China Calls Launch a Success as Robotic Spacecraft Heads to Moon | World News

WENCHANG, China (Reuters) – China hailed as a success its pre-dawn launch on Tuesday of a robotic spacecraft to bring back rocks from the moon in the first bid by any country to retrieve lunar surface samples since the 1970s, a mission underscoring Chinese ambitions in space.

The Long March-5, China’s largest carrier rocket, blasted off at 4:30 a.m. Beijing time (2030 GMT on Monday) in a launch from Wenchang Space Launch Center on the southern Chinese island of Hainan carrying the Chang’e-5 spacecraft.

The China National Space Administration (CNSA) called the launch a success and said in a statement that the rocket flew for nearly 37 minutes before sending the spacecraft on its intended trajectory.

The Chang’e-5 mission, named after the ancient Chinese goddess of the moon, will seek to collect lunar material to help scientists understand more about the moon’s origins and formation. The mission will test China’s ability to remotely acquire samples from space, ahead of more complex missions.

State broadcaster CCTV, which ran live coverage of the launch, showed images of CNSA staff in blue uniforms applauding and cheering as they watched the spacecraft climbing through the atmosphere, lighting up the night sky.

If the mission is completed as planned, it would make China only the third country to have retrieved lunar samples, joining the United States and the Soviet Union.

Upon entering the moon’s orbit, the spacecraft is intended to deploy a pair of vehicles to the lunar surface: a lander and an ascender. The landing is due to take place in about eight days, according to Pei Zhaoyu, a spokesman for the mission. The probe is due to be on the lunar surface for about two days, while the entire mission is scheduled to take around 23 days.

The plan is for the lander to drill into the lunar surface, with a robotic arm scooping out soil and rocks. This material would be transferred to the ascender vehicle, which is due to carry it from the surface and then dock with an orbiting module.

The samples then would be transferred to a return capsule for the return trip to Earth, with a landing in China’s Inner Mongolia region.

“The biggest challenges … are the sampling work on the lunar surface, take-off from the lunar surface, rendezvous and docking in the lunar orbit, as well as high-speed re-entry to Earth,” said Pei, also director of the space administration’s Lunar Exploration and Space Engineering Center.

“We can conduct sampling through circumlunar and moon- landing exploration, but it is more intuitive to obtain samples to conduct scientific research – the method is more direct,” Pei added. “Plus, there will be more instruments and more methods to study them on Earth.”

China, which last year carried out the first landing on the far side of the moon and in July of this year launched a robotic probe to Mars, has other space goals in its sights. It aims to have a permanent manned space station in service around

Read more

States certifying results ahead of Electoral College meeting

States have begun certifying their results from the Nov. 3 presidential election in the run-up to the Electoral College meeting in mid-December.

Among the states certifying on Monday was Michigan, where President Donald Trump and his allies tried and failed to delay the process. The vote by a bipartisan state canvassing board in Michigan comes days after certification in Georgia, another hotly contested presidential battleground. Both states and their 16 electoral votes went to Biden.

A total of 16 states have so far certified their results, awarding President-elect Joe Biden 54 of his 306 Electoral College votes and Trump 73 of his 232 votes. Florida is the only one of the four most populous states to certify. Deadlines are early next month for the others: California, Texas and New York.

All states must certify before the Electoral College meets on Dec. 14, and any challenge to the results must be resolved by Dec. 8.

Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico and the District of Columbia, all won by Biden, are scheduled to certify on Tuesday, along with Indiana and North Carolina, which went to Trump.

Vote certification at the local and state level is typically a ministerial task that gets little notice, occurring after local election officials have conducted audits to ensure their vote tallies are accurate.

That changed this year with Trump’s refusal to concede and his unprecedented attempts to overturn the results of the election through a fusillade of legal challenges and attempts to manipulate the certification process in battleground states he lost.

Biden won by wide margins in both the Electoral College and popular vote, where he received nearly 80 million votes, a record.

Source Article

Read more

How to see Jupiter and Saturn align in rare double planet conjunction

  • Jupiter and Saturn will align in the night sky on December 21. It’ll be the closest they’ve appeared in 800 years.
  • The two planets move into alignment, or conjunction, every 20 years. But this year, they will be so close that they’ll look like a “double planet.”
  • The last time Saturn and Jupiter were both this close and visible was in 1226.
  • Here are the best ways to see this conjunction.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Jupiter and Saturn are about to line up perfectly in the night sky — the two planets will get so close on December 21 that they seem to touch. 

The last time they looked this close from Earth’s vantage point was nearly 800 years ago, on March 4, 1226.

An astronomical event in which celestial bodies align is called a conjunction. Since this conjunction involves the two biggest gas giants in our solar system, it’s known as the “great conjunction.” It happens to some degree once every two decades.

“But it is fair to say that this conjunction is truly exceptional in that the planets get very close to one another,” Patrick Hartigan, a professor of physics and astronomy at Rice University, explained on his website.

“In fact, they will be so close it may be a challenge to separate them with the unaided eye for many people,” he added.

Here’s how to see this rare conjunction.

How to view a ‘double planet’

jupiter.hubble

A photo of Jupiter captured by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope on August 25, 2020.

NASA, ESA, STScI, A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center), and M.H. Wong (University of California, Berkeley) and the OPAL team


On the night of the winter solstice, Jupiter and Saturn will be separated by a distance in the sky equal to about one-fifth of a full moon’s the diameter, according to Hartigan. They’ll look like they form a “double planet.”

Of course, the two planets are much farther apart than that — more than four times the distance between Earth and the sun. But to our naked eyes, they’ll look like a single point of bright light.

If you peek through a small telescope, Jupiter and Saturn will appear in the same field of view, along with some of their moons.

jupiter saturn conjunction

How Jupiter and Saturn will appear in a telescope set up in Houston, Texas, on December 21, 2020 as they approach each other in the sky.

Patrick Hartigan/Rice University/Adapted from Stellarium graphics


However, it will be challenging to see this conjunction in the United States, Canada, and Europe, Hartigan said, due to how low it will be on the horizon in the Northern Hemisphere.

“Viewing conditions are best close to the equator, though no matter where you are, there is maybe an hour or so to observe this conjunction before the planets sink into the haze,” he added. 

If you head out around twilight — the hour after sunset — and point your telescope toward the southwestern sky, you can spot the event, Hartigan

Read more

China’s daring mission to grab Moon rocks is underway

A Long March-5 rocket carrying the Chang'e 5 lunar mission lifts off at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in China

A Long March-5 rocket carrying Chang’e 5 lifts off.Credit: Mark Schiefelbein/AP/Shutterstock

A Chinese spacecraft is on its way to the Moon after launching off the coast of Hainan Island, in southern China, this morning at 4:30 AM local time.

Chang’e-5’s mission is to retrieve rocks from the Moon and return them to Earth. If successful, the craft will be the first to collect lunar material in 44 years — and a first for China, ushering in the next phase of its increasingly complex lunar exploration programme. Several Chang’e spacecrafts, which are named after a Chinese Moon goddess, have reached and touched down on the Moon, including landing on its far side.

Chang’e-5 blasted off from Wenchang Satellite Launch Center aboard the Chinese Long March-5 rocket, and began its 800,000 kilometre roundtrip to the Moon, which will take about three weeks.


“I just left the coast after seeing the rocket take off. I was so excited, and tears filled my eyes,“ says Xiao Long, a planetary geologist at the China University of Geosciences in Wuhan. “This will greatly encourage people, especially the younger generation to study and explore the worlds beyond our Earth.“

Clive Neal, a geoscientist at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, says if successful, the mission marks the beginning of a new era of robotic sample returns from the Moon that will undoubtedly change scientists’ understanding of the planetary body. “Now we wait for the samples to be collected and returned.“

The Chinese National Space Administration-led mission is receiving communications support from the European Space Agency to track the spacecraft’s journey through deep space, and on its return to Earth in mid-December.

Change’e-5 weighs some 8,200 kilograms and contains a lander, ascender, orbiter and returner. The craft is expected to arrive at the Moon within days. Once in lunar orbit, the lander and ascender will descend to the Moon’s surface. A couple of hundred metres above ground, the probe will hover and use its camera to survey the surface for any hazards such as large boulders and to identify a safe place for the lander and ascender to touch down.

A model of Chang'e-5 lunar probe

A model of the Chang’e-5 probe on its way to the Moon.Credit: Liang Xu/Xinhua/Alamy

The proposed landing site is a 55,000 square-kilometre area in the north-western region of the expansive lava plains known as Oceanus Procellarum, on the Moon’s near side. The precise location won’t be determined until after Chang’e-5 reaches lunar orbit, but it is likely to be in the eastern area that contains some of the youngest volcanic material, says James Head, a planetary geoscientist at Brown University in Rhode Island.

This area is of particular interest to scientists because it could confirm whether the Moon was still volcanicaly active some one to two billion years ago. The age of the rocks is not yet known, but remote observations of the lunar surface suggest that the rocks are roughly two billion years younger than the lava samples collected by the United States and

Read more

The Silly Debate About Climate Change

Arguments that dispute climate change are ignorant and contrary to geologic history.

To say that climate is always changing, that temperatures were higher during earlier periods of Earth history than today, that higher CO2 levels are good for agriculture, or that deviations from the warming trend invalidate its truth—these are wrong or hopelessly simplistic.

The debate about climate change is silly because it doesn’t matter what we think about it. The effect of the debate is to make one side or the other feel better or worse about what is happening. But climate change is happening whether we like it or not. 

Climate change has been a primary factor in the history and development of human civilization. It caused the earliest migrations out of Africa. It led to the transition from hunter-gather to agricultural society.

The agricultural revolution had nothing to do with technology. It was a climate-change revolution. The agricultural revolution took place when climate stabilized and warmed 12,000 years ago at the beginning of the Holocene Epoch (Figure 1).

Temperatures were warmer, not colder, than today through most of geologic time—until recently. Heating is greater than it was millions of years ago. Long-term temperature has declined because CO2 has decreased—until recently.

CO2 levels were higher than pre-industrial values (278 parts per million) for most of the last 420 million years (Figure 2). In other words, the long-term decrease in CO2 largely compensated for the increase in solar output.

CO2 levels decreased because of the proliferation of land plants that converted it into oxygen. The erosion and weathering of clay minerals in granitic rocks absorbed large volumes of CO2 as the continents evolved. Long-term volcanic activity has declined as the earth has matured limiting the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere from inside the earth.

We must focus on the deviation from these long-term trends over the last 200 years.

Figure 3 shows the same data as in Figure 2 but on a logarithmic time scale to compare more recent earth history with its more distant geologic past.

Among the various projections on the right-hand side of the figure, RCP8.5 represents the “do-nothing” or business-as-usual scenario. It indicates CO2 values by early in the next century that exceed levels from more than 99% of the last 420 million years. A return to unstable climate would make agriculture impossible again.

Regardless of the reliability of this projection or the ultimate causes for the rise of post-industrial CO2 levels, the message is clear.

What lies ahead during the lifetimes of our grandchildren will most probably not be comparable to anything since the development of multi-cellular life on Earth.

Please visit artberman.com/2020/11/21/climate-change-the-great-and-silly-debate/ for a more detailed

Read more

Pinwheel Cave rock art in California may depict hallucinogenic ‘trance flower’

Just before going into a hallucinogenic trance, Indigenous Californians who had gathered in a cave likely looked up toward the rocky ceiling, where a pinwheel and big-eyed moth were painted in red. 



a close up of a painted wall: A digitally enhanced image of the Indigenous pinwheel drawing that researchers made with a technique called D-Stretch.


© Provided by Live Science
A digitally enhanced image of the Indigenous pinwheel drawing that researchers made with a technique called D-Stretch.

This mysterious “pinwheel,” is likely a depiction of the delicate, white flower of Datura wrightii, a powerful hallucinogen that the Chumash people took not only for ceremonial purposes but also for medicinal and supernatural ones, according to a new study. The moth is likely a species of hawk moth, known for its “loopy” intoxicated flight after slurping up Datura‘s nectar, the researchers said.

Chewed globs that humans stuck to the cave’s ceiling provided more evidence of these ancient trips; these up to 400-year-old lumps, known as quids, contained the mind-altering drugs scopolamine and atropine, which are found in Datura, the researchers said.

Related: Trippy tales: The history of 8 hallucinogens

The finding marks “the first clear evidence for the ingestion of hallucinogens at a rock art site, in this case, from Pinwheel Cave, California,” the researchers wrote in the study, published online today (Nov. 23) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The artists probably weren’t high when they drew the rock art, however. “It’s extremely unlikely because of the debilitating effects of Datura,” study lead researcher David Robinson, a reader in archaeology at the University of Central Lancashire in England, told Live Science. Rather, just like religious artwork and objects at a church, these rock paintings were likely “setting the scene,” and helping people about to go into a trance understand the flower’s power and the shared tradition of taking the hallucinogen in that particular cave, he said.

Coming of age ceremony

Archaeologists first learned about the rock paintings in 1999, when workers at Wild Wolves Preserve, a nature preserve about 90 miles (145 kilometers) northeast of Santa Barbara, found a pinwheel and insect painted with ochre, a reddish mineral used in cave art around the world. 

At first glance, the 4-inch by 7-inch (10.5 by 17 centimeters) pinwheel drawing doesn’t look much like a Datura flower, but any botanist would tell you otherwise. Datura, also known as jimsonweed and angel trumpet, unfurls at dusk and dawn when insects pollinate it, but during the heat of the day it twists up. It’s possible this cave painting features an “opening Datura flower,” the researchers wrote in the study.

Researchers already knew that the Chumash people used Datura for ceremonies and in everyday life, according to historic descriptions from missionaries and anthropological work. Historians think Datura was used to “gain supernatural power for doctoring, to counteract negative supernatural events, to ward off ghosts, and to see the future or find lost objects, but, most especially, as a mendicant for a variety of ailments,” the researchers wrote in the study. It was also put in a tea called toloache for a

Read more

Keeping up with canceled and postponed games due to COVID-19

The college basketball season will get underway in earnest this Wednesday, Nov. 25, but it’s already faced a few snags in the process. Some teams have already been forced to postpone, cancel or reschedule matchups because of COVID-19 outbreaks, and as recently as Monday, some multi-team events are taking hits as well.



SIOUX FALLS, SD - MARCH 24: A general view of Sanford Pentagon prior to the Division II Men's Basketball Championship held on March 24, 2018 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Ferris State University defeated Northern State University 71-69. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)


© Provided by CBS Sports

SIOUX FALLS, SD – MARCH 24: A general view of Sanford Pentagon prior to the Division II Men’s Basketball Championship held on March 24, 2018 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Ferris State University defeated Northern State University 71-69. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)


The most notable team directly affected this week is Duke, which was expected to open its season Wednesday against Gardner-Webb. Gardner-Webb, though, had a positive COVID-19 test within its program, and Duke has opted to postpone the game. The Blue Devils will open their season on Saturday against Coppin State instead.

Elsewhere, preseason No. 2 Baylor is dealing with the virus at the top of its program. Bears coach Scott Drew announced over the weekend that he tested positive, and as a result, the Bears are out of the loaded field of the Empire Classic this week at Mohegan Sun.

As developments continue to unfold, we’ll be tracking all the latest news and notes surrounding scheduling snafus below in our tracker.

Notable postponements or cancellations

Nov. 25 Central Arkansas Crossover Classic
Nov. 25 Gardner-Webb Duke
Nov. 25 Arizona State Arizona
Nov. 25 Creighton Crossover Classic
Nov. 25 Western Illinois DePaul
Nov. 25 Florida UMass Lowell
Nov. 25 Texas A&M Crossover Classic
Nov. 26 Baylor Arizona State
Nov. 26 Jackson State Ole Miss
Nov. 26 Creighton Crossover Classic
Nov. 26 Texas A&M Crossover Classic
Nov. 27 Arkansas State Ole Miss
Nov. 27 Baylor Empire State Classic
Nov. 27 Virginia Florida
Nov. 27 Creighton Crossover Classic
Nov. 27 Texas A&M Crossover Classic
Nov. 28 Chicago State DePaul
Dec. 1 Alcorn State DePaul
Dec. 5 Ole Miss Memphis
Continue Reading

Source Article

Read more

Dinosaurs were doing just fine until the asteroid hit, new research says

dinosaur-asteroid

NASA’s depiction of the asteroid that ended the time of the dinosaurs.


NASA/JPL-Caltech

A study out of London’s Natural History Museum suggests most dinosaurs were “flourishing” before the asteroid hit and wiped them out. While other studies have hypothesized that mercury poisoning or even flowers killed the dinosaurs before the asteroid could, this new study published Nov. 18 aims to disprove that “dinosaurs were already on the decline and heading towards extinction.”

“What we found is that the dinosaurs were still dominant, they were still widespread and still doing really well,” said Joe Bonsor, a PhD student who contributed data to the study published in the Royal Society Open Science journal. “If the asteroid impact had never happened then they might not have died out and they would have continued after the Cretaceous.”

Previous research has drawn conclusions from a lack of fossils, claiming it shows a decline in dinosaurs. But Bonsor says there’s not enough data to be strong enough evidence that dinosaurs were dying out. “The only way to know for sure is to fill in the gaps in the fossil record,” he added.

The new study says that right up until the end of the Cretaceous period, several diverse species of herbivores — hadrosaurs, ceratopsians, ankylosaurs and titanosaurs — as well as predators including tyrannosaurs and abelisaurs were dominant across Americas and the globe. 

“This all builds to show a picture in which these ancient animas were not seemingly in decline and were still in fact the main component of most land-based ecosystems,” the museum said. 

The study, spotted earlier by CNN, follows scientists at the University of Texas at Austin last year saying they found “hard evidence” of the asteroid that killed off dinosaurs. That research shows the asteroid caused wildfires and tsunamis after hitting with the impact of 10 billion WWII-era atomic bombs.

Source Article

Read more

Michigan formally certified its Electoral College votes for Biden, another blow to Trump’s attempt to overturn the election results



a car parked in a parking lot: Motorists participate during a drive-by rally to certify the presidential election results near the Capitol building in Lansing. Paul Sancya/AP


© Paul Sancya/AP
Motorists participate during a drive-by rally to certify the presidential election results near the Capitol building in Lansing. Paul Sancya/AP

  • Michigan’s four-member Board of State Canvassers voted on Monday to formally certify the state’s 16 Electoral College votes for President-elect Joe Biden.
  • Democrats Jeanette Bradshaw and Julie Matuzak and Republican Aaron Van Langevelde voted to certify, while Republican Norman Shinkle abstained. 
  • The board heard over three hours of testimony and public comments from current and former election officials, party officials, and members of the public before taking a vote on certification. 
  • Michigan’s statewide certification marks the president’s latest failure in overturning his electoral defeat.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Michigan’s four-member Board of State Canvassers voted on Monday to formally certify the state’s 16 Electoral College votes for President-elect Joe Biden, marking President Donald Trump’s latest failure overturn election results in key states. 

Biden won Michigan by 156,643 votes — a margin of 2.8 percentage points — over Trump, according to Decision Desk HQ. That result far surpasses the 10,704 vote margin by which Trump carried Michigan in 2016. 

After hearing over three hours of testimony from election and campaign officials, and members of the public, three members of the board — the minimum threshold required – voted to certify the results.

Both Democratic board members, Chairwoman Jeanette Bradshaw and Julie Matuzak, as well as Republican Aaron Van Langevelde voted in favor of certification. Republican Norman Shinkle abstained.

If the board had deadlocked along partisan lines, the matter would have immediately gone to the courts, which could then have ordered the board to certify the results, CNN reported.

A number of current and former election officials, including former state elections director Chris Thomas, former Detroit elections director Daniel Baxter, and former Board of State Canvassers member Jeff Timmer, testified in support of the board certifying the election.

Video: Wayne County Board of Canvassers member, “I’m confident that the election will be certified” (MSNBC)

Wayne County Board of Canvassers member, “I’m confident that the election will be certified”

UP NEXT

UP NEXT

Current officials who were in favor of the move included the state’s Bureau of Elections director Jonathan Brater, Detriot City Clerk Janice Winfrey, Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope, Ingraham County Clerk Barb Byrum, and Livonia City Clerk Susan Nash. 

Laura Cox, representing the state Republican Party, and former GOP Senate candidate John James’ attorney, Charles Spies, testified in opposition and asked the board to delay certification pending further review of what they described as abnormalities in reporting of votes and exclusion of Republican poll observers. 

Van Langevelde appeared skeptical of arguments from GOP lawyers that the law gives the Board of State Canvassers authority to independently request audits and further review the results of the election before certification. A candidate can only request a recount after certification. 

“We can agree to disagree, but I think the law is on my side here,” Van Langevelde told Spiers, the James’ campaign lawyer. “Our duty

Read more

China launches mission to bring back moon samples

By Sam McNeil | Associated Press

WENCHANG, China — China launched an ambitious mission on Tuesday to bring back material from the moon’s surface for the first time in more than 40 years — an undertaking that could boost human understanding of the moon and of the solar system more generally.

Chang’e 5 — named for the Chinese moon goddess — is the country’s boldest lunar mission yet. If successful, it would be a major advance for China’s space program, and some experts say it could pave the way for bringing samples back from Mars or even a crewed lunar mission.

The four modules of the Chang’e 5 spacecraft blasted off at just after 4:30 a.m. Tuesday (2030 GMT Monday, 3:30 p.m. EST Monday) atop a massive Long March-5Y rocket from the Wenchang launch center along the coast of the southern island province of Hainan.

The typically secretive administration had previously only confirmed the launch would be in late November. Spacecraft typically take three days to reach the moon.

The mission’s key task is to drill 2 meters (almost 7 feet) beneath the moon’s surface and scoop up about 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) of rocks and other debris to be brought back to Earth, according to NASA. That would offer the first opportunity for scientists to study newly obtained lunar material since the American and Russian missions of the 1960s and 1970s.

The Chang’e 5 lander’s time on the moon is scheduled to be short and sweet. It can only stay one lunar daytime, or about 14 Earth days, because it lacks the radioisotope heating units to withstand the moon’s freezing nights.

The lander will dig for materials with its drill and robotic arm and transfer them to what’s called an ascender, which will lift off from the moon and dock with the service capsule. The materials will then be moved to the return capsule to be hauled back to Earth.

The technical complexity of Chang’e 5, with its four components, makes it “remarkable in many ways,” said Joan Johnson-Freese, a space expert at the U.S. Naval War College.

“China is showing itself capable of developing and successfully carrying out sustained high-tech programs, important for regional influence and potentially global partnerships,” she said.

In particular, the ability to collect samples from space is growing in value, said Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Other countries planning to retrieve material from asteroids or even Mars may look to China’s experience, he said.

While the mission is “indeed challenging,” McDowell said China has already landed twice on the moon with its Chang’e 3 and Chang’e 4 missions, and showed with a 2014 Chang’e 5 test mission that it can navigate back to Earth, re-enter and land a capsule. All that’s left is to show it can collect samples and take off again from the moon.

“As a result of this, I’m pretty optimistic that China can pull this off,” he said.

The mission is among China’s boldest since

Read more