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NASA chooses Canadian scientist for a critical role in the 2020 Mars rover mission – National Post

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The NASA Mars 2020 Rover is scheduled to launch this July, and a Canadian will take on an incredibly important role in the mission.

Chris Herd is a planetary geologist and professor at the University of Alberta. He is one of only 10 people, as well as the only Canadian, to be chosen by NASA for a role as a returned sample scientist on the first-ever mission to bring Mars rock samples back to Earth.


The Mars 2020 Rover is seen in the spacecraft assembly area clean room, December 27, 2019 during a media tour at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

Once the rover makes landing on Feb. 18, 2021, it will be used to drill into rocks and collect rock samples on the red planet. The job of Herd and his colleagues will be to examine the surface in the area of Mars where the rover lands, and to choose where the rover drills.

“We want to be able to choose the exact spot where we take a sample, and where that sample is going to have the maximum scientific value when it comes back to earth,” Herd said in a phone interview.

Herd was chosen for the mission, in part, because he has spent his career analyzing meteorites that originated from Mars.


Fans and deltas formed by water and sediment are seen in the Jezero Crater on Mars, identified as a potential landing site for the Mars 2020 Rover, in this false colour image taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, published May 15, 2019 and obtained November 15, 2019.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Handout via REUTERS

The rover will land on Mars in the Jezero Crater. Three-and-a-half to four billion years ago, the crater was likely filled with water. If there was life on Mars at the time, evidence of life could be concentrated there.

“The best possible thing that we could imagine is that we find evidence for life having existed on Mars,” Herd said. “It’s a fundamental question for humanity: has life ever developed outside of the Earth?”

If everything goes according to plan, the samples will come to Earth in 2031. Herd says he hopes to analyze some of the prospective samples.

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is funding Herd’s participation in the mission.

Tim Haltigin is the planetary senior mission scientist at the CSA. He stresses that the mission is important for both Canada, and the scientific community as a whole.

“We’re on the cusp of starting the first steps to achieve something that has been truly the holy grail of planetary exploration for many decades,” Haltigin said in a phone interview. “To have a Canadian on a mission of this profile really highlights Canadian expertise on the international stage.”

On top of being chosen for the project, Herd was also chosen to be a representative on the project science group, the scientific managing group for the whole mission.

“It’s a huge honour,” Herd says.

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Chinese rover investigates 'cube' on far side of the moon – CBC News

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A photograph of a cube-like object captured by a Chinese rover on the far side of the moon has fanned speculation over what it could be.

The Yutu-2 caught an image of what seems like a large cubic object on the horizon about 80 metres from its location, said Our Space, a Chinese government science website, citing the rover’s last log on Dec. 3.

The solar-powered Yutu, or “Jade Rabbit” in Chinese, will cover the distance of 80 metres in two to three lunar days, according to Our Space, or two to three Earth months. The robotic rover has been operating in the Von Karman Crater in the South Pole-Aitken Basin since its deployment in January 2019.

The mission was a historic first, with no other nation having landed on the far side of the moon until then. With the moon tidally locked to Earth — rotating at the same speed as it orbits our planet — most of its “dark side” is never visible to those on Earth.

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Comet Leonard will be visible this December before vanishing forever – CTV News

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There is a new comet in town, and December is your only chance to see it before disappears forever. Astronomers say that Comet Leonard is our best and brightest comet to see in 2021.

The comet was first discovered in January by astronomer Greg Leonard. The celestial object has likely spent the last 35,000 years traveling toward the sun, according to Sky & Telescope, and once it makes a close pass of our star on January 3, we won’t be seeing the comet again.

As the comet nears the sun, it brightens, which is why the weeks leading up to this event make the comet easier to see.

It’s also an ultrafast comet, blazing through the inner solar system at 158,084 miles per hour (71 kilometres per second), but it will still appear like a slow-moving object due to its distance from Earth, according to EarthSky.

Comet Leonard will make it closest approach to Earth on December 12, coming within 21 million miles (34 million kilometres) of our planet. Then, it will sweep by Venus on December 18.

The comet will be visible in the skies of both the Northern and Southern hemispheres this month.

It’s difficult to predict how well we may be able to see a comet, but you”ll probably need binoculars to spot this one, according to NASA. Keep an eye out for an object that looks like a fuzzy star.

“In the first couple of weeks of December, Comet Leonard can be found in the east before sunrise, passing between Arcturus and the handle of the Big Dipper,” the agency shared in a post.

“It approaches the horizon right around the time of its closest approach to Earth, meaning it’ll likely be brighter but more challenging to observe. It then switches over to being an evening object after around Dec. 14th, for just a little while after the Sun sets — as it begins its long haul outward from the Sun again, progressively fading in brightness.”

As comets near the sun, these giant iceballs begin to shed some of their material, which forms a halo, or coma, around the object.

Dust and gas stream behind comets to form their extremely long tails. Most comets originate from the icy edge of our solar system and only become visible to us as they travel through the inner solar system, where Earth is located, during their long orbits of the sun.

It’s possible that Comet Leonard will be visible to skywatchers looking with the naked eye, but if you’re worried about missing this once-in-a-lifetime viewing experience, The Virtual Telescope Project will be sharing a livestream from its observatory in Rome.

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Hubble Captures Stunning Image of Colliding Gases in 'Running Man' Nebula – Gadgets 360

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Hubble Space Telescope has often captured stunning images of mysterious events in space. It has allowed astronomers to widen their research and uncover new details. Recently, the telescope was trying to understand how young stars influenced their environment and it witnessed a shock wave of colliding luminous gases in the ‘Running Man’ Nebula. The image of the Herbig-Haro object, known as HH 45, showed clouds of gas and dust glow. Herbig-Haro is a type of nebula that forms when gas from a newborn star collides with dust around it at huge speeds and produces shock waves.

Herbig-Haro objects are rarely seen. This object is located in the nebula NGC 1977, also called the Running Man Nebula, which is a complex structure of three nebulae in the Great Orion Nebula, about  5,000 light-years from the Earth.

The Running Man Nebula is a reflection nebula, meaning it does not emit light on its own but reflects light from nearby stars “like a streetlight illuminating fog,” according to NASA. Hubble was looking at this region for “stellar jets and planet-forming disks around young stars.” It was trying to examine how their environment affects the evolution of such disks.

The Hubble image showed two sets of ionised gases glowing in blue and purple colours. While blue indicated ionised oxygen, purple represented ionised magnesium. “Researchers were particularly interested in these elements because they could be used to identify shocks and ionisation fronts,” the NASA statement read.

This image was not a bad capture for an observatory that was waking up after a technical problem and went into “safe mode” in October. Hubble, a joint project by NASA and ESA, was last serviced in person in 2009 and has not been visited by astronauts since 2011.

NASA is set to launch the more powerful James Webb telescope in December as a “successor” to the Hubble Space Telescope. Citing the differences between the both, NASA has stated that their capabilities weren’t identical. One of the differences NASA pointed out was that while James Webb telescope will study the universe largely in infrared, Hubble had been focusing on optical and ultraviolet wavelengths.


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