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The Backyard Astronomer: Mars closest this Tuesday – BayToday.ca

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Over the past few months, the planet Mars hs been steadily brightening and is now at its peak.

While it takes Earth 365 days to orbit once around the sun, Mars lies farther away from the sun taking 687 days to complete one lap. Every 26 months and an odd number of days, Earth catches up with slower Mars, allowing us to see greater detail on its surface through the eyepiece of a telescope.

With a separation of 60 million kilometres on October 6, Mars is big and bright.

Dubbed the “red” planet, Mars appears more orange than red and is the result of a large amount of rust otherwise known as iron oxide that covers much of the Martian landscape.

It is now rising in the east after sunset and is visible all night long. Jupiter and Saturn are still seen in the western sky and set at midnight. Mercury is also in the west close to the Sun and harder to locate. Before the night ends, brilliant Venus is seen rising in the east around 4 a.m.

The days of the week were derived from these five wandering planets along with the Sun and the moon. As the latter months of 2020 tick by, Mars will continue to dim as our distance increases. Our next close encounter occurs in December 2022.

Ever since the first successful flyby by NASA’s Mariner 4 in July of 1965, dozens of missions have been sent to Mars to learn its secrets and answer to the ultimate question, is there life on Mars? With the help of orbiters, landers, and rovers, more and more discoveries are being made.

One of the key ingredients to finding life is water. Every living organism on Earth requires water and scientist believe Mars had oceans some three billion years ago. As the planet continued to cool from its early creation, it lost its magnetic field protecting it from deadly solar radiation. The solar winds blew away the atmosphere and the water evaporated.

There have been more recent discoveries of saltwater locked up in the permafrost. The next mission carrying rover Perseverance and a small helicopter named Ingenuity is currently on its seven-month journey to reach the planet in February 2021.  

Known as “The Backyard Astronomer”, Gary Boyle is an astronomy educator, guest speaker, and monthly columnist for the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. He has been interviewed on more than 50 Canadian radio stations and local Ottawa TV. In recognition of his public outreach in astronomy, the International Astronomical Union has honoured him with the naming of Asteroid (22406) Garyboyle. Follow him on Twitter: @astroeducator or his website: www.wondersofastronomy.com

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Two flights into Abbotsford have had recent COVID-19 exposures – Surrey Now-Leader

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Two flights to Abbotsford have each had a recent COVID-19 exposure, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (CDC).

The agency indicates on its website that the flights involved were WestJet flight 637 from Calgary to Abbotsford on Wednesday, Oct. 14 (rows nine to 15) and Swoop flight 107 from Hamilton to Abbotsford on Monday, Oct. 19 (rows 20 to 26).

The CDC advises that anyone who was on these flights should self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days.

RELATED: Vancouver airport to pilot pre-flight COVID-19 tests for select WestJet passengers

Passengers on domestic flights are not required to self-isolate, but those who have travelled outside of Canada are required to self-isolate for 14 days upon their arrival.

Passengers seated on a plane with a case of COVID-19 that was later identified are no longer directly notified of their potential exposure. Instead, anyone who has travelled is asked to monitor the CDC website.

Passengers seated in the affected rows are considered to be at higher risk of exposure due to their proximity to the case.

RELATED: WestJet to offer full refunds for flights cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic



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Two flights into Abbotsford have had recent COVID-19 exposures – Chilliwack Progress

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Two flights to Abbotsford have each had a recent COVID-19 exposure, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (CDC).

The agency indicates on its website that the flights involved were WestJet flight 637 from Calgary to Abbotsford on Wednesday, Oct. 14 (rows nine to 15) and Swoop flight 107 from Hamilton to Abbotsford on Monday, Oct. 19 (rows 20 to 26).

The CDC advises that anyone who was on these flights should self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days.

RELATED: Vancouver airport to pilot pre-flight COVID-19 tests for select WestJet passengers

Passengers on domestic flights are not required to self-isolate, but those who have travelled outside of Canada are required to self-isolate for 14 days upon their arrival.

Passengers seated on a plane with a case of COVID-19 that was later identified are no longer directly notified of their potential exposure. Instead, anyone who has travelled is asked to monitor the CDC website.

Passengers seated in the affected rows are considered to be at higher risk of exposure due to their proximity to the case.

RELATED: WestJet to offer full refunds for flights cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic



vhopes@abbynews.com

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Asteroid samples escaping from jammed NASA spacecraft – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – A NASA spacecraft is stuffed with so much asteroid rubble from this week’s grab that it’s jammed open and precious particles are drifting away in space, scientists said Friday.

Scientists announced the news three days after the spacecraft named Osiris-Rex briefly touched asteroid Bennu, NASA’s first attempt at such a mission.

The mission’s lead scientist, Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, said Tuesday’s operation 200 million miles away collected far more material than expected for return to Earth – in the hundreds of grams. The sample container on the end of the robot arm penetrated so deeply into the asteroid and with such force, however, that rocks got sucked in and became wedged around the rim of the lid.

Scientists estimate the sampler pressed as much as 19 inches (48 centimetres) into the rough, crumbly, black terrain.

“We’re almost a victim of our own success here,” Lauretta said at a hastily arranged news conference.

Lauretta said there is nothing flight controllers can do to clear the obstructions and prevent more bits of Bennu from escaping, other than to get the samples into their return capsule as soon as possible.

So, the flight team was scrambling to put the sample container into the capsule as early as Tuesday – much sooner than originally planned – for the long trip home.

“Time is of the essence,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, chief of NASA’s science missions.

This is NASA’s first asteroid sample-return mission. Bennu was chosen because its carbon-rich material is believed to hold the preserved building blocks of our solar system. Getting pieces from this cosmic time capsule could help scientists better understand how the planets formed billions of years ago and how life originated on Earth.

Scientists were stunned – and then dismayed – on Thursday when they saw the pictures coming from Osiris-Rex following its wildly successful touch-and-go at Bennu two days earlier.

A cloud of asteroid particles could be seen swirling around the spacecraft as it backed away from Bennu. The situation appeared to stabilize, according to Lauretta, once the robot arm was locked into place. But it was impossible to know exactly how much had already been lost.

The requirement for the $800 million-plus mission was to bring back a minimum 2 ounces (60 grams).

Regardless of what’s on board, Osiris-Rex will still leave the vicinity of the asteroid in March – that’s the earliest possible departure given the relative locations of Earth and Bennu. The samples won’t make it back until 2023, seven years after the spacecraft rocketed away from Cape Canaveral.

Osiris-Rex will keep drifting away from Bennu and will not orbit it again, as it waits for its scheduled departure.

Because of the sudden turn of events, scientists won’t know how much the sample capsule holds until it’s back on Earth. They initially planned to spin the spacecraft to measure the contents, but that manoeuvr was cancelled since it could spill even more debris.

“I think we’re going to have to wait until we get home to know precisely how much we have,” Lauretta told reporters. “As you can imagine, that’s hard. … But the good news is we see a lot of material.”

Japan, meanwhile, is awaiting its second batch of samples taken from a different asteroid, due back in December.

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