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Mon, 21 Aug 2017
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Meteor

Urals meteorite gives up new secret as $50,000 lifting operation hauls fragment from Lake Chebarkul

Siberian scientists discover a previous collision for the space rock, or near miss with the Sun.
Image
© The Siberian Times
'The meteorite which landed near Chelyabinsk is a type known as an LL5 chondrite and it's fairly common for these to have undergone a melting process before they fall to Earth,' said Dr Viktor Sharygin from IGM, presenting the research at the Goldschmidt conference.
An operation to lift the main body of the Chelyabinsk meteorite began today in Lake Chebarkul. A specialist engineering company is clearing four metres 100 cubic metres of sludge to reach the extraterrestrial rock which four four metres beneath the floor of the lake. According to Chelyabinsk region search and rescue service, the approximate size of the meteorite is from 0.3 to 1 metre, and the weight is up to 600 kg.

Meanwhile scientists from the Institute of Geology and Mineralogy (IGM) in Novosibirsk have already reached an intriguing conclusion about the meteorite which produced a dramatic light show and it crashed to earth shattering windows in and around Chelyabinsk on 15 February this year.

While all of the fragments are composed of the same minerals, the structure and texture of some fragments show that the meteorite underwent an intensive melting process before it was subjected to extremely high temperatures on entering the Earth's atmosphere, say the specialists.

Comet 2

NAU-led team discovers comet hiding in plain sight

For 30 years, a large near-Earth asteroid wandered its lone, intrepid path, passing before the scrutinizing eyes of scientists while keeping something to itself: (3552) Don Quixote, whose journey stretches to the orbit of Jupiter, now appears to be a comet.

The discovery resulted from an ongoing project coordinated by researchers at Northern Arizona University using the Spitzer Space Telescope. Through a lot of focused attention and a little bit of luck, they found evidence of cometary activity that had evaded detection for three decades.
Image
© NASA
JPL Near-Earth Object database map of 3552 Don Quixote’s orbit
"Don Quixote's orbit resembles that of a comet, so people assumed it was a comet that had gotten rid of all its ice deposits thousands of years ago," said Michael Mommert, a Ph.D. student of team member Prof. Alan Harris at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Berlin at the time this work was carried out. Near-Earth asteroids that are former comets make up roughly 5 percent of the whole near-Earth asteroid population, as found by Mommert and colleagues in a related study. These objects are mostly "dead comets" - comets that had shed the carbon dioxide and water that give them their spectacular comae and tails long time ago.

What Mommert, now a post-doctoral researcher at NAU, and an international team of researchers discovered, though, was that Don Quixote was not actually a dead comet. In fact, the third-biggest near-Earth asteroid out there, skirting Earth with an erratic, extended orbit, is "sopping wet," said NAU associate professor David Trilling, with large deposits of carbon dioxide and presumably water ice.

Comet 2

Balloon sent to edge of atmosphere picks up organisms 'that can only have come from space'

Image
© Reuters
Professor Wickramasinghe, 74, and his team from the University of Sheffield sent a specially designed balloon into the atmoshphere during the annual Perseid meteor shower last month in August
British scientists believe they have found evidence alien life after sending a balloon to the edge of space. The team of scientists sent a balloon 27km into the stratosphere and captured small biological organisms they say can only have come from space. The group, headed up by astrobiologist Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe, claims the 'seeds of life' have been transported between planets by passing meteors.

Professor Wickramasinghe, 74, and his team from the University of Sheffield sent a specially designed balloon into the atmosphere above Chester during the annual Perseid meteor shower. The balloon was carrying sterile microscope slides which were only exposed to the atmosphere at heights of 27km.

When the balloon fell back down to Earth the scientists discovered microscopic aquatic algae on the microscope slides - which they say can only be alien life forms.

Info

Unravelling the secrets of maleness

New research has identified the key to becoming male is an enzyme that "unravels" DNA to trigger male development of the embryo, a discovery that may give greater insight into intersex disorders.

University of Queensland and Japanese scientists observed that mice lacking the Jmjd1a enzyme developed as females despite having a Y chromosome.

The study is published today in the leading international scientific journal Science.

Professor Peter Koopman, from UQ's Institute for Molecular Bioscience, said the discovery provided new information on the earliest steps the body takes in becoming male or female.

"Most mammals, including humans and mice, are programmed to develop as females unless a specific Y-chromosome gene called Sry is present to trigger male development during embryonic life," Professor Koopman said.

Comet

Asteroid 3200 Phaethon behaving like a comet

© Jewitt, Li, Agarwal /NASA/STEREO
A very zoomed-in image of Phaethon from NASA’s STEREO spacecraft, showing a comet-like extension.
Sometimes, putting things into categories difficult. Witness how many members of the general public are still unhappy that Pluto was reclassified as a dwarf planet, a decision made by the International Astronomical Union more than seven years ago.

And now we have 3200 Phaethon, an asteroid that is actually behaving like a comet. Scientists found dust that is streaming from this space rock as it gets close to the sun - similarly to how ices melt and form a tail as comets zoom by our closest stellar neighbor.

Phaethon's orbit puts it in the same originating region as other asteroids (between Mars and Jupiter), but its dust stream is much closer to actions performed by a comet - an object that typically comes from an icy region way beyond Neptune. So far, therefore, the research team is calling Phaethon a "rock comet." And after first proposing a theory a few years ago, they now have observations as to what may be going on.

Magnify

Convergent evolution seen in hundreds of genes

Bats and dolphins may have developed echolocation via similar mutations.

Image
© Doug Perrine/Nature Picture Library
Bottlenose dolphins can detect prey with a sonar-like trick similar to that used by bats — and the similarity extends to the genetic underpinnings of this ability.
A new analysis suggests that many genes evolved in parallel in bats and dolphins as each developed the remarkable ability to echolocate.

Different organisms often independently evolve similar observable traits such as anatomical or functional features, but the genetic changes underpinning such 'convergent evolution' are usually different. The new study, published today in Nature1, hints that evolution may be finding the same genetic solutions to a problem more often than previously thought.

"These results imply that convergent molecular evolution is much more widespread than previously recognized," says molecular phylogeneticist Frédéric Delsuc at the The National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) at the University of Montpellier in France, who was not involved in the study. What is more, he adds, the genes involved are not just the few, obvious ones known to be directly involved in a trait but a broader array of genes that are involved in the same regulatory networks.

Biologists have long debated how different animal species independently developed echolocation, the sonar-like mechanism in which animals listen to their own clicks and calls echoing back from obstacles or prey. In the study released today, biologists led by Stephen Rossiter and Joe Parker at Queen Mary University of London, drew upon the largest dataset ever to look for convergent evolution in 2,326 genes shared by 22 mammals, including six bats and the bottlenose dolphin.

Comet 2

New Comet: C/2013 R1 (LOVEJOY)

Cbet nr. 3649, issued on 2013, September 09, announces the discovery of a new comet (discovery magnitude ~14.4) by Terry Lovejoy on CCD images obtained with a 20-cm f/2.1 Schmidt-Cassegrain reflector on two nights. The new comet has been designated C/2013 R1 (LOVEJOY).

We performed follow-up measurements of this object, while it was still on the neocp. Stacking of 10 unfiltered exposures, 60-sec each, obtained remotely from MPC code Q62 (iTelescope Observatory, Siding Spring) on 2013, September 08.7, through a 0.32-m f/9.0 Ritchey-Chretien + CCD, shows that this object is a comet: sharp central condensation surrounded by a coma about 25" in diameter and a tail about 40" in PA 245.

Below our confirmation image.
© Remanzacco Observatory
M.P.E.C. 2013-R72 assigns the following preliminary parabolic orbital elements to comet C/2013 R1: T 2013 Dec. 25.78; e= 1.0; Peri. = 63.26; q = 0.87; Incl.= 61.94

Arrow Down

The Brits aim to genetically engineer their own beans

© Thinkstock

Essentially little more than navy beans covered in a tomato-based sauce, baked beans are one of the more popular foods in the British Isles.

However, due to the UK's growing environment - the beans are grown outside the region and are mostly imported from Canada.

To rectify this disparity, researchers from the University of Warwick are using state-of-the-art genetic sequencing technology to figure out which traits are necessary for the beans to thrive during the UK growing season.

"The ultimate aim is to produce a navy bean which is less sensitive to cold soil in the spring, is resistant to common diseases that occur over the summer in the UK, and is also ready for harvest in early September," said plant geneticist and project supervisor Eric Holub.

"A shortened growing season is most important as navy beans in the UK have to be harvested in September, when it is still dry, to avoid autumnal damp weather which causes them to discolor," Holub added.

"Using next-generation DNA sequencing technologies, we will improve the ability of bean breeders to select new varieties by effectively providing a genetic roadmap for locating useful natural variation of desired genes in the bean genome."

Bizarro Earth

Bermuda Triangle earthquake triggered 1817 tsunami

© Susan Hough, USGS
A model predicted the tsunami wave height from a Jan. 8, 1817, earthquake offshore South Carolina. The earthquake's magnitude was estimated at 7.4 from newspaper accounts.
A "tidal wave" violently tossed ships docked along the Delaware River south of Philadelphia at about 11 a.m. ET on Jan. 8, 1817, according to newspapers of the time. Turns out, that tidal wave was actually a tsunami, launched by a powerful magnitude-7.4 earthquake that struck at approximately 4:30 a.m. ET near the northern tip of the Bermuda Triangle, a new study finds.

The study links the tsunami to a known Jan. 8, 1817, earthquake. The temblor shook the East Coast from Virginia south to Georgia, where the seismic waves made the State House bell ring several times.

Based on archival accounts of the 1817 shaking, geologists had gauged the quake's size at magnitude 4.8 to magnitude 6. Now, with new geologic detective work and computer modeling of the tsunami, researchers have considerably revised the earthquake's size. A magnitude-7.4 quake releases almost 8,000 times more energy than a magnitude-4.8 earthquake.

The size and location, or epicenter, of the 1817 earthquake has never been pinned down so closely before. U.S. Geological Survey research geophysicist Susan Hough and her colleagues zeroed in on the source from newly uncovered archival records, looking at where the shaking was strongest.

But they weren't sure about the tsunami link: The 11 a.m. arrival time seemed too late for a 4:30 a.m. earthquake. So they created a computer model of the tsunami, testing different locations and magnitudes. The best fit to force a foot-high (30 centimeters) wave up the mouth of Delaware Bay by about 11 a.m. was a magnitude-7.4 earthquake offshore of South Carolina.

"That was the eureka moment," Hough told LiveScience's OurAmazingPlanet. "Darned if that wave doesn't hit the Delaware River and slow way down."

Heart

Revealed! Why mornings are deadliest for heart attack deaths

© dnaindia
An Indian scientist has claimed that evidence from people suffering from heart disease supports the existence of the molecular link first discovered in laboratory mice between the body's natural circadian rhythms and cardiac arrest or sudden cardiac death.

Mukesh Jain, M.D., said that it pinpoints a previously unrecognised factor in the electrical storm that makes the heart's main pumping chambers suddenly begin to beat erratically in a way that stops the flow of blood to the brain and body.

Termed ventricular fibrillation, the condition causes sudden cardiac death (SCD), in which the victim instantly becomes unconscious and dies unless CPR or a defibrillator is available to shock the heart back into its steady beat.

The peak risk hours when SCD strikes range from 6 am to 10 am, with a smaller peak in the late afternoon. Scientists long suspected a link between SCD and the 24-hour body clock, located in the brain.

It governs 24-hour cycles of sleep and wakefulness called circadian rhythms that coordinate a range of body functions with the outside environment.

Jain's group discovered a protein called KLF15 that helps regulate the heart's electrical activity, and occurs in the body in levels that change like clockwork throughout the day. KLF15 helps form channels that allow substances to enter and exit heart cells in ways critical to maintaining a normal, steady heartbeat.

They first discovered that patients with heart failure have lower levels of KLF15. Then, they established in laboratory mice that KLF15 is the molecular link between SCD and the circadian rhythm. And mice with low levels of the protein have the same heart problems as people with SCD.