Asteroid_Gaia-606_on_26_October_2016_pillars
These six images show the asteroid Gaia-606 (indicated by an arrow) on 26 October 2016. The images, spanning a period of a little more than 18 minutes, were taken at the Observatoire de Haute Provence in southern France by William Thuillot, Vincent Robert and Nicolas Thouvenin. (Observatoire de Paris/IMCCE)
Sky News This Week: July 16, 2020

In the news: a Canadian space museum plans to re-open next month, a comet makes a beautiful appearance in Canadian skies, and more information emerges about how the life-friendly element of carbon was formed in the universe.

Canada’s capital space museum will re-open

The Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa is expected to re-open August 8 to the general public after being closed since March due to quarantines related to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The museum plans to instate new safety guidelines such as physical distancing, requiring visitors to wear masks or face shields (in line with Ottawa Public Health guidelines) and keeping visitors on one directional path via arrows. The museum’s permanent exhibits include a discussion of life in orbit on the International Space Station and one of the Canadarms.

Source: Ingenium

A rare celestial visitor

After this year’s disappointing Comet SWAN (C/2020 F8) and Comet ATLAS (C/2019), a big one has finally come to our gleeful naked eyes.

Comet NEOWISE (C/2020 F3) has been visible to Canadian observers in the early morning hours for a couple of weeks, and this week it has started taking an evening shift. The comet has been climbing about two degrees higher every night, making viewing much easier. By the evening of July 19, the comet will shine in a darker sky, about 1.5 fist diameters below the stars Dubhe and Merak in the Big Dipper. While unaided eye viewing is possible, the comet becomes truly spectacular through binoculars and telescopes.

Read more about Comet NEOWISE and how to see it from Chris Vaughan.

How stars spread carbon

The remnants of supernovas might show how carbon — an essential element for life as we know it — was formed in the universe. A new analysis of a sample of these supernova remnants, called white dwarf stars, suggest that the masses of these white dwarfs are much larger than expected. This further indicates that the stars that blew up into supernovas and left these white dwarfs behind much have been a little larger than expected, at 2 solar masses. Further work suggests these large stars would have shed carbon from their outer mantle and allowed the white dwarfs to grow in mass.

Source: Nature Astronomy

Earth’s magnetic field takes the heat

Lighter elements in the Earth’s iron core could have an influence on our magnetic field’s formation and sustainability. A new study suggests that silicon in the core would affect how heat is transmitted from the core into the mantle above; assuming a concentration of about 8 weight percent of silicon in a simulated inner core, the magnetic field could continue with heat transmission alone for Earth’s lifetime so far. The researchers now want to explore the role of elements such as oxygen, sulfur and carbon.

Source: Nature Communications

Star tracker seeks asteroids

These six images show the asteroid Gaia-606 (indicated by an arrow) on 26 October 2016. The images, spanning a period of a little more than 18 minutes, were taken at the Observatoire de Haute Provence in southern France by William Thuillot, Vincent Robert and Nicolas Thouvenin. (Observatoire de Paris/IMCCE)

The European Space Agency’s Gaia mission is turning out to be an able asteroid-hunter, amid its usual mandate to track the positions of stars. Gaia found the “lost” asteroid 2012 TC4, which disappeared from view before its path could be well-determined from other telescopic observations. Gaia has also discovered several new asteroids in its years of observing. Gaia’s efforts add on to many other telescopes that track asteroids in an ongoing effort to protect Earth from these celestial objects. Luckily, no imminent, catastrophic space rocks have been found “out there”, but scientists remain vigilant nonetheless.

Source: European Space Agency

Elizabeth Howell (Ph.D.) is a Canadian space journalist who has been obsessed with the topic ever since she, as a young teenager, saw the movie Apollo 13 in 1996. She grew up wanting to be an astronaut. While that hasn’t happened (yet), Elizabeth has seen five human spaceflight launches — including two from Kazakhstan — and she participated in a simulated Red Planet mission at the Mars Society’s Mars Desert Research Station in Utah.

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