NASA: Mars rover Perseverance in ‘safe mode’ after launch, but should recover

NASA is celebrating the launch of its most advanced Mars rover ever today (July 30), even as engineers tackle a glitch that left the spacecraft in a protective “safe mode” shortly after liftoff. 

The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover launched toward the Red Planet at 7:50 a.m. EDT (1150 GMT), riding an Atlas V rocket into space from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The rover experienced minor communications and temperature glitches after launch, but the issues aren’t expected to harm the mission as a whole, NASA officials said.

“It was an amazing launch, right on time,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said during a post-launch news conference. “I think we’re in great shape. It was a great day for NASA.”

Shortly after the conference, NASA confirmed that Perseverance slipped into “safe mode” due to an unexpected temperature difference. 

“Data indicate the spacecraft had entered a state known as safe mode, likely because a part of the spacecraft was a little colder than expected while Mars 2020 was in Earth’s shadow,” NASA officials said in a statement. “All temperatures are now nominal and the spacecraft is out of Earth’s shadow.”

Post-launch hiccups 

During today’s post-launch news conference, the team received word that one issue, a lingering communications issue, was fixed. Within the first few hours after launch, although mission personnel could pick up the signal the spacecraft was sending home, it wasn’t being processed correctly.

However, that situation didn’t cause much concern, Matt Wallace, deputy project manager for Mars 2020 with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California, said during the briefing. The miscommunication was caused by the fact that NASA relies on a system called the Deep Space Network to communicate with Perseverance even soon after launch, when the spacecraft isn’t yet all that deep into space.

And, because the Deep Space Network is made up of massive antennas equipped with super sensitive receivers, the signal from a spacecraft so close to the network can end up blasting the system, like someone screaming directly into your ear. Engineers needed to tweak the network settings in order to actually process the information coming from the spacecraft.

“Just as the administrator was speaking, I did just get a text that we were able to lock up on that telemetry,” Wallace said. “All the indications that we have — and we have quite a few — are that the spacecraft is just fine.”

NASA’s Curiosity rover faced a similar issue during its launch in 2011, Wallace said. “It’s something that we’ve seen before with other Mars missions,” Bridenstine said. “This is not unusual. Everything is going according to plan.”

Perseverance’s ‘safe mode’ explained

The mission team revealed a second post-launch hiccup shortly later in the news conference: Perseverance went into safe mode. 

When the spacecraft got a little colder than expected passing through Earth’s shadow, it automatically put itself into that state, according to the NASA statement, although the spacecraft’s temperature quickly bounced back and isn’t concerning the team.

Wallace emphasized that such a status shouldn’t harm the mission as a whole. Safe mode is, as the name implies, designed to be safe for the spacecraft to be in right now. 

“The spacecraft is happy there,” Wallace said. “The team is working through that telemetry, they’re going to look to the rest of the spacecraft health. So far, everything I’ve seen looks good.”

Later, Wallace told Space.com that the Perseverance mission team had traced the the temperature issue to the system that uses freon to keep the rover’s nuclear battery cool. 

Because Perserverance’s launch carried it into Earth’s shadow, it led to colder than expected temperatures in the cooling system, as compared to a launch in uninterrupted sunlight, Wallace told Space.com. When NASA’s Curiosity rover, which has a similar nuclear battery, launched in 2011, it was always in daylight and did not experience the issue, he added.

“Unfortunately, our analysis is never really perfect,” Wallace added. “Curiosity didn’t have an eclipse in its flight trajectory so we didn’t have flight data to know what was going to happen.”

“The spacecraft was never in jeopardy,” he continued. “Our philosophy is to be overly conservative on the parameters because we’d much rather trigger a safing event we didn’t need, than miss a safing event we do need.”

The team will continue to analyze the telemetry data that the vehicle has sent so far and double check that this is indeed the hiccup. Once that is complete, the team can put the rover back in an operational status.

Wallace said he expects for the spacecraft to return to normal operations mode tomorrow (July 31). But the team is not in any rush and are taking their time to carefully review all the data.

Perseverance is scheduled to fly straight and steady for the next at least two weeks, anyway, he said, and so the team has time to get the spacecraft back into normal operating mode before the first necessary trajectory adjustment of its journey.

A gorgeous launch 

NASA's Mars rover Perseverance launches toward the Red Planet atop an Atlas V rocket, lifting off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on July 30, 2020.
NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance launches toward the Red Planet atop an Atlas V rocket, lifting off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on July 30, 2020. (Image credit: ULA)

The launch itself went smoothly, with an unusually quiet countdown in mission control rooms, despite an earthquake that rattled southern California, including NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, about 20 minutes before the rocket fired in Florida.

Today’s liftoff marked an important victory for the agency, which worried that measures imposed to reduce the spread of the coronavirus pandemic might slow launch preparations enough that Perseverance might miss its three-week window for a launch, which is dependent on orbital trajectories.

Another comparable opportunity wouldn’t come again until 2022; if that 26-month delay had occurred, it would have cost the agency an extra $500 million, according to Bridenstine, on top of an already difficult mission.

“[It was] adversity all along the way, but this is true for any project of this nature,” Bridenstine said of struggles before the pandemic, which included a cracked heat shield and the late addition of a complicated ride-along helicopter. “Then you put on top of that the coronavirus … I’m not gonna lie, it’s a challenge. It’s very stressful. But look, the teams made it happen.”

But, despite earlier delays that pushed the launch more than a week into its window, the spacecraft blasted off during its first shot of its first countdown.

“It was truly a team effort. And in every single case, everyone stood up and said, ‘Yes, we want to do what we can to help,'” Lori Glaze, director of the agency’s planetary science division, said. “Somehow, we made it through this.”

Now, the spacecraft and its human team back on Earth need to make it through a seven-month journey in deep space to reach the Red Planet. Once the spacecraft arrives at Mars, it will undergo the notoriously perilous process of entry, descent and landing.

That process will unfold on Feb. 18, 2021.

Alleged ‘Alien Cube’ 10 Times Bigger Than Earth Appears In NASA’s Sun Photo, Expert Claims

KEY POINTS

  • UFO expert Scott Waring claimed to have spotted an alien vessel hovering in front of the Sun in an image taken by NASA’s SOHO satellite
  • Waring thinks the vessel may have been extracting rare particles from the Sun
  • There is no information or statement from NASA that would be able to verify his claims

AUFO expert claimed to have spotted a massive cube-shaped alien vessel hovering in front of the Sun. The expert estimated that the strange object could be about 10 times bigger than Earth.

The strange sighting was reported by Scott Waring of the UFO-focused blog ET Data Base. In a recent blog post, Waring stated that he saw the alleged alien cube while he was browsing through the images captured by NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO).

SOHO is a robotic spacecraft launched by NASA in 1995 to observe the Sun by taking images of its surface. It was originally supposed to carry out its mission for two years, but NASA decided to extend its operations.

As Waring was going through SOHO’s website, he came across an image of the Sun that caught his attention. The photo shows the massive star with a square-shaped dark object in front of it. After analyzing the photo and zooming in on the strange object, Waring theorized that it could be a massive alien vessel that was flying in front of the Sun.

Based on the image, Waring estimated that the object could be around 10 times bigger than Earth. The UFO expert speculated that the alleged alien cube vessel resides within the Sun, which Waring believes is hollow.

“This cube is many times bigger than Earth itself,” Waring stated in a blog post. “The cube is in the northern hemisphere of our Sun. The cube is often seen coming and going from our Sun and it’s thought that either the cubes created a hollow Sun to live within and gather energy from or there are some special particles that we are not yet aware of at our stance of existence… and these cube ships are gathering those rare particles.”

Although Waring used NASA’s photo in his blog post, there is no information or statement from the agency that could verify his claims.

SOHO photoPhoto captured by NASA’s SOHO satellite. Photo: NASA SOHO

Why NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance will use nuclear power to keep itself warm

NASA's Perseverance Mars rover displaying where its MMRTG would be inserted, between the panels on the right marked by gold tube, before the power system was inserted.NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover displaying where its MMRTG would be inserted, between the panels on the right marked by gold tube, before the power system was inserted.(Image: © NASA/JPL-Caltech)

A spacecraft is only as strong as its power source, which is why when NASA was designing its Perseverance Mars rover, the agency turned to radioactive plutonium.

The plutonium that will be blasting off the planet on Thursday (July 30) isn’t in the same form as is used for weapons, and it’s well protected in case something happens to go wrong during the launch. But these plutonium units are a respected power source for spacecraft — NASA’s Curiosity rover runs on a similar device.

“NASA likes to explore, and we have to explore in some very distant locations, dusty locations, dark locations and harsh environments,” June Zakrajsek, a nuclear fuel expert at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Ohio, said in a Department of Energy (DOE) podcast about the Perseverance mission. “When we’re in those kinds of environments, solar energy sometimes does not provide the power that we need. The light just does not get to those locations like we would need it.”

School girls in India discover Earth-bound asteroid

AHMEDABAD, India (Reuters) – Two teenage girls from India have discovered an Earth-bound asteroid by poring through images from a University of Hawaii telescope, an Indian space education institute said on Monday.

The asteroid is presently near Mars and its orbit is expected to cross that of Earth in about one million years’ time, said SPACE India, a private institute where the two 14-year-old girls received training.

“I look forward to… when we will get a chance to name the asteroid,” said Vaidehi Vekariya, who added that she wants to become an astronaut when she is older.

The asteroid, currently called HLV2514, may be officially christened only after NASA confirms its orbit, a SPACE India spokeswoman said.

Radhika Lakhani, the other student, said she was working hard on her education. “I don’t even have a TV at home, so that I can concentrate on my studies.”

Asteroids and comets pose a potential threat to Earth, and scientists discover thousands of them each year. In 2013, an asteroid heavier than the Eiffel Tower exploded over central Russia, leaving more than 1,000 people injured from its shockwave.

The two girls, who hail from the western Indian city of Surat, discovered the object as part of an asteroid search campaign conducted by SPACE India along with the International Astronomical Search Collaboration (IASC), a NASA-affiliated citizen scientist group.

IASC Director J. Patrick Miller confirmed the discovery, according to an email from him to the girls seen by Reuters.

The girls used specialised software to analyse the images snapped by the Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii, and made the discovery in June, SPACE India said.

The institute is among the few private space education initiatives in India, a country known for championing low-cost space technology that has spurred missions to the moon and Mars.

NASA is going to send a ‘balloon the size of a football stadium’ to study the stars

An 8.4-foot telescope on the balloon will be able to see light wavelengths not visible by humans

Fans may not be able to enter football stadiums this season because of the coronavirus pandemic, but that’s not stopping NASA from sending a football-stadium-sized balloon to study the stars.

NASA said it will send an 8.4-foot telescope, known as ASTHROS (short for Astrophysics Stratospheric Telescope for High Spectral Resolution Observations at Submillimeter-wavelengths), into the stratosphere on a “balloon the size of a football stadium” to look at light wavelengths that are not visible to the human eye.

“Balloon missions like ASTHROS are higher-risk than space missions but yield high rewards at modest cost,” said JPL engineer Jose Siles, project manager for ASTHROS, in a statement. “With ASTHROS, we’re aiming to do astrophysics observations that have never been attempted before. The mission will pave the way for future space missions by testing new technologies and providing training for the next generation of engineers and scientists.”

This illustration shows a high-altitude balloon ascending into the upper atmosphere. When fully inflated, these balloons are 400 feet (150 meters) wide, or about the size of a football stadium, and reach an altitude of 130,000 feet (24.6 miles or 40 kilometers). (Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab/Michael Lentz)

This illustration shows a high-altitude balloon ascending into the upper atmosphere. When fully inflated, these balloons are 400 feet (150 meters) wide, or about the size of a football stadium, and reach an altitude of 130,000 feet (24.6 miles or 40 kilometers). (Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab/Michael Lentz)

In order to study the far-infrared light, ASTHROS will need to be 130,000 feet in the air, approximately four times higher than commercial flights fly. For comparison purposes, the boundary of space is 62 miles above the Earth’s surface.

Though balloons may seem “antiquated,” NASA notes they offer advantages such as cheaper launch costs.

“Balloon missions don’t only have lower costs compared to space missions, they also have shorter times between early planning and deployment, which means they can accept the higher risks associated with using new or state-of-the-art technologies that haven’t yet flown in space,” NASA added in the statement.

An instrument on ASTHROS will measure the motion and speed of gas around stars that have recently formed in four regions of space, two of which are in the Milky Way.

The mission will launch in December 2023 from Antarctica, NASA said.

NASA is getting ready to launch its Perseverance rover later this month.

This rover, which will also have a small, autonomous helicopter, known as Ingenuity, will explore Mars and attempt to detect if there is any fossilized evidence of extraterrestrial beings, in addition to other tasks.

First Ever Direct Image of a Multi-Planet System around a Sun-like Star Captured by ESO Telescope

The European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (ESO’s VLT) has taken the first ever image of a young, Sun-like star accompanied by two giant exoplanets. Images of systems with multiple exoplanets are extremely rare, and — until now — astronomers had never directly observed more than one planet orbiting a star similar to the Sun. The observations can help astronomers understand how planets formed and evolved around our own Sun.

Just a few weeks ago, ESO revealed a planetary system being born in a new, stunning VLT image. Now, the same telescope, using the same instrument, has taken the first direct image of a planetary system around a star like our Sun, located about 300 light-years away and known as TYC 8998-760-1.

This discovery is a snapshot of an environment that is very similar to our Solar System, but at a much earlier stage of its evolution,” says Alexander Bohn, a PhD student at Leiden University in the Netherlands, who led the new research published today in The Astrophysical Journal Letters

Even though astronomers have indirectly detected thousands of planets in our galaxy, only a tiny fraction of these exoplanets have been directly imaged,” says co-author Matthew Kenworthy, Associate Professor at Leiden University, adding that “direct observations are important in the search for environments that can support life.” The direct imaging of two or more exoplanets around the same star is even more rare; only two such systems have been directly observed so far, both around stars markedly different from our Sun. The new ESO’s VLT image is the first direct image of more than one exoplanet around a Sun-like star. ESO’s VLT was also the first telescope to directly image an exoplanet, back in 2004, when it captured a speck of light around a brown dwarf, a type of ‘failed’ star.

Our team has now been able to take the first image of two gas giant companions that are orbiting a young, solar analogue,” says Maddalena Reggiani, a postdoctoral researcher from KU Leuven, Belgium, who also participated in the study. The two planets can be seen in the new image as two bright points of light distant from their parent star, which is located in the upper left of the frame (click on the image to view the full frame). By taking different images at different times, the team were able to distinguish these planets from the background stars.

The two gas giants orbit their host star at distances of 160 and about 320 times the Earth-Sun distance. This places these planets much further away from their star than Jupiter or Saturn, also two gas giants, are from the Sun; they lie at only 5 and 10 times the Earth-Sun distance, respectively. The team also found the two exoplanets are much heavier than the ones in our Solar System, the inner planet having 14 times Jupiter’s mass and the outer one six times.

Bohn’s team imaged this system during their search for young, giant planets around stars like our Sun but far younger. The star TYC 8998-760-1 is just 17 million years old and located in the Southern constellation of Musca (The Fly). Bohn describes it as a “very young version of our own Sun.

These images were possible thanks to the high performance of the SPHERE instrument on ESO’s VLT in the Chilean Atacama desert. SPHERE blocks the bright light from the star using a device called coronagraph, allowing the much fainter planets to be seen. While older planets, such as those in our Solar System, are too cool to be found with this technique, young planets are hotter, and so glow brighter in infrared light. By taking several images over the past year, as well as using older data going back to 2017, the research team have confirmed that the two planets are part of the star’s system.

Further observations of this system, including with the future ESO Extremely Large Telescope (ELT), will enable astronomers to test whether these planets formed at their current location distant from the star or migrated from elsewhere. ESO’s ELT will also help probe the interaction between two young planets in the same system. Bohn concludes: “The possibility that future instruments, such as those available on the ELT, will be able to detect even lower-mass planets around this star marks an important milestone in understanding multi-planet systems, with potential implications for the history of our own Solar System.”

More information

This research was presented in the paper “Two Directly Imaged, Wide-orbit Giant Planets around the Young, Solar Analog TYC 8998-760-1” to appear in The Astrophysical Journal Letters (https://doi.org/10.3847/2041-8213/aba27e).

The team is composed of Alexander J. Bohn (Leiden Observatory, Leiden University, The Netherlands), Matthew A. Kenworthy (Leiden Observatory), Christian Ginski (Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands and Leiden Observatory), Steven Rieder (University of Exeter, Physics Department, UK), Eric E. Mamajek (Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, USA and Department of Physics & Astronomy, University of Rochester, USA), Tiffany Meshkat (IPAC, California Institute of Technology, USA), Mark J. Pecaut (Rockhurst University, Department of Physics, USA), Maddalena Reggiani (Institute of Astronomy, KU Leuven, Belgium), Jozua de Boer (Leiden Observatory), Christoph U. Keller (Leiden Observatory), Frans Snik (Leiden Observatory) and John Southworth (Keele University, UK).

For external comment on the paper, please contact ESO Astronomer Carlo Manara (cmanara@eso.org), who did not participate in the study. 

ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It has 16 Member States: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile and with Australia as a Strategic Partner. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope and its world-leading Very Large Telescope Interferometer as well as two survey telescopes, VISTA working in the infrared and the visible-light VLT Survey Telescope. Also at Paranal ESO will host and operate the Cherenkov Telescope Array South, the world’s largest and most sensitive gamma-ray observatory. ESO is also a major partner in two facilities on Chajnantor, APEX and ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre Extremely Large Telescope, the ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”. 

With Pentagon UFO unit in the spotlight, report mentions ‘off-world vehicles not made on this earth’

Some of the objects were of man-made materials, but others are questionable

The Pentagon has been conducting classified hearings on UFOs for more than a decade.

A long-hidden UFO investigative unit within the Pentagon will make some of its findings public, according to a New York Times report.

The unit, which is now part of the Office of Naval Intelligence, has spent over a decade discussing mysterious events in classified briefings, according to the news outlet. A government contractor told the Times that he gave a classified briefing to the Department of Defense in March, describing retrievals from “off-world vehicles not made on this Earth.”

The Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force at the Office of Naval Intelligence was described in a Senate Intelligence Committee report last month. The unit standardizes “collection and reporting on unidentified aerial phenomenon, any links they have to adversarial foreign governments, and the threat they pose to U.S. military assets and installations,” the report said.

“However, the Committee remains concerned that there is no unified, comprehensive process within the Federal Government for collecting and analyzing intelligence on unidentified aerial phenomena, despite the potential threat,” it added. “The Committee understands that the relevant intelligence may be sensitive; nevertheless, the Committee finds that the information sharing and coordination across the Intelligence Community has been inconsistent, and this issue has lacked attention from senior leaders.”

In the report, the Senate Intelligence Committee directs the Director of National Intelligence, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, to submit a report to the congressional intelligence and armed services committees on unidentified aerial phenomena (or “anomalous aerial vehicles”). The report must include “observed airborne objects that have not been identified.”

The Committee says that the report should be submitted within 180 days of the enactment of the Intelligence Authorization Act for fiscal 2021. The bill was introduced on June 8, 2020.

The New York Times reports that a small group of government officials and scientists believe that objects of “undetermined origin” have crashed to Earth and been retrieved, including former Sen. Harry Reid. While some have been found to be man-made materials, there are question marks over others.

The publication cites Eric W. Davis, an astrophysicist who worked as a subcontractor and a consultant for the Pentagon UFO program. Davis, who now works for defense contractor Aerospace Corporation, said he also gave briefings on the recovery of unexplained objects to staff members of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee, on Oct. 21 and Oct. 23, 2019, respectively, the Times added.

“As we have said previously, the Department of Defense and all of the military departments take any incursions by unauthorized aircraft into our training ranges or designated airspace very seriously, and examine each report,” a spokesperson for the Department of Defense told Fox News, via email.  “This includes examinations of incursions that are initially reported as ‘unidentified aerial phenomena’ (UAP) when the observer cannot immediately identify what he or she is observing.”

The Department of Defense, she explained, does not discuss publicly the details of either the observations or the examination of reported incursions into its training ranges or designated airspace, including incursions initially designated as UAP.

“Regarding the task force mentioned in the article, I can say that the department is creating a task force to gain knowledge and insight into the nature and origins of UAPs, as well as their operations, capabilities, performance, and/or signatures,” she added. “The mission of the task force will be to detect, analyze, catalog, consolidate, and exploit non-traditional aerospace vehicles/UAPs posing an operational threat to U.S. national security and avoid strategic surprise.”

Fox News has also reached out to Aerospace Corporation with a request for comment on this story.

In speaking with the New York Times, Reid said he believes the government and the private sector may have retrieved materials from unidentified objects. “After looking into this, I came to the conclusion that there were reports — some were substantive, some not so substantive — that there were actual materials that the government and the private sector had in their possession,” Reid said in the interview.

Reid’s comments are the latest from the former lawmaker. In June 2019, he told Nevada’s KNPR that he wished lawmakers would hold public hearings into what the military knows.

“They would be surprised how the American public would accept it,” Reid said during the wide-ranging interview. “People from their individual states would accept it.”

The former Nevada senator has also tweeted multiple times about the topic, including in April, when he said he was happy the Pentagon released three videos of “unidentified aerial phenomena”, adding the “American people deserve to be informed.”

In December 2017, Fox News reported that the Pentagon had secretly set up a program to investigate UFOs at the request of Reid.

Pentagon UFO unit to publicly release some findings including “off-world vehicles not made on this earth.”

The Pentagon team tasked with studying unidentified flying objects plans to publicly release information on its findings.

The unit, now known as Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force, will report at least some of its work to the Senate Intelligence Committee every six months —  with some of the group’s past officials hinting of possible otherworldly artifacts, The New York Times reported Thursday.

Eric Davis, one of the former officials from the Pentagon UFO program, said while he worked there the team found objects he believed “we couldn’t make…ourselves,” he told the Times.

Davis also said he gave a classified briefing to a Defense Department agency this March during which he elaborated on “off-world vehicles not made on this earth.”

It is not immediately clear what will be detailed in the force’s reports to the Senate, though the goal is to determine whether other nations have made advancements in aviation engineering beyond the US’s knowledge.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the acting chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, told a Miami CBS affiliate earlier this month that he wanted more clarity from the task force as a matter of national security.

“We have things flying over our military bases and places where we are conducting military exercises and we don’t know what it is — and it isn’t ours,” Rubio said.

“Frankly, that if it’s something from outside this planet — that might actually be better than the fact that we’ve seen some technological leap on behalf of the Chinese or the Russians or some other adversary that allows them to conduct this activity.”

Trump says he’s heard ‘interesting’ things about UFO mecca Roswell

Rubio’s committee required the publicizing of findings as part of a committee report on intelligence agency budgets for 2021.

The committee mandates the task force “standardize collection and reporting on unidentified aerial phenomenon, any links they have to adversarial foreign governments, and the threat they pose to U.S. military assets and installations. ”

“Maybe there is a completely, sort of, boring explanation for it,” Rubio added. “But we need to find out.”

The UFO program began in 2007 under the Defense Intelligence Agency and has since morphed and been moved under the operation of the Office of Naval Intelligence, the Times reported.

Luis Elizondo, the program’s previous director who resigned in 2017, told the paper he was convinced the team has studied objects of unknown origin.

He praised the idea of delivering reports to the committee as a way to pull back the curtain on some of that work.

“It no longer has to hide in the shadows,” Elizondo reportedly said. “It will have a new transparency.”

NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover: What you need to know

Utrecht University geologist William McMahon explains the latest findings.

NASA is getting ready to launch its Mars 2020 Perseverance rover on an epic mission to the Red Planet.

The launch window for the spacecraft that will carry the Perseverance rover to Mars opens on July 30 and closes on Aug 15, 2020.

Launched atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, the rover is scheduled to land on Mars’ Jezero Crater on Feb 18, 2021. The mission’s duration on the Red Planet’s surface is at least one Martian year or about 687 days.

“Perseverance is a robotic scientist weighing just under 2,300 pounds (1,043 kilograms),” explains NASA in a statement. “The rover’s astrobiology mission will search for signs of past microbial life on Mars, characterize the planet’s climate and geology, collect rock and soil samples for future return to Earth, and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.”

This illustration depicts NASA's Perseverance rover operating on the surface of Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This illustration depicts NASA’s Perseverance rover operating on the surface of Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Notably, NASA’s Mars helicopter will hitch a ride on the Perseverance rover. A technology demonstration, the helicopter will test the first powered flight on Mars, according to the space agency.

Another technology demonstration called MOXIE (Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment) will produce oxygen from Mars’ carbon dioxide atmosphere, which could be crucial as NASA works toward its long-term goal of eventually sending humans to Mars.

Chris Carberry, CEO of Explore Mars, a nonprofit organization that aims to advance the goal of sending humans to Mars within the next two decades, told Fox News that the mission will get people talking about future space exploration.

This artist's concept shows the Mars Helicopter on the Martian surface. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept shows the Mars Helicopter on the Martian surface. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

“I think this launch can really connect everybody to the realities of sending humans to Mars,” he said.

The Perseverance rover also follows hot on the heels of NASA’s historic Demo-2 mission with SpaceX, which recently launched astronauts into space from American soil for the first time since the final Space Shuttle flight in 2011.

The launch was also the first time a private company, rather than a national government, sent astronauts into orbit.

Attached to the Perseverance Mars rover, this 3-by-5-inch aluminum plate commemorates the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and pays tribute to the perseverance of healthcare workers around the world.

Attached to the Perseverance Mars rover, this 3-by-5-inch aluminum plate commemorates the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and pays tribute to the perseverance of healthcare workers around the world. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

“[Mars 2020 is] a really interesting mission – I think it’s really well timed in the context of what has been happening,” Carberry said.

NASA’s goal is to send a manned mission to Mars in the 2030s. However, former astronaut Buzz Aldrin thinks that a slightly later target date of 2040 is more realistic. In an interview in 2016, the Gemini 12 and Apollo 11 astronaut told Fox News that by 2040, astronauts could visit Mars’ moon Phobos, which could serve as a sort of stepping stone to the Red Planet.

Citing repair issues, NASA recently pushed the start of the Mars 2020 launch window back from July 17 to July 20. A NASA spokesman told Fox News that the delay was not related to the coronavirus pandemic.

If the rover isn’t launched by mid-August, it would need to wait until 2022 when Earth and Mars are back in proper alignment. A two-year delay could add another $500 million to the nearly $3 billion mission.

Perseverance is one of three upcoming missions to Mars. The United Arab Emirates and China also are preparing spacecraft for launch to the red planet by mid-August.

NASA recently announced that the Perseverance rover will carry a small aluminum plate honoring health care workers fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

China’s first Mars rover Tianwen-1 launches this week. Here’s what it will do.

China’s Mars rover will likely attempt to land at a site in northeastern Mars, according to a new paper published just days ahead of the mission’s launch.

The paper, which was published last week in the journal Nature Astronomy, was written by team members of China’s Tianwen-1 Mars mission, which aims to send an orbiter and a lander/rover duo to the Red Planet. 

The study reveals new details about Tianwen-1, outlining its intended landing area, science goals and the names of instruments aboard the spacecraft. It also stresses the historic nature of the mission: Not only is Tianwen-1 China’s first fully homegrown Mars mission, it’s also the first to carry both a planetary orbiter and a rover. (China’s first Mars craft of any kind, an orbiter called Yinghuo-1, launched on a Russian rocket along with Russia’s Phobos-Grunt mission in November 2011. The launch failed, and all the spacecraft aboard eventually fell back to Earth.) 

An artist's illustration of China's first Mars rover Tianwen-1 on the Red Planet. The mission launches on July 23, 2020.
An artist’s illustration of China’s first Mars rover Tianwen-1 on the Red Planet. The mission launches on July 23, 2020. (Image credit: CNSA)

Tianwen-1 means “questions to heaven” and was taken from the title of a poem by Qu Yuan (340-278 BCE). The mission is expected to launch on a Long March 5 rocket in late July or early August from Wenchang on Hainan Island, according to the paper. Current unofficial estimates suggest a launch around July 23.

The spacecraft will reach Mars in February 2021, at the same time as NASA’s Perseverance rover and the United Arab Emirates’ Hope orbiter, which launched on Sunday (July 19). However, China’s rover will remain attached to the orbiter for two to three months before attempting its landing, according to the paper.

The chosen landing area is Utopia Planitia, a huge basin formed by a large impact far back in Mars’ history that was also the region where NASA’s Viking 2 lander touched down in 1976. According to areas defined in earlier statements on landing areas, China had isolated a portion of the vast plain as a candidate landing area, running from Isidis Planitia to the big volcano Elysium Mons. 

A Long March-5 rocket was vertically transported to the launch area at China’s Wenchang Space Launch Center on July 17, 2020. Note the logos of the European (ESA), French (CNES), Argentine (CONAE) and Austrian (FFG) space agencies in addition to that of the China National Space Agency (CNSA).
China’s Tianwen-1 Mars mission and its Long March-5 rocket rolled out to the launch area at China’s Wenchang Space Launch Center on July 17, 2020. (Image credit: CNSA)

The low elevation of the area means there will be more time and atmosphere for the entry spacecraft to slow down and safely descend to the surface. The latitude, between roughly 20 and 30 degrees north, is also suitable for receiving enough sunlight to power the roughly 530-lb. (240 kilograms) rover. The relatively smooth surface will also be conducive for roving. The mission also benefits from the engineering heritage of China’s Chang’e lunar exploration program, the paper noted.

The rover is expected to be in operation for about 90 Martian days, or sols, and is nearly twice the mass of China’s Yutu-2 rover, which is currently in its 20th lunar day on the far side of the moon. The Tianwen-1 orbiter will provide a relay communication link to the rover while performing its own scientific observations for one Martian year, according to the paper. (One sol is about 40 minutes longer than an Earth day. One Martian year is 687 Earth days.)

The orbiter will operate in a polar orbit in order to  map Mars’ morphology and geological structure while also using the Mars-Orbiting Subsurface Exploration Radar instrument to investigate soil characteristics and water-ice distribution. It will also measure the ionosphere and the electromagnetic and gravitational fields, the new paper reported.

The rover will investigate the surface soil characteristics and water-ice distribution with its own Subsurface Exploration Radar. It will also analyze surface material composition and characteristics of the Martian climate and environment on the surface. 

One of the paper’s authors was Wan Weixing, the chief scientist for Tianwen-1. Wan died in May, just a couple of months before the coming launch. He is described as a world-leading space scientist and a pioneer in China’s planetary science program in an obituary published last month, also by Nature Astronomy. His given name, Weixing, literally means “satellite.”

As well as detailing his career in space, science and academia, the obituary gives insight into Wan’s other interests. He often stayed up late to watch English Premier League or Italian Serie A soccer matches, sometimes causing him trouble in getting to academic meetings the next morning, obituary author Yong Wei recalls.

WATCH Japan and UAE Successfully Launch a Probe to Mars

Watch Japan and UAE successfully launch of H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 42 (H-IIA F42). The H-IIA Launch Vehicle No.42 will carry aboard Emirates Mars Mission’s (EMM) Hope probe, developed by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in the United Arab Emirates.

UAE successfully launches Hope probe, Arab world’s first mission to Mars

A rocket carrying the unmanned probe, known as Al-Amal in Arabic, joins China and US in race to red planet

An H-2A rocket carrying the Hope Probe lifts off from the launching pad at Tanegashima Space Center
 An H-2A rocket carrying the Hope Probe lifts off from the launching pad at Tanegashima Space Center Photograph: KYODO/Reuters

The first Arab space mission to Mars has blasted off aboard a rocket from Japan, with its unmanned probe – called Al-Amal, or Hope – successfully separating about an hour after liftoff.

A live feed of the launch showed the rocket carrying the probe lifting off from the Tanegashima Space Centre in southern Japan at 6.58am (9.58pm GMT).

Almost exactly one hour later, the feed showed people applauding in the Japanese control room as the probe successfully detached.

In Dubai, the launch was met with rapturous excitement, with the UAE Mars mission’s deputy project manager Sarah al-Amiri declaring it “an indescribable feeling” to see the probe blasting off.

“This is the future of the UAE,” Amiri, who is also minister of state for advanced sciences, told Dubai TV from the launch site.

The Emirati project is one of three racing to Mars, including Tianwen-1 from China and Mars 2020 from the United States, taking advantage of a period when the Earth and Mars are nearest.

In October, Mars will be a comparatively short 38.6m miles (62m km) from Earth, according to Nasa.

Hope is expected to reach Mars’s orbit by February 2021, marking the 50th anniversary of the unification of the UAE, an alliance of seven emirates

Unlike the two other Mars ventures scheduled for this year, it will not land on the planet, but instead orbit it for a whole Martian year, or 687 days.

While the objective of the Mars mission is to provide a comprehensive image of the weather dynamics in the red planet’s atmosphere, the probe is a foundation for a much bigger goal – building a human settlement on Mars within the next 100 years.

The UAE also wants the project to serve as a source of inspiration for Arab youth, in a region too often wracked by sectarian conflicts and economic crises.

On Twitter, the UAE’s government declared the probe launch a “message of pride, hope and peace to the Arab region, in which we renew the golden age of Arab and Islamic discoveries.”

Several dozen probes – most of them American – have set off for Mars since the 1960s. Many never made it that far, or failed to land.

The drive to explore Mars flagged until the confirmation less than 10 years ago that water once flowed on its surface.

Omran Sharaf, the mission’s project manager, has said the Hope probe will offer a special perspective on the elusive planet.

“What is unique about this mission is that for the first time the scientific community around the world will have an holistic view of the Martian atmosphere at different times of the day at different seasons,” Sharaf told a pre-launch briefing.

“We have a strategy to contribute to the global effort in developing technologies and science work that will help one day if humanity decides to put a human on Mars.”

An H-2A rocket carrying the Hope Probe lifts off from the launching pad at Tanegashima Space Center

Jupiter amazingly bright in July’s night sky and look for Saturn nearby

As the sun sets, look to the east-southeast for the appearance of Jupiter and Saturn.  Gigantic Jupiter, enveloped by a deep atmosphere and icy cold, shines brilliantly, while Saturn, appearing only about 1/13 as bright, still glows conspicuously with a sedate yellow-white hue. Saturn was the Roman moniker for the Greek god Cronus, the personification of “Father Time.”  Ancient sky watchers named the planets for their most notable aspect, and Saturn seemed to move sluggishly compared to the other deities, taking almost 30 years to make one complete circuit of the sky. How amazed they would have been if they could have viewed Saturn through a telescope and gazed upon its magnificent system of rings.

Jupiter and Moons as seen from Backyard Telescope July 20, 2020
Jupiter and Moons as seen from Backyard Telescope July 20, 2020
Jupiter and Moons as seen from Backyard Telescope July 20, 2020

And have you ever wondered how the ancient Romans happened to name Jupiter after the most powerful of gods, although they knew nothing of the planet’s physical characteristics?

UAE set for historic Mars mission as it preps Hope orbiter for launch

The orbiter named Amal, or Hope, is the Arab world’s first interplanetary mission

The United Arab Emirates is set to launch a historic mission to Mars from an island off the coast of Japan.

The orbiter named Amal, or Hope, is the Arab world’s first interplanetary mission. Amal will take the UAE into an exclusive group of countries that have orbited Mars that includes the U.S., India and the former Soviet Union, as well as the European Space Agency. China will soon launch its own rover to the Red Planet.

“Two days separate us from the date of the next opportunity to launch the ‘Probe of Hope’ to the Red Planet, God willing. Arabs to Mars” tweeted Dr. Mohammed Alahbabi, director-general of the UAE Space Agency, on Friday.

The launch, initially scheduled for Wednesday from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center, was postponed as a result of thunderstorms, clouds, and unstable weather conditions. The mission’s launch has been reset for 5:58 p.m. ET Sunday, a spokesman for the mission told Fox News Friday.

An employee works at the control room of the Mars Mission at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), in the Gulf emirate of Dubai. 

An employee works at the control room of the Mars Mission at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), in the Gulf emirate of Dubai.  (GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images)

Hope’s mission control is the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre in Dubai.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which is the provider of the H-IIA rocket, said there is a slight chance of further postponement depending on the weather. The company has set a launch window through Aug. 13. A final decision is expected Sunday.

Hope is to reach Mars in February 2021, the year the UAE celebrates 50 years since its formation. A successful Hope mission would be a major step for the oil-dependent economy seeking a future in space.

Mars also looms large for a number of other countries, including China and the U.S., which will soon launch their own missions to the Red Planet.

NASA, for example, is getting ready to launch its Mars 2020 Perseverance rover on an epic mission to the Red Planet.

The launch window for the spacecraft that will carry the Perseverance rover to Mars opens on July 20 and closes on Aug 11, 2020.

Launched atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, the rover is scheduled to land on Mars’ Jezero Crater on Feb 18, 2021. The mission’s duration on the Red Planet’s surface is at least one Martian year or about 687 days.

Chris Carberry, CEO of Explore Mars, a nonprofit organization that aims to advance the goal of sending humans to Mars within the next two decades, told Fox News that this is an exciting time for space exploration.

“International excitement and investment in space exploration has never been so strong,” he said.

NASA’s longer-term goal is to send a manned mission to Mars in the 2030s. However, former astronaut Buzz Aldrin thinks that a slightly later target date of 2040 is more realistic. In an interview in 2016, the Gemini 12 and Apollo 11 astronaut told Fox News that by 2040, astronauts could visit Mars’ moon Phobos, which could serve as a sort of stepping stone to the Red Planet.

China is also planning to launch its own rover to Mars. The Long March-5 carrier rocket carrying the rover is due to blast off from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in the southern island province of Hainan in late July or early August, according to state media reports Friday that quoted the China National Space Administration.

“Over the next several years, the European Space Agency (partnering with Russia) and the Indian Space Agency (ISRO) also will be launching robotic missions,” Explore Mars’ Carberry told Fox News. “All of these missions serve as important precursor missions before we send humans to Mars in the 2030s.”

Are UFOs a threat? We need to investigate, says former head of secret US program

File photo - a 'UFO' sighting over Sheffield, U.K, March 4, 1962 (CIA).

File photo – a ‘UFO’ sighting over Sheffield, U.K, March 4, 1962 (CIA).

There’s no denying that America has an enduring fascination with unidentified flying objects, or UFOs. However, UFO interest extends far beyond the U.S. — sightings are reported worldwide, and multiple observations in far-flung locations describe aerial objects that are uncannily similar to each other, Luis Elizondo, former head of a top-secret U.S. government agency tasked with investigating UFOs, recently told Live Science.

Though some label UFOs as alien spacecraft, the term simply describes aerial objects that defy explanation. One possibility is that they represent technology deployed by a hostile human source, so it’s impossible to say for sure that UFOs are harmless, Elizondo said. Evaluating the potential threats posed by UFOs should therefore involve the collaboration of leaders around the world, said Elizondo, who left the Pentagon in 2017 and is now a director of global security and special programs at To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science, a private agency pursuing evidence of UFOs.

“I think we’re at the point now where we’re beyond reasonable doubt that these things exist,” Elizondo said. “We know they’re there — we have some of the greatest technology in the world that has confirmed their existence.” But where do these objects come from, what are their capabilities and what are the intentions of whoever may have sent them? Elizondo and other experts delve into these questions in the second season of the series “Unidentified: Inside America’s UFO Investigation,” with the first episode airing tonight (July 11) on the History Channel.

In the show’s new season, Elizondo and Chris Mellon, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and Intelligence, piece together eyewitness accounts and other clues about intriguing, unexplained sightings by military personnel and civilians, according to the series website.

UFOs are also known as unidentified aerial phenomena, or UAPs, and the U.S. government has been collecting reports of these enigmatic objects since the 1950s: in the Air Force’s Project Blue Book, from 1952 to 1969, and through the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP), a federal agency that compiled witness accounts of UFO encounters from the 1950s through the 1980s.

Project Blue Book investigated more than 12,000 reports of UFO sightings. Most of those turned out to be misidentification of aircraft, weather balloons, clouds or starlight, but 700 incidents were left unresolved.

Long-standing stigma and government secrecy surrounding UFOs have encouraged people to dismiss sightings as hoaxes or jokes. But as long as the origins and capabilities of even a few of these objects remain unknown, it would be foolish to not take them seriously, Elizondo explained.https://6d37e0f736c518751bb55ccf0a0f6bb4.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

“There’s something in our sky and we don’t know what it is, we don’t know where it’s from. Is that a problem? From a national security perspective, yes, it’s a problem,” he said. “We need to understand what these are, in order to make a determination if they’re a threat.”

Elizondo, a former military intelligence officer, led the Pentagon’s Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP), which formed in 2007 to probe reports of unexplained aerial sightings and reportedly shuttered in 2012, Live Science previously reported.

As with Project Blue Book, a number of AATIP’s UFO cases turned out to be misidentifications or technology malfunctions — but some UFOs remained unidentified. Over time, Elizondo’s involvement with AATIP led him to the realization that the bureaucracy of the system was failing the public, keeping information about UFOs secret and downplaying the risks they might pose.

“That’s really what led me to resign,” he told Live Science.

No elegant solutions

Many of the UFO sightings that AATIP investigated were recorded by members of the military in restricted airspace. Among them were three mid-air encounters that U.S. Navy pilots captured on video in 2004 and in 2015; the footage was officially declassified and released online on April 27. Other instances involved UAPs flying at what appeared to be hypersonic speeds — more than five times the speed of sound.

None of the objects had visible wings or other means of propulsion. What’s more, they appeared to be performing maneuvers that would have subjected them to as much as 700 times the normal pull of gravity, or 700 Gs, Elizondo said. (Of course, there is no way to confirm those estimates, as the sightings were so fleeting and much of the obvious documentation is not readily available.) To put that into perspective, airplane cockpits can withstand only about 18 Gs before cracking, and people can typically endure just a few seconds at 9 Gs before losing consciousness, as gravity draws blood into the extremities and oxygen ceases to flow to the brain, according to PBS.

“It would be my hope that we can find elegant solutions to what these things are,” he said. “If you can show me one technology that mankind has ever been able to build that does that, great! But so far no one’s been able to show that, to me or anybody in the U.S. government.”

The new season of “Unidentified: Inside America’s UFO Investigation” begins July 11 on the History Channel at 10 p.m./9 p.m. CT.

Comet NEOWISE surprises some stargazers with two tails

Astronauts Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley, and ISS commander Chris Cassidy speak with Bill Hemmer.

As stargazers try to catch a glimpse of NEOWISE as it soars across the nighttime sky, careful viewers may notice the comet has two tails trailing behind it.

An unprocessed image from the WISPR instrument on board NASA’s Parker Solar Probe shows comet NEOWISE on July 5, 2020, shortly after its closest approach to the Sun. The Sun is out of frame to the left. The faint grid pattern near the center of the image is an artifact of the way the image is created. The small black structure near the lower left of the image is caused by a grain of dust resting on the imager’s lens. Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Naval Research Lab/Parker Solar Probe/Brendan Gallagher

The comet’s main tail or dust tail, which is always whitish in color because its particles easily reflect sunlight at every wavelength, is made of fragments from the comet that have been ejected from its nucleus and curves outside the path of the comet’s trajectory, according to Forbes.

This outstanding composition shows the blue ion tail and the grey/white dust tail of comet NEOWISE as it nears its closest approach to Earth. The dust tail is curved and diffuse while the ion tail is straight and highly collimated. Both are caused by extremely different physical processes.
 
DAMIAN PEACH / IAN SHARP

The dust that makeup up the main tail are pulled by three forces: the sun, the comet itself and the force from the sun’s radiation.

Differently sized particles are all subjected to the same amount of gravitational acceleration but smaller dust grains are affected more than larger ones by solar radiation and move at different speeds, making the tail appear wider.

The second slightly narrower tail, however, actually becomes prominent before the main dust tail, according to Forbes.

At some point in the comet’s trajectory, ultraviolet light radiating from the sun becomes strong enough that it heats up and ionizes the comet’s carbon monoxide – the weakest ice-based molecule in the makeup of a comet, according to the magazine.

The carbon monoxide absorbs the sunlight and fluoresces at 4200 Angstroms, the wavelength for blue light, making it appear blue, according to an article from Case Western Reserve University.

The main dust tail is always a grayish-white, the same color as the comet itself.

The ion tail always points away from the sun in a straight line because it distorts magnetic field lines as it interacts with charged wind particles from the sun, according to the university.

The ion tail is made up of single molecules that are all equal in mass, meaning they’re affected by the forces around them equally and follow the same, narrower path, according to Forbes.

In early photos of comets, the blue ion tail is the only one visible.

NEOWISE, the brightest comet in the sky since Hale-Bopp in 1997, was discovered in March and can be seen by the naked eye for most viewers in the Northern Hemisphere this month.

While many comets have two tails, including all “great comets,” it’s also possible NEOWISE has an extra ion tail.

“Parker Solar Probe’s images appear to show a divide in the ion tail,” NASA said of NEOWISE. “This could mean that comet NEOWISE has two ion tails, in addition to its dust tail, though scientists would need more data and analysis to confirm this possibility.”

What color are comets when they are not near the Sun?

Do comets look as vibrant when they’re not getting a helping hand from the Sun?

Comets are black before they near the Sun but when they approach it, they burst into bright colours just like comet ISON

Comets are black before they near the Sun but when they approach it, they burst into bright colors just like comet.

The heart, or nucleus, of a comet is a collection of frozen water and gases as well as other carbon-based materials. As a result, comets far away from our Sun are effectively black since they have one of the lowest albedos – a measure of how much light they reflect – of any object we have observed.

As a comet gets closer to the Sun, some of these frozen gases sublimate creating the coma – the envelope of atmosphere that surrounds a comet. These gases can reflect sunlight and turn our dark object into a bright, yellow-white body. One of the two tails a comet produces, the ion tail – a collection of charged particles pushed away by the solar wind – will begin to glow with a blue tint.

Look up! NEOWISE comet’s best viewing occurs this week

IMAGE: Neowise comet
The comet Neowise is seen from near Effingham, Kan., Monday, July 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)Source: Associated Press

Astronomy buffs will get a treat in the night sky the next few weeks as Comet NEOWISE passes us by on its way back to the outer solar system. 

While the comet will be visible for the next few weeks, those at Space.com feel the best time will come during the July 14th-19th stretch, which is this Tuesday through Sunday. 

Don’t miss your chance to catch a glimpse. If you don’t catch the comet this time around, you would have to wait another 6800 years, making this a once in a lifetime opportunity!

The comet, which is about 3 miles across in size, has already passed by the sun and while it will be dimming as it continues its journey, it will be a slow dimming process as it now approaches Earth. After moves past its closest point to Earth (64 million miles away) on July 22nd, the dimming will become more rapid as the comet moves away from both the sun and Earth. 

It has been visible in the morning, but by July 18th, it will only appear 5 degrees above the horizon at twilight and it will no longer be visible in the morning just a few days later. 

Despite the morning visibility diminishing, the visibility will get better in the evening with visibility 10 degrees above the horizon starting tonight (July 14th), doubling to 20 degrees by July 19th. The moon phase should cooperate as well, with a waning crescent phase. Tanger Black – US11.5-12 | EU46The Softest & Comfortable Indestructible Shoes The all-in-one solution to work shoes that provide a perfect blend of comfort, style and protection. Thanks to the advancements we’ve made in footwear…Ad By Indestructible ShoesSee More

For best viewing at night, start looking about one hour after sunset just over the northwest horizon. Of course, give yourself the most ideal conditions possible for viewing, such as getting away from light pollution and higher cloud coverage. While the comet will be visible with the naked eye, binoculars or other optical aides will enhance the view. 

Keep an eye on the forecast for viewing by checking out our daily forecast article

NEOWISE – The Comet & The Story of The Spacecraft Which Discovered It

Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE is now visible to observers in the Northern Hemisphere. You can see it in the twilight just before sunrise and now, just after sunset without any binoculars or telescopes, it’s the best comet in over a decade.

However, the spacecraft which discovered it has a pretty amazing story, it was launched just over a decade ago, helped find 3 new stars close to the Sun, and a huge catalog of asteroids. After its primary mission ended it was reactived as an asteroid survey telescope and Comet NEOWISE is one of its discoveries.

Neowise comet and rare astronomical phenomena captured in remarkable image

The C/2020 F3 comet was discovered in March

A photographer in Italy captured the image of a lifetime when he snapped a picture showing two astronomical phenomena, including a streaking comet and “night-shining” clouds.

Atop the nearly 11,500 foot-high Hochfeiler mountain in the South Tyrol Alps in Italy, Martin Rietze captured the image of the NEOWISE comet and the Noctilucent clouds, SWNS reports.

The comet, also known as C/2020 F3, was discovered in March by NASA’s NEOWISE space telescope.

The NEOWISE comet seen above noctilucent clouds taken from the Hochfeiler mountain in the South Tyrol alps in Italy on July 8. (Credit: SWNS)

The NEOWISE comet seen above noctilucent clouds taken from the Hochfeiler mountain in the South Tyrol alps in Italy on July 8. (Credit: SWNS)

Noctilucent clouds occur when astronomical light reflects on ice in the clouds.

The comet, which can be observed with the naked eye, has been visible since July 7, NASA said on its website.

“Through about the middle of the month, the comet is visible around 10 degrees above the northeastern horizon (the width of your outstretched fist) in the hour before dawn,” the space agency added. “From mid-July on, it’s best viewed as an evening object, rising increasingly higher above the northwestern horizon.”

NASA notes that the comet’s closest approach to earth will be on July 22, at a distance of about 64 million miles.

“The comet takes about 6,800 years to make one lap around its long, stretched out orbit, so it won’t visit the inner solar system again for many thousands of years,” the agency explained on its website.

Space’s Trash Collector? A Japanese Entrepreneur Wants the Job

A vacuum chamber used to test parts of Astroscale’s IDEA OSG 1 satellite at the company’s factory in Tokyo. The satellite, scheduled to be launched next year, will compile data on the density of space debris.
A vacuum chamber used to test parts of Astroscale’s IDEA OSG 1 satellite at the company’s factory in Tokyo. The satellite, scheduled to be launched next year, will compile data on the density of space debris.Credit…Ko Sasaki for The New York Times

TOKYO — Sitting in a drab industrial neighborhood surrounded by warehouses and factories, Astroscale’s Tokyo office seems appropriately located for a company seeking to enter the waste management business.

Only inside do visitors see signs that its founder, Mitsunobu Okada, aspires to be more than an ordinary garbageman. Schoolroom pictures of the planets decorate the door to the meeting room. Satellite mock-ups occupy a corner. Mr. Okada greets guests in a dark blue T-shirt emblazoned with his company’s slogan: Space Sweepers.

Mr. Okada is an entrepreneur with a vision of creating the first trash collection company dedicated to cleaning up some of humanity’s hardest-to-reach rubbish: the spent rocket stages, inert satellites and other debris that have been collecting above Earth since Sputnik ushered in the space age. He launched Astroscale three years ago in the belief that national space agencies were dragging their feet in facing the problem, which could be tackled more quickly by a small private company motivated by profit.

“Let’s face it, waste management isn’t sexy enough for a space agency to convince taxpayers to allocate money,” said Mr. Okada, 43, who put Astroscale’s headquarters in start-up-friendly Singapore but is building its spacecraft in his native Japan, where he found more engineers. “My breakthrough is figuring out how to make this into a business.”

The 50-pound IDEA OSG 1 satellite will carry panels that measure the number of strikes from debris of even less than a millimeter.
The 50-pound IDEA OSG 1 satellite will carry panels that measure the number of strikes from debris of even less than a millimeter.Credit…Ko Sasaki for The New York Times

Over the last half-century, low Earth orbit has become so littered with debris that space agencies and scientists warn of the increasing danger of collisions for satellites and manned spacecraft. The United States Air Force now keeps track of about 23,000 pieces of space junk that are big enough — about four inches or larger — to be detected from the ground.

Scientists say there could be tens of millions of smaller particles, such as bolts or chunks of frozen engine coolant, that cannot be discerned from Earth. Even the tiniest pieces move through orbit at speeds fast enough to turn them into potentially deadly projectiles. In 1983, the space shuttle Challenger returned to Earth with a pea-size pit in its windshield from a paint-chip strike.

And plans are being made to make low orbit even busier, and more essential for communications on Earth. Companies like SpaceX and OneWeb are aiming to create vast new networks of hundreds or even thousands of satellites to provide global internet connectivity and cellphone coverage. The growth of traffic increases the risk of collisions that could disrupt communications, as in 2009 when a dormant Russian military satellite slammed into a private American communications satellite, causing brief disruptions for satellite-phone users.

Worse, each strike like that creates a cloud of shrapnel, potentially setting off a chain reaction of collisions that could render low orbit unusable.

Satellite parts being tested at Astroscale’s Tokyo plant.
Satellite parts being tested at Astroscale’s Tokyo plant.Credit…Ko Sasaki for The New York Times

“If we don’t start removing these things, the debris environment will become unstable,” said William Ailor, a fellow at the Aerospace Corporation, a federally funded research and development center in California. “We will continue to have a growing debris population that could affect the ability to operate satellites.”

Enter Mr. Okada, a former government official and internet entrepreneur, who said a midlife crisis four years ago prompted him to return to his childhood passion of space. As a teenager in 1988, he flew to Alabama to join the United States Space Camp at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, and later chose to attend business school at Purdue University, the alma mater of his hero, Neil Armstrong.

Later, Mr. Okada realized that he could use his experience in the start-up world — he had founded a software company in 2009 — to get a jump on other space debris projects.

“The projects all smelled like government, not crisp or quick,” he said of conferences he attended to learn about other efforts. “I came from the start-up world where we think in days or weeks, not years.”