From Senja, Norway Adrien Mauduit of Night Lights Films captured ethereal timelapse of geomagnetic storms between September 25 – 28, 2020.
As I write Earth orbit passes through a stream of gaseous plasma erupting from a “hole” in the Sun. Solar wind rages at 610 km per second. Predicted to spew well into tomorrow, fair skies could see auroras as far south as Montana and Michigan.
Treat yourself to mesmerizing respite courtesy Adrien Mauduit. Five minutes of bliss guaranteed to soften furrowed brows, smooth jagged nerves and gawk at majesty of the cosmos.
NASA launched Mars Rover Perseverance on July 30, 2020. Barring unforeseen calamity a six month journey culminating on February 18, 2021. Tasked with astrobiology as its key objective, Perseverance is primed to search for evidence of ancient microbial life. A specialized toolbox containing state of the art X-ray fluorescence technology is designed to map chemistry of dust and rock, hopefully identifying traces of ancient microbial fossils.
Anyone who’s watched The Martian movie has an inkling of how far away Mars is. Theoretically the closest Earth and Mars can be is 54.6 million kilometers – sweet spot with Mars at perihelion (closest orbit to the Sun), Earth at aphelion (farthest orbit from Sun), but that’s never happened in recorded history. Closest recorded distance happened in 2003 at 56 million kilometers. At their farthest distance apart on opposite sides of the Sun, it’s a staggering 401 million kilometers between Earth and Mars. Average distance is 225 million km.
I can tell you light travels at 299,792 km/second. At closest possible distance, light from Mars would reach Earth in 3.03 minutes. Closest recorded approach is 3.11 minutes, 22.4 minutes at farthest approach, average time for Mars shine to reach Earth – 12.5 minutes. At 58,000 km/hour NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto was the fasted spacecraft ever launched. At that speed a spacecraft travelling in a straight line to Mars at closest approach would arrive in 39 days. Don’t get excited, the average is 162 days. Perseverance is travelling at 39,600 km per hour.
Zoom in, zoom out, be one with Perseverance or peer at it from Pluto’s perspective. Once you get the hang of it, a cosmic pondering delight.
Follow the 2020 Mars mission in real time here. Fully interactive, Eyes on the Solar System lets you track Perseverance in real time as it travels to Mars. Give Perseverance a spin, or use controls on pop-up menus to customize just what you see, from faraway to right “on board.” Image via NASA/ JPL-Caltech.
Beaming with pride, cosmic wonder is pleased to introduce Aurora Cometalis. According to Marina Galand of Imperial College London, lead author of research published this week in Nature Astronomy., Comet 67P has auroras. Galand’s paper explaining how 67P turns jets of water into Aurora Cometalis is nothing short of remarkable. Seems Aurora Borealis has European Space Agency Rosetta Mission to thank posthumously for expanding the Borealis family tree.
While orbiting Comet 67P between 2014-2016, Rosetta captured images of odd light emissions. Astronomers scratched heads over peculiar ultraviolet light glow invisible to the human eye. 67P doesn’t have a magnetic field, glaring absence of observable green, red, purple or pinkish undulating waves never screamed “wake up people, these invisible ultraviolet bursts are auroras!”.
Galand’s team persevered. Years of combining data from Rosetta’s sensors coupled with computer models plotting interactions between solar wind and comet atmosphere concluded – auroras are real even when invisible to the human eye.
In a nutshell, naturally occurring electric fields in a comet’s atmosphere can grab electrons tossing them inward to collide with spewing water molecules. Exuberant atoms empowered by sudden molecular disruption dance with wild abandon to the tune of ultraviolet auroras.
If you could stand on Comet 67P and see UV light, Aurora Cometalis would appear as bands of diffused, uneven light punctuated by brighter bands when jets of water march across the field of view. Best of all, you’d be surrounded by light – Aurora Cometalis descend all the way down to the surface. So cool! There’s no reason why other comets can’t have auroras. Galand’s research is based on Comet 67P because Rosetta just happened to be in the neighborhood. Welcome to the cosmos Aurora Cometalis.
On September 24, 2020 tiny asteroid 2020 SW ( roughly 6 – 10 meter diameter ) will pass between Earth and the Moon at 7.7 Km per second ( that’s 27,900 km/h ). At closest approach 28,254 kilometers away, a mere 7% of distance to the Moon. Closer than communication and meteorological satellites locked in orbit at 38,000ish kilometers above our planet. Close enough for gravity to alter velocity and bend 2020 SW’s trajectory.
Astronomers confidently stress there’s nothing to fear, 2020 SW won’t unleash calamity. Not now or for the next fifty years of calculated orbit.
Infinitely more remarkable than online chatter surrounding a “near miss”, is the fact 2020 SW was discovered on September 18, 2020, completely unknown until a few days ago. It’s been orbiting Earth every 372 days for who knows how long, nobody noticed until now. Brings to mind Chelyabinsk, Russia on February 15, 2013 – global eyes fixated on known asteroid DA 14 making a close fly-by. Without warning, unidentified cosmic rubble struck our atmosphere from another direction. Exploding over Chelyabinsk, injuring over a thousand residents to the dismay of stunned astronomers.
Small asteroid 2020 SW will pass so close to Earth on September 24, that our planet’s gravity will alter the space rock’s speed and bend its path through space. The green line indicates the asteroid’s trajectory, while the yellow line points to the sun. Gray line represents the Moon’s orbit, but not to scale. Illustration by the Minor Planet Center, with modifications by Eddie Irizarry.
2020 SW won’t be visible to the naked eye, but interested sky watchers can watch live online at Virtual Telescope Project in Rome. Linked below –
View larger. | The Virtual Telescope Project in Rome will be showing asteroid 2020 SW live a few hours its closest approach. The live feed is scheduled for September 23, 2020 starting at 22 UTC; translate UTC to your time. To join online, go to Virtual Telescope’s website.
Cosmic gak abounds, the universe undulates in incomprehensible maelstroms of its own design. For every identified potentially hazardous asteroid, countless more tiptoe in obscurity. Be it light pollution, sunward approaching objects, observational limitations, rogue insurgents ejected from the asteroid belt, there’s no end to reasons why near Earth objects catch us off guard.
Location of Asteroid 2020 SW on the night of Wednesday, September 23, at around 10:30 pm CDT (03:30 UTC on September 24). Facing east, as seen from U.S. The space rock will be located not too far from where we see the star Algenib (Gamma Pegasi), in the Great Square of Pegasus. Illustration by Eddie Irizarry using Stellarium.
Jupiter has 79 known moons, second only to 82 identified moons of Saturn. That’s a lot of moons, but what if Jupiter had 600 moons? How cool would that be? University of British Columbia researchers Edward Ashton, Matthew Beaudoin and Brett Gladman studied archival images of Jupiter taken over a 3 hour period on Sept. 8, 2020 at Canada, France, Hawaii Telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Factoring in variation of movement across the field of view, they digitally combined images from 126 different viewpoints. Voila – 52 possibly unknown Jovian moons appeared, Further analysis kicked 7 to the curb (known moons with irregular orbits), leaving 45 eager applicants vying for official Jovian moon status. Curiously, all in retrograde orbit. ( orbiting backward in relation to Jupiter’s orbit ).
So why 600 unidentified moons of Jupiter? Their search was limited to one square degree of view of space surrounding Jupiter. Extrapolation concluded as many as 600 or more unknown moons of Jupiter. Lead researchers will present their findings virtually on Sept. 25, 2020 at the Europlanet Science Congress 2020.
Admittedly these moons are small, 800 meters or so, struggling or barely within reach of IAU (International Astronomical Union ) rules requiring one kilometer in diameter to qualify as moons. Stark contrast to Ganymede – Jupiter’s largest moon, largest moon in our solar system, a moon larger than planets Mercury and Mars.
A closed Canada/U.S. border is no match for invasive plumes of wildfire smoke blanketing the West Coast. For days, stinging brown haze has beset Vancouver, obliterating sunlight, vying with Seattle and Portland for worst air quality in the world. This morning Vancouverites woke to a staggering reality – official ranking as most hazardous air to breathe in the world. Link to worldwide air quality – https://aqicn.org/here/
I’m not crying in my maple syrup or diminishing the plight of countless thousand American lives impacted by the inferno. What I am is alarmed by unprecedented voracity of this disaster. Wildfire season is a fact of life, periodic stretches of regional forest fire smoke settle over Vancouver every few years. What I can’t recall is Vancouver ever having the worst air quality in the world. Nor air so hazardous Canada Post suspends mail delivery, If this is the face of climate disruption, we need to take notice.
A comment from Peter at https://ppazucha.wordpress.com/ dropped my jaw. He lives in Wisconsin, read an article by a local food critic attributing one third of all COVID outbreaks to restaurants. He thought of me, knowing hospitality pays my bills in Vancouver B.C. Peter kindly reached out with heart warming concern. I doubt he knew that 1/3 of outbreaks linked to restaurants would blow my mind.
No wonder the U.S./Canada border remains closed. In all of Canada 9,170 COVID deaths are attributed to 136,141 confirmed infections. British Columbia has 6,162 infections, 211 deaths. Across the border in Washington State 82,645 cases account for 2.080 deaths. ( All figures accurate today )
Offhand I can’t think of a single outbreak linked to Canadian restaurants. Almost all outbreaks in Canada were traced to senior care facilities or food processing plants. Certainly not food service, emphatically not restaurants. If a third of U.S. infections stem from restaurant visits, what does that say about America’s mindset?
In British Columbia bars and restaurants were closed from late March to end of May. Re-opening guidelines were strict – 50% capacity, 6 metres between tables, maximum 6 guests per table, mandatory masks for staff, mandatory contact tracing info collected from all patrons. To create higher capacity, restaurants are allowed to block off street parking, fence in additional outdoor seating. Meticulous regard for legislation, the only thing standing between economic survival and bankruptcy. Trust me, local businesses know what’s at stake. By no stretch of imagination are restaurants in Canada contributing to COVID infection.
All good until daily infection rates started to climb. (From single digits to 100 or so a day) Despite no correlation between restaurants and rising daily infections, restaurants, bars and banquet halls took it on the chin. This week nightclubs and banquet halls were ordered to close effective immediately. Liquor sales must cease at 10 pm, alcohol can only be served with food, all bars and restaurants have to close by 11 pm. In addition, music can’t be louder than “conversation level” – loud music forces people closer to talk, facilitates shouting which spreads respiratory droplets.
Silly as it sounds, absurd or ridiculous as it seems, Canadians will abide by the rules. In my mind that explains the staggering anomaly between U.S./Canada pandemic statistics.
Earlier this week reigning bobbleheads at The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (aka, the Oscars), puffed out ever so pleased with themselves chests to announce new inclusion and diversity guidelines. Ostensibly the first stage of a five year plan to promote diversity on and off the screen. Translation – Oscar consideration will be reserved for productions where people of colour, women, persons with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ community are included in minimum percentage quotas. From actors, marketing, pre and post production, catering and internships to location scouts, camera operators, lighting techs and extra wranglers, every aspect of production just became a box to tick.
Initial coverage centred on warm fuzzy kudos for Academy acknowledgement of trending social issues. Were we supposed to gush praise for enlightenment of an old guard white establishment? Sleep tight knowing another behemoth influencer feigned understanding or compassion for systemic injustice? What a farce!
Lets talk fine print before weighing in on the absurdity of hollow, insulting percentage quotas. New rules don’t apply to films vying for 2021 Oscar nods. Not until Oscar 2024 will films have to meet quotas in two of four standards. The four standards cover “diversity representation among actors and subject matter; behind-the-camera staff, such as cinematographers and costume designers; paid apprenticeships and training opportunities; and marketing and publicity.” Take your pick, no pressure. Pad the crew with a sprinkling of trans black lesbians, contract first aid to a immigrant Iranian doctor formerly flipping burgers to support his family because his degree isn’t recognized in America, hire amputee survivors of Rwanda genocide to sew costumes, recruit unpaid interns at predominantly black colleges, take a page from Netflix and script obligatory same sex intimacy in every production. Mission accomplished, standards fulfilled, business as usual.
What’s wrong with these people? Do they actually think spotlight posturing makes a difference? Believe marginalized people seek validation based on arbitrary quotas? It’s SO PAINFUL! News flash -we’re all the same. Black skin the same as freckled white, same sex union no different than traditional marriage, nation of birth, faith or lack thereof – all irrelevant. Diversity quotas prevail for purposes of corporate optics. Look at us, click, like, follow and share our trending abundance of social awareness. Shame on Oscar.
Feast your eyes on the face of America. Process this image of irreverent hubris, self satisfaction, reckless indifference and why the f**k should I care. Still holding your lunch down? Click on the link below tRump’s repugnant image. A link to his majesty’s very own website donaldjtrump.com , a link to Trump 2020 vs Democrat poll. It’s up to you now, no spoiler alerts from Notes. Half the “fun” is reading Trump’s poll questions void of steely preparation for reality down this rabbit hole.
Ah Polaris, commonly known as the North Star – humanities guide since the dawn of time. Located directly above the north celestial pole, northern hemisphere skies rotate around this near constant pole star. Knowing where to find Polaris means you’ll always know which direction to travel. Face Polaris, stretch your arms out sideways – the right hand points due east, the left due west. About face and you’re pointed south.
Ken Christison captured these glorious star trails around Polaris, the North Star. He wrote, “For the most common and often the most spectacular star trails, you want to locate Polaris and compose the image so it is centered horizontally and hopefully you can have a bit of foreground for reference.”
To find Polaris locate the Big Dipper, focus on Dubhe and Merak, two stars forming the outermost edge of Big Dipper’s bowl. In your mind’s eye draw a straight line to the tip of Little Dipper’s handle – voila, that’s Polaris the North Star.
Think of northern hemisphere skies as a clock with Polaris at the centre, the line from Dubhe and Merak to Polaris as the hour hand. The Big Dipper rotates once around Polaris every 23 hours, 56 minutes. A few minutes short of a day, equivalent to 361 degrees in 24 hours. As such the North Star moves ever so slightly with each passing day. What never falters is the hour hand from the outermost bowl of Big Dipper to Polaris. Find the Big Dipper, you’ll locate the North Star. Do that and you’ll never be lost in the woods.
If you’re in the northern U.S., Canada or at a similar latitude, the Big Dipper is circumpolar for you, always above the horizon. Image via burro.astr.cwru.edu.