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Last SpaceX launch of the year will boost a spy satellite Friday – CNET

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SpaceX in 2020 sent astronauts to orbit for the first time and saw the explosive debut of its latest Starship prototype. But it still has one more launch planned to wrap up 2020.

A Falcon 9 rocket is set to send a new spy satellite to space for the US National Reconnaissance Office Friday morning from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The launch was initially set to take place Thursday morning, but was pushed back a day after some irregular pressure readings triggered an auto-abort.

The classified national security mission is designated NROL-108 and will be the sixth launch of 2020 for the NRO.

Like most other NRO launches, this one has a somewhat cryptic poster and slogan, in the form of a cartoon gorilla beating its chest and the phrase “peace through strength.”

“Gorillas are peaceful animals but can be fierce when necessary,” the NRO explained on Twitter. “Like the gorilla, our #NROL108 mission is constantly vigilant and ready to defend its own.”

A recent NRO mission, launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on Nov. 13, featured a mysterious Lord of the Rings theme, including some elvish script.

“I think we just have some Lord of the Rings fans,” an NRO spokesperson later told me via email.

Weather forecasts look favorable for Friday’s mission to blast off during its three-hour launch window between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. PT (9 a.m. to noon ET). The first-stage booster of the Falcon 9 will attempt to make a landing ashore at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

SpaceX will livestream the launch and you can watch it above.

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Why can some people 'hear' the voices of the dead? Scientists have an answer – Yahoo Canada Sports

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CBC

Alberta selects Laura Walker, Brendan Bottcher for Scotties, Brier

The waiting is over in the wild rose province. Curling Alberta has made its decision on what teams will represent the province at this year’s Scotties and Brier in the Calgary bubble. Laura Walker, last year’s provincial champion, has accepted the invitation to play at this year’s Scotties. “We were excited to get the call. We wanted to wear the blue and gold and we take so much pride in representing our province,” Walker told CBC Sports. “We know there are many deserving teams in Alberta and we don’t take this honour lightly.” Walker made her Scotties debut in Moose Jaw, Sask., last year and finished with a 3-4 record. On the men’s side, Brendan Bottcher will once again be going to the Brier. Bottcher is last year’s provincial champion. He has played in the last three Brier championship games, losing twice to Brad Gushue, and two years ago to fellow Albertan Kevin Koe. It’s Bottcher’s fifth appearance at the Brier. The decision was made Sunday afternoon by the Curling Alberta board members. Massive repercussions This was a much anticipated decision as it will have massive repercussions on what other teams will attend the national championships. Curling Canada has announced a one-time expanded field for the Scotties and Brier, citing these extraordinary times in the midst of a pandemic as the reason for increasing the field to 18 teams. Normally, there are 16 teams competing at the event. However, Curling Canada has said there will be no wild-card game as it’s unfair to have teams travel all that way and make plans to only play one game. The governing body for the sport wants the best teams in the country at the event. So the first two spots will be determined by the CRTS rankings — the two teams that would normally compete in the wild-card game. The third and final team will be determined through a number of criteria. Kevin Koe, who brought in John Morris to join the team in place of Colton Flasch during the off-season, is ranked sixth. He’ll be at the event. “While we don’t agree with the decision made we are excited to have the opportunity to compete in the Calgary bubble,” Koe told CBC Sports. “Regardless of the uniform we are wearing we are a very motivated team and excited to compete for another Canadian championship and represent all our sponsors and fans.” Mike McEwen’s Manitoba rink is ranked fifth and is also a lock for the event. The last spot would then most likely go to Glenn Howard out of Ontario, as his team is currently ranked ninth. WATCH | Heroux, Jones break down Calgary culring bubble: Women’s side more complicated The women’s side is a tad more complicated. With Walker being named as Alberta representative, that means Tracy Fleury’s Manitoba rink is locked in for one of the spots with her No. 2 ranking. The next team without a Scotties spot is Chelea Carey. Her team disbanded during the off-season — Carey is a free agent. Then it’s Kelsey Rocque’s Alberta rink at No. 5. The issue for Rocque is that she changed two of four players during the off-season — and Curling Canada rules explicitly state three of four members need to return to be eligible. That eliminates the Rocque rink from the two CRTS spots — however, the team might be considered for the third spot. There is a potential situation brewing that could include last year’s world junior champion Mackenzie Zacharias. Her Manitoba rink is ranked 11th. This all comes in the wake of a number of jurisdictions cancelling their playdowns. To date, eight jurisdictions across Canada have now cancelled their playdowns — they include: B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Northern Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. The final spots are expected to be filled over the next couple of weeks. Women Canada — Kerri Einarson. B.C. — Corryn Brown. Alberta — Laura Walker Saskatchewan — Sherry Anderson. Manitoba — Jennifer Jones. Ontario — Rachel Homan. Northern Ontario — Krysta Burns. Quebec — Laurie St-Georges. Nova Scotia — Jill Brothers. Nunavut — Lori Eddy. Men Canada — Brad Gushue. B.C. — Steve Laycock. Alberta — Brendan Bottcher Saskatchewan — Matt Dunstone. Manitoba — Jason Gunnlaugson. Ontario — John Epping. Northern Ontario — Brad Jacobs. Quebec — Michael Fournier. Yukon — Dustin Mikkelsen. Nunavut — Peter Mackey. There are six major curling events planned for the Calgary curling bubble starting with the Scotties on Feb. 19. That will then lead into the men’s national championship beginning of March. 5. Following these two events, the mixed doubles championship will take place all leading to the men’s world curling championship, set to begin in early April. The final two events held inside the bubble include two Grand Slam of Curling bonspiels.

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VIDEO: Why Nova Scotia health officials are testing for COVID-19 in a community that's largely been spared from the virus – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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Over the weekend of Jan. 16-17, people in the Bridgewater, N.S. area were offered rapid COVID-19 testing for the first time since the province introduced the process last fall.

In the video above, Dr. John Ross speaks to SaltWire’s Sheldon MacLeod about why Nova Scotia health officials are looking for the virus in a community that has been mostly free of infections, even during the height of the outbreaks in the province.

This weekend, people in the Bridgewater area were offered Rapid COVID-19 testing for the first time since the province introduced the process last fall. Dr. John Ross explains why are they looking for the virus in a community that has been mostly free of infections, even during the height of the outbreaks in Nova Scotia. - Sheldon MacLeod
This weekend, people in the Bridgewater area were offered Rapid COVID-19 testing for the first time since the province introduced the process last fall. Dr. John Ross explains why are they looking for the virus in a community that has been mostly free of infections, even during the height of the outbreaks in Nova Scotia. – Sheldon MacLeod
- Sheldon MacLeod
– Sheldon MacLeod
- Sheldon MacLeod
– Sheldon MacLeod

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A 'super-puff' planet like no other – Nanowerk

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Jan 18, 2021 (Nanowerk News) The core mass of the giant exoplanet WASP-107b is much lower than what was thought necessary to build up the immense gas envelope surrounding giant planets like Jupiter and Saturn, according to a Canadian-led team of astronomers, including McGill University Professor Eve Lee. This intriguing discovery by Caroline Piaulet of the Université de Montréal under the supervision of Björn Benneke suggests that gas-giant planets form a lot more easily than previously believed. Published in Astronomical Journal (“WASP-107b’s Density Is Even Lower: A Case Study for the Physics of Planetary Gas Envelope Accretion and Orbital Migration”) by a team of astronomers from Canada, the U.S., Germany and Japan, the new analysis of WASP-107b’s internal structure has big implications. “This study pushes the boundaries of our theoretical understanding of how giant-sized planets form. WASP-107b is one of the puffiest planets out there, and we need a creative solution to explain how these tiny cores can build such massive gas envelopes,” says co-author Eve Lee, Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics at McGill University and McGill Space Institute.

As big as Jupiter but 10 times lighter

WASP-107b was first detected in 2017 around WASP-107, a star about 212 light years from Earth in the Virgo constellation. The planet is very close to its star — over 16 times closer than the Earth is to the Sun. About as big as Jupiter but 10 times lighter, WASP-107b is one of the least dense exoplanets known: a type astrophysicists have dubbed “super-puffs” or “cotton-candy” planets. The astronomers first used observations of WASP-107 obtained at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii to assess the planet’s mass more accurately. They used the radial velocity method, which allows scientists to determine a planet’s mass by observing the wobbling motion of its host star due to the planet’s gravitational pull. They concluded that the mass of WASP-107b is about one tenth that of Jupiter, or about 30 times that of Earth. In analyzing the planet’s most likely internal structure, they came to a surprising conclusion: with such a low density, the planet must have a solid core of no more than four times the mass of the Earth. This means that more than 85 percent of its mass is included in the thick layer of gas that surrounds this core. In comparison, Neptune, which has a similar mass to WASP-107b, only has 5 to 15 percent of its total mass in its gas layer.

A gas giant in the making

Planets form in the disc of dust and gas that surrounds a young star called a protoplanetary disc. Classical models of gas-giant planet formation are based on Jupiter and Saturn. In these, a solid core at least 10 times more massive than the Earth is needed to accumulate a large amount of gas before the disc dissipates. Without a massive core, gas-giant planets were not thought able to cross the critical threshold necessary to build up and retain their large gas envelopes. How then do we explain the existence of WASP-107b, which has a much less massive core? Professor Lee, who is a world-renowned expert on super-puff planets like WASP-107b, has several hypotheses. “For WASP-107b, the most plausible scenario is that the planet formed far away from the star, where the gas in the disc is cold enough that gas accretion can occur very quickly,” she said. “The planet was later able to migrate to its current position, either through interactions with the disc or with other planets in the system,” she says.

Discovery of a second planet

The Keck observations of the WASP-107 system cover a much longer period of time than previous studies have, allowing the research team to make an additional discovery: the existence of a second planet, WASP-107c, with a mass of about one-third that of Jupiter, considerably more than WASP-107b’s. WASP-107c is also much farther from the central star; it takes three years to complete one orbit around it, compared to only 5.7 days for WASP-107b. Also interesting: the eccentricity of this second planet is high, meaning its trajectory around its star is more oval than circular. “WASP-107c has in some respects kept the memory of what happened in its system,” said Piaulet. “Its great eccentricity hints at a rather chaotic past, with interactions between the planets which could have led to significant displacements, like the one suspected for WASP-107b.” The researchers plan to continue studying WASP-107b, hopefully with the James Webb Space Telescope set to launch in 2021, which will provide a much more precise idea of the composition of the planet’s atmosphere.

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