you know you’re eating more,” Jedwab said.

“People who are least anxious about COVID (are) the ones that are not eating more than usual and are not gaining weight.”

The online survey of 1,516 Canadians was conducted Oct. 29-31 and cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random samples.

Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, an associate professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa, said there are plausible reasons to connect weight gain or loss with the pandemic, but he hadn’t seen any studies to convince him that’s the case. 

Some people are “not reliant on restaurants constantly” and “cooking more frequently in their homes,” which Freedhoff said may be leading to weight loss or better dietary choices. Others are eating more, he said, relying on comfort food “because they’re anxious as a consequence of the pandemic, or the tragedies that have gone on in their lives.”

Jedwab said the country needs to also be mindful of mental health issues that can affect the physical health of Canadians. 

“With the winter coming, it’ll be even more challenging, in some parts of the country, to maintain a healthy lifestyle in terms of walking, in terms of doing basic things that will help us address our anxieties,” he said, pointing to lack of access for some to gyms subject to local lockdowns.

Some of those exercise classes have gone online. Gabriel Shaw, a kinesiologist from Victoria, B.C. said he has offered virtual classes to give his clients an chance to be physically active.

Shaw said the classes don’t provide people with a sense of community like in-person classes, which he said is important for some people to exercise consistently. 

“The best bet for people is to find a way they can enjoy it. That might be going out for a social distance walk or hike or run or bike with a friend,” Shaw said. “That might be finding a Zoom thing that you can get on like dancing or even other activities where you have friends.”

Shaw said people should also try learn a new skill like dancing, yoga, rock climbing, or take up running to keep things fresh and enjoyable, which is key to exercising long and well. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2020

——
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press

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