Following is a summary of current science news briefs.
UC San Diego research lab to make environmentally friendly flip flops from algae
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego hope to make future beach visits both environmentally and fashion-friendly, with a new formula for biodegradable flip flops. Mike Burkart, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the public research university in San Diego, California, has developed a polymer from algae, which decomposes naturally.
British fossil hunters find bones of new dinosaur species, cousin to T.Rex
Four bones found on a beach on the Isle of Wight, off England’s south coast, belong to a new species of theropod dinosaur, the group that includes Tyrannosaurus rex, researchers at the University of Southampton said on Wednesday. The new dinosaur, which has been named Vectaerovenator inopinatus, lived in the Cretaceous period 115 million years ago and was estimated to have been up to four metres long, the palaeontologists said.
Mystery of the dimming of massive star Betelgeuse explained
Astronomers have determined the cause of the dramatic dimming observed last year and earlier this year of one of the brightest stars in the night sky, a colossus called Betelgeuse that appears to be on its way toward a violent death. Based on Hubble Space Telescope observations, scientists said they believe Betelgeuse ejected a huge hot, dense cloud of material into space that cooled to form dust, shielding the star’s light and making it appear dimmer from the perspective of viewers on Earth.
‘Secret’ life of sharks: Study reveals their surprising social networks
Sharks have more complex social lives than previously known, as shown by a study finding that gray reef sharks in the Pacific Ocean cultivate surprising social networks with one another and develop bonds that can endure for years. The research focused on the social behavior of 41 reef sharks around the Palmyra Atoll, about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) southwest of Hawaii, using acoustic transmitters to track them and camera tags to gain greater clarity into their interactions.
Chemical signal for locust swarming identified in step toward curbing plagues
Scientists have identified a chemical compound released by locusts that causes them to swarm, opening the door to possible new ways to prevent these insects from devouring crops vital to human sustenance as they have for millennia. Researchers said on Wednesday they identified the pheromone – a chemical produced by an animal that affects the behavior of others of its own species – in the world’s most widespread locust species, the migratory locust, or Locusta migratoria.
An Asteroid Will Get Closer to Earth Than The Moon This Thursday, But Don't Panic – ScienceAlert
The asteroid – known as 2020 SW – isn’t expected to collide with Earth, according to the Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. But it will get close, passing about 16,700 miles (27,000 kilometers) away from Earth, according to the Virtual Telescope Project.
To put this in perspective, the moon hangs out at an average of 238,900 miles (384,000 km) from us, or about 30 Earths away. This asteroid will pass at a distance of about 2.1 Earths.
This means that asteroid 2020 SW will pass even closer than TV and weather satellites, which orbit at about 22,300 miles (35,888 km) away from Earth, according to EarthSky.
Scientists have yet to pin down the asteroid’s exact size, but it’s not that large, likely between 14 feet and 32 feet (4.4 and 9.9 meters) long, according to CNEOS.
This potentially RV-size asteroid was discovered only last week, on September 18, by the Mount Lemmon Survey in Arizona, and announced the next day by the Minor Planet Center, a NASA-funded group that monitors minor planets, comets and natural satellites. (It’s not unusual to find unknown asteroids; in September alone, the Minor Planet Center has announced the discovery of 244 near-Earth objects.)
Passing by Earth will actually be a life-changing event for asteroid 2020 SW. It’s such a small asteroid that Earth’s gravity is expected to change the space rock’s course when it zooms by our planet at 7:18 am EDT (11:18 UTC), according to EarthSky.
After asteroid 2020 SW’s close shave with Earth, it won’t pay our planet another visit until 3 June 2029, according to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
That said, the asteroid is certainly rushing to see us this Thursday (we hope it has a face mask), traveling at a velocity of about 17,200 mph (27,720 km/h, or 7.7 km/second) relative to Earth, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory reported.
The asteroid will appear brighter as it nears Earth, but it won’t be visible to the naked eye.
If you want a clear view of the space rock, visit The Virtual Telescope website, which is showing a live feed starting at 6 pm EDT (22:00 UTC) on Wednesday, September 23.
ISS moves to avoid space debris – Space Daily
Astronauts on the International Space Station carried out an “avoidance maneuver” Tuesday to ensure they would not be hit by a piece of debris, said US space agency NASA, urging better management of objects in Earth’s orbit.
Russian and US flight controllers worked together during a two-and-a-half-minute operation to adjust the station’s orbit and move further away, avoiding collision.
The debris passed within about 1.4 kilometers (nearly one mile) of the ISS, NASA said.
The three crew members — two Russians and an American — relocated to be near their Soyuz spacecraft as the maneuver began so they could evacuate if necessary, NASA said, adding that the precaution was taken “out of an abundance of caution.”
The astronauts were able to return to their normal activities after the procedure, according to NASA.
“Maneuver Burn complete. The astronauts are coming out of safe haven,” NASA chief Jim Bridenstine said on Twitter.
The threatening scrap was actually a piece of a 2018 Japanese rocket, astronomer Jonathan McDowell said on Twitter. The rocket broke up into 77 different pieces last year.
The ISS usually orbits roughly 260 miles (420 kilometers) above the Earth, at a speed of about 17,000 miles per hour.
At such a velocity, even a small object could seriously damage a solar panel or other facet of the station.
This type of maneuver is necessary on a regular basis. NASA said 25 such maneuvers had occurred between 1999 and 2018.
Bridenstine wrote on Twitter that this was the third such maneuver on the ISS just this year.
The operations could become even more frequent as Earth’s orbit becomes littered with pieces of satellites, rockets and other objects launched into space over the last sixty years.
Accidental or deliberate collisions, including anti-satellite missile launches by India in 2019 and China in 2007, can break objects apart even further and create added risk.
“Debris is getting worse! Time for Congress to provide @CommerceGov with the $15 mil requested by @POTUS for the Office of Space Commerce,” Bridenstine tweeted.
The Office of Space Commerce is a civilian organization that supporters want to take over the surveillance of space junk, a job currently occupied by the military.
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Small leak of ammonia detected at US Segment of ISS
Moscow (Sputnik) Sep 18, 2020
A small leak of ammonia has been detected at the US segment of the International Space Station (ISS), Roscosmos confirmed to Sputnik, adding that the incident poses no threat to crew members.
Ammonia is used in transferring heat from the US segment on the ISS to space. Moderate levels of ammonia are not so dangerous, but exposure to high concentrations of it can be a health hazard.
“Experts have registered an ammonia leak outside the US segment of the ISS. We are speaking about the leak with … read more
'Unknown' Space Debris Prompts ISS Crew to Prepare for Avoidance Maneuver – Sputnik International
Flight controllers in Mission Control Houston, along with the US Space Command, successfully avoided a collision with a piece of space debris that passed within several kilometers of the International Space Station (ISS).
According to NASA, an avoidance maneuver took place using the Russian Progress resupply spacecraft while astronauts aboard the ISS take shelter inside their Soyuz spacecraft.
“Using the ISS Progress 75 thrusters and with NASA and Russian flight controllers working in tandem, the International Space Station conducted a 150-second reboost Tuesday afternoon at 5:19 p.m. EDT to avoid a possible conjunction with an unknown piece of space debris,” NASA said in a post.
Due to safety concerns, three Expedition 63 crew members moved to the Russian segment of the station to be closer to their Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft. However, no crew members were in danger at any point in time.
“Once the avoidance maneuver was completed, the crew reopened hatches between the U.S. and Russian segments and resumed their regular activities,” NASA confirmed.
Last week, a small ammonia leak was detected in the US segment of ISS. However, the incident posed no threat to crew members.
“Experts have registered an ammonia leak outside the US segment of the ISS. We are speaking about the leak with the speed of some 700 grams [1.5 pounds] per year. But there is no threat to the ISS crew,” a Roscosmos source told Sputnik.
How to Avoid Malware on TikTok and Instagram – Lifehacker
An Asteroid Will Get Closer to Earth Than The Moon This Thursday, But Don't Panic – ScienceAlert
Alberta government announces panel aimed at spurring mineral investment – Edmonton Journal
Silver investment demand jumped 12% in 2019
Iran anticipates renewed protests amid social media shutdown
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