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NASA: Mystery object is 54-year-old rocket, not asteroid – Vancouver Is Awesome

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A mysterious object temporarily orbiting Earth is a 54-year-old rocket, not an asteroid after all, astronomers confirmed Wednesday.

Observations by a telescope in Hawaii clinched its identity, according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The object was classified as an asteroid after its discovery in September. But NASA’s top asteroid expert, Paul Chodas, quickly suspected it was the Centaur upper rocket stage from Surveyor 2, a failed 1966 moon-landing mission. Size estimates had put it in the range of the old Centaur, which was about 32 feet (10 metres) long and 10 feet (3 metres) in diameter.

Chodas was proven right after a team led by the University of Arizona’s Vishnu Reddy used an infrared telescope in Hawaii to observe not only the mystery object, but — just on Tuesday — a Centaur from 1971 still orbiting Earth. The data from the images matched.

“This conclusion was the result of a tremendous team effort,” Reddy said in a statement. “We were finally able to solve this mystery.”

The object formally known as 2020 SO entered a wide, lopsided orbit around Earth last month and, on Tuesday, made its closest approach at just over 31,000 miles (50,476 kilometres). It will depart the neighbourhood in March, shooting back into its own orbit around the sun. Its next return: 2036.

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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.

Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press


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Canadians Can Now Sign Up for Starlink Internet Beta Without an Invite, If Eligible – iPhone in Canada

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SpaceX has made changes to its Starlink internet beta website, to now allow sign-ups without an invite, if your address is eligible for service, reports Tesla North.

Previously, Starlink website sign-ups for the beta program would be contacted via email to let them know about eligibility. But as of Wednesday, users in Canada and the United States can enter their address on the Starlink website—and if eligible, sign up right away.

All you have to do is visit the Starlink website here, enter your email and your home address. You’ll be able to confirm your exact location with a pin on a map.

After that’s done, you’ll then be notified instantly if you can sign up for the internet beta program. If you are eligible, you’ll be able to place an order right away for the Starlink hardware package, which contains a dish and router.

Tesla North reports Canadians in Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta were able to sign up today or received emails to join the Starlink beta. Eligible latitudes seen so far have been in the range of 43.1 to 45.3, and 50.01 to 50.71.

As for Starlink internet pricing in Canada? The dish is priced at $649 CAD, while the service is at $129 CAD per month. Starlink is targeting those in rural areas, lacking high-speed access.

Starlink internet beta invites hit Canada back in September. The low-Earth orbit satellite internet offers lower latency and faster download speeds compared to traditional satellite internet. This is because Starlink internet satellite constellations are hovering 550 km above Earth, whereas conventional satellite internet is at roughly 35,700 km above the globe, resulting in slow speeds with high latency.

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On Thursday morning, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launched 60 more satellites into orbit, resulting in over 1,000 Starlink satellites in space. SpaceX has plans to launch 12,000 satellites and at its current pace, has a leg up on competitors.

The first location in Canada to use Starlink internet was the Pikangikum First Nation.

In Canada, the federal government recently inked a $600 million deal with Ottawa-based Telesat for its low-Earth orbit satellite internet. So far? There’s only one Telesat satellite in space, but plans are to send more into orbit in 2021 aboard Amazon-backed Blue Origin rockets. Telesat satellites at 800 kg each, weigh more than three times that of a Starlink satellite, at just 227 kg.

Moreover, Telesat will sell its satellite internet services to internet providers, who will then sell directly to consumers. This is different than Starlink’s direct-to-consumer business model, mirroring Tesla. Time will tell if $600 million of your tax dollars will see Telesat compete with SpaceX’s Starlink internet.

For rural Canadians, Starlink internet will allow for high-speed internet connectivity that’s unheard of, allowing for video conferencing and also streaming 4K video and playing video games. Beta testers have seen download speeds of 150 Mbps or higher.

Were you able to sign up for Starlink internet beta via the website?

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Paleontologists finally have their first good look at a dinosaur's butt – CNET

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Here’s a digital reconstruction of a Psittacosaurus dinosaur illustrating how the cloacal vent may have been used for signaling during courtship.


Bob Nicholls/Paleocreations.com 2020

Paleontologists spend their entire academic careers studying the anatomy of dinosaurs. Now a team of scientists from the University of Bristol has finally described in detail a dinosaur’s cloacal or vent, which is used for everything from defecation and urination to attracting a mate to breed with (or, less scientifically, a jack-of-all-trades butthole).

In a new study, published in the journal Current Biology on Tuesday, Scientists revealed a range of theories about the cloacal vent on a dog-sized dinosaur called Psittacosaurus, a relative of Triceratops from the early Cretaceous era, which lived about 120 million years ago.

“I noticed the cloaca several years ago after we had reconstructed the color patterns of this dinosaur using a remarkable fossil on display at the Senckenberg Museum in Germany which clearly preserves its skin and color patterns,” Dr. Jakob Vinther from the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences said in a statement on Tuesday. 

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A closer look at the preserved cloacal vent in Psittacosaurus.


Dr Jakob Vinthe

“It took a long while before we got around to finish it off because no one has ever cared about comparing the exterior of cloacal openings of living animals, so it was largely unchartered territory,” Vinther added.

The researchers reveal the dinosaur’s cloaca has similar features as cloacas on alligators and crocodiles. The dino’s outer cloaca areas were also likely highly pigmented. This pigmentation may have been used to attract a mate, much like baboons use theirs.

“We found the vent does look different in many different groups of tetrapods, but in most cases, it doesn’t tell you much about an animal’s sex.” Dr. Diane Kelly from the University of Massachusetts Amherst said. “Those distinguishing features are tucked inside the cloaca, and unfortunately, they’re not preserved in this fossil.”

It’s not just the appearance of the dino’s vent that got the attention of mates, but also its smell. The large, pigmented lobes on either side of the cloacas could have also included musky scent glands to get the attention of a mate.

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A Psittacosaurus specimen from Senckenberg Museum of Natural History —  preserving skin and pigmentation patterns and the first, and only known, cloacal vent.


Jakob Vinther, University of Bristol and Bob Nicholls/Paleocreations.com 2020

“Knowing that at least some dinosaurs were signaling to each other gives palaeo-artists exciting freedom to speculate on a whole variety of now plausible interactions during dinosaur courtship,” palaeo-artist and study artist Robert Nicholls said in a statement. 

“It is a game-changer!” 

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A Habitat at Ceres Could be the Gateway to the Outer Solar System

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In the near future, humanity stands a good chance of expanding its presence beyond Earth. This includes establishing infrastructure in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), on the surface of (and in orbit around) the Moon, and on Mars. This presents numerous challenges, as living in space and on other celestial bodies entails all kinds of potential risks and health hazards – not the least of which are radiation and long-term exposure to low gravity.

These issues demand innovative solutions; and over the years, several have been proposed! A good example is Dr. Pekka Janhunen‘s concept for a megasatellite settlement in orbit around Ceres, the largest asteroid in the Main Belt. This settlement would provide artificial gravity for its residents while the local resources would allow for a closed-loop ecosystem to created inside – effectively bringing “terraforming” to a space settlement.

 

Dr. Janhunen – a theoretical physicist based in Helsinki, Finland – is no stranger to advanced concepts. In addition to being a research manager with the Finnish Meteorological Institute, he is a visiting professor with the University of Tatu and a senior technical advisor to Aurora Propulsion Technologies – where he is overseeing the commercial development of the Electric Solar Wind Sail (E-sail) concept he proposed back in 2006.

Exterior view of a Stanford torus. Bottom center is the non-rotating primary solar mirror, which reflects sunlight onto the angled ring of secondary mirrors around the hub. Credit: Donald E. Davis

The paper that describes his concept recently appeared online and has being submitted for publication to the scientific journal Elsevier. It’s a concept that Dr. Janhunen described to Universe Today as, “[T]erraforming from the user perspective: creating an artificial environment, near Ceres and of Ceres materials, that can scale up to the same and larger population than Earth has today.”

Rotating space habitats are a time-honored proposal and a suggested alternative to (or in conjunction with) habitats on other celestial bodies. The first recorded instance was Konstantin Tsiolkovsky’s 1903 book, Beyond Planet Earth, where he described a pinwheel station in space that would rotate to provide artificial gravity.

This was followed by Herman Poto?nik’s expanded proposal in The Problem of Space Travel (1929), the Von Braun Wheel (1952), and Gerard K. O’Neill’s revolutionary proposal in The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space (1976) that called for a rotating cylinder in space – aka. the O’Neill Cylinder. However, all these concepts were for stations in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) or at an Earth-Sun Lagrange Point.

As Dr. Janhunen told Universe Today via email, a megasatellite constellation in orbit of Ceres could leverage the local resources to create Earth-like conditions:

“They provide Earth-like 1 g gravity, which is essential for human health, in particular essential for children to grow to healthy adults with fully developed muscles and bones. Ceres has nitrogen for making the habitat atmospheres, and it is large enough to provide almost unlimited resources. At the same time it is also small enough that its gravity is rather low so that lifting material from the surface is cheap.”

Artist’s depiction of a pair of O’Neill cylinders. Credit: Rick Guidice/NASA Ames Research Center

According to his study, the megasatellite settlement would consist of spinning habitats attached to a disk-shaped frame through passive magnetic bearings. This would allow for simulated gravity within the habitats, facilitate intra-settlement travel and ensure that population density remains low.

Dr. Janhunen estimates that it could be kept to 500 people per km2 (190 people per mi2), whereas cities like Manhattan and Mumbai have densities of roughly 27,500 and 32,303 people per km2 (or 71,340 and 83,660 people per mi2), respectively. The settlement would initially be furnished with soil 1.5 m (~5 ft) in depth, which could be upgraded to 4 m (~13 ft).

This would allow for greenspaces with gardens and trees that would produce the settlement’s oxygen and scrub the atmosphere of CO2 (as well as additional radiation shielding). Similarly, Ceres is known to have abundant supplies of ammonia salts on its surface (particularly around the bright spots in the Occator crater) that could be imported to the settlement and converted to nitrogen for use as a buffer gas.

Planar and parabolic mirrors located around the frame would direct concentrated sunlight to the habitats, providing illumination and allowing for photosynthesis to occur. While the creation of such a settlement presents many technical challenges and would require a massive commitment in resources, it would actually be easier in many respects that colonizing the Moon or Mars.

A view of Ceres in natural colour, pictured by the Dawn spacecraft in May 2015. Credit: NASA/ JPL/Planetary Society/Justin Cowart

For that matter, it would also be much easier than terraforming the Moon or Mars. As Dr. Janhunen explained:

“In some aspects easier (no need of planetary landing, no dust-storms, no long night). In all cases the main challenge is probably bootstrapping the industry in a remote place – one needs some robotics and AI, but they are coming to existence now, broadly speaking.”

But perhaps the most exciting aspect of this proposal is the fact that it allows for a space elevator! On Earth, such a structure remains impractical (as well as extremely expensive) because Earth’s gravity (9.8 m/s2, or 1 g) imposes some serious restrictions on space exploration. In short, a rocket must achieve an escape velocity of 11.186 km/s (40,270 km/h; 25,020 mph) to break free of Earth’s gravity.

On Ceres, however, the gravity is a fraction of what it is here on Earth – 0.28 m/s2 (less than 3%), which results in an escape velocity of just 510 meters per second (1.8 km/h; 1.14 mph). Combined with its rapid rotation, a space elevator is totally feasible and would be energetically cheap (compared to transporting them from other locations).

Of course, there’s also the benefit that such a settlement would have for exploring (and colonizing) the outer Solar System. With a large population and infrastructure around Ceres, ships destined for Jupiter, Saturn, and beyond would have a stopover point to refuel and take on supplies. Potential destinations for colonies could include the Galilean Moons, the moons of Saturn, or orbiting habitats in both systems.

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This would give humanity access to the abundant resources of these systems and usher in an age of post-scarcity. In the meantime, this Ceres megaconstellation would provide an Earth-like environment for a sizeable population within the Main Asteroid Belt, one that could be upgraded to make room for many more people. As Dr. Janhunen indicated:

“The Ceres megasatellite could scale up to hundreds of billions of people, probably, so it would suffice at least for a few centuries. Discussing future beyond that is hard, but in general, spreading to multiple places is what life generally does. On the other hand, people like to live in an interconnected world whose parts can [all] be accessed by travel.”

At its core, Dr. Janhunen’s concept is a marriage of space construction and in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) with some key elements of terraforming thrown in. The end result of this is a design for a scalable settlement that could allow human beings to colonize otherwise uninhabitable parts of the Solar System. When addressing the future of humanity in space, both the challenges and the rewards are clear.

In order to get to the rewards, we need to get mighty creative and be prepared to commit!

Further Reading: arXiv

Source:- Universe Today

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