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Is one of the brightest stars in the sky about to go supernova? – Digital Trends

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An artist’s impression of the supergiant star Betelgeuse. ESO/L. Calçada

In the corner of the constellation of Orion sits one of the brightest stars in the sky — Alpha Orionis, aka Betelgeuse. Astronomers think that dramatic events could be stirring in this system, with Betelgeuse ready to explode in an enormous supernova.

Consideration of a possible supernova event has been growing following a report by Universe Today and a recent paper by researchers at Villanova University showing the light from Betelgeuse had faded to around half of its usual magnitude. This is a strong indication — though by no means definitive proof — that the star could go supernova soon.

Since that first paper was released earlier this month, speculation has been rife in the astronomical community about if and when Betelgeuse will explode. The researchers of the paper even posted an update just before Christmas that the dimming of the star has contained.

“At its average maximum brightness, Betelgeuse is the sixth or seventh brightest star,” Edward Guinan and colleagues said in the paper. “But by 2019 mid-December the star has slipped to the approximately 21st brightest star… This appears to be the faintest the star has been measured since photoelectric observations have been carried out.”

Although variable stars like Betelgeuse do typically fluctuate in brightness over time, it is the degree of dimming which suggests something may be up with the star at this time. As a star reaches the end of its life, it runs out of fuel and loses a large proportion of its mass. The dying star is surrounded by a halo of dust and gas, obscuring our view of it and making it appear dimmer.

Astronomers know that Betelgeuse is nearing the end of its life, and have been watching it for signs of an impending supernova. When it does blow, the burst of light will be so bright that it will be visible from Earth even during daylight. However, light from the star takes 600 years to reach us, so we’re actually looking back in time and waiting for an event that may have already happened.

Betelgeuse was imaged by the European Southern Observatory in 2009, when observations using the Very Large Telescope revealed the supergiant star was surrounded by a huge plume of gas which is nearly as big as our solar system.

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Not spooked by the pandemic, haunted houses find ways around COVID-19 – Red Deer Advocate

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TORONTO — Psychotic clowns. Axe murderers. Bedrooms possessed by poltergeists.

Many of the frights greeting visitors of horror attractions this Halloween will be familiar, but the thrill-creators behind them say one terrifying experience is squarely off-limits: the terrors of COVID-19.

Before the pandemic shook our lives, haunted houses sometimes dipped into the fears of contagion, splashing themed rooms with signs of a viral outbreak, hazmat suits and contamination warnings.

But with those experiences uncomfortably close to reality this year, horror masters like Shawn Lippert say reminding people of the virus is one line they’re not willing to cross.

“We use the analogy: Treat ‘COVID’ like the F-word in church,” said the owner of Scarehouse, an industrial-sized indoor haunted house in Windsor, Ont.

“It’s too real and so close to home. It’s almost like when you tell a joke and they say, ‘Too soon.’”

Lippert said that’s one of several rules he’s introduced at his haunt in order to keep people feeling safe and heath authorities satisfied. Ticketholders arrive at staggered times, and everyone is required to wear a mask.

Creepy objects that once brushed against visitors have been removed, and the giant airbags that evoke the feeling of claustrophobia have been stowed away to decrease the potential spread of germs.

Lippert describes those as small changes in a challenging year.

Many haunt operators were jittery about moving ahead with their usual Halloween festivities, considering health authorities could shut down the houses without much notice if the region experiences a surge in local cases. That would leave a brutal dent in their investments.

“If we can keep our doors open for the full run at this point, that would be a success for us,” Lippert said.

Several Toronto haunted houses decided the risk was too high. Casa Loma’s Legends of Horror and 28-year pillar Screemers at Exhibition Place were among the operators who decided to sit this year out, even before the city introduced tighter restrictions that would’ve closed them anyway.

Some organizers have used the pandemic to imagine ways to scare the living daylights out of people from a distance — often from the safety of their own vehicles.

The Pickering Museum Village put a historic spin on its spooky experience with a drive-thru tour that urged visitors to creep their cars along a roadway checkered with old houses, as ghost stories played on their FM radios.

Others have gone online with virtual group parties for kids or, for those of legal drinking age, what’s being sold as Canada’s first Virtual Halloween Cocktail Crawl.

Mentalist Jaymes White decided to embrace the digital world this year for his annual Halloween seances. His new Zoom experience, called Evoke, invites a small circle of friends to channel a spirit through video chat. He admits the idea goes against the traditions of a séance, where people usually hold hands around a table, but he’s confident the spirits will still be ready to unsettle his guests.

“They don’t care that we have a pandemic,” he said.

Paul Magnuson, one of the leaders at Calgary artist collective Big Art, will take over a downtown self-serve car wash for three days for a drive-in of the dead later this month.

Scare Wash is described as a trip to hell and back that begins when a wash attendee’s seemingly normal car rinse spirals into a nightmare.

Magnuson came up with the idea when it was clear plans for his usual neighbourhood spectacle wouldn’t be possible in the pandemic.

“Last year I turned my garage into a Dexter killer room where we did performances all night. In previous years I’ve had an interactive cemetery,” he said.

“I’m not going to let COVID take this holiday.”

Robby Lavoie felt a similar conviction for keeping Terror Train on track this year at the National Ontario Railroad Museum and Heritage Centre. The annual Halloween event draws thousands of people to Capreol, Ont., part of Greater Sudbury, and provides the museum with a healthy dose of revenue.

Lavoie said he drew inspiration from videos he saw of a Japanese zombie drive-in haunted house over the summer. He knew there was a way to tone down the gore and make the idea a bit more Canadian.

After speaking with museum organizers, Lavoie secured the board’s approval for “Inferno 6077,” an immersive drive-in horror experience inside the garage of the fire hall.

Pulling from his own knowledge of working in live theatre and movies, Lavoie began thinking on a grand scale. He hired a local writer who penned a story about townsfolk who seek revenge on an old man, and built rolling set pieces for the spectacle, which reaches its peak when the space is engulfed in flames, an illusion created with lights and projections.

“We’re putting you almost in an interactive movie, and it all came together within a month,” he said.

“I see myself doing this again next year, even if there isn’t COVID.”

Kathrine Petch understands the urge to keep Halloween on the calendar. As the general manager of Deadmonton Haunted House in Edmonton, she’s laid down strict COVID-19 precautions for their Area 51-themed haunt.

“The absolute, pure excitement of the customers is contagious to us,” she said.

“As long as we can pay the bills and have some money left over to make a different haunted house next year, I think we’ll be pretty happy.”

Petch said keeping Deadmonton open during the pandemic was important to everyone who runs the show.

“One of our biggest goals was to provide people with some kind of escape from all the crappiness that is 2020,” she said.

“And when they reach the end of our haunted house, at least they know the scares are done.”

Follow @dfriend on Twitter.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 20, 2020.

David Friend, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version misspelled Robby Lavoie’s given name.

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Elation as Nasa's Osiris-Rex probe tags asteroid Bennu in sample bid – BBC News

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Elation as Nasa’s Osiris-Rex probe tags asteroid Bennu in sample bid

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By Jonathan Amos
BBC Science Correspondent

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Published

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.css-1ecljvk-StyledFigureCopyrightposition:absolute;bottom:0;right:0;background:#3F3F42;color:#EEEEEE;padding:0.25rem 0.5rem;text-transform:uppercase;image copyrightNASA/Goddard/UoA

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.css-14iz86j-BoldTextfont-weight:bold;America’s Osiris-Rex spacecraft has completed its audacious tag-and-go manoeuvre designed to grab surface rock from an asteroid.

Radio signals from 330 million km away confirm the probe made contact with the 500m-wide object known as Bennu.

But .css-yidnqd-InlineLink:linkcolor:#3F3F42;.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visitedcolor:#696969;.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visitedfont-weight:bolder;border-bottom:1px solid #BABABA;-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link:hover,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited:hover,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link:focus,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited:focusborder-bottom-color:currentcolor;border-bottom-width:2px;color:#B80000;@supports (text-underline-offset:0.25em).css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visitedborder-bottom:none;-webkit-text-decoration:underline #BABABA;text-decoration:underline #BABABA;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-skip-ink:none;text-decoration-skip-ink:none;text-underline-offset:0.25em;.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link:hover,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited:hover,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link:focus,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited:focus-webkit-text-decoration-color:currentcolor;text-decoration-color:currentcolor;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:2px;text-decoration-thickness:2px;color:#B80000;the Nasa-led mission will have to wait on further data from Osiris-Rex before it’s known for sure that material was actually picked up.

The aim was to acquire at least 60g, perhaps even a kilo or more.

Because Bennu is a very primitive space object, scientists say its surface grit and dust could hold fascinating clues about the chemistry that brought the Sun and the planets into being more than 4.5 billion years ago.

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Elation in mission control

image copyrightLockheed Martin Space

“The team is exuberant; emotions are high; everyone is really proud,” said principal investigator Dante Lauretta from the University of Arizona, Tucson.

“This was the key milestone of this mission. Now it’s a few days to figure out how much of this amazing sample we got that we’ve been thinking about for decades,” added Thomas Zurbuchen, Nasa’s associate administrator for science.

Both men were following events from mission control at spacecraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin.

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Presentational white space

Assuming there is a suitable sample safely aboard, the probe will be able to package it for return to Earth, scheduled for 2023.

If not, the mission team will have to configure Osiris-Rex for another go.

The spacecraft made its sample bid in a narrow patch of northern terrain on Bennu dubbed Nightingale.

The probe descended slowly to the 8m-wide target zone over a period of four-and-a-half hours, squeezing past some imposing boulders on the way, including a two-storey-high block that had been dubbed Mount Doom.

Osiris-Rex used what some have described as a “reverse vacuum cleaner” to make its surface grab.

Bennu size comparison with Empire State Building

More properly called the Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism, or Tag-Sam, this device is a long boom with a ring-shaped collection chamber on the end.

The idea was to push the ring into the surface and at the same moment express a stream of nitrogen gas to kick up small fragments of rock.

Sensors on Osiris-Rex reported back to mission controllers that all the actions in the sampling sequence had been completed successfully, and that the spacecraft had backed away from Bennu as planned after a few seconds of contact.

But the science and engineering team will need time to assess what exactly might have been caught in the collection chamber.

One way to do this is to photograph the ring head. This will be done in the coming days.

But controllers will also command the spacecraft to spin itself around with the boom and Tag-Sam ring outstretched. Any extra mass on board will change the amount of torque required to turn the probe, compared with the amount needed to perform the same rotation exercise prior to sample acquisition.

This measurement technique will give a quantity precise to within a few 10s of grams.

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Tag-Sam

image copyrightLockheed Martin Space

Presentational white space

Osisris-Rex took pictures all the way through its descent but could not send any of these home at the time because its high-gain antenna was not pointed at Earth.

Once the probe has re-established this connection, the data can be downlinked.

“Those images are going to tell us an enormous amount of information about how the events of today went,” said Prof Lauretta. “For one thing they will tell us about the likelihood of sample collection, a kind of probabilistic assessment.”

Nasa promises to release some of these pictures on Wednesday.

Numerous scientists, including in the UK, are hoping to get the chance to analyse any materials brought back from Bennu – among them Sara Russell from London’s Natural History Museum.

Asteroids like Bennu formed in the very, very earliest times of the Solar System. They are basically the building blocks of the planets – a time capsule that will tell us how the Sun and the planets came into being and evolved. Bennu can really help us to drill down into how that process actually happens,” she told BBC News.

Bennu

image copyrightNASA/Goddard/UoA

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Coronavirus: Haunted houses still finding ways to scare around COVID-19 precautions – thepeakfm.com

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TORONTO — Psychotic clowns. Axe murderers. Bedrooms possessed by poltergeists.

Many of the frights greeting visitors of horror attractions this Halloween will be familiar, but the thrill-creators behind them say one terrifying experience is squarely off-limits: the terrors of COVID-19.

Before the pandemic shook our lives, haunted houses sometimes dipped into the fears of contagion, splashing themed rooms with signs of a viral outbreak, hazmat suits and contamination warnings.

Read more:
A coronavirus Halloween has some parents spooked. Here’s how to keep it safe

But with those experiences uncomfortably close to reality this year, horror masters like Shawn Lippert say reminding people of the virus is one line they’re not willing to cross.

“We use the analogy: Treat `COVID’ like the F-word in church,” said the owner of Scarehouse, an industrial-sized indoor haunted house in Windsor, Ont.

“It’s too real and so close to home. It’s almost like when you tell a joke and they say, `Too soon.”’

Lippert said that’s one of several rules he’s introduced at his haunt in order to keep people feeling safe and heath authorities satisfied. Ticketholders arrive at staggered times, and everyone is required to wear a mask.

Creepy objects that once brushed against visitors have been removed, and the giant airbags that evoke the feeling of claustrophobia have been stowed away to decrease the potential spread of germs.

Lippert describes those as small changes in a challenging year.

Many haunt operators were jittery about moving ahead with their usual Halloween festivities, considering health authorities could shut down the houses without much notice if the region experiences a surge in local cases. That would leave a brutal dent in their investments.

“If we can keep our doors open for the full run at this point, that would be a success for us,” Lippert said.

Several Toronto haunted houses decided the risk was too high. Casa Loma’s Legends of Horror and 28-year pillar Screemers at Exhibition Place were among the operators who decided to sit this year out, even before the city introduced tighter restrictions that would’ve closed them anyway.

Some organizers have used the pandemic to imagine ways to scare the living daylights out of people from a distance _ often from the safety of their own vehicles.

The Pickering Museum Village put a historic spin on its spooky experience with a drive-thru tour that urged visitors to creep their cars along a roadway checkered with old houses, as ghost stories played on their FM radios.

Others have gone online with virtual group parties for kids or, for those of legal drinking age, what’s being sold as Canada’s first Virtual Halloween Cocktail Crawl.

Mentalist Jaymes White decided to embrace the digital world this year for his annual Halloween seances. His new Zoom experience, called Evoke, invites a small circle of friends to channel a spirit through video chat. He admits the idea goes against the traditions of a seance, where people usually hold hands around a table, but he’s confident the spirits will still be ready to unsettle his guests.

“They don’t care that we have a pandemic,” he said.

Paul Magnuson, one of the leaders at Calgary artist collective Big Art, will take over a downtown self-serve car wash for three days for a drive-in of the dead later this month.

Scare Wash is described as a trip to hell and back that begins when a wash attendee’s seemingly normal car rinse spirals into a nightmare.

Magnuson came up with the idea when it was clear plans for his usual neighbourhood spectacle wouldn’t be possible in the pandemic.

“Last year I turned my garage into a Dexter killer room where we did performances all night. In previous years I’ve had an interactive cemetery,” he said.

“I’m not going to let COVID take this holiday.”

Robbie Lavoie felt a similar conviction for keeping Terror Train on track this year at the National Ontario Railroad Museum and Heritage Centre. The annual Halloween event draws thousands of people to Capreol, Ont., part of Greater Sudbury, and provides the museum with a healthy dose of revenue.

Lavoie said he drew inspiration from videos he saw of a Japanese zombie drive-in haunted house over the summer. He knew there was a way to tone down the gore and make the idea a bit more Canadian.

READ MORE: Halloween sales could be weak with COVID-19 casting doubts on trick-or-treating

After speaking with museum organizers, Lavoie secured the board’s approval for “Inferno 6077,” an immersive drive-in horror experience inside the garage of the fire hall.

Pulling from his own knowledge of working in live theatre and movies, Lavoie began thinking on a grand scale. He hired a local writer who penned a story about townsfolk who seek revenge on an old man, and built rolling set pieces for the spectacle, which reaches its peak when the space is engulfed in flames, an illusion created with lights and projections.

“We’re putting you almost in an interactive movie, and it all came together within a month,” he said.

“I see myself doing this again next year, even if there isn’t COVID.”

READ MORE: Dr. Bonnie Henry’s advice for trick-or-treating during pandemic

Kathrine Petch understands the urge to keep Halloween on the calendar. As the general manager of Deadmonton Haunted House in Edmonton, she’s laid down strict COVID-19 precautions for their Area 51-themed haunt.

“The absolute, pure excitement of the customers is contagious to us,” she said.

“As long as we can pay the bills and have some money left over to make a different haunted house next year, I think we’ll be pretty happy.”

Petch said keeping Deadmonton open during the pandemic was important to everyone who runs the show.

“One of our biggest goals was to provide people with some kind of escape from all the crappiness that is 2020,” she said.

“And when they reach the end of our haunted house, at least they know the scares are done.”

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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