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What to do if you find a fossil on P.E.I. – CBC.ca

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More people than ever before have been searching for and finding fossils on Prince Edward Island in the last few years. 

That interest has been further sparked by teacher Lisa Cormier’s discovery last month of an extremely rare fossil of what’s believed to have been a reptile or a very close relative. 

“Definitely, fossil finds are really increasing on P.E.I., especially by everyday people,” says John Calder, the Nova Scotia-based geologist who’s under contract to the P.E.I. government to help identify finds on the Island.

He is a geology professor at Saint Mary’s University and the interim executive director of the Cliffs of Fundy UNESCO Geopark. He’s also the author of Island at the Centre of the World: The Geological Heritage of Prince Edward Island.

“I’m really pleased that there’s this boom of discovery on Prince Edward Island,” he said, adding that inquiries from the public in recent years have grown from about five per year to five per week. 

Think you’ve found a fossil?

If you think you have found a fossil on P.E.I., Calder said you should follow these steps:

  • Take photos of your find, including a common object such as a pen, a key or a loonie to show how comparatively big it is.
  • Note the exact location by using your smart phone to drop a Google Maps pin where you are standing.
  • Contact the P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation at (782) 772-2796 or archaeology@gov.pe.ca. They will get in touch with Calder, who will respond to you. He may ask for more photos or come to see your find.
  • If the item you think is a fossil is located in P.E.I. National Park, call 1-877-852-3100.

“They’re not always fossils. The thing to look for is an unusual pattern in the rocks,” Calder said, noting the most common fossils found on the Island are footprints and parts of plants. 

“Fossil footprints aren’t common everywhere, but on P.E.I., it’s becoming a really rich trove of footprints of early reptiles and amphibians,” he said. 

‘I’m excited and looking forward to what people at a higher pay grade than me will decide we’re going to do with this great legacy we have on Prince Edward Island,’ says Dr. John Calder, the geologist contracted by the P.E.I. government to identify fossils. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Of the hundreds of fossil finds reported each year on P.E.I., Calder said two or three are really special, and a few every month are noteworthy. 

‘One of the few places in the world’ to study this period

“P.E.I. is going to become known as a real paleontological hot spot, whereas not long ago it was thought to be a place where there was nothing geological other than the sand dunes,” he said. 

“It is becoming known internationally with researchers, especially researchers in a field we call vertebrate paleontology — so these are fossils of things with backbones.”

Given the province’s rich repository of fossilized bones as well as footprints, he said he looks forward to the day the province hires its own paleontologist to help examine them.

This fossilized footprint of a Dimetrodon was found in P.E.I. National Park by geologist Laura MacNeil in P.E.I. in 2018. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

Back in 290 million BC, when the world’s continents as we know them now conglomerated in a single super-continent known as Pangea, P.E.I. was right near the centre, at the equator. It was the Permian period, millions of years before dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

P.E.I.’s fossils are extraordinary, Calder said, in that they give us a peek at life forms during that crucial time — “a window on this chapter of evolution that is unique in Canada and one of the few places in the world.” 

Calder said the increasing discoveries are not only interesting and cool; they are also scientifically important.

“P.E.I. has this very amazing and unusual snapshot of life on our planet on land about 295 to 300 million years ago,” he said. 

What to look for

Not every find is unique or even important, Calder said — but it might be. That’s why he encourages people to report all their finds. 

You might come across something as lowly as fossilized worm trails, or boughs or bark from ancient conifers or ferns. 

Laura MacNeil created this map to show where the land that has become Prince Edward Island fit into Pangea (sometimes spelled Pangaea) back in the Permian World. (Laura MacNeil/Prehistoric Island Tours)

Fossils that Calder and his colleagues deem important, like Cormier’s recent find, are excavated and stored. Those are museum-quality discoveries that could be one of a kind, or the best example of a certain thing. 

“It could point out a new branch on the tree of life, in our understanding of the evolution of life going from reptiles ultimately to us,” he said. “These are switches on the track on the evolution of life that occur at this time that P.E.I. represents.

“I’m getting goosebumps thinking about this.” 

The story of fossils on P.E.I. is just going to continue to get more important, more exciting and more beautiful.— John Calder

Other fossils deemed less important should be reported and recorded, but  may usually be kept by those who found them. Calder still has the first fossil he found in N.S. when he was nine years old. 

As more oceanside rock is exposed due to coastal erosion, P.E.I.’s prehistoric past is being revealed layer by layer, and Calder said most fossil finds are on beaches. Others have been found in farmers’ fields, where unearthing pieces of petrified wood is common. 

Some fossils are impossible to remove from where they’re discovered but are still important to document, he said. 

The climate-controlled room where fossils found in P.E.I. National Park are stored, at the Greenwich Interpretive Centre. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

Calder would like to see P.E.I. build a natural history museum to preserve, showcase and interpret its fossils. He thinks it would be a big draw for visitors given the growth in geotourism, in which people travel great distances to see natural wonders.

“We have a real story to be told,” he said. “I’m excited and looking forward to what people at a higher pay grade than me will decide we’re going to do with this great legacy we have on Prince Edward Island.”

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Jumpin’ Jupiter: Tonight, the giant planet will be closer to Earth than it’s been since 1963 – Vancouver Sun

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Jupiter will orbit just 590 million kilometres from Earth — 375 million km closer than its farthest point — on Sept. 26-27, 2022

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Attention, space geeks: Have you heard about Jupiter getting really close to Earth tonight?

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Well, not really close. The giant gas planet, the largest in our solar system, will still be orbiting 590 million kilometres away. But that’s 375 million kilometres closer than when it’s at its apogee, which is the space geek word for when it’s farthest away.

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Jupiter is viewable like a distant star for much of the year, but it will be especially bright and detailed in the night sky on Sept. 26-27 because it’s closer than it’s been to Earth since 1963 — yup, in nearly six decades.

We asked Marley Leacock, an astronomer and science educator with Vancouver’s H.R. MacMillan Space Centre, a few questions about how best to watch tonight’s rare space spectacle.

When is the best time to see it?

“Jupiter is in the sky pretty much all night,” says Leacock. “It rises in the east at around 7 p.m. and sets at about 7 a.m. tomorrow. The best time to view would be when it is highest in the sky, around 1 a.m. on Sept. 27.”

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Why is it so easily visible right now?

“Jupiter’s visibility has to do with where Jupiter is, but also where Earth and the Sun are,” explains Leacock.

The first reason is that “Jupiter will be in ‘opposition.’ This means that Jupiter will be directly opposite the Sun from our perspective, putting Earth right in the middle of them. When the sun sets in the west, Jupiter will rise directly opposite in the east. Opposition happens about every 13 months.

“The second factor that makes Jupiter so bright is that it is also approaching perigee. Perigee refers to when Jupiter and Earth are the closest to each other in their orbits. Perigee happens about once every 12 months, and the distance between the planets will change due to them being on two different orbits. This perigee, the two planets happen to be in the perfect place to get the smallest distance.

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“The combination of opposition and a close perigee makes the planet appear brighter in our skies.”

A view of Jupiter taken by the James Webb Space Telescope.
A view of Jupiter taken by the James Webb Space Telescope. Photo by NASA /AFP/Getty Images

Is tonight the only time it’s fairly easy to spot?

“Not at all,” says Leacock. “Jupiter is usually visible 10 months out of the year, switching between early morning and late at night. After the opposition, it will start to be in the sky for shorter amounts of time as the months go on. By the beginning of November, it is already high in the nighttime sky by the time the sun sets, and it sets four hours before sunrise.”

By the end of March, it won’t be visible at all. But it will reappear by about the end of May 2023. The next opposition is in early November of next year.

Any tips on how to view it? Do binoculars help?

“Luckily, Jupiter is very bright and easy to spot even in a light-polluted city (like Vancouver),” explains Leacock. “It appears as a very bright star in the sky. I always say to try to get somewhere dark anyways, just to see the stars that appear. An ideal location would be somewhere with high elevation with a clear view of the horizon, especially if you want to see the rise and set.”

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Leacock says typical binoculars will help magnify the planet, but it will still appear star-like. Those with higher magnification might allow you to see it in more detail and possibly even spot its Galilean moons.

True space geeks will want a telescope, though, as “most telescopes with a 60-90 mm aperture will give you a view of the cloud belts and the Galilean moons,” says Leacock.

More good news about tonight’s sky-watching event: The forecast is for perfectly clear skies above Vancouver overnight. Happy viewing.

jruttle@postmedia.com

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NASA moon rocket: Hurricane Ian delays launch – CP24

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Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press


Published Monday, September 26, 2022 5:58PM EDT

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) – Hurricane Ian is prompting NASA to move its moon rocket off the launch pad and into shelter, adding weeks of delay to the lunar-orbiting test flight.

Mission managers decided Monday to return the rocket to its Kennedy Space Center hangar. The four-mile trip will begin late Monday night and could take as long as 12 hours.

The space center remained on the fringes of the hurricane’s cone of uncertainty. With the latest forecast showing no improvement, managers decided to play it safe. NASA already had delayed this week’s planned launch attempt because of the approaching storm.

NASA isn’t speculating when the next launch attempt might be, but it could be off until November. Managers will assess their options once the 322-foot (98-meter) Space Launch System rocket is safely back in the hangar.

A pair of launch attempts were thwarted by hydrogen fuel leaks and other technical trouble.

The $4.1 billion test flight will kick off NASA’s return to the moon since the Apollo moonshots of the 1960s and 1970s. No one will be inside the crew capsule for the debut launch. Astronauts will strap in for the second mission in 2024, leading to a two-person moon landing in 2025.

Meanwhile, NASA and SpaceX are still targeting an Oct. 3 launch of a crew from the U.S., Russia and Japan to the International Space Station. But managers acknowledged that the flight could be delayed as Kennedy braces for the hurricane and its aftermath.

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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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