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‘Coolest darn mission’: NASA asteroid hunter Lucy rockets into sky with diamonds – Global News

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A NASA spacecraft named Lucy rocketed into the sky with diamonds Saturday morning on a 12-year quest to explore eight asteroids.

Seven of the mysterious space rocks are among swarms of asteroids sharing Jupiter’s orbit, thought to be the pristine leftovers of planetary formation.

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An Atlas V rocket blasted off before dawn, sending Lucy on a roundabout orbital journey spanning nearly 4 billion miles (6.3 billion kilometers). “I’m just elated,” NASA’s associate administrator, Robert Cabana, said following liftoff. “This is the coolest darn mission.”

Lucy is named after the 3.2 million-year-old skeletal remains of a human ancestor found in Ethiopia nearly a half-century ago. That discovery got its name from the 1967 Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” prompting NASA to send the spacecraft soaring with band members’ lyrics and other luminaries’ words of wisdom imprinted on a plaque. The spacecraft also carried a disc made of lab-grown diamonds for one of its science instruments.


A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the LUCY spacecraft lifts off from Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Cape Canaveral, Fla.


AP Photo/John Raoux

In a prerecorded video for NASA, Beatles drummer Ringo Starr paid tribute to his late colleague John Lennon, credited for writing the song that inspired all this.

“Lucy is going back in the sky with diamonds. Johnny will love that,” Starr said. “Anyway, If you meet anyone up there, Lucy, give them peace and love from me.”

The paleoanthropologist behind the fossil Lucy discovery, Donald Johanson, said he was filled with wonder about this “intersection of our past, our present and our future.”

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“That a human ancestor who lived so long ago stimulated a mission which promises to add valuable information about the formation of our solar system is incredibly exciting,” said Johanson, of Arizona State University, who traveled to Cape Canaveral for the launch.

Lucy’s $981 million mission is the first to aim for Jupiter’s so-called Trojan entourage: thousands _ if not millions _ of asteroids that share the gas giant’s expansive orbit around the sun. Some of the Trojan asteroids precede Jupiter in its orbit, while others trail it.

Despite their orbits, the Trojans are far from the planet and mostly scattered far from each other. So there’s essentially zero chance of Lucy getting clobbered by one as it swoops past its targets, said Southwest Research Institute’s Hal Levison, the mission’s principal scientist.


Click to play video: 'William Shatner blasts off to space for 1st time aboard Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin spacecraft'



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William Shatner blasts off to space for 1st time aboard Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin spacecraft


William Shatner blasts off to space for 1st time aboard Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin spacecraft

Lucy will swoop past Earth next October and again in 2024 to get enough gravitational oomph to make it all the way out to Jupiter’s orbit. On the way there, the spacecraft will zip past asteroid Donaldjohanson between Mars and Jupiter. The aptly named rock will serve as a 2025 warm-up act for the science instruments.

Drawing power from two huge circular solar wings, Lucy will chase down five asteroids in the leading pack of Trojans in the late 2020s. The spacecraft will then swoop back toward Earth for another gravity assist in 2030 that will swing it back out to the trailing Trojan cluster, where it will zip past the final two targets in 2033.

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It’s a complicated, circuitous path that had NASA’s science mission chief, Thomas Zurbuchen, shaking his head at first. “You’ve got to be kidding. This is possible?” he recalled asking.

Lucy will pass within 600 miles (965 kilometers) of each target; the biggest one is about 70 miles (113 kilometers) across.

“Are there mountains? Valleys? Pits? Mesas? Who knows? I’m sure we’re going to be surprised,” said Johns Hopkins University’s Hal Weaver, who’s in charge of Lucy’s black-and-white camera. “But we can hardly wait to see what … images will reveal about these fossils from the formation of the solar system.”

NASA plans to launch another mission next month to test whether humans might be able to alter an asteroid’s orbit _ practice in case Earth ever has a killer rock headed this way.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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A Surprisingly Large Number Of “Stars” You See In The Sky Are Actually Spacecraft – Wonderful Engineering

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Thousands of communication satellites are being designed and launched at a rapid pace. These satellites will have a negative impact on observational astronomy research and are likely to significantly disrupt recreational or traditional cultural stargazing.

If you look up in the sky, you might notice a sequence of bright star-like objects moving in a straight line. Those aren’t stars. They’re Starlink satellites, and they’ll soon be even more noticeable in the dark sky.

Samantha Lawler, assistant professor of astronomy at the University of Regina, recently wrote a piece in The Conversation warning that “one out of every 15 points” of light in the sky could someday be a satellite rather than a star. Moreover, she said he also thinks that satellite companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX’s Starlink will immensely impact space research.

“This will be devastating to research astronomy and will completely change the night sky worldwide,” she wrote.

Lawler’s forthcoming study will be published in The Astronomical Journal, which will show evidence for the adverse stargazing effects of satellite megaconstellations like SpaceX’s.

Given that firms like SpaceX offer internet to locations around the world that might otherwise be without it, Lawler believes that regulatory agencies should limit the number of visible satellites in orbit.

“Our perspective of the stars will soon be changed forever,” she added if that doesn’t happen.

“We can’t accept the global loss of access to the night sky, which we’ve been able to see and connect with for as long as we’ve been human,” she wrote.

Our orbit is clogged with space debris. Starlink’s satellites have to avoid space junk as well. Will legislators intervene to put a stop to it? If prior responses to existential concerns like climate change are any indication, it will be considered later rather than sooner.

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Dinosaur tail found in Chile stuns scientists – Phys.Org

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Miniature models of the Stegouros elengassen, a species of dinosaur discovred in Patagonia in 2018, is seen on display December 1, 2021 in Santiago.

Chilean paleontologists on Wednesday presented their findings on a dinosaur discovered three years ago in Patagonia which they said had a highly unusual tail that has stumped researchers

The remains of the Stegouros elengassen were discovered during excavations in 2018 at Cerro Guido, a site known to harbor numerous fossils, by a team who believed they were dealing with an already known species of dinosaur until they examined its .

“That was the main surprise,” said Alexander Vargas, one of the paleontologists. “This structure is absolutely amazing.”

“The tail was covered with seven pairs of osteoderms … producing a weapon absolutely different from anything we know in any dinosaur,” added the researcher during a presentation of the discovery at the University of Chile.

The osteoderms—structures of bony plaques located in the dermal layers of the skin – were aligned on either side of the tail, making it resemble a large fern.

Paleontologists have discovered 80 percent of the dinosaur’s skeleton and estimate that the animal lived in the area 71 to 74.9 million years ago. It was about two meters (almost seven feet) long, weighed 150 kilograms (330 pounds) and was a herbivore.

According to the scientists, who published their research in the journal Nature, the animal could represent a hitherto unknown lineage of armored dinosaur never seen in the but already identified in the northern part of the continent.

The remains of a Stegouros elengassen, a new species of dinosaur discovered in Patagonia, is seen on display in Santiago Decembe
The remains of a Stegouros elengassen, a new species of dinosaur discovered in Patagonia, is seen on display in Santiago December 1, 20121.

“We don’t know why (the tail) evolved. We do know that within armored dinosaur groups there seems to be a tendency to independently develop different osteoderm-based defense mechanisms,” said Sergio Soto, another member of the team.

The Cerro Guido area, in the Las Chinas valley 3,000 km (1,800 miles) south of Santiago, stretches for 15 kilometers. Various rock outcrops contain numerous fossils.

The finds there allowed the scientists to surmise that present-day America and Antarctica were close to each other millions of years ago.

“There is strong evidence that there is a biogeographic link with other parts of the planet, in this case Antarctica and Australia, because we have two armored there closely related” to the Stegouros, said Soto.


Explore further

New dinosaur species from Chile had a unique slashing tail


More information:
Alexander Vargas, Bizarre tail weaponry in a transitional ankylosaur from subantarctic Chile, Nature (2021). DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-04147-1. www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-04147-1

© 2021 AFP

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Dinosaur tail found in Chile stuns scientists (2021, December 4)
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Total solar eclipse brings darkness to Antarctic summer – CBC.ca

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Video released by NASA shows a total solar eclipse as seen from Western Antarctica on Saturday.

The Earth’s southernmost continent experiences continual daylight from mid-October until early April, but the eclipse brought a few minutes of total darkness.

NASA said the period of totality began at 2:44 a.m. ET. 

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon moves between the sun and Earth, casting a shadow on Earth, fully or partially blocking the sun’s light in some areas.

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For a total eclipse to take place the sun, moon, and Earth must be in a direct line. The only place that this total eclipse could be seen was Antarctica.

The eclipse was also expected to be visible partially from South Africa, Chile, New Zealand and Australia on Saturday.

North America gets its next glimpse of a full solar eclipse on April 8, 2024.

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