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Interstellar gatecrasher 2I/Borisov is no ordinary comet – The Express Tribune

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Scient­ists have discov­ered a comet called 2I/Boriso­v that is surpri­singly differ­ent in its compos­ition from comets

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The interstellar comet 2I/Borisov travels through our solar system in an artist’s impression obtained by Reuters. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON: Scientists have discovered that a comet called 2I/Borisov only the second interstellar object ever detected passing through the solar system is surprisingly different in its composition from comets hailing from our celestial neighborhood.

Gas coming off 2I/Borisov contained high amounts of carbon monoxide far more than comets formed in our solar system – indicating the object had large concentrations of carbon monoxide ice, researchers said on Monday.

Carbon monoxide, poisonous to humans, is common as a gas in space and forms as ice only in the most frigid locations. The presence of so much carbon monoxide, the researchers said, suggests 2I/Borisov formed in a different manner than comets in our solar system – in a very cold outer region of its home star system or around a star cooler than the sun.

Comets essentially are dirty snowballs composed of frozen gases, rock and dust that orbit stars.

“We like to refer to 2I/Borisov as a snowman from a dark and cold place,” said planetary scientist Dennis Bodewits of Auburn University in Alabama, lead author of one of two 2I/Borisov studies published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

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“Comets are left-over building blocks from the time of planet formation. For the first time, we have been able to measure the chemical composition of such a building block from another planetary system while it flew through our own solar system,” added Bodewits.

The comet, detected in August 2019 by amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov and estimated to be about six-tenths of a mile wide, has zoomed through interstellar space after being ejected from its original star system.

It was born long ago in a rotating disc of gas and dust surrounding a newly formed star in a place that must have been rich in carbon monoxide, Bodewits said. That star may have been what is called an M-dwarf, far smaller and cooler than the sun and the smallest type of star that is known, said Bodewits.

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Scientists initially concluded last year that 2I/Borisov was similar to comets from our solar system, but data from the Hubble Space Telescope and an observatory in Chile revealed its differences.

The researchers also found an abundance of hydrogen cyanide at levels similar to comets from our solar system.

“This shows that 2I/Borisov is not a completely alien object, and confirms some similarity with our ‘normal’ comets, so the processes that shaped it are comparable to the way our own comets formed,” said Martin Cordiner, an astrobiologist working at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland and lead author of the other study.

The only other interstellar visitor discovered in our solar system was a cigar-shaped rocky object called ‘Oumuamua spotted in 2017.

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How to watch the 'strawberry moon' eclipse from anywhere Friday – CNET

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A brilliant full moon rises at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in 2017.


NASA/Kim Shiflett

Get ready to look to the night sky on Friday. A full “strawberry moon” is on the calendar, and it will come with an understated partial eclipse for some parts of the world. While the moon will be at its absolute fullest on Friday around noon PT, you’ll have several opportunities to enjoy the view. The moon will  still look full from early Thursday morning through early Sunday morning, NASA said Monday.

North America will miss the eclipse, but the Virtual Telescope Project will livestream the lunar event from Italy above a view of the Rome skyline. Mark your calendar for noon PT on Friday, June 5, and visit the project’s web TV page to join in.   

A penumbral eclipse is much more subtle than a total eclipse. The moon slips through the Earth’s outer (penumbral) shadow, which can trigger a slight darkening of the moon. If you didn’t know it was happening, you might miss it. A partial penumbral eclipse like the one on Friday makes it even harder to spot a difference.

Denizens of the moon, however, would notice the effects. “For spacecraft at the Moon such as the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), the reduction in solar power is noticeable,” NASA said.

Unfortunately, the “strawberry” nickname for the June full moon doesn’t refer to a color, but seems to be an old reference to the strawberry harvest season. NASA’s Gordon Johnston rounded up a list of alternative names for this month’s moon, including mead moon, honey moon, hot moon and planting moon.

Even if the eclipse is too faint to detect, you can still take a moment to bask in the light of a lovely full moon this week. 

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What to expect from the ECB today [Video] – FXStreet

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– Overview of market sentiment at the European open (00:00).

– Detailed look at what to expect from the ECB announcement today (2:22).

– Merkel over delivers on the latest German stimulus package (17:40).

– Oil volatility here to stay as OPEC+ meeting looms (19:17).

– UK hits out at China over HK security law as they look for 5G alternatives (26:18).

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The cleanest pocket of air on Earth? It's in the Southern Ocean, between Tasmania and Antarctica – National Post

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The cleanest air on Earth lies in a pocket of sky between Tasmania and Antarctica, scientists say. 

A team of researchers at Colorado State University conducted a bioaerosol study of the Southern Ocean from Tasmania to Antarctica — the first of its kind — and drew air samples at the marine boundary level, where the atmosphere meets the ocean surface. 

“We were able to use the bacteria in the air over the Southern Ocean (SO) as a diagnostic tool to infer key properties of the lower atmosphere,” microbian ecologist Thomas Hill, from Colorado State University, told Science Alert.

Via modelling and analysis, the team noted that the samples were free of aerosol particles — a sure indicator of human activity, like fossil fuel burning, agriculture and fertilizer production — blown in from other parts of the world. The samples were also split into latitudinal zones, so that the team could observe how the air changed as they moved further south. 


Kathryn Moore collects bioaerosol samples in the Southern Ocean.

Kendall Sherrin/CSU

Via wind patterns, airborne microorganisms can travel vast distances. However, the bacterial make-up of the samples suggested that the closer they were taken to Antarctica, the cleaner they became. This suggests that aerosols from distant land masses and human activities are not travelling south into Antarctic air.

Instead, the samples appear to be composed of microorganisms from the ocean and little else. 

“It suggests that the SO (Southern Ocean) is one of very few places on Earth that has been minimally affected by anthropogenic activities,” Hill said. 

The results counter similar studies that were carried out in oceans in the subtropics and the Northern Hemisphere, which concluded that most microbes came from upwind continents.

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