Mystery radio signal in deep space shows activity exactly when scientists expected

The findings suggest ‘that this repeater [FRB 121102] is likely in another active phase’

In June, astronomers discovered Fast Radio Burst 121102 had a 157-day repeating schedule. Right on schedule, scientists have detected activity from the mysterious radio signal.

The findings, published in The Astronomer’s Telegram, suggest “that this repeater [FRB 121102] is likely in another active phase,” the researchers wrote.

FRB 121102, which has been observed since 2016 by the Lovell Telescope in the U.K., was discovered to have a 157-day repeating pattern. It shows activity for approximately 90 days and then goes silent for 67 days, according to the June study.

An animation shows the random appearance of fast radio bursts (FRBs) across the sky. Astronomers have discovered about 100 since 2007. (NRAO Outreach/T. Jarrett [IPAC/Caltech]; B. Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF)

An animation shows the random appearance of fast radio bursts (FRBs) across the sky. Astronomers have discovered about 100 since 2007. (NRAO Outreach/T. Jarrett [IPAC/Caltech]; B. Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF)

However, the new findings slightly tweak that time frame, suggesting FRB 121102 has an on-off time frame of approximately 156.1 days.

The researchers, from the National Astronomy Observatory of China, detected “at least 12 bursts” from FRB 121102 on Aug. 17. They expect the active part of the signal to end between Aug. 31 and Sept. 9.

“Alternatively, if the source is continuously on after the projected turning-off time, it suggests that the putative period of the source is not real or has evolution,” the scientists wrote. “We encourage more follow-up monitoring efforts from other radio observatories.”

FRB 121102 is the second fast radio burst known to have a repeating schedule after FRB 180916.J0158+65 was found to have a 16-day repeating pattern in February.

It’s unclear exactly why FRB 180916.J0158+65 repeats, but researchers have suggested it could be because it is orbiting a compact object, for example, a black hole, causing its pattern to repeat. It’s also possible that it could be coming from a binary star system, but more research is needed.

It’s unknown how common FRBs actually are and why some of them repeat and others do not; most of their origins are also mysterious in nature.

Some researchers have speculated they stem from an extraterrestrial civilization. But others, including the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute, or SETI, have said that explanation “really doesn’t make sense.”

They come from all over space “and arranging cooperative alien behavior when even one-way communication takes many billions of years seems unlikely — to put it gently,” SETI wrote in a September 2019 blog post.

First discovered in 2007, FRBs are relatively new to astronomers and their origins are mysterious. According to ScienceAlert, some of them can generate as much energy as 500 million suns in a few milliseconds.

In July 2018, an FRB that hit Earth was nearly 200 megahertz lower than any other radio burst ever detected.

Comet NEOWISE survived the sun intact, newly released image shows

The image shows the dust and gas coming out of the comet as it emerged from behind the sun on July 3

A newly released image of the comet NEOWISE shows it survived its encounter with the sun intact.

The image, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope on Aug. 8, shows the dust and gas coming out of the comet as it emerged from behind the sun. This glow measures around 11,000 miles across in the image and shows the detail at which the Hubble is able to take photos.

“Hubble has far better resolution than we can get with any other telescope of this comet,” Caltech graduate student Qicheng Zhang said in a statement. “That resolution is very key for seeing details very close to the nucleus. It lets us see changes in the dust right after it’s stripped from that nucleus due to solar heat, sampling dust as close to the original properties of the comet as possible.”

This ground-based image of comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) was taken from the northern hemisphere on July 18, 2020. The inset image, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope on Aug. 8, 2020, reveals a close-up of the comet after it passed by the sun. Hubble's image is centered on the comet's nucleus, which is too small to be seen, as it is estimated to measure no more than 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) across. Instead, the image shows a portion of the comet's coma, the fuzzy glow, which measures about 11,000 miles (18,000 kilometers) across in this image. Comet NEOWISE will not pass through the inner solar system for another nearly 7,000 years. (NASA, ESA, Q. Zhang (Caltech), A. Pagan (STScI), and Z. Levay)
This ground-based image of comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) was taken from the northern hemisphere on July 18, 2020. The inset image, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope on Aug. 8, 2020, reveals a close-up of the comet after it passed by the sun. Hubble’s image is centered on the comet’s nucleus, which is too small to be seen, as it is estimated to measure no more than 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) across. Instead, the image shows a portion of the comet’s coma, the fuzzy glow, which measures about 11,000 miles (18,000 kilometers) across in this image. Comet NEOWISE will not pass through the inner solar system for another nearly 7,000 years. (NASA, ESA, Q. Zhang (Caltech), A. Pagan (STScI), and Z. Levay)

“Because comets are made of ice, they are fragile,” Zhang added in a different statement. “And we weren’t entirely sure whether Comet NEOWISE would survive the journey around the sun.”

Comet ISON, which passed by the sun in 2013, did not survive its encounter with the sun.

Most comets have two tails, a dust tail and one made of electrically charged molecules, according to NASA. However, images released from NASA in July suggested that NEOWISE may actually have two ion tails.

“The jets contain material from deep inside the comet,” Zhang explained. “We are able to see what all this buried material looks like.”

The comet, also known as C/2020 F3, was discovered on March 27 by NASA’s NEOWISE (Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) space telescope.

It is the brightest visible comet to be seen in the Northern Hemisphere since Hale-Bopp, which flew past Earth in 1997.

NEOWISE was a photographer’s dream, providing incredible images both on Earth and in space.

It was observable with the naked eye from mid-July to mid-August. The comet’s closest approach to Earth was on July 22 at a distance of about 64 million miles.

Comet NEOWISE is now going back toward the outer part of the solar system and will not return for another 6,800 years.

Astronomers Mystified by Eerie Phenomenon on Mars: Ultraviolet “Nightglow” Spreads Across the Planet’s Sky Every Night

This is an image of the ultraviolet “nightglow” in the Martian atmosphere over the south pole. Green and white false colors represent the intensity of ultraviolet light, with white being the brightest. The nightglow was measured at about 70 kilometers (approximately 40 miles) altitude by the Imaging UltraViolet Spectrograph instrument on NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft. A simulated view of the Mars globe is added digitally for context, and the faint white area in the center of the image is the polar ice cap. The image shows an unexpectedly bright glowing spiral in Mars’ nightside atmosphere. The cause of the spiral pattern is unknown. Credit: NASA/MAVEN/Goddard Space Flight Center/CU/LASP

Every night on Mars, when the sun sets and temperatures fall to minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit and below, an eerie phenomenon spreads across much of the planet’s sky: a soft glow created by chemical reactions occurring tens of miles above the surface.

An astronaut standing on Mars couldn’t see this “nightglow”—it shows up only as ultraviolet light. But it may one day help scientists to better predict the churn of Mars’ surprisingly complex atmosphere.

Mars’ nightside atmosphere glows and pulsates in this data animation from MAVEN spacecraft observations. Green-to-white false color shows the enhanced brightenings on Mars’ ultraviolet “nightglow” measured by MAVEN’s Imaging UltraViolet Spectrograph at about 70 kilometers (approximately 40 miles) altitude. A simulated view of the Mars globe is added digitally for context, with ice caps visible at the poles. Three nightglow brightenings occur over one Mars rotation, the first much brighter than the other two. All three brightenings occur shortly after sunset, appearing on the left of this view of the night side of the planet. The pulsations are caused by downwards winds which enhance the chemical reaction creating nitric oxide which causes the glow. Months of data were averaged to identify these patterns, indicating they repeat nightly. Credit: NASA/MAVEN/Goddard Space Flight Center/CU/LASP

“If we’re going to send people to Mars, we better understand what’s going on in the atmosphere,” said Zachariah Milby, a professional research assistant at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at CU Boulder.

In a study published earlier this month in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics, Milby and his colleagues set their sights on understanding the phenomenon. They drew on data from NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft to map the planet’s nightglow in greater detail than ever before. 

The team’s findings show how this light display ebbs and flows over Mars’ seasons. The group also discovered something unusual: an unexpectedly bright spot that appears in the planet’s atmosphere just above its equator. 

Mars, in other words, still has a few surprises in store for scientists, said LASP’s Nick Schneider, lead author of the new study. 

“The behavior of the Martian atmosphere is every bit as complicated and insightful as that of Earth’s atmosphere,” said Schneider, also a professor in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences.

Full picture

MAVEN wasn’t the first spacecraft to spot the nightglow on Mars, a phenomenon that resembles similar glows seen on Earth and Venus. That honor belongs to the European Space Agency’s Mars Express Mission, which entered orbit around Mars in 2003.

But the mission was the first to capture the nightglow for what it is—a dynamic and constantly evolving phenomenon.

“It wasn’t until MAVEN came along in 2014 that we could actually snap this full picture five times a day as the planet rotates,” Schneider said.

The diagram explains the cause of Mars’ glowing nightside atmosphere. On Mars’ dayside, molecules are torn apart by energetic solar photons. Global circulation patterns carry the atomic fragments to the nightside, where downward winds increase the reaction rate for the atoms to reform molecules. The downwards winds occur near the poles at some seasons and in the equatorial regions at others. The new molecules hold extra energy which they emit as ultraviolet light. Credit: NASA/MAVEN/Goddard Space Flight Center/CU/LASP

In the new study, researchers used MAVEN’s Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS)—an instrument designed and built at LASP—to snap images of Mars from a distance of 3,700 miles. Those far-flung recordings allowed the team to trace the path of nightglow as it moved across the entire planet. 

Milby led the data analysis for the research while he was still an undergraduate student at CU Boulder.

He explained that the eerie aura appears when air currents high in Mars’ atmosphere plunge to about 40 miles above the planet’s surface. When that happens, lone nitrogen and oxygen atoms in the atmosphere combine to form molecules of nitric oxide, giving off small bursts of ultraviolet light in the process.  

Put differently, when its atmosphere drops, Mars shines.

“It’s a great tracer for dynamics between the layers of the atmosphere,” Milby said.

Bright spots

Milby added that, like on Earth, those dynamics can shift with the seasons. The MAVEN team found, for example, that Mars’ nightglow seems to be brightest at the height of the planet’s northern and southern winters when hotter currents rush away from the equator and toward Mars’ poles.

Milby also found something he wasn’t expecting in the data: an extra-bright blob of nightglow that appeared and disappeared from almost exactly above 0 degrees longitude and 0 degrees latitude on Mars.

“We spent weeks thinking there was a bug in our code somewhere,” Milby said. 

This is an image of the ultraviolet “nightglow” in the Martian atmosphere. Green and white false colors represent the intensity of ultraviolet light, with white being the brightest. The nightglow was measured at about 70 kilometers (approximately 40 miles) altitude by the Imaging UltraViolet Spectrograph instrument on NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft. A simulated view of the Mars globe is added digitally for context. The image shows an intense brightening in Mars’ nightside atmosphere. The brightenings occur regularly after sunset on Martian evenings during fall and winter seasons, and fade by midnight. The brightening is caused by increased downwards winds which enhance the chemical reaction creating nitric oxide which causes the glow. Credit: NASA/MAVEN/Goddard Space Flight Center/CU/LASP

There wasn’t a bug. The researchers still aren’t sure why Mars is glowing so much at that unusual spot—it may have something to do with the shape of the terrain underneath. But Schneider said that observations like this can help scientists improve their computer models of how the planet’s atmosphere works.

And that could lead to something that every astronaut might use: more accurate weather reports on Mars. 

“We use supercomputers to predict weather on Earth so that you can plan for your vacation or growing crops,” Schneider said. “The same computer models can be spun up for Mars and all the other planets.”

For more on this study, read NASA’s MAVEN Spacecraft Observes Weird Glowing and Pulsing in Mars’ Night Sky.

An asteroid is on possible collision course with Earth this November: Should we be worried?

2018 VP1 object has created some buzz

As if there weren’t enough to think about these days, now there is talk of an asteroid supposedly heading directly for Earth.

Best-fit animation of 2018 VP1 close approach in November 2020
 Yellow  Moon ·   Blue Earth ·  Pink 2018 VP1

The truth of the matter is, there is an asteroid, and it is headed in our general direction, but maybe not right at us. Still, that’s not stopping some from creating concern.

A flying space object known as 2018 VP1 is hurtling through our solar system right now, and it’s due to be in our vicinity in early November. An internet video and a few stories have created a bit of buzz for those who look for this type of information.

2018 VP1 (also written 2018 VP1) is an Apollonear-Earth asteroid roughly 2 meters (7 feet) in diameter. It has a 0.41% chance (1 in 240) of impacting Earth on 2 November 2020. It was discovered on 3 November 2018 when the asteroid was about 0.003 AU (450,000 km; 280,000 mi) from Earth and had a solar elongation of 165 degrees. The asteroid has a short 12.9 day observation arc and has not been detected since November 2018. The JPL Horizons 2 November 2020 nominal Earth approach is estimated to be roughly 0.0028 AU (420,000 km; 260,000 mi).[2] The line of variation (LOV) allows the asteroid to impact Earth or pass as far away as 0.025 AU (3,700,000 km; 2,300,000 mi).

NASA working to isolate space station air leak

Astronaut Chris Cassidy will join two cosmonauts in the Russian Zvezda service module 

NASA is working to isolate a small air leak in the U.S. segment of the International Space Station.

Astronaut Chris Cassidy will join cosmonauts Ivan Vagner and Anatoly Ivanishin in the Russian Zvezda service module from Friday night into Monday morning, the space agency said, in a statement on its website.

“Since September of 2019, specialists have been tracking a very slow decrease in the International Space Station stack pressure, and are trying to identify the source,” a NASA spokesman told Fox News, via email. “The leak rate has increased slightly from measurements taken in September, 2019, but still is within overall specifications and presents no immediate danger to the crew or space station.”

NASA and its international partners can carefully monitor the air pressure in each module, the spokesman added.

International Space Station file photo - May 29, 2011.

International Space Station file photo – May 29, 2011. (NASA)

“All the space station hatches will be closed this weekend so mission controllers can carefully monitor the air pressure in each module,” NASA said, in its statement. “The test presents no safety concern for the crew. The test should determine which module is experiencing a higher-than-normal leak rate. The U.S. and Russian specialists expect preliminary results should be available for review by the end of next week.”

Space station commander Cassidy, a U.S. Navy captain who spent 11 years as a member of the Navy’s SEALs, launched to the orbiting space lab on April 9, 2020.

An Asteroid Will Zoom Past Earth in September and it Will be Closer Than the Moon

An asteroid is set to pass Earth by on September 1

An asteroid is set to pass Earth by on September 1

The 2011 ES4 will pass by the earth on September 1, 2020 at 10:49 A.M. Eastern Time. The asteroid is going to fly by at about 44,618 miles.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has observed an asteroid that is going to pass by the Earth. The more concerning thing here is the fact that it will pass at a closer distance than the moon. This is expected to happen by September.

NASA has already listed this on the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS)’s ‘Close Approaches’. As explained by CNEOS, near-Earth Objects are primarily comets and asteroids that are nudged by the gravitational attraction of surrounding planets into the sun’s orbits. This allows them to fly near the Earth. Usually comets are formed in a cold outer planetary system, while the majority of the asteroids are formed inside the solar system between Mars and Jupiter’s orbits.

According to the database The 2011 ES4 will pass by the earth on September 1, 2020 at 10:49 A.M. Eastern Time. The asteroid is going to fly by at about 44,618 miles. The distance between the moon and earth is approximately 238,855 miles.

Further, the CNEOS has put The 2011 ES4 in the Apollo asteroid category. These types of asteroids have a significantly wide orbit around the Earth and the sun. The asteroid’s intersection with Earth’s orbit happens often as it completes revolving around the sun.

The space agency has called The 2011 ES4 as ‘potentially hazardous’ but has not found any threat because of its small diameter.

Wandering stars pass through our solar system surprisingly often

Our sun has had close encounters with other stars in the past, and it’s due for a dangerously close one in the not-so-distant future.

ScholzStar
Scholz’s Star and its binary brown dwarf fly by our solar system some 70,000 years ago in this artist’s illustration. Our sun shines bright in the background.
Michael Osadciw/University of Rochester

Every 50,000 years or so, a nomadic star passes near our solar system. Most brush by without incident. But, every once in a while, one comes so close that it gains a prominent place in Earth’s night sky, as well as knocks distant comets loose from their orbits.

The most famous of these stellar interlopers is called Scholz’s Star. This small binary star system was discovered in 2013. Its orbital path indicated that, about 70,000 years ago, it passed through the Oort Cloud, the extended sphere of icy bodies that surrounds the fringes of our solar system. Some astronomers even think Scholz’s Star could have sent some of these objects tumbling into the inner solar system when it passed.

However, Scholz’s Star is relatively small and rapidly moving, which should have minimized its effect on the solar system. But in recent years, scientists have been finding that these kinds of encounters happen far more often than once expected. Scholz’s Star wasn’t the first flyby, and it won’t be the last. In fact, we’re on track for a much more dramatic close encounter in the not-too-distant future.about:blankabout:blank

“[Scholz’s Star] probably didn’t have a huge impact, but there should be many more stars that have passed through that are more massive,” astronomer Eric Mamajek of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, whose 2015 paper in Astrophysical Journal Letters put Scholz’s Star on the map, tell Astronomy.


What we can learn from the life cycles of stars? Astronomy’s free downloadable eBook, Stars: The galaxy’s building blocks contains everything you need to know about how stars live, die, and change their galactic homes over time.


The discovery of ‘Scholz’s Star

Around Christmas 2013, Mamajek was visiting a friend and fellow astronomer, Valentin Ivanov, at the offices of the European Southern Observatory in Santiago, Chile. While the two chatted, Ivanov was looking at recent observations of a star cataloged as WISE J072003.20–084651.2.

The star caught Mamajek’s interest because it was just about 20 light-years away, but astronomers hadn’t noticed it thanks to its dim nature and tiny apparent movement (or proper motion) across our night sky.

To him, those two things were a clue. Since it didn’t appear to be moving much side to side, the star was likely moving toward us or away from us at a breathtaking pace. As the astronomers continued talking, Ivanov measured the star’s radial velocity to learn how quickly it was moving toward or away from our Sun. Soon, they had their answer.

“Within five or 10 minutes, we had the initial results that this thing came within a parsec [3.26 light-years] of the Sun,” Mamajek says. “It was screaming through the solar neighborhood.”about:blankabout:blank

The two astronomers and their colleagues would eventually show that it passed even closer than that. In fact, it passed closer to our Sun than any other known star. This status prompted them to name the cosmic trespasser after its initial discoverer, an astronomer named Ralf-Dieter Scholz, who’s devoted significant time to finding nearby stars.

ancientstar

A wandering star passed within one light-year of the Sun roughly 70,000 years ago. At the time, modern humans were just beginning to migrate out of Africa, and Neanderthals were still sharing the planet with us.José A. Peñas/SINC

All the other passing suns

Mamajek has since moved on from studying Scholz’s Star. But in the meantime, other astronomers have also taken up the work. And, thanks to a European Space Agency satellite called Gaia, which is built to map the precise locations and movements of over a billion stars, we now know about other close encounters.

In 2018, a team of researchers led by Coryn Bailer-Jones of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany, used Gaia data to plot our Sun’s future meet-ups with other stars. They discovered nearly 700 stars that will pass within 15 light-years of our solar system over just the next 15 million years. However, the vast majority of close encounters have yet to be discovered, the team suggests. But they suspect roughly 20 stars should pass within just a couple light-years of us every million years.

However, “space is big,” Mamajek points out. “Statistically, most of those stars would pass the outer edge of our solar system.” That means encounters like the one with Scholz’s Star are common, but only a few are close enough to actually dislodge a significant number of comets,

Nonetheless, a few stars should still come surprisingly close. And if a large, slow-moving star did pass through the edge of the Oort Cloud, it could really shake up the solar system.about:blankabout:blank

starsnextdoor

Many nearby stars will pass close to the Oort Cloud, but only one will move through it. In about 1.35 million years, Gliese 710 likely will gravitationally perturb millions of comets, sending a sizable number on a potential collision course with Earth.Astronomy: Roen Kelly

The ‘strongest disrupting encounter’ in history

A massive star steamrolling through the outer solar system is exactly what Gaia data show will happen less than 1.4 million years from now, according to a 2016 study. A star called Gliese 710 will pass within 10,000 astronomical units — 1 AU is equal to the average Earth-Sun distance of 93 million miles. That’s well within the outer edge of the Oort Cloud.

At half the mass of the Sun, Gliese 710 is much larger than Scholz’s Star, which is just 15 percent the mass of the Sun. This means Gliese 710’s hulking gravity could potentially wreak havoc on the orbits of icy bodies in the Oort Cloud. And while Scholz’s Star was so tiny it would have been barely visible in the night sky — if at all — Gliese 710 is larger than our current closest neighbor, Proxima Centauri. So when Gliese 710 reaches its closest point to Earth, it will burn as a brilliant orange orb that will outshine every other star in our night sky.

This event could be “the strongest disrupting encounter in the future and history of the solar system,” the authors wrote in their paper, published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Fortunately, the inner solar system is a relatively tiny target, and even if Gliese 710 does send comets flying our way, it would take millions of additional years for these icy bodies to reach us. That should give any surviving future humans plenty of time to take action.

And in the meantime, they can enjoy watching what may be one of the closest stellar flybys in the history of our solar system.

Early Solar System May Have Had Two Suns

In a paper published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, Harvard University astrophysicists Avi Loeb and Amir Siraj show that an equal-mass stellar companion to the Sun in the solar birth cluster — the collection of stars that formed together with our star from the same dense cloud of molecular gas — at a separation of 1,000 AU would have increased the likelihood of forming the observed population of objects in the outer Oort Cloud and of capturing the hypothesized Planet Nine.

An artist’s conception of a potential solar companion, which theorists believe was developed in the Sun’s birth cluster and later lost. If proven, the solar companion theory would provide additional credence to theories that the Oort Cloud formed as we see it today, and that Planet Nine was captured rather than formed in place. Image credit: M. Weiss.

Popular theory associates the formation of the Oort Cloud with debris left over from the formation of the Solar System and its neighbors, where objects were scattered by the planets to great distances and some were exchanged amongst stars.

But a binary model could be the missing piece in the puzzle and shouldn’t come as a surprise to scientists.

“Previous models have had difficulty producing the expected ratio between scattered disk objects and outer Oort Cloud objects,” said Siraj, an undergraduate student in the Department of Astronomy at Harvard University.

“The binary capture model offers significant improvement and refinement, which is seemingly obvious in retrospect: most Sun-like stars are born with binary companions.”

If the Oort Cloud was indeed captured with the help of an early stellar companion, the implications for our understanding of the Solar System’s formation would be significant.

“Binary systems are far more efficient at capturing objects than are single stars,” Professor Loeb said.

“If the Oort Cloud formed as observed, it would imply that the Sun did in fact have a companion of similar mass that was lost before the Sun left its birth cluster.”

More than just redefining the formation of our Solar System, evidence of a captured Oort Cloud could answer questions about the origins of life on Earth.

“Objects in the outer Oort Cloud may have played important roles in Earth’s history, such as possibly delivering water to Earth and causing the extinction of the dinosaurs. Understanding their origins is important,” Siraj said.

The model also has implications for the hypothesized Planet Nine, which the team believes isn’t alone out there.

“The puzzle is not only regarding the Oort clouds, but also extreme trans-Neptunian objects, like the potential Planet Nine,” Professor Loeb said.

“It is unclear where they came from, and our new model predicts that there should be more objects with a similar orbital orientation to Planet Nine.”

If the Sun did have an early companion that contributed to the formation of the outer Solar System, its current absence begs the question: where did it go?

“Passing stars in the birth cluster would have removed the companion from the Sun through their gravitational influence,” Professor Loeb said.

“Before the loss of the binary, however, the Solar System already would have captured its outer envelope of objects, namely the Oort Cloud and the Planet Nine population,” Siraj added.

“The Sun’s long-lost companion could now be anywhere in the Milky Way.”

_____

Amir Siraj & Abraham Loeb. 2020. The Case for an Early Solar Binary Companion. ApJL 899, L24; doi: 10.3847/2041-8213/abac66

Pickup truck-sized asteroid flew within 2K miles of Earth on Sunday and NASA didn’t see it

The asteroid, known as 2020 QG, flew past Earth from the direction of the sun on Sunday

A giant asteroid hit earth 13,000 years ago and had ‘global consequences’ causing mass extinction and more.

NASA may have updated its plan to protect the planet from asteroid strikes, but a space rock the size of a pickup truck zipped past the planet at a distance of approximately 1,830 miles on Sunday, the closest ever recorded.

And the space agency didn’t see it until after it happened.

The asteroid, known as 2020 QG (formerly known as ZTF0DxQ), flew past the Earth from the direction of the sun, according to Business Insider, which first reported the news. The news outlet cited a tweet from amateur astronomer Tony Dunn.

“Newly-discovered asteroid ZTF0DxQ passed less than 1/4 Earth diameter yesterday, making it the closest-known flyby that didn’t hit our planet,” Dunn, who is also the creator of orbitsimulator.com, wrote.

The object was detected approximately six hours after it flew past Earth’s Southern Hemisphere at a speed of 27,600 mph, Paul Chodas, director of NASA’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies, told the news outlet. “We didn’t see it coming.”

2020 QG is considered a Near-Earth Object (NEO) given its close proximity to Earth. However, given its size (between 6 feet and 18 feet wide), it is not considered a “potentially hazardous” NEO and likely would have broken up in the atmosphere

The object’s size was estimated by the Sormano Astronomical Observatory.

“Potentially hazardous” NEOs are defined as space objects that come within 0.05 astronomical units and measure more than 460 feet in diameter, according to NASA. According to a 2018 report put together by Planetary.org, there are more than 18,000 NEOs.

Fox News has reached out to NASA with a request for comment.

This is not the first time in recent memory that NASA has missed a NEO similar to 2020 QG. In February, researchers in the Netherlands discovered 11 “potentially hazardous objects” that are not on NASA’s list of “potentially hazardous” near-Earth objects, using advanced artificial intelligence.

NASA unveiled a 20-page plan in 2018 that details the steps the U.S. should take to be better prepared for NEOs, such as asteroids and comets that come within 30 million miles of the planet.

recent survey showed that Americans prefer a space program that focuses on potential asteroid impacts over sending humans back to the moon or to Mars.

In April 2019, NASA awarded a $69 million contract to SpaceX, the space exploration company led by Elon Musk, to help it with asteroid deflection via its DART mission.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in April 2019 that an asteroid strike is not something to be taken lightly and is perhaps Earth’s biggest threat.

Massive black triangle UFO over New Lambton Heights in 1999

A photo of a UFO spotted in Belgium.

Dean “Vern” Garner has kept a secret for 20 years. He thinks about it often, but hardly speaks about it because he has no proof.

The memory came back vividly recently when he was throwing out old newspapers kept for painting. One fell on the floor.

It contained a story, published in this column in November 2017, about Geoff and Maree Masters. Dean hadn’t come across the story until then. 

The couple had shared their story about seeing a massive black triangle-shaped UFO from their Edgeworth front yard one night in the late 1990s.

Dean, who owns Vern’s Guitar Clinic at Wallsend, had a similar experience.

“It was 1999, around November. It was a hot, crystal clear night. You could see the stars. There was no breeze,” he said.

He was living on Grandview Road at New Lambton Heights on top of a ridge. That night, he was having a barbecue.

At about 11pm, he was outside talking to a mate about the forthcoming new year. 

Suddenly, they could see “what appeared to be a fire, down low behind trees”.

They also thought it could be lightning.

“Then the orange light started to rise up. It rose above the eucalypt trees,” he said.

“We could see it coming towards us. I said, ‘we’re about to find out what this thing is’.

“We were absolutely stunned. I said ‘what the hell is that?’. This thing was coming towards us at no more than 25km/h.

“It was about 30 metres high, just above the tallest eucalyptus tree.

“As it approached us, the hairs on our neck and arms stood up. We were in deep shock. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing.”

A massive triangular-shaped craft flew above them.

“It was travelling so low, you could have thrown a rock and hit it. It was directly above our heads,” he said.

“As we stood underneath it, there was no doubt what it was. We knew straight away it was an alien craft from another planet. There’s nothing like that on our planet.

“I never thought I’d see a UFO in my life. It seemed to take a minute for the whole craft to pass over our house.”

Light from the craft shone on them and the house.

The pair screamed, “hello, hello”.

“We felt calm, like we weren’t in any danger. It was almost like it was being emitted from the ship somehow,” he said.

He said the UFO had five lights, including a massive orange light in its centre.

“It was kind of like the inside of an orange when you cut an orange in half,” he said.

The orange light itself, he said, was about “three quarters the size of a football field”.

The triangular craft was much bigger.

It appeared to be made of a substance that he likened to “black glass or titanium”.

“This thing was absolutely huge. It was 50 to 100 times the size of a 747,” he estimated. 

“It was a massive ship. It seemed to float on air. There were no engines, no flames, no sound. It was completely silent. It was absolutely beautiful.

“It came from another world, an advanced world. We had the distinct impression that we and everything around us were being filmed. We didn’t know why, we just had that feeling.” 

Similar Sightings

Black triangle UFOs have been sighted many times around the world.

A photo of a UFO spotted in Belgium.

 A photo of a UFO spotted in Belgium.

In 1989 to 1990, for instance, this type of UFO was reported many times in Belgium. Witnesses claimed to see large black silent triangles. 

“Two key factors that make the Belgian wave of sightings so interesting to UFO scholars and skeptics alike are the large number of police making reports and the Belgian government’s official interest in the sightings,” Michael Lauck reported.

Retired Belgian Major General Wilfried de Brouwer, who oversaw the investigation, said there were about 2000 reported sightings. In one case, two police officers spotted a triangular object with three spotlights illuminating the field over which it hovered. In its centre was a red flashing light. 

Sceptics have suggested this type of UFO could be United States Air Force surveillance aircraft developed under “black operations”.

Dean Garner, citing his close encounter of the first kind, dismisses this suggestion. He can’t imagine a stealth military aircraft being as large as the one he saw. Nor can he comprehend why a military craft would want to fly low over Newcastle. 

Huge, Hovering and Silent: The Mystery of ‘Black Triangle’ UFOs

Some speculate they are super-secret US spy craft. Others question whether they might be from elsewhere, conducting some kind of surveillance.

Within the larger mystery of the UFO phenomenon is another, still-unsolved puzzle: Why do so many reports involve strange, triangular-shaped craft—often described as dark in color, virtually noiseless and the size of a football field or larger? What, exactly, are they? And why are so many witnessed hovering or moving slowly and methodically, with no visible contrails?

In the years after the U.S. Air Force coined the term “unidentified flying object” in 1952, reports often referred to UFOs generically as flying saucers. But witnesses then, and since, have described a wide array of shapes: saucers (or two saucers put together), eggs, hats, cigars, boomerangs, lightbulbs—even Tic Tac candies.

Among the most commonly reported shapes were V-shaped, arrowhead-like or triangular. David Marler, UFO researcher and author of Triangular UFOs: An Estimate of the Situation, says he has reviewed more than 17,000 case files involving unidentified triangular craft, sometimes called “black triangles.” Whether the sightings represent advanced U.S. spy craft—as some speculate—or something of unknown origin, their purpose remains mysterious. Given their consistent hovering behavior, Marler says, they might be engaged in “surveillance of some nature—or scanning. Or analyzing the topography.”

“There have been many instances in which these vehicles have been observed over bases operated by the Strategic Air Command,” says Chris Mellon, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for intelligence during the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, whose career has focused on unconventional threats to American security. Mellon is now an integral part of the investigative team featured on HISTORY’s “Unidentified: Inside America’s UFO Investigation.”

An International Phenomenon

In the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s, triangular UFO reports hailed from across the U.S. and beyond. During the 1960s, at the height of Cold War UFO fever, mysterious flying triangles were reported over Connecticut, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Texas—as well as London, Madrid and Czechoslovakia. In 1969, two National Guard pilots tailed a “triangular shaped object, 50 feet in diameter” for 20 minutes over San Juan, Puerto Rico, until they ran low on fuel and had to return to their base. Many of these incidents would be attributed by officials to atmospheric conditions, weather balloons or other everyday sources, but some remained unexplained.

Black Triangle UFOs
An illustration depicting a triangle UFO.Getty Images

Between 1983 and 1986, a notable rash of mass sightings occurred in New York’s Hudson Valley, some 50 miles north of New York City. One witness, Kevin Soravilla, a retired lieutenant from the Yorktown Police Department, described a huge, silent craft, 100 yards from wingtip to wingtip, hovering low, which banked and made a 45-degree turn before abruptly speeding off. Soravilla said he called Stewart Air Force Base in nearby Newburgh to determine whether one of its C-5 transport planes—then the world’s largest and heaviest aircraft—had been in the skies that night; none had. Later that year, a hulking triangular UFO hovering over a stretch of New York’s Taconic Parkway prompted a huge traffic pile-up as scores of motorists stopped to get a better look. Similar incidents continued in the region for several years.

‘Exceeded the Limits of Conventional Aviation’

Many witnesses describe what they perceive to be the crafts’ extraordinary abilities. One evening in late November 1989, two police officers on patrol in Eupen, Belgium, not far from the German border, spotted an odd triangular object overhead. In the ensuing days, hundreds of Belgians reported similar UFOs, described in news reports as “a triangular object with a bright red center light” or as a “flying platform” with three huge searchlights.

In March 1990, the Belgian air force sent up two F-16 fighter jets to get a closer look at one triangle that had been spotted on radar. Their onboard computers recorded the object’s remarkable maneuverability and its ability to accelerate from 1,000 kilometers per hour (about 621 miles per hour) to 1,800 kilometers per hour (about 1,120 miles per hour) within seconds. “What the computers registered exceeded the limits of conventional aviation,” a Belgian air force colonel told reporters.

In March 1997, Phoenix, Arizona, became a UFO hotspot when some 30,000 local residents saw something strange in the skies. Some reports said the mysterious object was V-shaped, but many described it as triangular. “It was in a triangle shape and it had three lights. It was moving very slowly,” an 11-year-old Cub Scout was quoted as saying. A retired airline pilot described it as “the size of 25 airliners…and it didn’t make a sound.” Others described it as the size of three football fields.

In 2000, police officers from neighboring municipalities in southern Illinois were called to investigate a trucker’s report of a massive arrowhead-shaped craft hovering low in the sky, two stories high and as long as a football field. Dispatch tapes reveal the shock and awe expressed by the different law-enforcement teams, who were all in radio contact with each other. 

The National UFO Reporting Center, which catalogs more than 8,100 sightings of triangle-shaped UFOs since the early 1960s, lists more than 200 in the first half of 2020.

The Truth Behind the Triangles

Many of these sightings have been investigated repeatedly by UFO sleuths. The Belgian triangles have been explained away as stars, planets, balloons or blimps, with a bit of mass hallucination thrown in. The lights over Phoenix were dismissed as flares dropped during an Air National Guard exercise, although that theory has many skeptics. Some say the New York sightings were a hoax perpetrated by local stunt pilots flying in formation.

A F-117 Nighthawk pictured in night vision, 1999. 
A F-117 Nighthawk pictured in night vision, 1999. Usaf/Getty Images

One explanation raises the possibility of the “airship effect.” That’s the theory that people who see unrelated lights in the sky can trick themselves into believing they are all part of the same object. Three lights? Must be a triangular spaceship. Three lights hundreds of yards apart? Must be a really big triangular spaceship.

Other speculation has focused on top-secret aircraft. Although the U.S. government has largely stayed mum on the matter, it’s common knowledge that the Air Force has experimented with triangular- and V-shaped aircraft for decades, including the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber and the F-117 Nighthawk—and possibly others kept under wraps. Sightings near the clandestine spy plane test facility at Area 51 in Nevada may indeed be connected to test flights of some of these craft.

However, the extraordinary size many witness describe is puzzling. And for Marler and others, the volume of the sightings and the consistency of the crafts’ hovering behavior, combined with their unexplainable sudden accelerations, point away from known military technology.

If not home-grown, then what? One theory suggests that these craft are engaged in mapping sensitive sites. The southern Illinois sightings occurred within one to two miles of Scott Air Force Base, home to U.S. Air Mobility Command, which coordinates all global transportation for American troops. The Hudson Valley sightings happened in close proximity to Stewart Air Force Base. And Mellon has interviewed multiple Persian Gulf veterans who witnessed triangular craft near sensitive military operations. “An adversary planning a future attack would want to know every inch of the battlefield,” he says. 

Still, the black triangle mystery persists. “There’s a lot of data,” says Marler. “That doesn’t equate to answers.”

Pentagon launches task force to investigate ‘unidentified aerial phenomena’

Defense Department aims to ‘detect, analyze and catalog’ UFOs that could pose a threat to national security

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

The Pentagon has created a task force to investigate UFOs following several unexplained incidents that have been observed by the U.S. military.

The Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force was launched earlier this month by Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist, boosting an effort by the Office of Naval Intelligence, officials said.

The Defense Department said Friday that it hopes to “improve its understanding of, and gain insight into, the nature and origins of UAPs. The mission of the task force is to detect, analyze and catalog UAPs that could potentially pose a threat to U.S. national security.”

“The safety of our personnel and the security of our operations are of paramount concern. The Department of Defense and the military departments take any incursions by unauthorized aircraft into our training ranges or designated airspace very seriously and examine each report,” the department said.

“This includes examinations of incursions that are initially reported as UAP when the observer cannot immediately identify what he or she is observing.”

The plans for the task force, which is expected to be officially unveiled in the next few days, were first reported by CNN on Thursday.

The move marks an extension of previous efforts to look into UFOs — but stops well short of trying to prove the existence of extraterrestrial life.

Since 2018, a Navy task force has been informally investigating such incidents and has coordinated information with U.S. intelligence agencies.Video

In April, the Defense Department released and declassified three videos of Navy pilots encountering UFOs in 2004 and 2015.

In 2017, The New York Times reported on the existence of the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, which had previously been disbanded, according to the Pentagon.

While the new task force’s work will remain classified, that status could change if the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s proposal for an unclassified report on UFOs is adopted by the full Senate and House.

In 1952, ‘Flying Saucers’ Over Washington Sent the Press Into a Frenzy

In 1952, ‘Flying Saucers’ Over Washington Sent the Press Into a Frenzy

UFO reports in the capital’s air space set headlines blaring across the nation about ‘disks’ and ‘whatzits’ and mysterious lights.

If 1952 marked the year that UFO fever spread across Cold War America, events in late July of that year spiked that mania to critical levels. That’s when the grandfather of all “saucer” sightings took place in the skies above the nation’s capital, causing a coast-to-coast collective jaw drop. 

Over several weeks, up to a dozen unexplained objects repeatedly streaked across the skies over Washington, D.C.—spotted not just by crackpots, but by radar operators, professional pilots and other highly credible witnesses. The Air Force scrambled fighter jets, but the ‘saucers’ outran them. Around the U.S., sci-fi-like headlines blared, rumors flew and sightings soared. 

When President Harry Truman quietly called for answers, a representative from the Air Force’s secret UFO-investigation teamProject Blue Book, was summoned to D.C. But before anyone could fully probe the incidents, the Air Force hastily convened a press conference to quell the panic, blaming the whole thing on the weather. 

The incident didn’t just get covered in big-city papers. In every corner of the country, local publications ran stories, many drawn from national wire services, often edited with different details to fit their space. Some added sidebars with local ‘saucer’ news or tidbits like what Albert Einstein thought when asked about UFOs. One reporter got the bright idea to ask the Soviets if they were somehow behind it all. Below, some original clippings from around the nation during that extraordinary historical moment:

UFO_Headline_1
Courtesy of Newspapers.com

Monroe News-Star (Monroe, Louisiana), page 1, July 21, 1952

EXCERPT: ‘The Air Force today investigated reports that several “flying saucers” had been spotted by radar virtually in its own backyard on the outskirts of the nation’s capital. 

Not only were unidentified objects seen on radar—indicating actual substance instead of mere light—but two airline pilots and a newsman saw eerie lights fitting the general description of flying saucers the same night… 

Capt. S.C. (Casey) Pierman of Detroit, piloting Capital Airlines Flight 807…was careful in his report…not to identify the objects as flying saucers. He described them as “like falling stars without tails” but added: “In my years of flying I’ve seen a lot of falling or shooting stars…But these were much faster…They couldn’t have been aircraft. They were moving too fast for that.” ‘ 

UFO_Headline_2
Courtesy of The Cedar Rapids Gazette

The Cedar Rapids Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa), page 1, July 29, 1952

EXCERPT: ‘Radar showed that the air over the nation’s capital was full of flying objects early Tuesday, but an airliner directed to one of the radar sightings could not find a thing… https://a8198de371254c39eacffd12adc381cf.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

A CAA [Civil Aeronautics Administration] spokesman said the latest sightings showed as many as 12 unidentified objects on the radar screen at one time… The sightings Tuesday were the third within two weeks.’ 

UFO_Headline_4
Courtesy of The Times-Tribune, Scranton, PA., and Newspapers.com.

The Scranton Tribune (Scranton, Pennsylvania), page 1, July 29, 1952

EXCERPT: ‘The Air Force disclosed today that jet fighters are under orders to maintain a nationwide 24-hour “alert” against “flying saucers” and to shoot them down if possible.’

3-headline ufo
Courtesy of Newspapers.com

The Daily Inter Lake (Kalispell, Montana), page 11, July 31, 1952

EXCERPT: ‘ “It looked like a sphere, so deeply orange colored that it appeared almost the shade of rust. It was silent as death. It was moving too fast and evenly to be a balloon…’

Most persistent rumor is that Boeing Airplane Co. in Seattle, Wash., is either making flying saucers or has been in charge of the engineering of the project. The rumor goes that very small parts of the saucers are being made by widely scattered subcontractors and that the finished items are being assembled at some remote site… 

In the weirder category of rumors is the one that the saucers are either Russian-built or from another planet and that several of them have crashed and have been picked up by the Air Force. It goes on to theorize that the Air Force has been able to repair some of them and make them operate and at the same time is trying to build some of their own just like them.’ 

UFO_Headline_5
Courtesy of Newspapers.com

Daily Independent-Journal (San Rafael, California), page 5, July 29, 1952

EXCERPT: ‘Reports of “saucers” have kept police, air force and weather bureau telephones jangling for several days recently in widely scattered localities… 

At Key West, Fla., the Navy said it was investigating accounts by several sailors who said they saw a “saucer” while attending an outdoor movie…

Near Cleveland, O., three observers of “Operation Skywatch” reported spotting floating lights which rapidly changed color and dodged in and out of the clouds, finally vanishing to the South.’ 

UFO_Headline_6
Courtesy of The Akron Beacon Journal and Newspapers.com

Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio), page 2, July 30, 1952

EXCERPT: ‘ “I wouldn’t doubt but that the things are coming from Russia,” declared Mrs. V.D. Mason of 1488 Massillon rd… 

Mrs. Floyd Wetzel of 901 Sayder st., said, “I think the government knows what’s back of it all and isn’t revealing it.”

“I think they may be coming from another planet if they are anything,” asserted Al Rose of 74 Eastgay dr. “But even so,” he added, “I’m not worried. I’m from England. I saw the bombs falling there in WWII. There’s nothing compared to that.” ’ 

6-img (2)
Courtesy of Newspapers.com

The Salt Lake Tribune (Salt Lake City, Utah), page 3, July 23, 1952

EXCERPT: ‘The Soviet embassy Tuesday denied any connection with flying saucers seen in this area…

Vladimir L. Lomovisev, attaché at the embassy, was asked by a reporter if the strange objects seen in the sky recently were of Soviet origin. He first said “I don’t know,” and then added firmly, “No.” ’

UFO_Headline_7
Courtesy of Newspapers.com

Standard-Sentinel (Hazleton, Pennsylvania), page 1, July 30, 1952

EXCERPT: ‘It was the third time in 10 days that radar—an electronic device which tracks only physical objects not imagination—picked up signs of something unknown packing through pre-dawn black skies…

And the Air Force threw lots of cold water on any chilling speculation about men or missiles from Mars—or enemy nations.’

UFO_Headline_8
Courtesy of Newspapers.com

The Paris News (Paris, Texas), page 1, July 30, 1952

EXCERPT: ‘The Air Force says it’s still checking into flying saucer reports, but it’s certain of one thing: The saucers—whatever they are—don’t seem to be a menace to the United States. Most of the sightings traced to date have turned out to be natural phenomena.’ 

pbb headlines
Courtesy of Newspapers.com

The Rhinelander Daily News (Rhinelander, Wisconsin), page 1, July 30, 1952

EXCERPT: ‘The bulk of these, after cross-checking, have been reasonably well identified as the product of friendly aircraft, out-and-out hoaxes, or electrical or meteorological phenomena…

The two generals added that the hot weather of recent weeks well might be related to the current outbreak of saucer reports. They said that a temperature inversion—a layer of warm air over cool air—sometimes may be sufficient to deflect radar waves and cause a false response on a radar set.’ 

4,700 Potentially Dangerous Asteroids Lurk Near Earth, NASA Says

Orbits and distribution of potentially hazardous asteroids

This diagram illustrates the differences between orbits of a typical near-Earth asteroid (blue) and a potentially hazardous asteroid, or PHA (orange). PHAs have the closest orbits to Earth’s orbit, coming within 5 million miles (about 8 million kilometers), and they are large enough to survive passage through Earth’s atmosphere and cause significant damage.(Image: © NASA/JPL-Caltech)

A new NASA survey has pinned down the number of asteroids that could pose a collision threat to Earth in what scientists say is the best estimate yet of the potentially dangerous space rocks.

Known near-Earth objects – as of January 2018

The survey found there are likely 4,700 potentially hazardous asteroids, plus or minus 1,500 space rocks, that are larger than 330 feet (100 meters) wide and in orbits that occasionally bring them close enough to Earth to pose a concern, researchers said. To date, only about 30 percent of those objects have actually been found, they added.

Potentially hazardous asteroids, or PHAs in NASA-speak, are space rocks in orbits that come within 5 million miles (8 million kilometers) of Earth and are large enough to cause damage on regional or global scale if they were ever to hit our planet.

Animation of the 2015 TB145 (NEO) flyby, as seen from the center of the Earth, with hourly trace circles along the path of motion

The new study was based on observations from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), an infrared space telescope. While the telescope data returned an estimate of the potentially dangerous near-Earth asteroid population that is similar to previous projections, it also revealed some surprising new results.RECOMMENDED VIDEOS FOR YOU…Click here for more Space.com videos…Saharan dust cloud fertilizes soil in the AmazonVolume 0% PLAY SOUND

According to the survey, about twice as many asteroids are in so-called “lower-inclination orbits” — which are more closely aligned with Earth’s path around the sun than other objects — than previously thought researchers said. [Video: WISE Telescope’s Asteroid Census]

“A possible explanation is that many of the PHAs may have originated from a collision between two asteroids in the main belt lying between Mars and Jupiter,” NASA officials explained in a statement. “A larger body with a low-inclination orbit may have broken up in the main belt, causing some of the fragments to drift into orbits closer to Earth and eventually become PHAs.”

NEOWISE survey has found that more potentially hazardous asteroids, or PHAs, are closely aligned with the plane of our solar system than previous models suggested. PHAs are the subset of near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) with the closest orbits to Earth's orbit, coming within 5 million miles (about 8 million kilometers).
NEOWISE survey has found that more potentially hazardous asteroids, or PHAs, are closely aligned with the plane of our solar system than previous models suggested. PHAs are the subset of near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) with the closest orbits to Earth’s orbit, coming within 5 million miles (about 8 million kilometers). (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Those low-inclination space rocks also appear to be smaller and brighter than other near-Earth asteroids and are more likely to encounter Earth, researchers said.

“Our team was surprised to find the overabundance of low-inclination PHAs,” Amy Mainzer, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said in a statement. Mainzer is principal investigator of WISE’s asteroid-hunting mission, which is called NEOWISE.

“Because they will tend to make more close approaches to Earth, these targets can provide the best opportunities for the next generation of human and robotic exploration.”

Earth Causes Asteroid-Quakes

Scientists made the new near-Earth asteroid estimate based on observations of 107 asteroids by WISE, which launched in 2009 and mapped the entire sky twice before ending its primary mission in 2011. Before shutting down, the observatory made a concerted search for near-Earth asteroids as part of an extended mission dubbed NEOWISE.

The $320 million WISE telescope snapped images of about 600 near-Earth asteroids, with about 135 of them being completely new discoveries. The telescope also observed millions of other objects, including distant galaxies and star nurseries.

“NASA’s NEOWISE project, which wasn’t originally planned as part of WISE, has turned out to be a huge bonus,” Mainzer said. “Everything we can learn about these objects helps us understand their origins and fate.”

During its asteroid hunt, the WISE telescope searched for space rocks within about120 million miles (195 million km) of the sun. For comparison, the Earth is about 93 million miles (150 million km) from the sun.

The data from NEOWISE, when combined with other asteroid data observations, helped NASA announce in 2010 that about 90 percent of the largest near-Earth asteroids that come close to our planet had been identified.

The new survey’s results will be detailed in an upcoming edition of the Astrophysical Journal.

Dwarf planet Ceres has an ‘ancient ocean’ with salt water, researchers confirm

Seven research papers were published that look at Ceres’ Occator Crater, which is where scientists believe an ocean of ‘salt-enriched water’ exists

Researchers have discovered that the dwarf planet Ceres has an “ancient ocean” with salt water, which means the space object may still be geologically active.

Using data from NASA’S Dawn spacecraft, seven research papers were published on Monday in the scientific journals Nature Communications, Nature Geoscience and Nature Astronomy that look at Ceres’ Occator Crater, which is where scientists believe an ocean of brine, or “salt-enriched water,” exists. By analyzing Ceres’ gravity, the experts were able to determine the brine reservoir is approximately 25 miles below the surface and hundreds of miles wide.

“Dawn accomplished far more than we hoped when it embarked on its extraordinary extraterrestrial expedition,” said Mission Director Marc Rayman of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in a statement. “These exciting new discoveries from the end of its long and productive mission are a wonderful tribute to this remarkable interplanetary explorer.”

This mosaic of Ceres' Occator Crater is composed of images NASA's Dawn mission captured on its second extended mission in 2018. Bright pits and mounds (foreground) were formed by salty liquid released as Occator's water-rich floor froze after the crater-forming impact about 20 million years ago. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/USRA/LPI)

This mosaic of Ceres’ Occator Crater is composed of images NASA’s Dawn mission captured on its second extended mission in 2018. Bright pits and mounds (foreground) were formed by salty liquid released as Occator’s water-rich floor froze after the crater-forming impact about 20 million years ago. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/USRA/LPI)

Dawn arrived at Ceres in 2015 and the last contact with the craft was in October 2018.

The Occator Crater, a strange place with bright white spots that are salt deposits, has long been a source of interest for NASA. Rayman himself mentioned it in a 2018 blog post. “Studying this one crater and the area around it (together known as a geological unit) could reveal more about the complex geology there,” he wrote at the time.

It’s believed the crater is about 22 million years old, but the ice volcanoes that surround it could be anywhere from billions of years old. The salt deposits could be as young as 2 million years old, according to one of the recently published studies.

This mosaic of Ceres' Occator Crater is composed of images NASA's Dawn mission captured on its second extended mission, in 2018. Bright pits and mounds (foreground) were formed by salty liquid released as Occator's water-rich floor froze after the crater-forming impact about 20 million years ago. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/USRA/LPI)

This mosaic of Ceres’ Occator Crater is composed of images NASA’s Dawn mission captured on its second extended mission, in 2018. Bright pits and mounds (foreground) were formed by salty liquid released as Occator’s water-rich floor froze after the crater-forming impact about 20 million years ago. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/USRA/LPI)

“The 57-mile diameter Occator Crater turned out to be the ‘star’ in terms of geologically recent activity on dwarf planet Ceres,”  planetary scientist David Williams of Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration said in a separate statement. “The bright materials observed in this 22-million-year-old impact crater appear to have erupted in the last 2 to 9 million years, indicating there is some internal heat still left in Ceres.”

Further research is needed to determine their exact age.

“All of the results suggest one or more brine reservoirs within the crust of Ceres, perhaps relics of an ancient ocean on this icy world,” added Williams, who is part of a team developing a concept for NASA to return to Ceres. “If it comes to fruition, a sample return mission would allow us to bring some of these bright materials to Earth to conclusively determine their origin.”

In addition to being a dwarf planet, Ceres is also the largest known asteroid, with a diameter approaching 600 miles. It also contains the largest mountain on the largest known asteroid in the solar system, Ahuna Mons, which rises more than 13,000 feet. It’s unclear exactly what caused the formation of Ahuna Mons, with its slopes decorated by vertical streaks, but NASA has a new theory.

One of the last images of Ceres from NASA's Dawn spacecraft shows bright spots in Occator Crater. Dawn captured this view on Sept. 1, 2018, from an altitude of 2,340 miles (3,370 kilometers) above the dwarf planet's surface.

One of the last images of Ceres from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft shows bright spots in Occator Crater. Dawn captured this view on Sept. 1, 2018, from an altitude of 2,340 miles (3,370 kilometers) above the dwarf planet’s surface. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

“The new hypothesis, based on numerous gravity measurements, holds that a bubble of mud rose from deep within the dwarf planet and pushed through the icy surface at a weak point rich in reflective salt — and then froze,” the space agency said in a 2019 statement.

By comparison, the largest mountain on Earth, Mount Everest, rises 29,029 feet.

Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and was first spotted by Giuseppe Piazzi in 1801.

In 2017, Dawn found the building blocks for life on the dwarf planet, spotting organic molecules that appeared to form on Ceres and not from an asteroid or comet strike.

Are Aliens Saying Hello Via Repeating FRBs? We Don’t Know – Yet

What are repeating FRBs or fast radio bursts? A quantum physicist decodes this term & explains the phenomenon.

The CHIME telescope in British Columbia will search our universe for phenomena such as fast radio bursts (FRBs), pulsars and more. Image used for representational purposes.

If you were the point of contact for an alien civilisation, what’s the first thing you would say? I would probably tell the aliens about coffee, and then have them try some. That would surely, and perhaps literally, warm them up to us.

I ask this because I’m a complete sci-fi romantic, and some recent astronomical news has left me daydreaming like Cinderella before she met Prince Charming. Full disclosure: no, we have not found evidence of an alien civilisation.

In fact, my starting off the way I did was probably misleading. However, the detection of repeating fast radio bursts – only the second of its kind to ever be discovered – is significant. Let me tell you why.

What Are Fast Radio Bursts?

First, fast radio bursts (FRBs) are super high energy radio pulses that come from the skies (read: a few billion light years away). While super high energy at their source – a few milliseconds of energy emission can match how much energy our sun emits in a day – by the time they reach the Earth, they emit way less energy.

Think about going to the moon and then trying to receive a signal from Earth on your phone: perhaps a parent is trying to call because you left your jacket behind. Got the visual? The strength of these FRBs when they reach us, is a thousand times less than that.

Substantial Population of Repeating FRBs

Since 2007, these FRBs have been detected over sixty times. Most were individual signals from different sources; only once was a repeating set of signals ever detected. Until now. In July and August 2018, the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) FRB project detected six repeating FRBs that appeared to originate from a single source 1.5 billion light years away, along with seven other individual signals.

For a bit of perspective, I’d like to point out that our Milky Way is only about a hundred thousand light years in diameter.

That repeating FRBs were detected at all, gives rise to a number of suggestions. One, repeating FRBs are not an anomaly. The first detection wasn’t a standalone, and according to the CHIME/FRB Nature paper, this second detection “suggests that there exists—and that CHIME/FRB and other wide-field, sensitive radio telescopes will find—a substantial population of repeating FRBs.”

Much More To Be Known About Repeating FRBs

Two, repeating FRBs are inexplicable from the viewpoint of our limited knowledge, and may point to all sorts of unknown powerful astronomical events far, far away! That’s always exciting.

Three, we actually don’t know much about FRBs and their origin, and trying to zoom in on a single source that gives out repeating FRBs, might provide us with the data to know more.

Four, since the sources are unknown, FRBs may have an alien origin. Indeed, Prof Avi Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, says, “Fast radio bursts are exceedingly bright given their short duration and origin at great distances, and we haven’t identified a possible natural source with any confidence. An artificial origin is worth contemplating and checking”.

Let me point out that “aliens” isn’t really the first answer that most have when new, inexplicable, exciting things are discovered. Very few scientists are embracing this idea for repeating FRBs because it is incredibly, and I can’t stress this enough, incredibly premature.

So, instead of running through the streets proclaiming that we are not alone, daydream with me. I ask you again: what’s the first thing you, as a point of contact, would say to aliens?