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Double Meteor Showers to Dazzle July and August Skies

The skies will delight stargazers with overlapping meteor showers towards the end of the month.

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(TMU) – While July started off with a penumbral eclipse of the Full Buck Moon, weather permitting, the skies will delight stargazers with overlapping meteor showers towards the end of the month when the Alpha Capricornids and the Delta Aquarids both peak from Tuesday evening, July 28 into Wednesday morning, July 29.

The moon will be 66% full at the time which could slightly dampen the brightness of the ‘shooting stars’, but there could be around 20 shooting stars per hour, increasing the odds of seeing quite a few.

The Alpha Capricornids, are active from July 3 through August 15, 2020. The radiant lies in a blank area between the constellations of Capricornus.

Although these showers are not particularly strong and rarely produce more than five showers per hour, they are known to produce bright fireballs during its active periods.

With good visibility from both sides of the equator, the alpha Capricornids peak will be during the night of July 28 and morning of July 29.

The delta Aquarids will be active from July 12 to August 23, 2020 and radiate from near the star Skat or Delta in the constellation Aquarius, the Water Bearer.

The radiant is located lower in the southern sky and from the northern hemisphere resulting in fewer rates than seen from the southern hemisphere.

These meteors are usually faint without persistent trails and fireballs but do produce good rates for a week centered on the night of maximum. The delta Aquarids peak with the alpha Capricornids on the night of July 28 and the morning of July 29.

The Perseids, the most popular meteor shower, joins the party from July 17 to August 26, 2020, peaking  in the northern hemisphere and reaching a strong maximum on August 12 or 13 where the showers will vary from 50-75 per hour at their maximum.

The Perseids, from where the meteors seem to radiate, is named after the constellation of Perseus the hero, and are particles released from the comet 109P/Swift/Tuttle.

The Perseids will peak on the night of August 11 and the morning of August 12, 2020 with the moon 47% full.

To get the most out of watching meteor showers you definitely need a clear and dark sky, away from the glow of city lights, so gather some friends and head for the countryside if you are able to.

Take something warm to wear, a blanket to lie on. Between midnight and dawn is the best time. And make sure you look towards the east.

Make sure you turn off all lights, including mobile phones and allow your eyes to adjust to the dark. Allowing yourself a 20 to 30 minute adjustment time should do the trick. Don’t use binoculars or a telescope as they will limit your field of vision.

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Chinese Military Satellite Smashed by Russian Rocket in “Major Confirmed Orbital Collision”

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In an incident that is likely illustrative of things to come, Chinese military satellite 1-02 was smashed after it appears to have collided into the debris from a disintegrating Russian rocket.

The collision, which occurred earlier this year, shows the increasing danger of space junk such as satellite parts and other miscellaneous jetsam littering the Earth’s orbit. An estimated 8,000 metric tons of space debris pose the risk of destroying functional equipment such as weather forecasting systems, telecoms and GPS systems – and even manned space travel missions – if the problem isn’t reined in.

The fate of the Chinese satellite was uncovered by Harvard astrophysicist and satellite tracker Jonathan McDowell.

The breakup of Yunhai 1-02 was initially reported by the U.S. Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron (18SPCS). However, it wasn’t until recently that McDowell found out what caused the breakup.

The astrophysicist soon found that it was destroyed by space junk that originated from a Russian Zenit-2 rocket that had launched a spy satellite in 1996. On Aug. 14, McDowell found a strange entry in a database on Space-Track.org: “Collided with satellite.”

 “This is a new kind of comment entry — haven’t seen such a comment for any other satellites before,” McDowell tweeted.

“A quick analysis of the TLEs show that Yunhai 1-02 (44547) and [the debris object] passed within 1 km of each other (so within the uncertainty of the TLEs) at 0741 UTC Mar 18, exactly when 18SPCS reports Yunhai broke up,” he added, noting that this “looks to be the first major confirmed orbital collision in a decade.”

However, the Yunhai satellite still remains functional and is transmitting radio signals, notes Space.com.

The incident shows the growing likelihood of such collisions in the high-traffic, littered near-Earth orbital zone.

“Collisions are proportional to the square of the number of things in orbit,” McDowell explained. “That is to say, if you have 10 times as many satellites, you’re going to get 100 times as many collisions.”

He added: “So, as the traffic density goes up, collisions are going to go from being a minor constituent of the space junk problem to being the major constituent. That’s just math.”

A worst-case scenario of such collisions is known as the “Kessler Syndrome,” and describes the possibility of one collision setting in motion a chain of collisions. Such a disaster was the premise of the 2013 film “Gravity.”

One hopes that things don’t reach that point.

In the meantime, however, there have been a number of initiatives meant to tackle the growing problem of space debris, such as the ELSA-d spacecraft launched in a demonstration mission earlier this year.

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Scientists Find Possible New Signs of Alien Life on Saturn’s Icy Moon

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A new study suggests that Saturn moon Enceladus, which is covered in an icy crust, could be a great place for life to exist.

New evidence collected by NASA’s retired Cassini spacecraft offers tantalizing details on the chemical makeup of the water plumes erupting from Enceladus.

The heavy amount of methane – a gas associated with life on Earth – suggests that underneath the icy crust of Enceladus, there could be a huge ocean of briny water potentially teeming with life.

The new study by researchers from the University of Arizona and Paris Sciences & Lettres University also found that there was a relatively high concentration of molecules of dihydrogen and carbon dioxide.

“We wanted to know: Could Earthlike microbes that ‘eat’ the dihydrogen and produce methane explain the surprisingly large amount of methane detected by Cassini?” asked University of Arizona associate professor and lead author of the study Prof. Regis Ferriere.

Scientists have long speculated that conditions on Enceladus, with its subsurface ocean and sources of warmth, could be conducive to the development of living creatures.

However, one possible explanation for the chemical composition of water on Enceladus could be the existence of microbes on the Saturn moon.

“In other words, we can’t discard the ‘life hypothesis’ as highly improbable,” Ferriere noted. “To reject the life hypothesis, we need more data from future missions.”

Confirmation of the “life hypothesis” will likely remain elusive for the foreseeable future.

“Searching for such microbes, known as methanogens, at Enceladus’ seafloor would require extremely challenging deep-dive missions that are not in sight for several decades,” Ferriere said.

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Stunning New Images Show Glowing Auroras on Mars

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A new probe from the UAE to study the atmosphere of Mars has captured never-before-seen images of a night time aurora on the Red Planet.

The UAE’s Hope Mars mission was meant to study the Martian atmosphere over the course of the year across the totality of its layers. However, before its actual scientific mission began, it managed to snap the shots of the extremely brief phenomenon, reports Space.com.

In images released on Wednesday, the auroras stand out clearly as bright flashes against the pitch-black night sky.

The chance discovery – which wasn’t even a part of the probe’s formal mission – shows the exciting finds other nations’ space programs are capable of finding.

“They’re not easy to catch, and so that’s why seeing them basically right away with [Emirates Mars Mission] was kind of exciting and unexpected,” said Justin Deighan, the deputy science lead of the mission and a planetary scientist at the University of Colorado.

“It’s definitely something that was on our radar, so to speak, but just looking at our first set of nighttime data and saying, ‘Hey, wait a second — is that? — it can’t be — it is!’ — that was a lot of fun,” he added.

On Earth, auroras or “northern lights” are the result of electrons surfing across the electric field during geomagnetic storms, causing atmosphere particles to ionize and create the colorful and dazzling light shows.

On Mar, similar auroras seem unrestricted by the north and south poles and happen across the rest of the planet.

This is because the magnetic atmosphere isn’t aligned like a bar magnet, as it is on Earth.

Rather, the Martian magnetic more resembles a situation where “you took a bag of magnets and dumped them into the crust of the planet,” Deighan told the New York Times.

“And they’re all pointed different ways,” he said. “And they have different strengths.”

This results in solar wind particles firing off in different directions, causing interactions with molecules and atoms across the Red Planet’s upper atmosphere and triggering the aurora.

The Mars Hope team hopes the discovery can lead to fresh insights on how the planet’s atmosphere interacts with solar activity.

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