Lunar Monolith

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Hayabusa2 Returns Asteroid Samples to Earth

On Saturday, Japan’s Hayabusa2 space probe dropped off a capsule holding two samples from an asteroid. The capsule fell to Earth in Australia, where it was quickly recovered. It’s only the second time asteroid samples have been brought back to Earth.

The samples came from Ryugu, an asteroid about 185 million miles (300 million kilometers) away. Last year, the Hayabusa2collected two separate samples from the 4.6-billion-year-old asteroid.

As the capsule fell to Earth, it briefly turned into a bright fireball. As it got closer to Earth, a parachute slowed the capsule so it could hit the ground safely.

The monolith was first discovered November 18 by officers from the Utah Department of Public Safety's Aero Bureau. Lunar eclipse will be visible during the full beaver moon this weekend. A small Monolith appears before Heywood Floyd in 2061 on board the Galaxy spacecraft. He nicknames it 'Minilith' for its small size compared to other observed Monoliths. At the end of the book it is explained that Halman used the Minilith to replicate Heywood Floyd's consciousness to help him uncover the Monolith's operations.

Japan’s space agency, JAXA, used the capsule’s special radio signal to track it to its landing spot. In about two and a half hours, the capsule had been located and collected by helicopter.

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As the capsule fell to Earth, it briefly turned into a bright fireball. As it got closer to Earth, a parachute slowed the capsule so it could hit the ground safely. In about two and a half hours, the capsule had been located and collected by helicopter.

JAXA is racing the capsule back to Japan, hoping to get it to a lab before any Earth air can leak in and touch the samples. The scientists hope the samples will tell them more about the beginning of the solar system and perhaps even the beginning of life.

Chang’e 5 Returning to Earth With Moon Samples

On November 23, China launched its Chang’e 5 moon mission. Now it’s returning to Earth with the lunar samples it collected earlier this week.

On December 1, the Chang’e’s lander and ascent vehicle touched down on the moon’s surface. The lander collected lunar soil and rock samples from the surface, as well as drilling down two meters into the moon to collect other samples.

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On December 1, the Chang’e’s lander and ascent vehicle touched down on the moon’s surface. The lander collected lunar soil and rock samples from the surface, as well as drilling down two meters into the moon to collect other samples (above).

After about 19 hours on the moon’s surface, the ascent vehicle boosted the lander up off the moon again. On Saturday, the ascent vehicle docked with the orbiter, which was orbiting above the moon while the lander was at work on the surface.

The mission is now headed back to Earth and is expected to land in Mongolia in late December. If the mission succeeds, China will become the third country to bring back lunar samples.

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After about 19 hours on the moon’s surface, the ascent vehicle boosted the lander up off the moon again (above). The mission is now headed back to Earth and is expected to land in Mongolia in late December.

The last lunar samples were collected over 40 years ago. China’s samples should be quite different from the earlier samples, since they were collected in a different place and in a different way.

Buzz aldrin monolith moon

Monoliths Appear and Disappear Around the World

In late November, a strange “monolith”, or metal column, was discovered in the middle of the desert in Utah. No one seemed to know exactly when, why, or how the monolith got there. The US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) said it didn’t belong on public land.

Terraria lunar monolithMonolith

Just a few days afterward, BLM reported that the monolith had disappeared. Later, it was reported that the monolith was removed by four men in the middle of the night.

Next, another metal monolith was discovered. This one was on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, in Piatra Neamt, Romania. The monolith in Romania was on protected land. But soon, that one, too, disappeared.

Last Wednesday, another metal monolith was discovered on a mountain near Atascadero, California. Unlike the other monoliths, this one was not planted firmly in the ground. On Thursday, it was knocked down and dragged off by vandals.

Lunar Monolith

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Blood moon monolith

Scottie Andrew, CNN

Utah

Published at Updated at

(CNN) — That shining, eerily symmetrical silver monolith found in the Utah desert has everyone screaming “ET.” The truth is likely far more terrestrial.

We still don’t know who made the tall, metal rectangle or why they stuck it among the red rocks, where it was discovered this week in a helicopter flyover by Utah Department of Public Safety employees (they were counting bighorn sheep).

And though comparisons were quickly drawn to the fictional monoliths of film auteur Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” we can safely say this real-life monolith was not the work of aliens.

Still, it’s a fittingly mystifying symbol in a year that’s often felt stranger than fiction. And while we may eventually learn more about the artwork’s origin, any piece of Kubrick-inspired art should leave some questions unanswered, said I.Q. Hunter, a film scholar and De Montfort University professor.

“The Utah work is a slice of the future set in a prehistoric past, absolutely alien and incomprehensible in the landscape,” he told CNN. “It would be a pity if we discovered what the Utah sculpture was, as that would lessen its mystery.”

Who made it?

We still don’t know. No artist has publicly claimed it, and when Utah officials stumbled upon it, it was unmarked.

But we can safely assume the artist was not an alien — humans are clearly capable of building rectangular pieces of art, said Jason Wright, a professor of astrophysics at Pennsylvania State University and the director of the university’s Extraterrestrial Intelligence Center.

“This monolith is clearly the sort of thing humans can (and do!) make, in a place where humans go,” Wright told CNN. “Indeed, desert art is common in the American Southwest, so I don’t see any reason to think it’s anything other than that.”

While it clearly resembles the monoliths of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” it’s also reminiscent of minimalist artworks popularized in the 1960s by artists like Donald Judd and Robert Morris, Hunter said.

And if “2001: A Space Odyssey” had never entered the public consciousness, Hunter said, we likely would never have questioned whether a simple geometric figure was placed on Earth by extraterrestrial life forms.

Still, Hunter said, the fact that it was hidden in the wild is bizarre.

Why is it in the Utah desert?

Hunter has a theory — parts of “2001” were filmed in Monument Valley, along the Arizona-Utah border, he said, so it’s possible the artist wanted to honor the film and place the real life monolith in a similar locale.

And in the film, the monolith was usually out of place — in prehistoric Earth and buried on the Moon, Wright said. And like the fictional monoliths, this one certainly cuts a harsh, industrial figure against the rugged red rocks.

What does it mean?

Like all great, puzzling art, it’s up for interpretation. Because no artist has claimed it, people are dreaming up their own explanations (read: aliens).

Whatever its intended meaning may be, the silver quadrilateral has been widely interpreted as an homage to the monoliths in Kubrick’s film. Onscreen, the monoliths were large black rectangles that acted as a sort of beacon or communication device. It elevated the consciousness of all who touched it and drove evolution forward, Hunter said.

As far as we know, touching the monolith did not have the same effect on Department of Public Safety employees who investigated it by standing on each other’s shoulders. But, as in the film, it’s a deceptively simple object whose meaning has left critics divided.

The Department of Public Safety in Utah didn’t respond to CNN’s request for comment. It has not yet revealed its plans for the figure. However, in a news release issued on Monday, the state’s public safety department said it is illegal to place works of art on federally managed public lands. That means the monolith could be removed.

“The Bureau of Land Management will be determining if they need to investigate further,” according to the news release.

Hunter said he thinks the monolith should remain among the rocks in all its confounding glory.

“It’s a great homage and it should retain its mystery.”

If it stays there, confusing bighorn sheep and visitors alike, it could become a pilgrimage for fans of the film.

Lunar Monolith

Hunter also said he’s still holding out hope that aliens will claim it as their own.

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