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Canadian research survey for Black university students and postdocs in STEMM
For: Women in SETT/Professionals

Canadian research survey for Black university students and postdocs in STEMM

Dr. Tamara Franz-Odendaal from Mount Saint Vincent University, the Canadian Black Scientists Network, and Canada Research Chair Dr. Jennifer Adams, are studying the experiences of Black university students and postdocs in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and Medicine/Health Sciences) in Canada.

The survey takes 20-40 minutes to complete, and eligible participants will be entered into a draw for a $25 Amazon gift card (1 drawn for every 50 respondents). Want to participate? You can fill out the survey here: 

This study has been reviewed and approved by the Mount Saint Vincent Research Ethics Board (REB 2021-013)

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2021 Girls Get WISE Science Summer Camps
For: Teachers/Parents For: Women in SETT/Professionals

2021 Girls Get WISE Science Summer Camps

WISEatlantic has been busy this summer welcoming back campers to our Girls Get WISE Science Summer Camps. Following our virtual camps last year, we were eager to get girls back in the lab!

Our two Junior camps gave participants the chance to assume their roles as biologists-in-training and raise zebrafish for the week. As well as learning about the ins-and-outs of zebrafish development, participants enjoyed other STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) activities, including making aluminum foil boats, designing social media posts to inform others about important science topics, and exploring the psychology behind motivation and group work.  

Our Senior camps always intend to expand participants’ interest beyond the biology lab, and this year was no different! We spent the week observing the Sun (safely!) through telescopes with solar filters, making usable algae strings, learning about sleep and dreams, and creating art using cabbage juice as a pH indicator. Campers also got to learn how to spot fake news when browsing the web, and helped Citizen Science by tracking pollinators in our area.  

All of our camps featured role model sessions where participants got to learn about various STEM careers, including necessary schooling, what a day-in-the-life looks like, and what skills will help them be successful in those careers. Some of our role models’ fields of work included Aerospace Engineering, Environmental Science, Genetic Counselling, Registered Dietetics, and Bat Research.  

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Partnerships Program - Success Stories
For: Students For: Teachers/Parents For: Women in SETT/Professionals

Partnerships Program - Success Stories

The WISEatlantic Partnerships Program is an opportunity for community organizations in Atlantic Canada to receive a small one-year sponsorship for projects that promote the outreach, recruitment, and retention for girls, young women, and industry professionals in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

In 2020/2021 WISEatlantic granted Fundy Geological Museum a sponsorship to host the Paleontologist for a Weekend Camp. Twenty-one girls participated over the course of two camps in September, which gave participants the opportunity to explore what being a paleontologist is like. Some of the activities included a trip to the Fundy fossil research site, sieving for fossils, using digital microscopes, and preparing fossil casts. Providing campers with the chance to engage in every-day paleontology activities involved the combination of both art and science, in addition to encouraging critical thinking skills. Fundy Geological Museum intends on hosting the camps again in the future.  

Diversity of Nature was another recipient of the Partnerships Program sponsorship. Funding went towards hosting two 3-day field camps that brought thirty participants in grades 10-12 together to engage in numerous workshops lead by female scientists. Some of the topics covered included mycology and plant diversity, taxonomic identification, microorganisms and microscopes, and plant pigments and extraction. Additionally, workshops were held on BIPOC leadership and environmental racism, and Indigenous ecological knowledge. Furthermore, Diversity of Nature reached a total of 544 youth from K-12 with a diverse array of STEM programming. More programming is expected in the new year! 

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Engineers and Scientists are Everyday People!
For: Students For: Teachers/Parents For: Women in SETT/Professionals

Engineers and Scientists are Everyday People!

Over the last few years I have had the opportunity and honor of interviewing and photographing amazing Atlantic Canadian women in the STEM fields for a WISEatlantic project called the “Career Spotlight Booklet Series”. I say honor, as I was blown away by the talent these women emulated. Each one of them made me feel welcomed (even though I thought I would be intimated!) and all were excited to share with me their educational and career experiences and triumphs.

To date, I have completed two books in the series, “Women in Science” and “Women in Engineering” and presently in the process of completing “Indigenous Women in STEM”.  You can find these two booklets on the WISEatlantic website, on the resource page, and they have also been distributed to some schools in Atlantic Canada.

A common theme throughout the interviews was the fact that if you don’t know what you want to do right now, don’t worry!  You can always change directions.  Just do “something” and the rest will follow, and if you do change your mind, that’s okay too!  For instance, one woman I interviewed never intended to be a professor as she thought she was an introvert and hated speaking in front of people, but she found once she had the expertise and experience she became more confident.

Another common theme was that you may think you want to do one thing but may end up doing something completely different and unrelated and that’s okay also.  For example, one woman I interviewed thought she wanted to be a veterinarian but when she took a class in Animal Biology she realized it wasn’t for her.

Creativity was also a universal theme throughout.  Almost every one of these amazing women had a creative side they nourished including a writer, artist, and photographer.

 Other Common pieces of advice included:

  • Never give up
  • Be Persistent
  • Be Flexible
  • Be Resilient
  • Stay with it if you are interested in it. Don’t think “I can’t do it”.
  • Challenge yourself and don’t be afraid to take on new tasks or something you are not comfortable with
  • Do a co-op placement if available
  • You can learn something from everything you do and every job you try
  • Don’t be afraid to speak up if you have a different perspective or opinion
  • Do what “lights you up”
  • Ask lots of questions of people about jobs you may be interested in
  • Network and volunteer
  • Get a Mentor
  • Keep your options open
  • Don’t prejudge yourself or your capabilities

 Career Highlights

I interviewed one amazing lady who had completed a geology degree and then decided she really wanted to be an aerospace engineer so she did and now she is working on designing a new lighter and more flexible space suit at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for NASA.

I also interviewed a Biomedical engineer who is in the medical field researching the maternal make-up of the heart and how heart valves are remodeled during pregnancy.  I learned about one female working on a vaccine for ovarian cancer, a biologist who monitors areas for the presence of whales using their sounds, and another woman who is researching new sustainable ways to make better plastics like water bottles.

 Educational Paths

Did you know that you can get paid while doing your Masters and PhD’s?!  Yes, you are going to school but it’s a job too!  I also learned that it may seem like a long time in school, but everyone I interviewed said the time goes fast.

When asked about their educational path all the women completed an undergrad degree, Masters degree and most even PhD’s!

Career Impacts

Some of the many broad impacts these amazing scientists and engineers have had on society include:

  • New medical applications such as development of new vaccines, research on impacts of heart valves during pregnancy, and other medical treatments for osteoporosis, knee injuries, medical supplies for military use and space application.
  • Study of environmental impacts on our eco systems, global warming, agricultural waste, biofuel applications, protection of our whale population, lowering gas emissions, and creating sustainable plastic options.
  • Engineering developments such as creating sustainable wind and solar energy resources to guarantee reliable energy options for the future, protecting the public and environment by understanding and reducing dam safety risks, ensuring clean water sources and safe hydro systems, maintaining aircraft safety measures, as well as influencing policy decision makers.


All these women had a vision of equal opportunity for everyone and equal representation, including pay, promotion and gender equality, as well as hope that more women excelled to positions of leadership.

So yes, I learned lots of great things, including Scientists are everyday people and they all want to exceed!


By Jeanette McPherson, WISEatlantic Assistant

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Wally Funks' Long Deserved Trip to Space
For: Students For: Women in SETT/Professionals

Wally Funks' Long Deserved Trip to Space

From the time she was 17, Wally Funk knew she wanted to be an astronaut. She had an attitude that made her excel anytime she was told she could not or should not do something, and in the 1960s when all NASA astronauts were male, she fought for herself and her colleagues to fly into space as well.

Unfortunately, that never happened. A group of thirteen women advocated for the opportunity to fly alongside the chosen male astronauts. These women were often deemed the “Mercury 13,” a play on the name “Mercury,” the name of the program sending the first astronauts into orbit from the United States during the Space Race between the US and the Soviet Union in the 1960s. Another name for the group, however, was the First Lady Astronaut Trainees (FLATs). These women went through the same incredibly rigorous testing that the male astronauts did. Funk and others even surpassed the males in many tasks. Funk spent more than 10 hours in a sensory deprivation tank to simulate vertigo, and researchers ended the test only due to wanting to go home.

Despite the years of Funk and her colleagues proving they were fit to be astronauts, the United States did not send a woman into space until 1983 with Sally Ride, more than 20 years after Wally Funk fought for a chance to fly. In fact, until the astronaut selection in 1978 (where Ride was selected to be an astronaut, along with 5 other women and 29 men), all astronaut candidates in the US were required to have military jet test pilot experience. Since no women at the time were allowed to gain this experience, they were eliminated no matter what their other qualifications would be.

Wally Funk has been a pilot, a flight instructor, and more. She has logged 19,600 flight hours and trained more than 3000 students to fly. She earned her pilot’s license at just 17 and has a number of other “firsts”, such as first female flight instructor at a US military base. Not until this summer, at age 82, did she finally get a chance to fly into space like she had prepared for nearly 60 years ago.

The space flight company Blue Origin had their first crewed launch in July this year, and company founder (and passenger on the flight) Jeff Bezos asked Funk to join him for the launch. Funk had been a ticket holder on another commercial space flight with Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic, who coincidentally flew their first suborbital flight just days before the Blue Origin flight that Funk was invited on. Despite her being more than qualified, it took capitalistic competition to finally get Funk into space.
In the video released by Bezos after he asked Funk to join him on the first crewed Blue Origin flight, Funk recalls that she repeatedly asked NASA to be an astronaut, but she had been told “Wally, you’re a girl, you can’t do that,” to which she very passionately responded “Guess what, it doesn’t matter what you are, you can still do it if you want to do it!”

In Canada, the first astronaut selection was in 1983, and of the six chosen, just one – Roberta Bonda – was a woman. Of the 14 total astronauts chosen in Canada, just three in total have been women, most recently selected was Jenni Sidey-Gibbons in 2017.
Of all 3772 astronaut applications submitted by Canadians in August 2016 for the 2017 selection, just 24% of the applicants were women, according to the Canadian Space Agency. Having one of two chosen astronauts in 2017 be a woman is a great achievement when only 24% of the applicants were female. The candidates went through many tests, such as team-building tests, endurance tests, cognitive tests, and many strenuous tests to assess their ability to remain calm and productive in stressful environments, further proving Funk’s response that no matter what anyone says, you can do hard things if you want to do them.

When Funk returned from her spaceflight, she said the flight was “incredible.” Bezos described her during the flights as “never nervous,” which makes sense given that she had prepared for years to handle every possible outcome as an astronaut. Hilariously, when there was a 6-minute delay prior to launch, Funk said “Are we going or not?” impatient to go. She said “It was so easy, it was just incredible,” stating “I want to go again” while speaking to reporters after landing.
Funk proclaimed that nothing has ever gotten in her way, and that truly seems to be the case.


By Tiffany Fields, WISEatlantic Educational Assistant



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Girls Get WISE Summer Camps: An Incredible Opportuni
For: Students For: Teachers/Parents

Girls Get WISE Summer Camps: An Incredible Opportuni

Career experience in adolescence is one of the most crucial building blocks of life that many individuals do not have the opportunity to encounter. For the age groups of 12-16-year olds, experience is what derives conversation in order for them to make career decisions in high school that will impact their future.

Discovering mathematical talent or falling in love with human anatomy, can influence minds and allow students to discover their passion. But, the lack of exposure to a range of different opportunities can limit students to only certain or “main” career options that they may not be interested in. Specifically, although the representation of women has increased in areas of STEM, there is still a significant lack in areas such as engineering. I previously read that women made up 34% of STEM bachelor’s degree holders and only 23% of science and technology workers and are under-represented in these fields. Due to this, it is evident now more than ever that opportunities must be presented to young women in order to expand their knowledge on incredible STEM career options.

One of the most incredible opportunities that I took part in and allowed me to expand my interest in STEM was the Girls Get WISE Science Summer Camp. The camp was a week-long event that exposes young women to the sciences, technology, engineering, and math. The activities were so valuable because they were educational along with enjoyable. In particular, some of them included hatching and growing zebrafish, learning basic coding, the process of welding, forensic science, engineering challenges and over 10 more activities. In particular, the zebrafish lab was one of the unforgettable STEM activities that I participated in. The lab activity allowed the campers to view and assist in the process of hatching zebrafish eggs. We learnt about the temperature they resided in, the parts of the embryo, and even basic lab rules. It gave youth such as myself the opportunity to use petri dishes, pipettes, and microscopes. The exposure to a biology lab at a young age allowed me to be more informed when I entered the Pre-IB program in high school. Although my biology class was fast paced, I was able to easily catch up because I knew how to use a microscope and understood the safety rules of a lab that I learned in the WISE camp. Another activity included welding with the NSCSC. In my mind, welding was just a small job done by construction workers, but what I did not know is that it is one of the most important pieces to an industrial site. All the campers and I got first-hand experience on wielding through a VR simulator that gave us an understanding on the level of difficulty. The camp was an absolutely incredible experience and the hands-on activities made it worthwhile.

By Shabad Kaur

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What is Science Communication and Why is it Important?
For: Students For: Teachers/Parents For: Women in SETT/Professionals

What is Science Communication and Why is it Important?

Science communication is a growing field. Its purpose is to educate the general public on science issues or research that is relevant to them, so they are able to form educated opinions and decisions. Our world is evolving rapidly around us, whether it’s the newest technological innovation, species or disease, the topics are endless. We are in a time where scientific changes happen every day and for us to be able to thrive and adapt to these changes, we all need to understand what we are up against.

People are flooded with information from so many different sources whether it’s through newspapers, television or social media. This means that as scientists, we need to communicate our information effectively so that our message resonates with the public. Social media can be a great medium for positive connected communication, but it has also changed how society interprets scientific facts. Opinions are now taken at face value and everyone seems to be the expert, except the real experts! This is a huge issue that needs to be addressed and using effective science communication will help. The public deserve evidence-based facts so they can form their own educated opinion on topics that effect their everyday life. Communication is a complex human interaction that can be easily misunderstood, which is why science communication is a crucial type of communication. Using clear, concise science communication allows the public to have access to relevant and understandable science-based information.

People wonder why scientists even need special science communicators to relay their messages. Why should they need other people to share their work? A good scientist should be a good communicator. This is a lesson that could be taught along with cell theory, organic chemistry and Newton’s laws in Science degrees. The whole point of Science is to discover new things and share them with people. The reality is that not everyone understands complex science (often because it is full of scientific jargon), but that doesn’t mean their right to understand should be taken away. Science communication is a field that is always developing because science is ever evolving. Science communication creates lots of room for collaboration and it utilizes creative ways to incorporate science literacy into everyone’s lives. The fact of the matter is that science is in everyday life, you cannot escape it. So, becoming educated on the relevant topics is essential.

Science communication provides a non-confrontational, universal way of communicating information that is important for life on earth (and other planets). The world is changing and so shall we, but we need the right information shared in the appropriate way to adapt to the changes we face as humanity. Science communicators should be a crucial member on political advisor teams, product development, Public relations teams etc. This world is developing, it is time we develop with it.

Here are some great resources if you are interested in learning more about Science Communication:

Science Up First!
Canadian Centre for Science Communication
The Nova Scotian Institute of Science

By Molly Murray.

Molly is a BSc. Science Communication student at MSVU and the WISEatlantic Communications Assistant

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Science Needs Women and Girls in STEM
For: Teachers/Parents For: Women in SETT/Professionals

Science Needs Women and Girls in STEM

Now, more than ever, the world needs all scientists and researchers of diverse and varied backgrounds to aid in the fight against COVID-19. In such a vital time where science is pushing boundaries and rapidly evolving to meet circumstances, you would think that equal numbers of women and men would be at the forefront of the movement. While there have been significant improvements in respect to gender equality in the STEM workforce over the past few months and years, it still yields disappointing figures when compared to desired numbers.

Less than 30% of researchers worldwide are women. That’s a staggering statistic considering women make up slightly more than half of the world’s population. Furthermore, only 35% of those studying in STEM programs are women. There are a variety of explanations as to why this is: inherent assumptions that girls won’t do well in science, less mentors and role models, hostility from others regarding their ‘unnatural’ choice of career path, just to name a few. Even if they persevere through their schooling, the workplace isn’t always kind. Some barriers include unequal pay, glass ceilings (an inability to progress or be promoted beyond a certain point), and a lack of reliable policies to ensure job security in times of pregnancy leave or other life events. Most, if not all, of these barriers are nonexistent to white men.

So, what can we do about it? While we can’t just will gender equality into existence (though I so wish we could), an effective way to get started is raising awareness and celebrating women in STEM. The International Day of Women and Girls in Science was introduced by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 to ensure equal participation of women across STEM fields and to empower them to pursue their scientific ambitions. The day has been designated as February 11th and embraces a theme each year. Last year’s theme was ‘Investment in Women and Girls in Science for Inclusive Green Growth’ and aimed to draw attention to the reality that both women in science and gender equality are necessary if the world intends to meet any internationally agreed developmental goals (an example would be the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development). The theme for 2021 has yet to be announced.

There are a variety of ways you can celebrate International Day of Women and Girls in Science safely this year. Spend some time researching a woman’s scientific achievements on Google (easily done from the comfort of your couch) or sit down with some of the young girls in your life and chat with them about their ambitions. Encourage them to pursue STEM and make them aware that it’s possible for them to succeed in the field. You can also engage with different at-home STEM activities (a nice collection can be viewed at ). However you chose to celebrate, be sure to have fun with it, and know that you’re empowering the women in your life and helping create an increasingly gender equal world.  

By Madyn Bourque


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2021 Virtual Girls Get WISE Retreat
For: Teachers/Parents

2021 Virtual Girls Get WISE Retreat

Our 2021 Girls Get WISE Science Retreat went virtual for the first time this year! The event was held on May 1st through Zoom to introduce young girls to various STEM disciplines while engaging them in science related activities.

Thirty-two girls in grades 7-10 participated in a CSI-based spatter analysis activity where they got to put their mathematical skills to the test to determine where a balloon of Fruitopia popped. Additionally, the girls worked together in small groups to make their way through a STEM-themed escape room including tasks in binary coding, pH testing, constellation naming, and DNA transcription and translation. The retreat also featured our always popular role model session which gave participants the chance to interact with female scientists in civil engineering, physics, and environmental science, and learn about their careers.

While the retreat was not able to be held in person this year, it remained a success! Having the event virtually gave us the chance to host girls from outside of the Halifax area, bringing an enthusiastic group of aspiring scientists together safely to celebrate our love for STEM.

Featured below is some feedback we received from participants and their parents about their experiences in our 2021 Virtual Girls Get WISE Science Retreat;

“I really enjoyed the role model session and learning about different jobs in the STEM field.”

“It was a huge hit with our 13-year-old daughter… and a perfect activity while NS is in lockdown, and we are all staying at home.”

“My favorite activity was the escape room. I have been to two of these events in previous years and [have] enjoyed every one!”

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STEM Spotlight Series
For: Teachers/Parents For: Women in SETT/Professionals

STEM Spotlight Series

WISEatlantic has always been a dedicated force in encouraging girls to pursue STEM careers. Over the years, we have engaged with youth through one day retreats, week-long camp experiences, role model workshops, and more. Providing women and girls with opportunities to explore what STEM has to offer is something we’re passionate about, but we’re not the only ones. Read more about our new STEM Spotlight Series...

Our STEM Spotlight Series aims to highlight organizations in Atlantic Canada that promote inclusion in STEM; this can extend to any groups that are currently underrepresented in science careers. We want to bring attention to the initiatives fighting for inclusion of women, BIPOC, LGBTQ+ individuals, and/or other equity-deserving groups. If you know, or are a part of, an organization striving to increase representation for marginalized groups in STEM, we encourage you to reach out to us at for more details on how to get your initiative featured.

STEM Spotlight posts will be featured on our social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), and a booklet of all featured organizations will be produced and featured on our website for download.

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An Out of This World Discovery by Julia Odendaal
For: Students For: Teachers/Parents For: Women in SETT/Professionals

An Out of This World Discovery by Julia Odendaal

Around the world right now there are so many things happening, with COVID-19 and the US presidential election. Not many people are focusing on the up-and-comers of scientific discoveries. 2020 has been a crazy year, not a great one but for the Canadian Space Agency 2020 has come with the findings of a possible second solar system, and a new leader.  

Around the world right now there are so many things happening, with COVID-19 and the US presidential election. Not many people are focusing on the up-and-comers of scientific discoveries. 2020 has been a crazy year, not a great one but for the Canadian Space Agency 2020 has come with the findings of a possible second solar system, and a new leader.  

 There are so many amazing women doing incredible things in today’s world. Including Lisa Campbell, she is the first female President of the Canadian Space Agency. She stepped into this huge role with hard work and dedication. Using her leadership skills, she guided the agency to new heights. Campbell previously served as the Associate Deputy Minister with Veterans Affairs Canada. She also acquired a Bachelor’s of Arts in Political Science from McGill University and a Legum Baccalaureus of Law from Dalhousie Law Schoolcreating a strong educational background that’s great asset in this position. She has worked in both the private and public sectors in employment, constitutional and criminal law.  

 Her long-standing history with the Government of Canada includes Assistant Deputy Minister, Defense and Marine Procurement, Public Services and Procurement, where she provided military and marine procurement solutions, as well as Senior Deputy Commissioner for Canada’s competition authority, responsible for reviewing business conduct across the board.  All of this experience makes her the perfect person to lead the Canadian Space Agency through the multitude of funding opportunities coming their way over the next several years.  

 Many of us have heard of the mythical hybrid between human and horsethe centaur, but I’m sure you wouldn’t believe what I’m about to tell you!  

 The ATLAS telescope located in Hawaii captured images of what appears to be a second solar system. They’re calling this centaur (a hybrid between a comet and an asteroid) orbiting object the P/2019 LD2. Because of its composition and its overall potential to move rapidly across the solar system, some astronomers believe that centaurs are a so-called missing link between small icy masses in the Kuiper Belt which is beyond Neptune and comets that regularly visit the inner solar system (SN: 11/19/94). calls these icy masses, short-period comets. They are expected to orbit around the sun once per decade. Sometimes will even come close enough to be seen from earth. Other longer period comets including Halley’s Comet, which only visits our solar system once in a century. These comets most likely originated from further beyond the sun.  

 Oftentimes, we (as amateurs) think of asteroids and comets as pretty much the same thing. Astronomers are now teaching us the differences, and also about the increasing number of “crossovers” or hybrids, just like the mythical centaur. The hybrids first appear to act as a standard asteroid and then later begin to morph and develop new activity (such as tails)  specific to comets. Astronomers and scientists have yet to tell us how or why this may be happening within the walls of our solar system.  

 What’s the difference between a comet and an asteroid? Tim Childers from Live Science tells us that comets are known as a dirty space snowball, made of mostly ice and dust. As comets tend to have a more stable orbit. Whereas asteroids are known as the rocky and airless leftovers from the formation of plants in our solar system. Asteroids mostly orbit around the sun in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. 1 

While the ATLAS telescope has discovered more than 40 cometsthis particular discovery of the 2019 LD2  is quite interesting because of the way that it orbits. This begs the question; Why is the orbit of this object extraordinary? Writers at NASA answered; The early indication that it was an asteroid near Jupiter’s orbit has now been confirmed through precise measurements from many different observations. This hybrid orbits in the same area that Jupiter does, implying that it may be part of the Jupiter’s trojans; a group of asteroids that share the same orbit as Jupiter. This was initially proven to be false by Sam Deen and Tony Dunn on the Minor planet Mailing List on May 21st, 2020. But after further observation it’s been determined that 2019 LD2 is part of Jupiter’s Trojans, it just exhibits different behaviors never seen before because it spewing out dust and gas which are characteristics of a comet. 

 As new observations are being conducted to try to figure out what actually happened. The only thing I am certain of is that the universe is full of big surprises. Even explorations to warn us of possible dangerous asteroids leaves us with many unexpected treasures that are harmless but incredibly fascinating objects that teach us more about the history of our solar system.  



  1. Childers, T. (2019, September 04).What’s the Difference Between Asteroids, Comets and Meteors? Retrieved October/November, 2020, from 


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