A trio of planets make an appearance at dusk this weekend when Jupiter and Saturn, still chilling together at the after-party from last month’s, will be joined just above the western to southwestern horizon by the more flighty planet Mercury. The planetary trio is a rare sight that can be witnessed with the naked eye just after sunset over the next several days, but Saturday evening offers perhaps the best opportunity to see the three worlds bunched together.
Astronomy magazine reports that the planets will all be visible within an area about 2.3 degrees across that evening (that’s about the width of your pinky and ring finger together when they’re held away from your body at arm’s length). Mercury will be the lowest of the three in the sky, Jupiter will be the brightest and Saturn will be the dimmest.
Binoculars might help you get a better view, while even a cheap backyard telescope can offer a chance to glimpse some of the larger moons of Jupiter. This might be a good thing to try when Mercury and Saturn have disappeared below the horizon and it’s a little darker out.
To be sure to catch the entire trio, the key is to get outside right after the sun sets as Mercury and Saturn will be quick to dip below the horizon within an hour. While the planets may be closest Saturday, they will continue to congregate while shifting around over the next several nights, so you have a few shots at catching them all like a kind of cosmic game of Pokemon.
As always, if the amateur astrophotographers among you grab any great images of the celestial gathering, please share them with me on Twitter @EricCMack.
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NASA rover Perseverance takes first spin on surface of Mars – Global News
NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance has taken its first, short drive on the surface of the red planet, two weeks after the robot science lab’s picture-perfect touchdown on the floor of a massive crater, mission managers said on Friday.
The six-wheeled, car-sized astrobiology probe put a total of 6.5 meters (21.3 feet) on its odometer on Thursday during a half-hour test spin within Jezero Crater, site of an ancient, long-vanished lake bed and river delta on Mars.
Taking directions from mission managers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Los Angeles, the rover rolled 4 meters (13.1 feet) forward, turned about 150 degrees to its left and then drove backward another 2.5 meters (8.2 feet).
“It went incredibly well,” Anais Zarifian, a JPL mobility test engineer for Perseverance, said during a teleconference briefing with reporters, calling it a “huge milestone” for the mission.
NASA displayed a photo taken by the rover showing the wheel tread marks left in the reddish, sandy Martian soil after its first drive.
Perseverance rover: Scientist on when we can expect samples back from Mars
Another vivid image of the surrounding landscape shows a rugged, ruddy terrain littered with large, dark boulders in the foreground and a tall outcropping of rocky, layered deposits in the distance – marking the edge of the river delta.
Some additional, short-distance test driving is planned for Friday. Perseverance is capable of averaging 200 meters of driving per day.
But JPL engineers still have additional equipment checks to run on the rover‘s many instruments before they will be ready to send the robot on a more ambitious journey as part of its primary mission to search for traces of fossilized microbial life.
So far, Perseverance and its hardware, including its main robot arm, appear to be operating flawlessly, said Robert Hogg, deputy mission manager. The team has yet to conduct post-landing tests of the rover‘s sophisticated system to drill and collect rock samples for return to Earth via future Mars missions.
NASA announced it has named the site of Perseverance’s Feb. 18 touchdown as the “Octavia E. Butler Landing,” in honor of the award-winning American science-fiction writer. Butler, a native of Pasadena, California, died in 2006 at age 58.
(Reporting by Steve Gorman, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)
© 2021 Reuters
NASA's new Mars rover Perseverance hits dusty red road, ventures 21 feet in 1st trip – Chilliwack Progress – Chilliwack Progress
NASA’s newest Mars rover hit the dusty red road this week, putting 21 feet on the odometer in its first test drive.
The Perseverance rover ventured from its landing position Thursday, two weeks after landing on the red planet to seek signs of past life.
The roundabout, back and forth drive lasted just 33 minutes and went so well that the six-wheeled rover was back on the move Friday.
During a news conference Friday, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, shared photos of the tire tracks over and around small rocks.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to see wheel tracks and I’ve seen a lot of them, said engineer Anais Zarafian. ”This is just a huge milestone for the mission.”
As soon as the system checks on Perseverance are complete, the rover will head for an ancient river delta to collect rocks for return to Earth a decade from now. Scientists are debating whether to take the smoother route to get to the nearby delta or a possibly tougher way with intriguing remnants from that once-watery time 3 billion to 4 billion years ago.
Asteroid twice the size of the CN Tower to make fastest flyby of Earth this month – CTV News
The biggest and fastest known asteroid of 2021 is expected to make a flyby of Earth later this month.
The space rock, officially called asteroid 231937 (designated 2001 FO32), will zoom past Earth on March 21 travelling at a speed of 123,887 kilometres per hour or 34.4 kilometres per second, according to NASA.
The asteroid is an estimated 1.1 kilometres wide, which is roughly twice the size of the CN Tower. Of the approximately 25,000 near-Earth asteroids that scientists know about, NASA says only about 3.5 per cent of them are larger than a kilometre.
Due to its size and proximity to Earth, asteroid 231937 has been classified as “potentially hazardous” by NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) and is being tracked by the space agency.
NEOs are defined as space objects, such as asteroids or comets, that come within 1.3 astronomical units (195 million kilometres) of the sun. If the object is larger than 140 metres across, it is considered a potentially hazardous object (PHO).
Nearly one hundred known asteroids are set to fly past Earth before the end of 2021, NASA says, but asteroid 231937 is set to be the largest and fastest.
However, NASA says the asteroid’s orbit is well known and poses no threat to humans.
According to the space agency, the asteroid will make is closest approach at 16:03 UTC (11:03 a.m. EST), at over two million kilometres away from Earth. NASA notes that this is nearly five times farther than the distance the moon orbits Earth.
Despite being two million kilometres away, NASA says this will be the asteroid’s closest encounter on record. According to NASA’s records dating as far back as the early 1900s, the space rock has not come closer to Earth and won’t do so again for 200 years.
Asteroid 231937 was discovered on March 23, 2001, by the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research program in New Mexico, according to NASA. It orbits the sun every 810 days and is classified as an Apollo asteroid as it travels from inside Mercury’s orbit to the asteroid belt and back, crossing Earth’s orbit in an elliptical pattern.
While those interested in catching a glimpse of the asteroid won’t be able to do so with their eyes, EarthSky reports that stargazers may be able to see it using a telescope 20 centimetres or larger in diameter to detect the asteroid’s motion in real time.
The asteroid will be relatively low in the southern sky, but EarthSky said observers might spot it moving between the constellations of Scorpius and Sagittarius just before dawn.
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