Canadian Fossils & Yutu Rover | SciByte 120

Canadian Fossils & Yutu Rover | SciByte 120

We take a look at a new Canadian fossil site, protecting spacecraft with cave pigment, a picture worth a billion stars, spacecraft updates, Curiosity news, and as always take a peek back into history and up in the sky this week.

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Amazing New Canadian Fossil Site

  • Scientists say that a new treasure trove of fossils chiseled out of a canyon in Canada\’s Kootenay National Park rivals the famous Burgess Shale, the best record of early life on Earth
  • Burgess Shale Fossil Quarry
  • The Burgess Shale refers to both a fossil find and a 505-million-year-old rock formation made of mud and clay
  • Burgess Shale fossil quarry, a UNESCO World Heritage site located in Yoho National Park, is in a glacier-carved cliff in the Canadian Rockies.
  • The fossils were discovered in 1909. Since then, several other fossil sites have been found in the Burgess Shale, but none as rich as the original.
  • The fossils are extraordinary because they preserve soft parts of ancient animals in exceptional detail, soft parts are less likely to be imprinted in stone than harder parts, like bones
  • More than 200 animal species have been identified at the 1909 fossil site
  • New Site
  • The new site is also in the Burgess Shale formation, and seems to rival the 1909 original in fossil diversity and preservation
  • In just two weeks, the research team collected more than 3,000 fossils representing 55 species, fifteen of those species are new to science.
  • There is a high possibility that they will eventually find more species here than at the original Yoho National Park site, and potentially more than from anywhere else in the world
  • The Fossils
  • The new fossils were spotted in a mountain cliff, in Marble Canyon, about 42 km [26 miles] southeast of the original Burgess Shale site
  • The newly discovered rocks are probably about 100,000 years younger than those at the first Burgess Shale site
  • Many of the fossils at the new site are better preserved than their quarry counterparts
  • The new fossils reveal the internal organs of several different arthropods, the most common type of animal in both the new and old Burgess Shale locations.
  • Retinas, corneas, neural tissue, guts and even a possible heart and liver were found and is the first time we\’re seeing these details
  • Species
  • About half of the 55 species discovered at Marble Canyon so far are also found at the original Burgess Shale site
  • Some of the original site\’s rare species are more abundant in the canyon
  • Some species at Marble Canyon are also found in China\’s Chengjiang fossil beds, which are 10 million years older than the Burgess Shale
  • Until now, researchers thought these Cambrian animals went extinct by the time the Burgess Shale formed.
  • Their discovery in Canada means that many Cambrian life forms were more widespread and longer-lived than previously thought
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube | Burgess Shale | Royal Ontario Museum
  • Gallery Amazing Cambrian Fossils from Canada\’s Marble Canyon | LiveScience
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • \’Mother Lode\’ of Fossils Discovered in Canada | Scientific American


Prehistoric Cave Pigment Protects ESA Solar Probe

  • Burnt bone charcoal, also used in prehistoric cave paintings, will be used by scientists in the titanium heat shield of European Space Agency\’s Solar Orbiter spacecraft.
  • ESA Solar Orbiter
  • The Solar Orbiter, due to launch in 2017, will carry a range of instruments in order to conduct high-resolution imaging of the Sun
  • It will orbit slightly more than a quarter of the distance to Earth, where the temperatures will be as high as 520* C [968* F]
  • The main body of the spacecraft takes cover behind a heat shield
  • The Shielding
  • \”To go on absorbing sunlight, then convert it into infrared to radiate back out to space, its surface material needs to maintain constant \’thermo-optical properties\’ – keep the same colour despite years of exposure to extreme ultraviolet radiation\” | Andrew Norman, a materials technology specialist
  • The shield cannot shed material or outgas vapour, because of the risk of contaminating Solar Orbiter\’s highly sensitive instruments
  • \”It also has to avoid any build-up of static charge in the solar wind because that might threaten a disruptive or even destructive discharge\” | Andrew Norman, a materials technology specialist
  • The engineers ruled out carbon fiber fabric, their first choice, as it is a light polymer.
  • The CoBlast Technique
  • One company makes titanium medical implants, they use the CoBlast technique that is best suited for reactive metals like titanium, aluminium and stainless steel, basically metals that have a surface of oxide layer.
  • They spray the metal surface with abrasive material to grit-blast this layer and also include a second \’dopant\’ material possessing whatever characteristics are needed
  • The simultaneous sprays takes the place of the oxide layer being stripped out,
  • The new layer gets bonded and effectively becomes a part of the metal. The company will apply \’Solar Black\’, to the outer titanium sheet of the probe\’s multi layered heatshield
  • Solar Black is a type of black calcium phosphate that is developed from burnt bone charcoal.
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • ESA\’s Solar Probe to be Protected Using Prehistoric Cave Pigment |


Billion Star Map

  • A new European spacecraft tasked with mapping a billion stars in the night sky has beamed its first picture back to Earth.
  • Gaia Spacecraft
  • Gaia launched into space on Dec. 19 and it will spend five years studying the precise positions, motions and properties of 1 billion stars in the Milky Way
  • It will measure physical characteristics of the stars, including their brightness, temperature and chemical makeup, with the goal of creating the most accurate 3D map to date of our home galaxy
  • Gaia has two telescopes that can stare out at two different patches of the sky simultaneously that feed data to the camera
  • The camera, is the highest-resolution image sensor ever flown in space with about 1 billion pixels.
  • Gaia will measure an average of 2 million stars per hour, or about 50 gigabytes of data each day and will eventually compile more than million gigabytes of data (about 200,000 fully loaded DVDs)
  • Of Note
  • The first test image only covers an area less than 1 percent of Gaia\’s full field of view
  • Although it will be able to capture all one billion of its targets during its first six months in operation, the spacecraft will measure each of its stars an average of 70 times throughout the course of its five-year mission
  • Counting 1 star a second it would take around 31 years 8 months.
  • Multimedia
  • YouTube | Inside Gaia\’s billion-pixel camera | European Space Agency, ESA
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • ESA Science & Technology: Gaia
  • Europe\’s Billion-Star Mapping Spacecraft Snaps 1st Photo |


China’s Lunar Yutu Rover

  • Last Time on SciByte …
  • sciByte 111 | Yutu Launch | Memories & International Spacecraft | December 3, 2013
  • SciByte 113 | Yutu Landing | Aquifers & Brain Plasticity | December 17, 2013
  • SciByte 115 | Yutu Wakes Up on Second Lunar Day | Sleep Apnea & Heart Defect Treatments | January 14, 2014
  • The Malfunction
  • As night fell on Jan. 25, the rover entered its second two week long period of dormancy just as the rover “experienced a mechanical control abnormality,” according to a report by China’s official government newspaper, The People’s Daily.
  • The cause of the pre-hibernation malfunction may perhaps be traced back to a buildup of abrasive lunar dust, but no one knows at this time.
  • At that time experts were concerned that it might not be able to survive the extremely low temperatures during the lunar night
  • Each lunar day and night lasts for alternating periods of 14 Earth days
  • During each long night, the Moon’s temperatures plunge dramatically to below minus 180 Celsius, or minus 292 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Failure to Call Home
  • On Monday, Feb. 10, when daylight returned to the rovers Moon landing site at Mare Imbrium (Sea of Rains) at the start of what would have been Lunar Day 3 for the mission.
  • At the time it was thought that Yutu froze to death due to a pre-hibernation mechanical malfunction and failed to wake up and communicate with China’s mission controllers
  • The rover was reported to have been lost after it failed to communicate with Chinese mission controllers, and various media outlets around the world filed an obituary for the lunar rover after Xinhua reported its alleged death
  • The apparently unfortunate and sad breaking news was reported in an ultra brief dispatch by the English language version of Chinadaily – with the headline “Loss of lunar rover.”
  • Signals Found
  • On Feb. 12 amateur radio operators at UHF-satcom reported detection of a signal from Yutu.
  • On Feb 13 China\’s state news agency, Xinhua, reported that the rover had recovered from its previous non-responsive state and is now fully awake and able to receive signals | China\’s lunar program spokesman Pei Zhaoyu told Xinhua
  • On Feb 10th some nice signals were detected from the Lunar Lander but nothing from the Lunar Rover, at that time several news outlets report that the Rover has had a failure after its Lunar sleep, and that it was not expected to become alive again
  • The radio group UHF Satcom thought that it was thought possible to hear any command uplink signals and searched for the various downlink frequencies for signs of life from the \’dead\’ Lunar Lander
  • On Feb 12th there was no evidence that a communications session with the Lunar Lander was not progressing and nothing was heard
  • They did however reveal another huge signal, this time an uplink to the Lunar Rover – China was attempting to talk it back into life
  • Immediately the dual band converter was switched and to everyone\’s surprise, the Lunar Rover was in full chat mode, the Rover had survived and was not dead after all
  • On Feb 13 China\’s state news agency, Xinhua, reported that the rover had recovered from its previous non-responsive state and is now fully awake and able to receive signals | China\’s lunar program spokesman Pei Zhaoyu told Xinhua
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • China\’s Jade Rabbit Lunar Rover Comes Back to Life After Malfunction |
  • – Chang\’e 3 & Yutu reception
  • Earth Bids China\’s Yutu Moon Rover Farewell Forever! |
  • China\’s Yutu Moon Rover Alive and Awake for 3rd Lunar Day of Exploration despite Malfunction |



Looking back

  • Feb 20, 1937 : 77 years ago : Car airplane : The first a successful automobile-airplane combination was complete and ready for testing.The first flight took place the next day, 21 Feb 1937. Built by the Westerman Arrowplane Corporation of Santa Monica, Cal., the vehicle was dubbed the Arrowbile, and claimed a top airspeed of 120 mph and 70 mph on a highway. Designed by aeroengineer Waldo Dean Waterman (1894-1976), it evolved from the prototype Arrowplane, a project to design a simple, easy to fly, low cost airplane. The Studebaker Corporation, which supplied the 100 hp engines, eventually took delivery of five Arrowbiles

Looking up this week

  • Keep an eye out for …
  • Wed, February 19 | after 11pm | Around the time the Moon rises in the in the E-SE you will be able to see Mars and Spica to its right
  • Thurs, February 20 | dawn | The waning Moon will be in the south with Saturn to its left. Off to their right are Mars and Spica
  • Planets
  • Venus | Is visible before and during dawn to the SE. It\’s at its brightest this week.
  • Mars | 10-11pm | Rises in the SE, with Spica 5-6* to its right. The two are their highest point about 1.5 hours before dawn with Spica now to the lower right
  • Jupiter | Is high southeast in early evening, crosses nearly overhead (for skywatchers at mid-northern latitudes) around 8 or 9 p.m. and sets in the West before dawn
  • Saturn | 12-1 am | Rises around midnight or 1 a.m. and is highest in the south at the beginning of dawn. By then it\’s far to the left of Mars and Spica
  • Morning / Evening
  • Morning | 1.5 hours pre dawn, Mars/Spica high in the S. Venus is rising in the SE with Jupiter setting in the W
  • Evening | Jupiter rises in the SE

  • Further Reading and Resources

  • Sky&Telescope
  • For the Southern hemisphere:
  • Constellations of the Southern Hemisphere :
  • Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand :
  • AstronomyNow
  • HeavensAbove

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