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There's a comet up there! – The Bay Observer – Providing a Fresh Perspective for Hamilton and Burlington

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A bright comet is now in the evening sky and you can see it without a telescope. Comet F3 (NEOWISE) has been a fantastic object in the early morning pre-dawn sky but will be well placed below the Big Dipper to see and photograph over the next couple of weeks and hopefully into August. I have been following and imaging this comet since the first week of July and could see it even without binoculars (naked eye).

The comet was discovered on March 27, 2020, by the NEOWISE space telescope as it looks for near-earth objects that could potentially impact our planet. Measuring a little more than half the height of Mount Everest, this object falls into the category of a “once in a decade comet”.

Every year astronomers both amateur and professional observe 5 to 10 comets with telescopes. In most cases, they show a green nucleus from the sublimation of frozen chemicals such as ammonia and others. The extremely faint tail is seen when photographed but all comets are different in composition and appearance as Neowise does not appear green. The last bright comet that was visible to the naked eye for the whole world to see was Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997. And like Neowise, it too had a blue ion or gas tail and a fan-shaped dust tail created when comets round the sun as this one did on July 3 at a close distance of 43 million kilometres.

Neowise will be closest to earth on its way out of the solar system on July 22 at a safe distance of 103 million kilometres and will be starting to fade with a shortening tail as it retreats from the sun’s heat and back to the icy depths of space. Comet Neowise originates from the Oort Cloud, where long-period comets reside and will return close to 6,800 years from now. Halley’s Comet is a short period comet originating from the Kuiper Belt. Along with this chart of the comet’s path, many smartphone astronomy apps will also guide you to our celestial visitor. Enjoy this spectacular comet every chance you can as you never know when the next bright will come to visit.

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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

By Gary Boyle – The Backyard Astronomer

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NASA Curiosity rover marks 8 years on Mars with 'Spaghetti Western' view – CNET

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This is just part of the Curiosity rover’s epic “Spaghetti Western” landscape view of Mars from late 2019.


NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Cue an Ennio Morricone sound track. NASA released a fresh view of Mars, and it looks like Clint Eastwood is about to stroll across the red planet. 

NASA’s Curiosity rover arrived on Mars on Aug. 5, 2012 (or Aug. 6 depending on your location). To celebrate, the space agency released eight eye-catching images of Mars this week that tie into the rover’s past and present experiences on the planet. 

One of the newly released looks shows what NASA describes as a “Spaghetti Western landscape.” Curiosity snapped the 130 images used for the panorama in December 2019. It shows a spot called Western Butte in the foreground. 

You can check out the full, massive panorama on NASA’s Mars Exploration Program site.

Another newly released image shows a striking portrait of Mount Sharp, the massive central mountain inside the Gale Crater, in October 2019. 

Curiosity took the images used in this Mount Sharp panorama in late 2019.


NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

NASA shared a total of eight Martian “postcards” to mark each year for Curiosity. One image traces to back to 2014 and even shows a far-off view of the rover’s current location. 

This Curiosity view from 2014 fortuitously looked ahead to the rover’s current location several miles away. The arrow and circle show where Curiosity is exploring in August 2020.


NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“I can’t help but also think about the corresponding distance we’ve traveled in our understanding of Mars’ habitable past since the time we took this picture,” said Curiosity deputy project scientist Abigail Fraeman.

It’s been an epic eight years for the rover. Curiosity has traveled more than 14 miles (23 kilometers) over rough and rocky terrain. It just drilled its 27th hole on the red planet. 

The rover may be leaving some physical marks on Mars, but it’s also building out its impressive science legacy. The vehicle is healthy and looking forward to its continuing mission of peering into Mars’ past, looking for evidence that it may have once been habitable for life. 

Curiosity will soon be welcoming a friend to Mars. NASA’s Perseverance rover is scheduled to arrive in February 2021 after a successful July launch. China is also sending along a rover with its Tianwen-1 mission. 

The rovers will all be exploring different regions of Mars, so there won’t be any firsthand hellos exchanged. When it comes to Mars, the more the merrier.

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Science News Roundup: NASA astronauts cap historic aboard SpaceX Crew Dragon; 'Gnarly' tumor shows dinosaurs got cancer and more – Devdiscourse

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Following is a summary of current science news briefs.

NASA astronauts cap historic ‘odyssey’ aboard SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule

U.S. astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, who flew to the International Space Station in SpaceX’s new Crew Dragon, splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday after a two-month voyage that was NASA’s first crewed mission from home soil in nine years. Behnken and Hurley, tallying 64 days in space, undocked from the station on Saturday and returned home to land their capsule in calm waters off Florida’s Pensacola coast on schedule at 2:48 p.m. ET following a 21-hour overnight journey aboard Crew Dragon “Endeavor.”

‘Gnarly’ tumor shows dinosaurs got cancer, too

When scientists first unearthed fossils of a horned dinosaur called Centrosaurus in the badlands of Dinosaur Provincial Park in Canada’s Alberta province in 1989, they spotted a badly malformed leg bone they figured was a healed fracture. A fresh examination, researchers said on Monday, shows something different. The malformation was a manifestation of osteosarcoma, an aggressive bone cancer, making this Centrosaurus, which lived 76 million years ago, the first known example of a dinosaur afflicted by malignant cancer.

Virgin Galactic’s Branson to fly into space in early 2021

Billionaire Richard Branson will fly into space on a Virgin Galactic rocket ship early next year, the space tourism company he founded said on Monday, adding that it would raise new funds with a share offering. Branson’s trip to space hinges on the success of two upcoming test flight programs, Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc said, with the first powered spaceflight scheduled for this fall from Spaceport America.

Scientists inspired by ‘Star Wars’ create artificial skin able to feel

Singapore researchers have developed “electronic skin” capable of recreating a sense of touch, an innovation they hope will allow people with prosthetic limbs to detect objects, as well as feel texture, or even temperature and pain. The device, dubbed ACES, or Asynchronous Coded Electronic Skin, is made up of 100 small sensors and is about 1 sq cm (0.16 square inch) in size.

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Dinosaurs got cancer too, say scientists – Bangkok Post

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A new study identifies the first known case of cancer in dinosaurs and shows they suffered from the debilitating disease too

OTTAWA – Dinosaurs loom in the imagination as forces of nature, but a new study that identifies the first known case of cancer in the creatures shows they suffered from the debilitating disease too.

A badly malformed Centrosaurus leg bone unearthed in the Alberta, Canada badlands in 1989 had originally been thought by paleontologists to be a healed fracture.

But a fresh examination of the growth under a microscope and using a technique also employed in human cancer care determined it was actually a malignant tumor.

“The cancer discovery makes dinosaurs more real,” study co-author Mark Crowther told AFP.

“We often think of them as mythical creatures, robust and stomping around, but (the diagnosis shows) they suffered from diseases just like people.”

The findings were published in the August issue of The Lancet Oncology.

Most cancers occur in soft tissues, which are not well-preserved in fossil records, noted Crowther, a dinosaur enthusiast and chair of McMaster University’s medical faculty in Canada.

“Oddly enough, under a microscope it looked a lot like human Osteosarcoma,” he said.

“It’s fascinating that this cancer existed tens of millions of years ago and still exists today.”

Osteosarcoma is an aggressive bone cancer that still afflicts about three out of one million people each year.

– ‘Just part of life’ –

In this horned herbivore that lived 76 million to 77 million years ago it had metastasised and likely hobbled the giant lizard, the researchers said in the study.

But neither the late-stage cancer nor a predator looking to make a meal out of slow and weak prey is believed to have killed it.

Because its bones were discovered with more than 100 others from the same herd, the researchers said, it’s more likely they all died in a sudden disaster such as a flood, and that prior to this catastrophe the herd protected the lame dinosaur, extending its life.

Lead researchers Crowther and David Evans, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, and their team sifted through hundreds of samples of abnormal bones at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta, to find the bone with a tumour, which is about the size of an apple.

The team also used high-resolution computed tomography (CT) scans, a multidisciplinary diagnostic technique used in human cancer care.

Crowther said dinosaurs would probably have been at higher risk of Osteosarcoma, which affects youths with fast-growing bones, because they grew very quickly and big.

“In terms of the biology of cancer,” he said, “you often hear about environmental, dietary and other causes of cancer. Finding a case from more than 75 million years ago you realize it’s just a part of life.”

“You have an animal that surely wasn’t smoking (a leading cause of cancer in humans) and so it shows that cancer is not a recent invention, and that it’s not exclusively linked to our environment.”

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