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Astronomers Have Found the Most Distant Dwarf Planet in the Solar System to Date

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Artist concept of 2018 VG18, nicknamed "Farout." (Credit: Illustration by Roberto Molar Candanosa is courtesy of the Carnegie Institution for Science.)

An artist’s visualization of the newly discovered dwarf planet 2018 VG18, or “Farout,” with our sun in the background. (Credit: Roberto Molar Candanosa/Carnegie Institution for Science)

A Far-Out Planet

An ambitious team of astronomers has discovered the most “far out” object ever observed in our Solar System. The object, a pink dwarf planet called 2018 VG18 and nicknamed “Farout,” lies more than 100 times further from the sun than the Earth is.

This discovery, made by Carnegie’s Scott S. Sheppard, the University of Hawaii’s David Tholen and Northern Arizona University’s Chad Trujillo, was formally announced today (Dec. 17) by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center. Farout is about 120 AU away — 1 AU is the distance between the Earth and the Sun — making it the first object discovered at over 100 AU. Farout is significantly farther than the now second most-distant object Eris, which is at about 96 AU. The pink dwarf planet is more than three-and-a-half times more distant than the famous, blue dwarf planet Pluto.

It’s not hard to figure out where the nickname comes from. But, according to Sheppard, it has a double meaning. In addition to Farout being so distant, Sheppard said that when he first saw the planet he shouted out loud: “far out!”

The team discovered Farout using the Japanese Subaru 8-meter telescope located in Hawaii. The first discovery images were taken Nov. 10, 2018. The object was observed a second time earlier this month at the Magellan telescope at Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. These secondary observations allowed the team to follow the object’s path across the sky and determine its brightness and color.

From these observations, the team found that dwarf planet is fairly sizable, about 310 miles (500 km) in diameter or roughly 1/3 the size of Pluto, Sheppard said. The dwarf planet also has a pinkish hue likely caused by the object being rich in ice.

Planet X

While a significant discovery on its own, finding Farout might also support the search for “Planet X” — a theoretical planet whose existence was first proposed by this same research team after discovering another distant solar system object.

Farout and other distant bodies seem to move in a strange harmony best explained by the existence of an as-yet-unseen massive planet beyond Neptune in the Solar System. But it will be at least a year, and likely more, before researchers understand Farout’s orbit enough to say if it actually provides evidence for Planet X.

While the team’s main focus is looking for Planet X, they continue to keep their eyes peeled for other objects in the same general vicinity. Farout is one such unexpected prize from the the search. Another, “The Goblin” was found earlier this year by the same team.

Further study of our system’s outer edge, along with the likely discovery of more objects like Farout, will continue to inform the search for Planet X. “We’ve started searching as much sky as we can,” Sheppard said. “We hope to find a few more of these in the future.”

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Ecology

Yukon and Northern BC First Nations tackle climate change using Indigenous knowledge and science

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YUKON, June 18, 2021 /CNW/ – The Government of Canada is working together in partnership with Indigenous and Northern communities in finding solutions to adapt to the impacts of climate change in the North.

Today, Minister of Northern Affairs, Daniel Vandal, along with Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages (Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency), Larry Bagnell, highlighted progress on three unique, Indigenous-led projects that are helping communities in Yukon and Northern British Columbia adapt to the challenges posed by climate change.

The Minister and Parliamentary Secretary met virtually with Carcross/Tagish First Nation (C/TFN) to learn about their community-led climate change monitoring program. C/TFN has partnered with Tsay Keh Dene Nation (TKDN) and Chu Cho Environmental of Prince George, British Columbia, to build a community-led monitoring project that examines environmental data and Indigenous knowledge to create a holistic picture of how the climate is changing across C/TFN and TKDN traditional territories. The project combines tracking of current and historical climate trends with knowledge shared by Elders while also providing opportunities for youth mentorship and climate change awareness.

The Taku River Tlingit First Nation (TRTFN) is also leading a unique project to assess the impacts of climate change within their traditional territory. Climate change is causing many of the culturally significant ice patches to melt, exposing organic artifacts to oxygen and leading to rapid deterioration. The TRTFN ice patch mapping project will involve performing archaeological assessments to prevent the degradation of artifacts. Research will be guided by traditional knowledge, Elders and oral histories, when available, and heavily involve community, Elders, youth and Knowledge Keepers.

The Pelly Crossing Selkirk Development Corporation is leading the Selkirk Wind Resource Assessment project through the installation of a Sonic Detection and Ranging (SODAR) system. The initiative includes a feasibility study leading up to the construction of a renewable energy facility, including wind, solar and battery energy storage. Expanding clean energy within the region will have direct benefits for communities, including reduced reliance on diesel, job creation and revenue generation for Selkirk First Nation. 

These projects are delivering important environmental, social and economic benefits that lead to healthier, more sustainable and resilient communities across Yukon and Northern British Columbia. They also build community clean energy capacity and help to avoid the impacts of climate change.

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Ecology

Atlantic Provinces Ready For Aquaculture Growth

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Aquaculture is an important economic driver for rural, coastal and Indigenous communities, and Atlantic Canada is well positioned to increase aquaculture production as global demand for sustainably sourced seafood grows.

That is why the ministers responsible for aquaculture in the Atlantic provinces have agreed to the ongoing development and management of their industries based on common principles. A new memorandum of understanding has been signed by the four ministers, which extends the previous agreement signed in 2008.

“In a time when food security is especially important, it is good to see our aquaculture industry has grown steadily and is poised for continued growth in 2021 based on environmentally responsible, science-based policies and practices,” said Keith Colwell, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture for Nova Scotia. “Our Atlantic partnership continues to help the industry grow sustainably.”

Cooperation between the provinces and the aquaculture industry has led to improvements in pest management, environmentally sustainable aquaculture methods, aquatic animal health and policies to support the shared use of marine and freshwater resources. It also aims to align regulation and policy between the provinces to make the regulatory requirements easier to understand by industry and the public.

Each province has a comprehensive and robust legislative and regulatory framework to ensure environmental sustainability, economic prosperity and public accountability. The provinces update their legislation and regulations regularly. Nova Scotia revamped its regulatory framework in 2015; New Brunswick received Royal Assent for a new Aquaculture Act in 2019 and is working on the supporting regulations; Newfoundland and Labrador completely revised its aquaculture policy in 2019; and Prince Edward Island has recently drafted a new Aquaculture Act.

The ministers have agreed to continue to use science-based evidence for management decisions, thereby increasing public and investor confidence in the Atlantic Canadian aquaculture industry.

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Ecology

COMING SOON: A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy 2.0

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We all want the same thing: a clean and responsible energy future for our children and future generations while continuing to enjoy a high standard of living.

On December 11, 2020, the Prime Minister announced a new climate plan which he claimed will help achieve Canada’s economic and environmental goals.

The proposed plan by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) entitled “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy” will have an initial investment of $15 billion of taxpayer’s money. It is built on 5 pillars of action:

  1) Making the Places Canadians Live and Gather More Affordable by Cutting Energy Waste

2) Making Clean, Affordable Transportation and Power Available in Every Community

3) Continuing to Ensure Pollution isn’t Free and Households Get More Money Back

4) Building Canada’s Clean Industrial Advantage

5) Embracing the Power of Nature to Support Healthier Families and More Resilient Communities  

In my paper, “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy 2.0” I will objectively critique each pillar in the government’s new climate plan and provide alternative solutions to the same issues.

  This is an alternative plan that supports workers, protects lower income earners and creates economic growth while respecting the environment and focusing on the dignity of work.

  This plan abandons virtue-signaling projects and relies on Canadian ingenuity to build our economy and restore Canada’s role of responsible leadership in the world.

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