‘Minimoons’ are only a few feet across, and each tends to do a stint of around a few months in orbit – before resuming their previous lives as asteroids.
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="But this particular mini-moon may be a little different – as experts have suggested it’s not a moon at all, but man-made space junk. ” data-reactid=”34″>But this particular mini-moon may be a little different – as experts have suggested it’s not a moon at all, but man-made space junk.
Specifically, it may be a discarded part of a rocket launched in 1966, experts have suggested.
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The tiny object, known as 2020 SO, was spotted by the Pan-STARRS1 at the Haleakala Observatory on 17 September 2020, ScienceAlert reports. ” data-reactid=”36″>The tiny object, known as 2020 SO, was spotted by the Pan-STARRS1 at the Haleakala Observatory on 17 September 2020, ScienceAlert reports.
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Read more: What are fast radio bursts, and why do they look like aliens?” data-reactid=”37″>Read more: What are fast radio bursts, and why do they look like aliens?
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="It will be captured by Earth this October, and will pass close by Earth in December 2020 and February 2021, Sky reports. ” data-reactid=”38″>It will be captured by Earth this October, and will pass close by Earth in December 2020 and February 2021, Sky reports.
It will continue to orbit our planet until May next year.
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Alice Gorman of Flinders University in Australia says that several measurements about 2020 SO suggest it’s not an asteroid, in an interview with Science Alert.. ” data-reactid=”40″>Alice Gorman of Flinders University in Australia says that several measurements about 2020 SO suggest it’s not an asteroid, in an interview with Science Alert..
Gorman said, “The velocity seems to be a big one. What I’m seeing is that it’s just moving too slowly, which reflects its initial velocity. That’s essentially a big giveaway.”
Gorman says that these signs suggest that the object may be space junk.
Astronomer Paul Chodas has suggested that teh object is a Surveyor 2 Centaur rocket body, launched on September 20, 1966.
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Read more: Astronomers find closest black hole to Earth” data-reactid=”64″>Read more: Astronomers find closest black hole to Earth
Chodas suggests that the low Earth encounter velocity is too low even for material ejected from the moon, so it’s unlikely to be a natural body.
Spectroscopy may be able to show if the object has been painted, the experts believe.
Gorman says, “It would be interesting to do some reflectance spectroscopy, which would show how rough the surfaces are, how much it’s been pitted and decayed from being bombarded by dust and micro meteorites.”
“It’s human material that’s been out in a different part of space. So, it would be interesting to compare that to the results you get from stuff in low Earth orbit, which is much, much denser in material.”
There is water on the moon – Chemical & Engineering News
Using a telescope flying on a 747, astronomers say they have definitive evidence of water molecules on sunlit moon surfaces (Nat. Astronomy 2020, DOI: 10.1038/s41550-020-01222-x).
It wasn’t long ago that scientists thought the moon was completely dry. Then, in 2009, a trio of papers reported spectroscopic evidence of O–H bonds in sunny areas, although researchers couldn’t say if these belonged to water or hydroxyl substituents on other molecules. In 2018, scientists reported ice in shaded craters.
The 2009 results were based on IR signals near 3 µm because that’s what the spacecraft used could measure. Water has an unambiguous IR signal at 6 µm.
Honniball and her colleagues observed the 6 µm signal on the sunlit lunar surface at high southern latitudes but not at lower latitudes. Previously, scientists assumed solar radiation would either destroy water molecules or push them to colder regions. Based on the new data, the team calculated that the moon’s surface is 100–400 parts per million water. But Honniball stresses that the moon is still a very dry place: its surface is probably about 100 times as dry as Sahara Desert sand.
The water they observed is neither ice nor liquid; it exists as lone molecules. The researchers don’t know whether these molecules are trapped inside glasses formed by meteorite impacts or tucked between grains of lunar dust. Honniball says they are planning follow-up observations that might nail that down. Water could be brought to the moon on meteorites, form during meteorite impacts, or come from inside the moon.
The group has applied for more trips on SOFIA to try to map the majority of the moon’s near side at different times. That could reveal more about the water molecules’ location and sources and might also show how water moves around the moon’s surface. “They deserve more time” to answer these questions, Sunshine says.
Arctic sea ice at record low October levels: Danish researchers – Al Jazeera English
For the month of October, measurements show an 8.2 percent downward trend in ice over the last 10 years.
Sea ice in the Arctic was at record lows for October as unusually warm waters slowed the recovery of the ice, Danish researchers said on Wednesday.
Diminishing sea ice comes as a reminder about how the Arctic is hit particularly hard by global warming.
Since the 1990s, warming has been twice as fast in the Arctic compared to the rest of the world, as a phenomenon dubbed “Arctic amplification” causes air, ice and water to interact in a reinforcing manner.
“The October Arctic sea ice extent is going to be the lowest on record and the sea ice growth rate is slower than normal,” said Rasmus Tonboe, a scientist at the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI), noting the record was unequalled for at least 40 years.
According to preliminary satellite data used by the institute, sea ice surface area was at 6.5 million square kilometres (2.5 million square miles) on October 27.
Every year, some of the ice formed in the Arctic waters melts in the summer.
It usually reaches a low point of about five million square kilometres (1.9 million square miles), but then reforms to cover about 15 million square kilometres (5.7 million square miles) in winter.
Warmer temperatures are now reducing both the summer and winter extent of the ice.
Satellite data has been collected to monitor the ice precisely since 1979 and the trend towards a reduction is clear.
For the month of October, measurements show an 8.2 percent downward trend in ice over the last 10 years.
Warmer than normal
Already in September, researchers noted the second-lowest extent of sea ice recorded in the Arctic, though not quite hitting the low levels recorded in 2012.
But warmer-than-normal seawater slowed the formation of new ice in October.
Water temperatures in the eastern part of the Arctic, north of Siberia, was 2 degrees Celsius (35.6 degrees Fahrenheit) to 4C (39.2F) warmer than normal, and in Baffin Bay, it was 1-2C warmer, DMI said in a statement.
The institute said this was following a trend observed in recent years, which was described as a “vicious spiral”.
“It’s a trend we’ve been seeing the past years with a longer open-water season making the sun warm the sea for a longer time, resulting in shorter winters so the ice doesn’t grow as thick as it used to,” Tonboe said.
Since the melting ice is already in the ocean it does not directly contribute to the rise in sea levels.
But as the ice disappears sunlight “gets absorbed in the ocean, helping to further warm the Earth”, said Claire Parkinson, a climate scientist at NASA.
Thus, with less ice reflecting sunlight, oceans are heated directly.
Over the last 40 years, the Arctic has also become more of a strategic interest to world powers.
Less ice in certain areas has opened up new maritime routes, which are destined to play a larger role in international trade, meaning a larger financial stake for Arctic state actors.
The region is also estimated to house 13 percent of the world’s oil reserves and 30 percent of undiscovered natural gas deposits.
Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) said on Tuesday under current levels of atmospheric CO2 – about 400 parts per million – the melting of Arctic sea ice would raise global temperatures by 0.2C (32.3F).
That is on top of the 1.5C (34.7F) of warming our current emissions levels have rendered all but inevitable, and the safer cap on global warming aimed for in the Paris climate accord.
Lunar base: How NASA's moon water discovery could support human habitats – Inverse
This week, NASA announced a discovery that could make a permanent lunar base reality.
On Monday, agency researchers announced they had detected abundant water on the Moon’s surface, trapped in small icy pockets throughout the lunar soil. The signals were detected by NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, also known as SOFIA. Taken together, the water is equivalent to a 12-ounce bottle per cubic meter of lunar soil, they estimate.
They also found the first evidence that water exists on the sunlit areas of the Moon, not just at the poles.
Essentially, the discovery suggests water may be far more accessible to humans than previously thought, dramatically expanding the areas of the Moon where humans might be able to establish a presence — and whether they can go even further into space.
Private companies like SpaceX and government agencies like NASA, as well as others in China and Europe, have all made clear they plan to establish lunar bases. But if they are to work, they need to make the most of what the local environment has to offer.
Basically, the more resources you can find and use once you are in space, the less you have to send up at launch.
“Water is a precious resource in space,” Paul Hertz, NASA’s astrophysics division director, said during the agency’s press conference. “We want to know everything we can about water on the Moon.”
Location, location, location — One of the key impacts of this discovery on these plans is the fact that it broadens where on the Moon humans can set up shop for three key reasons.
First, astronauts would be able to drink the water, albeit after treating it.
Second, water is not just for drinking. Water can be converted into oxygen for astronauts, Jacob Bleacher, chief exploration scientist for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA, explained Monday.
Third, it can also be used to create fuel.
Fuel is one of the major challenges for a Moon base, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk claimed in October 2019. The company’s Starship is designed to use liquid oxygen and methane, chemicals that astronauts can generate from carbon dioxide and water. SpaceX wants to build a fueling station on Mars that would utilize that planet’s stores. Musk noted at the time that the Moon’s lack of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen is a “big challenge” for refueling the Starship on the Moon. This news suggests it could make a perfect pit stop, too.
Back to the Moon, 2024 — NASA chose SpaceX’s Starship in April, along with two other pitches, as a potential solution for landing humans on the Moon in 2024. SpaceX has also detailed plans on using Starship rockets to serve as the basis for a “Moon Base Alpha.”
NASA’s crewed Moon mission forms part of the Artemis program. It involves establishing a Lunar Gateway — essentially a spaceport which would orbit around the Moon to support crewed missions. It also involves establishing an Artemis Base Camp near the South Pole, which would initially host one or two astronauts for around four months.
“With the Artemis program, NASA will land the first woman and the next man on the Moon in 2024 and establish a sustainable human presence by the end of the decade,” Hertz said. “At the Moon, we will prepare for human exploration of Mars.”
SpaceX and NASA are not the only two interested. The Chinese and European space agencies have also expressed interest in permanent settlements. Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos also said in a 2018 speech that “we must go back to the Moon, and this time to stay.”
But before astronauts start packing their drinking straws, more research needs to be done.
“We know there’s water at the moon, but we don’t know exactly how accessible lunar water is for our future explorers,” Bleacher said. “Knowing where we can find water is a good first step. But we need to know more about the water to understand if and how we can use it for both science and exploration.”
Water, water everywhere – but we might have to wait a bit to drink.
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