‘Extraterrestrial organic compounds’ found in 2018 Michigan ‘fireball’

Meteorite contained more than 2,000 organic materials, including some dating back to early days of solar system

In 2018, a meteorite fell to Earth, causing a fireball that streaked across the sky in Michigan. Now, researchers have discovered the space rock contains “extraterrestrial organic compounds.” 

The study, published in the scientific journal Meteoritics & Planetary Science, notes the meteorite was an H4 chondrite (only 4% of all meteorites that fall to Earth are H4 chondrites). It also contained more than 2,000 organic materials, including some dating back to the early days of the solar system.

“This meteorite is special because it fell onto a frozen lake and was recovered quickly. It was very pristine. We could see the minerals weren’t much altered and later found that it contained a rich inventory of extraterrestrial organic compounds,” the study’s lead author, Philipp Heck, said in a statement. “These kinds of organic compounds were likely delivered to the early Earth by meteorites and might have contributed to the ingredients of life.”

Security camera footage of the fireball in the sky over Toledo, Ohio (T. Masterson and the American Meteor Society)

Security camera footage of the fireball in the sky over Toledo, Ohio (T. Masterson and the American Meteor Society)

Known as the Hamburg meteorite, the fireball entered the Earth’s atmosphere on Jan. 16, 2018. It lit up the skies over large parts of North America, including Ontario, Canada, and the midwestern part of the U.S., before ultimately crashing to Earth in Michigan.

Hours later, meteorite hunters Robert Ward and Larry Atkins found the first parts of the meteorite, Fox News previously reported.

A small chunk of an asteroid or comet is known as a meteoroid. When it enters Earth’s atmosphere, it becomes a meteor, fireball or shooting star. The pieces of rock that hit the ground, valuable to collectors, are called meteorites.

The fragment found by Ward was eventually donated to Chicago’s Field Museum, where it was observed by study co-author Jennika Greer.

“This meteorite shows a high diversity of organics, in that if somebody was interested in studying organics, this is not normally the type of meteorite that they would ask to look at,” Greer explained. “But because there was so much excitement surrounding it, everybody wanted to apply their own technique to it, so we have an unusually comprehensive set of data for a single meteorite.”

The researchers found that the ratio of uranium and its decayed state suggest the asteroid formed approximately 4.5 billion years ago, according to LiveScience. That means the material is from the very early days of the solar system and roughly the same age as Earth.

Since the meteorite fell onto a frozen lake, the fragments that were studied showed “no or little signs of terrestrial weathering,” the researchers noted in the study, making it cleaner than other meteorites that fall to Earth.

“Scientists who study meteorites and space sometimes get asked, do you ever see signs of life? And I always answer, yes, every meteorite is full of life, but terrestrial, Earth life,” Heck added. “As soon as the thing lands, it gets covered with microbes and life from Earth. We have meteorites with lichens growing on them. So the fact that this meteorite was collected so quickly after it fell, and that it landed on ice rather than in the dirt, helped keep it cleaner.”

In 2019, a separate group of researchers suggested meteorites actually made life possible on Earth. They identified isotopes of selenium in rocks in Earth’s mantle and found identical isotope signatures inside certain meteorites, notably those from the outer solar system.

It’s the End of the World … Somewhere

Extraterrestrials in existential trouble might be easiest to find—and also the most informative

Apocalypse is a word that we throw around pretty readily these days, and we can choose from a cornucopia of terrifying options—from the fierce ochre skies of western North America to the seemingly endless days of a global pandemic, to the suffering of mass migrants and the trauma from unstable political leaders (the specifics of which I leave to your imagination). But it’s a bit unfair to this overused term. The more literal, root meaning of apocalypse, from its construction out of ancient Greek, is “an uncovering.” It is a revelation of knowledge, of what lies beneath the usually perceived reality.

What lies beneath day-to-day reality is a fantastically complex web of phenomena. A web of our individual biological machinery and its place within a four-billion-year story of propagating genetic information and molecular processes, and of the exponentially complicated interplay between competing, cooperating, and merely indifferent systems. Whether in the form of organisms and their biophysical games with inanimate environments, or the back and forth of feedbacks in the dynamics of a well-heated, chemically rich rocky planet.

Perturb that web, poke it or shove it, and there are ripples that don’t always settle quickly. Planetary climate is one major structural element of the web, and is perfectly happy to ripple and slide over to states that modern humans haven’t experienced before. In that sense the revelation of “apocalypse” is indeed appropriate for much of what we’re seeing happening to our planet at the moment; an uncovering of the true cycles and mechanics of the physical and biological world.

But there may be even deeper revelations at play that don’t apply just to the Earth at this particular moment. There are two principal aspects to these. The first is that if there are life-harboring planets elsewhere in the universe, the ones experiencing dramatic and rapid shifts in their conditions might also be the ones that are easiest to identify as living worlds as we peer through our telescopes (a topic I’ve written about in the past). The second aspect is that it’s possible that sentient, technological species experiencing change and trauma might be the ones most likely to give away their presence to the rest of the galaxy.

For example, the trigger for that trauma might be when species approaches a particular level of planetary dominance. With their civilization reaching a tipping point of scale that is far more likely to produce detectable technosignatures for distant astronomers—whether as infrared excesses from waste energy or a flood of peculiar atmospheric compounds from polluting industrial processes.

But it could also be that it is precisely at this point in its existence that a species begins to really look beyond its planetary confines. Is it a coincidence that human spaceflight and dreams of putting settlers on Mars are revving up today in a way that they haven’t for decades? Or a coincidence that there is a resurgence of scientific interest in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence? Or that there is an ongoing acceleration in machine learning and algorithms and devices that have the potential to grow exponentially and subvert aspects of our cognitive existence?

I think it’s an interesting idea to consider that civilizations (for want of a more general term) may only begin to make their presence known in the universe when things get really busy, and really bad, at home.

Apart from passive technosignatures, like rapid climate change, the launch of interplanetary or interstellar spacecraft could, if beamed-light propulsion is utilized, produce potent signals detectable elsewhere in the cosmos. Communications with a growing population of exploration vehicles and settlements within a planetary system, or with probes launched to other stars, could also create a noisy beacon for other species to detect. Even efforts to terraform other worlds (and of course this is stretching the realm of possibilities a little), would present a rather shocking event to advanced alien observers steadily tracking the properties of a system.

And perhaps the ultimate in last-ditch attempts to avert a slow-rolling planetary disaster is to send out a distress signal, looking for answers to existential challenges; because at that point why not?

There is a catch though, and it relates to the well-worn ideas of the Fermi paradox. By the time a species is compelled into doing any of these things, and even before its planetary environment is pushed to a Klaxon-like tipping point, perhaps it simply fails. There is no Hail Mary, there isn’t even a noticeable last gasp, instead it all just shuts down. In which case the apparent absence of any evidence for other intelligence in the universe is not just because of our limited searches to date, it is because of a great filter that—like an exhausted parent—just puts an end to any coherent change. There is no bang, and there isn’t even a whimper.

That is of course awfully depressing. But there is a ray of hope, and it’s in the fact that our quest to look for other technological life in the universe is very, very far from complete. We may yet find ourselves detecting the shrieks of civilizations across our galaxy. Even if they’re experiencing their own apocalypse, we would learn critical things about the properties of a great filter; that there might be time yet to slither past it, and that at least we still have a way to go.

NASA’s Perseverance rover is halfway to Mars

It will look for fossilized evidence of extraterrestrial life on Red Planet

The rover launched into space atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida; insight from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

After launching on July 30 to head to the Red Planet, NASA’s Perseverance rover is halfway to Mars, the space agency announced.

Late Tuesday, Julie Kangas, a navigator working on the Perseverance rover mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said the rover had logged 146.3 million miles as of 1:40 p.m. PST, with another 146.3 million miles to go.

“While I don’t think there will be cake, especially since most of us are working from home, it’s still a pretty neat milestone,” Kangas said in a statement. “Next stop, Jezero Crater.”

This illustration of the Mars 2020 spacecraft in interplanetary space was generated using imagery from NASA's Eyes on the Solar System. The image is from the mission's midway point between Earth and Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This illustration of the Mars 2020 spacecraft in interplanetary space was generated using imagery from NASA’s Eyes on the Solar System. The image is from the mission’s midway point between Earth and Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA has also posted a real-time look to see where the rover is at any time.

Though Perseverance has traveled half the distance to Mars, it is not actually halfway between the two planets, Kangas added, as the sun’s gravitational influence impacts the rover’s curved trajectory.

“In straight-line distance, Earth is 26.6 million miles [42.7 million kilometers] behind Perseverance and Mars is 17.9 million miles [28.8 million kilometers] in front,” Kangas explained.

The $2.1 billion rover will also come with the first helicopter, known as Ingenuity, that will let researchers understand the viability and potential of heavier-than-air vehicles on the Red Planet. In August, NASA powered up the six lithium-ion batteries on Ingenuity.

Once Perseverance lands on Mars at the Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021, it will join the still functioning Curiosity rover and the now-deceased Opportunity rover on the Red Planet. 

The mission’s duration on the Red Planet’s surface is at least one Martian year or about 687 days. While there, it will perform a number of tasks, including looking for fossilized evidence of extraterrestrial life.

NASA’s long-term goal is to send a manned mission to Mars in the 2030s.

Extraterrestrial life on the closest 1,000 stars to Earth could see us: experts

The research found there are 1,004 star systems that might contain Earth-like planets

Is search a waste of time?

If indeed aliens do exist, they may be watching us from not too far away in space, a new study has found.

The research found there are 1,004 star systems that might contain Earth-like planets within 300 light-years of Earth that might be able “to detect Earth’s chemical traces of life.”

“If observers were out there searching, they would be able to see signs of a biosphere in the atmosphere of our Pale Blue Dot,” the study’s lead author, Lisa Kaltenegger, a Cornell University astronomer, said in a statement. “And we can even see some of the brightest of these stars in our night sky without binoculars or telescopes.”

The research has been published in the scientific journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

More than 4,000 exoplanets have been discovered by NASA in total, approximately 50 of which were believed to be potentially habitable as of September 2018. They have the right size and the right orbit of their star to support surface water and, at least theoretically, to support life.

Transit observations ‒ when astronomers look at a star and see it dim because another object has crossed in front of it ‒ have allowed astronomers to discover these planets, Kaltenegger added. This type of observation will be expanded when NASA launches its James Webb Space Telescope in October 2021. The JWST was delayed due in part to the coronavirus pandemic, Fox News previously reported.

If an extraterrestrial civilization had its own advanced equipment, similar to the JWST, they might be able to see us as well.

However, not all of the 1,004 star systems could observe us for an extended period of time: only 508 of them “guarantee a minimum 10 [hour] long observation of Earth’s transit,” the researchers wrote in the study.

“Only a very small fraction of exoplanets will just happen to be randomly aligned with our line of sight so we can see them transit,” study co-author Joshua Pepper, associate professor of physics at Lehigh University, added. “But all of the thousand stars we identified in our paper in the solar neighborhood could see our Earth transit the sun, calling their attention.”

The majority of the planets are likely able to support life for billions of years, leaving the researchers intrigued about studying them further.

“If we found a planet with a vibrant biosphere, we would get curious about whether or not someone is there looking at us too,” Kaltenegger explained. “If we’re looking for intelligent life in the universe, that could find us and might want to get in touch. We’ve just created the star map of where we should look first.”

In September, a separate group of researchers from Australia completed “the deepest and broadest search” looking for technological signs of extraterrestrial civilizations at more than 10 million star systems and came up empty.

NASA confirms water has been spotted on the sunlit surface of the moon

The water was spotted on the southern hemisphere on the moon, near the Clavius crater

NASA announced it has discovered water on the sunlit surface of the moon.

The water was spotted near the Clavius crater, one of the largest crater formations on the celestial satellite and one that can be seen with the naked eye, Paul Hayne, a planetary scientist at the University of Colorado, said on a conference call with the press. Hayne is the lead author of one of the studies published on the topic.

Casey Honniball, lead author of the other study, said there are between 100 and 400 parts per million of water, or “roughly the equivalent of a 12-ounce bottle of water within a cubic meter of lunar soil.”

This illustration highlights the Moon’s Clavius Crater with an illustration depicting water trapped in the lunar soil there, along with an image of NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) that found sunlit lunar water. (Credit: NASA)

This illustration highlights the Moon’s Clavius Crater with an illustration depicting water trapped in the lunar soil there, along with an image of NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) that found sunlit lunar water. (Credit: NASA)

“We had indications that H2O – the familiar water we know – might be present on the sunlit side of the Moon,” said Paul Hertz, NASA’s director of the Astrophysics Division in the Science Mission Directorate, in a statement. “Now we know it is there. This discovery challenges our understanding of the lunar surface and raises intriguing questions about resources relevant for deep space exploration.”

The study led by Honniball found the presence of water directly on the surface, while Hayne’s study speculated that water may be trapped in “small spatial scales” all over the surface of the moon.

Researchers have known for some time about the existence of that water on the moon, having first discovered water vapor as early as 1971. In 2009, the first evidence of frozen water on the surface was discovered.

On the call, Jacob Bleacher, chief exploration scientist for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, said the results are “exciting for human exploration,” but there are greater implications for it. “Understanding where the water is will help us determine where to send Artemis astronauts on the moon,” Bleacher explained.

The new studies note it could be significantly more accessible than previously thought. As such, the water could be used for drinking, fuel supply and other use cases.

Water was previously believed to only exist on areas of the moon that are always in shadows and do not receive sunlight, making them dangerous and frigid for astronauts to access.

“Prior to the SOFIA observations, we knew there was some kind of hydration,” Honniball added in the statement. “But we didn’t know how much, if any, was actually water molecules – like we drink every day – or something more like drain cleaner.”

The discovery was made from NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), described as “the world’s largest airborne observatory.”

SOFIA is a modified Boeing 747 airplane capable of flying high in Earth’s atmosphere, allowing for its 9-foot telescope to get a “clear view of the universe and objects in our solar system.” It is able to observe infrared wavelengths that are capable of detecting “phenomena impossible to see with visible light,” NASA added.

In 2018, a separate group of researchers published a study that suggested water on the moon may be more accessible than first thought.

The findings come in advance of NASA’s Artemis program, which is intended to land American astronauts on the moon by 2024, as well as establish a sustainable human presence on Earth’s natural satellite.

Oreo builds asteroid-proof bunker above permafrost line, fills it with cookies and powdered milk

The company provided the bunker’s coordinates, just in case

Oreos will survive the apocalypse.

The threat of asteroids striking the Earth and causing a global catastrophe has inspired some groups to build bunkers to not only protect survivors, but also to ensure the safety of certain plants and animals. Now, the makers of Oreo have ensured that the popular snack will live past any possible asteroid strikes.

In a video published on its YouTube page, Oreo says it was inspired by the Global Seed Vault in Svalbard, Norway. According to the seed vault’s website, it is a storage facility for various seeds that has been designed and built to withstand both natural and manmade disasters. It is located above the permafrost line, placing it in the Arctic Circle.

According to Oreo’s video, the vault was also created specifically in regards to Asteroid 2018VP1, which has a slight chance of hitting Earth’s atmosphere on Nov. 2. While it’s unlikely that the asteroid would even survive entering the atmosphere, Oreo apparently isn’t taking any chances.

Oreo explained the vault and how it’s protecting Oreos on its Twitter account. According to one post, “Each cookie pack is wrapped in protective Mylar which can keep our cookies safe from temperatures of -80°F to 300°F.”

In another post, Oreo explains that the vault also contains vials of powdered milk, which reportedly only need to have powdered snow added before being ready to have Oreos dunked in it.

Each cookie pack is wrapped in protective Mylar which can keep our cookies safe from temperatures of -80°F to 300°F.

Oreo has provided the coordinates of the vault, 78°08’58.1″N, 16°01’59.7″E, which places it near the Svalbard seed vault. According to a tweet from the cookie maker, however, there is a coded lock on the door, ensuring the contents are saved for an apocalyptic event.

Asteroid samples escaping from jammed NASA spacecraft

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – A NASA spacecraft is stuffed with so much asteroid rubble from this week’s grab that it’s jammed open and precious particles are drifting away in space, scientists said Friday.

Scientists announced the news three days after the spacecraft named Osiris-Rex briefly touched asteroid Bennu, NASA’s first attempt at such a mission.

The mission’s lead scientist, Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, said Tuesday’s operation 200 million miles away collected far more material than expected for return to Earth — in the hundreds of grams. The sample container on the end of the robot arm penetrated so deeply into the asteroid and with such force, however, that rocks got sucked in and became wedged around the rim of the lid.

In this image taken from video released by NASA, the Osiris-Rex spacecraft touches the surface of asteroid Bennu on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. (NASA via AP)

In this image taken from video released by NASA, the Osiris-Rex spacecraft touches the surface of asteroid Bennu on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. (NASA via AP)

Scientists estimate the sampler pressed as much as 19 inches (48 centimeters) into the rough, crumbly, black terrain.

“We’re almost a victim of our own success here,” Lauretta said at a hastily arranged news conference.

Lauretta said there is nothing flight controllers can do to clear the obstructions and prevent more bits of Bennu from escaping, other than to get the samples into their return capsule as soon as possible.

So, the flight team was scrambling to put the sample container into the capsule as early as Tuesday — much sooner than originally planned — for the long trip home.

“Time is of the essence,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, chief of NASA’s science missions.

This is NASA’s first asteroid sample-return mission. Bennu was chosen because its carbon-rich material is believed to hold the preserved building blocks of our solar system. Getting pieces from this cosmic time capsule could help scientists better understand how the planets formed billions of years ago and how life originated on Earth.

Scientists were stunned — and then dismayed — on Thursday when they saw the pictures coming from Osiris-Rex following its wildly successful touch-and-go at Bennu two days earlier.

A cloud of asteroid particles could be seen swirling around the spacecraft as it backed away from Bennu. The situation appeared to stabilize, according to Lauretta, once the robot arm was locked into place. But it was impossible to know exactly how much had already been lost.

The requirement for the $800 million-plus mission was to bring back a minimum 2 ounces (60 grams).

Regardless of what’s on board, Osiris-Rex will still leave the vicinity of the asteroid in March — that’s the earliest possible departure given the relative locations of Earth and Bennu. The samples won’t make it back until 2023, seven years after the spacecraft rocketed away from Cape Canaveral.

Osiris-Rex will keep drifting away from Bennu and will not orbit it again, as it waits for its scheduled departure.

Because of the sudden turn of events, scientists won’t know how much the sample capsule holds until it’s back on Earth. They initially planned to spin the spacecraft to measure the contents, but that maneuver was canceled since it could spill even more debris.

“I think we’re going to have to wait until we get home to know precisely how much we have,” Lauretta told reporters. “As you can imagine, that’s hard. … But the good news is we see a lot of material.”

Japan, meanwhile, is awaiting its second batch of samples taken from a different asteroid, due back in December.

NASA is going to unveil an ‘exciting new discovery’ about the moon

The discovery will ‘inform’ the agency’s Artemis program work, Fox News has learned

Ahead of NASA’s return to the moon in 2024, the space agency is teasing an “exciting new discovery” about the celestial satellite.

According to a source familiar with the situation, the discovery, to be announced Monday at noon EST, is expected to “inform” the agency’s Artemis program work.

“This new discovery contributes to NASA’s efforts to learn about the Moon in support of deep space exploration,” NASA said in a statement.

The announcement will be made from NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), described as “the world’s largest airborne observatory.”

SOFIA is a modified Boeing 747 airplane capable of flying high in Earth’s atmosphere, allowing for its 9-foot telescope to get a “clear view of the universe and objects in our solar system.” It is able to observe infrared wavelengths that are capable of detecting “phenomena impossible to see with visible light,” NASA added.

NASA’s Artemis program aims to land American astronauts on the moon by 2024 and establish a sustainable human presence.

In 2019, NASA revealed details of its vision for the Artemis Moon Lander that will return American astronauts to the lunar surface. Artemis will also make history by landing the first woman on the moon.

Initial mission capability for 2024 involves landing two astronauts on the moon’s South Pole. Astronauts will live and work out of the lander for six and a half days, according to NASA.

After Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969, only 10 more men, all Americans, have walked on the lunar surface. The last NASA astronaut to set foot on the moon was Apollo 17 Mission Commander Gene Cernan, on Dec. 14, 1972.

Elon Musk sets 4-year timeline for SpaceX Mars mission, says there’s a ‘fighting chance’

The timelines are ‘only guesses,’ but Musk is determined to see his team achieve them

Elon Musk has said he could see a 4-year timeline for SpaceX’s first Mars mission. 

SpaceX founder and CEO Musk spoke at length on Friday during the International Mars Society Convention via Zoom. Musk discussed the timeline his company is following for its first uncrewed mission to Mars, saying that the company is on track to launch the mission in as little as four years. 

“I think we have a fighting chance of making that second Mars transfer window,” Musk said, which would put a launch in 2024. 

He said that making that launch date would require the development team to innovate more and that the company will “probably lose a few ships.” 

The company is trying to develop Starship, which is designed to carry dozens of people on long-range flight so that it would be possible to colonize Mars. Starship will be “the world’s most powerful launch vehicle ever developed,” according to the SpaceX website

Prototype vehicles have so far made low-altitude “hops” from the SpaceX test facility in Texas, CNET reported

The company may also be able to demonstrate orbital refueling capabilities by as soon as 2022, which will allow test flights to the moon. 

“These are just guesses,” Musk cautioned, however. 

Additionally, SpaceX has no plans to develop any bases on Mars, Space.com reported. The company is concerned only with transportation, with its goal to ferry cargo and crew to Mars – someone else will need to develop the means of colonization. 

SETI Just Searched 10 Million Stars For Alien Civilizations

Following the results of our previous low frequency searches for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) using the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA), directed toward the Galactic Centre and the Orion Molecular Cloud (Galactic Anticentre), we report a new large-scale survey toward the Vela region with the lowestupper limits thus far obtained with the MWA. Using the MWA in the frequency range 98-128 MHz over a 17 hour period, a 400 deg2 field centered on the Vela Supernova Remnant was observed with a frequency resolution of 10 kHz.

Within this field there are six known exoplanets. At the positions of these exoplanets, we searched for narrow band signals consistent with radio transmissions from intelligent civilizations. No unknown signals were found with a 5σ detection threshold. In total, across this work plus our two previous surveys, we have now examined 75 known exoplanets at low frequencies.

In addition to the known exoplanets, we have included in our analysis the calculation of the Effective Isotropic Radiated Power (EIRP) upper limits toward over 10 million stellar sources in the Vela field with known distances from Gaia (assuming a 10 kHz transmission bandwidth). Using the methods of Wright et al. (2018) to describe an eight dimensional parameter space for SETI searches, our survey achieves the largest search fraction yet, two orders of magnitude higher than the previous highest (our MWA Galctic Anticentre survey), reaching a search fraction of ∼ 2×10−16. We also compare our results to previous SETI programs in the context of the EIRPmin – Transmitter Rate plane.

Our results clearly continue to demonstrate that SETI has a long way to go. But, encouragingly, the MWA SETI surveys also demonstrate that large-scale SETI surveys, in particular for telescopes with a large field-of-view, can be performed commensally with observations designed primarily for astrophysical purposes.

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft makes historic touchdown on asteroid Bennu

The mission is NASA’s first to retrieve a sample from the surface of an asteroid.

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft made its historic touchdown on asteroid Bennu Tuesday, retrieving a sample from the space rock that will be returned to Earth.

OSIRIS-REx reached the surface of Bennu at 6:11 p.m. EDT in a mission that NASA says will help unlock the secrets of the solar system. The “tag” or sample collection, was complete at 6:11 p.m. EDT and the spacecraft left the asteroid’s surface.

The Lockheed Martin-built van-sized spacecraft successfully reached a tennis court-sized crater named Nightingale. Boulders as big as buildings loomed over the touchdown zone. OSIRIS-REx used a robotic arm to grab the sample from Bennu, which is about 200 million miles from Earth.

“This is history, this is amazing,” said Dante Lauretta, Professor of Planetary Science and Cosmochemistry at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, and OSIRIS-REx Principal Investigator, just after touchdown. “It’s almost hard to process, everything that’s happening right now.”

The mission is NASA’s first to retrieve a sample from the surface of an asteroid.

This illustration shows NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft descending towards asteroid Bennu to collect a sample of the asteroid’s surface.

This illustration shows NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft descending towards asteroid Bennu to collect a sample of the asteroid’s surface. (Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

OSIRIS-REx will also provide information that could help protect our planet from a possible collision with Bennu.

Bennu is about as tall as the Empire State Building, and could potentially threaten Earth in the next century, according to NASA. “Bennu has a 1:2700 chance of impacting Earth in the late 2100s, but this mission will also help us learn more about protecting ourselves if necessary,” the agency explains on its website.

OSIRIS-REx, which stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer, launched in September 2016 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The spacecraft reached Bennu in December 2018.

The craft is scheduled to depart Bennu next year and will deliver the asteroid sample to Earth on Sep. 24, 2023.

NASA recently revealed that parts of another asteroid, Vesta, have been spotted on the surface of Bennu.

In April 2019, Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft successfully “bombed” asteroid Ryugu in the name of scientific research.

Earlier in 2019, Hayabusa2 briefly touched down onto Ryugu and fired a scientific research “bullet” into the space rock.

‘Election Day’ asteroid – not a political omen, but it is a warning

This is but the latest in an escalating series of asteroid close-calls and fly-bys

NASA predicts asteroid will pass by Earth on November 2.

Have you heard about the “Election Day” asteroid?

NASA is predicting it will give the Earth a very close shave the day before the presidential election. And while it is not being sent by a “Higher” or evenly “Heavenly Power” smiting us for either reelecting President Donald J. Trump or the prospect of a President Joe Biden, it is a warning we should take extremely seriously.

Worried about COVID-19, the environment, jobs, immigration, terrorism, health care, crime or the cost of education? An asteroid hit will erase all of those worries and quite possibly, all of us.

This is but the latest in an escalating series of asteroid close-calls and fly-bys. Sooner or later – it is the way of the cosmos – one won’t miss. Until that life-destroying impact, the only protection the Earth has at the moment is pure dumb luck. 

A direct hit by an even a relatively “small” asteroid could destroy a city, a state or a region. And yet, we continue to basically ignore this threat. Why?

Generally, because asteroids are not seen as a tangible vote-getter for most politicians, a ratings-winner for much of the media, or even a multi-million-dollar government-grant producer for many scientists.

But an asteroid screaming toward Earth with a minuscule chance of impact hours before the election between Trump and Biden? Cue the clicks.

The asteroid named 2018VP1 is estimated to only be about 7 feet in length. Even if it did manage to impact the Earth, all or most of it would burn up in the atmosphere. But again, that is all part of the “dumb-luck” strategy.

Less than two weeks ago, on Aug. 15, an asteroid the size of an automobile missed the Earth by about 1,800 miles. Not only was it completely undetected, but it was the closest call we have ever had without being impacted.

What’s the big deal?

Well, according to NASA, there are about 25,000 of these near-Earth asteroids from 6 to 460 feet wide. With only 8,000 of them detected. Worse, NASA believes there are tens of millions of these 33 to 65 feet in diameter asteroids zooming around undiscovered within 30 million miles of Earth.

To put it into terms everyone could understand, last year NASA simulated a 200-foot asteroid slamming into New York City. Their study concluded it would have hit New York with 1,000 times the destructive force of the nuclear weapon dropped on Hiroshima in World War II and instantly killed upwards of 1.3 million people.

That’s the “big deal.”

Humanity must spread out into the solar system to increase its chance of survival.   

For a real-life example of the destructive force from a “small” asteroid, we only have to look at what happened to Siberia on June 30, 1908, when an asteroid less than 150 feet across exploded in the air. It leveled more than 80 million trees and laid waste to an area roughly twice the size of New York City.

Last year in a major study – mostly ignored by our leaders – from Johns Hopkins titled: “Breaking up is hard to do. Asteroids are stronger, harder to destroy than previously thought,” the scientists warned, “It is only a matter of time before these questions go from being academic to defining our response to a major threat.”

All of which begs the question: What are our realistic responses to this major threat?

NASA’s Planetary Science Advisory Committee is now rightfully shifting much of its attention to asteroid detection and deflection. Next year, it will launch the “Double Asteroid Redirection Test” (DART). The goal of this planetary defense mission is to collide with a tiny moon orbiting the near-Earth asteroid “Didymos” to test a technique to deflect its orbit.

That’s better than nothing but any real defense of our planet is still years to decades away and everyone at NASA and within our government knows that.

So then what?

The late professor Stephen Hawking rightfully stressed: “I believe that life on Earth is at an ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster. … I think the human race has no future if it doesn’t go into space.”

Hawking specifically singled out asteroids as a major threat to our existence.

At the moment, the eggs holding all of humanity are in the Earth basket.  The United States, Russia and China are now looking to establish bases on the Moon before looking toward Mars. 

If anything, we must accelerate those plans. Humanity must spread out into the solar system to increase its chance of survival.   

The “Election Day” asteroid is putting an exclamation point on that terrifying reality. Time to focus.

Are UFOs Actually Travelling Between Dimensions Instead Of Space?

While most people – believers and sceptics alike – almost certainly imagine space travel and aliens when they hear the term UFO, there are many other theories on offer. Might these strange sightings be of time-travellers for example instead of aliens? Might they be nothing more than “phantom” sightings – some type of “rip” in space time that allows us to peek into the future or the distant past?

One particularly interesting alternative theory is that what we are actually witnessing are visitations from another dimension, as opposed to from another planet.UFO entering a portal

UFO entering a portal

In June 2016 a story appeared online that appeared to show a UFO entering a portal before completely disappearing into it. The event was captured on video and from start to finish lasted less than sixty seconds. A low rumbling sound is also audible throughout the recording.

You can check out the original video posting of this alleged incident below.

Declassified FBI Document Speaks Of “Inter-Dimensional” Beings

There have been many declassified FBI documents relating to UFO activity, and at least one refers to “beings” from another dimension to ours.

What is interesting about the document is that it is dated 8th July 1947 – the same date as the Roswell UFO incident. The document writer acknowledges that the claims made within it are likely to be ignored, but the fact that they are put in front of the FBI in order to investigate is intriguing enough.Cover page of the FBI UFO Section 1 document.

Cover page of the FBI UFO Section 1 document.

Perhaps one of the key parts of the declassified paper is the nine bullet points that highlight key information regarding “a very serious situation that may develop at any time with regard to the “flying saucers”. These can be found on page 22 of the declassified file in question. In full these bullet points read:

  1. Part of their disks carry crews, others are under remote control
  2. Their mission is peaceful. The visitors contemplate settling on this planet.
  3. These visitors are human-like but much larger in size.
  4. They are NOT excarnate earth people, but come from their own world.
  5. They do NOT come from any “planet” as we use the word, but from an etheric planet which interpenetrates with our own and is not perceptible to us.
  6. The bodies of the visitors, and the craft, automatically materialize on entering the vibratory rate of our dense matter.
  7. The disks possess a type of radiant energy or ray, which will easily disintergrate any attacking ship. They re-enter the etheric at will, and so simply disappear from our vision without trace.
  8. The region from which they come is not the “astral plane”, but corresponds to the Lokas or Talas. Students of osoteric matters will understand these terms.
  9. They probably can not be reached by radio, but probably can be by radar, if a signal system can be devised for that (apparatus).

The idea that these UFOs are not travelling through space to get here, but simply materializing in to our plain of perception upon hitting the “vibratory rate” is one that has been theorised before this document was made public.

These are the 10 best locations in the US for UFO enthusiasts to buy a home

Myrtle Beach, S.C., is the No. 1 place in the country to spot an alien and with the lowest median home price

The Department of Defense announces the creation of a new UFO task force, which will analyze the nature and origin of ‘unidentified aerial phenomena’; insight from Nick Pope, UFO expert and former U.K. Ministry of Defense official.

For those hoping to see a UFO in the U.S., a research firm has compiled a list of the 10 best locations in the country for UFO enthusiasts to buy a home.

National real estate marketplace ISoldMyHouse.com has revealed that Myrtle Beach, S.C., is the No. 1 place in the country to spot an alien and with the lowest median home price, just under $168,000. Other cities in the top three are Columbus, Ohio. ($174,109) and Philadelphia, Pa., with a median home price of $187,772.

“Whether you’re scientifically minded or not, the topic of aliens is one that fascinates a lot of people all over the world,” Kris Lippi, owner of ISoldMyHouse.com, said in a statement. “It’s also a topic that excites a lot of people so I’m happy to be able to provide this sort of information for those who want to or have turned their interest in the extraterrestrial into a passion.”

The Southwest is also prominently featured on the list, with Houston, Texas; Albuquerque, N.M.; and Phoenix, Tuscon and Mesa, Ariz., also on the list.

The firm, which used data from the National UFO Reporting Center, noted that each of these cities has had “at least” 27 reported UFO sightings and some with more than 100.

The research was conducted after a separate survey revealed that more than half of the country believes in extraterrestrial beings and nearly one-third think they have visited our planet.

In February, a separate research firm revealed 61% of survey respondents want the U.S. government to declassify the country’s so-called X-files and 58% said they believe the government “actively investigates extraterrestrial life.”

In a September 2019 Gallup poll, Americans said they are becoming increasingly skeptical of UFOs but think the government knows more than it is letting on.

2020 has been a banner year for UFO discussion in the U.S., as more news comes out of Washington.

In August, the Pentagon announced the establishment of a new task force to investigate reports of “unidentified aerial phenomenon.” The task force was established after the U.S. Navy publicly released videos from the mid-2000s that reenergized the discussion. 

In September, the National UFO Reporting Center said UFO spottings were up 51% year-over-year, topping 5,000 incidents.

How Nuclear rockets will get us to Mars and beyond

They were developed more than 40 years ago and then almost forgotten but now Nuclear Rockets are set to make a comeback and possibly provide the fastest way to get around our solar system to date. Here look at their history and how they could be used in the next decade or so.

nuclear thermal rocket (NTR) is a type of thermal rocket where the heat from a nuclear reaction, often nuclear fission, replaces the chemical energy of the propellants in a chemical rocket. In an NTR, a working fluid, usually liquid hydrogen, is heated to a high temperature in a nuclear reactor and then expands through a rocket nozzle to create thrust. The external nuclear heat source theoretically allows a higher effective exhaust velocity and is expected to double or triple payload capacity compared to chemical propellants that store energy internally.

NTRs have been proposed as a spacecraft propulsion technology, with the earliest ground tests occurring in 1955. The US maintained an NTR development program through 1973, when it was shut down to focus on Space Shuttle development. Although more than ten reactors of varying power output have been built and tested, as of 2019, no nuclear thermal rocket has flown.[1]

Nuclear power in space applications that have flown include the fission-electric SNAP-10A and TOPAZ series satellites and radioisotope thermoelectric generators.[citation needed]

Whereas all early applications for nuclear thermal rocket propulsion used fission processes, research in the 2010s has moved to fusion approaches. The Direct Fusion Drive project at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is one such example, although “energy positive fusion has remained elusive”. In 2019, the US Congress approved US$125 million in development funding for nuclear thermal propulsion rockets.

‘Very high risk’ defunct Russian satellite and Chinese rocket body will collide tonight: report

A collision could cause more debris to orbit the earth

Dr. Derrick Pitts explains the danger

Experts believe a defunct Russian satellite and a discarded Chinese rocket could smash into each other high above the earth on Thursday, according to reports.

Satellite-tracking company LeoLabs on Wednesday said the defunct objects could come within 39 feet of each other and that there was a 10% chance that they could still collide around 8:56 p.m. ET. The company deemed the potential crash to be a “very high risk.”

“This event continues to be very high risk and will likely stay this way through the time of closest approach,” LeoLabs tweeted.

Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said the two objects were a defunct Soviet navigation satellite called Parus [Kosmos 2004] that launched in 1989 and a Chinese rocket stage.

As of Tuesday, the objects — with a mass of roughly three metric tons — were in low-Earth orbit at an altitude of around 615 miles, LeoLabs said.

Because the objects are located high above the ground, they don’t pose a risk to anyone on earth. However, a crash could cause more debris to orbit the earth, which could increase the risk of future collisions.

The debris could also threaten astronauts.

“If this turns into a collision, it’s probably thousands to tens of thousands of new pieces of debris that is going to cause a headache for any satellite that’s going out into upper low-Earth orbit, or even beyond,” said Dan Ceperley, the CEO of LeoLabs, according to Business Insider. “It’s maybe a much bigger problem than a lot of people realize.”

As of February this year, there are 128 million debris objects in orbit, according to the European Space Agency. Roughly 34,000 of those objects are greater than 10 cm. 

Researchers At Large Hadron Collider Are Confident To Make Contact With Parallel Universe In Days

The astoundingly complex LHC “atom smasher” at the CERN center in Geneva, Switzerland, are fired up to its maximum energy levels ever in an endeavor to identify – or perhaps generate – tiny black holes.

 If successful a very new universe is going to be exposed – modifying completely not only the physics books but the philosophy books too. 

It is even probable that gravity from our own universe may “transfer” into this parallel universe, researchers at the LHC say. The experiment is assured to accentuate alarmist critics of the LHC, many of whom initially warned the high energy particle collider would start the top of our universe with the making a part of its own. But up to now Geneva stays intact and securely outside the event horizon.

No doubt the LHC has been outstandingly successful. First researchers proved the existence of the mysterious Higgs boson “God particle” – a key building block of the cosmos – and it’s seemingly well on the thanks to revealing ‘dark matter’ – a previously untraceable theoretical prospect that’s now believed to form up the foremost of matter within the universe. But next week’s experimentation is reflected to be a game-changer. Mir Faizal, one in every of the three-strong group of physicists behind this experiment, said: “Just as many parallel sheets of paper, which are two-dimensional objects [breadth and length] can exist during a dimension [height], parallel universes can even exist in higher dimensions.”

“We predict that gravity can leak into extra dimensions, and if it does, then miniature black holes are produced at the LHC. Normally, when people consider the multiverse, they think about the many-worlds interpretation of quantum physics, where every possibility is actualized. This can not be tested so it’s a philosophy and not science. this is often not what we mean by parallel universes. What we mean is real universes in extra dimensions. “As gravity can effuse of our universe into the additional dimensions, such a model may be tested by the detection of mini black holes at the LHC.”

“We have calculated the energy at which we expect to detect these mini black holes in ‘gravity’s rainbow’ [a new scientific theory].”

“If we do detect mini black holes at this energy, then we are going to know that both gravity’s rainbow and additional dimensions are correct.”

When the LHC is fired up the energy is calculated in Tera electron volts – a TeV is 1,000,000,000,000, or one trillion, electron Volts. Up to now, the LHC has sought for mini black holes at energy levels below 5.3 TeV. But the foremost recent study says this is often too low.

Instead, the model forecasts that black holes might form at energy levels of no but 9.5 TeV in six dimensions and 11.9 TeV in 10 dimensions.

Trump to take ‘good, strong look’ at whether there are UFOs

The president replied, ‘Well, I’m gonna have to check on that’

In an interview with Fox News on Sunday, President Trump said he would take a “good, strong look” at whether UFOs exist.

“Sunday Morning Futures” host Maria Bartiromo asked Trump point-blank whether the objects exist, to which the president replied, “Well, I’m gonna have to check on that. I mean, I’ve heard that. I heard that two days ago, so I’ll check on that. I’ll take a good, strong look at that.”

In June, the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. asked his father if he would let us know if there are aliens, adding it’s “the only thing I really want to know” and if he would ever “open up Roswell and let us know what’s going on there.”

“So many people ask me that question,” the president told his son at the time. “There are millions and millions of people that want to go there, that want to see it. I won’t talk to you about what I know about it but it’s very interesting. But Roswell is a very interesting place with a lot of people that would like to know what’s going on.”

When pressed further about declassifying information about Roswell, the president said, “I’ll have to think about that one.”

President Trump had expressed skepticism of the existence of UFOs in previous interviews.

In August, the Pentagon 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 by Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist, boosting an effort by the Office of Naval Intelligence, officials said.

It’s not yet clear how this new task force relates to the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP), Nick Pope, a former employee and UFO investigator for Britain’s Ministry of Defense, told Fox News over the summer. Pope cited “former defense officials” with the group who were involved in work relating to UFOs.

The AATIP was formed in 2007 at the behest of former Sen. Harry Reid, Fox News previously reported. It reportedly ceased operations in 2012, but in 2017 the New York Times reported the Department of Defense was still investigating potential episodes of unidentified flying objects.

The creation of the task force follows inquiries from lawmakers about the subject. In June, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, acting chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, instructed the director of national intelligence, the secretary of defense and other agency heads to compile data on “unidentified aerial phenomenon.”

“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,” lawmakers wrote in a report.

“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,” they added.

In July, the New York Times reported that a small group of government officials, including Reid, and scientists believe objects of “undetermined origin” have crashed to Earth and been retrieved. The publication cited 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 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.

In April, the Pentagon officially released videos of “unidentified aerial phenomena,” known as “FLIR1,” “Gimbal” and “GoFast,” previously captured by Navy aircraft. The footage had circulated in the public for years. They were originally released to the New York Times and to The Stars Academy of Arts & Science, headed by Blink-182 co-founder Tom DeLonge.

After the videos were released publicly, DeLonge said “UFOs are real” in a since-deleted tweet.

The first video of the unidentified object was taken on Nov. 14, 2004, and shot by the F-18’s gun camera. The second video was shot on Jan. 21, 2015, and shows another aerial vehicle with pilots commenting on how strange it is.

The third video was also taken on Jan. 21, 2015, but it is unclear whether the third video was of the same object or a different one.

Seven months prior, in September 2019, the U.S. Navy first acknowledged the videos contained unidentified objects, specifically using “unidentified aerial phenomena” terminology.

NASA Is Tracking A Huge Human Made Asteroid Heading Towards Earth’s Orbit

Fake asteroid? NASA expert IDs mystery object as old rocket

This Sept. 20, 1966 photo provided by the San Diego Air and Space Museum shows an Atlas Centaur 7 rocket on the launchpad at Cape Canaveral, Fla. NASA’s leading asteroid expert, Paul Chodas, speculates that asteroid 2020 SO, as it is formally known, is actually a Centaur upper rocket stage that propelled NASA’s Surveyor 2 lander to the moon in 1966 before it was discarded. (Convair/General Dynamics Astronautics Atlas Negative Collection/San Diego Air and Space Museum via AP)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — The jig may be up for an “asteroid” that’s expected to get nabbed by Earth’s gravity and become a mini-moon next month.

Instead of a cosmic rock, the newly discovered object appears to be an old rocket from a failed moon-landing mission 54 years ago that’s finally making its way back home, according to NASA’s leading asteroid expert. Observations should help nail its identity.

“I’m pretty jazzed about this,” Paul Chodas told The Associated Press. “It’s been a hobby of mine to find one of these and draw such a link, and I’ve been doing it for decades now.”

Chodas speculates that asteroid 2020 SO, as it is formally known, is actually the Centaur upper rocket stage that successfully propelled NASA’s Surveyor 2 lander to the moon in 1966 before it was discarded. The lander ended up crashing into the moon after one of its thrusters failed to ignite on the way there. The rocket, meanwhile, swept past the moon and into orbit around the sun as intended junk, never to be seen again — until perhaps now.

A telescope in Hawaii last month discovered the mystery object heading our way while doing a search intended to protect our planet from doomsday rocks. The object promptly was added to the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center’s tally of asteroids and comets found in our solar system, just 5,000 shy of the 1 million mark.

The object is estimated to be roughly 26 feet (8 meters) based on its brightness. That’s in the ballpark of the old Centaur, which would be less than 32 feet (10 meters) long including its engine nozzle and 10 feet (3 meters) in diameter.NASA administrator says space missions on track despite COVID-19 

What caught Chodas’ attention is that its near-circular orbit around the sun is quite similar to Earth’s — unusual for an asteroid.

“Flag number one,” said Chodas, who is director of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.

The object is also in the same plane as Earth, not tilted above or below, another red flag. Asteroids usually zip by at odd angles. Lastly, it’s approaching Earth at 1,500 mph (2,400 kph), slow by asteroid standards.

As the object gets closer, astronomers should be able to better chart its orbit and determine how much it’s pushed around by the radiation and thermal effects of sunlight. If it’s an old Centaur — essentially a light empty can — it will move differently than a heavy space rock less susceptible to outside forces.

That’s how astronomers normally differentiate between asteroids and space junk like abandoned rocket parts, since both appear merely as moving dots in the sky. There likely are dozens of fake asteroids out there, but their motions are too imprecise or jumbled to confirm their artificial identity, said Chodas.

Sometimes it’s the other way around.

A mystery object in 1991, for example, was determined by Chodas and others to be a regular asteroid rather than debris, even though its orbit around the sun resembled Earth’s.

Even more exciting, Chodas in 2002 found what he believes was the leftover Saturn V third stage from 1969′s Apollo 12, the second moon landing by NASA astronauts. He acknowledges the evidence was circumstantial, given the object’s chaotic one-year orbit around Earth. It never was designated as an asteroid, and left Earth’s orbit in 2003.

The latest object’s route is direct and much more stable, bolstering his theory.

“I could be wrong on this. I don’t want to appear overly confident,” Chodas said. “But it’s the first time, in my view, that all the pieces fit together with an actual known launch.”

And he’s happy to note that it’s a mission that he followed in 1966, as a teenager in Canada.NASA sending first woman, next man to the moon in 2024 

Asteroid hunter Carrie Nugent of Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Massachusetts, said Chodas’ conclusion is “a good one” based on solid evidence. She’s the author of the 2017 book “Asteroid Hunters.”

“Some more data would be useful so we can know for sure,” she said in an email. “Asteroid hunters from around the world will continue to watch this object to get that data. I’m excited to see how this develops!”

The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics’ Jonathan McDowell noted there have been “many, many embarrassing incidents of objects in deep orbit … getting provisional asteroid designations for a few days before it was realized they were artificial.”

It’s seldom clear-cut.

Last year, a British amateur astronomer, Nick Howes, announced that an asteroid in solar orbit was likely the abandoned lunar module from NASA’s Apollo 10, a rehearsal for the Apollo 11 moon landing. While this object is likely artificial, Chodas and others are skeptical of the connection.

Skepticism is good, Howes wrote in an email. “It hopefully will lead to more observations when it’s next in our neck of the woods” in the late 2030s.

Chodas’ latest target of interest was passed by Earth in their respective laps around the sun in 1984 and 2002. But it was too dim to see from 5 million miles (8 million kilometers) away, he said.

He predicts the object will spend about four months circling Earth once it’s captured in mid-November, before shooting back out into its own orbit around the sun next March.

Chodas doubts the object will slam into Earth — “at least not this time around.”

Astronomers Directly Image Gas-Giant Exoplanet Beta Pictoris c

Astronomers using ESO’s Very Large Telescope Interferometer have captured the first direct images of the recently-discovered giant planet Beta Pictoris c.

This image shows Beta Pictoris b and c embedded in the dusty disk around Beta Pictoris. Image credit: Axel Quetz / MPIA Graphics Department.

Beta Pictoris (β Pictoris) is the second brightest star in the constellation Pictor, about 63 light years away from Earth.

It hosts a circumstellar disk of gas and dust and a huge number of comets, some of which were seen falling onto the star.

Beta Pictoris is orbited by at least two 20-million-year-old giant planets: Beta Pictoris b and c.

Discovered in November 2008, Beta Pictoris b is a gas giant between 10 and 11 times the mass of Jupiter.

It orbits the parent star once every 22 years at a distance of 9.8 AU (astronomical units).

Astronomers directly imaged Beta Pictoris b several times between 2013 and 2018.

Beta Pictoris c, which was discovered in 2019 using radial velocity method, has a mass of 8.2 times that of Jupiters and is much closer to its star.

It orbits at 2.7 AU and has an orbital period of roughly 1,200 days.

An artist’s impression of the Beta Pictoris system. Image credit: Axel Quetz / MPIA Graphics Department.

The first direct images of Beta Pictoris c were captured using four 8.2-m Unit Telescopes and the GRAVITY instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope Interferometer.

“This is the first direct confirmation of a planet detected by the radial velocity method,” said Dr. Sylvestre Lacour, an astronomer at Observatoire de Paris and ESO and leader of the ExoGRAVITY observing program.

“We used GRAVITY before to obtain spectra of other directly imaged exoplanets, which themselves already contained hints on their formation process,” said Dr. Paul Molliere, a postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy.

“The brightness measurement of Beta Pictoris c, combined with its mass, is a particularly important step to constraining our planet formation models.”

“It is amazing, what level of detail and sensitivity we can achieve with GRAVITY,” said Dr. Frank Eisenhauer, an astronomer at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics and lead scientist of the GRAVITY project.

“We are just starting to explore stunning new worlds, from the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way Galaxy to planets outside the Solar System.”

The findings appear in two papers in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

_____

M. Nowak et al. 2020. Direct confirmation of the radial-velocity planet β Pictoris c. A&A 642, L2; doi: 10.1051/0004-6361/202039039

A.M. Lagrange et al. 2020. Unveiling the β Pictoris system, coupling high contrast imaging, interferometric, and radial velocity data. A&A 642, A18; doi: 10.1051/0004-6361/202038823