Science

20 employees of Samsung Electronics who visited CES tested positive for COVID-19

               

Seoul [South Korea],(ANI/Global Economic): About 20 executives and employees of Samsung Electronics who visited the US have been tested positive for COVID-19.

According to the industry on the 11th, about 20 employees of Samsung Electronics who attended the ‘CES 2022,’ world’s largest electronics and IT exhibition held in Las Vegas, the US from the 5th to the 7th, have been confirmed for COVID-19. Samsung Electronics announced this through company notice.
Those employees of Samsung Electronics were tested positive for COVID-19 before boarding a flight to Korea. With Samsung Electronics’ medical support, all of them are in self-quarantine in the US.

Samsung Electronics is planning to negotiate with the US health authorities to dispatch three chartered planes to transfer their employees to Korea on the 11-12th and allow them to stay at the quarantine facility in Korea. (Image – Alamy)

Research explores how brain learns, protects itself

Gottingen [Germany]: It was studied during recent research that what happens when certain enzymes are blocked in mice and depending on whether the brain is healthy or diseased, the inhibition had opposite effects.
The study by researchers at the University of Gottingen has been published in the Journal of Neuroscience. Learning and recovery from injuries depend on the plasticity of neuronal connections. Important for this are the macromolecules of the extracellular matrix, which are located between the nerve cells. When we grow up, the “stability” of this extracellular matrix increases, providing a scaffold for stabilising existing connections between the nerve cells and consolidating what we have learned.
If we experience something new, the extracellular matrix must be loosened to allow new connections to form. This relationship between stability and plasticity in the brain is regulated in the matrix with the help of enzymes such as matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), which can “digest” the extracellular matrix and thus “loosen” it. A team from the University of Gottingen has now been able to show in a new study that blocking the matrix metalloproteinases MMP2 and MMP9 can have opposing effects depending on whether the brain is sick or healthy.
To measure neuronal plasticity, the scientists let adult mice see only through one eye for several days and recorded the resulting activity changes in the animals’ visual cortex. In a first experiment, they examined the adaptability of the visual cortex of healthy mice in which the enzymes MMP2 and MMP9 were blocked (with SB3CT). As a result, neuronal plasticity was also blocked.
In a second experiment, the team researched mice immediately after a stroke. It was already known that a stroke leads to a strong short-term increase in MMPs. In this case, the targeted, short-term inhibition of the enzymes MMP2 and MMP9 produced the opposite effect: the plasticity that had been greatly reduced by the stroke was restored, so blocking the enzymes MMP2 and MMP9 had a clear therapeutic effect.
“What made the design of our study differs from many previous studies, is that the ‘matrix-degrading’ enzymes were blocked only after the experimental stroke, which simulates treatment,” said Professor Siegrid Lowel from the Department of Systems Neuroscience at Gottingen University.
“We also show that the MMPs in the brain have to be very well monitored and precisely adjusted. Too low a level in the healthy brain prevents neuronal plasticity and too high a level — as after a stroke — also blocks neuronal plasticity,” Lowel added.

Extensive smartphones use by parents might damage toddler’s development

Tel Aviv [Israel]: A new study has found that interaction between mothers and their toddlers is reduced by a factor of four when the mothers use their smartphones and this might damage their toddler’s development as well.

The research has been published in the ‘Child Development Journal’.
The new study was led by Dr Katy Borodkin of the Department of Communication Disorders at the Stanley Steyer School of Health Professions, Sackler Faculty of Medicine of Tel Aviv University.

The experiment involved dozens of mothers of toddlers (aged two to three years). The mothers were ostensibly invited to participate in a study examining the link between the mother’s and the child’s interests, and so they were asked to perform three tasks: Browse a designated Facebook page and like videos and articles that interested them; read printed magazines and mark articles that interested them; and finally, play with the child while the smartphone and magazines were outside the room (uninterrupted free play).

“Our goal was to simulate situations in real life where the mother has to take care of her child, while at the same time devoting some of her attention to her smartphone,” Dr Katy Borodkin explained.

“The mothers were unaware of the purpose of the experiment, so they behaved naturally by splitting their interest between the toddlers and the smartphone and magazines. We videotaped all the interactions between the mothers and the toddlers and later scanned the recordings frame by frame in an attempt to quantify the mother-child interaction,” she added.

Researchers from Tel Aviv University have defined three components of mother-child interaction. The maternal linguistic input was examined first, which is the linguistic content that the mother conveyed to the child. According to previous research, this is an important predictor of a child’s language development. It has been found in the past that reduced linguistic input leads to reduced vocabulary in a child, even as an adult.

Next, conversational turns were examined, i.e. how interactive the discourse was. This is a predictor of language and social development, as the child learned that he or she has something to contribute to the interaction as well as the basic social norms of social interactions. Finally, maternal responsiveness was examined, that is, to what extent the mother responded to child bids. This is a measure of the immediacy of the response and its contingency on the child bid’s content.

For example, when the child said “look, a truck”, there is no comparison between a response such as “yes, that’s great” and a response such as “correct, this is a red truck, like the one we saw yesterday”. This measure is the basis for almost every aspect of child development: linguistic, social, emotional, and cognitive.

“We found that the three components of mother-child interaction were reduced by a factor of two to four relative to uninterrupted free play, both when the mother was reading printed magazines and browsing on her smartphone,” Dr Borodkin said.

“In other words, the mothers talked up to four times less with their children while they were on their smartphone. Moreover, they exchanged fewer conversational turns with the toddler, provided less immediate and content-tailored responses, and more often ignored explicit child bids. Even when they were able to respond while browsing Facebook, the quality of the response was reduced – the mothers kept their responsiveness to a bare minimum to avoid a complete breakdown in communication with the toddler,” she added.

Equally interesting was the fact that no difference was found between browsing a smartphone and reading magazines.

“We did not find that one media distracted more than the other. However, it is clear that we use smartphones much more than any other media, so they pose a significant developmental threat. It should be noted that we currently have no research evidence suggesting an actual effect on child development related to the parental use of smartphones, as this is a relatively new phenomenon. However, our findings indicate an adverse impact on the foundation of child development. The consequences of inadequate mother-child interaction can be far-reaching,” she explained.

To conclude, Dr Borodkin added, “In our current research we focused on the mothers, but we believe that our findings characterize communication interferences between fathers and their toddlers as well, since the smartphone usage patterns are similar between men and women, thus allowing us to estimate with high probability that the research findings are applicable to fathers and to mothers”. (ANI)

ThinkQuotient disrupting fresher hiring in the IT Industry

               

New Delhi [India]: ThinkQuotient to supply industry level trained IT freshers at zero hiring costs to companies, eliminating the need for untrained freshers.

Hailing from one of the major industrial hubs of the country, ThinkQuotient has recently announced a path-breaking initiative of providing training and placement opportunities to the candidates, and a well-trained workforce to the IT companies.
This conducive initiative aims at providing all the necessary technical knowledge and skills to the candidates and transforming them into employees of different organizations without charging a single penny from the organization. Through its services, ThinkQuotient aims to develop IT Trained Freshers resulting in zero cost to the company plus the candidate possessing niche technical skills.

Apart from offering their expert services during the whole period, ThinkQuotient also caters to the specific needs and demands of the organizations by providing tailor-made programming language training that best suits the organization. The exemplary range of

programming training offered by ThinkQuotient covers the in-demand programming languages like IoT, DevOps, Java, QA Automation, Dotnet, etc.

Functioning in an industry that changes its requirements with every passing minute, recruiting skilled employees is a complex task. Investing in the training and development of a fresher base is a wastage of money when the stability of employees is a question mark. This is where ThinkQuotient offers a plausible solution by providing fully trained freshers at zero cost.

The pandemic has drastically turned the tides in favour of shifting to a virtual entourage where the trainers find it extremely difficult to cope with the syllabus without being physically present. With many training institutes and agencies providing their limited services for a fortune, ThinkQuotient is creating an extreme example in the industry by aiding the organizations to bounce back, balance, and revitalize their operations for bigger leaps.

Simply put, ThinkQuotient brings in the much-needed versatility into the industry by providing all kinds of programming language training under a single head, guaranteeing

optimum efficiency and personalization in its wide range of services. Aside from these, the organizations can utilize the services of ThinkQuotient to design and prioritize the most efficient set of programming languages to excel at, which matches the changing industry trends. Every organization needs to be updated with the dynamic standards of the industry, and the committed team of ThinkQuotient aids them in achieving it effortlessly.

ThinkQuotient has been highly active in its domain for the past decade and has been

steadily improving its service offerings ever since its inception. The composed and farsighted workforce is composed of veteran industry experts and a bright and highly skilled team of youths. Within a period of ten years, ThinkQuotient has dealt with more than 400 satisfied multinational clients and, with their refined training methods, has provided placement opportunities for thousands of candidates. The numbers have shot up staggeringly in the past few years as the pandemic phase witnessed the trainees of ThinkQuotient constantly grabbing placement offers of 3+ LPA.

Similar to the organizations, ThinkQuotient takes proper care of every individual candidate and designs the most fitting modules, and adapts the best suiting methods to train them. From picking up specific skills to turning into a full stack developer, these customized training models of ThinkQuotient appear second to none.

The recent statistics show tremendous growth in the placement area, where nearly 400 candidates were placed within three quarters, and the average package of 3.5 LPA has been made. The placement trends are simply skyrocketing as the client and connection base of ThinkQuotient extends to reputed MNCs like Zensar, Birlasoft, Tata Technologies, Prorigo, Tieto, Emerson, Capita, Knorr Bremse, Wishtree, Vyom Labs, AIT Global, Thomas Cook etc.

From fulfilling the social responsibilities to their maximum by providing free of cost training to differently-abled candidates and making them efficient enough to build a career of their own to providing highly affordable packages for the students, the ideas of ThinkQuotient have always been impressive.

As of now, ThinkQuotient is all set to expand globally, where extending its services to international candidates and providing the MNCs with qualified candidates from the same nation appears to be another promising initiative. Virtual workplaces and the huge

dependence on programming languages and professional developers in the future is the talk of the town, and ThinkQuotient is initiating something remarkable to build a career and a business out of it.

Simply put, IT firms are in search of skilled employees at no cost, the services of ThinkQuotient is the best they can avail.

To know more, visit –

https://thinkquotient.com

This story is provided by SRV. ANI will not be responsible in any way for the content of this article. (ANI/SRV)

New Features: Instagram will be bringing parental control features next year

Washington [US]: Instagram will roll out new parental control features on its platform in March, the service’s head Adam Mosseri has announced in a blog post.

According to The Verge, they’ll allow parents and guardians to see how much time their teenagers spend on Instagram, set time limits, and get notified if their child reports someone. The controls were announced as a package of new features designed to make the platform a safer place, particularly for its teenage users.
Although Mosseri’s post said these safety features have been in the works for “a long time,” their announcement comes in the wake of a series of damaging revelations about the Meta-owned social network.

Most notably, internal documents leaked by whistleblower Frances Haugen showed Instagram was aware that its service can make body image issues worse for its female teenage users. This week, Mosseri is due to testify in front of a Senate committee, where he will likely be asked about the impact of Instagram on its young users, reported The Verge.

Alongside the new parental controls, Instagram has said that it’s developing an educational hub for parents and guardians to offer them tips and tutorials about children’s social media use.

In the more immediate future, Instagram said it’s rolling out the ‘Take a Break’ feature it started testing last month. This opt-in feature prompts users to step away from the app once they’ve been scrolling for a certain amount of time, like 10, 20, or 30 minutes.

Notifications will prompt users to turn the feature on, and Instagram said 90 per cent of users in tests have left the reminders on once they’ve been set. The feature is launching in the US, UK, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand and Australia today, and will be available globally early next year.

Other new safety features include changes to how Instagram handles tagging permissions for teenage users, which are due to roll out to everyone early next year. By default, Mosseri said the service will no longer allow users to tag or mention teenage users.

There’s also a new bulk delete feature coming in January, which will let users remove their posts, likes, and comments en masse. Mosseri said this is designed to help users “manage their digital footprint.”

Mosseri’s post also went into details about safety features that are in their earlier development stages. It confirms the service is continuing to explore plans to “nudge” people away from topics they’ve been dwelling on for too long.

When he announced this feature alongside Take a Break in October, Meta’s vice president of global affairs Nick Clegg said it would kick in for “content which may not be conducive to [a user’s] well being.”

Instagram hasn’t provided an indication for when the feature may launch. The service is also exploring introducing a stricter setting to control what content gets recommended to users in Explore, aimed at limiting their exposure to “potential harmful or sensitive content or accounts.”

As per The Verge, although Instagram’s post contains a number of quotes from experts and research partners writing in support of the new features, Mosseri will have his work cut out if he wants to win over increasingly critical lawmakers in the US. (ANI)

Google introduces voice, video call features in Gmail app

Washington [US]: Google has announced that it has added the ability to join one-on-one Google Chat voice and video calls from within the Gmail app.

As per MacRumors, it was possible to make calls from within the Gmail app on iOS and Android, but users had to send an invite to a Google Meet video conferencing call, which was more convoluted and limiting.
In future, however, users will be able to tap the new phone and video icons that appear in the upper right corner of individual one-on-one chat screens in the Google Chat section of the app.

According to MacRumors, users who initiate a call from the Google Chat app will now be redirected to the Gmail app, highlighting Google’s intention of putting the Gmail app at the centre of its communication platforms.

The call feature is rolling out for everyone with Google Workspace, G Suite or personal Google accounts. (ANI)

elon musk ,

Elon Musk praises Indian talent after Parag Agrawal takes over as Twitter’s CEO

Washington [US]: Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently gave a shout out to Indian talent after Parag Agrawal replaced Jack Dorsey as Twitter’s new CEO.

Musk replied to a tweet by Stripe CEO Patrick Collison, who congratulated Parag and highlighted that six US tech giants are now run by Indian-origin CEOs.
“Google, Microsoft, Adobe, IBM, Palo Alto Networks, and now Twitter are run by CEOs who grew up in India. It is wonderful to watch the amazing success of Indians in the technology world; it is a good reminder of the opportunity America offers to immigrants. (Congrats, @paraga!),” Collison wrote.

Musk responded to Collison’s post by saying, “USA benefits greatly from Indian talent!”

Parag Agrawal -CEO, Twitter

37-year old IIT-Bombay and Stanford University alumnus, Parag Agrawal, took over as the CEO of Twitter on Monday, after its co-founder Jack Dorsey stepped down at the helm of the San Francisco-headquartered microblogging platform.

Parag has previously worked in Microsoft, Yahoo, and AT&T labs before joining Twitter in 2011.

He is the latest Indian origin person to head a leading US-based tech company after Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai, Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella, Adobe’s CEO Shantanu Narayen.

Astronomers team up to create new method to understand galaxy evolution

Washington [US]: A team of astronomers at The University of Toledo joined forces for the first time in their scientific careers during the pandemic to develop a new method to look back in time and change the way we understand the history of galaxies.
The resulting breakthrough research published in the Astrophysical Journal outlines their new method to establish the star formation history of a post-starburst galaxy using its cluster population. The approach uses the age and mass estimates of stellar clusters to determine the strength and speed of the starburst that stopped more stars from forming in the galaxy. Until now forging parallel but separate careers while juggling home life and carpooling to cross country meets, Dr Rupali Chandar, professor of astronomy, and Dr J.D. Smith, director of the UToledo Ritter Astrophysical Research Center and professor of astronomy, merged their areas of expertise.
Working along with UToledo alumnus Dr Adam Smercina who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in physics in 2015 and is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Washington, they used NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to focus on a post-starburst galaxy nearly 500 million light-years away called S12 that looks like a jellyfish with a host of stars streaming out of the galaxy on one side.
Smercina, the “glue” that brought Smith and Chandar together on this research, worked with Smith as an undergraduate student starting in 2012 on the dust and gas in post-starburst galaxies.
While spiral galaxies like our Milky Way have continued to form stars at a fairly steady rate, post-starburst galaxies experienced an intense burst of star formation sometime in the last half-billion years, shutting down their star formation.
Using this method, the astronomers discovered that S12 experienced two periods of starburst before it stopped forming stars, not one.
“Post-starbursts represent a phase of galaxy evolution that is pretty rare today,” Smith said. “We think that nearly half of all galaxies went through this phase at some point in their lives. So far, their star-forming histories have been determined almost exclusively from detailed modelling of their composite starlight.”
Smith has studied post-starburst galaxies for more than a decade, and Chandar works on the stellar clusters in galaxies that are typically about three or four times closer than those in Smith’s data.
“Clusters are like fossils — they can be age-dated and give us clues to the past history of galaxies,” Chandar said. “Clusters can only be detected in these galaxies with the clear eyed-view of the Hubble Space Telescope. No clusters can be detected in even the highest quality images taken with telescopes on the ground.”
Smith has led several large multi-wavelength projects to better understand the evolutionary history of post-starburst galaxies. He discovered, for example, that the raw fuel for star formation — gas and dust — is still present in surprising quantities in some of these systems including S12, even though no stars are currently being formed.
“While studying the light from these galaxies at multiple wavelengths has helped establish the time that the burst happened, we hadn’t been able to determine how strong and how long the burst that shutoff star formation actually was,” Smith said. “And that’s important to know to better understand how these galaxies evolve.”
The astronomers used well-studied cluster masses and star formation rates in eight nearby galaxies to develop the new method, which could be applied to determine the recent star formation histories for a number of post-starburst systems.
The researchers applied their different approach to S-12, which is short for SDSS 623-52051-207 since it was discovered and catalogued in the Sloan Digitized Sky Survey (SDSS).
“It must have had one of the highest rates of star formation of any galaxy we have ever studied,” Chandar said. “S12 is the most distant galaxy I’ve ever worked on.”
The study indicates star formation in S12 shut off 70 million years ago after a short but intense burst formed some of the most massive clusters known, with masses several times higher than similar-age counterparts forming in actively merging galaxies. The method also revealed an earlier burst of star formation that the previous method of composite starlight modelling could not detect.
“These results suggest that S12’s unusual history maybe even more complicated than expected, with multiple major events compounding to fully shut off star formation,” Smith said.
The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and NASA.
Chandar and Smith are two of four UToledo astronomers leading some of the first research projects on NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope scheduled to launch in December.

Study finds anxiety cues in brain despite safe environment

Washington [US] : Researchers have used a virtual-reality environment to understand the impact of anxiety on the brain and how brain regions interact with one another to shape behaviour.
The findings of the study were published in the journal ‘Communications Biology’. The researchers used a virtual-reality environment where volunteers were in a meadow picking flowers. They knew that some flowers are safe, while others have a bee inside that will sting them.
“These findings tell us that anxiety disorders might be more than a lack of awareness of the environment or ignorance of safety, but rather that individuals suffering from an anxiety disorder cannot control their feelings and behaviour even if they wanted to,” said Benjamin Suarez-Jimenez, PhD, assistant professor in the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Rochester and first author of the study.
“The patients with an anxiety disorder could rationally say — I’m in a safe space — but we found their brain was behaving as if it was not,” said Benjamin Suarez-Jimenez.
Using fMRI, the researchers observed the brain activity of volunteers with general and social anxiety as they navigated a virtual reality game of picking flowers. Half of the meadow had flowers without bees, the other half had flowers with bees that would sting them — as simulated by a mild electrical stimulation to the hand.
Researchers found all study participants could distinguish between the safe and dangerous areas, however, brain scans revealed volunteers with anxiety had increased insula and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex activation — indicating their brain was associating a known safe area to danger or threat.
“This is the first time we’ve looked at discrimination learning in this way. We know what brain areas to look at, but this is the first time we show this concert of activity in such a complex ‘real-world-like’ environment,” said Suarez-Jimenez.
“These findings point towards the need for treatments that focus on helping patients take back control of their body,” added Suarez-Jimenez.
The brain differences were the only differences seen in these patients. For example, sweat responses, a proxy for anxiety, which was also measured, failed to reveal any clear differences.
Understanding the neural mechanisms by which the brain learns about the environment is the focus of Suarez-Jimenez’s research, particularly how the brain predicts what is threatening and what is safe.
He uses virtual reality environments to investigate neural signatures of anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). His goal is to understand how people build maps in the brain that are based on experience, and the role of those maps in psychopathologies of stress and anxiety.
“For next steps in this recent research, we still need to clarify if what we found in the brain of these patients is also the case in other disorders, such as PTSD. Understanding the differences and similarities across disorders characterised by deficits in behavioural regulation and feelings in safe environments, can help us create better-personalised treatment options,” concluded Suarez-Jimenez.

PIO Raja Chari led NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 astronauts headed to International Space Station

Washington [US] : NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 astronaut team led by PIO (Person of India Origin) Raja Chari are in orbit following their launch to the International Space Station on the third commercial crew rotation mission aboard the microgravity laboratory.
The international crew of astronauts lifted off at 9:03 pm EST Wednesday from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket propelled the Crew Dragon Endurance spacecraft with NASA astronauts Tom Marshburn, Kayla Barron, PIO Raja Chari as well as ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer, into orbit to begin a six-month science mission on the space station.
Chari is commander of the Crew Dragon spacecraft and the Crew-3 mission. He is responsible for all phases of flight, from launch to re-entry. He also will serve as an Expedition 66 flight engineer aboard the station. This will be the first spaceflight for Chari, who was selected as a NASA astronaut candidate in 2017.
He was born in Milwaukee, but considers Cedar Falls, Iowa, his hometown. He is a colonel in the US Air Force and joins the mission with extensive experience as a test pilot. He has accumulated more than 2,500 hours of flight time during his career.
Marshburn is the pilot of the Crew Dragon spacecraft and second-in-command for the mission. He is responsible for spacecraft systems and performance. Once aboard station, he will serve as an Expedition 66 flight engineer, and is scheduled to assume command of station for Expedition 67. Marshburn is a Statesville, North Carolina, native who became an astronaut in 2004.
Prior to serving in the astronaut corps, the medical doctor served as flight surgeon at NASA Johnson and later became medical operations lead for the International Space Station. The Crew-3 mission will be his third visit to the space station, having flown on three different spacecraft, and his second long-duration mission. Marshburn previously served as a crew member of STS-127 in 2009 flying aboard NASA’s Space Shuttle Endeavour, and Expedition 34/35, which concluded in 2013, using a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
Barron is a mission specialist for Crew-3. She will work closely with the commander and pilot to monitor the spacecraft during the dynamic launch and re-entry phases of flight. Once aboard the station, she will become a flight engineer for Expedition 66.
Barron was born in Pocatello, Idaho, but considers Richland, Washington, her hometown. She earned a bachelor’s degree in systems engineering from the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, in 2010, and a master’s degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Cambridge, in England, in 2011, where she was a Gates Cambridge Scholar.
Barron earned her submarine warfare officer qualification and deployed three times while serving aboard the USS Maine. Her current rank in the US Navy is a Lt Cmdr. At the time of her selection as an astronaut candidate, in 2017, she was serving as the flag aide to the superintendent of the US Naval Academy. Crew-3 will be Barron’s first spaceflight.
Maurer also will be a mission specialist for Crew-3, working with the commander and pilot to monitor the spacecraft during the dynamic launch and re-entry phases of flight. He also will become a long-duration crew member aboard the space station. Like Chari and Barron, he will be making his first trip to space with the Crew-3 mission. Maurer comes from Sankt Wendel, in the German state of Saarland. Before becoming an astronaut, Maurer held a number of engineering and research roles, both in a university setting and at ESA.
In 2016, Maurer spent 16 days on an undersea mission as part of NASA’s Extreme Environment Mission Operations space analog.
This mission is the first spaceflight for astronauts Chari, Barron, and Maurer, and the third for Marshburn. Marshburn is the sixth person to launch from Earth on three different spacecraft.
During Crew Dragon’s flight, SpaceX will monitor a series of automatic spacecraft maneuvers from its mission control center in Hawthorne, California, and NASA teams will monitor space station operations throughout the flight from the Mission Control Center at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
“With Raja, Thomas, Kayla, and Mattias on their way to the International Space Station just days after Crew-2’s return, we’re seeing the power of American ingenuity right before our eyes,” Nelson said.
He added, “NASA’s partnership with SpaceX is not only critical for cutting-edge research, but also for international collaboration. The space station brings together nations around the world for the benefit of all. Godspeed, Crew-3 – I can’t wait to see all that you accomplish.”
The Crew Dragon Endurance will dock autonomously to the forward port of the station’s Harmony module around 7:10 pm Thursday, November 11. NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website are providing ongoing live coverage through docking, hatch opening, and the ceremony to welcome the crew aboard the orbital outpost.
“Ensuring our crews have safe transportation and continued access to space is an enormous responsibility,” said Steve Stich, manager with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. “We know the crew is excited to get on station and settle into their long-duration mission. The NASA and SpaceX team remains vigilant in support of their safe arrival and eventual return to Earth.”
Chari, Marshburn, Barron, and Maurer will join the Expedition 66 crew of NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov of Roscosmos. Crew-3 is the second commercial crew mission to fly an ESA astronaut.
“It is always thrilling to watch a rocket launch, especially when an international crew of astronauts is sitting atop it. Matthias Maurer is the second ESA astronaut to be launched in a Crew Dragon spacecraft under the US Commercial Crew Program,” said Josef Aschbacher, ESA director-general.
He added, “We are delighted to see him fly alongside NASA astronauts to the International Space Station, continuing a long history of international collaboration in space for the benefit of Earth. On behalf of ESA, I’d like to wish all Crew-3 astronauts a productive and enjoyable mission.”
The Crew-3 astronauts will spend approximately six months aboard the space station conducting new and exciting scientific research in areas such as materials science, health technologies, and plant science to prepare for human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit and to benefit life on Earth.
The Crew-3 mission continues NASA’s efforts to restore and maintain American leadership in human spaceflight. Regular, long-duration commercial crew rotation missions enable NASA to continue the important research and technology investigations taking place aboard the station.
Such research benefits people on Earth and lays the groundwork for future exploration of the Moon and Mars, starting with the agency’s Artemis missions, which include landing the first woman and person of colour on the lunar surface.

Lack of important molecule in red blood cells causes vascular damage in type 2 diabetes

Stockholm [Sweden] : Altered function of the red blood cells leads to vascular damage in type 2 diabetes. Results from a new study in cells from patients with type 2 diabetes and mice show that this effect is caused by low levels of an important molecule in the red blood cells.
The study by researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden has been published in the journal Diabetes. It is well known that patients with type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Over time type 2 diabetes may damage blood vessels, which could lead to life-threatening complications such as heart attack and stroke. However, the disease mechanisms underlying cardiovascular injury in type 2 diabetes are largely unknown and there is currently a lack of treatments to prevent such injuries.
In recent years, research has shown that the red blood cells, whose most important job is to transport oxygen to bodily organs, become dysfunctional in type 2 diabetes and can act as mediators of vascular complications.
In the current study, researchers at Karolinska Institutet have in cells from patients with type 2 diabetes, and mice examined which molecular changes in the red blood cells could explain these harmful effects in type 2 diabetes.
The researchers found that levels of the small molecule microRNA-210 were markedly reduced in red blood cells from 36 patients with type 2 diabetes compared with red blood cells of 32 healthy subjects.
Micro-RNAs belongs to a group of molecules that serve as regulators of vascular function in diabetes and other conditions. The reduction in microRNA-210 caused alterations in specific vascular protein levels and impaired blood vessel endothelial cell function. In laboratory experiments, restoration of microRNA-210 levels in red blood cells prevented the development of vascular injury via specific molecular changes.
“The findings demonstrate a previously unrecognized cause of vascular injury in type 2 diabetes. We hope that the results will pave the way for new therapies that increase red blood cell microRNA-210 levels and thereby prevent vascular injury in patients with type 2 diabetes,” says Zhichao Zhou, a researcher at the Department of Medicine, Solna, Karolinska Institutet, who conducted the study in collaboration with among others Professor John Pernow at the same department.

Four astronauts safely splash down in Gulf of Mexico

Washington [US]: Four astronauts from NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 have returned safely to Earth after 199 days of scientific research on the International Space Station.
The astronauts splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida on Monday, completing the agency’s second long-duration commercial crew mission to the International Space Station. NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet returned to Earth in a parachute-assisted splashdown at 10:33 pm EST off the coast of Pensacola, Florida.
Speaking about the splashdown, NASA administrator Bill Nelso said, “We’re happy to have Shane, Megan, Aki, and Thomas safely back on Earth after another successful, record-setting long-duration mission to the International Space Station. Congratulations to the teams at NASA and SpaceX who worked so hard to ensure their successful splashdown. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program continues to demonstrate safe, reliable transportation to conduct important science and maintenance on the space station.”
The Crew-2 mission launched April 23 on a Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Crew Dragon Endeavour docked to the Harmony module’s forward port of the space station on April 24, nearly 24-hours after liftoff.
Kimbrough, McArthur, Hoshide, and Pesquet travelled 84,653,119 statute miles during their mission, stayed 198 days aboard the space station, and completed 3,194 orbits around Earth.
During their mission, the astronauts contributed to a host of science and maintenance activities, scientific investigations, and technology demonstrations. They even conducted four spacewalks and multiple public engagement events while aboard the orbiting laboratory. They studied how gaseous flames behave in microgravity, grew hatch green chiles in the station’s Plant Habitat Facility, installed free-flying robotic assistants, and even donned virtual reality goggles to test new methods of exercising in space, among many other scientific activities.
The astronauts took hundreds of pictures of Earth as part of the Crew Earth Observation investigation, one of the longest-running investigations aboard the space station, which contributes to tracking of natural disasters and changes to our home planet.
Kimbrough, Hoshide, and Pesquet also completed four spacewalks to install, deploy, or otherwise prepare for the installation of ISS Roll-out Solar Arrays. This brought the total number of spacewalks for Kimbrough, Hoshide, and Pesquet to nine, four, and six, respectively.
The splashdown of Crew-2 comes just ahead of the launch of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission, currently scheduled for Wednesday.

Small amounts of carbon monoxide may help protect vision in diabetes

Washington [US] : The Medical College of Georgia scientists have early evidence that HBI-002, a low-dose oral compound developed by Hillhurst Biopharmaceuticals and already in early-stage trials for sickle cell disease, can safely reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the retina, both early, major contributors to diabetic retinopathy.
An ingested liquid that ultimately delivers a small dose of carbon monoxide to the eye appears to target key factors that damage or destroy vision in both type 1 and 2 diabetes, scientists say. “Inflammation and oxidative stress go hand in hand,” says Dr. Pamela Martin, cell biologist and biochemist in the MCG Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Vision Discovery Institute at Augusta University. “If you impact one, you generally impact the other.”
At the right dose, carbon monoxide can impact both.
While we likely think of chirping detectors in our homes, toxic fumes from cars and trucks and even death when we think of carbon monoxide, many of our own cells and tissues are actively and regularly producing small amounts of the colorless, odorless gas to protect themselves from the damage of high and/or chronic inflammation and oxidative stress, says Dr. Ravirajsinh Jadeja, MCG biochemist.
He’s talking about the enzyme heme oxygenase 1, a common component of many tissues including oxygen-carrying hemoglobin and immune cells, whose jobs include reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, and one of the ways it does that is by releasing small amounts of carbon monoxide. In fact heme oxygenase 1 is naturally upregulated in our cells in response to increased levels of the destructive states.
“Basically what the enzyme does is produce a very low amount of carbon monoxide, 1,000 times lower than what we inhale outside,” Jadeja says. Unlike in our homes when fuel-burning furnaces can cause high levels to accumulate, the small, steady production and the cell machinery that use it also mean the carbon monoxide we make doesn’t accumulate in our body.
“When you introduce diseases like diabetes, then these natural mechanisms fail, and we have to think of ways to enhance, or reestablish, those mechanisms that would normally protect us,” Martin says.
The scientists have early evidence that HBI-002, a liquid that converts to the familiar gas when it hits our intestines, can help our retinas, which are damaged in nearly half of people with diabetes, do that.
Martin and Jadeja are co-principal investigators on a $300,000 grant (1R41EY033264-01), for the first phase of an R41/R42, Small Business Technology Transfer Grant from the National Institutes of Health that is enabling them to further explore HBI-002’s potential.
For the new studies, they are looking at the impact of the compound in both an acute ischemic model, when the retina suddenly is not getting sufficient oxygen because of oxidative stress followed by its normal companion inflammation, as well as a model of more natural disease progression.
The retina, which is considered an extension of the brain, is comprised of intricate layers of nerves that line the back part of the eye and sense light, which the brain transforms into images. Cell types in the retina are among the highest metabolically active cell types, which means they naturally generate a lot of oxidative stress, Martin says.
One of her many long-term interests is identifying noninvasive methods to get help to the retina, like oral antihypertensives help reduce blood pressure.
Their preliminary studies indicate HBI-002 can make the trip. The liquid turns into carbon monoxide’s more familiar gaseous state in the intestines, where it naturally binds to hemoglobin– the oxygen-carrying component of blood — then travels up to the eye in the blood, Jadeja says. Carbon monoxide is good at finding hemoglobin, the scientists note. In fact, it’s strong affinity for hemoglobin is what makes it deadly since oxygen can no longer bind to hemoglobin when carbon monoxide has made the connection, Jadeja says.
“It’s bad, it’s deadly. When you first hear carbon monoxide, that is everyone’s reaction,” says Martin. “That is true in a broad, uncontrolled setting. But this is in a very controlled setting where you are getting minimal concentrations that target specific cellular processes.”
Once in the retina, the small dose of carbon monoxide finds the heme oxygenase enzyme in retinal cells and helps induce the steps that normally yield its desired antioxidant, anti-inflammatory action.
To objectively measure its impact, the scientists have functional tests that — much like an electrocardiogram of the heart, but in this case it’s an electroretinogram — produce peaks and waves, which indicate how different cells are firing and signaling. They can also look directly at the retina for telltale signs of damage: Diabetes prompts cell death and a thinning of the retina, and can cause retinal detachment. RNA and protein analysis will give more evidence of whether they are getting increased expression of good genes and decreased expression of the problematic ones in response to treatment.
Meanwhile, levels of the complex carboxyhemoglobin, which forms inside red blood cells when hemoglobin is exposed to carbon monoxide and whose levels can be easily monitored with a blood test, are a good indicator of whether carbon monoxide levels remain safe.
The unique liquid to gas transformation of HBI-002 enables more targeted dosing since the amount needed can vary between individuals and, if one day approved for humans, will help ensure dosing accuracy and the ability of patients eventually to easily and safely use the compound at home, the scientists and its developers say.
It also effectively leaves nothing behind, while a pill form previously studied left behind metal complexes that had to be cleared by the kidneys, which also are often compromised in people with diabetes, Jadeja says.
If the evidence of HB1-002’s benefit continues to hold in their studies over the next 12 months, it will lead to another grant and more studies honing in on how this carbon monoxide compound is working against the ravages of diabetic retinopathy, exploring optimal doses, how often it should be given and more.
While they and other scientists studying the compound have reported no side effects, the sickle cell trial just getting underway should provide more insight. Martin notes they expect to see minimal impact, if any.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave Hillhurst approval to move forward with a first-phase trial of their HBI-002 for sickle cell disease. Phase 1 trials are intended to test safety and are done in healthy individuals. The company has preclinical evidence that the compound will prevent the classic pain crises that result when adequate blood flow is disrupted by sickled red blood cells in the arms, legs, bones, joints and other tissues.
While the causes of sickle cell and diabetes may be disparate, they have in common players like oxidative stress and inflammation, Martin notes.
“While we are generating this data, they will be continuing with this trial,” Jadeja says. “We are working on something that is very close to clinical usage.”
The back of the eye has been a tough target for drugs to reach. For example, using eye drops as a mechanism of delivery typically is not effective because often the drug doesn’t reach the retina, and if you give sufficient doses to help it make the journey, it can damage the front of the eye, Martin says. So diabetic retinopathy therapies tend to be invasive, like intravitreal injections of drugs that help reduce the destructive, abnormal blood vessel growth that happens in response to blockage of existing blood vessels but which ultimately instead contributes to vision loss.
Diabetic retinopathy is the most frequent cause of new cases of blindness among those age 20-74, and is strongly related to how long the individual has had diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association.
Carbon monoxide also has been shown to have important, natural roles in helping blood vessels dilate and repairing cell powerhouses called mitochondria, the scientists say.
Hillhurst Biopharmaceuticals is a clinical stage company that focuses on blood and inflammatory disorders. Preclinical studies of their HBI-002, like the ones Martin and Jadeja are doing in diabetic retinopathy, also are underway in conditions like Parkinson’s and acute pain.

Researchers detect SARS-CoV-2 variant in dogs, cats with suspected myocarditis

Washington [US] : A new study in the Veterinary Record reveals that pets can be infected with the alpha variant of SARS-CoV-2, which was first detected in southeast England and is commonly known as the UK variant or B.1.1.7.
This variant rapidly outcompeted pre-existing variants in England due to its increased transmissibility and infectivity. The study describes the first identification of the SARS-CoV-2 alpha variant in domestic pets; two cats and one dog were positive on PCR test, while two additional cats and one dog displayed antibodies two to six weeks after they developed signs of cardiac disease. Many owners of these pets had developed respiratory symptoms several weeks before their pets became ill and had also tested positive for COVID-19.
All of these pets had an acute onset of cardiac disease, including severe myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle).
“Our study reports the first cases of cats and dogs affected by the COVID-19 alpha variant and highlights, more than ever, the risk that companion animals can become infected with SARS-CoV-2,” said lead author Luca Ferasin, DVM, PhD, of The Ralph Veterinary Referral Centre, in the UK.
“We also reported the atypical clinical manifestations characterized by severe heart abnormalities, which is a well-recognised complication in people affected by COVID-19 but has never been described in pets before. However, COVID-19 infection in pets remains a relatively rare condition and, based on our observations, it seems that the transmission occurs from humans to pets, rather than vice versa,” Luca said.

Gamma-ray Telescope selected by NASA to chart Milky Way evolution

Washington [US] : The US space agency National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has selected a new space telescope proposal to study the recent history of star birth, star death, and the formation of chemical elements in the Milky Way.
For the unversed, in 2019, NASA’s Astrophysics Explorers Program received 18 telescope proposals and selected four for mission concept studies. After a detailed review, NASA selected the gamma-ray telescope, called the Compton Spectrometer and Imager (COSI), to continue into development. “For more than 60 years, NASA has provided opportunities for inventive, smaller-scale missions to fill knowledge gaps where we still seek answers.COSI will answer questions about the origin of the chemical elements in our own Milky Way galaxy, the very ingredients critical to the formation of Earth itself,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said.
COSI, which is expected to launch in 2025 as NASA’s latest small astrophysics mission, will study gamma rays from radioactive atoms produced when massive stars exploded to map where chemical elements were formed in the Milky Way. The mission will also probe the mysterious origin of our galaxy’s positrons, also known as antielectrons – subatomic particles that have the same mass as an electron but a positive charge.
COSI’s principal investigator is John Tomsick at the University of California, Berkeley. The mission will cost approximately $145 million, not including launch costs. NASA will select a launch provider later.
The COSI team spent decades developing their technology through flights on scientific balloons. In 2016, they sent a version of the gamma-ray instrument aboard NASA’s super pressure balloon, which is designed for long flights and heavy lifts.
NASA’s Explorers Program is the agency’s oldest continuous program. It provides frequent, low-cost access to space using principal investigator-led space research relevant to the astrophysics and heliophysics programs. Since the 1958 launch of Explorer 1, which discovered Earth’s radiation belts, the program has launched more than 90 missions. The Cosmic Background Explorer, another NASA Explorer mission, led to a Nobel Prize in 2006 for its principal investigators.

Japanese astronaut Wakata to fly to space on Crew Dragon mission in fall 2022

Tokyo [Japan]: Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata will join the fifth Crew Dragon space mission to fly to the International Space Station (ISS) next year, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said on Tuesday.

“It has been decided that I will be boarding the SpaceX’s fifth Crew Dragon. I have been training for a long-duration mission aboard the ISS and it is an honor to board this new space vehicle for three consecutive years for JAXA Astronauts, succeeding Noguchi Soichi and Hoshide Akihiko,” Wakata was quoted as saying in a statement.
The upcoming mission will also be his fifth space flight, the astronaut added, listing three US Space Shuttle flights in 1996, 2000, 2009, as well as a flight aboard Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft in 2013. The 2022 flight will see Wakata top the list of Japanese astronauts in terms of the number of space journeys.

Along with Wakata, NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada have so far been assigned to the mission. (ANI/Sputnik)

Researchers conduct study to reduce tropical cyclone impacts

Berlin [Germany]: A new study by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research found that increasing global warming from currently one to two degrees Celsius by mid-century might lead to about 25 per cent more people being put at risk by tropical cyclones.
Currently, hurricanes and typhoons are among the most destructive natural disasters worldwide and potentially threaten about 150 million people each year. Adding to climate change, population growth further drives tropical cyclone exposure, especially in coastal areas of East African countries and the United States. Considering the joint impact of climate change and population growth provides an untapped potential to protect a changing world population.
“If we add population growth to two degrees Celsius global warming, in 2050 we could even see an increase of ca. 40 per cent more people exposed to cyclones,” said Tobias Geiger, a researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the Deutscher Wetterdienst (DWD), lead author of the new study published in Nature Climate Change.
“As the global population is projected to peak around mid-century, more people will face more intense cyclones, due to climate change – putting that higher population at greater risk,” he added.
The global ambition is to limit warming to well below two degrees, yet compared to unmitigated climate change even reaching two degrees Celsius of global warming 50 years later could lead to a quite different outcome, as an interdisciplinary team of scientists from Germany, Switzerland and the US found in a computer-based analysis: Until 2100, population models project an unforced, regular declining population in cyclone-prone areas on a global scale.
This would partially compensate for the additional exposure caused by warming as Geiger underlined, “If we rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reach two degrees Celsius of global warming only in 2100, this would limit the increase of people in danger of cyclones to 20 per cent. This finding is key as it shows that reducing global warming potentially postpones severe tropical cyclone impacts to the late second half of the century when there would be far fewer people at risk.”
In the study, the scientists analysed the joint impacts of demographic development and climate change on people exposed to tropical cyclones – and found that the timing of when certain warming levels are reached becomes crucial.
The results are even more obvious on the country level, explained Johannes Gutschow by saying, “Our model shows, with unprecedented detail, that in 2050 all countries at high risk of tropical cyclones are projected to see a rise in an exposure. Due to the projected population growth, we found exposure changes of nearly 300 per cent in some East African countries, up to 100 per cent in the United States and also a strong increase for the Arabian Peninsula. For the US, this will most likely result in more cyclone damages, while other strongly affected world regions might also face more poverty and forced migration.”
Under less rapid warming scenarios this picture changes: Delaying two degrees of warming to 2080 or 2100 – in line with a projected population decline – would result in a reduction of exposed population in the Caribbean and in East Asia, in particular in Japan, China, and the Korean peninsula compared to a scenario where two-degree global warming would occur already in 2050.
Johannes Gutschow added, “Basically, our computer model can calculate the impact of any given warming scenario, on a global and country scale, and its implications for the number of people at risk by tropical cyclones. Our findings most likely also hold true for a variety of other climate extremes whose occurrence only depends on absolute warming and not on the timing.”
This can also inform decisions at the 2021 UN world climate summit, COP26, which will be an occasion to re-consider the insufficient Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement: “The current NDCs scenario would lead to about two degrees of warming around mid-century and a continuous rise of warming thereafter,” said Katja Frieler, co-lead of PIK’s Research Department on Transformation Pathways.
He added, “In line with the NDCs, the number of people at risk of cyclones would keep rising throughout the century, for instance in the hurricane-prone regions of the US.”
Frieler underlines: “Emission reductions that would limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius could cumulatively protect over 1.8 billion people from exposure to tropical cyclones until the end of this century compared to the warming under currently proposed emission reductions.
It is thus, according to researchers- a high time to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions to keep as many people safe as possible.

NASA, Boeing helping Russia in trying to find cause of cracks on space station

Moscow [Russia]: Engineers from the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are helping Russia in its investigation into the possible causes of cracks and air leaks at the International Space Station (ISS).

Paul Hill, a member of NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, said at a Sunday panel meeting that the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, the Langley Research Center, the panel itself and the Boeing company are all conducting engineering analyzes of the issue.
According to Russian Rocket and Space Corporation Energia, persistent air leaks on the ISS could be the result of welding errors made inside the Zarya and Zvezda modules three decades ago.

Energia’s First Deputy General Designer Vladimir Soloviev told Sputnik at the end of last month that Russian cosmonauts found cracks in the oldest module of the ISS, Zarya, and warned that the earlier discovery of through cracks in the Zvezda module means that the Zarya cracks could start to expand.

Soloviev said that Russian cosmonauts were going to install highly sensitive vibration sensors inside the Russian segment of the ISS in the hope of finding the cause of air leaks.

A small air leak was first detected at the ISS in September 2019. The crew have since identified and sealed two cracks but air continues to leak, which, nonetheless, poses no threat to those on board the space station, according to Russia’s space agency Roscosmos. (ANI/Sputnik)

US, India launch task forces on Hydrogen, Biofuels to expand clean energy technologies use

Washington [US], September 25 : The US Department of Energy along with its Indian counterparts launched a new public-private Hydrogen Task Force as well as a Biofuels Task Force under the Strategic Clean Energy Partnership (SCEP).
“Under the SCEP, the Department of Energy together with Indian counterparts launched a new public-private Hydrogen Task Force as well as a Biofuels Task Force. These groups will help expand the use of clean energy technologies to decarbonize the energy sector,” an official statement said on Friday (local time). The United States and India are both committed to promoting a successful outcome at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow later this year. Toward that end, the US communicated an enhanced Nationally Determined Contribution to reduce economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 50-52 per cent below 2005 levels in 2030.
“The United States is actively working with India to realize its ambitious goal of deploying 450 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2030, including through the recently launched Climate Action and Finance Mobilization Dialogue, led by the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, and the revamped Strategic Clean Energy Partnership (SCEP), led by the U.S. Secretary of Energy, the two tracks of the U.S.-India Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 Partnership. These tracks will help further catalyze India’s clean energy transition,” the statement said.
Over the last five years, USAID has contributed to the deployment of five gigawatts of renewable energy across India, which reduced 30 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2020, powered 3.3 million households, and helped mobilize 1.1 billion dollar in private-sector clean energy investments.
The statement further said that the US Trade and Development Agency launched the US-India Climate Technologies Action Group (CTAG). The CTAG will integrate private and public-sector inputs on initiatives that can contribute to global action on climate, facilitate US industry input on the latest climate-resilient technologies, share US business models with the Indian market to accelerate the development of the clean energy sector, and mobilize capital for climate-smart infrastructure projects in India.
Apart from it, the US invited India to participate in the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM for Climate), which will be launched at COP26 in November. AIM for Climate has the goal of increasing and accelerating global innovation on agriculture and food systems in support of climate action.
The United States looks forward to working with India to support the conclusion of a contract to build six Westinghouse Electric Company AP-1000 nuclear reactors in Kovvada, India, and looks forward to a completed techno-commercial offer soon. Once completed, the Westinghouse project will provide clean, reliable power to millions of Indians.
US firm First Solar has announced it will invest 684 million dollars in a fully integrated solar module manufacturing facility in southern India, directly supporting India’s energy security and bilateral climate goals. This investment will involve exports of technology and expertise from the United States to eventually produce modules with 60 percent local value-added content, generating jobs in both countries.
In September, US firm 24M Technologies, Inc. announced the signing of a license and services agreement with Chennai-based Lucas TVS Ltd. to construct one of the first Giga factories in India using battery storage platform technology. The first plant will be set up near Chennai with additional plants expected to be built throughout India to support the growing market for energy storage solutions, the statement added.

Russian space agency starts preparations for manned Moon flights

Moscow [Russia]: The Russian State Space Corporation Roscosmos has launched a tender to study problematic issues related to organising manned Moon flights, requirements for space equipment for the manned missions should be developed, according to Roscosmos’ materials published on the state procurement website.

“Objectives of the research work: development of proposals, recommendations and requirements for prospective technologies, elements and systems of rocket and space technology products that ensure reliable implementation of manned Moon flights and cosmonauts’ work in lunar orbit and on the Moon surface,” the document read.
The contract value totals 1.7 billion rubles ($23.3 million).

For the first time ever, Roscosmos indicated in an official document that the Angara rocket will be used for the first manned Moon flights.

The document also provides for the development of requirements for a small lunar take-off and landing vehicle, for the design of a new spacesuit and creation of an experimental model, for the development of a super-heavy rocket and a manned transport vehicle.

The first results should be presented by the end of 2022, while the entire program should be finalised by mid-November 2025.(ANI/Sputnik)

SpaceX launches spaceship with first-ever fully civilian crew on board

Florida [US], September 16 : American aerospace manufacturer SpaceX on Thursday launched the Falcon 9 carrier rocket that placed the Crew Dragon spaceship into orbit. This was the first-ever fully civilian crew mission dubbed as Inspiration4.

The launch took place at 00:03 GMT from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
“Dragon and the @inspiration4x astronauts are now officially in space! Dragon will conduct two phasing burns to reach its cruising orbit of 575km where the crew will spend the next three days orbiting planet Earth,” SpaceX tweeted later.

This mission is the first orbital mission in the history of spaceflight to be staffed entirely by non-astronauts. This journey will see the quartet free-flying through Earth’s orbit. (ANI)

Scientists find tiger sharks are social creatures

Washington [US], September 11 : The findings of a recent study suggest that tiger sharks, which are often considered a solitary aquatic nomadic species, are social creatures, having preferences for one another.
A first of its kind, the study by the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (UM) and the Institute of Zoology at the Zoological Society London (ZSL) also evaluated if exposure of the tiger shark to baited dive tourism impacted their social behaviour. The study was conducted at a site named Tiger Beach, located off the northwest side of Little Bahama Bank in the Bahamas.
The area is known for hosting shark diving encounters, where the sharks are attracted with chum and often fed in front of dive tourists.
The research team tagged and tracked the movements of tiger sharks over the course of three years.
They then applied a tool called Social Network Analysis to the tracking data to examine if tiger sharks exhibited social grouping behaviour and if this social behaviour differed at locations where sharks were exposed to baited shark dive tourism.
The study not only found that tiger sharks formed social groups, but also discovered that at sites where tiger sharks were being fed by dive tourism operators, tiger sharks became more aggregated, but interactions between sharks became more random, suggesting a breakdown in social organization.
“Given that tiger sharks spend months at a time out in the open ocean as solitary predators, it’s amazing to me that they show social preferences for one another when they are at the Tiger Beach area,” said Neil Hammerschlag, senior author of the study and research associate professor at the UM Rosenstiel School.
“For nearly two decades, I have spent countless hours diving at Tiger Beach, always wondering if these apex predators interacted socially. Now we know,” added Hammerschlag.
Baited shark dives are often conducted by dive tourism companies to attract the animals so that tourists may observe them.
This approach has been known to cause mixed feelings among conservationists and shark experts, due to the possible long-term impacts on the predators, such as changes to their natural foraging behaviour.
This study found that tiger sharks aggregated at the dive sites, but social preferences between sharks were less prevalent as compared to areas outside of these dive sites.
These results suggest that feeding sharks may disrupt their social organization, but only temporarily, as the study found that tiger sharks resumed their social groupings outside of the dive sites.
“The boundary between wildlife and people is becoming increasingly thin, so as well as observing a new social behaviour for the first time in what was once thought of as a solitary shark, we also measured the impacts of human activity on these predators’ interactions,” said David Jacoby, ZSL Honorary Research Associate and lead author of the study.
“They seem to show some resilience to the bait feeding,” added Jacoby.
The social behaviour of predators is an important area of study as it provides another tool to help scientists and wildlife managers build a picture of how they live, what drives them to form social groups, and the roles they play within the wider ecosystem.

UN urges immediate climate action to cool ‘season of fire and floods’ worldwide

New York [US]: With extreme weather events increasingly impacting countries across the world, the United Nations (UN) on Monday underlined the importance of limiting temperature rise to the internationally agreed goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
The entire planet is going through a season of fire and floods, primarily hurting fragile and vulnerable populations in rich and poor countries alike, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed told a high-level meeting on climate action. Speaking via video message to the Dialogue on Accelerating Adaptation Solutions Ahead of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), the annual UN climate conference, which will take place in Glasgow in November, the deputy UN chief noted already-visible impacts with a 1.2-degree rise.
“Countries and populations worldwide — particularly those most vulnerable and least responsible for the climate crisis — will experience even more devastating consequences,” she warned.
“The effects will reverberate through economies, communities and ecosystems, erasing development gains, deepening poverty, increasing migration and exacerbating tensions,” she added.
With “bold and decisive steps” towards a net-zero global economy by 2050, Mohammed said that the world could still limit global warming to within 1.5 degrees.
“Acting now is a question of climate justice. And we have the solutions,” she said, calling for a “massively scaled-up investment” in adaptation and resilience, and stressing the importance of simplifying rules and easing access for underprivileged countries, especially those in Africa.
With less than 80 days to COP26, the deputy UN chief urged the participants to “act boldly now for people and planet before it’s too late.”

Study reveals extreme sea levels to become much more common worldwide as Earth warms

Washington [US], September 1 : A new study has predicted that because of rising temperatures, extreme sea levels along coastlines the world over will become 100 times more frequent by the end of the century in about half of the 7,283 locations studied.
The findings of the study were published in the journal ‘Nature Climate Change’. The news has been packed in recent months with severe climate and weather events — record-high temperatures from the Pacific Northwest to Sicily, flooding in Germany and the eastern United States, wildfires from Sacramento to Siberia to Greece. Events that seemed rare just a few decades ago are now commonplace.
A new study looked specifically at extreme sea levels — the occurrence of exceptionally high seas due to the combination of tide, waves and storm surge.
Because of rising temperatures, an extreme sea-level event that would have been expected to occur once every 100 years currently is expected to occur, on average, every year by the end of this century.
While the researchers said there is uncertainty — as always — about future climate, the most likely path is that these increased instances of sea-level rise will occur even with a global temperature increase of 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius compared to preindustrial temperatures.
Scientists consider these temperatures the lower end of possible global warming. And the changes are likely to come sooner than the end of the century, with many locations experiencing a 100-fold increase in extreme sea-level events by 2070.
Mapping effects, location by location
Claudia Tebaldi, a climate scientist at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, led an international team of researchers in the analysis. She brought together scientists who have led previous large studies of extreme sea levels and the effects of temperatures on sea-level rise.
The team pooled its data and introduced a novel synthesis method, treating the alternative estimates as expert voters, to map out likely effects of temperature increases ranging from 1.5 C to 5 C compared to preindustrial times.
The scientists found, not unexpectedly, that the effects of rising seas on extreme sea level frequency would be felt most acutely in the tropics and generally at lower latitudes compared to northern locations.
Locations likely to be affected most include the Southern Hemisphere, areas along the Mediterranean Sea and the Arabian Peninsula, the southern half of North America’s Pacific coast, and areas including Hawaii, the Caribbean, the Philippines and Indonesia. In many of these regions, sea level is expected to rise faster than at higher latitudes.
Regions that will be less affected include the higher latitudes, the northern Pacific coast of North America, and the Pacific coast of Asia.
“One of our central questions driving this study was this: How much warming will it take to make what has been known as a 100-year event an annual event? Our answer is, not much more than what has already been documented,” said Tebaldi, who noted that the globe has already warmed about 1 C compared to preindustrial times.
The new study mirrors the assertion of the 2019 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which stated that extreme sea-level events would become much more common worldwide by the end of the century due to global warming.
“It’s not huge news that sea-level rise will be dramatic even at 1.5 degrees and will have substantial effects on extreme sea level frequencies and magnitude. This study gives a more complete picture around the globe. We were able to look at a wider range of warming levels in very fine spatial detail,” said Tebaldi.
The best- and worst-case scenarios put forth by the study vary, due to uncertainties that the study authors represented in remarkable detail. In one scenario, at the pessimistic end, 99 per cent of locations studied will experience a 100-fold increase in extreme events by 2100 at 1.5 C of warming.
In another, at the optimistic end, about 70 per cent of locations don’t see much of a change even with a temperature increase of 5 C.
The authors call for more study to understand precisely how the changes will affect particular communities. They point out that the physical changes that their study describes will have varying impacts at local scales, depending on several factors, including how vulnerable the site is to rising waters and how prepared a community is for change.
Authors of the paper include Roshanka Ranasinghe of the IHE Delft Institute for Water Education in the Netherlands; Michalis Vousdoukas of the European Joint Research Centre in Italy; DJ Rasmussen of Princeton University; Ben Vega-Westhoff and Ryan Sriver of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Ebru Kirezci of the University of Melbourne in Australia; Robert E Kopp of Rutgers University; and Lorenzo Mentaschi of the University of Bologna in Italy.
Tebaldi, the corresponding author, is a scientist at the Joint Global Change Research Institute, a partnership between PNNL and the University of Maryland where researchers explore the interactions between human, energy and environmental systems.

ISRO conducts first hot test System D Model

New Delhi [India], August 28 (ANI): Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Saturday successfully conducted the first hot test of the System Demonstration Model (SDM) of the Gaganyaan Service Module Propulsion System at the test facility of ISRO Propulsion Complex (IPRC) in Mahendragiri in Tamil Nadu.

The test was conducted for a duration of 450 seconds, as per an official statement from ISRO.
They further informed that the system performance met the test objectives and there was a close match with the pre-test predictions. Further, a series of hot tests are planned to simulate various mission conditions as well as off-nominal conditions.

The Service Module is part of the Gaganyaan Orbital module and is located below the crew module and remains connected to it until re-entry. The Service Module (SM) Propulsion System consists of a unified bipropellant system consisting of 5 numbers of 440 N thrust engines and 16 numbers of 100 N Reaction Control system (RCS) thrusters with MON-3 and MMH as Oxidizer and Fuel respectively.

The System Demonstration Model (SDM), consisting of 5 numbers of 440 N engines and 8 numbers of 100 N thrusters, was realized to qualify the propulsion system performance in ground.

A new test facility is established at IPRC, Mahendragiri for testing the SDM. (ANI)

Researchers explain depletion in mesospheric ozone layer

Tokyo [Japan], August 23 : The same phenomenon that causes aurorae — the magical curtains of green light often visible from the polar regions of the Earth — causes mesospheric ozone layer depletion. This depletion could have significance for global climate change and therefore, understanding this phenomenon is important.
Now, a group of scientists led by Prof. Yoshizumi Miyoshi from Nagoya University, Japan, has observed, analysed, and provided greater insight into this phenomenon. The findings are published in the journal Nature’s Scientific Reports. In the Earth’s magnetosphere — the region of the magnetic field around the Earth — electrons from the sun remain trapped. Interactions between electrons and plasma waves can cause the trapped electrons to escape and enter the Earth’s upper atmosphere (thermosphere).
This phenomenon, called electron precipitation, is responsible for aurorae. But, recent studies show that this is also responsible for local ozone layer depletion in the mesosphere (lower than thermosphere) and may have a certain impact on our climate.
What’s more, this ozone depletion at the mesosphere could be occurring specifically during aurorae. And while scientists have studied electron precipitation in relation to aurorae, none have been able to sufficiently elucidate how it causes mesospheric ozone depletion.
Prof. Miyoshi and the team took the opportunity to change this narrative during a moderate geomagnetic storm over the Scandinavian Peninsula in 2017.
They aimed their observations at “pulsating aurorae” (PsA), a type of faint aurora. Their observations were possible through coordinated experiments with the European Incoherent Scatter (EISCAT) radar (at an altitude between 60 and 120 km where the PsA occurs), the Japanese spacecraft Arase, and the all-sky camera network.
Arase data showed that the trapped electrons in the Earth’s magnetosphere have a wide energy range. It also indicated the presence of chorus waves, a type of electromagnetic plasma wave, in that region of space.
Computer simulations then showed that Arase had observed plasma waves causing precipitations of these electrons across the wide energy range, which is consistent with EISCAT observations down in the Earth’s thermosphere.
Analysis of EISCAT data showed that electrons of a wide energy range, from a few keV (kilo electron volts) to MeV (mega electron volts), precipitate to cause PsA. These electrons carry enough energy to penetrate our atmosphere to lower than 100 km, up to an ~60 km altitude, where mesospheric ozone lies.
In fact, computer simulations using EISCAT data showed that these electrons immediately deplete the local ozone in the mesosphere (by more than 10%) upon hitting it.
Prof. Miyoshi explains, “PsAs occur almost daily, are spread over large areas, and last for hours. Therefore, the ozone depletion from these events could be significant.”
Speaking of the greater significance of these findings, Prof. Miyoshi continues: “This is only a case study. Further statistical studies are needed to confirm how much ozone destruction occurs in the middle atmosphere because of electron precipitation. After all, the impact of this phenomenon on the climate could potentially impact modern life.”

‘Jupiter closest to earth, appears now brightest and biggest’ : PSI

Hyderabad, Aug 21: One of the exciting celestial phenomena of the year, “Jupiter coming close to earth’ occurred on Friday.

Informing this Saturday, Planetary Society of India (PSI) Director N Sri Raghunandan Kumar said as a result of this, celestial phenomenon Planet Jupiter ( known as Bruhaspati/Guru ) is now closest to Earth.

He said in view of Jupiter coming close to earth it is now brightest and appears biggest than anytime in entire year of 2021.

Its known fact all Planets (including Earth, Jupiter etc) orbit Sun. During the course of their Journey

around Sun the positions of Earth & Jupiter are such that now they will have face off which is known as ‘Jupiter Opposition with Sun’.

In other words, due to this phenomenon of opposition Sun- Earth- Jupiter would be opposite to each other from our perspective on earth. And if one can see them from above they would appear in a Line where Sun and Jupiter on either side of earth.

Due to Opposition, an observer can easily locate Jupiter looking opposite direction to Sun Set in the evening. Similarly in the morning, the observer has to look opposite direction of Sunrise to locate Jupiter. So all in all, due to Jupiter Opposition, as the Sun sets in west, Jupiter rises in the east (evening), whereas as Sun rises in the Morning, Jupiter sets in west. It means Jupiter right now is visible all through the night, Mr Kumar said.

Directions to Spot – Jupiter (with Similar Brightness till September 8, 2021) – Timings :

The PSI Director said in the Evening, 30 minutes after the Sunset if one can look towards East direction quite opposite to direction of sunset one would see Jupiter rising as bright non-twinkling object. Being visible all through the night, at Midnight one can facing South find Jupiter high above head. Morning Walkers 1 hour before Sunrise towards West, quite opposite Direction to Sunrise one can spot planet Jupiter.

What is Jupiter Opposition? :

A planet (during course of its journey around sun) is said to be at opposition when it is directly opposite the Sun from our viewpoint on Earth. The result is that the planet is fully illuminated by the Sun and appears disk-like. Importantly during opposition the planet in question would be at its closest approach and thus would appear more big and brighter than usual. At this point Sun-Earth- Planet would be in a straight line opposite to each other. Though planet is at opposition for only one day, nevertheless for visual purposes it is almost as good for viewing for a couple of weeks to a Month before and after opposition.

Mr Kumar said Jupiter oppositions occur every 13 months. The last opposition of Jupiter occurred on July 14, 2020 and the next would be on September 26, 2022.

Generally the minimum distance of Jupiter from earth is 588 Million kilometers approx. Whereas the Maximum distance is 967 Million km approx. Today the Jupiter will reach closest point at 4.01 AU or 600 million km which is very close compared to its minimum distance from earth.

Brightest – Similar Brightness – till Sept 8 :

Because of its closeness to earth as of now Planet Jupiter would appear big through telescope and very bright shining at -2.9 Magnitude up to September 8.

Decreasing Brightness as days pass on :

As earth races away from Jupiter in its orbit the distance between these planets increases day-by-day. Hence with growing distance the brightness gets reduced gradually. Presently Jupiter is shining at – 2.9 magnitude and will remain so till September 8 whereas it will be -2.8 (from September 9 to October 1), -2.7 (from October 2 to 17), – 2.6 (October 18 to November 1), -2.5 (November 2 to 15, – 2.4 (November 16 to December 1), – 2.3 ( December 2 to 18 ), and – 2.2 (December 19 to 31).

In Astronomy brightness of a Celestial Objects is measured in Magnitude wherein greater Negative Magnitude indicates greater brightness, he said.

On January 1, 2021 Jupiter was shining at – 2.0 whereas now till September 8, Jupiter is brightest at -2.9 Magnitude. All in all, Planet Jupiter can be spotted with naked eye in the evening sky till the end of 2021.

Further Jupiter continues to be visible in the evening sky till last week of February 2022, Mr Kumar added.

BRICS members to share data from Earth remote sensing satellites

New Delhi [India]: Under India’s BRICS Chairship, the BRICS Space Agencies Heads have signed an agreement on Wednesday for cooperation in remote sensing satellite data sharing.
This comes after a videoconference meeting of the heads of BRICS space agencies was held today. “Under India’s BRICS Chairship, the BRICS Space Agencies Heads have signed an agreement for cooperation in remote sensing satellite data sharing on August 18 in the presence of Sanjay Bhattacharyya, Secretary (CPV&OIA) and India’s BRICS Sherpa, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India and other officials from respective external/foreign affairs Ministries,” ISRO said in a statement.
This agreement enables building a virtual constellation of specified remote sensing satellites of BRICS space agencies and their respective ground stations will receive the data, the statement said.
This will contribute in strengthening multilateral cooperation among BRICS space agencies in meeting the challenges faced by mankind, such as global climate change, major disasters and environmental protection.
Dr K. Sivan, Chairman, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)/ Secretary, Department of Space; Zhang Kejian, Administrator, China National Space Administration (CNSA); Dr Val Munsami, Chief Executive Officer, South African National Space Agency (SANSA); Carlos Augusto Teixeira De Moura, President, Brazilian Space Agency (AEB); and Dr Dmitry Rogozin, Director General, State Space Corporation “Roscosmos” have signed this Agreement.

ICRISAT identified the need to study all different types of millets

Telangana (India) : A study from ICRISAT identified a number of priority future research areas including the need to study all different types of millets, understand differences by variety alongside the different types of cooking and processing of millets and their impact on cardiovascular health. Given the positive indicators to date, more detailed analysis on the impact of millets on weight management is also recommended.
All relevant parameters are also recommended to be assessed to gain a deeper understanding of the impacts millet consumption on hyperlipidemia and cardiovascular disease.
Medical Doctor and co-author, Dr Raj Kumar Bhandari, noted that, “As a doctor I have seen first-hand a significant rise over the years of patients with serious coronary problems from high cholesterol and being overweight.
Based on the evidence in this study we can help reduce hypertension and hardening and narrowing of arteries and manage weight with appropriate diet changes including millets. However, it is important to consume a millet-based and healthy diet regularly and make it a habit.”
“It is also recommended to have nutrition scientists to design millet-based meals especially where weight management and atherosclerotic cardiovascular diseases are potential high risks. Doing this in culturally acceptable ways and ensuring tasty meals is important,” emphasized Dr Ananthan Rajendran, study co-author and scientist at NIN.
“A key recommendation from the study is for the government and industry to support efforts to diversify staples with millets, especially across Asia and Africa. Given that millets are hardy and climate smart, returning to this traditional staple makes a lot of sense and is a critical solution that could be the turning point of some major health issues,” highlighted Ms Joanna Kane-Potaka, a co-author and Executive Director of the Smart Food initiative, ICRISAT.
“This latest review further emphasizes the potential of millets as a staple crop that has many health benefits. It also strengthens the evidence that eating millet can contribute to better cardiovascular health by reducing unhealthy cholesterol levels and increasing the levels of whole grains and unsaturated fats in the diet,” said Professor Ian Givens, a co-author of the study and Director at University of Reading’s Institute of Food, Nutrition and Health (IFNH) in the UK.

Study finds new clues regarding the formation of the solar system

Washington [US], August 17 : A study of the Ophiuchus star-forming complex has offered new insights into the conditions in which our own solar system was born.
The findings of the study were published in the journal ‘Nature Astronomy’. A region of active star formation in the constellation Ophiuchus is giving astronomers new insights into the conditions in which our own solar system was born.
In particular, the study showed how our solar system may have become enriched with short-lived radioactive elements.
Evidence of this enrichment process has been around since the 1970s when scientists studying certain mineral inclusions in meteorites concluded that they were pristine remnants of the infant solar system and contained the decay products of short-lived radionuclides.
These radioactive elements could have been blown onto the nascent solar system by a nearby exploding star (a supernova) or by the strong stellar winds from a type of massive star known as a Wolf-Rayet star.
The authors of the new study used multi-wavelength observations of the Ophiuchus star-forming region, including spectacular new infrared data, to reveal interactions between the clouds of star-forming gas and radionuclides produced in a nearby cluster of young stars.
Their findings indicated that supernovas in the star cluster are the most likely source of short-lived radionuclides in the star-forming clouds.
“Our solar system was most likely formed in a giant molecular cloud together with a young stellar cluster, and one or more supernova events from some massive stars in this cluster contaminated the gas which turned into the sun and its planetary system,” said co-author Douglas N. C. Lin, professor emeritus of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz.
“Although this scenario has been suggested in the past, the strength of this paper is to use multi-wavelength observations and a sophisticated statistical analysis to deduce a quantitative measurement of the model’s likelihood,” he added.
First author John Forbes at the Flatiron Institute’s Center for Computational Astrophysics said data from space-based gamma-ray telescopes enable the detection of gamma rays emitted by the short-lived radionuclide aluminum-26.
“These are challenging observations. We can only convincingly detect it in two star-forming regions, and the best data are from the Ophiuchus complex,” he said.
The Ophiuchus cloud complex contains many dense protostellar cores in various stages of star formation and protoplanetary disk development, representing the earliest stages in the formation of a planetary system.
By combining imaging data in wavelengths ranging from millimetres to gamma rays, the researchers were able to visualise a flow of aluminum-26 from the nearby star cluster toward the Ophiuchus star-forming region.
“The enrichment process we’re seeing in Ophiuchus is consistent with what happened during the formation of the solar system 5 billion years ago,” Forbes said.
“Once we saw this nice example of how the process might happen, we set about trying to model the nearby star cluster that produced the radionuclides we see today in gamma rays,” he added.
Forbes developed a model that accounts for every massive star that could have existed in this region, including its mass, age, and probability of exploding as a supernova, and incorporates the potential yields of aluminum-26 from stellar winds and supernovas.
The model enabled him to determine the probabilities of different scenarios for the production of the aluminum-26 observed today.
“We now have enough information to say that there is a 59 per cent chance it is due to supernovas and a 68 per cent chance that it’s from multiple sources and not just one supernova,” Forbes said.
This type of statistical analysis assigns probabilities to scenarios that astronomers have been debating for the past 50 years, Lin noted.
“This is the new direction for astronomy, to quantify the likelihood,” he added.
The new findings also showed that the amount of short-lived radionuclides incorporated into newly forming star systems can vary widely.
“Many new star systems will be born with aluminum-26 abundances in line with our solar system, but the variation is huge — several orders of magnitude,” Forbes said.
“This matters for the early evolution of planetary systems since aluminum-26 is the main early heating source. More aluminum-26 probably means drier planets,” he added.
The infrared data, which enabled the team to peer through dusty clouds into the heart of the star-forming complex, was obtained by coauthor Joao Alves at the University of Vienna as part of the European Southern Observatory’s VISION survey of nearby stellar nurseries using the VISTA telescope in Chile.
“There is nothing special about Ophiuchus as a star formation region,” Alves said.
“It is just a typical configuration of gas and young massive stars, so our results should be representative of the enrichment of short-lived radioactive elements in star and planet formation across the Milky Way,” he concluded.
The team also used data from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Herschel Space Observatory, the ESA’s Planck satellite, and NASA’s Compton Gamma Ray Observatory.

Tourism in Space: Virgin Galactic ticket sales beginning at $450,000, Know the details

By News Desk with Inputs from various agencies.

Space tourism is now possible. Between 2005 and 2014, around 600 people had paid $200,000 to $250,000 for booking seats on Virgin’s spaceship. British billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic is restarting ticket sales beginning at $450,000 for space tourism.

The company, to cash in on the success of last month’s fully-crewed test flight, has nearly doubled the amount paid by people previously. Between 2005 and 2014, around 600 people had paid $200,000 to $250,000 for booking seats on Virgin’s spaceship.

“We are excited to announce the reopening of sales effective today,” said CEO Michael Colglazier in a statement, with first dibs going to people on a waiting list.

“As we endeavor to bring the wonder of space to a broad global population, we are delighted to open the door to an entirely new industry and consumer experience.”

Former chief executive officer of Virgin Galactic Holdings, George Whitesides, will fly to space on the aerospace company’s next test spaceflight.

Richard Branson, the billionaire founder of Virgin Galactic, flew to space earlier this month, beating Amazon.com Inc’s Jeff Bezos to the final frontier. 

Branson announced the news about Whitesides during a party in New Mexico on July 11, following his own spaceflight. Lori Garver, a former deputy administrator of NASA was present at the party and told CNBC that Branson said, “George will be leading our next flight.”

The next test flight will come in September and involve members of the Italian Air Force.

Branson, whose spaceflight marked a symbolic milestone for the venture he started 17 years ago, touted the mission as a precursor to a new era of space tourism. Bezos, along with three others including the world’s oldest space traveler and astronaut, Wally Funk, flew into space just days later, aboard his own space company Blue Origin’s rocket.

There will be one further test after the September mission, then the first commercial flights will take place in the third quarter of 2022, Colglazier said in an earnings call. The offerings for customers will include a single seat; multi-seats for couples, friends, or family; and a full-flight buyout.

Two free seats on an early flight are up for grabs in a prize draw, with registrations open until September 1. The spaceplane was originally designed to carry six crew, but last month’s flight, which was described as “fully-crewed,” had just four suggesting this is the current number.

Virgin’s space experience involves an air-launched spaceplane, VSS Unity, that takes off attached to the belly of a massive carrier plane from a runway at Spaceport America in New Mexico.

After gaining altitude, the spaceplane detaches from its mothership and ignites its rocket engine, ascending to beyond 50 miles (80 kilometers) above sea level. Passengers unbuckle and experience a few minutes of weightlessness before the plane glides back to the runway to land.

The company has come under fire for its carbon footprint, which is roughly equivalent to a transatlantic flight but for far fewer people. It has said it is examining the possibility of offsetting its emissions.

Senior planetarium official says Saturn to come closest to Earth at 11.30 am today

Bhubaneswar (Odisha) [India]: Saturn and Earth will be closest to each other in a year on August 2 at 11.30 am, said Dr Suvendu Pattnaik, Deputy Director of Pathani Samanta Planetarium.
People across the world that will be in their nighttime, will be able to see a bright Saturn, he told ANI. “As per Indian Standard Time (IST) at 11.30 am, Saturn and Earth will be closest to each other. It will be daytime in India but wherever there is nighttime, people will see a bright Saturn,” said Dr Pattnaik.
Earth takes about 365 days to orbit the sun while Saturn takes around 29.5 years for completing one full revolution of the sun, he informed.
“Once every year, Earth and Saturn come close to each other while revolving in their orbital path. In a time span of 1 year and 13 days, they come closest to each other. Earlier, they came close on July 20, 2020, and will again do so on August 14, 2022,” said the senior planetarium official.
He further said, “When they are very close to each other, the average distance will be around 120 crores kilometres, which is 50 crore kilometres less in comparison to the maximum distance between them, which happens after 6 months when Saturn will be across the other side of the Earth.”
According to him, Saturn will appear bright even with the naked eye and it can be seen throughout the night for the whole month of August.
“A few satellites of Saturn can also be seen with a small telescope,” he added.

NASA, ESA form partnership to monitor climate change

Washington: NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) agreed to combine Earth observation data from multiple satellites into a single open-source format available to scientists, policymakers and the public in an attempt to help mitigate the impact of climate change, according to a joint statement signed on Tuesday.

“Not only will NASA and ESA work together to deliver unparalleled Earth science observations, research, and applications, but all of our findings will also be free and open for the benefit of the entire world as we work together to combat and mitigate climate change,” NASA Associate Administrator for Science Thomas Zurbuchen said in a press release.

The partnership was formalized through a joint statement of intent, which outlines how the agencies will collaborate to advance understanding of the Earth System and to promote open sharing of information, the release said. The two agencies have a history of scientific collaboration.

In 2020, NASA, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and European partners, including ESA, launched the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite, which is collecting the most accurate data yet on global sea level and how oceans are rising in response to climate change, the release added.

NASA has also announced plans for an Earth System Observatory, which will design a new set of missions linked to climate change, including disaster mitigation and fighting forest fires. The joint NASA-ESA statement complements those activities, according to the release.

Single Dose Of Sputnik-V Vaccine Enough For Recovered Covid-19 Patients: Study

A day after scientists announced that mRNA vaccines are effective against the Delta variant of Covid-19, a single dose variant of Russia’s Sputnik-V vaccine has shown 94 per cent efficacy among those recovered Covid-19 patients. Scientists said that there is no evident benefit of using a second dose in previously infected individuals.

However, they added, “the second dose further increases antibody and neutralizing capacity.”

The study published in the journal Science Direct states that 21 days after receiving the first dose of vaccine, 94 per cent of participants developed spike-specific antibodies. The study was conducted among healthcare workers in Argentina.

“A single Sputnik V dose elicits higher antibody levels and virus neutralizing capacity in previously infected individuals than in new ones receiving the full two-doses,” researchers said.

Earlier, a study by Hyderabad’s AIG Hospitals had also claimed that a single dose of vaccine is sufficient for Covid-recovered patients on account of their robust antibody response. The study was conducted on 260 healthcare workers who got the Covishield vaccine between January 16 and February 5.

Developers of Sputnik V had in June claimed that the vaccine is around 90 per cent effective against the highly contagious Delta variant. Denis Logunov, deputy director of Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, which developed Sputnik V, said the Delta variant efficacy figure was calculated based on digital medical and vaccine records, the RIA news agency reported.

Sputnik V is the third vaccine to be used in India’s massive vaccination drive after homegrown Covishield by the Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin. While Sputnik Light was approved for emergency use in Russia in May, with an efficacy rate of 79.4 per cent, discussions on granting it emergency use approval in India are currently on.

The vaccine uses the SARS-CoV-2’s genetic instructions to build the spike protein and stores the information in the double-stranded DNA. The vaccine has been developed from adenoviruses, a kind of virus that causes colds. Researchers added the gene for Covid spike protein to two adenoviruses, engineering them to invade affected cells. The Sputnik-V derives inspiration from the adenovirus used to create a vaccine for Ebola by Johnson & Johnson.

Solar Storm Approaching Towards Earth Likely To Hit Today

A high-speed solar storm that is approaching the Earth at a speed of 1.6 million kilometres per hour, according to National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa), is expected to hit our planet’s magnetic field later today, affecting electricity supply and communication infrastructure around the world.

The solar flare, flowing from an equatorial hole in the sun’s atmosphere that was first detected on July 3, can travel at a maximum speed of 500 km/second, according to spaceweather.com. Although full-fledged geomagnetic (magnetic field associated with Earth) storms are unlikely, lesser geomagnetic unrest could spark high-latitude auroras.

The satellites in the Earth’s upper atmosphere are also expected to get impacted by the incoming flares. This will directly impact GPS navigation, mobile phone signal and satellite TV. Power grids can also be hit by the solar flares.

According to the latest prediction of the Space Weather Prediction Centre of the United States, the storm can also lead to a blackout of high-frequency radio communication for nearly an hour in a vast area. The Centre has marked the solar flares at X1 level, ‘X’ denoting the classification and the numerical suffix denoting the strength of the flare.

Solar flares are massive explosions on the surface of the sun that release energy, light and high-speed particles into space. According to Nasa, the biggest flares are known as “X-class flares” based on a classification system that categorises solar flares as per their strength. The smallest ones fall under A-class, followed by B, C, M and X. The solar flare that is likely to hit Earth’s magnetic field today is an X-class flare.

Branson vs Bezos: Two Billionaires Compete To Ride Their Own Rockets Into Space

Two billionaires are putting everything on the line this month to ride their own rockets into space. It’s intended to be a flashy confidence boost for customers seeking their own short joyrides. The lucrative, high-stakes chase for space tourists will unfold on the fringes of space — 88 kilometers to 106 kilometers up, pitting Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson against the world’s richest man, Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos.

Branson is due to take off Sunday from New Mexico, launching with two pilots and three other employees aboard a rocket plane carried aloft by a double-fuselage aircraft. Bezos departs nine days later from West Texas, blasting off in a fully automated capsule with three guests: his brother, an 82-year-old female aviation pioneer who’s waited six decades for a shot at space and the winner of a $28 million charity auction.

Branson’s flight will be longer, but Bezos’ will be higher. Branson’s craft has more windows, but Bezos’ windows are bigger. Branson’s piloted plane has already flown to space three times. Bezos’ has five times as many test flights, though none with people on board. Either way, they’re shooting for sky-high bragging rights as the first person to fly his own rocket to space and experience three to four minutes of weightlessness.

Branson, who turns 71 in another week, considers it “very important” to try it out before allowing space tourists on board. He insists he’s not apprehensive; this is the thrill-seeking adventurer who’s kite-surfed across the English Channel and attempted to circle the world in a hot air balloon.

“As a child, I wanted to go to space. When that did not look likely for my generation, I registered the name Virgin Galactic with the notion of creating a company that could make it happen,” Branson wrote in a blog this week. Seventeen years after founding Virgin Galactic, he’s on the cusp of experiencing space for himself.

“It’s amazing where an idea can lead you, no matter how far-fetched it may seem at first.” Bezos, 57, who stepped down Monday as Amazon’s CEO, announced in early June that he’d be on his New Shepard rocket’s first passenger flight, choosing the 52nd anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s moon landing. He too had childhood dreams of traveling to space, Bezos said via Instagram. “On July 20th, I will take that journey with my brother. The greatest adventure, with my best friend.”

Branson was supposed to fly later this year on the second of three more test flights planned by Virgin Galactic before flying ticket holders next year. But late last week, he leapfrogged ahead. He insists he’s not trying to beat Bezos and that it’s not a race. Yet his announcement came just hours after Bezos revealed he’d be joined in space by Wally Funk, one of the last surviving members of the so-called Mercury 13. The 13 female pilots never made it to space despite passing the same tests in the early 1960s as NASA’s original, all-male Mercury 7 astronauts.

Bezos hasn’t commented publicly on Branson’s upcoming flight. But some at Blue Origin already are nitpicking the fact that their capsule surpasses the designated Karman line of space 100 kilometers up, while Virgin Galactic’s peak altitude is 88 kilometers.

International aeronautic and astronautic federations in Europe recognize the Karman line as the official boundary between the upper atmosphere and space, while NASA, the Air Force, the Federal Aviation Administration and some astrophysicists accept a minimum altitude of 80 kilometers.

Blue Origin’s flights last 10 minutes by the time the capsule parachutes onto the desert floor. Virgin Galactic’s last around 14 to 17 minutes from the time the space plane drops from the mothership and fires its rocket motor for a steep climb until it glides to a runway landing.

SpaceX’s Elon Musk doesn’t do quick up-and-down hops to the edge of space. His capsules go all the way to orbit, and he’s shooting for Mars. “There is a big difference between reaching space and reaching orbit,” Musk said last week on Twitter. Musk already has carried 10 astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA, and his company’s first private spaceflight is coming up in September for another billionaire who’s purchased a three-day, globe-circling ride. Regardless of how high they fly, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin already are referring to their prospective clients as “astronauts.”

More than 600 have reserved seats with Virgin Galactic at $250,000. Blue Origin expects to announce prices and open ticket sales once Bezos flies. Phil McAlister, NASA’s commercial spaceflight director, considers it a space renaissance, especially as the space station gets set to welcome a string of paying visitors, beginning with a Russian actress and movie producer in October, a pair of Japanese in December and a SpaceX-delivered crew of businessmen in January. “The way I see it is the more, the better, right?” McAlister said. “More, better.”

This is precisely the future NASA wanted once the shuttles retired and private companies took over space station ferry flights. Atlantis blasted off on the last shuttle flight 10 years ago Thursday. NASA’s final shuttle commander, Chris Ferguson, who now works for Boeing on its Starliner crew capsule, is impressed that Branson and Bezos are launching ahead of customers. “That’s one surefire way to show confidence in your product is to get on it,” Ferguson said at Thursday’s 10th anniversary shuttle celebrations. “I’m sure that this was not a decision made lightly. I wish them both well. I think it’s great.”

Meet Jellyfishbot, The Robotic Solution For Collecting Marine Waste

Tourists visiting the picturesque port at Cassis, southern France, often see an unedifying sight: plastic bags, discarded drinks bottles, and even used surgical masks, floating in the water among the boats in the marina. But the port has found a solution, in the shape of a bright yellow remote-controlled electric powered boat that weaves around the harbour sucking the trash into a net that it trails behind its twin hulls. The boat, called Jellyfishbot, is about the size of a suitcase and so can get into the corners and narrow spaces where rubbish tends to accumulate but which are difficult for cleaners with nets to reach.
“It can go everywhere,” said Nicolas Carlesi, who has a PhD in undersea robotics and whose company, IADYS, created the boat. It is not the only device of its kind. San Diego non-profit Clear Blue Sea is developing a proto-type trash-collecting robot called “FRED”. A marine technology firm based in the Netherlands, RanMarine, has developed a robot called the “Waste Shark” which has been deployed to clean up garbage in Rotterdam harbour.

“Jellyfishbot” is in operation in around 15 French ports, and has been exported to countries including Singapore, Japan and Norway, according to Carlesi’s company. The firm has just launched an autonomous version. A keen sailor and diver, Carlesi said he came up with the idea after noticing, whenever he spent leisure time on the water, how much rubbish bobbed in the water in ports. “I thought: ‘Why not try to make this difficult and sometimes thankless task of picking up trash easier?’ So we made this robot,” he said.

R3 Strong Radio Blackout Occurs In Certain Regions Around The Atlantic Ocean

On July 3 around 8 pm IST, the sun emitted a large solar flare that was observed by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. Solar flares are magnetic storms launched from the sun, releasing energy equivalent to a few million hydrogen bombs exploding at the same time.

During a solar flare, the highly energetic charged particles are expelled from the sun at speeds close to that of the speed of light. These rays can disturb the ionosphere region of the Earth, which plays an important role in radio communications. The US NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center tweeted that a strong radio blackout occurred in certain regions around the Atlantic Ocean on July 3.

“When radiation, energetic particles and solar plasma material released during a solar flare interact with the Earth’s magnetosphere and ionosphere, it creates strong geomagnetic storms. This induces strong currents at ground levels which can trip electric power grids in countries situated at high latitudes, impacting air traffic on polar routes,” explained Prof Dibyendu Nandi from the Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research, Kolkata. He noted that sensitive satellite sensors can also be damaged. “Also, the radiation ionises the Earth’s upper atmosphere, changing conditions in the ionosphere, which is very important for high-frequency radio communications used by defense agencies, airline operators, and emergency services,” he added.

One of the biggest impacts of solar flares in history resulted in a large portion of the North American power grid failing. On March 13, 1989, Quebec, Canada, suffered a power blackout that lasted for over 12 hours, and radio signals were jammed due to the solar flare. NASA noted that some satellites tumbled out of control and the TDRS-1 communication satellite recorded over 250 anomalies as the high energy from the flare affected its sensitive electronics.

China Launches New Meteorological Satellite To Improve Country’s Weather Forecasting Capacity

China on Monday successfully launched a new meteorological satellite with 11 remote sensing payloads, which besides enhancing the country’s weather forecasting capacity, will monitor global snow coverage and sea surface temperatures.

The satellite was launched into planned orbit from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northwest China, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Fengyun-3E(FY-3E) will be the world’s first meteorological satellite in early morning orbit for civil service, the report said. It is designed with a lifespan of eight years and will mainly obtain the atmospheric temperature, humidity and other meteorological parameters for numerical prediction applications, improving China’s weather forecast capacity. It will also monitor the global snow cover, sea surface temperature, natural disasters and ecology to better respond to climate change and prevent and mitigate meteorological disasters. In addition, the satellite will monitor solar and space environments and their effects, as well as ionospheric data to meet the needs of space weather forecasts and supporting services, the report said.

UN Agency Confirms Record Heat Of 18.3 Degrees Celsius In Antarctica

The United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization, on July 1, recognised a new record high temperature for Antarctica. On February 6, 2020, the Esperanza station (the Argentine research station in Trinity Peninsula) experienced 18.3 degrees Celsius.

“Verification of this maximum temperature record is important because it helps us to build up a picture of the weather and climate in one of Earth’s final frontiers. Even more so than the Arctic, the Antarctic is poorly covered in terms of continuous and sustained weather and climate observations and forecasts, even though both play an important role in driving climate and ocean patterns and in sea-level rise,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas in a statement.

“The Antarctic Peninsula is among the fastest-warming regions of the planet, almost 3°C over the last 50 years. This new temperature record is therefore consistent with the climate change we are observing.” The previous record for high temperature was 17.5 degrees Celsius, recorded on March 24, 2015, at the same station.

A WMO committee carried out extensive studies to understand the weather situation during the time of the reported records and noted that a large high-pressure system over the area has created Föhn conditions.

“Föhn or Foehn winds are generally categorised by warm dry air motion descending in the lee or downwind side of a mountain. When the wind hits the mountain in its way, it rises above and causes precipitation in the upwind side of the mountain, while the downwind side of the mountain becomes dry and warm. These winds can warm the surface air temperature in the downwind side by several degrees for a prolonged time,” explained Sourav Chatterjee from the Atmosphere-Ocean Interaction Studies Division, National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research, Goa.

“Although the melting of ice mostly happens in summer in the presence of sunlight, these Foehn winds can cause significant melting during even dark polar winters,” he said.

“Rising global air and ocean temperature are posing a threat to ice sheets and glaciers in the polar regions. The warming temperature and increasing strength of westerly winds can enhance the Antarctic ice sheet melting even in winter due to the Foehn wind effect,” he added.

The Flying Car Completes Inter-City Test Flight

If you were fascinated by the flying time-machine cars in the Back to the future franchise or wanted a ride in Ron Weasley’s flying Ford, there’s good news. AirCar, a dual-mode car-aircraft vehicle, completed a historic 35-minute flight between two international airports in Slovakia on June 28. It had a maximum cruising speed of 190km/h.

Developed by Klein Vision, the AirCar Prototype 1 has a 160HP BMW engine and takes a little over two minutes to transform from a car into aircraft. It has retractable wings, folding tail surfaces, and a parachute deployment system.

Its creator, Professor Stefan Klein, said in a release that the car-aircraft can fly about 1,000 km at a height of 8,200 ft and had already clocked up to 40 hours in the air.

“This flight starts a new era of dual transportation vehicles. It opens a new category of transportation and returns the freedom originally attributed to cars back to the individual,” Klein said after exiting the AirCar cockpit in Bratislava.

BBC quoted the company saying that the prototype has taken about two years to develop and cost “less than 2 million euros” in investment.

The company has another model, AirCar Prototype 2, which is in the pre-production stage. It has a 300HP engine and is expected to have a cruise speed of 300km/h. The company has planned to develop a variety of models in the future: three and four-seaters, twin-engine vehicles, and also an amphibious version.

Extreme’ White Dwarf Sets Cosmic Records For Small Size, Huge Mass

In their death throes, roughly 97 per cent of all stars become a smoldering stellar zombie called a white dwarf, one of the densest objects in the cosmos. A newly discovered white dwarf is being hailed as the most “extreme” one of these on record, cramming a frightful amount of mass into a surprisingly small package.

Scientists said on Wednesday this highly magnetized and rapidly rotating white dwarf is 35 per cent more massive than our sun yet boasts a petite diameter only a bit larger than Earth’s moon. That means it has the greatest mass and, counterintuitively, littlest size of any known white dwarf, owing to its tremendous density.

Only two other types of objects – black holes and neutron stars – are more compact than white dwarfs.

The way this white dwarf, named ZTF J1901+1458, was born also is unusual. It apparently is the product of a binary star system in which two stars orbit each other. These two stars separately evolved into white dwarfs at the end of their life cycles, then spiraled toward one another and merged into a single entity.

With even a smidgen more combined mass, this merger would have resulted in an immense stellar explosion called a supernova, said Caltech astrophysicist Ilaria Caiazzo, lead author of the study published in the journal Nature. It still might explode at some point in the future, Caiazzo added.

“This white dwarf is really extreme,” Caiazzo said. “We found an object that is really at the limit of how small and heavy a white dwarf could be.”

It is located relatively nearby in our Milky Way galaxy, about 130 light years from Earth. A light year is the distance light travels in a year – about 5.9 trillion miles (9.5 trillion km).

The white dwarf is actually shrinking very gradually, becoming ever more dense. If it does not explode, that could lead to a core collapse transforming it into a neutron star, another type of stellar remnant about the size of a city, typically formed after certain very massive stars go supernova. This would be a previously unrecognized path to neutron star formation.

The white dwarf was spotted by astrophysicist and study co-author Kevin Burdge from Caltech’s Palomar Observatory.

“White dwarfs are the most common form of stellar remnant,” said Burdge, who worked on the study at Caltech and is headed to MIT. “So it’s stunning to see the most extreme outliers among them.”

Its diameter of roughly 2,670 miles (4,300 km) – approximately the distance from Boston to Los Angeles or London to Tehran – slightly exceeds the moon’s diameter of about 2,160 miles (3,475 km).

While our sun rotates around its axis once every 27 days, this white dwarf does so every seven minutes. Its magnetic field is about a billion times stronger than Earth’s.

Stars with up to eight times the mass of our sun are thought to be destined to end up as a white dwarf. Such stars eventually burn up all of the hydrogen they use as fuel through nuclear fusion. At this point, gravity causes them to collapse and blow off their outer layers in a ‘red giant’ stage, eventually leaving a dense core that is a white dwarf.

White dwarfs initially have high temperatures but gradually cool over time, lacking any new energy source. In roughly 5 billion years, our sun is expected to become a red giant and later a white dwarf.

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