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Another Interstellar Comet Has Arrived

“Based on the available observations, the orbit solution for this object has converged to the hyperbolic elements shown below, which would indicate an interstellar origin. A number of other orbit computers have reached similar conclusions, initially D. Farnocchia (JPL), W. Gray, and D. Tholen (UoH).”

Remember ‘Oumuamua, the first interstellar object ever discovered in our solar system? You won’t for long as another one was picked up by multiple observers and reported this week by The Minor Planet Center (MPC) at Harvard University. Unlike ‘Oumuamua, this one is definitely a comet and has been identified earlier enough in its trip through the solar system to be analyzed intensely – possibly revealing where it came from and how astronomers can locate more of them.


“The comet’s current velocity is high, about 93,000 mph [150,000 kph], which is well above the typical velocities of objects orbiting the sun at that distance. The high velocity indicates not only that the object likely originated from outside our solar system, but also that it will leave and head back to interstellar space.”

The BBC reports that object gb00234, now known as Comet C/2019 Q4, was discovered by amateur (but experienced) astronomer Gennady Borisov on August 30th, 2019, at the Crimean Astrophysical Observatory in Bakhchysarai. When he noticed it, C/2019 Q4 was three astronomical units (450 million km) from the Sun. Since then, other astronomers have seen its tail – confirming C/2019 Q4 is a comet – and measured its eccentricity at 3.2, based on current observations. A perfect circle has an eccentricity of 0, while a closed elliptical orbit ranges from 0 to 1. Anything greater than one indicates an arc-shaped trajectory and is likely an interstellar comet or object making a one-time visit. While not confirmed yet, together these make Comet C/2019 Q4 the first ‘true’ comet to visit use from outside our solar system.

Unless it’s a spaceship.

Good point. Anyone?

Karl Battams
Unlike ‘Oumuamua, whose asteroid-or-comet nature still gets debated, this one is definitely a comet. If it is unequivocally interstellar, it’ll be fascinating to see how its composition (spectral properties) compare to the variety we see in comets from our own solar system.

Astrophysicist Karl Battams, from the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington DC, tweeted an end to that comet-asteroid-spaceship-or-what debate which has trailed ‘Oumuamua like a tail (if it had one) since it was discovered hightailing out of here. Comet C/2019 Q4 will have plenty of eyes on it as it will be visible to even low-powered professional telescopes for at least a year, including when it makes its turn around the sun (perihelion) around December 10. However, the MPC leaves an opening for the unusual:

“Absent an unexpected fading or disintegration, [C/2019 Q4] should be observable for at least a year.”

In lieu of seeing windows with aliens waving out of them, an “unexpected disintegration” would be the next coolest thing.

Source: Mysterious Universe


NASA proposes to build mushroom houses on Mars and the Moon

In science fiction, human settlements on Mars and other planets are often presented as futuristic buildings made of metal and glass. However, in reality, the habitat of future colonists may be more “green”, NASA experts believe.

They are developing a technology for growing various structures from fungi, or rather, from mycelium. This is a vegetative body of mushrooms, consisting of thin branched threads.

The principal investigator of the project, astrobiologist Lynn Rothschild notes that for the existing, proposed design solutions for future colonists, transportation of building materials and necessary equipment from Earth will require fabulous costs.

Mushroom houses grown right on the spot are a promising and low-cost alternative.

According to experts, under certain conditions, “colonies” of the thinnest filaments of mycelium are able to be combined into larger structures and create complex structures. For example, fruit bodies of mushrooms or … building blocks .

Petri dish with mycelium growing on artificial soil imitating Martian soil.Photo by NASA / Ames Research Center / Lynn Rothschild.

During a space flight, the mycelium will be “inactive”, and upon arrival to the moon or Mars, it will be possible to literally grow houses, as well as furniture and other necessary items, from it. To do this, mushroom preparations will just need to be filled with water.

Bricks made from mycelium with the addition of wood chips.Photo 2018 Stanford-Brown-RISD iGEM Team.

By the way, back in 2018, the authors of the project demonstrated one of the first prototypes – a mushroom stool. It was grown from mycelium for two weeks, after which it was baked to make a dry and durable piece of furniture.

A stool grown from mycelium in two weeks.Photo 2018 Stanford-Brown-RISD iGEM Team.

As Lynn Rothschild explains, the key to the success of this project was the use of cyanobacteria , which in the process of photosynthesis release oxygen and substances necessary for the growth of mycelium.

According to the researchers, future homes will have a three-layer structure. The outer layer will consist of water ice, which can be mined on the Moon or Mars . It will protect against radiation.

The second layer – from cyanobacteria – will absorb the light passing through the ice. Microorganisms will produce oxygen for humans and nutrients for the last layer – mycelium.

This inner layer will serve as a framework for the “living house”. First, the mycelium will need to be activated for growth in a closed environment (inside the frame), and then bake building blocks.

At the same time, even if some strands of mycelium somehow “escape”, they will not be able to grow. To prevent this, there will be genetic changes introduced by the creators. That is, the mycelium will be viable only in certain conditions created by people.

It is important to note that mycelium can also be used to filter water, extract minerals from wastewater, regulate humidity and even bioluminescent lighting . In addition, houses that can self-heal in case of damage can be created from it.

So far, however, these possibilities are only theoretical: scientists intend to study them in future works.

Also, the authors of the project do not exclude the possibility that one day “mushroom” houses may appear on Earth. This approach will reduce the carbon emissions generated by the construction industry.

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Elon Musk: ‘I will take a million people to Mars by 2050’

Elon musk, the tycoon and businessman, has surprised once again by tweeting that he will take a million people to Mars by 2050.

In several tweets released on Thursday night, the CEO of Spacex, the company that develops cutting-edge rockets, disclosed more details of its plan to colonize Mars.

As previously indicated, Musk said that in theory, 1,000 spaceships could possibly carry 100,000 people in each orbital synchronization of Earth with Mars.

Elon Musk: «I will take a million people to Mars by 2050»
Artistic representation of a city on Mars. Credit: Max Horbatiuk /

According to Musk, the ships would depart from Earth following an orbit in a period of 30 days, taking advantage of the moment when the Earth and Mars are better aligned to make the trip, that is every 26 months.

Musk imagines that these ships will depart from Earth’s orbit for a period of 30 days, the time window when Earth and Mars are better aligned to make the trip, every 26 months.

One million people to Mars

One of the users of Twitter asked Musk, if he thinks he could take a million people to Mars, taking into account the equivalence of years and possible trips; Musk simply answered with a “yes”.

Musk said he will need his rockets to have a large load capacity to meet the goal of building a colony on Mars or on another planet.

Calculations indicate that each ship could support more than 100 tons per flight, resulting in the need that each ship might need one megaton per year in orbit, Musk indicated.

But overcoming the difficult and long journey, and once humans reach the red planet, Musk says that the work will begin.

Musk tweeted:

There will be many jobs to do. ”

Although for now, everything is based on theories and calculations, the engineers of Spacex They must work hard in these missing decades to achieve Elon Musk’s dream goal: colonize Mars.

Source: cnet

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‘A world with two stars’: a teenager discovers an unusual planet while doing internships at NASA

A 17-year-old teenager from New York (USA) discovered a planet while searching for stars as an intern at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the space agency reported this week.

Wolf Cukier, a junior in high school, had received the task of examining variations in the brightness of the stars captured by the Traffic Exoplanet Inspection Satellite (TESS). While exploring a star system located 1,300 light years from Earth, he observed what appeared to be a slight spot on one of the suns of the system called TOI 1338.

“At first I thought it was a stellar eclipse, but the timing was wrong. It turned out to be a planet, ”said Cukier.

“The planet blocked the light of those two stars, which caused a small decrease in the amount of light that reached the telescope. That was what I noticed at the beginning, ”he explained later to CBS.

Difficult to detect

Once he communicated the discovery to his mentors, they spent several weeks verifying his observation. They finally concluded that what he had discovered was a planet 6.9 times larger than ours that orbits around two stars, in what is known as a circumbinary planet.

Because these binary stars orbit each other every 15 days, it was not an easy task to distinguish the transit events from the only known planet in such a system, dubbed TOI 1338-b. Planets that orbit two stars are harder to detect than those that orbit only one.

In this case, the largest star is approximately 10% larger than our Sun, while the smallest, approximately one third of that mass, is colder and dimmer.


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