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‘Visitor’ Maple Leafs double up on Canadiens at tune-up in Toronto

Morgan Rielly had a goal and two assists, Alexander Kerfoot scored twice, and the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-2 in their exhibition matchup Tuesday as the NHL’s restart to its pandemic-hit 2019-20 season got into full swing.

Ilya Mikheyev had the other goal for the Leafs, who got 28 saves from Frederik Andersen. Tomas Tatar and Paul Byron replied for the Canadiens. Carey Price stopped 19 shots for Montreal.

The Canadiens open their best-of-five qualifying round series against the heavily-favoured Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday — the first day the games will truly matter — before the Leafs do the same 24 hours later against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Mikheyev, who suffered a gruesome wrist laceration in late December, scored just 33 seconds into his first game back inside an cavernous Scotiabank Arena as the league resumed action without fans after shuttering operations in mid-March because of COVID-19.

Kerfoot made it 2-0 at 6:46 of the second when he roofed a rebound after Kasperi Kapanen was stopped on a shorthanded breakaway.

WATCH | Hockey is finally underway:

After a 138-day hiatus because of COVID-19, the NHL season has returned with exhibition games ahead of the official puck drop on Aug. 1. Players, fans and officials are hoping that the league’s bubble strategy can keep the pandemic out. 2:01

Tatar got one back for Montreal with 3:04 left in the second on a power play off a nice feed from Nick Suzuki, but Kerfoot tipped Rielly’s shot past Price late in the period to make it 3-1. Leafs rookie Nick Robertson, who was making his NHL debut after a 55-goal season in the Ontario Hockey League, picked up the second assist.

Byron made it 3-2 at 8:07 of the third, but Rielly restored the two-goal lead 1:22 later with Toronto’s second shorthanded goal of the night.

The first-ever July meeting in the franchises’ 103-year rivalry, things were made even stranger by the fact Montreal was designated as the home team and occupied the Leafs’ dressing room at Scotiabank Arena. Toronto, meanwhile, wore its road whites and used the visitors bench for the first time in the building’s 21-year history.


Roughly a dozen rows of seats up from the glass were tarped off in the spectator-less venue, while eight separate screens were suspended from the ceiling, adding a video game-like feel as both teams played a game for the first time in 140 days.

While television viewers were treated to artificial crowd noise, media seated in the upper bowl could hear almost every word uttered on the ice — including a couple of expletives — which is why the NHL has implemented a five-second delay on broadcasts. One particularily loud curse word bellowed in the second period, however, got past censors.

Music blared as the players, who are staying inside the NHL’s tightly-controlled bubble that includes the Fairmont Royal York a short walk away, hit the ice for warmups with only journalists, arena employees and league staff looking on. One member of the Leafs let out a giant “wooooo,” while Toronto winger Mitch Marner kept up his pre-game tradition by pretending to throw a puck over the glass to an imaginary fan after warmups.

WATCH | Rob Pizzo previews Leafs vs. Blue Jackets:

In part 3 of 10, Rob Pizzo breaks down the Leafs, and the now healthy Blue Jackets 1:18

Players from both teams stood side-by-side on the blue line for the national anthem as a show of solidarity with social justice movements which, like the pandemic, have been front of mind since hockey was last played in North America.

The Eastern Conference clubs are situated in the Toronto hub as part of the 24-team restart, while the West has been centralized in Edmonton.

With the Canadiens designated as the home side, Coldplay’s “Fix You” rang out around the building as the teams took to the ice before Mikheyev finished off a 2-on-1 with John Tavares on the game’s first shot.

Among the extensive healthy and safety measures, cleaning crews wiped down both benches between periods, while trainers and the maintenance crews wore masks. Independent media members, who are outside the league bubble, were spaced out in the third level and underwent temperature checks upon arrival at the arena.

WATCH | Rob Pizzo previews Canadiens vs. Penguins:

Can Carey Price help the Habs pull off a huge upset over the Penguins? Rob Pizzo breaks down their chances.  1:17

There was barely any contact in the only exhibition contest for both teams until Toronto defencemn Jake Muzzin thumped Montreal winger Alex Belzile to the ice early in the second. Belzile, who has never played an NHL regular-season or playoff game, left for the locker room and did not return.

The offensively-loaded Leafs looked disjointed much of the night, but neither team was helped by sloppy ice conditions in the second game of the day in humid Toronto.

Montreal was all but buried as the NHL’s 24th-ranked team when the schedule was suspended 4½ months ago because of the virus, but was handed a lifeline when the league settled on a 24-team restart plan. Toronto sat in a playoff spot, but because it sat outside the top-4 in the conference, has to go through Columbus to make the usual 16-club playoff bracket.

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Was Interstellar Visitor ‘Oumuamua Torn Apart by a Star?

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You might remember ‘Oumuamua, the very first interstellar visitor astronomers ever detected in our solar system. This object is almost certainly not an alien spaceship, but it does have an extremely bizarre elongated shape. Now, researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the University of California, Santa Cruz have put forth a hypothesis that could explain how ‘Oumuamua got to be so weird

Astronomers spotted ‘Oumuamua in October 2017 when it was already on its way out of the solar system. Its orbit and high speed confirmed it could not have come from any source inside our solar system, but it was impossible for any spacecraft to catch up to the mysterious space rock. Long-distance observations confirmed ‘Oumuamua was about 1,300 feet (400 meters) in length and just a few hundred feet wide. The scientific community went back and forth on whether ‘Oumuamua was an asteroid or a comet, eventually settling on a very, very old comet that doesn’t produce a visible coma of vaporized material. 

That didn’t explain how this icy hulk from beyond the stars acquired its spindly shape. The new analysis suggests that ‘Oumuamua could be a result of “extensive tidal fragmentation” in its home solar system. Tidal interactions are the result of high gravity on comparatively small objects. For example, the high gravity of Jupiter causes tidal heating in some of its moons. Tidal interactions also famously ripped comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 into pieces before it collided with the planet in 1992.

The simulations developed for the new study show that tidal stresses from a star’s gravity could fracture an object like a comet or asteroid, imparting enough energy to eject the fragments from the system. The melted chunks would stretch into an elongated shape as they swing around the star. Moving away from the star would allow the fragments to cool and retain that stretched-out shape as they floated into interstellar space. 

‘Oumuamua (center) as seen in October 2017.

This is just a hypothetical simulation, but it would explain more than ‘Oumuamua’s unusual shape. The researchers note that heat diffusion during the tidal interaction would consume large amounts of volatile materials. That could explain ‘Oumuamua’s surface coloration and the lack of a coma. 

It didn’t take long after the discovery of ‘Oumuamua for scientists to spot a second interstellar traveler — 2I/Borisov appeared in the sky in fall 2019, looking like a very typical comet. This is probably just the beginning. With better technology, we’ll find more of these objects, allowing us to better understand their origins.

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A Second Interstellar Visitor Is Approaching Our Solar System

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In 2017, an interstellar object named ‘Oumuamua shot through our own solar system. It was the first time we’d ever detected an interstellar object passing through the solar system, and its unusual shape recalled the artificial vessel in Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama science fiction novel. Now, an amateur Ukrainian has spotted an object zooming through our solar system that’s been confirmed as a comet — and one unlikely to be captured by the sun.

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GIF by NASA / JPL / Caltech

Comet C/2019 Q4 (Borisov), discovered by Gennady Borisov, is probably our second interstellar visitor after ‘Oumuamua. Scientists can already detect the coma — the fuzzy trail of ice and dust that spins off the comet as it approaches the sun and begins to melt. And unlike ‘Oumuamua, C/2019 Q4 is still on approach to Earth. While it won’t get closer than 180 million miles, it won’t reach that point until December 7. We’ve got more time to observe this ancient visitor, and there are hopes that we may detect clues about its origin from the coma of debris it sheds. We didn’t detect ‘Oumuamua until it was already on its way out of our solar system, but C/2019 Q4 (Borisov) got picked up on earlier approach.

“This is the first highly active object that we’ve seen coming in from something that formed around another star,” Michele Bannister, an astronomer at Queen’s University Belfast, told National Geographic.

We should be able to monitor C/2019 Q4 for a year as it makes its way into and out of the solar system. The eccentricity of C/2019 Q4 suggests that it’s a one-time visitor to our solar system. While comets can exist on the outside of the solar system until nudged into orbits that fling them sunward, the eccentricity of these orbits tends to be low. According to Davide Farnocchia, of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at JPL:

The comet’s current velocity is high, about 93,000 mph [150,000 kph], which is well above the typical velocities of objects orbiting the sun at that distance. The high velocity indicates not only that the object likely originated from outside our solar system, but also that it will leave and head back to interstellar space.

Comets like C/2019 Q4 aren’t really unique — there are an estimated 10,000 pieces of interstellar debris in orbit between here and Neptune at any given time — but this material is tiny and extremely difficult to see. Identified pieces of incoming interstellar objects are far rarer. We don’t have detailed photos of the comet yet because the current nucleus is so small, between 1.2 – 10 miles in diameter. It should be visible with mid-powered telescopes through April 2020, but will only be observable with professional telescopes after that date. By October 2020, C/2019 Q4 should fade from view — assuming, of course, that it isn’t something altogether different.

Remember: The Ramans do everything in threes.*

* – But seriously, it’s just a comet.

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Interstellar Visitor ‘Oumuamua Came From 1 of 4 Nearby Stars

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Last year, astronomers spotted an object from beyond the stars. There have surely been many interstellar visitors to our humble solar system over the eons, but this is the first one we’ve been able to study as it passed through. ‘Oumuamua is a slender, cigar-shaped comet that could have come from almost any nearby star. However, scientists have pinned down the four most likely origins for ‘Oumuamua.

The scientific community announced the discovery of ‘Oumuamua in late 2017. By that point, it was already on its way out of the solar system after slingshotting around the sun. It entered the solar system going 15.8 miles per second (25.5km/s), and it’s going even faster now. Combined with an orbital eccentricity of 1.20, there’s no doubt it came from another solar system.

The high speed makes it impossible to catch up to ‘Oumuamua, so it’s been difficult to characterize it. Scientists first labeled it a comet, but the lack of a visible coma made everyone think it wasn’t one. Earlier this year, analysis of its path through space confirmed it was outgassing like a comet. It’s just a “mildly active comet.” We also know it’s probably not a spaceship.

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute have used data from the ESA’s Gaia satellite to calculate possible paths for ‘Oumuamua all the way back to nearby stars. The Gaia satellite is a star-mapper with data on some seven million stars. Since stars drift through the cosmos over time, you can’t draw a straight line from ‘Oumuamua to its origin point. However, the team did identify four stars which would have been very close to its path in the last several million years.

All four possible origins are dwarf stars. The one with the closest location and velocity correlation to ‘Oumuamua is HIP 3757. It’s a red dwarf about 81 light years distant. A million years ago, it would have been within two light years of ‘Oumuamua’s path. Next up is HD 292249. It’s a yellow dwarf like the sun and currently sits about 135 light years away. It was within a few light years of ‘Oumuamua’s projected path 3.8 million years ago. The other two stars had potential encounters with ‘Oumuamua 1.1 and 6.3 million years ago, but they didn’t match as closely as the first two.

This analysis is based on the second data set from the Gaia spacecraft. Another release in 2021 should provide velocity data on many more stars, which could lead to a more precise identification of ‘Oumuamua’s origin.

Now read: Breakthrough Listen Launches Unprecedented Effort to Find AliensJapanese Probe Drops Off Robots on Asteroid’s Surface, and NASA: Gas Giant Ejected ‘Oumuamua Into Interstellar Space

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Our First Interstellar Visitor May Have a Violent Past

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Scientists are still puzzling over a mysterious object dubbed ‘Oumuamua detected by the Pan-STARRS (Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System) observatory last year. Researchers confirmed that ‘Oumuamua was the first interstellar visitor ever discovered, but it was moving too fast for anyone to get a close look at it. Still, scores of instruments were turned toward the alien asteroid to gather study its size, trajectory, and even check to make sure it wasn’t actually an alien spacecraft (it’s not). Now, a new analysis suggests that ‘Oumuamua may have extremely violent origins.

When it was first discovered, astronomers thought 1I/2017 U1 ‘Oumuamua (as it’s now officially known) would turn out to be a comet. We’d always assumed the first interstellar object would be a comet ejected from the Oort cloud at the very edge of another solar system. ‘Oumuamua turned out to be a rock of truly bizarre measurements. It’s roughly cigar-shaped with a width of about 30 meters and a length of 200 meters. Most asteroids in our solar system are lumpy and potato-shaped.

One of the many observations of ‘Oumuamua occurred at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland. There, researchers charted the changes in ‘Oumuamua’s brightness over time. In a newly published paper, the team says the data shows ‘Oumuamua isn’t just tumbling but tumbling “chaotically.” That’s another marked difference compared with asteroids native to our solar system, which tend to rotate in an orderly fashion — they have a principal axis of rotation.

The researchers can’t know the cause of ‘Oumuamua’s tumbling, but they speculate it’s the result of the impact that ejected it from its home solar system. It may have been part of a larger object that was splintered, accounting for its unusual shape. A model of ‘Oumuamua based on the Queen’s University data indicates that ‘Oumuamua will continue its chaotic tumbling for billions of years.

The team’s observations also suggest that ‘Oumuamua has a very complex composition. Most of the surface appears to be the color of dirty snow, and there’s a large red spot on one side. This could point to very different conditions in its home solar system, wherever that is.

Research on ‘Oumuamua will continue appearing over the coming months and years, but there won’t be any new data. Our interstellar visitor is already nearing the orbit of Jupiter on its way out of the solar system at 38.3 kilometers per second (23.8 miles per second).

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No Radio Signals Found Emanating From Interstellar Visitor

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Scientists have studied plenty of asteroids and comets — the ESA even landed a spacecraft on one. However, the mysterious object known as ‘Oumuamua is something new. It’s from someplace outside of our solar system, the first such object ever detected. It’s moving too fast to be studied closely, but scientists from the Breakthrough Listen project announced a plan to make sure it wasn’t a spaceship. Having checked, you can probably guess at the outcome. ‘Oumuamua isn’t an alien craft, but it is a really strange asteroid.

Astronomers working at the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) facility in Hawaii discovered ‘Oumuamua about two months ago. It has an orbital eccentricity of 1.20, so it’s 20 percent past the sun’s escape velocity. No object that originated in our solar system could reach such a high rate of speed, even gravity slingshots from large planets like Jupiter.

It’s certainly a distinctive object thanks to its extra-solar origins, but the rock itself seems to be quite unusual as well. It’s cigar-shaped with a length of 180-400 meters and a width of just 30 meters. Astronomers first thought ‘Oumuamua was a comet, based on what we know of solar system formation. However, it doesn’t have a coma of dust and gas. So, it’s an asteroid, but a weird one — all the asteroids in our solar system are lumpy and potato-shaped. That led Breakthrough Listen to announce its plan to observe ‘Oumuamua for 10 hours across four radio bands.

The Green Bank Telescope used by Breakthrough Listen.

Breakthrough Listen has announced that ‘Oumuamua is completely quiet based on last week’s observations. The team is still analyzing the data, but there’s little reason to hold out hope this object is a messenger from a distant civilization. In addition to dashing our science-fiction hopes, Breakthrough Listen reports it also scanned portions of the radio spectrum that could indicate the presence of a coma, just to make sure. According to Andrew Siemion from Breakthrough Listen’s UC Berkeley laboratory, “Oumuamua is most likely an asteroid, ejected from its host star in some chaotic event billions of years ago, and finding its way to our solar system by chance.”

‘Oumuamua is currently swinging through the solar system at 38.3 kilometers per second (23.8 miles per second). It’ll pass the orbit of Jupiter next year, and by the mid-2020s it will pass into the Kuiper Belt. That’ll be the last we ever see of our first known interstellar visitor — an asteroid, not a spaceship — as it speeds out into deep space.

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Scientists Just Discovered Our First Known Interstellar Visitor And It’s Pretty Weird

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Just over a month ago, scientists working on the Pan-STARRS (Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System) observatory at Haleakala, Hawaii caught a glimpse of something truly extraordinary: the first known interstellar object to pass through the solar system. Over the past month, we’ve refined observations and detailed what we could make of the object. Now known as 1I/2017 U1 ‘Oumuamua, it’s the first object of its kind. The “I” denotes its interstellar origin (ISO).

‘Oumuamua plunged into the solar system as if dropped into it from above, closing to within 0.25 AU from the sun. That puts it between the orbit of the sun and Mercury, but there was no hint of a “tail” as ‘Oumuamua approached. On its initial approach from “above” the solar system, the asteroid was moving at a solid 15.8 miles per second (25.5km/s). It bottomed out “under” the solar system after the sun’s gravity pulled it into a different orbit, and is now on its way back out of the solar system on a different trajectory and an even higher speed (44km/s).

`Oumuamua is rapidly fading as it heads out of the Solar System and recedes from both the Sun and the Earth, so getting new observations as fast as possible was crucial. “The IfA team — including those who discovered 1I — was already prepared to rapidly follow up solar system discoveries from Pan-STARRS, which is operated by the IfA and funded by NASA,” said Karen Meech, the astronomer who led the investigative team. “We were able to rapidly develop a follow-up strategy on a very short timescale. It is exciting to think that the brief visit by `Oumuamua gave us the opportunity to do the first characterization of a sample from another solar system.”

Based on its observed characteristics, ‘Oumuamua is roughly cigar shaped, with two of its axes about 80 meters across and the third 800 meters long. Its trajectory and speed suggest it’s not an ejected fragment of our own solar system at any previous stage in its development. While this possibility cannot be completely ruled out, the research team seems to think it’s a distant possibility. In fact, they theorize that its encounter with our own sun may have been the first time ‘Oumuamua encountered another star at all.

The entire encounter, brief as it has been, reminds us of Arthur C. Clarke’s classic sci-fi book, Rendezvous with Rama, in which a massive cylindrical spacecraft on a fast approach inside our own solar system is explored by humans before it continues on its journey towards the Large Magellanic Cloud. We won’t see ‘Oumuamua again, but its brief visit to our solar system expanded our understanding of the cosmos, just a bit.

Feature image by ESO/M. Kornmesser .

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