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NASA's Curiosity Rover Spots 'Dust Devil' Storm Over Mars' Gale Crater – The Weather Channel

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A towering dust devil casts a serpentine shadow over the Martian surface in this image acquired by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE).

(NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

NASA’s Curiosity rover, which landed on the surface of Mars in 2012, has been dedicatedly exploring the Martian landscape to beam back new insights about the Red Planet. Now, one of its latest captures is a whirling dust storm raging in our neighbouring world.

Mars is known for its dust storms, in 2018 the planet recorded its largest dust storm, which also killed the Opportunity rover. The latest black-and-white image, which gives us a glimpse of these ‘dust devils’ occurring on Mars, was captured by Curiosity’s Navcam on Sol (day in Mars) 2847, and details the storm for about five minutes.

The Curiosity camera created the dust devil movies by capturing multiple images over a period of time, which were then processed, because of which they appear quite faint.

“But this dust devil was so impressive that—if you look closely!—you can just see it moving to the right, at the border between the darker and lighter slopes, even in the raw images,” stated Clair Newman, Atmospheric Scientist at Aeolis Research.

Through these small movies, scientists are able to understand the formation, size, direction, and duration of the whirlwinds. The latest images were captured on August 9, 2020 and showcase whirling over a part of the crater.

The rover, at present, is located at the Gale crater of Mars at the southern hemisphere of the planet, which is experiencing its summer season. Therefore, the atmosphere in the region is consistently heating up.

The strong surface heating of Mars lasts from early spring through mid-summer, as per NASA. “Stronger surface heating tends to produce stronger convection and convective vortices, which consist of fast winds whipping around low pressure cores,” writes Newman.

The ripples in the GIF movie can be seen moving from sol to sol (day) due to the blowing wind that lifts the sand grains. The Red Planet supports an atmosphere that is much thinner as compared to Earth, but it is nevertheless capable of creating winds. When these winds gain pace, the dry particles of dust on the Martian surface and in the atmosphere begin moving, thereby creating dust storms. Larger dust storms generally occur during the summers in the southern hemisphere.

Capturing these images helps scientists understand the wind direction and how strong the winds are. Moreover, it also sheds light on the wind and dust activity, which is also a phenomenon that largely takes place during Martian summers.

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NASA tweaks space station's position to avoid collision with massive debris – National Post

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NASA quickly shifted the position of the International Space Station to avoid a potentially catastrophic encounter with debris that would have passed within less than a mile of the orbital laboratory — a close shave in space terms.

The three-member crew was moved into a Soyuz spacecraft until the station was considered out of danger from the object, which was expected to pass by at about 5:21 p.m. Central time on Tuesday, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said in a statement.

The agency didn’t reveal the size of the debris, which would have passed within 1.39 km (0.86 mile), forcing the 150-second “avoidance maneuver” burn by Mission Control in Houston. Colliding with orbital debris, or space junk, of even a few centimeters in diameter would be potentially catastrophic to the space station given that objects in low-earth orbit can travel at speeds of roughly 17,500 miles per hour (28,000 kilometers an hour) and higher.

The space station’s move occurred about an hour before the closest approach using thrust from the Russian Progress resupply craft that is docked on the ISS Zvezda service module.

Adjustments of the station’s orbit are fairly routine, although having the crew take shelter in the Soyuz spacecraft isn’t.

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New Brunswick reports one new case of COVID-19, has four active cases – Yahoo News Canada

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FREDERICTON — New Brunswick is reporting one new case of COVID-19 today.

Health officials say the new case involves an individual between 60 and 69 years old in the Miramichi region.

They say the case is related to travel from outside of the Atlantic bubble and the person is self-isolating.

There have been 197 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in New Brunswick to date, and 191 people have recovered.

Two people have died, and four cases are still active.

Health officials have conducted a total of 71,585 tests.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 23, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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Newly-discovered asteroid buzzes past Earth Thursday morning – The Weather Network

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Astronomers are tracking a newfound asteroid that is expected to make a brief but very close pass by Earth, early Thursday morning.

Asteroid 2020 SW was discovered on September 18, by the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona. Estimated at between 5 to 10 metres wide, this space rock will make its closest pass by Earth at 7:12 a.m. EDT, on Thursday, September 24.

At that time, it is expected to be roughly 22,000 kilometres above the planet’s surface.

“There are a large number of tiny asteroids like this one, and several of them approach our planet as close as this several times every year,” Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a press release on Wednesday. “In fact, asteroids of this size impact our atmosphere at an average rate of about once every year or two.”

This frame from the NASA asteroid trajectory animation shows 2020 SW at its closest approach to Earth. Credit: NASA JPL

At that distance, the asteroid is actually closer than the ring of geostationary weather and communications satellites surrounding Earth at a distance of around 36,000 kilometres. However, as the image above shows, by then, the asteroid will be below the satellite ring and beneath Earth.

Although 2020 SW is logged as a “potentially hazardous asteroid” in NASA’s records, it doesn’t pose any threat to Earth. According to CNEOS, who has traced the asteroid’s orbit back to 1975 and forward to 2095, this September 24 pass is the closest this object has ever come to us in that timespan.

Asteroid-2020SW-Orbit-NASA-CNEOSThe shape of asteroid 2020 SW’s 373-day orbit around the Sun marks it as an Apollo asteroid – an Earth-crossing asteroid that spends all of its time between the orbits of Venus and Mars. Credit: NASA CNEOS

The next time the asteroid will be anywhere close to Earth again is in September of 2041. At that time, it will be pass far beyond the Moon, at a distance of over 3.5 million kilometres.

While 2020 SW poses no threat to Earth, it is still of interest to scientists. NASA’s Goldstone Observatory is planning to bounce radio waves off the asteroid’s surface during this close pass. The data collected can then be turned into radar images, revealing the asteroid’s shape and giving us an idea of its composition.

Goldstone-Observatory-NASAThe 34-meter DSS-13 radio antenna at the Goldstone Observatory is used for radio astronomy, including collecting radar images of passing near-Earth objects. Credit: NASA

According to NASA, if 2020 SW or an asteroid of similar size did actually strike Earth, it would almost certainly break apart high up in the atmosphere as a fireball. Only the toughest space rocks of this size – those primarily composed of metal – can reach the surface mostly intact.

“The detection capabilities of NASA’s asteroid surveys are continually improving,” added Chodas, “and we should now expect to find asteroids of this size a couple days before they come near our planet.”

Indeed, the fact that this tiny rock was spotted roughly six days before its flyby is a testament to the Catalina Sky Survey’s asteroid detection skills.

Sources: NASA JPL | NASA CNEOS

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