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NASA New Horizons probe survives 32,200 mph flyby of Ultima Thule

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kuiper belt objects kbos pluto new horizons flight path ultima thule 2014 mu69 alex parker jhuapl swriAn illustration of New Horizons’ flyby of Ultima Thule, or 2014 MU69.NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Alex Parker

  • NASA’s New Horizons probe successfully flew past a space rock called Ultima Thule, also known as 2014 MU69, on New Year’s Day.
  • Ultima Thule, which is 4 billion miles from Earth (and 1 billion miles beyond Pluto), is now the most distant object humanity has ever visited.
  • The nuclear-powered spacecraft recorded hundreds photos of Ultima Thule, and it will beam that data home over ther next two years.
  • The flyby may reveal secrets of how planets in our solar system formed some 4.5 billion years ago.

Scientists just flew NASA’s nuclear-powered New Horizons probe past a mysterious, mountain-size rock beyond the orbit of Pluto.

The object — called Ultima Thule (pronounced “tool-ee”) — is located more than 4 billion miles from Earth. It’s 1 billion miles beyond Pluto, which New Horizons visited in July 2015.

The spacecraft phoned home at 10:39 a.m. EST, confirming it wasn’t destroyed by the maneuver. This makes Ultima Thule the most distant object that humanity has ever visited.

New Horizons pulled off the maneuver on New Year’s Day, taking hundreds of photos in a highly choreographed, pre-programmed sequence. The space probe reached its closest point to the space rock — about 2,200 miles — at 12:33 a.m. EST. New Horizons then turned around to photograph its exit at a speed of about 32,000 mph.

The mission was as surprising as it was ambitious: When NASA launched New Horizons toward Pluto in 2006, nobody knew Ultima Thule existed. There wasn’t even a reliable way to detect the object (formally known as 2014 MU69) until astronauts plugged an upgraded camera into the Hubble Space Telescope in 2009.

“This is a much more challenging flyby than the flyby of Pluto,” Alan Stern, who leads the New Horizons mission, said during a press conference before the flyby. “I can’t promise you success. We are straining at the capabilities of this spacecraft.”

But a signal acquired by NASA and Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory (JHUAPL) confirmed the spacecraft survived. The first images are expected to arrive at Earth Tuesday night and be published early Wednesday morning.

“If we knew what to expect, we wouldn’t be going to Ultima Thule,” Stern previously told Business Insider. “This is what what exploration is about.”

What Ultima Thule is and where it’s located

ultima thule new horizons 2014 mu69 kuiper belt nasa jhuapl swri steve gribbenAn illustration of NASA’s New Horizons probe visiting 2014 MU69, a Kuiper Belt object that exists about 1 billion miles beyond Pluto.NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Steve Gribben

New Horizons coasted through a zone called the Kuiper Belt, a region where sunlight is about as weak as the light from a full moon on Earth. That far away, frozen leftovers of the solar system’s formation called Kuiper Belt Objects, or KBOs, lurk in vast numbers. (Pluto is one of them.)

Ultima Thule is one of these pristine remnants. It has presumably remained in its distant and icy orbit for billions of years. Stern said the object’s name comes from a Norse phrase that means “beyond the farthest frontiers.”

The unprecedented data acquired by New Horizons might therefore reveal new clues about how the solar system evolved to form planets like Earth, Stern said.

“Ultima is the first thing we’ve been to that is not big enough to have a geological engine like a planet, and also something that’s never been warmed greatly by the sun,” he said. “It’s like a time capsule from 4.5 billion years ago. That’s what makes it so special.”

Stern compared the flyby to an archaeological dig in Egypt.

“It’s like the first time someone opened up the pharaoh’s tomb and went inside, and you see what the culture was like 1,000 years ago,” he said. “Except this is exploring the dawn of the solar system.”

asteroids asteroid field star nasa jpl 717846main_pia16610_fullAn artist’s rendering of an asteroid swarm.NASA/JPL-Caltech

Another analogy: Stern said he thinks of Ultima Thule as a “planetary embryo,” since it’s a building block of larger planets that never became one.

“In that sense, it’s like a paleontologist finding the fossilized embryo of a dinosaur,” Stern said. “It has a very special value.”

Journey into the unknown

new horizons rtgNASA

Following New Horizons’ historic visit to Pluto in 2015, NASA added the bonus mission to Ultima Thule.

During a press briefing on Monday, NASA revealed New Horizons’ first image showing Ultima Thule’s shape.

“It’s a blob only a couple of pixels cross, but you can see just from that blob that it’s an elongated blob — it’s not round,” John Spencer, a New Horizons project scientist, said during the briefing. “This is just the first glimpse of what’s going to get rapidly better from here.”

new horizons ultima thule december 30 2018 image photo jhuapl nasa swriAn image of Ultima Thule, or 2014 MU69, taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft on December 30, 2018. The image revealed the objects is elongated.NSA/JHUAPL/SwRI via YouTube

Stern said the first images that New Horizons captures during the flyby will each take two hours to transmit. Then each bit of data, moving at the speed of light as radio waves, will take about six hours to reach antennas on Earth. Those early photos will be released to the public on Wednesday.

However, it will take months to receive the most detailed, full-resolution images due to limitations of the New Horizons spacecraft.

The first full-resolution images won’t arrive until February, and it could take up to 20 months for the researchers to get all of the flyby data, Helene Winters, the project manager of New Horizons, said during the press briefing.

Stern shied away from making predictions about what images might show, citing how shocking the first close-up pictures of Pluto were.

“If it’s anything as surprising as Pluto, though, it will be wonderful,” he said.

‘10,000 times harder than reaching Pluto’

This flyby was dramatically more difficult than New Horizons’ Pluto visit, Stern said. 

pluto dwarf planet charon moon new horizons nasa jhuapl swriAn image composite of Pluto (right) and its moon Charon (left).NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

“Rendezvousing with something the size of a large, filthy mountain covered in dirt, a billion miles away from Pluto, and honing in on it is about 10,000 times harder than reaching Pluto,” Stern said. “That’s because it’s about 10,000 times smaller. The achievement of getting to it is unbelievable.”

Pinpointing exactly where Ultima Thule would be in space when New Horizons could fly near it required a “two and a half week odyssey” of telescope observations around the world, mission scientist Simon Porter said on Twitter.

To see Ultima Thule block the light of a distant star — a way to confirm the space rock’s precise orbit — the researchers had to fly an airplane-based telescope called SOFIA and deploy dozens of telescopes in Argentina.

In a New York Times op-ed published on New Year’s Eve, Stern described the encounter as “mind-boggling.”

“As you celebrate New Year’s Day, cast an eye upward and think for a moment about the amazing things our country and our species can do when we set our minds to it,” Stern wrote.

Watch live coverage of New Horizons’ flyby of Ultima Thule

New Horizons control roomMembers of the New Horizons science team react to seeing the spacecraft’s last and sharpest image of Pluto before closest approach AP

Anyone interested in watching Ultima Thule flyby events can tune into live video broadcasts being hosted over the next several days. Segments that feature the first images and science results will occur on Wednesday and Thursday.

JHUAPL, which manages the New Horizons mission, is hosting a suite of broadcasts through the lab’s YouTube channel. Additionally, NASA TV and NASA Live is mirroring some of the New Horizons coverage, even though the government shutdown has sent many NASA workers home.

You can watch the main New Horizons events via the NASA Live video player below.

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The 3 Best Canadian Tech Stocks I Would Buy With $3,000 for 2021

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The majority of the Canadian tech stocks went through the roof in 2020 and delivered outsized returns. However, tech stocks witnessed sharp selling in the past 10 days, reflecting valuation concerns and expected normalization in demand. 

As these high-growth tech stocks shed some of their gains, I believe it’s time to accumulate them at current price levels to outperform the broader markets by a significant margin in 2021. Let’s dive into three tech stocks that have witnessed a pullback and are looking attractive bets. 

Lightspeed POS

Lightspeed POS (TSX:LSPD)(NYSE:LSPD) stock witnessed strong selling and is down about 33% in the last 10 days. I believe the selloff in Lightspeed presents an excellent opportunity for investors to invest in a high-growth and fundamentally strong company. 

Lightspeed witnessed an acceleration in demand for its digital products and services amid the pandemic. However, with the easing of lockdown measures and economic reopening, the demand for its products and services could normalize. Further, it faces tough year-over-year comparisons. 

Despite the normalization in demand, I believe the ongoing shift toward the omnichannel payment platform could continue to drive Lightspeed’s revenues and customer base. Besides, its accretive acquisitions, growing scale, and geographic expansion are likely to accelerate its growth and support the uptrend in its stock. Lightspeed stock is also expected to benefit from its growing average revenue per user, innovation, and up-selling initiatives.     

Shopify 

Like Lightspeed, Shopify (TSX:SHOP)(NYSE:SHOP) stock has also witnessed increased selling and has corrected by about 22% in the past 10 days. Notably, during the most recent quarter, Shopify said that it expects the vaccination and reopening of the economy to drive some of the consumer spending back to offline retail and services. Further, Shopify expects the pace of shift toward the e-commerce platform to return to the normal levels in 2021, which accelerated in 2020.

Despite the normalization in the pace of growth, a strong secular shift towards online commerce could continue to bring ample growth opportunities for Shopify, and the recent correction in its stock can be seen as a good buying opportunity. 

Shopify’s initiatives to ramp up its fulfillment network, international expansion and growing adoption of its payment platform are likely to drive strong growth in revenues and GMVs. Moreover, its strong new sales and marketing channels bode well for future growth. I remain upbeat on Shopify’s growth prospects and expect the company to continue to multiply investors’ wealth with each passing year. 

Docebo 

Docebo (TSX:DCBO)(NASDAQ:DCBO) stock is down about 21% in the last 10 days despite sustained momentum in its base business. The enterprise learning platform provider’s key performance metrics remain strong, implying that investors should capitalize on its low stock price and start accumulating its stock at the current levels. 

Docebo’s annual recurring revenue or ARR (a measure of future revenues) continues to grow at a brisk pace. Its ARR is expected to mark 55-57% growth in Q4. Meanwhile, its top line could increase by 48-52% during the same period. The company’s average contract value is growing at a healthy rate and is likely to increase by 22-24% during Q4. 

With the continued expansion of its customer base, geographical expansion, innovation, and opportunistic acquisitions, Docebo could deliver strong returns in 2021 and beyond.

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Manitoba to invest $6.5 million in new systems

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WINNIPEG – The province of Manitoba is investing $6.5 million over three years to replace technical systems used in healthcare facilities, including replacing current voice dictation and transcription services with more modern systems and upgrading the Provincial Health Contact Centre (PHCC)’s triage, call-recording and telephone systems, Health and Seniors Care Minister Heather Stefanson (pictured) announced.

“Our government is investing in the proper maintenance of information and communications technology to ensure digital health information can be safely stored and shared as needed,” said Stefanson. “These systems will ensure healthcare facilities can continue to provide high-quality services and allow Manitobans to get faster access to healthcare resources and information.”

Dictation, transcription and voice-recognition services are used by healthcare providers to write reports. There are currently approximately 80 healthcare sites across Manitoba using some combination of dictation, transcription and voice-recognition services. Many of these systems are nearing the end of their usable lifespans.

“Across our health system, radiologists and nuclear medicine physicians use voice-dictation services to help create diagnostic reports when reading imaging studies like ultrasound, nuclear medicine studies, X-rays, angiography, MRI and CT scans,” said Dr. Marco Essig, provincial specialty lead, diagnostic imaging, Shared Health. “Enhanced dictation and voice-recognition services will enable us to work more efficiently and provide healthcare providers with quicker access to these reports that support the diagnoses and treatment of Manitobans every day.”

The project will replace telephone-based dictation and transcription with voice-recognition functions, upgrade voice-recognition services for diagnostic imaging and enhance voice-recognition tools for mobile devices.

“Investing in more modern voice-transcription services will help our health-care workers do the administrative part of their jobs more quickly and effectively so they can get back to the most important part of their work – providing top-level healthcare and protecting Manitobans,” said Stefanson. “The transition to the new system will be made seamlessly so that services disruptions, which can lead to patient care safety risks, will not occur.”

The new systems will be compatible with other existing systems, will decrease turnaround times to improve patient care and will be standardized across the province to reduce ongoing costs and allow regional facilities to share resources as needed, Stefanson added.

The PHCC is a one-stop shop for incoming and outgoing citizen contact and supports programs such as Health Links–Info Santé, TeleCARE TeleSOINS and After-Hours Physician Access, as well as after-hours support services to public health, medical officers of health, home care and Manitoba Families.

The current vendor that supplies communications support to the PHCC is no longer providing service, making it an opportune time to invest in an upgraded system that will provide better service to Manitobans, the minister said, adding the project will provide the required systems and network infrastructure to continue providing essential services now and for the near future.

“The PHCC makes more than 650,000 customer service calls to Manitobans per year to a broad spectrum of clients with varied health issues. This reduces the need for people to visit a physician, urgent care or emergency departments,” said Stefanson. “The upgrade will also allow Manitobans in many communities to continue accessing the support they need from their home or local health centre, reducing the need for unnecessary travel.”

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Telus and UHN deliver services to the marginalized

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Telus’s Health for Good program has launched the latest of its specially equipped vans to provide medical services to the homeless and underserved, this time to the population of Toronto’s west end. The project relies not only on the hardware and software – the vans and technology – but on the care delivered by trained and socially sensitive medical professionals.

For the Toronto project, those professionals are working at the University Health Network’s Social Medicine program and the Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre. The city’s Parkdale community, in the west end, has a high concentration of homeless and marginalized people.

First launched in 2014, Telus’s Health for Good program has delivered mobile clinics to 13 Canadian cities, from Victoria to Halifax. Originally designed to deliver primary care, the program pivoted to meet the needs of patients in the COVID-19 pandemic, said Nimtaz Kanji, Calgary-based director of Telus Social Purpose Programs.

Angela Robertson of the Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre (CHC) asserted that marginalized people are particularly susceptible to the spread of COVID-19, as they don’t have access to the basic precautions that prevent its spread.

The clinic is located near a Pizza Pizza franchise; homeless people shelter under its overhang on the weekends, she said. Some have encampments under nearby bridges.

“The public health guidelines and requirements call for things that individuals who are homeless don’t have,” Robertson said. “If the response calls for isolation, that suggests people have places to isolate in.”

And in the shelter system, pre-COVID, the environment was very congregate, with many people in the same physical space, said Robertson. Some homeless persons, in order to keep themselves safe, have created encampments, and the city has opened up some hotel rooms across the city to create spaces for physical distancing.

Even proper hand-washing and hygiene becomes a challenge for the homeless.

“COVID calls for individuals to practice constant hand-washing. Oftentimes, individuals who are homeless use public washroom facilities that may be in restaurants or coffee shops, and many of those spaces are now closed. So there are limitations to accessing those facilities. It’s not like they’re in a community where there are public hand-washing facilities for people who are homeless.”

The mobile health clinic allows the CHC to take “pop-up testing” into communities where there is high positivity and where additional COVID testing is needed. The CHC can take testing into congregate sites and congregate housing to provide more testing, Robertson said.

“The other piece that we will use the van to do is, when the vaccine supply gets back online, and when the health system gets to doing community vaccinations … we hope that we can be part of that effort.”

COVID has contributed to a spike in cases of Toronto’s other pandemic: opioid overdoses. Some community members are reluctant to seek care because of the stigma attached to substance abuse; and COVID has a one-two punch for users.

The first rule of substance abuse is, don’t use alone; always be with someone who can respond to a potential overdose, ideally someone who can administer Nalaxone to reverse the effects of the overdose, Robertson said. “It’s substance abuse 101,” and the need for social distancing makes this impossible.

Secondly, COVID has affected the supply chain of street drugs. As a result, they’re being mixed increasingly with “toxic” impurities like Fentanyl that can be deadly.

The van itself is a Mercedes Sprinter, modified by architectural firm éKM architecture et aménagement and builder Zone Technologie, both based in Montréal. According to Car and Driver magazine, the Sprinter line – with 21 cargo models and 10 passenger versions – is “considered by many to be the king of cargo and passenger vans.”

Kanji said the platform was chosen for its reputation for reliability and robustness.

While the configuration is customized for each mobile clinic, it generally consists of two sections: A practitioner’s workstation and a more spacious and private examination room, so patients can receive treatment with privacy and dignity, Kanji said. The Parkdale clinic is 92 square feet.

“While the layouts vary across regions, they typically include an examination table and health practitioners’ workstation, including equipment necessary to provide primary healthcare,” the Telus vice-president of provider solutions wrote in an e-mail interview. The Parkdale Queen West mobile clinic is designed for primary medical services, including wound care, mobile COVID-19 testing and vaccination efforts, harm reduction services, mental healthcare and counseling.

The clinic equipped with an electronic medical record (EMR) from TELUS Health and TELUS LTE Wi-Fi network technology.

Practitioners will be able to collect and store patient data, examine a patient’s results over time, and provide better continuity of care to those marginalized citizens who often would have had undocumented medical histories.

The EMR system is Telus Health’s PS Suite (formerly Practice Solutions). It is an easy-to-use, customizable solution for general and specialty practices that captures, organizes, and displays patient information in a user-friendly way. The solution allows for the electronic management of patient charts and scheduling, receipt of labs and hospital reports directly into the EMR, and personalization of workflows with customizable templates, toolbars, and encounter assistants.

But like others tested for COVID, it’s a 24-48 hour wait for results. Pop-up or not, how does the mobile team get results to patients who have no fixed address?

The CHC set up a centre for testing in a tent at the Waterfront Community Centre. Swabs are sent to the lab. “We are responsible for connecting back with community members and their results,” Robertson said.

“This is the value of having Parkdale Queen West being in front of the testing, because many of the community members who are homeless we know through our other services, and there is some trust in folks either coming to us to make arrangements to collect their results, or we know where they are.”

This is a key element of the program, said Kanji – leveraging community trust. In Vancouver downtown east side, for example, where there is a high concentration of marginalized members of the indigenous community, nurse practitioners are accompanied by native elders in a partnership with the Kilala Lelum Health Centre.

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