Last month we brought you the news that dinosaurs probably beat us to the Moon. This month, golf balls have been found up there, which isn’t quite as exciting but bear with us.
Fifty years ago, on February 5, 1971, Apollo 14 touched down on the Moon. As well as equipment for attempting to determine the internal structure of our satellite, and to measure the composition of the lunar atmosphere, the astronauts took with them a six-iron golf club head and some golf balls.
His first shots did not go well, skimming the top of the ball and sending it just a few feet. On the third swing, clearly motivated by this counting against his score, he connected and the ball flew out of shot on a fairly low trajectory. Shepard managed to hit the second ball on the first try, believing it had gone “miles and miles and miles”.
One of the balls was found by fellow astronaut Edgar Mitchell in a nearby crater, but the second wasn’t found until half a century later when imaging specialist Andy Saunders digitally enhanced scans of the original film taken during Apollo 14. Rather than the “miles and miles and miles” Shepard had thought he’d hit, Saunders’ analysis revealed that, despite the low gravity on the Moon, the ball had not gone far at all.
“We can now fairly accurately determine that ball number one travelled 24 yards [22 meters],” Saunders wrote for the US Golfer’s Association (USGA), “and ball number two travelled 40 yards [36 meters].”
However, as Saunders countered, “The fact that Shepard even made contact and got the ball airborne is extremely impressive.” The suit would have restricted movement and the helmet would have made it very hard to see, not to mention the one-sixth gravity and lack of atmosphere.
“I would challenge any club golfer to go to their local course and try to hit a six-iron, one-handed, with a one-quarter swing out of an unraked bunker,” he told BBC Sport. “Then imagine being fully suited, helmeted and wearing thick gloves. Remember also that there was little gravity to pull the clubhead down toward the ball.”
Kudos to Shepard for being the first person to golf on the Moon, but it was, in all honesty, a terrible shot, even if he was wearing a cumbersome spacesuit.
“As a professional, I hear a multitude of excuses for poor golf performance, ‘the clubs are too old’, ‘I never get to play’, ‘I’m injured’,” pro golfer Gary Felton told IFLScience. “The truth is that some golfers are bad golfers and they lie. They lie about why they play badly, they lie also about their performance. Mr Shepard was, unfortunately, a golfer who despite arguably ill-advised golfing attire, was a bit of a fibber. You disastrously embellished your performance on the Moon.”
Saunders calculated that if a professional golfer were to hit a golf ball on the Moon at 298 kilometers per hour (185 miles per hour) – 2016 PGA champion Jimmy Walker’s Earthbound speed – at a clean 45-degree angle, they could outshine Shepard by landing the ball an impressive 2.62 miles (4.22 kilometers) away, having stayed in the air for a full minute.
“My recommendation for golfers who choose to play the noble game in space suits on the Moon would be a wider stance and a shorter backswing,” Felton commented. “And make sure no one is watching.”
Hot Super-Earth Discovered 26 Light-Years Away | Astronomy – Sci-News.com
Astronomers from the CARMENES (Calar Alto high-Resolution search for M dwarfs with Exoearths with Near-infrared and optical Échelle Spectrographs) consortium have detected a short-period rocky planet orbiting the red dwarf Gliese 486.
Also known as GJ 486, Wolf 437, LHS 341, and HIC 62452, the star is much fainter and cooler than the Sun.
The newfound planet orbits the star once every 1.5 days at a distance of 2.5 million km.
Designated Gliese 486b, it belongs to a class of exoplanets called super-Earths.
It has a radius of 1.31 Earth radii, a mass 2.8 times that of our home planet, but has a similar density.
Its composition is not its only distinguishing feature — its relative closeness to Earth makes it an ideal candidate for observations with the next generation of astronomical technology.
“The proximity of this exoplanet is exciting because it will be possible to study it in more detail with powerful telescopes such as the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope and the various Extremely Large Telescopes such as the GMT and TMT,” said Dr. Trifon Trifonov, an astronomer at the Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie.
“Within the next few years, we hope to use transit spectroscopy to search for signs of an atmosphere and possibly determine this planet’s surface composition.”
With an equilibrium surface temperature of 700 K (427 degrees Celsius, 801 degrees Fahrenheit), Gliese 486b is too hot to support life as we know it.
“You wouldn’t be able to go outside without some kind of spacesuit,” said Dr. Ben Montet, an astronomer in the School of Physics at the University of New South Wales.
“The gravity is also 70% stronger than on Earth, making it harder to walk and jump. Someone who weighed 50 kg on Earth would feel like they weighed 85 kg on Gliese 486b.”
“If it had been around a hundred degrees hotter all its surface would be lava, and its atmosphere would be vaporized rock,” said Dr. José Antonio Caballero, an astronomer at the Astrobiology Centre (CAB, CSIC-INTA).
“On the other hand, if Gliese 486b had been around a hundred degrees cooler, it would not have been suitable for the follow-up observations.”
The astronomers detected Gliese 486b using data from NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and ground-based telescopes in Spain, the United States, Chile and Hawaii.
“This is the kind of planet we’ve been dreaming about for decades,” Dr. Montet said.
“We’ve known for a long time that rocky super-Earths must exist around the nearby stars, but we haven’t had the technology to search for them until recently.”
The discovery is reported in a paper published this week in the journal Science.
T. Trifonov et al. 2021. A nearby transiting rocky exoplanet that is suitable for atmospheric investigation. Science 371 (6533): 1038-1041; doi: 10.1126/science.abd7645
Local COVID count up 24, active cases climb to 122 – BlackburnNews.com
Local COVID count up 24, active cases climb to 122
March 5, 2021 9:59am
Another two dozen new confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Sarnia-Lambton.
Lambton Public Health said Friday that the total case count since March 25, 2020 has increased by 24 to 2,187.
The number of resolved cases increased by eight, pushing active cases up by 16 to 122.
The death toll stands at 46, unchanged since February 17.
The health unit was continuing to work with Kettle and Stony Point officials to manage a serious outbreak at the First Nation. Chief Jason Henry said Friday that there are now 34 active cases in the community, up from 22.
There are still six institutional and workplace outbreaks, and Bluewater Health has three positive patients in hospital.
The St. Clair Catholic District School Board reported that one staff member at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Sarnia has tested positive.
Lambton County is staying at the “Red-Control” level in the province’s COVID-19 Response Framework. On Friday the government announced that its stay-at-home order is being lifted as of Monday for Toronto, Peel Region and North Bay/Parry Sound. Toronto and Peel move into the strictest “Grey-Lockdown” category while North Bay will be placed in red. Seven other regions are moving to different restriction levels. Peterborough, Sudbury and Simcoe-Muskoka will go into red, Haldimand-Norfolk and Temiskaming will be orange; and Haliburton, Kawartha and Pine Ridge, and Renfrew County, will go into yellow.
Mars Rover Addresses Parachute Damage Problem That Delayed Launch To 2022 – Forbes
A “new parachute strategy” is in place to let the Rosalind Franklin rover finally leave for Mars in 2022, according to a mission update.
The European Space Agency and partner Roscosmos made the tough call almost exactly a year ago to delay the mission, the latest in the ExoMars series, from a launch in 2020. Missing the launch window meant they lose the chance to arrive at Mars with NASA’s Perseverance rover in February, but it was a necessary decision.
What troubled mission managers last March was a series of parachute problems, compounded with the emergence of the novel coronavirus pandemic that made testing even more difficult than usual.
But everyone has been hard at work (with safety precautions) in the months since. Recently, ESA finished two balancing tests in Cannes, France, including a composite spacecraft spin test generating an acceleration equivalent to twice Earth’s gravity. They conducted simulated rover operations in Turin, Italy. And on the parachute side, there’s been a lot of progress, the agency said in the update.
ESA asked a second manufacturer to provide canopies for a new high-altitude drop test in May or June this year in Sweden, to make sure everything is working correctly. The new manufacturer is Airborne Systems, the same company that helped get Perseverance to Mars on Feb. 18, and they will assist parachute maker Arescosmo.
Parachute damage problems keep cropping up during testing, happening again in November 2020 — but ESA said the problem is less severe than the tests in 2019, indicating progress. Now there’s a plan to deploy even “stronger and more robust” parachute canopies next time, along with redesigned bags and a new packing procedure that should minimize any tangles during deployment.
Since there’s only one chance to land safely on Mars, ESA plans yet another high-altitude test in Oregon sometime between September and November. A final, optional testing opportunity is scheduled for February or March in Oregon, if needed. In between these drop tests, ESA will use a ground facility to verify any changes to the parachute design.
The agency is being extra-careful as it hasn’t made it to Mars’ surface safely yet; the Schiaparelli test vehicle may have exploded upon impact in 2016, and the Beagle 2 mission failed to phone home after its 2003 attempt.
“High altitude drop tests require complex logistics and strict weather conditions, making them difficult to schedule,” ESA explained. “The ground tests can be repeated on a quick turnaround, buying significantly more time in the test campaign and reducing risk by allowing more tests to be conducted on a short time frame.”
Rosalind Franklin will be a crucial addition to Mars efforts, helping with ongoing searches for signs of life on the Red Planet. NASA and the European Space Agency are also planning a sample return mission as soon as this decade, to get interesting rocks from Mars into high-end laboratories on Earth. But that sample return mission will depend on funding, technical know-how and political will; Rosalind Franklin is likely a crucial piece in proving the next mission can go ahead.
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