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Comet NEOWISE offers rare nighttime sky show



Ottawa area skywatchers can enjoy a rare sight this week as the best and brightest comet in a generation appears in the night sky.

Comet NEOWISE made its slingshot turn around the Sun on July 3 and is on its way back to the Oort Cloud on the edge of the solar system where it originated. Until this week, you would have had to get up in the pre-dawn hours to see the comet and its long fan-like trail, but since Monday NEOWISE is visible in the evening after dark.

“It’s one of the comets of the decade,” said Ottawa’s Gary Boyle, who writes the The Backyard Astronomer column for the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. “It’s an amazing sight and everyone should have a look.

“Sometimes you can only see them with a telescope, but this one is a ‘Wowee!’”

NEOWISE, so-called because it’s a “near-Earth object” discovered by the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, was first discovered on March 27. Comets are frozen balls of dust and gas that orbit the sun. It’s hard for astronomers to predict how bright a comet will glow and many of them break up as they approach.

Source:- Ottawa Citizen

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NASA telescope uncovers the cause of Betelgeuse's mysterious dimming – CNET



Betelgeuse will go supernova and explode… eventually.


In the Before Times, when the coronavirus was only just beginning its grim march across the globe, our troubles were much farther away. About 640 light-years farther away, in fact. Astronomers observing Betelgeuse, a red supergiant star, had been puzzled by its mysterious dimming. Some believed the event, which lasted from Nov. 2019 to Feb. 2020, was a portent of doom signalling the star’s upcoming explosion. But then the dimming abruptly stopped.

Thanks to observations by NASA’s Hubble telescope, we might know why.

A new study, published in The Astrophysical Journal on Thursday (and accessible at arXiv), examined ultraviolet light emitted by Betelgeuse during the “Great Dimming” event using the Hubble Space Telescope. Fortunately, the dimming event occurred just as Hubble scientists were looking to observe Betelgeuse with the telescope, providing a chance to understand why the star had begun to go dark.

Betelgeuse is a massive star, about 700 times bigger than our sun. If you dropped it into our solar system, it would swallow Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, the asteroid belt’s various worlds whole and Jupiter would end up as a snack, too. And it’s coming to the end of its life cycle, sometime in the next 100,000 years. When the supergiant started to dim last year, there were some believers who thought the process of exploding may have begun. 

A NASA graphic showing how a dust cloud might obscure the view of Betelgeuse.

NASA/ESA/E. Wheatley (STScI)

The Hubble observations suggest differently. By looking at Betelgeuse at UV wavelengths, researchers were able to get a better look at the star’s surface and atmosphere. They discovered a mass of bright, hot material moving outward from the southern hemisphere of the star at around 200,000 miles per hour and eventually being ejected into space.

“This material was two to four times more luminous than the star’s normal brightness,” said Andrea Dupree, associate director at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and lead author on the study, in a NASA release. About a month after the outburst, the south part of Betelgeuse dimmed conspicuously, she said.

Dupree and her team believe this material may have begun to cool down as it moved through space, forming a dense dust cloud that partially obscured Betelgeuse. It just so happens that Earth was in the perfect position to “see” the dust cloud front on, as if Betelgeuse shot the dust cloud directly at us. If it happened on the opposite side of Betelgeuse, we’d likely never even know.

Explosive outbursts are expected from star’s at the end of their life and when they die or “go supernova,” they release a shockwave that spews elements into space. The activity is critical to fill space with heavy elements like carbon, which then can become new stars elsewhere in the universe, so these stars are critical to the cosmic Circle of Life. 

Betelgeuse is still acting a little weird, however. Observations by NASA’s Stereo spacecraft observed the supergiant between late June and early August and noticed Betelgeuse was unexpectedly dimming again. NASA notes further observations will be undertaken in late August, when the star returns to the night sky and can be seen by telescopes again. 

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5 enjoyment matters about the Perseid meteor shower – CA News Ottawa



If you want to get your meteor on, this week is the fantastic time as our world passes by way of the remnants of a comet, generating the annual fireworks exhibit in the evening sky

Just the info

“Perseids have normally been identified for placing on a good demonstrate,” said Parshati Patel, a Western College astrophysicist and place educator with the school’s Institute for Earth and Room Exploration. The phenomenon’s title comes from the Perseus constellation, from which it seems to materialize in the night time sky. In fact, the Earth is passing by means of the cluster of particles still left guiding by the comet Swift-Tuttle, as it does each yr at this time.

How to get a fantastic search

First, Patel states, get out of town and away from urban gentle pollution. Choose about 30 to 40 minutes to enable your eyes adjust to the night time sky — never even glance at your cellular phone, Patel advises. “Face the Massive Dipper and appear towards the east,” she stated. “You really don’t want to know the correct location,” but it can help if you glance closer to the horizon. Perseids is identified for getting a substantial variety of strikes towards the atmosphere for each hour.

Lights in the sky

Some of the fragments that make up the shower can be as tiny as a grain of sand, however they make for a breathtaking light clearly show as they burn off up close to Earth. “Basically they’re bumping off the atmosphere,” Patel explained. This offers the visual appeal of what is commonly called a shooting star. “These are just little, tiny objects,” she additional. “Those would in fact melt away up in the ambiance because of the friction.” Even bigger pieces of the debris at times look like inexperienced fireballs from the floor.

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Definitions galore

It may possibly feel academic to the ordinary particular person, but there are discrepancies involving asteroids (massive, rocky objects observed concerning Mars and Jupiter), meteoroids (small objects floating close to the photo voltaic technique nearer to the Earth), meteors (the burning streaks of light-weight you see in the sky) and meteorites (what’s remaining on the floor soon after a meteor hits). “I possess a meteorite,” Patel suggests proudly, and Western University has its have selection of objects that arrived from outer area.

2020 is great for a thing

Why are stargazers enthusiastic right now? Patel states this summer months has been a banner one particular for folks who like to seem to the stars. “We move by it each August,” Patel said of the Perseid meteor shower, which is at peak viewing now. In July, persons got a glimpse of the newly found out Neowise comet (Patel received photos of it), named immediately after the orbiting telescope that detected it. And later this summer months will be a excellent time to perspective the Milky Way galaxy from Earth, Patel suggests

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Calgary researchers zero in on gut bacteria as potent cancer fighter – The Province



FILE – Dr. Kathy McCoy, director of the Western Canadian Microbiome Centre, explains the purpose of the facility on a tour prior to it opening in Calgary in this 2017 file photo.

Jeff McIntosh / CP

Employing intestinal bacteria could boost the effectiveness of some cancer treatment four-fold, say researchers at the University of Calgary.

Employing intestinal bacteria could boost the effectiveness of some cancer treatment four-fold, say researchers at the University of Calgary.

A lead scientist in an ongoing study said Thursday her team has made huge strides in understanding how such microbiomes supercharge the potency of immunotherapy in targeting cancer cells.

“We think the impact is huge,” said Dr. Kathy McCoy of the Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases at the U of C’s Cumming School of Medicine.

“With cancers (normally) susceptible to immunotherapy 20 per cent of the time, and it responds at 80 per cent, that’s a major increase in efficacy.”

A series of published studies on the approach dating back to 2015 hinted strongly at the potential of combining some forms of gut bacteria with immunotherapy in treating diseases like melanoma and colorectal cancer.

But scientists weren’t able to pinpoint how it worked, said McCoy, who set about using germ-free mice as research subjects.

“We’d have to identify a mechanism…we identified three bacteria that were in an animal model of colorectal cancer and we wondered if we could tease apart the differences in the microbiomes,” she said.

Her team noted immunotherapy by itself was conspicuously ineffective.

But the bacteria that worked, she said, activated a T-cell which ultimately takes on cancerous tumours, shrinking them significantly.

“The three specific bacteria by themselves turn on a first switch on the T-cells within the intestine,” said McCoy.

That bacteria generates a tiny molecule called inosine that interacts with the T-cells to boost the immunotherapy that in turn eradicates cancer cells.

Another bacteria, akkermansia, has also been found to be an effective tumour fighter, said the scientist, and like the other three bacteria, is one present in humans who have been the subject of some study.

“We actually found there was an increase in bacterium in the patients responding, but the studies were too small,” said McCoy.

The U of C studies using humans remain preliminary for now with researchers seeking grants to further and broaden that work, to focus on lung cancer and melanoma over several years, she said.

“We’re going to see if we can find this metabolite in the serum, or blood, and in feces and see if they’re working with the same mechanism,” said McCoy.

And there’s a strong likelihood that approach could be applied to a much wider variety of cancers, she added.

That latest work is set to be published in the magazine Science, which has highlighted earlier discoveries using gut bacteria to enhance the immune system.

Efforts that have pushed the envelope on the treatment, said McCoy, are “a purely Calgary” achievement and one that should help undermine public skepticism over the effectiveness of cancer research funding that’s often led to conspiracy theories.

“I don’t know what people expect – research has made amazing strides in developing cancer therapies,” she said.

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