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Watch OSIRIS-REx's Complex Orbital Path Around Bennu in This Cool Animation – Universe Today

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The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft conducted a two-year reconnaissance and sample collection at the asteroid Bennu, providing crucial data about the 500-meter-wide potentially hazardous rubble pile/space rock. When OSIRIS-REx arrived on Dec. 3, 2018, it needed some tricky navigation and precise maneuvers to make the mission work.

Experts at NASA Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio created an amazing visualization of the path the spacecraft took during its investigations. A short film called “A Web Around Asteroid Bennu” highlights the complexity of the mission, and the film is being shown at the SIGGRAPH computer graphics conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, a festival honoring standout works of computer animated storytelling.

Other films in the festival include Disney’s “Encanto” and Warner Brothers’ “The Batman.”

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Data visualizer Kel Elkins compiled the data for the film, which shows the web-like flight path for OSIRIS-REx, as well as the touch-and-go, or TAG, maneuver to collect the sample from the asteroid’s surface.

“I started working with the trajectory data in 2015,” Elkins said. “And when you first see an image of all the different maneuvers it looks like a rat’s nest. But it was really exciting to see these complicated maneuvers in 3D space.”

The video runs about four minutes in total, showing the flight path around Bennu from beginning to end in a single, continuous shot.

Screenshot from the visualization of OSIRIS-REx’s orbital path.

“From a trajectory and navigation perspective, the team really did things that have never been done before in planetary exploration,” said Mike Moreau, deputy project manager for OSIRIS-REx at NASA Goddard. “We flew the spacecraft closer to this object than any spacecraft has ever been flown before; we did maneuvers that were centimeters per second, or millimeters per second, in order to get the spacecraft exactly where it needed to be and to change its orbit.”

Taking their data visualization to the next level, Elkins and colleagues plan to release a 360-degree version of “A Web Around Asteroid Bennu” that wraps the video around the viewer, for an interactive experience on VR headsets, mobile devices, and online.

“As amazing as it is to see the trajectory in front of you in the original format, there’s something about putting the viewer in the middle of it and letting them look around,” Elkins said. “You’re in space and OSIRIS-REx is flying around you. We’re really excited to be able to publish this additional 360-degree view.”

This illustration shows the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft departing asteroid Bennu to begin its two-year journey back to Earth. Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

OSIRIS-REx is currently on its way back towards Earth, and in September 2023, will drop off a sample in the Utah desert. Once the sample is retrieved, the spacecraft has been given a new mission, and it will be heading to one of the most infamous asteroids of them all, the potentially hazardous asteroid Apophis for an 18 month study. The mission will be renamed OSIRIS-APEX, which is short for OSIRIS-Apophis Explorer.

Source: NASA

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Jupiter will be its brightest in 59 years Monday. Here's how to see it for yourself – CBC News

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You may have noticed a bright “star” in the eastern sky after sunset, but that’s no star: it’s the mighty planet Jupiter, and it’s almost at its peak brightness.

Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system, is reaching opposition, an event that occurs when a celestial object rises in the east as the sun sets in the west, putting both the sun and the object on opposite sides of Earth.

But what also makes this special is that the planet will be the closest it has been to Earth in 59 years, meaning it will also be brighter than usual.

The reason planets vary in their distance from Earth is because their orbits aren’t perfectly circular, but rather slightly elliptical.

This image of Jupiter and its moons Io (lower left) and Ganymede (upper right) was acquired by amateur astronomer Damian Peach on Sept. 12, 2010, when Jupiter was close to opposition. South is up and the ‘Great Red Spot’ is visible in the image. (NASA/Damian Peach)

While Jupiter’s opposition happens roughly every 13 months, it’s not common for it to coincide with its closest approach, making this a particularly special treat.

How to see it

At its farthest, Jupiter can be as far as 966 million kilometres away, but on Monday, it will be about 591 million kilometres from Earth. The last time it was this close was in October 1963. And it won’t be this close again until 2129.

You can find the planet in the east after sunset. It’s hard to miss, even from a light-polluted city, as it is the brightest object in the sky. 

As the night progresses, it rises higher into the sky, eventually appearing in the southeast around 11 p.m. ET. on Monday.

You don’t need a telescope or binoculars to see it, but if you do have a pair of binoculars or a telescope, you can have some fun over the coming days. 

One of the special things about Jupiter is its four brightest moons: Callisto, Io, Ganymede and Europa. They orbit Jupiter in a timescale visible from Earth night after night, and even hour after hour — if you’re patient. 

This sky map shows the positions of four of Jupiter’s moons the following night of the opposition, on Sept. 27 at roughly 10:30 p.m. ET. (Stellarium)
This sky chart shows the positions of four of Jupiter’s 80 moons at 10:30 p.m. ET on Sept. 26. (Stellarium)

If you do have a telescope, you can view the moons — and the amazing cloud bands of the gaseous planet, which make for a stunning sight. Also, according to Sky & Telescope magazine, the Great Red Spot will begin its transit — or its crossing — at 8:44 p.m. ET Monday. You can find local times using the publication’s online app or find its app and others like it for your cellphone or tablet. 

Saturn will also be visible in the sky. It currently lies in the south around 10 p.m. ET, but it’s more difficult to spot as it’s not as bright as Jupiter.

You can find several free apps available for download on Android phones and iPhones — such as Stellarium, Star Walk and Sky View — that will help you identify what you see in the night sky, including planets and where to find them.

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NASA Will Crash A Spacecraft Into An Asteroid For Science! – Forbes

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NASA will intentionally crash a spacecraft into an orbiting asteroid at high speed in the coming hours. The DART mission will attempt to prove that an unmanned space probe can autonomously navigate to a target asteroid and intentionally collide with it. The technique, called kinetic impact, could be used to re-direct an asteroids that may pose a threat to Earth, should one ever be discovered.

NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test – a first-of-its-kind experiment – will try to alter the orbit of one of two gravitationally bound asteroids in orbit around the Sun. This binary asteroid system is known as Didymos, and the smaller “moonlet” of the pair, Dimorphos, will be the first asteroid in the Solar System to be the target of a humanmade “kinetic impactor”.

The 1,2 x 1,3 x 1,3-meter space probe will intercept the Didymos system at 7:14 p.m. on Monday, with DART slamming into the 160-meters wide Dimorphos at roughly 6,6 kilometers per second a few hours later if everything goes as planned.

The target asteroid Dimorphos, orbiting the larger Didymos, poses no threat to Earth, and even a successful impact will alter its orbit by just 0,4 millimeters. Any changes in the orbital parameters will be precisely measured using telescopes on Earth. The experiment results will be used to validate and improve computer models for kinetic impacts.

In the last few hours of DART’s life, it will send a constant stream of images to Earth.

“This is an amazing moment for our space program,” so Elena Adams, the mission systems engineer at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.

“For the first time, we will move a celestial body intentionally in space, beyond Earth orbit! This test goes beyond international borders, and really shows what we can accomplish if we all work together as one team and as one Earth.”

Material provided by the European Space Agency and NASA.

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Squirrels, volcanoes, and ancient DNA – TownAndCountryToday.com – Town and Country TODAY

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ATHABASCA — What does the research into ground squirrels dating back 50,000 years have to do with ancient DNA or volcanoes? 

Those are some of the fascinating details Scott Cocker, a paleoecologist and PhD student at the University of Alberta (U of A), will be discussing in a Zoom presentation hosted by Science Outreach – Athabasca Sept. 27 at 7 p.m. 

“I’m interested in the ground squirrels themselves because we jokingly refer to them as furry botanists,” Cocker said in a Sept. 15 interview. “They were grabbing plants; they were grabbing whatever they could grab before they went into hibernation. So, they would store all this stuff in their nest and then the nest is what we find 40,000 years later or whatever have you … frozen in the permafrost with all those seeds or with bones of other animals. They are basically like little archives of the Ice Age and Yukon.” 

Cocker realized while everyone was distracted by larger creatures like woolly mammoths and woolly rhinos, they didn’t offer as much information on life at the time as ground squirrel nests could. 

“The ecosystem and the environment, we call that the mammoth steppe and for a long time that’s what everyone referred to; the mammoth steppe this, the mammoth steppe that, and it’s just because the mammoths are big and charismatic,” he said. “But my whole thesis is that if you really want to understand the mammoth steppe and the environment that they were living in, you actually have to look to things like the ground squirrels because they tell us way more about the environment than the mammoths do.” 

Throw in some new sequencing of DNA which allows scientists to accurately identify a species from just small pieces of DNA. 

“In the last 20 years, it’s something that’s been developed,” he said. “We can work with modern DNA really easily because stranded DNA are in the count of millions … but once that organism dies and sits around for a while, then the DNA starts to degrade, and it breaks down over time and so we end up with these really short little pieces of DNA.” 

Then mix in the aftermath of a volcanic eruption in southern Alaska 25,000 years ago which covered the area with up to a metre of ash and it changes how all fauna lived and you have the basics of Cocker’s presentation. 

“How did that impact the animals and plants at the time of the eruption? Because it definitely was one of the largest in the last million years in this part of the world,” Cocker said. “It completely covered the plants. Think about (the) ground squirrels or the voles and mice and stuff that … rely on foraging and you’re half the size of the ash fall, you’re gonna struggle.” 

The link to the presentation can be found on the Science Outreach – Athabasca website and social media and will start at 7 p.m. Sept. 27. 

hstocking@athabasca.greatwest.ca 

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