NASA expert identifies mystery object once thought an asteroid

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The jig may be up for an “asteroid” that’s expected to get nabbed by Earth’s gravity and become a mini moon next month. Instead of a cosmic rock, the newly discovered object appears to be an old rocket from a failed moon-landing mission 54 years ago that’s finally making its way back home, according to NASA’s leading asteroid expert. Observations should help nail its identity.

“I’m pretty jazzed about this,” Paul Chodas told The Associated Press. “It’s been a hobby of mine to find one of these and draw such a link, and I’ve been doing it for decades now.”

Chodas speculates that asteroid 2020 SO, as it is formally known, is actually the Centaur upper rocket stage that successfully propelled NASA’s Surveyor 2 lander to the moon in 1966 before it was discarded. The lander ended up crashing into the moon after one of its thrusters failed to ignite on the way there. The rocket, meanwhile, swept past the moon and into orbit around the sun as intended junk, never to be seen again — until perhaps now.

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This September 20, 1966, photo provided by the San Diego Air and Space Museum shows an Atlas Centaur 7 rocket on the launchpad at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Convair/General Dynamics Astronautics Atlas Negative Collection/San Diego Air and Space Museum via AP


A telescope in Hawaii last month discovered the mystery object heading our way while doing a search intended to protect our planet from doomsday rocks. The object promptly was added to the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center’s tally of asteroids and comets found in our solar system, just 5,000 shy of the 1 million mark.

The object is estimated to be roughly 26 feet based on its brightness. That’s in the ballpark of the old Centaur, which would be less

How Andrea Ghez Won the Nobel for an Experiment Nobody Thought Would Work

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Standing in my office 25 years ago was an unknown, newly minted astronomer with a half-smile on her face. She had come with an outrageous request—really a demand—that my team modify our exhaustively tested software to make one of our most important and in-demand scientific instruments do something it had never been designed for, and risk breaking it. All to carry out an experiment that was basically a waste of time and couldn’t be done—to prove that a massive black hole lurked at the center of our Milky Way.

My initial “no way” (perhaps I used a stronger expression) gradually gave way in the face of her cheerful but unwavering determination. It was my first encounter with a force of nature, Andrea Ghez, one of three winners of this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics, for her work on providing the conclusive experimental evidence of a supermassive black hole with the mass of four million suns residing at the center of the Milky Way galaxy.

That determination and the willingness to take calculated risks has always characterized Andrea. For 25 years she has focused almost exclusively on Sagittarius A*—the name of our own local supermassive black hole. It is remarkable that an entire field of study has grown up in the intervening quarter century, of searching for and finding evidence of these monsters thought to lie at the heart of every large galaxy. And Andrea is without question one of the great pioneers in this search.

Andrea’s co-prizewinner Reinhard Genzel has been involved in the same research from the outset—and it is the work of these two teams, each led by a formidable intellect and using two different observatories in two different hemispheres that has brought astronomy to this remarkable result—the confirmation of another of the predictions of Einstein’s more than

Bitcoin Exchange BitMEX Is In Even Worse Trouble Than Thought

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The bitcoin and cryptocurrency world was rocked last week by news U.S. authorities had levied charges against major bitcoin and crypto exchange BitMEX and its leadership team.

BitMEX executives Arthur Hayes, Benjamin Delo and Samuel Reed were indicted by the U.S. government on October 1, accused of flouting U.S. banking laws while serving American customers.

Now, in a further blow to the controversial Seychelles-based bitcoin and cryptocurrency exchange, the influential blockchain data company Chainalysis has branded BitMEX a “high-risk” exchange—with external data showing investors have removed almost 50,000 bitcoin tokens from BitMEX since last week.

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On Monday this week, Chainalysis warned its clients that BitMEX, which rose to prominence throughout bitcoin’s massive 2017 bull run and was up until recently the largest bitcoin-derivatives exchange, would be considered a “high risk exchange” from October 13.

“Any transfers from October 1 and later should be considered high risk,” Chainalysis told clients in an email that was first reported by bitcoin and cryptocurrency news and analysis outlet The Block, adding BitMEX transfers will trigger alerts for those using the Chainalysis monitoring tool.

The Chainalysis warning compounds data from blockchain analytics firm Glassnode that shows around 45,000 bitcoin tokens have been withdrawn from BitMEX since the start of the month, representing a 27% drop in the total bitcoin on the exchange.

“On Friday 2 October, the day after the announcement, BitMEX saw its largest ever day of net outflows as investors rushed to remove their funds

Larger part of the Amazon at risk of crossing tipping point than previously thought — ScienceDaily

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A larger part of the Amazon rainforest is at risk of crossing a tipping point where it could become a savanna-type ecosystem than previously thought, according to new research. The research, based on computer models and data analysis, is published in the journal Nature Communications.

Rainforests are very sensitive to changes that affect rainfall for extended periods. If rainfall drops below a certain threshold, areas may shift into a savanna state.

“In around 40 percent of the Amazon, the rainfall is now at a level where the forest could exist in either state — rainforest or savanna, according to our findings,” says lead author Arie Staal, formerly a postdoctoral researcher at the Stockholm Resilience Centre and the Copernicus Institute of Utrecht University.

The conclusions are concerning because parts of the Amazon region are currently receiving less rain than previously and this trend is expected to worsen as the region warms due to rising greenhouse gas emissions.

Staal and colleagues focused on the stability of tropical rainforests in the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania. With their approach they were able to explore how rainforests respond to changing rainfall.

“By using the latest available atmospheric data and teleconnection models, we were able to simulate the downwind effects of disappearance of forests for all tropical forests. By integrating these analyses over the entire tropics, the picture of the systematic stability of tropical forests emerged,” says Obbe Tuinenburg, former assistant professor at the Copernicus Institute of Utrecht University and visiting scientist at the Stockholm Resilience Centre.

The team explored the resilience of tropical rainforests by looking at two questions: what if all the forests in the tropics disappeared, where would they grow back? And its inverse: what happens if rainforests covered the entire tropical region of Earth?

Such extreme scenarios could inform scientists

First burial of its kind in mid-Thames region suggests it was more important than previously thought — ScienceDaily

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Archaeologists have uncovered a warrior burial in Berkshire that could change historians’ understanding of southern Britain in the early Anglo-Saxon era.

The burial, on a hilltop site near with commanding views over the surrounding Thames valley, must be of a high-status warlord from the 6th century AD, archaeologists from the University of Reading believe.

The ‘Marlow Warlord’ was a commanding, six-foot-tall man, buried alongside an array of expensive luxuries and weapons, including a sword in a decorated scabbard, spears, bronze and glass vessels, and other personal accoutrements.

The pagan burial had remained undiscovered and undisturbed for more than 1,400 years until two metal detectorists, Sue and Mick Washington came across the site in 2018.

Sue said: “On two earlier visits I had received a large signal from this area which appeared to be deep iron and most likely not to be of interest. However, the uncertainty preyed on my mind and on my next trip I just had to investigate, and this proved to be third time lucky!”

Sue, who along with other members of the Maidenhead Search Society metal detecting club had visited the site several times previously, initially unearthed two bronze bowls. Realising the age and significance of the find, she stopped digging and the Club, in line with best practice, registered this discovery with the Portable Antiquities Scheme. (PAS).

The PAS Finds Liaison Officer for Buckinghamshire undertook a targeted excavation to recover the very fragile bronze vessels and, in the process, recovered a pair of iron spearheads suggested that the context was likely to be an Anglo-Saxon grave.

Thanks to their actions, the bowls and spearheads were identified and conserved, and following Sue’s generous donation, are soon to go on display at Buckinghamshire Museum in Aylesbury.

Recognising the importance of the burial and the need for more