Four years into its mission more than 200-million miles from Earth, NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex spacecraft landed on an asteroid to retrieve a sample of primordial dust and pebbles from the celestial body that “could have helped seed life on Earth”.
This well-preserved, ancient asteroid known as Bennu offers scientists a window into the early solar system as it was first taking shape billions of years ago.
The historic grab was a first for NASA, which, after a decade of planning, launched the OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer) in September, 2016.
With pre-programmed instructions, it unfurled its robotic arm, and briefly touched down to collect a 60-gram (2-oz) sample from the surface for delivery to Earth in 2023.
“Our industry, academic, and international partners have made it possible to hold a piece of the most ancient solar system in our hands,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
On October 20, it fired its thrusters to nudge itself out of its orbit around Bennu. It extended the shoulder, then elbow, then wrist of its 11-foot (3.35-meter) sampling arm, and transited across Bennu while descending about a half-mile (805 meters) toward the surface. After a four-hour descent, at an altitude of approximately 410 feet (125 meters), the spacecraft executed the “Checkpoint” burn, the first of two maneuvers to allow it to precisely target the sample collection site.
Ten minutes later, the spacecraft fired its thrusters for the second burn to slow its descent and match the asteroid’s rotation at the time of contact. It then continued a treacherous, 11-minute coast past a boulder the size of a two-story building, nicknamed “Mount Doom,” to touch down in a clear spot in a crater on Bennu’s northern hemisphere. The size of a small parking lot, the site is one of the few relatively clear spots on this unexpectedly boulder-covered space rock.
After collecting a sample, it fired its thrusters and safely backed away from Bennu.
“This was an incredible feat – and today we’ve advanced both science and engineering and our prospects for future missions to study these mysterious ancient storytellers of the solar system,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “And we can’t wait to see what comes next.”
Two days after touching down on the asteroid, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission team received images that confirmed the spacecraft had collected more than enough material to meet one of its main mission requirements, then it spent two days working around the clock to carry out the stowage procedure. Given the distance from Earth, the team needed to work with a greater than 18.5-minute time delay for signals traveling in each direction. (Watch a cool animation below…)
The sample arm was then retracted to the side of the spacecraft for the final time, in preparation for its departure from Bennu in March 2021—the next time Bennu will be properly aligned with Earth for the most fuel-efficient return flight.
“Today’s TAG maneuver was historic,” said Lori Glaze, Planetary Science Division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The fact that we safely and successfully touched the surface of Bennu, in addition to all the other milestones this mission has already achieved, is a testament to the living spirit of exploration that continues to uncover the secrets of the solar system.”
OSIRIS-REx arrived at Bennu Dec. 3, 2018, and began orbiting. The spacecraft is scheduled to return to Earth Sept. 24, 2023, when it will parachute into Utah’s west desert where scientists will be waiting to collect it.
NASA’s NEAR spacecraft in 2001 was the first human-made object to orbit and the first to land an asteroid. It survived touchdown on the asteroid and returned valuable measurements from the surface for about two weeks.
LAND This Historic News On Your Social Media Page to Inspire Awe in Your Friends…
Watch a Lunar Eclipse, or at Least Try To – The New York Times
This evening as you sneak some late-night Thanksgiving leftovers, take a moment to marvel at the full moon. Do you notice anything different? It’s subtle, but on early Monday (Sunday night if you’re on the west coast), the full moon should appear a bit darker than usual. That’s because you’re witnessing a penumbral lunar eclipse, a celestial occurrence in which the moon dips behind Earth’s faint, outer shadow, or penumbra.
Penumbral eclipses are slight, verging on imperceptible in some cases, says Jackie Faherty, an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. “It’s not something that’s going to slap you in the face.”
So Sunday night’s eclipse will not be as dramatic as a total lunar eclipse, in which the moon plunges into Earth’s dark inner shadow, called the umbra, turning its surface blood red. Nor is it as striking as a partial lunar eclipse, in which the moon slides behind part of the umbral shadow and looks as if some space monster took a gigantic cookie bite out of it.
And it is not as awe-inspiring as a total solar eclipse, in which the new moon glides in front of the sun, leaving a wispy, white halo shining in the daytime sky.
But the penumbral eclipse could still be worth your time as a chance to test how attuned you are with the night sky, Dr. Faherty said. For our ancestors who lived without city lights or streetlamps, the moon provided the majority of useful light at night. If it dimmed ever so slightly, people noticed.
But that perceptiveness has been lost in part as our dependence on the moon’s glow has waned. Dr. Faherty suggests using the penumbral eclipse to test your senses.
“Take the lunar challenge,” Dr. Faherty said. “Really look at it. Bask in the moonlight and see how it feels. Can you perceive the difference?”
The penumbral eclipse will be visible across North and South America, parts of eastern Asia, and Australia and the Pacific, according to Space.com. It will begin around 2:32 a.m. Eastern time.
The best time to take the lunar challenge will be at “greatest eclipse,” or 4:43 a.m. Eastern time, when 83 percent of the full moon is within the Earth’s penumbral shadow, according to NASA.
But if you’re still not sold on watching the penumbral eclipse, then perhaps you can take away this nifty fact from its appearance: It is the harbinger of the next total solar eclipse. Lunar eclipses and solar eclipses are celestial peas in a pod. Once one appears, the other will follow two weeks later. And on Dec. 14, there will be a total solar eclipse whisking over parts of Chile and Argentina.
Sync your calendar with the solar system
Never miss an eclipse, a meteor shower, a rocket launch or any other astronomical and space event that’s out of this world.
How and When to Spot a Lunar Eclipse This Weekend – Lifehacker
As the holiday weekend winds down and we prepare to go back to work for these awkward weeks between holidays when it seems like everyone else is out of the office, but we’re all very much still here, we have another chance to catch something interesting in the night sky. First of all, there will be a full moon. And, as an added bonus, there will also be a partial lunar eclipse. Here’s what to look for and when to head outside.
What to know about this full moon
Eclipse aside, this will be a pretty exciting full moon—the last before the winter solstice on December 21. For this reason, it has traditionally been an important full moon in a variety of cultures around the world, and goes by many names, including: the Cold Moon, Frost Moon, Winter Moon, Beaver Moon, Oak Moon, Moon Before Yule, Child Moon, Kartik Purnima, Karthika Deepam and Tazaungdaing Festival Moon and Ill Poya.
This full moon will shine directly in front of Taurus the Bull, so you’ll also have the chance to get a decent view of this constellation.
How to spot the partial eclipse
A few days ago, we discussed how to see the Earth’s shadow: that shadow is involved here, as well. Specifically, the partial eclipse will happen when full moon passes through the Earth’s light shadow, according to EarthSky.org. But don’t expect anything too dramatic: it’ll be more like a subtle shading on the moon.
The eclipse will only be visible without telescopes or other equipment for about an hour tonight/early tomorrow morning. Your best bet at seeing the eclipse is at its mid-point, which will be at 4:43 a.m. EST on Monday, November 30th. As usual, the darker the sky, the better your chances are of seeing more of the lunar eclipse.
Full Moon: Is it a Full Moon tonight? Why is the Moon so bright? – Daily Express
The Moon rose in the east yesterday (November 28) and stayed with us until Sunday morning. Viewed from London, the lunar orb crept up at 3.15pm GMT and headed in a westerly direction. The Moon set on Sunday morning at about 6.28am, and will rise again about 20 minutes later than yesterday.
Although the Moon always rises in the east and sets in the west, it does so at a different time every day.
On average, the Moon rises about 50 minutes later each day due to a number of astronomical factors.
As the lunar orb sails across the night sky, it moves by 12 to 13 degrees towards the east each day.
Astronomer Deborah Byrd of EarthSky said: “Earth has to rotate a little longer to bring you around to where the Moon is in space.
“Thus the Moon rises, on average, about 50 minutes later each day.
“The later and later rising times of the Moon cause our companion world to appear in a different part of the sky at each nightfall for the two weeks between New and Full Moon.”
Why is November’s Full Moon called the Beaver Moon?
There are typically 12 Full Moons each year, although a 13th Blue Moon sometimes creeps in.
Each of these full phases has a unique name, some of which are derived from Native American time-keeping traditions.
November’s Full Moon is popularly known as the Beaver Moon, the Frost Moon or the Geese-Going Moon.
The name is said to originate with Native Americans who named the phases of the Moon after the changing seasons.
For example, April’s Full Moon is known as the Pink Moon after a type of pink flower that blossoms in the spring.
Amy Nieskens of the Old Farmer’s Almanac said: “Centuries ago Native Americans kept track of the changing seasons by giving a distinct name to each Full Moon – names we still use today.
“November’s Full Moon was known as the Geese-Going Moon, the Frost Moon and perhaps the most well known, the Full Beaver Moon.
“Traditionally this is the time of year that beavers are preparing for winter and also the time to set traps before the swamps froze, to ensure supplies of warm winter furs.”
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