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Scientists Say There May Be a New Dwarf Planet in Our Solar System

A rock once believed to be the fourth-largest asteroid in our solar system may actually be a dwarf planet.

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New Dwarf Planet
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(TMU) — A giant rock once believed to be the fourth-largest asteroid in our solar system could, in fact, be a dwarf planet due to its spherical shape.

Named Hygiea and located in the main asteroid belt lying between Mars and Jupiter, it could be the smallest such dwarf planet in our entire solar system.

Such a reclassification would mean that Hygiea, which measures at just over 280 miles in diameter, is smaller than the previously identified dwarf planet Ceres, which lies in the same rocky belt and was previously considered the smallest.

New research published Monday in Nature Astronomy, however, reveals that Hygiea has characteristics resembling a planet, particularly due to its shape, size, origin, and rotation.

Hygiea had previously been discovered by Italian astronomer Annibale de Gasparis as far back as 1849 but has seldom been studied. However, the new study led by astronomer Pierre Vernazza from the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille in France has shed new light on the celestial object, thanks in no small part to the European Space Agency’s SPHERE instrument on the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in the Atacama Desert of Chile.

The new data has convinced astronomers to upgrade Hygiea to a dwarf planet, which the International Astronomical Union (IAU) defines as an object orbiting a star—such as the sun—that is large enough to be surrounded by its own gravity, yet lacks the gravitational dominance to keep the “neighborhood” around its orbit clear by slinging away or consuming the many smaller objects that get in its path.

It must also have been molded by its own gravity into a round, or nearly round, shape.

One example would be Pluto, which was controversially downgraded to a dwarf planet in 2006 after the IAU reworked its criteria for what constitutes a fully-fledged planet.

In addition to Ceres and Pluto, three other dwarf planets in our solar system are known—Eris, Haumea and Makemake.

In a statement quoted by CNN, Vernazza said:

“Thanks to the unique capability of the SPHERE instrument on the VLT, which is one of the most powerful imaging systems in the world, we could resolve Hygiea’s shape, which turns out to be nearly spherical.

Thanks to these images, Hygiea may be reclassified as a dwarf planet, so far the smallest in the Solar System.”

This all came as a great surprise to astronomers when they began to study Hygiea, which they believed would have shown large impact craters that would have constituted evidence of a huge collision. But instead, all they could identify were two small craters—meaning that Hygiea wasn’t simply another asteroid belonging to the other 7,000 or so asteroids in the belt.

What this means is that Hygiea has an entirely different origin story. Using their data, the researchers used a computer simulation to test the theory that Hygiea and the other asteroids were the result of a huge collision between two massive celestial bodies, which is thought to have occurred roughly two billion years ago.

Once the collision occurred, Hygiea was formed through the leftover pieces while all of the other debris became its thousands of companion asteroids, according to the team.

Vernazza commented:

“Thanks to the VLT and the new generation adaptive-optics instrument SPHERE, we are now imaging main belt asteroids with unprecedented resolution, closing the gap between Earth-based and interplanetary mission observations.”

By Elias Marat | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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Animals

Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida

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A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.

Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.

In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.

“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.

Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.

Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.

Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.

Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.

However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.

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Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son

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A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.

The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.

The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.

“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.

“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.

The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.

The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.

“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.

The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.

The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.

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Video Shows Taliban Taking Joyride in Captured US Blackhawk Helicopter

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The rapid fall of Kabul to the Taliban has resulted in a number of surreal sights – from footage of the Islamist group’s fighters exercising at a presidential gym to clips of combatants having a great time on bumper cars at the local fun park.

However, a new video of Taliban members seemingly testing their skills in the cockpit of a commandeered UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter shows the chilling extent to which U.S. wares have fallen into the hands of a group it spent trillions of dollars, and exhaustive resources, to stamp out.

In the new video, shared on Twitter, the front-line utility helicopter can be seen taxiing on the ground at Kandahar Airport in southeastern Afghanistan, moving along the tarmac. It is unclear who exactly was sitting in the cockpit, and the Black Hawk cannot be seen taking off or flying.

It is unlikely that the Taliban have any combatants who are sufficiently trained to fly a UH-60 Black Hawk.

The helicopter, which carries a $6 million price tag, is just a small part of the massive haul that fell into the militant group’s hands after the country’s central government seemingly evaporated on Aug. 14 amid the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops.

Some 200,000 firearms, 20,000 Humvees and hundreds of aircraft financed by Washington for the now-defunct Afghan Army are believed to be in the possession of the Taliban.

The firearms include M24 sniper rifles, M18 assault weapons, anti-tank missiles, automatic grenade launchers, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.

Taliban fighters in the elite Badri 313 Brigade have been seen in propaganda images showing off in uniforms and wielding weaponry meant for the special forces units of the Afghan Army.

The U.S. is known to have purchased 42,000 light tactical vehicles, 9,000 medium tactical vehicles and over 22,000 Humvees between 2003 and 2016.

The White House remains unclear on how much weaponry has fallen into Taliban hands, with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan admitting last week that the U.S. lacks a “clear picture of just how much missing $83 billion of military inventory” the group has.

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