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Scientists say interstellar comet has led a very cold existence – Ars Technica



Enlarge / An image of interstellar comet  2I/Borisov,

Comets are essentially time capsules. Most formed during the early days of our Solar System, amid the disk of dust and gas around the Sun. The majority of this dust and gas coalesced into planets, but some of the leftovers—especially toward the outer edge of the disk—wound up in comets.

Because comets spend much of their time in cold expanses far from the Sun, their interiors are relatively well preserved. Thus most comets offer scientists an unprecedented view of what conditions were like in the earliest days of the Solar System before planets formed.

To date, astronomers have studied hundreds of comets in our Solar System to understand its origin. But now, they’ve been able to look at the interior of an interstellar comet for the first time. In two new papers published in Nature Astronomy, scientists trained two of their most powerful observatories on 2I/Borisov, the first confirmed comet to enter our Solar System from elsewhere.

Scientists learn about a comet’s interior by observing gases produced in its coma, the envelope surrounding the nucleus where sublimation has occurred. So to understand 2I/Borisov, astronomers observed its coma as it passed through our Solar System at a relative velocity of 33km/s.

Living a chill life

In one paper, astronomers who used the Hubble Space Telescope to observe the comet for a month in December and January found an abundance of carbon monoxide three times higher than any comet previously observed in the inner Solar System.

Separately, an international team of scientists observed the comet with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array in Chile, a collection of 66 radio telescopes, in December. The array’s observations, too, found an abnormally high amount of carbon monoxide in the comet.

The researchers concluded that 2I/Borisov must have formed in an environment rich in carbon monoxide, likely in the icy, outer regions of the disk of material around a newly formed star. Moreover, the scientists believe, after being ejected from this early Solar System, 2I/Borisov must have remained very cold as it spent hundreds of millions, or even billions, of years in interstellar space before nearing our Solar System.

Due to the abundance of material in its nucleus, scientists speculate that the comet has spent its entire existence at temperatures of 25 Kelvin or lower—within a few dozen Celsius degrees of absolute zero. Given this, 2I/Borisov probably originated around a red-dwarf star, the most common kind in the Milky Way Galaxy. Such stars are much cooler than the Sun.

This comet is just the second object that astronomers have confirmed to have interstellar origins, following ‘Oumuamua, the bizarre cigar-shaped object discovered in 2017 that is now hurtling away from the Sun.

Nature Astronomy, 2020. DOI: 10.1038/s41550-020-1087-2  (About DOIs).

Nature Astronomy, 2020. DOI: 10.1038/s41550-020-1095-2  (About DOIs).

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City council votes to move forward on proposed multi-use indoor turf facility at Chapples Park in Thunder Bay –



After more than four hours of discussions, presentations and debate, Thunder Bay’s city council voted to move forward on the proposed multi-use indoor turf facility at Chapples Park.

Councillors voted nine to four in favour of putting the facility out to tender for construction upon completion of the tender package and to confirm the source of financing identified in the report presented before the council on Monday night.

Before the vote was held, council received four deputations from community members, including two that requested council delay making a decision until other sources of funding were confirmed, a presentation from former city councillor and current vice-president with the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition (CLE) Joe Virdiramo about the possibility of considering the construction of a new facility on the CLE grounds, and from Mike Veneziale of Soccer Northwest Ontario.

Questions from councillors to city administration and presenters ranged from the cost of the facility to residents, the potential impact on the business case for the facility if a private turf facility is constructed at the Golf Links Road location, the source of funding for the project and potential contributions from other levels of government, as well as the level of community support.

Councillors also debated the possibility of delaying their decision until November 2021 at the latest.

That recommendation was put forth by Thunder Bay city manager Norm Gale, who sought council’s support to push the date for a decision back to provide more clarity on the city’s financial status as a result of uncertainties brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The fact that there is no confirmed external funding to support the project came up frequently during the council debate. Specifically, the city has an outstanding application for funding through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program that would be deemed ineligible if council voted to put the facility out for tender before receiving an answer in regards to their application.

However, the motion to refer the decision was defeated by a vote of nine to four, with councillors Mark Bentz, Trevor Giertuga, Brian Hamilton and Rebecca Johnson all voting in favour of pushing back the date for a decision.

The next test for the facility will come at the city council meeting on Aug 24, when councillors will vote to confirm their decision to move forward and put the facility out for tender.

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What you need to know about COVID-19 in Ottawa on Tuesday, Aug. 11 –



Recent developments:

What’s the latest?

School boards in Quebec and Ottawa updated their plans for September on Monday, but many parents say they still don’t know if they feel safe sending their kids back to class.

Parents trying to decide whether to send their kids back to school this fall are frustrated because they don’t think the board has given enough information to make that call. We speak with parents. 10:21

Multiple Royal Canadian Legions in eastern Ontario say they’re on the brink of bankruptcy or permanent closure since they’ve been unable to rent out halls or hold fundraisers in the pandemic.

While parts of the Ottawa area are under a heat warning, experts are starting to speak up about what the first full winter of this pandemic will look like.

How many cases are there?

There have been 2,650 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa since the pandemic began and 264 people have died of the respiratory illness.

The majority of cases in the city — 2,240 — are classified as resolved.

In all, public health officials have reported nearly 4,100 cases across eastern Ontario and western Quebec, with more than 3,500 cases resolved.


COVID-19 has killed 102 people in the region outside Ottawa: 52 in Leeds, Grenville and Lanark counties, 17 in other parts of eastern Ontario and 33 in the Outaouais.

Experts analyzing blood tests said last week the number of people infected with the coronavirus in Ontario could be four times more than previously confirmed and in Quebec, more than twice as many.

What’s open and closed?

Ottawa is in Stage 3 of Ontario’s reopening plan, which means more businesses are open including dine-in restaurants and movie theatres.

Indoor gatherings of up to 50 people and outdoor gatherings of up to 100 are now allowed in that province but attendees must follow physical distancing guidelines.

Quebec has similar rules, with its cap on physically distanced gatherings in public venues now up to 250 people, allowing smaller festivals.

The Canada Science and Technology Museum reopens Friday and the Canadian Museum of Nature Sept, 5, following other national museums.

The Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa plans to reopen after Labour Day with controlled attendance and a set route through the exhibits. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Most Ottawa Public Library branches will be open for in-person browsing and computer use next week. 

Elementary students in Ontario will be heading back to school full time come September, while most high school students will split their time between the classroom and online learning, depending on the board. 

Individual boards have started to release further guidance.

With the next school year just weeks away, Ottawa’s two largest school boards are rolling out their plans for September. We get the latest from the directors of education at the city’s English public and Catholic boards. 14:34

Distancing and isolating

The novel coronavirus primarily spreads through droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes on another person or object. People don’t need to have symptoms to be contagious.

That means physical distancing measures such as working from home, meeting others outdoors as much as possible and keeping distance from anyone they don’t live with or have in their circle, including when you have a mask on.

Do you trust that your social bubble is exclusive to just the ten people in them? And as more things open up in the province — what are the challenges of maintaining the bubble? 17:15

Masks are now mandatory in indoor public settings in all of eastern Ontario and Quebec, where transit officials and taxi drivers are now required to bar access to users over age 12 who refuse to wear one.

Masks are also recommended outdoors when you can’t stay the proper distance from others.

York Street in the ByWard Market in August 2020, with traffic changes to encourage distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Michel Aspirot/Radio-Canada)

Anyone who has symptoms or travelled recently outside Canada must self-isolate for at least 14 days.

Anyone waiting for a COVID-19 test result in Ontario must self-isolate at least until they know the result. Quebec asks people waiting to only self-isolate in certain circumstances.

People in both provinces should self-isolate if they’ve been in contact with someone who’s tested positive or is presumed to have COVID-19.

WATCH | Q&A on changes to the testing strategy

As more workplaces open and schools prepare to open, an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist answer questions about COVID-19 testing, including whether going for a test should be normalized. 4:57

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health strongly urges self-isolation for people with weakened immune systems and OPH recommends people over 70 stay home as much as possible. 

Top medical officials say people should be prepared for the possibility COVID-19 restrictions last into 2022 or 2023.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

COVID-19 can range from a cold-like illness to a severe lung infection, with common symptoms including fever, a dry cough, vomiting and the loss of taste or smell. 

Less common symptoms include chills, headaches and pinkeye. Children can develop a rash.

If you have severe symptoms, call 911.

Where to get tested

In eastern Ontario:

In Ottawa any resident who feels they need a test, even if they are not showing symptoms, can be tested at one of three sites.

Inuit in Ottawa can call the Akausivik Inuit Family Health Team at 613-740-0999 for service, including testing, in Inuktitut or English on weekdays.

Atlético Ottawa midfielder Francisco Acuna and defender Vashon Neufville stretch during a practice June 3, 2020. The expansion team debuts on Saturday afternoon during the CPL’s P.E.I. tournament. (Chris Wattie/The Canadian Press)

In the Eastern Ontario Health Unit area, there is a drive-thru centre in Casselman that can handle 200 tests a day and assessment centres in Hawkesbury and Winchester that don’t require people to call ahead.

Others in Alexandria, Rockland and Cornwall require an appointment.

In Kingston, the Leon’s Centre is hosting the city’s test site. Find it at Gate 2.

Napanee‘s test centre is open daily for people who call for an appointment.

You can arrange a test in Bancroft, Belleville or Trenton by calling the centre and in Picton by texting or calling.

WATCH | New mobile test aims to identify sick employees on the job

A new rapid, mobile COVID-19 test could help workplaces efficiently test employees and keep the virus out. The New Gold mine in Rainy River, Ont., is testing out the system and is the first Canadian employer to screen employees on-site. 6:57

The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark unit asks you to get tested if you have a symptom or concerns about exposure.

It has a walk-in site in Brockville at the Memorial Centre and testing sites in Smiths Falls and Almonte which require an appointment.

There are test clinics in five Renfrew County communities this week.

Its residents should call their family doctor and those without access to a family doctor can call 1-844-727-6404 to register for a test or if they have health questions, COVID-19-related or not.

Early on in this pandemic – things like flour, yeast and toilet paper were like gold at the grocery store: rare and precious. Now you might have a hard time finding other things on the shelves. We get the latest on what’s likely to be out of stock as this strange summer continues. 5:58

In western Quebec:

Outaouais residents now can get a walk-in test in Gatineau five days a week at 135 blvd. Saint-Raymond and at recurring clinics by appointment in communities such as Gracefield, Val-des-Monts and Fort-Coulonge.

They can call 1-877-644-4545 to make an appointment or if they have other questions.

As of mid-August, there were longer wait times for test results here compared to some other regions of Quebec.

Parc des Cèdres in the western Gatineau, Que., community of Aylmer June 25, 2020. Gatineau is one of the communities under a heat warning today, one that’s expected to end tonight. (Frédéric Pepin/Radio-Canada)

First Nations:

Local communities have declared states of emergency, put in a curfew or both.

Akwesasne has had 14 confirmed COVID-19 cases. Most are linked back to a gathering on an island with a non-resident who wasn’t showing symptoms at the time.

It has a mobile COVID-19 test site available by appointment only. Anyone returning to the community on the Canadian side of the international border who’s been farther than 80 kilometres away is asked to self-isolate for 14 days. It’s 100 miles or 160 kilometres away on the American side.

Anyone in Tyendinaga who’s interested in a test can call 613-967-3603 to talk to a nurse. Face coverings are now mandatory in its public buildings.

People in Pikwakanagan can book an appointment for a COVID-19 test by calling 613-625-2259.

Kitigan Zibi is planning for an Aug. 29 election with changes depending on the status of the pandemic at that time. It plans on starting to open schools and daycares next month.

For more information

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Game on for indoor turf facility –



THUNDER BAY – A controversial indoor sports complex looks set to move ahead after Thunder Bay’s city council voted to put the project to tender following hours of debate Monday night.

The decision still needs to be ratified by council at its next meeting on Aug. 24, though its passage on a 9-4 vote would seem to make a reversal unlikely.

The Chapples Park facility would offer opportunities for sports including soccer, ultimate frisbee, cricket, football, lacrosse, and baseball training, with a full size indoor field that can be divided in four for smaller games and practice.

The project comes with a price tag of $33.6 million – though a recent review by the city’s Community Economic Development Commission (CEDC) suggested actual costs to the city could exceed $48 million.

A group of four councillors – Mark Bentz, Trevor Giertuga, Brian Hamilton, and Rebecca Johnson – argued council should delay a decision on the project given the uncertain financial impact of COVID-19 and lack of hoped-for support from upper levels of government.

That echoed a recommendation to wait from city manager Norm Gale and the results of city consultations, which showed a majority of respondents opposed moving forward with the project at this time.

Of the 405 respondents to a survey on the project in July and August, 23 per cent opposed it outright, while another 27 per cent felt now was not the right time to go ahead with it. That compared to 35 per cent who clearly supported it.

Proponents, however, argued Monday the cost of the project was worth bearing given its benefits. It would meet the desperate need for indoor recreation opportunities in the city – especially for youth  – and help make Thunder Bay a more attractive place for young people, they said.

“It’s going to continue bringing people into our city and keep people from leaving it,” Soccer Northwest president Mike Veneziale told councillors. “When young professionals are looking to move to a city, this is something they’d look towards.”

The head of the group, which has long advocated for a permanent indoor facility, said the venue still wouldn’t meet demand for field time during the winter, and was likely to turn a profit after its second year in operation.

Coun. Andrew Foulds framed the turf facility as a legacy project with the power to help define the city and the opportunities it offers, comparing it to the community auditorium. The uncertainty of the COVID-19 crisis made approving it the most difficult decision in his 14 years on city council, he said – but ultimately felt its positive impact would justify the expense.

Just how much the facility is likely to cost the city remains up for debate. So far unsuccessful in securing support from the provincial or federal governments, the municipality now could bear its full cost.

That was a deal-breaker for councillors like Giertuga and Johnson, given a projected $7 million deficit for the city in 2020 thanks to the pandemic.

“I think we need an endorsement from the community, and right now they’re saying no,” said Johnson.

Neebing ward councillor Cody Fraser acknowledged the project may be unpopular with many constituents and said voting for it could hurt him electorally, but felt strongly it was the right thing for the community’s future.

He had yet to speak to someone under age 35 who opposed it, he said.

“To be frank, I’m upset that the conversation’s all about money,” he said. “I think this facility is a glimmer of hope, a glimmer of some kind of normalcy, whatever that’s going to look like.”

Putting the project to tender means it’s no longer eligible for nearly $22 million in federal infrastructure dollars the city had applied for. Applications for around $1 million through NOHFC and FedNor are still outstanding, while the city says it will continue to seek other sources.

The facility itself is estimated to cost $33.6 million, but with interest payments expected on a possible $15 million debenture needed to pay for the project over 25 years, the cost rises to $42 million.

The debenture would supplement around $15 million already saved in an Indoor Turf Facility Reserve Fund, $3.3 million from the Renew Thunder Bay Reserve Fund, and around $500,000 from 2020 Municipal Accommodation Tax dollars.

The Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Corporation (CEDC) called the city’s cost estimates into question in a recent review of the project, saying it could in fact wind up costing $48 million or more, partly due to the impact of COVID-19 on construction costs.

A last-minute intervention from the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition (CLE), asking the city to consider its intercity location for the indoor sports complex, went unheeded despite promises the move would save the city money on site preparation and attract more visitors thanks to its central location.

City administration expected the project would take 24 to 26 months to complete after going to tender.

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