Instead of a cosmic rock, the newly discovered object appears to be an old rocket from a failed moon-landing mission 54 years ago that’s finally making its way back home, according to NASA’s leading asteroid expert. Observations should help nail its identity.
“I’m pretty jazzed about this,” Paul Chodas told The Associated Press. “It’s been a hobby of mine to find one of these and draw such a link, and I’ve been doing it for decades now.”
Chodas speculates that asteroid 2020 SO, as it is formally known, is actually the Centaur upper rocket stage that successfully propelled NASA’s Surveyor 2 lander to the moon in 1966 before it was discarded. The lander ended up crashing into the moon after one of its thrusters failed to ignite on the way there. The rocket, meanwhile, swept past the moon and into orbit around the sun as intended junk, never to be seen again — until perhaps now.
A telescope in Hawaii last month discovered the mystery object heading our way while doing a search intended to protect our planet from doomsday rocks. The object promptly was added to the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center’s tally of asteroids and comets found in our solar system, just 5,000 shy of the 1 million mark.
The object is estimated to be roughly 8 metres based on its brightness. That’s in the ballpark of the old Centaur, which would be less than 10 metres long including its engine nozzle and 3 metres in diameter.
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What caught Chodas’ attention is that its near-circular orbit around the sun is quite similar to Earth’s — unusual for an asteroid.
“Flag number one,” said Chodas, who is director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.
The object is also in the same plane as Earth, not tilted above or below, another red flag. Asteroids usually zip by at odd angles. Lastly, it’s approaching Earth at 1,500 mph (2,400 kph), slow by asteroid standards.
As the object gets closer, astronomers should be able to better chart its orbit and determine how much it’s pushed around by the radiation and thermal effects of sunlight. If it’s an old Centaur — essentially a light empty can — it will move differently than a heavy space rock less susceptible to outside forces.
That’s how astronomers normally differentiate between asteroids and space junk like abandoned rocket parts, since both appear merely as moving dots in the sky. There likely are dozens of fake asteroids out there, but their motions are too imprecise or jumbled to confirm their artificial identity, said Chodas.
Sometimes it’s the other way around.
A mystery object in 1991, for example, was determined by Chodas and others to be a regular asteroid rather than debris, even though its orbit around the sun resembled Earth’s.
Even more exciting, Chodas in 2002 found what he believes was the leftover Saturn V third stage from 1969’s Apollo 12, the second moon landing by NASA astronauts. He acknowledges the evidence was circumstantial, given the object’s chaotic one-year orbit around Earth. It never was designated as an asteroid, and left Earth’s orbit in 2003.
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The latest object’s route is direct and much more stable, bolstering his theory.
“I could be wrong on this. I don’t want to appear overly confident,” Chodas said. “But it’s the first time, in my view, that all the pieces fit together with an actual known launch.”
And he’s happy to note that it’s a mission that he followed in 1966, as a teenager in Canada.
Asteroid hunter Carrie Nugent of Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Massachusetts, said Chodas’ conclusion is “a good one” based on solid evidence. She’s the author of the 2017 book “Asteroid Hunters.”
“Some more data would be useful so we can know for sure,” she said in an email. “Asteroid hunters from around the world will continue to watch this object to get that data. I’m excited to see how this develops!”
The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics’ Jonathan McDowell noted there have been “many, many embarrassing incidents of objects in deep orbit … getting provisional asteroid designations for a few days before it was realized they were artificial.”
It’s seldom clear-cut.
Last year, a British amateur astronomer, Nick Howes, announced that an asteroid in solar orbit was likely the abandoned lunar module from NASA’s Apollo 10, a rehearsal for the Apollo 11 moon landing. While this object is likely artificial, Chodas and others are skeptical of the connection.
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Skepticism is good, Howes wrote in an email. “It hopefully will lead to more observations when it’s next in our neck of the woods” in the late 2030s.
Chodas’ latest target of interest was passed by Earth in their respective laps around the sun in 1984 and 2002. But it was too dim to see from 8 million kilometres away, he said.
He predicts the object will spend about four months circling Earth once it’s captured in mid-November, before shooting back out into its own orbit around the sun next March.
Chodas doubts the object will slam into Earth — “at least not this time around.”
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
© 2020 The Canadian Press
'Massive' coral reef taller than the Empire State Building discovered in Australia – CTV News
A “massive” new reef measuring 500 metres has been discovered in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, making it taller than some of the world’s highest skyscrapers.
Scientists found the detached reef, which is the first to be discovered in more than 120 years, in waters off North Queensland while on an expedition aboard research vessel Falkor, ocean research organization Schmidt Ocean Institute announced Monday.
The reef was first discovered on October 20, as scientists completed an underwater mapping of the seafloor of the northern Great Barrier Reef.
At 500 metres high, it is taller than the Empire State Building (381 metres to the top floor), the Sydney Tower (305 metres) and the Petronas Twin Towers (451.9 metres.)
Using an underwater robot named SuBastian, the team explored the reef on Sunday, and live streamed footage of the exploration.
Experts say that the base of the “blade-like” reef measures 1.5 kilometres wide, rising 500 metres to its shallowest depth of 40 metres below the ocean surface.
There are seven other tall detached reefs in the area, including the reef at Raine Island — a significant green turtle nesting site.
Robin Beaman, who led the expedition, said he was “surprised” by the discovery.
“To not only 3D map the reef in detail, but also visually see this discovery with SuBastian is incredible,” he said in a statement.
“This unexpected discovery affirms that we continue to find unknown structures and new species in our ocean,” Wendy Schmidt, co-founder of Schmidt Ocean Institute, said in a statement.
“The state of our knowledge about what’s in the ocean has long been so limited. Thanks to new technologies that work as our eyes, ears and hands in the deep ocean, we have the capacity to explore like never before. New oceanscapes are opening to us, revealing the ecosystems and diverse life forms that share the planet with us.”
The Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef, covers more than 214,000 square kilometres and is home to more than 1,500 species of fish, 411 species of hard corals and dozens of other species.
But the reef is facing a crisis — recent studies have shown that it has lost 50% of its coral populations in the last three decades, with climate change a key driver of reef disturbance.
Surrey vet offers tips as Canada reports first COVID-19 case in dog in Ontario – News 1130
SURREY (NEWS 1130) – As Canada’s first case of COVID-19 among dogs is reported in Ontario, a Surrey-based vet is providing some advice to pet owners who may have concerns.
Dr. Sajjid Ijaz with Lifetime Veterinary Clinic says research on COVID-19 in pets is still evolving, but at this point, there’s little evidence to suggest dogs can transmit the virus to humans.
He notes many owners have flagged their COVID-19 concerns with him and his staff over the past few months.
“Obviously, at this point because we do not have any data to give any concrete answers to them, so, we have just been telling them to be careful about going out of their own bubble, as far as their own personal self, as well as the pets themselves. So what we’ve been telling them is to try and limit the pet access to dog parks and all that stuff, and be careful about it,” he explains.
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A dog in Ontario’s Niagara area has been identified as the first canine to test positive for COVID-19 in Canada. Experts have said this isn’t cause for panic.
The dog apparently belongs to a household where four people tested positive for COVID-19.
Experts told the Toronto Star the dog “had no symptoms and a low viral load, suggesting that dogs remain at relatively low risk of becoming gravely ill or passing on COVID to others.”
Ijaz says while they’re not pushing that message too hard, he and his staff want pet owners to continue to be smart.
Pets and your social bubble
Because of the uncertainty around how the coronavirus is transmitted among pets, Ijaz says it’s wise to apply the same advice to pets when it comes to humans and their social bubbles.
“So, yes, I’ve been telling my clients to limit access, not just totally isolate them, but just to be smart about it,” he explains.
Ijaz understands that pets are often a big part of any family, which is why he believes it’s best to be safe rather than sorry.
“As much as we can limit the bubble, that will help,” he says, adding your social bubble shouldn’t exclude these animals.
According to the World Organisation for Animal Health, there’s been no report of pets spreading COVID-19 to people. There have been reports of possible transmission from mink at a farm in the Netherlands to humans, however, the federal government says this is still being studied.
-With files from 680 NEWS
Hockey Twitter demands a Lunar Classic after NASA reveals moon has a lot more ice than previously believed – Russian Machine Never Breaks
NASA made a special announcement on Monday that had the hockey world buzzing.
“Several studies have showed that water on the moon surface is in its permanently shadowed craters,” Paul Hertz, director of astrophysics at NASA Headquarters, said according to CBS News. “Today, we are announcing that for the first time, water has been confirmed to be present on a sunlit surface of the moon.
It is believed that there are at least 15,000 square miles of the moon’s surface that have deposits of water ice, meaning future astronauts could live off the land.
And Hockey Twitter is hoping those future astronauts are NHL players.
The ridiculousness began early in the day when the NHL on NBC Twitter photoshopped the Blackhawks and Bruins facing off on the moon. “MOON. HOCKEY. 🌕,” they wrote. “We’re ready, @NASA!”
MOON. HOCKEY. 🌕🏒
— #ThankYouDoc (@NHLonNBCSports) October 26, 2020
“Call it the Lunar Classic,” the Ducks demanded.
Call it the Lunar Classic https://t.co/kN7B7xj6hj
— Anaheim Ducks (@AnaheimDucks) October 26, 2020
“The Lunar Classic is going to be out of this world!” the Blackhawks added with an excellent pun.
The Lunar Classic is going to be out of this world! https://t.co/WoJFzKE6Hk
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) October 26, 2020
The Hurricanes were excited about some “space hockey.”
Two words: space hockey
See you soon, @NASAMoon
— Carolina Hurricanes (@Canes) October 26, 2020
So were the Devils.
Heard they found some drip on the moon. 🌕💧 pic.twitter.com/sYOyI0Icvg
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) October 26, 2020
Later, on their Instagram page, NHL on NBC photoshopped Alex Ovechkin, Roman Josi, and David Pastrnak as astronauts.
Hockey Twitter imagined hockey scenarios on the moon, while another fan, Matthew Henderson, created an elaborate media kit promoting a fake moon hockey event.
NHL announces 2025 Winter Classic will be played on the Moon https://t.co/pRL4sUgctG
— Ailish Forfar (@ailishforfar) October 26, 2020
@elonmusk will be dropping the puck
— Jonathan Levitt (@JWLevitt) October 26, 2020
I’ve always wanted to send the Blackhawks to the moon, but not like this
— Kyle (@ewenwhatarmy) October 26, 2020
Travel issues will limit attendance
— klp (@klpickens) October 26, 2020
Gravity free shootouts could be cool
— Eric Cohen (@ebcinpa) October 26, 2020
— AVERY RULES (@AVERYRULES27) October 26, 2020
I want this to happen so badly now.
Headline photo: Pixabay images
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