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Jupiter and Saturn to align closest since Medieval times – Williams Lake Tribune – Williams Lake Tribune

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Should the sky be clear on the Monday, Dec. 21, solstice you may be able to view a spectacular sight when Jupiter and Saturn align the closest they have since Medieval time.

“Some people call it the ‘great conjunction’ because it’s the two biggest planets getting close together in the sky,” said Lynn Capling, a retired teacher and amateur astronomer in Williams Lake.

“It happens every 20 years but this particular conjunction is going to be .1 of a degree and with the naked eye it may almost look like one elongated star, but with binoculars you will see the two planets.”

Capling noted it will not be easy to see the conjunction because it will occur just after sunset.

It will be blocked by the hillsides and trees so it will be better to go south from Williams Lake on Highway 97 or west on Highway 20 where there is a better view of the sky in the southwest, she explained.

Read more: Earth’s wonders documented in Our Beautiful Resilient Planet

If people have been watching Jupiter and Saturn they will have noticed they are getting closer together through the fall, she added.

Using a small telescope, viewers will also be able to see Jupiter, its moons, and Saturn.

Any time from now until around Dec. 29 is worth looking up if there is a clear sky, she said.

Capling’s love of astronomy started as a child growing up in Chilliwack when she and her siblings would sleep outside to watch the sky go past — spying meteors and the odd satellite.

As a high school science teacher for almost 20 years in Williams Lake, she became more interested in astronomy and purchased some telescopes so she could show the students the stars and planets.

A favourite event for her students was a sleep-out on the roof of the Lake City Secondary Williams Lake campus she organized.

On Dec. 21 she hopes to venture out toward Highway 20 herself to view the conjunction in an area where there are not too many man-made lights.

“I may go out in the afternoon if it is clear to get a sense of how far I will need to go to see the planets,” she said.

Lynn lost her husband and astronomy partner, Stephen Capling, earlier this year.

The couple were together for 43 years and enjoyed exploring the skies as a favourite activity.

Read more: Star struck astronomers



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100-million-year old beetle fossil sheds light on family of ancient bugs – CNET

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A close-up view of the well-preserved Cretophengodes azari, a fossil light-producing beetle encased in amber.


Chenyang Cai

A beetle trapped in amber for over 100 million years is offering scientists clues to why the bioluminescent insects may have glowed way back during the Cretaceous period, about 145 to 66 million years ago. 

In a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, scientists reveal that a Cretophengodes beetle found “preserved with life-like fidelity in amber” has a direct connection to its firefly cousins. 

It’s been a bit of a mystery to scientists why ancient beetles could glow. But based on their distant relatives like fireflies, scientists believe the function could likely have been used as a defense against predators, as well as a way to attract mates — much like the modern-day beetle larvae in the same family have used light.

“The discovery of a new extinct Elateroid beetle family is significant,” study co-author Erik Tihelka from the School of Earth Sciences said in a statement, “because it helps shed light on the evolution of these fascinating beetles.” 

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Here’s an artistic reconstruction of a Cretophengodes azari male and female in the undergrowth of a Cretaceous rainforest.


Dinghua Yang

Because this particular beetle fossil was well-preserved in amber, scientists were able to see the light organ on the abdomen of the male beetle. That provides proof adult Cretophengodes were able to produce light, some 100 million years ago.

The majority of light-producing beetles belong to the Elateroidea family, which has over 24,000 known species. The discovery of this beetle provides the missing fossil link between living families, and in doing so helps scientists understand how these beetles evolved and how they should be classified.

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With the recent launch of Starlink, SpaceX set a record for rapid reuse – Sunday Vision

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Zoom in / Falcon 9, Booster 1051, broke the sound barrier on December 13, 2020. It was back again for its eighth launch a little over a month later.

SpaceX continues to make strides as it pushes the boundaries of reusing the Falcon 9 first stage rocket.

On Wednesday morning, the company plans to launch the next batch of 60 Starlink satellites, and reuse the booster number 1051. This will in fact be the eighth flight of this Falcon 9 rocket – setting a new record for the number of uses for any single rocket core. SpaceX expects to reach 10 uses of at least one stage of the Falcon 9 later this year.

The next launch attempt is also noteworthy as it would mark a rapid turnaround for this first phase. The missile last flew on December 13, launching the Sirius XM-7 mission in geostationary transport orbit. This 38-day period will significantly eclipse the previous Falcon 9 Phase 1 transformation margin, which is 51 days. This indicates that the company’s engineers and technicians are continuing to learn best practices for recovering and refurbishing the missiles.

The Starlink mission is scheduled to launch at 8:02 AM EST (13:02 UTC) on Wednesday from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Its launch was originally delayed by 24 hours from Monday due to unfavorable weather conditions in the offshore recovery area, where Just read the instructions Will wait for the return of the first stage. Then the important company delayed an additional day, say More time was needed for “pre-launch inspections”. It is not clear if this refers to the missile or the payload.

This will be the sixteenth launch of “operational” Starlink satellites, in addition to an earlier launch of experimental satellites. This mission is already the largest satellite operator in the world, and will bring the total number of Starlink satellites launched by SpaceX to over 1,000. Some of these satellites are no longer operational, are in the process of exiting orbit, or have already done so.

In starting to build this constellation, SpaceX owns it Introducing a public beta To define the regions of North America and is expected to offer broader coverage later this year. First impressions It was generally positive.

At the same time, SpaceX is also working to address the concerns of scientists who are concerned that large constellations of satellites transmitting the Internet from space will distort the night sky and damage astronomical observations. Last year, the company started adding “masks” to reduce the reflection of its satellites. However, Recent analysis From these “DarkSats” they indicate that more effort may be required.

Weather conditions for launch on Wednesday appear favorable for the mission, both at the launch site and in the recovery area. SpaceX should start live 15 minutes before take off.

[embedded content]

Starlink launched.

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All-purpose dinosaur opening reconstructed – Science Daily

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For the first time ever, a team of scientists, led by the University of Bristol, have described in detail a dinosaur’s cloacal or vent — the all-purpose opening used for defecation, urination and breeding.

Although most mammals may have different openings for these functions, most vertebrate animals possess a cloaca.

Although we know now much about dinosaurs and their appearance as feathered, scaly and horned creatures and even which colours they sported, we have not known anything about how the vent appears.

Dr Jakob Vinther from the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences, along with colleagues Robert Nicholls, a palaeoartist, and Dr Diane Kelly, an expert on vertebrate penises and copulatory systems from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, have now described the first cloacal vent region from a small Labrador-sized dinosaur called Psittacosaurus, comparing it to vents across modern vertebrate animals living on land.

Dr Vinther said: “I noticed the cloaca several years ago after we had reconstructed the colour patterns of this dinosaur using a remarkable fossil on display at the Senckenberg Museum in Germany which clearly preserves its skin and colour patterns.

“It took a long while before we got around to finish it off because no one has ever cared about comparing the exterior of cloacal openings of living animals, so it was largely unchartered territory.”

Dr Kelly added: “Indeed, they are pretty non-descript. We found the vent does look different in many different groups of tetrapods, but in most cases it doesn’t tell you much about an animal’s sex.

“Those distinguishing features are tucked inside the cloaca, and unfortunately, they’re not preserved in this fossil.”

The cloaca is unique in its appearance but exhibits features reminiscent to living crocodylians such as alligators and crocodiles, which are the closest living relatives to dinosaurs and other birds.

The researchers note that the outer margins of the cloaca are highly pigmented with melanin. They argue that this pigmentation provided the vent with a function in display and signalling, similar to living baboons and some breeding salamanders.

The authors also speculate that the large, pigmented lobes on either side of the opening could have harboured musky scent glands, as seen in living crocodylians.

Birds are one the few vertebrate groups that occasionally exhibit visual signalling with the cloaca, which the scientists now can extend back to the Mesozoic dinosaur ancestors.

Robert Nicholls said: “As a palaeoartist, it has been absolutely amazing to have an opportunity to reconstruct one of the last remaining features we didn’t know anything about in dinosaurs.

“Knowing that at least some dinosaurs were signalling to each other gives palaeoartists exciting freedom to speculate on a whole variety of now plausible interactions during dinosaur courtship. It is a game changer!”

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Materials provided by University of Bristol. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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