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Amazon lines up $10 billion for satellite-based Internet project Kupier

© Getty Images / SCIEPRO
Amazon is getting serious about space business. Coming shortly after Amazon Web Service's announcement last month to set up a new business unit dedicated to accelerating innovation in the global aerospace and satellite industry, it has now announced its intention to invest $10 billion for launching a low earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation called Project Kupier to eliminate Internet dark spots, specifically in the US.

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last week unanimously voted in favor of Amazon's application to deploy and operate its constellation of 3,236 satellites.

Bezos vs Musk

With this announcement, Jeff Bezos is seen directly taking on Elon Musk in an effort to beam high-speed internet from networks of thousands of satellites in the LEO. Starlink is Musk's pet project to deliver high speed broadband Internet to locations where access has been unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable. It has so far sent 500+ satellites in orbit with the latest batch of 60 launched in April this year, and 12,000 planned in the long run. Starlink, which is estimated to cost SpaceX $10 billion, is targeting service in the Northern US and Canada in 2020, rapidly expanding to near global coverage of the populated world by 2021. In February this year, SpaceX President Gwen Shotwell had talked about spinning off Starlink into a separet company and go the IPO route in the coming years.

Comment: See also:


Volcanic or cosmic impact origin for the Younger Dryas mini ice-age?

On July 31st 2020, Sun et al. published a paper in Science Advances [1] that suggests the Younger Dryas cooling event nearly 13000 years ago was triggered by the Laacher See volcanic eruption rather than a cosmic impact, the usual explanation. Until now, over 60 primary peer-reviewed journal papers together with dozens of supporting responses all agree the Younger Dryas event was caused by Earth's collision with debris from a disintegrating comet. Only one paper has previously suggested it was caused by the Laacher See volcanic explosion - and that paper was thoroughly refuted only a year later.

In their new paper, Sun et al. focus on platinum group elemental abundances, and especially osmium isotope abundances and ratios, found in the sediment of Hall's Cave, Texas. The sediment in this cave, many meters deep, has accumulated over tens of thousands of years, providing a convenient record of environmental conditions near the cave over this time (see photo below). An easily visible transition in the colour of the sediment at a depth around 1.51 m signifies a dramatic change in climate, and has been suggested to indicate the onset of the Younger Dryas climate anomaly when the Northern Hemisphere experienced a sudden return to near ice-age conditions for over 1000 years. This view is supported by the discovery in this boundary layer of the same kinds of microscopic impact debris found at many other Younger Dryas boundary sites across four continents [2]. So, it appears that Hall's Cave is yet another record of this most dramatic and important cosmic impact event, thought to have reset human Cultures and extinguished many species of large animal across the globe. An event that is probably remembered by numerous extant religions, and might even have helped trigger the rise of our own civilisation [3].
Hall's Cave, Texas
© Nan Sun, University
However, the platinum group metal abundances in the sediment around the Younger Dryas boundary layer at Hall's Cave have not previously been investigated. If the prevailing view is correct, we should find anomalies in them very close to this layer, since cosmic impacts generally produce enhancements in several of these elements. For example, the dinosaur-killing Chicxulub impactor was particularly rich in iridium, and coated Earth in an iridium-rich layer of dust and debris. However, we know from analysis of the GISP2 ice core in Greenland, that the Younger Dryas impactor was instead rich in platinum.[4] Since that discovery peaks in platinum concentration within sediments have been used to locate the Younger Dryas boundary accurately at many other sites [5].

Microscope 2

Next phase of ENCODE finds MORE functional information in genome 'junk'

brain dna darpa
The first publications from the ENCODE project (Encyclopedia of DNA Elements) made a big splash at Evolution News in 2013, and around the world, because it undermined the "junk DNA" myth and simultaneously fulfilled an ID prediction: that non-coding parts of the genome would prove functional. Junk-DNA proponents like Dan Graur were upset at the time, admitting as Jonathan Wells reported, "If ENCODE is right, evolution is wrong."

Well, ModENCODE (ENCODE for model organisms) found "unprecedented complexity" in the fruit fly genome in 2014, then "ENCODE 2" followed up with more discoveries of function. Now, ENCODE 3 has just finished submitting its reports, with record numbers of DNA annotations listed, and ENCODE 4 is gearing up. Nothing like a little overkill to drive the point home: "... then evolution is wrong." Look at how much constructive science is being done with the assumption that DNA elements are there for a purpose.

History and Purposes

Before introducing the latest results, Nature provides an overview, "Perspectives on ENCODE," that recounts the history and purposes of the project:
The ENCODE Project was launched in 2003, as the first nearly complete human genome sequence was reported. At that time, our understanding of the human genome was limited. For example, although 5% of the genome was known to be under purifying selection in placental mammals, our knowledge of specific elements, particularly with regards to non-protein coding genes and regulatory regions, was restricted to a few well-studied loci.

ENCODE commenced as an ambitious effort to comprehensively annotate the elements in the human genome, such as genes, control elements, and transcript isoforms, and was later expanded to annotate the genomes of several model organisms. Mapping assays identified biochemical activities and thus candidate regulatory elements. [Emphasis added.]
Annotations are like labels or comments on things. For instance, if you have a stereo system with a lot of cables, you might affix tags on them to indicate where the TV plugs in, or where each speaker wire goes. In computer programming, wise programmers add comments in English to explain what a section of code does. Comments do not affect the function of the code, but help the next programmer follow the logic.


Ammonia sparks unexpected, exotic lightning on Jupiter say researchers

Electric Storms on Jupiter
© NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt
This illustration used data obtained by NASA’s Juno mission to depict high-altitude electrical storms on Jupiter. Juno's sensitive Stellar Reference Unit camera detected unusual lightning flashes on the planet’s dark side during the spacecraft's close flybys of the planet.
NASA's Juno spacecraft - orbiting and closely observing the planet Jupiter - has unexpectedly discovered lightning in the planet's upper atmosphere, according to a multi-institutional study led by the NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which includes two Cornell researchers.

The work was published Aug. 5 in the journal Nature.

Jupiter's gaseous atmosphere seems placid from a distance, but up close the clouds roil in a turbulent, chemically dynamic realm. As scientists have probed the opaque surface with Juno's sensitive instrumentation, they've learned that Jupiter's lightning occurs not only deep within the water clouds but also in shallow atmospheric regions (at high altitudes with lower pressure) that feature clouds of ammonia mixed with water.

"On the night side of Jupiter, you see fairly frequent flashes - as if you were above an active thunderstorm on Earth," said Jonathan I. Lunine, the David C. Duncan Professor in the Physical Sciences and chair of the Department of Astronomy in the College of Arts and Sciences. "You get these tall columns and anvils of clouds, and the lightning is going continuously. We can get some pretty substantial lightning here on Earth, and the same is true for Jupiter."

The research, "Small Lightning Flashes From Shallow Electrical Storms on Jupiter," was directed by Heidi N. Becker, the Radiation Monitoring Investigation lead of NASA's Juno mission. Lunine and doctoral candidate Youry Aglyamov, M.S. '20, were the two Cornell co-authors in the study.


Scientists discover way to track space junk in daylight

space debris/earth
© Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain
Space debris
Scientists said Tuesday they had discovered a way to detect space debris even in daylight hours, potentially helping satellites to avoid the ever-growing cloud of junk orbiting the planet.

Defunct rockets, satellites and spacecraft parts continue to orbit Earth after they are discarded.

The estimated 500,000 objects circling the globe range in size from a single screw to an entire rocket fuel tank. Traveling at thousands of miles an hour, they pose a huge and rising collision risk to satellites.

Using lasers, it is possible to detect the debris from the ground. But until now this method only worked for a few hours around twilight, when the detection station on Earth is in the dark and the debris still illuminated by the Sun.

A team of researchers based in Austria now think they've extended the window in which the space junk is visible using a combination of a telescopic detector and filter to increase the contrast of objects as they appear against the sky during the day.

The team also developed a real-time target detection software system that predicts when certain objects could be observable and used sightings to hone its accuracy. Overall, the new technique could increase observation times of space junk from Earth from six to 22 hours a day.


North Atlantic climate 'far more predictable' following major scientific breakthrough

North Atlantic Oscillation
© unknown
North Atlantic Oscillation
A team of scientists, led by UK Met Office, has achieved a scientific breakthrough allowing the longer-term prediction of North Atlantic pressure patterns, the key driving force behind winter weather in Europe and eastern North America. CMCC scientists Panos Athanasiadis, Alessio Bellucci, Dario Nicolì and Paolo Ruggieri from CSP - Climate Simulation and Prediction Division were also involved in this study.

Published in Nature, the study analysed six decades of climate model data and suggests decadal variations in North Atlantic atmospheric pressure patterns (known as the North Atlantic Oscillation) are highly predictable, enabling advanced warning of whether winters in the coming decade are likely to be stormy, warm and wet or calm, cold and dry.

Comment: We'll see how their predictions fare, because all signs point to our planet entering a period of extremes:


Reduction of sunlight may contribute to ice ages - MIT study

Snowball Earth
© Wikimedia, Oleg Kuznetsov
The trigger for “Snowball Earth” global ice ages may have been drops in incoming sunlight that happened quickly, in geological terms, according to an MIT study.
At least twice in Earth's history, nearly the entire planet was encased in a sheet of snow and ice. These dramatic "Snowball Earth" events occurred in quick succession, somewhere around 700 million years ago, and evidence suggests that the consecutive global ice ages set the stage for the subsequent explosion of complex, multicellular life on Earth.

Scientists have considered multiple scenarios for what may have tipped the planet into each ice age. While no single driving process has been identified, it's assumed that whatever triggered the temporary freeze-overs must have done so in a way that pushed the planet past a critical threshold, such as reducing incoming sunlight or atmospheric carbon dioxide to levels low enough to set off a global expansion of ice.

Comment: Perhaps no individual process is responsible?

Comment: For more on what has driven these global shifts, see: And check out SOTT radio's:


There may be more than 36 intelligent alien civilizations in the Milky Way, scientists say

alien planet
© Angela Harburn/Shutterstock
Humans have long suspected that we are not alone in the universe, and now scientists have said there may be dozens of alien civilizations lurking not too far from Earth. Some of them may even be advanced enough to communicate with us.

According to a new study in The Astrophysical Journal, scientists at the University of Nottingham estimate that there is a minimum of 36 communicating intelligent alien civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy.

They say the estimate is actually conservative — it's based on the assumption that intelligent life forms on other planets in a similar way to how it does on Earth, using what they call the Astrobiological Copernican Limit.

The researchers assume that Earth is not special — if an Earth-like planet forms in an Earth-like orbit around a Sun-like star, hosting a civilization that develops technologically in a similar way to humans, there would be approximately 36 Earth-like civilizations in our galaxy. In this case, other technological civilizations would be sending out signals, such as radio transmissions from satellites and televisions, on a similar timeline as humans, also attempting to find other lifeforms.

Better Earth

New insight for future NASA missions: Surprising number of exoplanets could host life

© dottedyeti/stock.adobe.com
Concept illustration of exoplanets
Our solar system has one habitable planet -- Earth. A new study shows other stars could have as many as seven Earth-like planets in the absence of a gas giant like Jupiter. This is the conclusion of a study led by UC Riverside astrobiologist Stephen Kane published this week in the Astronomical Journal.

The search for life in outer space is typically focused on what scientists call the "habitable zone," which is the area around a star in which an orbiting planet could have liquid water oceans -- a condition for life as we know it.

Kane had been studying a nearby solar system called Trappist-1, which has three Earth-like planets in its habitable zone. "This made me wonder about the maximum number of habitable planets it's possible for a star to have, and why our star only has one," Kane said. "It didn't seem fair!"

His team created a model system in which they simulated planets of various sizes orbiting their stars. An algorithm accounted for gravitational forces and helped test how the planets interacted with each other over millions of years.

They found it is possible for some stars to support as many as seven, and that a star like our sun could potentially support six planets with liquid water. "More than seven, and the planets become too close to each other and destabilize each other's orbits," Kane said.


Move over, Elon Musk! Chief designer of Russia's new 'Oryol' spacecraft says it'll be capable of crewed flights to Moon & Mars

© roscosmos.ru
Ground control to Major Artyom? In the same week that NASA and SpaceX made headlines for performing a type of splashdown landing that the Soviet Union perfected in the 1970s, Russia is looking beyond mere orbital space travel.

The man behind Russia's latest spacecraft, the Oryol, says it will be able to fly to asteroids and Mars, as well as to the Moon. Igor Khamits made the comments during an interview with the Russian Space magazine, published by the federal space agency Roscosmos.

The Oryol is projected to begin crewed missions in 2025, with unmanned operations starting two years earlier. The capsule is scheduled to make an uncrewed flight around the Moon in 2028.