Connect with us

Technology

NASA spacecraft hurtles toward historic New Year’s flyby

Published

on

[ad_1]

A NASA spacecraft is hurtling toward a historic New Year’s Day flyby of the most distant planetary object ever studied, a frozen relic of the early solar system called Ultima Thule.

Four billion miles (6.4 billion kilometers) away, the unmanned spaceship, New Horizons, is poised to zoom by at 12:33 am (0533 GMT) on January 1, at a distance of just 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometers) from Ultima Thule.

That’s more than three times closer than New Horizons came to Pluto when it zipped by the dwarf planet in 2015.

So what is this strange object, which is named after a mythical, far-northern island in medieval literature and has its own rock anthem performed by Queen guitarist Brian May?

“This is truly the most primitive object ever encountered by a spacecraft,” said Hal Weaver, project scientist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.

Relatively small, scientists aren’t sure about its exact size.

But they believe it is about 100 times tinier than Pluto which measures almost 1,500 miles (2,414 kilometers) in diameter.

Ultima Thule is also in a freezing area of space, suggesting it may remain well preserved.

“Really, it is a relic from the formation of the solar system,” said Weaver.

‘Attic’ of the solar system

Ultima Thule (pronounced TOO-lee) lies in the Kuiper Belt, a vast cosmic disc left over from the days when planets first formed.

Astronomers sometimes call it the “attic” of the solar system.

Scientists didn’t even know the Kuiper Belt existed until the 1990s.

The Kuiper Belt begins some three billion miles (4.8 billion kilometers) beyond the Sun, past the orbit of Neptune which is the furthest planet from the Sun.

“It is teeming with literally billions of comets, millions of objects like Ultima which are called planetesimals, the building blocks out of which planets were formed, and a smattering — a handful of dwarf planets the size of continents, like Pluto,” said Alan Stern, principal investigator on New Horizons.

“It is important to us in planetary science because this region of the solar system, being so far from the Sun, preserves the original conditions from four and a half billion years ago,” Stern added.

“So when we fly by Ultima, we are going to be able to see the way things were back at the beginning.”

High-speed, close encounter

The New Horizons spacecraft is speeding through space at 32,000 miles (51,500 kilometers) per hour, traveling almost a million miles per day.

At that pace, if it strikes a piece of debris as small as a rice pellet, the spacecraft could be destroyed instantly.

“We don’t want that to happen,” said Stern.

If New Horizon survives this flyby, it will do so while furiously snapping hundreds of pictures of Ultima Thule, in the hopes of revealing its shape and geology for the first time.

New Horizons sent back stunning images of Pluto — including a never before seen heart shape on its surface — in 2015.

This time, “at closest approach we are going to try to image Ultima at three times the resolution we had for Pluto,” Stern said.

But the flyby “requires extremely precise navigation. Much more precise than we have ever tried before. We might get it, and we might not,” Stern added.

Answers to come?

Ultima Thule was first discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2014.

Scientists figured out in 2017 that Ultima Thule is not spherical but possibly elongated in shape. It may even be two objects.

It does not project the repeated, pulsing light scientists expect to see from a rotating cosmic object, raising puzzling questions.

Could it be surrounded by cosmic dust? Enveloped by many tiny moons? Oriented in such a way that its pole is facing the approaching spacecraft?

NASA hopes the flyby will reveal the answers.

The first images are expected by the evening of January 1, with release planned for January 2.

More, higher resolution shots should follow.

Though no live images are possible at this distance, NASA plans to broadcast online during the flyby, featuring an animated video and music by Queen guitarist Brian May, who holds a degree in astrophysics and is releasing a musical tribute to accompany the event.

“I was inspired by the idea that this is the furthest that the Hand of Man has ever reached,” May said.

And Stern hopes this won’t be the end for New Horizons, which launched in 2006 and is powered by plutonium.

“We hope to hunt down one more KPO (Kuiper Belt Object), making an even more distant flyby in the 2020s,” Stern said.

[ad_2]

Source link

قالب وردپرس

Technology

More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

Published

on

By

OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

Continue Reading

Technology

VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training

Published

on

By

Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

Continue Reading

Technology

Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

Published

on

By

While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

Continue Reading

Chat

Trending