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Japan awaits capsule's return with asteroid soil samples – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Mari Yamaguchi, The Associated Press


Published Saturday, December 5, 2020 6:44AM EST

TOKYO – Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft successfully released a small capsule on Saturday and sent it toward Earth to deliver samples from a distant asteroid that could provide clues to the origin of the solar system and life on our planet, the country’s space agency said.

The capsule successfully detached from 220,000 kilometres (136,700 miles) away in a challenging operation that required precision control, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said. The capsule – just 40 centimetres (15 inches) in diameter – is now descending and is expected to land Sunday in a remote, sparsely populated area of Woomera, Australia.

“The capsule has been separated. Congratulations,” JAXA project manager Yuichi Tsuda said.

Hayabusa2 left the asteroid Ryugu, about 300 million kilometres (180 million miles) away, a year ago. After it released the capsule, it moved away from Earth to capture images of the capsule descending toward the planet as it set off on a new expedition to another distant asteroid.

About two hours later, JAXA said it had successfully rerouted Hayabusa2 for its new mission, as beaming staff exchanged fist and elbow touches at the agency’s command centre in Sagamihara, near Tokyo.

“We’ve successfully come this far, and when we fulfil our final mission to recover the capsule, it will be perfect,” mission manager Makoto Yoshikawa said from the command centre during a livestreaming event.

Hayabusa2 fans who gathered to watch the capsule’s separation at public viewing events across Japan cheered the success. ”I’m really glad that the capsule has been successfully released. My heart was beating fast when I was watching,“ said Ichiro Ryoko, a 60-year-old computer engineer who watched at Tokyo Dome.

Hayabusa2’s return with the world’s first asteroid subsurface samples comes weeks after NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft made a successful touch-and-go grab of surface samples from asteroid Bennu. China, meanwhile, announced this week that its lunar lander collected underground samples and sealed them within the spacecraft for their return to Earth, as space developing nations compete in their missions.

In the early hours of Sunday, the capsule, protected by a heat shield, will briefly turn into a fireball as it reenters the atmosphere 120 kilometres (75 miles) above Earth. At about 10 kilometres (6 miles) aboveground, a parachute will open to slow its fall and beacon signals will be transmitted to indicate its location.

JAXA staff have set up satellite dishes at several locations in the target area to receive the signals. They also will use a marine radar, drones and helicopters to assist in the search and retrieval of the pan-shaped capsule.

Australian National University space rock expert Trevor Ireland, who is in Woomera for the arrival of the capsule, said he expected the Ryugu samples to be similar to the meteorite that fell in Australia near Murchison in Victoria state more than 50 years ago.

“The Murchison meteorite opened a window on the origin of organics on Earth because these rocks were found to contain simple amino acids as well as abundant water,” Ireland said. “We will examine whether Ryugu is a potential source of organic matter and water on Earth when the solar system was forming, and whether these still remain intact on the asteroid.”

Scientists say they believe the samples, especially ones taken from under the asteroid’s surface, contain valuable data unaffected by space radiation and other environmental factors. They are particularly interested in analyzing organic materials in the samples.

JAXA hopes to find clues to how the materials are distributed in the solar system and are related to life on Earth. Yoshikawa, the mission manager, said 0.1 gram of the dust would be enough to carry out all planned researches.

For Hayabusa2, it’s not the end of the mission it started in 2014. It is now heading to a small asteroid called 1998KY26 on a journey slated to take 10 years one way, for possible research including finding ways to prevent meteorites from hitting Earth.

So far, its mission has been fully successful. It touched down twice on Ryugu despite the asteroid’s extremely rocky surface, and successfully collected data and samples during the 1 1/2 years it spent near Ryugu after arriving there in June 2018.

In its first touchdown in February 2019, it collected surface dust samples. In a more challenging mission in July that year, it collected underground samples from the asteroid for the first time in space history after landing in a crater that it created earlier by blasting the asteroid’s surface.

Asteroids, which orbit the sun but are much smaller than planets, are among the oldest objects in the solar system and therefore may help explain how Earth evolved.

Ryugu in Japanese means “Dragon Palace,” the name of a sea-bottom castle in a Japanese folk tale.

Associated Press writers Dennis Passa in Brisbane, Australia, and Chisato Tanaka in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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Home-based Heart Monitoring Now Available to All Canadians Through Icentia Canadian company drives at-home cardiac monitoring nationwide during pandemic – Financial Post

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QUEBEC CITY, Jan. 19, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Icentia Inc., a leading Canadian technology company—specialised in cardiac ambulatory monitoring—will be providing a new home-based service nationwide that will enable patients with heart rhythm disorders to have access to an ambulatory cardiac test from the safety of their homes while the pandemic surges on.

Icentia enables at-home tests through its CardioSTAT® device, a Canadian designed and manufactured, proven alternative to traditional Holter monitor tests. Since its introduction in 2015, the CardioSTAT test has become the tool of choice for hundreds of physicians across Canada and the United Kingdom for the detection of heart rhythm disorders. This inventive and life-saving solution is now being implemented nationally for at-home tests in much needed times.

As the pandemic rages on, wait times in the Canadian healthcare system are becoming a serious issue. Backlogs for all procedures, including ECG monitoring, continue to grow. Social distancing and contamination risk requirements have increased the burden on hospitals and clinics, bolstering the demand for home-based tests. “The pandemic is forcing our healthcare system to evolve and adapt. This smart and accurate cardiac monitoring technology is what Canadians need right now to stay safe and keep healthy,” explains Dr. Marko Mrkobrada, Internist, London Health Sciences Centre, London, ON.

This new home-based solution, where no visit to health care facility for hook up or device return is required, promises to lighten the load on medical staff while also increasing safety for all. “We are glad to relieve some of the pressure on our healthcare system and to contribute to more safety through our home-based, patient-initiated tests. CardioSTAT test, which has proven to be easy to use, reliable and safe over the past years, makes even more sense in today’s context,” says Icentia CEO Pierre Paquet.

About CardioSTAT

The CardioSTAT test relies on a unique single-use electrocardiography monitoring device designed to be comfortably worn on the upper chest for up to 14 days. It has the potential to reduce lead times to diagnosis, while providing the patient with a greatly improved experience. Quick and easy to install, it avoids the inconvenience and discomfort caused by multiple skin adhesive electrodes wired to Holter monitors. The result is a highly efficient, yet comfortable and very discrete, wire-free cardiac monitor that does not restrict patients from showering or doing physical activity. Upon complete analysis of the recording by Icentia, results are reviewed by a certified cardiologist before being reported to the patient’s prescribing doctor. For more information, visit cardiostat.com.

About Icentia

Based in Canada, Icentia is a combined medical device and service company. Icentia pioneers innovative solutions for healthcare institutions in the field of medical testing. Icentia aims to help healthcare institutions in becoming more efficient while providing patients with the ease, comfort, peace of mind and safety of reliable at-home medical monitoring through technological advances. For more information, visit icentia.com.

Icentia Inc. 1 800 431 9148 info@icentia.com 

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Why a faster spinning Earth is expected to make 2021 the shortest year on record – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Scientists say 2021 is expected to be a shorter year than normal with the Earth spinning at a faster rate than it has in the last 50 years.

York University astronomy and physics professor Paul Delaney explained to CTV’s Your Morning that as the Earth’s rotation speeds up, the shift means that time is slowing on the planet’s surface, making each day a “fraction of a second” shorter than 24 hours.

He said in an interview on Tuesday that this phenomenon is likely being caused by climate change.

“There is such [sic] a lot of ice that is becoming liquid and is flowing into the oceans, as a consequence of that you’re changing the way the mass on the surface of the Earth is situated. Instead of a really heavy mass around the pole, you’re melting it and [spreading] it all around the planet, and that is changing the way we are rotating on our axis,” Delaney said.

“When you bring the amount of material, the amount of mass, closer to our rotation axis that actually spins up our rotation rate a little bit faster.”

Delaney compared this shift in the Earth’s mass to that of figure skaters pulling their arms in closer to their body in order to spin faster.

However, he says this change does not mean the timing of one’s day-to-day activities will change.

“We’re talking about a fraction of a second here. People shouldn’t think they’re about to get an hour’s extra sleep as a result of this, but it really is associated with the melting of the polar ice caps,” he said.

While the planet’s rotational speed often drifts around slightly, Delaney said the melting of the ice caps with climate change can alter the global time frame as well as the marking of days.

Due to this increase in rotation speed, scientists report that the average day in 2021 is expected to be 0.05 milliseconds shorter than the 86,400 seconds that normally make up the 24-hour period.

Delaney says adding an extra second to clocks in what is called a leap second can help with this.

“The fraction of a second per day is not going to make much of a difference to you and me, but things like leap seconds have been introduced over the last sort of 40 to 50 years to compensate for this change in the Earth’s rotation rate compared to what we call our fixed frame,” Delaney said.

Delaney explained that leap seconds are irregular, with one second added to the last minute of a given calendar year. Since 1972, scientists have added leap seconds about every year-and-a-half, on average, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

But with the Earth rotating faster over recent years, the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS) says no leap seconds have been necessary since 2016.

IERS announced in July that no leap second would be added to the world’s official timekeeping in December 2020. However, a second may actually have to be subtracted in the future in what is known as a negative leap second, which would be a first for the IERS.

While the change in time may not affect every day activities, Delaney says atomic clocks used in GPS satellites do not consider the planet’s evolving motion, which can cause potentially confusing implications for smartphones, computers, and communications systems that synchronize with Network Time Protocol (NTP) servers.

“Most computer systems are expecting 60 seconds in a minute and when you get 61 seconds in a minute, then you can cause computer crashes, so it’s a little bit like having Y2K thrown around in a way that you just don’t expect,” Delaney said.

Because leap seconds are irregular, he says there may be only a “few weeks or a few months notice” that time will be added or subtracted. This can lead to computer glitches and crashes, which Delaney said is a “big problem in our very computerized society.”

Delaney added that this can also be a problem for stock markets. For example, he noted that the New York Stock Exchange went down for over an hour on June 30, 2015 because of a leap second.

“If you’re the person who is on the selling floor trying to transact millions if not billions of dollars, and the stock market disappears on you, you’re not going to be a very happy camper. So there is financial issues that are driving this whole question of leap seconds, and that brings into sharper focus the changing of the day,” Delaney said.

So, what can be done to help adjust the Earth’s rotation? Delaney said there isn’t much people can do.

“The Earth is doing what it wants to do. As we move around the sun, as we rotate on our axis, the rate at which we are rotating is completely independent of what you and I are wanting to do,” he said.

With ice caps melting as a result of climate change, Delaney said the “easy answer” would be to stop the global warming of the planet.

“Let’s keep the ice where it should be so that the rate of rotation is retained in the way that we’re expecting it to be,” he said.

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Satellite breakthroughs will change internet delivery – Troy Media

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Elon Musk’s Starlink low Earth orbit (LEO) network has been awarded US$885 million over 10 years to build out rural internet access in the U.S.

This was the fourth largest amount awarded under the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF). Testing of preliminary Starlink service recently began. This is a billion-dollar (almost) vote of confidence in a service that is at the preliminary consumer testing stage.

For rural and remote Canadians, does this mean that competitively-priced high-speed broadband access will finally be available anywhere?

For others, new technologies will compete against today’s cable Telco, and independent internet service providers.

But the new LEO services are still a year, two years or more away from full-scale commercial operation, depending on who you ask in the satellite industry.

When Musk first announced his plan several years ago, he said he was targeting 30 per cent of the global broadband access market by 2030s. How? And what makes LEO satellites different from the GEO (geostationary) satellites that have been in service since the 1960s? What makes them different from existing LEO networks like Iridium and Globalstar?

With thousands of satellites, the unit cost is projected to drop because they’re produced by normal industrial processes, whereas geostationary satellites are built one by one, making them comparatively expensive. The LEO satellites only have to be launched a few hundred kilometres above the earth so launch costs are much lower than for a GEO satellite that has to travel 35,000 km to geostationary orbit.

LEO satellites have much lower latency than GEOs because they’re so much closer to Earth. Latency refers to how much time it takes for a signal to travel to its destination. LEO satellites are projected to have latency as low as terrestrial fibre networks and even lower in some situations. GEOs take over 600 milliseconds to make the trip from Earth to the satellite and back.

The new LEO networks are broadband, providing much more capacity (higher speeds) than the earlier-generation Iridium narrow band capability that has delivered satellite phone service and short data messages since the 1990s.

Amazon’s Kuiper program and Starlink are getting most of the press but they’re not the only entrants in the broadband LEO market. O3B (meaning the other three billion people who didn’t have good internet access) has been operating for several years in mid-Earth orbit (MEO), a little higher up than LEO. It turns out that it has been successful in higher-priced niche applications like communications to super yachts than its name implied was its original target. Nevertheless, O3B is operating successfully.

The new entrants have added satellite-to-satellite communications, which should greatly reduce costs by reducing the need for ground stations and double hops. An email going from Canada to China can go up to one satellite and then transfer to other satellites in orbit to arrive at its destination.

OneWeb has also been launching LEO satellites and building ground stations. Recently it went into bankruptcy, and was reorganized and refinanced with the help of the United Kingdom government, as well as private sector participants. Now, OneWeb is building and launching satellites again.

Telesat Canada, founded with federal government participation in 1969, was long described as Canada’s domestic satellite communications carrier. By combining operations with Loral in 2006, it became one of the big four global GEO satellite companies. Telesat also has a major LEO system on the drawing boards and has launched several demonstration satellites. Canada’s federal government has invested heavily in this venture with cash and commitments to purchase service in the future.

There are four or five entrants (if you want to include O3B) chasing the same market with highly capital-intensive technology. Are there too many players for the size of the market? Has the glamour and romance of space attracted too many players? Will there be more big bankruptcies like those in the narrow-band LEO sector in the early 1990s?

To remain viable, Iridium had to be reorganized with virtually the whole of the original investment written off and still required a major commitment from the U.S. Department of Defense for future service. OneWeb’s reorganization is an indication of the risk even though it emerged successfully.

Mergers aren’t really a practical solution if it turns out that there are too many participants. They can’t merge the networks because the technology of each company is incompatible with the others.

With the exception of O3B, we have yet to see pricing for commercial enterprise and residential services.

Although there are still some unanswered questions, these are exciting times in the satellite industry. The emerging LEO systems will be disruptive, shaking up both the traditional satellite industry and challenging terrestrial fibre-optic communications. It could put an end to the digital divide.

Roland Renner is a senior fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. A former employee of Bell and Telesat, he assists companies competing with Telco, cable, and satellite incumbents, including Hunter Communications, owner of a GEO satellite beam with high-power northern Canadian service capability.

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The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

Roland Renner

Roland Renner

A former employee of Bell and Telesat, Roland Renner assists companies competing with Telco, cable, and satellite incumbents, including Hunter Communications, owner of a GEO satellite beam with high-power northern Canadian service capability.

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