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Mars set for close approach to Earth Tuesday, and you can see the show

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Mars will bright and beautiful in the October 2020 night sky.

 


NASA

Forget Halloween. This October is all about the glory of Mars, as the glimmering red planet puts on a show in the night sky. You can enjoy Mars as a bright point of light all month long, but there are two special dates to mark on your calendar: Oct. 6 when the planet makes a close approach to Earth, and Oct. 13, when it will be in opposition.

Spotting Mars

Mars has a reputation as the “red” planet, but its color in the night sky is a little more on the Halloween side of the spectrum. It appears as a bright orange-red dot to the naked eye, like a little spot of glittering rust.

Mars’ distinctive color is one clue you’ve found it in the dark. Look to the eastern sky to catch it rising at night. This is a great time for viewing the planet, partly because spotting it is so simple. It should be visible for most of the night. As NASA says, “Simply go outside and look up and, depending on your local weather and lighting conditions, you should be able to see Mars.”

Check out our list of stargazing apps if you want some extra help with locating the planet.

Close approach: Oct. 6

Tuesday, Oct. 6 marks the close approach of Mars to Earth. This would be a great time to grab a telescope and get a little better look. Give a wave to NASA’s Perseverance rover while you’re at it. The vehicle is on track to reach the planet in February 2021.

NASA shared an artist’s view of of the Tuesday, Oct. 6 close approach compared with the last time it snuggled up in July 2018. The apparent sizes look very similar. This year, Mars will have a minimum distance of 38.6 million miles (62 million kilometers), which is about 3 million miles farther away than in 2018.

This artist’s view shows the apparent sizes of Mars during close approaches in 2018 and 2020.

 


NASA

Opposition: Oct. 13

When Mars and the sun line up with Earth in the middle, the red planet is said to be in opposition. This is a perfect time to track Mars’ movement across the sky. It will rise in the east as the sun goes down, move across the sky and then set in the west as the sun comes up.

NASA describes opposition as “effectively a ‘full’ Mars.” Tuesday, Oct. 13 is the time to enjoy opposition. You’ll have to wait over two years for it to happen again.

“The racetrack model of planetary orbits explains why. Earth and Mars are like runners on a track. Earth is on the inside, Mars is on the outside,” NASA said in its What’s Up blog for October. “Every 26 months, speedy Earth catches up to slower Mars and laps it. Opposition occurs just as Earth takes the lead.”

Mars isn’t the only show-off in the sky for October. You can also look forward to a rare Halloween blue moon when our lunar neighbor is full on Oct. 31. It’s not spooky; it’s boo-tiful.

Source: – CNET

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Winchcombe meteorite is first UK find in 30 years – BBC News

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NHM

Several rocky fragments have been recovered from the fireball that lit up the sky above southern England just over a week ago.

They came down in the Winchcombe area of Gloucestershire.

A householder first alerted experts after noticing a pile of charred stone on his driveway. Other members of the public have since come forward with their own finds.

It’s 30 years since meteorite material was last retrieved in the UK.

Researchers are particularly thrilled because of the rarity of the rock type.

It’s carbonaceous chondrite – a stony material that retains unaltered chemistry from the formation of our Solar System 4.6 billion years ago.

Dr Ashley King from London’s Natural History Museum (NHM) said nothing like it had ever been recorded in the UK before.

“Carbonaceous chondrites are particularly special because they are essentially the left-over building blocks of our Solar System.

“Many contain simple organics and amino acids; some of them contain minerals formed by water – so, all the ingredients are there for understanding how you make a habitable planet such as the Earth,” he told BBC News.

Driveway pile

Anonymous

Thousands of people reported seeing a blazing light rush across the sky at 21:54 GMT on Sunday 28 February. But, crucially, the event was also captured on the array of special cameras operated by the UK Fireball Alliance (UKFAll).

Their information was able to pinpoint the likely area of debris fall.

“Somewhere north of Cheltenham, over towards Stow-On-The-Wold”, was the prediction. This would still have been “a needle in a haystack” quest, but researchers were in luck.

Some of the meteorite had smashed down on to a Winchcombe resident’s front drive.

Dr Richard Greenwood was despatched to see the Winchcombe resident, who wishes to be anonymous.

“I looked in this plastic bag he’d been told to put it in, and my legs went wobbly. It was unbelievable. This is a very special meteorite,” the Open University researcher recalled.

A search team was immediately sent out to comb the local area for more fragments. And, in the meantime, other property owners started notifying scientists of their discoveries, too.

All told, there must be 300-400g of material, most of it now lodged with the NHM.

The pieces are small – marble-sized. Prof Monica Grady, also from the OU, describes them as looking like “a broken barbecue briquette. It is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen”, she told BBC News.

Field search

Glasgow University

It’s hard to overstate just how significant this is for British meteoritic science.

Of the approximately 65,000 meteorites in collections worldwide, only 1,206 had eyewitnesses to their fall, and of these only 51 are of the carbonaceous chondrite type.

Because this fireball was tracked via camera on entry to Earth’s atmosphere, its orbit has been worked out. The object came from the outer asteroid belt, out towards Jupiter.

This means its composition almost certainly will be very primitive.

“Basically, that’s part of the Solar System we regard as like a deep freeze of material that’s 4.5 billion years old,” explained the NHM’s Prof Sara Russell.

“It hasn’t had a chance to change at all from pre-planetary time. It will give us an insight into what our Solar System was like before the planets were there.”

The American and Japanese space agencies have despatched probes to bring back similar material from the asteroids themselves. But the Winchcombe meteorite would make almost as good a subject for study, said Dr Greenwood.

“Yes, it will have been affected by passage through the atmosphere, but it must be very close to pristine. The chap in Winchcombe who collected it did so within 12 hours of falling. It’s as good as you will ever get collected here on Earth.”

Map

The last space rock fall recovered in the UK was in 1991 – the so called Glatton Meteorite, because it fell in the village of Glatton near Peterborough.

Mr Arthur Pettifor was tending his onions in his garden when a 10cm rock dropped into his hedge.

It’s quite possible more fragments of the Winchcombe meteorite still await discovery.

Scientists urge people in the local area to remain vigilant. They should be looking for small blackish stones, or even a mound of dark dust.

Anyone who finds what they think might be a meteorite is asked to photograph it in situ, noting the GPS co-ordinates from a phone, if that’s possible.

The object should then be placed in foil without direct handling. And the absolute no-no: do not put a magnet near the material. This could destroy important information needed to study the rock.

The Winchcombe investigation has also included scientists from the universities of Glasgow, Manchester, Plymouth, and Imperial College London.

Field search

Glasgow University

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B.C. looking at easing restrictions for sports, religious services in the ‘coming weeks’ – Saanich News

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Restrictions that have seen British Columbians heavily limit their interactions for months could be loosened in the coming weeks, according to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

In a press conference Monday (March 8) where she announced more than 1,400 new cases over the weekend, Henry said that with more and more vaccine approved and the immunization program ramping up, restrictions could be reconsidered in the spring.

“In the weeks ahead we can start to look at this modified return of some of the activities that have been on pause for the last months of winter,” she said.

“In the coming weeks we hope to see the return of sports and religious ceremonies.”

Henry said health provincials are working with religious leaders to bring back in-person worship, but warned that it will be a phased approach.

There are several religious holidays coming up, including Easter, Passover, Vaisakhi and Ramadan.

“How do we make sure that people can celebrate those things safely? And yes that’s our plan,” she said, but noted that B.C. is still in the middle of a pandemic.

“It may not be what Easter celebrations have been in the past, but they will be celebrations. Unless things go off the rails we are planning for them to be in person.”

Henry said that as the weather gets warmer, and people can spend more time outside, gatherings could return.

“What we are looking at, as we head into March break, spring break, at the end of this week and into this week is seeing the return of things like gatherings outside, where it’s safer, activities outside that we can do in groups with precautions in place,” Henry said.

“Small groups that we can do for games, summer camps, spring camps and safe small groups with masks and safety precautions in place.”

However, she warned that it is not yet time for large-scale events and gatherings.

“We will be in a much different place by the time we head into summer,” she said.

“[But] we’re not yet in a place where we can go back to our pre pandemic gatherings.”

Henry also said the province was looking at how safe travel within B.C. could return.

“The risk is different in different communities in this province and we need to be mindful of that.”

READ MORE: B.C.’s COVID-19 cases: 545 Saturday, 532 Sunday, 385 Monday


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

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Alluxa's Optical Filters Landed on Mars – Novus Light Today – Novus Light Technologies Today

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Alluxa, Inc., a global leader in high-performance optical coatings and filters and thin-film deposition technologies, developed specialty optical filters used aboard the Perseverance Rover, which landed safely on Mars on February 18, 2021. Alluxa’s special notch filter is optimized for high performance over a wide angle range in order to provide in-band light to the Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals (SHERLOC)  imager.

Alluxa’s filters help enable non-contact detection and characterization of organics and minerals on Mar’s surface. Developed in conjunction with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California, the SHERLOC instrument, part of the Perseverance payload, is a Deep UV (DUV) resonance Raman and fluorescence spectrometer that will scan for past life on Mars and help identify rock samples for possible return to Earth.

SHERLOC operates at the end of rover’s robotic arm, using two distinct detection modes that include two types of UV light spectroscopy, plus a versatile camera. According to Luther Beegle, principal scientist and investigator at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, “It can detect an important class of carbon molecules with high sensitivity, and it also identifies minerals that provide information about ancient aqueous environments.”

Mike Scobey, Chief Executive Officer at Alluxa, notes, “All of us at Alluxa are delighted to have worked hand-in-hand with JPL to develop a specialized notch filter with ultra high transmission, which will aid in groundbreaking discoveries on Mars via the Perseverance Rover’s SHERLOC imager. We are proud to have been part of this historic mission.”                    

PHOTO CAPTION:  This illustration depicts NASA’s Perseverance rover operating on the surface of Mars.  Perseverance landed at the Red Planet’s Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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