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NASA expert identifies mystery object once thought an asteroid - CBS News
Asteroid 2020 SO, as it is formally known, appears to be a Centaur upper rocket stage that successfully propelled NASA's Surveyor 2 lander to the moon in 1966 before it was discarded.
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. This September 20, 1966, photo provided by the San Diego Air and Space Museum shows an Atlas Centaur 7 rocket on the launchpad at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Convair/General Dynamics Astronautics Atlas Negative Collection/San Diego Air and Space Museum via AP 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 based on its brightness. That's in the ballpark of the old Centaur, which would be less than 32 feet long including its engine nozzle and 10 feet in diameter. 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, 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. 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!" Chodas 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. He doubts the object will slam into Earth — "at least not this time around."
NASA reveals new Hubble image featuring thousands of multi-colored stars - CBS News
NASA called the cluster a "pocketful of stars."
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has captured an image showing what the space agency is calling a "pocketful of stars" — a section of the universe packed with thousands of multicolored stars. The picture captures the "globular" cluster named NGC 1805, which is located near the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way. Typically, globular clusters contain stars that are born at the same time, NASA said. But NGC 1805 is unusual — scientists believe it contains two different populations of stars that are millions of years apart in age. NASA compared the close orbit of the stars to bees swarming around a hive. The agency said it's unlikely that the stars at the center will be orbited by planets, because they're 100 to 1,000 times closer together than the nearest stars are to our sun. Many colorful stars are packed close together in this image of the globular cluster NGC 1805, taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. ESA/Hubble & NASA, J. Kalirai The cluster is visible from the Southern Hemisphere in the "Dorado" constellation, which is Portugese for dolphinfish. Hubble's positioning in space grants it the unique ability to capture different wavelengths of light. Earth's atmosphere absorbs most ultraviolet light, making the cluster's difference in star colors impossible to observe from the ground. The image combines different types of light to highlight the remarkable difference in star colors — blue stars, shining brightest near ultraviolet light, and red stars, brightest in red and near-infrared. Astronomers are interested in observing clusters like NGC 1805 in order to learn more about the evolution of stars, as well as what factors lead to them dying as white dwarfs versus explosive supernovae.
Oxford coronavirus vaccine trial results "extremely encouraging," U.K. government says - CBS News
AstraZeneca says the trial data "increases our confidence that the vaccine will work and allows us to continue our plans to manufacture the vaccine at scale."
A senior British official has called the latest news on an Oxford University team's potential coronavirus vaccine "extremely encouraging." The results of the Phase I/II trial of the vaccine being developed by Oxford's Jenner Institute, in conjunction with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, showed that it is safe and "produced strong immune results," according to the research published on Monday in The Lancet medical journal. The vaccine caused a 2-pronged immune response, a news release from the Jenner Institute at Oxford said. First, within 14 days, it triggered a T cell response, generating white blood cells that can attack infected cells. Second, within 28 days, it provoked an antibody response. Antibodies are able to prevent the virus from infecting cells when it is initially contracted, according to the release. A photo provided by the COVID-19 Vaccine Team at the University of Oxford's Vaccine Centre in England shows a researcher working on the manufacture of a potential vaccine for the disease caused by the new coronavirus. Sean Elias/Oxford Vaccine Centre The U.K. Phase I/II trial began in April and involved more than 1,000 healthy volunteers who were between 18 and 55 years old. Some of those volunteers received a second, booster dose of the vaccine, and they appeared to benefit most. "We saw the strongest immune response in the 10 participants who received two doses of the vaccine, indicating that this might be a good strategy for vaccination," Professor Andrew Pollard, Chief investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Trial at Oxford University and co-author of the study, said. Oxford is working with AstraZeneca to develop, manufacture, and produce a coronavirus vaccine on a large scale. The unprecedented effort aims to make some 2 billion doses of the vaccine available globally, through partnerships with manufacturers in several countries, by early next year. Coronavirus vaccine tests begin in South Afri...01:43 While the latest results are encouraging, they show the candidate vaccine creates the reaction in the body that should create immunity to the disease. The Phase III trials, to prove it actually gives people that immunity, are already ongoing, involving a far larger sample of people, in the U.K., the United States, Brazil, and South Africa. "While there is more work to be done, today's data increases our confidence that the vaccine will work and allows us to continue our plans to manufacture the vaccine at scale for broad and equitable access around the world," Mene Pangalos, Executive Vice President of BioPharmaceuticals Research and Development at AstraZeneca, said. The U.S. government has invested a whopping $1 billion in Oxford's trial vaccine already, gambling on it being a success to secure millions of doses as soon as possible. Britain has also poured about $90 million into the work by Oxford's Jenner Institute for vaccine research. On Monday, British government Business Secretary Alok Sharma called the latest trial results "extremely encouraging, taking us one step closer to finding a successful vaccine to protect millions in the U.K. and across the world." The Oxford vaccine has been out in front of about 15 serious global competitors for months, but a few others are hot on the team's heels. Moderna advances potential COVID-19 vaccine03:48 Just last week, officials announced similarly hopeful results from Phase I trialing of a vaccine being developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc. The experimental vaccine will move to its most important step around the end of July: A 30,000-person study to prove the shots are effective at stopping coronavirus infection. The U.K. vaccine news was published Monday in The Lancet along with another study on a Chinese vaccine trial. That vaccine also showed promise, creating a strong antibody and T cell response in more than 90 percent of those given the injection after 28 days.
Telescope captures breathtaking new X-ray map of the sky - CBS News
Nearly 80% of the image is made up of active galactic nuclei — supermassive black holes actively gobbling up material at the center of galaxies.
A Russian and German telescope has completed its first full sweep of the sky — and it's provided some breathtaking images to mark the occasion. A new map, roughly four times the depth of its predecessor, captures what the universe looks like through X-ray vision. The eROSITA X-ray telescope, mounted on the space observatory Spektr-RG, launched last July, and finally reached its final position more than 900 million miles from Earth in December, according to a news release. It then spent 182 days slowly rotating, capturing the universe's mysterious dark energy with seven cameras. A team of researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany said the resulting composite images show the deepest X-ray view of the sky we've ever seen. "This all-sky image completely changes the way we look at the energetic universe," Peter Predehl, the Principal Investigator of eROSITA, said in the release. "We see such a wealth of detail — the beauty of the images is really stunning." The energetic universe as seen with the eROSITA X-ray telescope. Jeremy Sanders, Hermann Brunner and the eSASS team (MPE); Eugene Churazov, Marat Gilfanov (on behalf of IKI) The new map of the hot, energetic universe holds more than one million objects that emit X-rays —also known as X-ray sources — about 10 times more than what was found by the last all-sky sweep 30 years ago, the release said. The map roughly doubles the number of known X-ray sources, yielding about as many as have been discovered by all past X-ray telescopes in the field's 60-year history. Scientists said putting together the image was a "mammoth" task that required sorting through 165 GB of data. They generated the image using the so-called Aitoff projection, projecting the entire sky onto an ellipse with the Milky Way running horizontally through the middle and color-coding photons according to their energy, according to the release. Clusters of galaxies, "stellar cemeteries" made up of supernova remnants, and gas so hot it appears to glow can all be seen in the image. Nearly 80% of the image is made up of active galactic nuclei — supermassive black holes actively gobbling up material at the center of galaxies, the researchers said. In total, about one million X-ray sources were detected, "a treasure trove that will keep the teams busy for the coming years." Due to its size and close distance to Earth, the "Vela supernova remnant," shown in this picture, is one of the most prominent objects in the X-ray sky. The Vela supernova exploded about 12,000 years ago and overlaps with at least two other supernova remnants, Vela Junior (seen as the blue ring at the bottom left) and Puppis-A (top right). Peter Predehl, Werner Becker (MPE), Davide Mella While scientists attempt to deepen their understanding of the development of the universe, the telescope is now sweeping the sky for the second time. The project, which will run for four years, aims to map the positions of millions of galaxies and gain insight into how the universe is structured, according to the release. The project may also help to unravel the mystery of dark energy and how it counteracts gravity, pushing matter apart to accelerate the expansion of the universe. "Overall, during the next 3.5 years, we plan to get seven maps similar to the one seen in this beautiful image," said Rashid Sunyaev, lead scientist of the Russian SRG team. "Their combined sensitivity will be a factor of five better and will be used by astrophysicists and cosmologists for decades." "With a million sources in just six months, eROSITA has already revolutionized X-ray astronomy, but this is just a taste of what's to come," added Kirpal Nandra, head of the high-energy astrophysics group at MPE. "Over the next few years, we'll be able to probe even further, out to where the first giant cosmic structures and supermassive black holes were forming."
SpaceX launches another 60 Starlink internet satellites, pushes total to nearly 500 - CBS News
The sixth Starlink launch this year moves the company closer to initial space-based internet service
Four days after launching two astronauts to the International Space Station, SpaceX launched another Falcon 9 rocket Wednesday carrying the company's eighth batch of Starlink internet satellites. It was the sixth Starlink flight so far this year, boosting the fast-growing constellation to nearly 500 satellites. Using a rocket with four previous flights to its credit, the latest set of Starlinks got off the ground at 9:25 p.m. EDT when the Falcon 9's nine first-stage engines thundered to life, throttled up to 1.7 million pounds of thrust and smoothly lifted off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket streaks away from Cape Canaveral through an overcast sky, on the way to chalking up a successful flight to deploy another 60 Starlink internet relay satellites. William Harwood/CBS News Climbing away to the northeast, the 230-foot-tall rocket knifed through a thin overcast, putting on a spectacular show for area residents and tourists, lighting the clouds from above as it streaked toward space. Two-and-a-half minutes after liftoff, the engines shut down and the first stage fell away, flipping around and lining up for a landing on the company's off-shore droneship "Just Read the Instructions." The second stage, meanwhile, ignited its single vacuum-rated Merlin engine and continued the climb to space, slipping into the planned preliminary orbit eight minutes and 55 seconds after launch. At roughly the same time, the well-traveled first stage chalked up its fifth landing, SpaceX's 53rd successful booster recovery and the 34th on a droneship. The landing came one day after the first stage used to launch astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken to the space station Saturday was hauled into Port Canaveral by the droneship "Of Course I Still Love You." With an uneventful climb to space Wednesday, the 60 Starlink satellites mounted in a stack atop the second stage were released to fly on their own about six minutes after reaching orbit, slowly spreading out as they departed. A stack of 60 Starlink satellites is released from the Falcon 9's second stage after a smooth climb to orbit. The launch pushed the total number of Starlinks in orbit to nearly 500. SpaceX After tests and checkout, each satellite's low-power ion engine will be used to raise its orbit to an operational altitude of about 342 miles. SpaceX has regulatory approval to launch more than 12,000 Starlink satellites in multiple orbital planes to provide high-speed, uninterrupted internet access from any point on Earth using small pizza box-size terminals. The company plans to begin limited commercial service across the northern United States and Canada later this year after completing 12 launches to put 720 satellites into orbit. Going into Wednesday's launch, SpaceX had deployed 420 Starlinks over seven missions. The latest batch includes satellites equipped with deployable sun shades designed to minimize sunlight reflecting off bright surfaces. Astronomers have expressed concern that the enormous number of planned Starlinks could hamper observations by sensitive optical and radio telescopes. SpaceX is working with the astronomical community to mitigate those concerns, testing dark coatings and now sunshades to come up with a solution.
How to watch the SpaceX Crew Dragon manned spacecraft launch on Saturday - CBS News
Watch live as two NASA astronauts lift off aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon, ushering in a new era for the U.S. space program.
Ushering in a new era in the American space program, two veteran astronauts readied for liftoff Saturday aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon en route to the International Space Station. This will be the second launch attempt, after bad weather forced flight controllers to scrub the launch on Wednesday at Florida's Kennedy Space Center. This mission will be the first launch of American astronauts from U.S. soil in nearly nine years, since the final flight of the Space Shuttle Atlantis in 2011. It will also be the first manned flight for the SpaceX Crew Dragon and the first time a commercial spacecraft has carried NASA astronauts into orbit. How to watch the SpaceX Crew Dragon launch
- What: Launch of SpaceX Crew Dragon carrying two NASA astronauts
- Date: Saturday, May 30, 2020
- Time: 3:22 p.m. EDT
- Location: The Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida
- On TV: Your local CBS station
- Live stream online: Watch live launch coverage on CBSN — in the video player above and on your mobile or streaming device.
- Pre-launch live stream coverage: Watch a live stream of preparations for launch in the video player above beginning at 11 a.m. EDT Saturday.
Billions of people are under coronavirus lockdowns – and now the upper crust of the Earth is shaking less - CBS News
During the coronavirus pandemic, people are moving less — and so is the planet.
About four billion people — roughly half the world's population — have reportedly been told to isolate themselves in their homes to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. And the major decrease in the hum of normal human activity has led to a surprising shift in Earth's vibrations. Researchers who study the Earth's movement said the mandatory shutdown of transportation systems, businesses and other human activities has correlated with the planet shaking noticeably less than usual. A drop in seismic noise — the vibrations in the planet's crust — is giving scientists the rare chance to monitor small earthquakes, volcanic activity and other subtle tremors that are usually drowned out by the everyday movement of humans. The quieter vibrations were observed by Thomas Lecocq, a seismologist at the Royal Observatory of Belgium in Brussels, and published this week in an article in the journal Nature. According to Lecocq, such a dramatic decrease in noise can typically only be experienced briefly around Christmas. Lecocq observed that in Belgium, vibrations caused by human activity have decreased by approximately one-third since COVID-19 isolation measures were introduced by the government. The reduction in noise directly correlates with the closing of schools, restaurants and other public spaces in the country on March 14 and the ban of all non-essential travel on March 18. While individual human activity such as vehicle traffic or construction sites only cause small movements in the Earth's crust, together they produce a sizable amount of "background noise" that hinder scientists' ability to detect natural events at the same frequency. Since quarantine measures were introduced, the surface seismometer at the Royal Observatory of Belgium has become more sensitive to quieter seismic activity that it would have previously missed, which could lead to better measurements of small quakes, quarry blasts, storms and crashing ocean waves. Update for Brussels (Station BE.UCCS): The background level remains low and stable (~-33%). We've added more time to the plot so last weeks are more in context. #StayHomeBelgium#StayAtHome#[email protected]/bRSPeuxNcG — Seismologie.be (@Seismologie_be) March 27, 2020 "This is really getting quiet now in Belgium," Lecocq said. After Lecocq shared his code online, his findings were echoed by seismologists around the world. Researchers in New Zealand, Scotland, New Jersey, England and France have all tweeted similar reports of decreased noise since their respective isolation periods began. Celeste Labedz, a graduate student in geophysics at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, tweeted that even Los Angeles is experiencing a similar reduction in noise. "The drop is seriously wild," she said. "How does @Princeton 'sound' different now that everyone must #stayathome? Here is the seismic "noise" we record in the basement of Guyot Hall," seismologist Jessica Irving tweeted. "Campus really is quieter now, especially after the tighter restrictions were put in place." However, many stations are specifically located in remote areas or deep underground to avoid picking up on human activity. These stations are likely to see a smaller decrease or no change at all in noise, said Emily Wolin, a geologist at the US Geological Survey in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The number of coronavirus cases worldwide continues to skyrocket, with over 1 million confirmed positive cases and over 56,000 deaths as of Friday. But seismologic data show one promising detail — people are listening to health officials and staying home. Coronavirus: Deserted places in America, Italy, China and more55 photos