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NASA probe leaking asteroid samples due to jammed door – Al Jazeera English

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Images beamed back to ground control revealed it caught more material than scientists anticipated and was spewing excess of flaky asteroid rocks into space.

A US probe that collected a sample from an asteroid earlier this week retrieved so much material that a rock is wedged in the container door, allowing rocks to spill back out into space.

On Tuesday, the robotic arm of the probe, OSIRIS-REx, kicked up a debris cloud of rocks on Bennu, a skyscraper-sized asteroid some 320 million kilometres (200 million miles) from Earth and trapped the material in a collection device for the return to Earth.

But images of the spacecraft’s collection head beamed back to ground control revealed it had caught more material than scientists anticipated and was spewing an excess of flaky asteroid rocks into space.

The leakage had the OSIRIS-REx mission team scrambling to stow the collection device to prevent additional spillage.

“Time is of the essence,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science, told reporters on Friday.

Zurbuchen said mission teams will skip their chance to measure how much material they collected as originally planned and proceed to the stow phase, a fragile process of tucking the sample collection container in a safe position within the spacecraft without jostling out more valuable material.

NASA will not know how much material it collected until the sample capsule returns in 2023.

The troubleshooting also led mission leaders to forgo any more chances of redoing a collection attempt and instead commit to begin next March the spacecraft’s return to Earth.

“Quite honestly, we could not have performed a better collection experiment,” OSIRIS-REx’s principal investigator Dante Lauretta said.

But with the door lodged open by a rock and the “concerning” images of sample spillage, “we’re almost the victim of our own success here”, he added.

The roughly $800m, minivan-sized OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, built by Lockheed Martin, launched in 2016 to grab and return the first US sample of pristine asteroid materials.

Asteroids are among the leftover debris from the solar system’s formation some 4.5 billion years ago.

A sample could hold clues to the origins of life on Earth, scientists say.

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This rocks! Western University student spots never-before-seen asteroid – Belleville Intelligencer

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A Western University astronomy student from Chatham, who’s been stargazing since he was a kid, has discovered an asteroid through remote access to a telescope in Spain.

Graduate student Cole Gregg, 22, was using a telescope based at an observatory known as Astrocamp to troll the night sky when he spotted the small, fast-moving, flashing object.

His find — an asteroid estimated to be about 50 to 100 metres long — came after months of seeing nothing notable during his studies. It was, to put it mildly, “unexpected,” Gregg said Wednesday.

“It was quite shocking. You are not really ready for it,” he said. “It takes you by surprise and it was very exciting.”

Using the telescope located on a Spanish mountaintop, Gregg said he observed the asteroid as it sped close to Earth, moving through near-space across Europe.

Gregg’s astronomy professor, Paul Wiegert, called it “a rare treat to be the first person to spot one of these visitors to our planet’s neighbourhood.”

Added Wiegert: “Astronomers around the globe are continuously monitoring near-Earth space for asteroids so this is certainly a feather in Cole’s cap.”


Western astronomy student Cole Gregg monitors the night skies. Gregg discovered the asteroid ALA2xH a week ago.

Gregg spotted the asteroid, given the temporary designation ALA2xH, on Nov. 18. Data collected about the asteroid was sent to the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass., to determine whether the observation was unique or not.

From there, it goes on their near-Earth object confirmation page.

Gregg used a website called Itelescope, which allows the public to access telescopes via the internet.

“A lot of people use them for the pretty astrophotography pictures, but they are quite capable of science as well,” Gregg said. “My project is proving that these small telescopes are quite capable of science.”

Despite their efforts, Gregg said they have not spotted the asteroid again “due to weather and unavailability of the telescopes.”

Gregg said he has been fascinated with space since he was camping as a boy and relished looking up at stars in the dark skies. “It sparked my interest.”

After completing his PhD in astronomy, he hopes to continue his research and teach.

“I’m interested in asteroids and comets and how they move, how they exist in the solar system and where they come from,” he said. “And how we can learn from our own solar system to understand . . . other solar systems in the galaxy.”

HRivers@postmedia.com


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This rocks! Western University student spots never-before-seen asteroid – Kingston This Week

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A Western University astronomy student from Chatham, who’s been stargazing since he was a kid, has discovered an asteroid through remote access to a telescope in Spain.

Graduate student Cole Gregg, 22, was using a telescope based at an observatory known as Astrocamp to troll the night sky when he spotted the small, fast-moving, flashing object.

His find — an asteroid estimated to be about 50 to 100 metres long — came after months of seeing nothing notable during his studies. It was, to put it mildly, “unexpected,” Gregg said Wednesday.

“It was quite shocking. You are not really ready for it,” he said. “It takes you by surprise and it was very exciting.”

Using the telescope located on a Spanish mountaintop, Gregg said he observed the asteroid as it sped close to Earth, moving through near-space across Europe.

Gregg’s astronomy professor, Paul Wiegert, called it “a rare treat to be the first person to spot one of these visitors to our planet’s neighbourhood.”

Added Wiegert: “Astronomers around the globe are continuously monitoring near-Earth space for asteroids so this is certainly a feather in Cole’s cap.”


Western astronomy student Cole Gregg monitors the night skies. Gregg discovered the asteroid ALA2xH a week ago.

Gregg spotted the asteroid, given the temporary designation ALA2xH, on Nov. 18. Data collected about the asteroid was sent to the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass., to determine whether the observation was unique or not.

From there, it goes on their near-Earth object confirmation page.

Gregg used a website called Itelescope, which allows the public to access telescopes via the internet.

“A lot of people use them for the pretty astrophotography pictures, but they are quite capable of science as well,” Gregg said. “My project is proving that these small telescopes are quite capable of science.”

Despite their efforts, Gregg said they have not spotted the asteroid again “due to weather and unavailability of the telescopes.”

Gregg said he has been fascinated with space since he was camping as a boy and relished looking up at stars in the dark skies. “It sparked my interest.”

After completing his PhD in astronomy, he hopes to continue his research and teach.

“I’m interested in asteroids and comets and how they move, how they exist in the solar system and where they come from,” he said. “And how we can learn from our own solar system to understand . . . other solar systems in the galaxy.”

HRivers@postmedia.com


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Dinosaur-era bird with scythe-like beak sheds light on avian diversity – CANOE

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“Amazing, small, delicate, fragile, challenging to study – all at the same time,” said Ohio University anatomy professor Patrick O’Connor, lead author of the research published in the journal Nature.

An illustration depicting the bird Falcatakely forsterae amidst non-avian dinosaurs and other creatures 68 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period in Madagascar. Photo by Illustration by Mark Witton /Handout via REUTERS

“Bird fossils are particularly rare in part because they have such delicate skeletons. Hollow bones aren’t great at surviving the fossilization process,” added paleontologist and study co-author Alan Turner of Stony Brook University in New York.

“Because of this, we need to be aware that we are probably under-sampling the Mesozoic diversity of birds. A newly discovered species like Falcatakely provides a taste of the tantalizing possibility of a greater diversity of form waiting to be discovered,” Turner said.

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Birds evolved from small feathered dinosaurs about 150 million years ago. Early birds retained many ancestral features including teeth. The Falcatakely fossil has a single conical tooth in the front part of the upper jaw. Falcatakely probably had a small number of teeth in life.

It belonged to an avian group, enantiornithines, that did not survive the mass extinction event 66 million years ago, ending the Cretaceous Period.

“Unlike the earliest birds such as Archaeopteryx, which in many ways still looked dinosaurian with their long tails and unspecialized snouts, enantiornithines like Falcatakely would have looked relatively modern,” Turner said.

It was in the underlying skeletal structure where its differences were more apparent, O’Connor added, with more similarities to dinosaurs like Velociraptor than modern birds.

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