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Interstellar comet, visiting from deep space, is stranger than we thought – CNET

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2I/Borisov is the first interstellar comet we have ever seen. 


Gemini Observatory/NSF/AURA/Travis Rector

As far as tourist destinations go, our solar system appears to be fairly low on the universe’s list of best places to visit: Astronomers have only ever detected two interstellar visitors passing through our neighborhood. Even though our visitor count remains low, those two wanderers have given us a glimpse of the truly unusual vagabonds traversing the cosmos. The first — ‘Oumuamua — was so weird scientists suggested it may even be an alien probe

The second visitor, rogue comet 2I/Borisov, seemed pretty ordinary by comparison — but new analysis shows our second interstellar visitor is pretty odd, too.

Two studies, published in the journal Nature Astronomy on Monday, examined Borisov using the space-based Hubble Telescope and the ground-based Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in northern Chile. Astronomers were particularly fortunate with Borisov observations because, unlike ‘Oumuamua, it was spotted in the customs line on the way in to our solar system, giving them a chance to observe it. 

Hubble and ALMA were pointed at Borisov in December and January as it moved through our corner of space just outside the orbit of Mars. As it got closer to the sun, Borisov warmed up, causing it to expel some of the gases trapped inside. This gave researchers with Hubble and ALMA a chance to study different wavelengths of light emitted by the interstellar visitor and determine what gases it contains.

“This is the first time we’ve ever looked inside a comet from outside our solar system,” said Martin Cordiner, an astrochemist with NASA’s Goddard Flight Center and first author on the paper, in a release. “It is dramatically different from most other comets we’ve seen before.” 

Both studies show Borisov is extremely rich in carbon monoxide. It’s not strange to find carbon monoxide in a comet, but the levels seen by Hubble and ALMA are off the charts, measuring about three times higher than comets from our home solar system. Because carbon monoxide only freezes at extremely cold temperatures, the research teams suggest it likely formed at the dark, outer edges of a distant star system before being flung toward us.

Borisov’s story is kind of grim, even for a space rock. In the paper by Dennis Bodewits, professor of physics at Auburn University, and colleagues, the authors speculate that Borisov may have begun its life around an M-type star, one of the most common types of stars in our neck of the woods. The team suggests a giant planet orbiting such a star may have kicked Borisov loose, launching it into the depths of space. From there, it wandered, alone and incredibly cold, for millions of years until physics and fate brought it close enough to our sun for it to heat up and burst to life.

As it streams through our region of space now, Borisov appears to be crumbling like a cookie dunked in tea. Recent images of Borisov showed it cracking apart and a small fragment being ejected into space. A more recent notice in The Astronomer’s Telegram shows the secondary fragment is no longer visible. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic has prevented a more concerted look at the tourist because many of the major observatories that can still view the comet here on Earth have closed.

Hubble should be able to track Borisov into 2021, but ground-based telescopes like ALMA will likely lose sight of it in the coming months. While the small window of opportunity to learn more about Borisov is closing, there’s no doubt our solar system will play host to a third rogue tourist some time in the near future — here’s hoping it’s just as weird. 


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An Asteroid Bigger Than The Empire State Building Poses ‘No Danger’ On Saturday Night, Says NASA – Forbes

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A huge near-Earth asteroid will pass our planet tonight at a safe distance of 3.2 million miles, according to NASA.

After a spate of doom-laden headlines the space agency felt the need yesterday to update a previous post about near-Earth asteroids with the following note:

“Asteroid 2002 NN4 will safely pass by the Earth on June 6 at a distance of approximately 3.2 million miles (5.1 million kilometers), about 13 times further away from the Earth than the Moon is. There is no danger the asteroid will hit the Earth.”

Asteroid 2002 NN4’s closest approach to Earth will be at 11:20 p.m. EDT. on Saturday, June 6, 2020.

NASA also tweeted the same advice:

NASA Asteroid Watch then tweeted this image of the asteroid’s trajectory:

How big is Asteroid 2002 NN4?

Asteroid 2002 NN4 is huge. Measuring between 820 feet and 1,870 feet (250 meters to 570 meters) according to Space.com. New York City’s Empire State Building is 443.2 meters tall, including its antenna.

That’s over a dozen times bigger than the asteroid that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013. That was the biggest meteor for over a century.

Would asteroid 2002 NN4 be dangerous if it hit Earth?

Yes—asteroid 2002 NN4 is city-killer size, but it’s not going to cause any harm to anyone.

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.

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Crew Dragon with two NASA astronauts docks to ISS – TASS

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NEW YORK, May 31. /TASS/. The Crew Dragon spacecraft with Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken on board has successfully docked to the International Space Station (ISS), as follows from a NASA broadcast on Sunday.

The spacecraft began approaching the ISS about two hours before docking than was carried out 10:16 ahead of the schedule. The Crew Dragon spacecraft was launched using the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 22.22 pm Moscow time on May 30 from the Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Crew Dragon is a configuration of the cargo spacecraft Dragon, which had already delivered cargoes to the ISS. A Falcon-9 rocket put the cargo vehicle in space on March 2. Its docking with the ISS was carried out automatically the next day.

NASA stopped crewed flights in 2011 after the Space Shuttle program came to an end. From that moment on all astronauts were delivered to the ISS and back by Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft. Originally the Untied States was to start using commercial spacecraft for crewed missions in 2017.

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Toddler could be battling rare syndrome in response to COVID-19 – Winnipeg Free Press

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More than a month after testing positive for COVID-19, a Winnipeg toddler is fighting another illness – a possible rare inflammatory syndrome that could be part of the body’s reaction to new viruses.

The girl’s mother told CBC News doctors are trying to find out whether the one-year-old has developed Kawasaki disease, or multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children, now that she is negative for COVID-19 but is still seriously ill.

To read more of this story first reported by CBC News, click here.

The Winnipeg Free Press and CBC Manitoba recognize each other as trusted news sources. This content is made available to our readers as part of an agreement to collaborate to better serve our community. Any questions about CBC content should be directed to: talkback@cbc.ca

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