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Mon, 15 Jul 2019
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International Astronomical Union concerned about satellite 'constellations' interfering with ground-based observations

satellite interference space observations
The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has expressed its concern about light pollution posed by an increasing number of satellite constellations in low-Earth orbits (LEO), manly SpaceX's Starlink constellation launched May 23, 2019 - next-generation satellite network capable of connecting the globe with reliable and affordable broadband internet services. The number of low Earth orbit satellites planned to launch in the next half-decade has the potential to fundamentally shift the nature of our experience of the night sky, IAU said.

"The International Astronomical Union, in general, embraces the principle of a dark and radio-quiet sky as not only essential to advancing our understanding of the Universe of which we are a part, but also as a resource for all humanity and for the protection of nocturnal wildlife," IAU said in a statement.

"We do not yet understand the impact of thousands of these visible satellites scattered across the night sky and despite their good intentions, these satellite constellations may threaten both."

Comment: SpaceX satellites could blight the night sky, warn astronomers


1 in 7000 Chance: Football field-sized asteroid could hit Earth this year

Asteroid earth
© iStockphoto
An enormous asteroid with a diameter wider than a football field has a roughly one in 7,000 chance of hitting the Earth later this year. However, it's nothing to lose sleep over.

Known as asteroid 2006 QV89, the space rock, which has a diameter of 164 feet, could potentially hit the planet on Sept. 9, 2019, according to a list of the most concerning space objects compiled by the European Space Agency. The ESA has 2006 QV89 ranked fourth on its top ten list.

According to current modeling, it's likely that 2006 QV89, which is on the risk list but not the priority list, will pass Earth at a distance of more than 4.2 million miles. The ESA does note that the likelihood of its model being off is less than one-hundredth of one percent.

Comment: See also:


Prehistoric relative of beech and oak trees is first of its kind found below the Equator

patagonia fossil site
© Peter Wilf, Penn State University
Rainforest once covered the plains of Patagonia where the fossils were found.
New fossils suggest the chinquapin, found today in parts of Asia, first took root in the Southern Hemisphere.

Millions of years ago, a volcano erupted in what's now the Patagonia region of southern Argentina, leaving behind a huge caldera. Water accumulated in the crater, and eventually it became a lake teeming with countless plants, insects, and other life-forms. Over time, these creatures fossilized deep within the lake's layers of mud and ash, creating a kind of geological jackpot for today's paleontologists.

Now, the ancient lake has yielded a particularly exciting treasure: fossils of a 52-million-year-old tree that is the first of its kind found in the Southern Hemisphere, suggesting the plant evolved there.

Cloud Grey

Pollution from Roman-era stored in ice of Mont Blanc

Roman era pollution
© Preunkert et al./CNRS
Simulations to assess the sensitivity of lead deposits in the Col du Dôme (yellow) to the geographical location of the emission. This map also indicates the location of major mines known to have existed in Roman antiquity. In the approximately 500-km region around the Alps, in blue, mines believed to have been active in the Republican period, and in red, those active later. Outside this radius, all other mines are indicated in red (all eras combined). Alpine ice is therefore representative of the high altitude atmosphere which receives emissions from France, Spain, Italy, islands in the Mediterranean Basin, and, to a lesser degree, Germany and England.
The deepest layers of carbon-14 dated ice found in the Col du Dôme of the Mont Blanc glacier in the French Alps provide a record of atmospheric conditions in the ancient Roman era. Published in Geophysical Research Letters, the study, led by an international team and coordinated by a CNRS scientist at the Institute for Geosciences and Environmental Research (IGE)(CNRS/IRD/UGA/Grenoble INP)*, reveals significant atmospheric pollution from heavy metals: the presence of lead and antimony (detected in ancient alpine ice for the first time here) is linked to mining activity and lead and silver production by the ancient Romans, well before the industrial age, in fact.

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DARPA developing tech that 'taps into human brain' with mind-controlling drones

brain technology
Technology that will allow direct communication with the human brain is already causing numerous concerns regarding possible misuse, especially in terms of thought privacy and forced brainwashing.

The US military's Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has initiated research aimed at creating a so-called brain-computer interface (BCI) that will allow two-way communication between a human soldier and, for example a swarm of drones or computer cyber defences.

In an interview with Express, Professor Jacob Robinson of Rice University, head of one of the six research teams funded by DARPA for that purpose, has revealed the technology will essentially allow people to "tap into the brain" without performing an invasive surgery to install an implant into it. Such an approach will permit a drastic reduction in the gap between making a decision and sending a corresponding command to a machine.


Scientists warn Russian volcano could cause destruction on scale of Pompeii

Bolshaya Udina volcano
© kuhnmi / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
A slumbering titan in Russia's Far East could soon awaken. Scientists warn that a long-dormant volcano is showing new signs of activity, and an eruption could spell disaster in Russia and beyond.

Deemed inactive for decades, the Bolshaya Udina volcano has come back to life, according to recent research, prompting concern about a potentially cataclysmic natural disaster.

"When a volcano is silent for a long time, its first explosion can be catastrophic," said Ivan Kulakov, the head of the seismic tomography lab at the Russian Institute of Petroleum Geology and Geophysics, in an article for the Russian Academy of Sciences' Siberian branch. "A large amount of ash is thrown into the air, it is carried far away, and not only the surrounding settlements, but also large territories all over the planet, can suffer."

"Recall Pompeii," the researcher added ominously: the ancient Roman settlement was wiped off the map by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which laid dormant for thousands of years prior. The city was buried in over 10 feet of ash and most of its inhabitants are thought to have been killed in the disaster.

Microscope 2

Ancient Siberia was home to previously unknown humans - Theory of Native American ancestors rewritten

Siberia unknown humans
© Elena Pavlova/Nature
The archaeological site near the Yana River in Siberia where two 31,000-year-old milk teeth were found.
It was cold, remote and involved picking fights with woolly mammoths - but it seems ancient Siberia 30,000 years ago was home to a hardy and previously unknown group of humans. Scientists say the discovery could help solve longstanding mysteries about the ancestors of native North Americans.

While it is commonly believed the ancestors of native North Americans arrived from Eurasia via a now submerged land bridge called Beringia, exactly which groups crossed and gave rise to native North American populations has been difficult to unpick.

Now scientists say they might have found some answers to the conundrums.

Comment: Recent revelations suggest Siberia appears to have played a rather prominent role in the story of man:


KLM funding development of new 'Flying-V' plane: Potential to revolutionise air travel

flyingV new passenger air jet design
© Studio OSO
Researchers hope to fly a scale model of the airplane in September and say it could be ready to enter service between 2040 and 2050.
A new aeroplane design known as the Flying-V is being developed, potentially changing air travel as we know it forever. The development of the V-shaped, fuel-efficient aeroplane is being funded by Dutch airline KLM and is named after the iconic Gibson Flying-V electric guitar used by a number of legendary musicians such as Jimi Hendrix.

The design has the same wingspan as existing planes and is able to carry up to 314 passengers, while the aircraft itself widens diagonally backwards from its nose to create the V-shape.

As reported by CNN, the Flying-V design was conceived by Justus Benad, a student at the Technical University of Berlin at the time, and was developed by researchers at the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, aka TU Delft. Its futuristic design ensures that passengers will be seated within the wings, along with the fuel tanks and cargo. Not only that, but the airline claims the plane will use 20 per cent less fuel than the Airbus A350-900, despite carrying a similar number of passengers. Pieter Elbers, CEO and president of KLM, said in a statement:


The surprising promise of inducing torpor

Therapeutic hypothermia”
“Therapeutic hypothermia” was sometimes tried in novel ways, such as this case, when a man went into cardiac arrest in supermarket and was subsequently covered in packets of frozen chips.
Inducing torpor and hibernation in humans could improve survival rates for heart attack and violence victims. It might also be the key to long distance space travel.

Take fluffy the cat. Found inert and apparently lifeless in a snow drift during the deep freeze in Montana last US winter, she resembled a trashed shag pile carpet on arrival at the Kalispell Animal Clinic.Her temperature didn't register.

Only hours later, however, gentle rewarming elicited a growl and Fluffy was discharged in full feline health. She was likely in a state loosely called "suspended animation". Body temperature plunges and metabolism slows to a point where the need for oxygen is so low that, even without breathing, vital organs such as the brain come out unscathed. It happens in humans, too.

In 2006, Australian mountaineer Lincoln Hall was pronounced dead by sherpas on Mount Everest after showing no signs of life for two hours. Despite a full night at 8800 metres with no oxygen, he was found next morning alive, if disoriented, by a fellow climber. These feats have not gone unnoticed by scientists.

Researchers are trialling extreme cooling to "buy time" for surgeons to fix patients whose hearts have stopped after a shooting or stabbing. Others are hunting the switch that hibernating animals use to put cell systems on hold, sometimes for years, when resources are scarce. There is intense interest, too, from space agencies hoping "human hibernation" could solve the problems of prolonged space flight. It is on Earth, however, that the need is most pressing.


It's a planet! Two newborn exoplanets caught sucking in matter from distant star

Exoplanets PDS 70 b and c
© Space Telescope Science Institute
Exoplanets PDS 70 b and c. Astronomers were able to cancel out the light from the central star (marked by a white star) to reveal two orbiting exoplanets.
Astronomers have released images of a nascent two-planet system being formed around a young star, a bit smaller than the Sun. It's the first time a duo of planets orbiting the same star have been spotted while still in the making.

The photos offer a rare glimpse into the process of planet birth, showing the gas planets, named PDS 70b and PDS 70c, accumulating matter from within a disk of dust and gas encircling their host star, PDS 70.

It is only the second time a multi-planet system has been photographed in its toddler state, and the first time for a two-planet system.

"This is the first unambiguous detection of a two-planet system carving a disk gap," Julien Girard of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, a co-author of the study, said in a statement.

While PDS 70b, the bigger of the pair, was discovered last year, its companion, PDS 70c, was not known to scientists before. Being twice as far from its star as PDS 70b, PDS 70c might be less massive than PDS 70b, but is far from lightweight in planetary terms. PDS 70c weighs in at up to 10 times the mass of Jupiter, the largest planet in our Solar System, itself two-and-a-half times as heavy as all other Solar System planets combined.