Several roads remain closed in Pima County as of Friday afternoon.
PHOENIX – NASA has appointed a University of Arizona professor to lead a project to track asteroids that potentially could crash into Earth. The mission involves launching a telescope into a high orbit to locate such near-Earth objects using the infrared radiation they emit.
Amy Mainzer, a professor of planetary sciences, will lead a team building the Near Earth Object Surveyor, an infrared telescope that will track and characterize any asteroids that one day could crash into the planet.
“We want to spot them when they are years to, ideally, decades away from any potential impact with the Earth,” Mainzer said.
Objects intersecting with the Earth’s orbit around the sun are classified as near-Earth objects, or NEOs. They can be as small as a car and big enough to obliterate an area the size of Southern California.
The telescope’s infrared sensors will detect the infrared light emitted by meteors, comets and other asteroids as they move in space.
The mission will help with two active projects run by UA to scan for NEOs. The Spacewatch Project and the Catalina Sky Survey are part of the ground-based surveys at the university’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, which track about 50% of all known near-Earth objects today.
“Each night, astronomers across the globe diligently use ground-based optical telescopes to discover new NEOs, characterize their shape and size, and confirm they do not pose a threat to us,” Kelly Fast, program manager for NASA’s NEO Observations Program, said in a news release. “Those telescopes are only able to look for NEOs in the night sky. NEO Surveyor would allow observations to continue day and night, specifically targeting regions where NEOs that could pose a hazard might be found.”
Mayors from 11 Arizona communities, including Tucson, Phoenix, Oro Valley and Marana, sent a letter to Arizona congressional leaders, supporting Amtrak’s proposal for a passenger rail connecting Tucson and Phoenix.
“It's about a regional approach to economic development because what's good for Tucson is good for the region,” said Romero in a media roundtable with Amtrak and city leaders on Tuesday. “It really is about offering an opportunity to all of our residents, including those that live south of Tucson in Nogales and Rio Rico, to connect even tourists that are coming in from Sonora, Mexico, which is our number one trading partner in Arizona, to Tucson.”
The passenger rail would be an alternative to driving, with a five-minute shorter travel time than the peak two-hours-and-30-minute commute from Tucson to Phoenix, said Amtrak President Stephen Gardner. The route would also link other towns, such as Marana, Coolidge and Goodyear.
The rail would offer three daily round trips between Tucson, Phoenix and Buckeye, and one daily trip from Tucson to Los Angeles. The proposed line is part of Amtrak’s Corridor Vision Plan to expand low carbon intercity passenger rail service to 160 communities across the nation over the next 15 years.
“We have a global climate crisis. In part congestions on the road and really in the air feed some of that. We have a history of some structural inequality in society but particularly in transportation as well,” said Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn. “We believe that one way to rise and address these challenges that our country confronts is through expanding intercity passenger rail service, putting in place a system that offers frequent reliable, sustainable and equitable alternatives to driving and flying.”
Flynn said the rail could address long-term congestion issues in the corridor, as Tucson commuters are estimated to spend about 90% more time in traffic than elsewhere and large city commuters may be experiencing as much as 62 hours of congestion delay, estimated to cost about $1,000 a year.
Pima County officials are warning the public not to approach the site of a recent landslide in Tucson Mountain Park.
The landslide, which knocked down or destroyed numerous saguaro cacti, happened at about noon Sunday on the southeast side of Golden Gate Mountain. The area is not close to any roads or trails in the park.
“We’re asking that everybody keep a safe distance from the area,” said Karen Simms, division manager for Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation. “The ground is currently very unstable, and it’s going to take some time before it naturally heals.”
WINDOW ROCK – Navajo Chief of Police Phillip Francisco sits ramrod straight at his desk, surrounded by manila folders brimming with paperwork and a Darth Vader figurine that wields a pen as a lightsaber.
The chief, an Army veteran hired in 2016 after serving in several law enforcement departments in New Mexico, took charge after nearly eight years of rotating acting chiefs. He came from Farmington, New Mexico, to serve and protect the largest Native American tribe in the U.S. Francisco, 45, whose father is Navajo, grew up near the reservation.
A year before Francisco was sworn in, Officer Alex Yazzie was shot and killed while answering a domestic violence call. Francisco – who had been working closely with the Navajo Police Department while serving at nearby agencies – felt called to step in.
“Seeing the struggles that the Navajo Nation Police Department went through, I thought, ‘Maybe they need a leader.' "
The increased demands of the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated issues in the department, Francisco said: chronic understaffing, dispatch systems that trail technology by 50 years and archaic facilities that include 71-year-old administrative buildings and a converted post office.
The 200-member department polices a rural area larger than West Virginia, he said, with dirt roads and houses so remote they don’t have addresses and can be out of range of police radios. During the pandemic, officers often worked 16- to 24-hour shifts to fill in for sick or quarantined colleagues.
Pima County is seeing an increase in school outbreaks as students return to the classroom, with health officials warning the spread of COVID in schools could have a significant impact on the community at large.
Pima County Health Department Director Dr. Theresa Cullen told the press this morning that as of today, there have been eight outbreaks in schools and 56 school cases reported in the last seven days since July 19, but there were no outbreaks in the summer. She said they have closed one school classroom in the last five days and expects another 10 cases will be reported today.
The cases are primarily from a school district that is already back in session and some of the outbreaks are in schools and others are from school-related activities, like football, cheerleading or freshman orientations, Cullen said.
“We are now seeing this increase as students go back to school,” said Cullen. “We anticipate that approximately 5% to 10% of the cases we are seeing right now will be due to school as opposed to a maximum of 4% last year.”
Although several studies conducted early during the COVID-19 pandemic suggested children have lower incidence rates than adults, this may be partly due to children having fewer opportunities for exposure and a lower probability of being tested, CDC officials warned in an updated July 9 brief. They noted that studies that systematically tested children and adolescents, irrespective of symptoms, for COVID-19 infection or prior infection found “their rates of infection can be comparable, and in some settings higher, than in adults.”