People across several parts of Australia recently enjoyed an unexpected show: A green “fireball” streaked its way across the night sky long enough to allow people to capture it on video. One of those videos, immediately below, gives a good sense of the excitement of seeing the mysterious, glowing object. Although the video is (hilariously) NSFW, so keep that in mind before watching the clip at full volume. (But you’re at home, so your cats will get over it.)
Gizmodo picked up on news of the glowing, green fireball, which was reported by ABC Pilbara. According to ABC, citizens spotted the fireball in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, and elsewhere, just before 1 a.m. on June 15.
Although the object has not been identified yet, ABC says that there is “speculation among astronomy enthusiasts” suggesting that it could’ve been the remains of a recently launched rocket. But at least one expert thinks that it was probably a natural object.
Renae Sayers, from Curtin University’s Space, Science and Technology Centre, told ABC that “What we tend to see, when objects like space debris, or if it’s a satellite burning up… is sort of like crackles and sparks.”
She added that “This is due to the fact that there is stuff burning up — so you’ve got solar panels going all over the place, you’ve got hunks of metal moving around as it’s burning up through our atmosphere.”
Sayers says that this green fireball, on the other hand, “is quite a clean shot” and showed “quite a strong line” without too much fragmentation. Sayers did note, however, that “The jury’s still out,” and that “it could be space debris, or it could be a grazing fireball encounter.”
There are other experts who have the object pegged as a meteor. Matt Woods from the Perth Observatory, for example, told Perth Now that this was indeed a meteor, and that the green color was the result of the rock’s magnesium burning up in the atmosphere. Woods also said that the meteor was probably no bigger than a pebble. It looks to have been traveling at a speed of somewhere between 10 and 31 miles per second.
While Woods says that the meteor most likely burned up before it hit Earth, Sayers thinks it’s possible that it “kicked back out into interstellar space”. And while it’s impossible to say what the object was or where it is now, it will surely be remembered for its spectacular, expletive-inducing display.
What do you think about this mysterious green fireball caught flying over Australia? Do you have any guesses as to what it is? Light up the comments with your hypotheses, people!
Rocket Lab Electron launch fails – SpaceNews
Updated 6:15 p.m. Eastern.
WASHINGTON — A Rocket Lab Electron rocket failed to reach orbit during a July 4 launch after a problem during the rocket’s second-stage burn.
The Electron rocket lifted off from the company’s Launch Complex 1 at Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand, at 5:19 p.m. Eastern. The launch was originally scheduled for July 3 but pushed back two days because of poor weather in the forecast, only for the company to move up the launch to July 4 based on a reassessment of the weather.
The initial phases of the launch appeared to go as planned, although the vehicle’s passage through “max-q,” or maximum dynamic pressure, appeared to be rougher than what was seen in previous launches. Onboard video taken shortly before first-stage separation showed material appearing to peel from the rocket, although it was not clear if it simply a decal applied to the rocket or something more substantial.
The onboard video from the rocket froze about five minutes and 45 seconds after liftoff, or three minutes into the seconds stage burn. At six and a half minutes after liftoff, a launch controller on the company’s webcast of the launch said, “Initiating mishap response plan.”
Telemetry from the rocket, displayed on the webcast, showed the rocket’s altitude falling from about 194 kilometers to less than 165 kilometers for about 90 seconds before that information was removed from the screen. The company ended the webcast 11 minutes after liftoff, two minutes after the rocket’s second stage should have shut down and the kick stage, carrying its payload of seven satellites, deployed.
“An issue was experienced today during Rocket Lab’s launch that caused the loss of the vehicle. We are deeply sorry to the customers on board Electron,” the company tweeted about 25 minutes after liftoff. “The issue occurred late in the flight during the 2nd stage burn. More information will be provided as it becomes available.”
“We lost the flight late into the mission. I am incredibly sorry that we failed to deliver our customers satellites today,” Peter Beck, chief executive of Rocket Lab, tweeted after the failure. “Rest assured we will find the issue, correct it and be back on the pad soon.”
The launch was the 13th for the Electron rocket. The vehicle had 11 consecutive successful launches after the rocket’s inaugural launch in May 2017 was terminated because of a telemetry issue involving range safety systems, and not a problem with the rocket itself.
The primary payload for the launch was CE-SAT-1B, a 67-kilogram imaging satellite built by Canon Electronics, whose launch was arranged by Spaceflight Inc. The satellite, capable of taking images with a resolution of 90 centimeters, was intended to demonstrate the spacecraft’s technologies as the company prepared mass production of similar satellites.
“This launch is very critical for Canon Electronics as we are launching a satellite where we have remarkably increased the ratio of in-house development of components compared to the previous launch,” said Nobutada Sako, group executive of the Satellite Systems Lab at Canon Electronics said in a pre-launch release. Canon launched a similar satellite, CE-SAT-1, in 2017.
The rocket carried five SuperDove imaging cubesats developed by Planet. These satellites are upgraded versions of its original Dove line of cubesats, with additional spectral bands to support geospatial applications in fields like architecture.
The seventh satellite on the Electron was Faraday-1, a six-unit cubesat developed by British startup In-Space Missions. The satellite is the first in a series by the company designed to carry hosted payloads. Faraday-1 included payloads for several customers such Airbus Defence and Space, which flew a payload called Prometheus 1 to test a reprogrammable software-defined radio.
This mission, dubbed “Pics or It Didn’t Happen” by Rocket Lab, featured the shortest turnaround time between Electron missions to date. The previous Electron launch, which carried three National Reconnaissance Office satellites and smallsats for American and Australian universities, launched June 13.
After a halt in launch activity caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Rocket Lab had planned to ramp up its launch activity in the second half of the year. The next mission after this was to take place with an even shorter turnaround, Beck said in a June 18 interview. The company was also looking ahead to a first Electron launch from Launch Complex 2 in Virginia that, prior to this failure, was expected to take place before the end of the summer.
'Canada, Canada, Cana…da': Researchers Spot Change To White-Throated Sparrow's Song – NPR
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Experienced birders might be familiar with the sounds of the white-throated sparrow. Some say the end of the call sounds like the word Canada repeated several times.
(SOUNDBITE OF WHITE-THROATED SPARROW CALLING)
KEN OTTER: Canada, Canada, Canada, Canada.
KELLY: That is Dr. Ken Otter. In 2000 he was doing his first field study in northern British Columbia. He was studying area bird populations and made a discovery.
OTTER: I was working on chickadees, but I noticed that there was white-throated sparrows around.
KELLY: White-throated sparrows – they weren’t known to be in the area, but there they were. And they sounded a bit different.
OTTER: They were going, can-a-can-a-can-a-Canada-da (ph), almost like they were stuttering that last phrase.
(SOUNDBITE OF WHITE-THROATED SPARROW CALLING)
KELLY: Otter figured this unusual new tune was maybe specific to this one community of sparrows.
OTTER: It wasn’t until seven or eight years later that we started to realize that the song was actually spreading eastwards.
KELLY: Yeah. In 2004 only around half of the sparrows in Alberta, Canada, were singing the song. By 2014, that had changed. You might say the tweet went viral.
OTTER: All the birds in Alberta were now singing this Western dialect.
KELLY: Now, Otter does not know why exactly this new song has caught on. He imagines this little spark of variation maybe might improve a male sparrow’s chances with the ladies.
OTTER: If there’s a little bit of female preference, which is something we want to test next, then it would be advantageous for males to sing an atypical song. And after a while, it would just take over.
KELLY: In that case, it seems like the white-throated sparrow’s sultry new crooner is here to stay.
(SOUNDBITE OF THE BEATLES’ “FLYING”)
KELLY: You’re listening to All Tweets Considered.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.
How can we be alone? – Skywatching – Castanet.net
The latest estimate is that there are around six billion Earth-like planets in our galaxy alone.
However, when we really dig into the issue regarding what makes a planet suitable for life as we know it, this large number could be a considerable understatement.
First, we know about places where liquid water and warmth are available for living things, but otherwise they are very un-Earth-like — such as Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter, where tidal forces warm an ocean hidden under a roof of ice.
For the moment, let’s just stick to the Earth-like planets. The starting point in identifying an Earth-like planet is that it is the right size, it has an atmosphere, and its surface temperature is high enough to support a water ocean.
There also needs to be a water cycle, where water evaporates from the ocean and returns to it as rain. If there are landmasses, they will be irrigated and material will be eroded from the land and taken into the sea as nutrients for living creatures. However, there is a range of conditions under which this may happen.
First, the planet should be in the Goldilocks Zone, where the planet receives enough warmth and light from its star to ensure a high enough surface temperature and to drive a water cycle.
This is where the situation becomes more complicated. Planets, including ours, exist in a thermal equilibrium. Heat from our star warms our world. As the temperature rises, the Earth radiates increasing amounts of infrared, sending heat off into space.
Eventually, the input and output are equal and the planet’s temperature stabilizes. Intriguingly though, if we do this calculation for the Earth, we find our planet should be frozen solid, with a mean temperature more or less equal to the Moon’s, around minus 50C.
This obviously isn’t the case, and the explanation is the greenhouse effect. Gases such as water vapour, carbon dioxide and methane are greenhouse gases, which means they impeded the ability of a planet to re-radiate heat into space.
The result is that in order to meet a balance of input and output, the planet has to be hotter. Planets with lots of greenhouse gases can be further from their stars and still have comfortable temperatures.
Planets with atmospheres low in greenhouse gases must be closer. The atmospheres of young planets are rich in greenhouse gases.
During the 4.5 billion years since the Earth formed, the Sun has brightened steadily, but on Earth living things removed them and replaced them with oxygen, which is not a greenhouse gas, keeping our environment stable and our planet inhabitable.
In the 1970s, James Lovelock proposed the Gaia Hypothesis (Gaia is the Earth goddess), in which he proposed that once life is established, it has a certain power to keep its environment comfortable.
There are two other factors.
First, there are clouds.
Water evaporated from the oceans by solar heat forms clouds, which can reflect solar energy back into space, providing a stabilizing influence. Of course, more energy in the atmosphere can drive more severe weather.
Second, there is dust.
Every day, warm air heated by contact with warm ground rises, carrying dust with it. This can act as an insulator, keeping in heat, or as a reflector, sending it back out, depending on the grain size and the amount.
In addition to being the right distance from their stars, we need our planets to have an atmosphere and a signature of water vapour.
If we see oxygen, which needs living things to produce and maintain it, we can be pretty sure there are living things.
Maybe fortunately, the distances between stars ensure it will be a long time before we can interfere with our alien brethren or they with us.
- Jupiter and Saturn rise in the southeast around midnight
- Mars follows in the early hours.
- Venus lies low in the sunrise glow.
- The Moon will reach Last Quarter on the 12th.
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