пятница, 28 сентября 2018 г.

Regional seismic data help to locate September 2017 North Korean…


Regional seismic data help to locate September 2017 North Korean nuclear test http://www.geologypage.com/2018/09/regional-seismic-data-help-to-locate-september-2017-north-korean-nuclear-test.html


Urban Growth of New Delhi

image

The capital of India, New

Delhi, has been experiencing one of the fastest urban expansions in the world. Vast areas of croplands and

grasslands are being turned into streets, buildings, and parking lots,

attracting an unprecedented amount of new residents. By 2050, the United

Nations projects India will add 400 million urban dwellers, which would be

the largest urban migration in the world for the thirty-two year period.


These images show the growth in the city of New Delhi and its

adjacent areas—a territory collectively known as Delhi—from December 5, 1989 to June 5, 2018. 


Most of the expansion in Delhi has occurred on

the peripheries of New Delhi, as rural areas have become more urban. The

geographic size of Delhi has almost doubled from 1991 to 2011, with the number of urban households

doubling while the number of rural houses declined by half. Cities outside of

Delhi—Bahadurgarh, Ghaziabad, Noida, Faridabad, and Gurugram—have also

experienced urban growth over the past three decades, as shown in these images.


Read more: https://go.nasa.gov/2y32G7h



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Norway takes the lead in hybrid propulsion


NAMMO GROWTH WORX logo.


27 September 2018


Today, Norway’s first hybrid rocket to reach space demonstrated new hybrid propulsion technology for a cleaner, safer, more flexible method of powering small launch vehicles.


Soaring up to five times the speed of sound from the Andøya Space Center, the 9 m long Nucleus sounding rocket passed the edge of Earth’s atmosphere to reach an altitude of over 107 km in less than three minutes.



Nucleus lifts off

After its suborbital flight it returned to Earth, splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean, 180 km off the coast of Norway. Its payload, supplied by the Andøya Space Center, comprised electronics that transmitted inflight data and video for further analysis, as well as a dispenser to eject six ‘daughter payloads’ at altitude.


Nammo in partnership with ESA’s Future Launchers Preparatory Programme designed and built the new hybrid motor driving this rocket. The motor combines liquid and solid propellant.


Nammo chose highly concentrated liquid hydrogen peroxide as the oxidiser reacting with a rubber-like substance as fuel. These substances are safe to handle and the byproducts of combustion are mostly water and carbon dioxide – making the motor environmentally friendly too.


The oxidiser and solid fuel remain separated inside the rocket until mixed at ignition. Hybrid propellants have low evaporation rates so the rocket can be loaded safely, well before launch. This reduces the cost of launch service operations compared with other technologies.


The fuel being a non-toxic, non-explosive solid simplifies manufacturing and handling, further lowering cost.



Nucleus sounding rocket

Being able to vary the flow of oxidiser during flight and thus the thrust meets a wide range of mission requirements, the motor can even be shut down and reignited for complex missions.


The aim is for hybrid propulsion to match the precision offered through liquid propulsion, while lowering risks and costs, which would be ideal for smaller European launch sites like the Andøya Space Center.


Today’s demonstration will provide valuable data on the behaviour of this hybrid propulsion system in flight. The next step is to build a larger motor to increase thrust from today’s 30kN to about 75–100 kN, extend the burn time, and to reduce weight and cost.


“Hybrid technology has the potential to become a highly competitive building block for an orbital launcher – our ultimate goal,” commented Adrien Boiron, Chief engineer at Nammo.


Related links:


Future Launchers Preparatory Programme: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Transportation/New_Technologies/FLPP_preparing_for_Europe_s_next-generation_launcher


Andøya Space Center: https://www.andoyaspace.no/


Nammo: https://www.nammo.com/


Nammo explains technology behind Nucleus: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Sug8Fdu_vU


Space Transportation: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Transportation


Images, Text, Credits: ESA/Nammo.


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2018 September 28 The Light, the Dark, and the Dusty Image…


2018 September 28


The Light, the Dark, and the Dusty
Image Credit & Copyright: Tasos Liampos


Explanation: This colorful skyscape spans about two full moons across nebula rich starfields along the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy in the royal northern constellation Cepheus. Near the edge of the region’s massive molecular cloud some 2,400 light-years away, bright reddish emission region Sharpless (Sh) 155 is below and right of center, also known as the Cave Nebula. About 10 light-years across the cosmic cave’s bright walls of gas are ionized by ultraviolet light from the hot young stars around it. Dusty blue reflection nebulae, like vdB 155 at upper left, and dense obscuring clouds of dust also abound on the interstellar canvas. Astronomical explorations have revealed other dramatic signs of star formation, including the bright red fleck of Herbig-Haro (HH) 168. Near top center in the frame, the Herbig-Haro object emission is generated by energetic jets from a newborn star.


∞ Source: apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap180928.html


2018 Arctic Summertime Sea Ice Minimum Extent Tied for Sixth Lowest on Record


NASA – Operation IceBridge patch.


Sept. 27, 2018


Arctic sea ice likely reached its 2018 lowest extent on Sept. 19 and again on Sept. 23, according to NASA and the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado Boulder. Analysis of satellite data by NSIDC and NASA showed that, at 1.77 million square miles (4.59 million square kilometers), 2018 effectively tied with 2008 and 2010 for the sixth lowest summertime minimum extent in the satellite record.



2018 Arctic Sea Ice Ties for Sixth Lowest Minimum Extent on NASA Record

Video above: Arctic sea ice reached its annual minimum extent Sept. 19, and then again on Sept. 23, 2018. Video Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Kathryn Mersmann.


Arctic sea ice, the cap of frozen seawater blanketing most of the Arctic Ocean and neighboring seas in wintertime, follows seasonal patterns of growth and decay. It thickens and spreads during the fall and winter and thins and shrinks during the spring and summer. But in the past decades, increasing temperatures have led to prominent decreases in the Arctic sea ice extents, with particularly rapid decreases in the minimum summertime extent. The shrinking of the Arctic sea ice cover can ultimately affect the planet’s weather patterns and the circulation of the oceans.


“This year’s minimum is relatively high compared to the record low extent we saw in 2012, but it is still low compared to what it used to be in the 1970s, 1980s and even the 1990s,” said Claire Parkinson, a climate change senior scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.


Parkinson and her colleague Nick DiGirolamo calculated that, since the late 1970s, the Arctic sea ice extent has shrunk on average about 21,000 square miles (54,000 square kilometers) with each passing year. That is equivalent to losing a chunk of sea ice the size of Maryland and New Jersey combined every year for the past four decades.



Graphic above: The yearly minimum Arctic sea ice extent has been decreasing at a rapid pace since the late 1970s due to warming temperatures. The twelve lowest extents in the satellite era have all occurred in the last twelve years. Graphic Credits: National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado Boulder.


This summer, the weather conditions across the Arctic have been a mixed bag, with some areas experiencing warmer than average temperatures and rapid melt and other regions remaining cooler than normal, which leads to persistent patches of sea ice. Still, the 2018 minimum sea ice extent is 629,000 square miles (1.63 million square kilometers) below the 1981-2010 average of yearly minimum extents.


One of the most unusual features of this year’s melt season has been the reopening of a polynya-like hole in the icepack north of Greenland, where the oldest and thickest sea ice of the Arctic typically resides. In February of this year, a similar opening appeared in the same area, catching the attention of sea ice scientists everywhere. The first appearance of the hole raised concerns about the possibility that the region could became vulnerable if the original, thicker ice cover was replaced with thinner ice as the exposed seawater refroze. NASA’s Operation IceBridge mission probed the area in March, finding that the ice was indeed thinner and thus more susceptible to be pushed around by the winds and ocean currents.



Animation above: Arctic sea ice likely reached its 2018 lowest extent on Sept. 19 and again on Sept. 23, according to NASA and the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). Animation Credit: NASA Goddard/ Katy Mersmann.


“This summer, the combination of thin ice and southerly warm winds helped break up and melt the sea ice in the region, reopening the hole,” said Melinda Webster, a sea ice researcher with Goddard. “This opening matters for several reasons; for starters, the newly exposed water absorbs sunlight and warms up the ocean, which affects how quickly sea ice will grow in the following autumn. It also affects the local ecosystem; for example, it impacts seal and polar bear populations that rely on thicker, snow-covered sea ice for denning and hunting.


Measurements of sea ice thickness, an important additional factor in determining the mass and volume changes of the sea ice cover, have been far less complete than the measurements of ice extent and distribution in the past four decades. Now, with the successful launch of NASA’s Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2, or ICESat-2, on Sept. 15, scientists will be able to use the data from the spacecraft’s advanced laser altimeter to create detailed maps of sea ice thickness in both the Arctic and the Antarctic.


Related link:  http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/2018/09/arctic-sea-ice-extent-arrives-at-its-minimum/


https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/seaicemin2018.pdf


ICESat-2: http://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/icesat-2


IceBridge: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/icebridge/index.html


Climate: https://www.nasa.gov/subject/3127/climate


Video (mentioned, Graphic (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Sara Blumberg/Earth Science News Team, by Maria-José Viñas.


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Stem Cells from Space Could Help Mend Broken Hearts


ISS – International Space Station logo.


Sept. 27, 2018


Research on the International Space Station could help scientists speed recovery in the hearts of astronauts in space as well as people on Earth. Spaceflight induces a range of changes in human heart cells. Understanding these effects could lead to therapies to treat heart disease and repair cardiac tissue on Earth, as well as therapies to maintain astronaut cardiac health during long-duration spaceflight.


Researchers cultured human stem cells, or cardiovascular progenitor cells (CPCs), in the microgravity environment of the space station. The team reported the findings from the Cardiac Stem Cells investigation in a paper published in the journal npj Microgravity.



Animation above: NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson conducts a medium change within the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) as a part of the Cardiac Stem Cells investigation. Animation Credit: NASA.


Stem cells are able to continually divide to produce more of the same cells, and also can differentiate into specialized cell types. Neonatal stem cells proliferate more rapidly and differentiate into more different kinds of cells than do other stem cells. In some organs, such as bone marrow, stem cells regularly divide to repair and replace worn out or damaged tissues. This allows stem cells to repair and replace worn out or damaged tissues. While cardiovascular stem cells reside in the human heart, neonatal stem cells are able to proliferate more effectively than the same cells in the adult heart. This means neonatal hearts are more capable at repairing tissue damage than adult hearts.


“While we know spaceflight affects cardiac function and structure, the biological basis for this is not clearly understood,” said principal investigator Mary Kearns-Jonker, a researcher in the Department of Pathology and Human Anatomy at Loma Linda University School of Medicine in California. The study looked at the factors that govern stem cell activity, including physical and molecular changes, to clarify their role and how microgravity affects that role.



Image above: Cardiac Progenitor Cells (CPCs) cultured for the Cardiac Stem Cell investigation aboard the International Space Station. Image Credit: Loma Linda University.


Kearns-Jonker and colleagues isolated CPCs from the neonatal and adult human heart and examined the influence of microgravity on a variety of characteristics, including migration (cell movement within organs), proliferation (how many cells a CPC produced), and differentiation (what other types of cells a CPC generated). The researchers cultured clonal, or genetically identical, neonatal and adult cells in space and on the ground for the study.


In the npj Microgravity paper, the investigators report that spaceflight affected the developmental status, proliferative potential, and migratory ability of CPCs. Changes in gene expression associated with stem cell characteristics and differentiation also were noted, with response to microgravity differing between neonatal and adult cells. Some similarities also were identified.


“CPCs from both the neonatal and adult population expressed higher levels of factors that enhance migration and increase proliferation,” Kearns-Jonker said. “But the effects were more pronounced in the neonatal cells.”



Image above: Neonatal cardiac stem cells were seeded at identical concentration in Biocells cultured on the ground (left panel) and the International Space Station (right panel) for 30 days. After live cell return from the ISS, cell counts obtained following culture in space versus culture on the ground for the same length of time were compared. The graph indicates that cardiac stem cell clones proliferate more quickly when cultured in space. Image Credit: Loma Linda University.


Changes in migration, proliferation and gene expression induced by spaceflight are important for optimizing CPCs for cardiovascular repair. Enhanced migration, for example, could enable these cells to move to the site of heart tissue damage, and enhanced proliferation would make more cells available to repair the damage.


“We find this very promising,” Kearns-Jonker said. Better understanding of the molecular mechanisms that influence cardiac stem cell function supports design of therapies to treat heart disease and repair cardiac tissue on Earth. Understanding how microgravity affects these stem cells contributes to the goal of developing therapies to maintain astronaut cardiac health during long spaceflight and reverse heart muscle loss once astronauts return to Earth.


The researchers also published results from the investigation in the journal Stem Cells and Development.



International Space Station (ISS). Image Credit: NASA/STS-130

The next step is to test the cells in microgravity in model organisms, such as mice, to further understand what makes them functional in tissue repair. “Things we’ve learned from these cells in the spaceflight environment help get us there,” Kearns-Jonker said.


Thanks to research in space, scientists are that much closer to mending broken hearts.


This investigation was sponsored by the ISS National Lab, which is managed by the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS).


Related links:


Journal npj Microgravity: http://www.nature.com/articles/s41526-018-0048-x


Journal Stem Cells and Development: https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/scd.2017.0263


Cardiac Stem Cells: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7464


Model organisms: https://blogs.nasa.gov/ISS_Science_Blog/2013/11/13/model-organisms-shining-examples-for-simple-effective-biology-research/


Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS): https://www.iss-casis.org/


Space Station Research and Technology: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/index.html


International Space Station (ISS): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html


Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Michael Johnson/JSC/International Space Station Program Science Office/Melissa Gaskill.


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Hyper Suprime-Cam survey maps dark matter in the universe

Today, an international group of researchers, including Carnegie Mellon University’s Rachel Mandelbaum, released the deepest wide field map of the three-dimensional distribution of matter in the universe ever made and increased the precision of constraints for dark energy with the Hyper Suprime-Cam survey (HSC).











Hyper Suprime-Cam survey maps dark matter in the universe
The weak lensing surveys such as HSC prefer a slightly less clumpy Universe (left) than that predicted by Planck (right).
The pictures show the slight but noticeable difference as expected from large computer simulations
[Credit: Hyper Suprime-Cam Survey]

The present-day universe is a pretty lumpy place. As the universe has expanded over the last 14 billion years or so, galaxies and dark matter have been increasingly drawn together by gravity, creating a clumpy landscape with large aggregates of matter separated by voids where there is little or no matter.


The gravity that pulls matter together also impacts how we observe astronomical objects. As light travels from distant galaxies towards Earth, the gravitational pull of the other matter in its path, including dark matter, bends the light. As a result, the images of galaxies that telescopes see are slightly distorted, a phenomenon called weak gravitation lensing. Within those distortions is a great amount of information that researchers can mine to better understand the distribution of matter in the universe, and it provides clues to the nature of dark energy.


The HSC map, created from data gathered by Japan’s Subaru telescope located in Hawaii, allowed researchers to measure the gravitational distortion in images of about 10 million galaxies.


The Subaru telescope allowed them to see the galaxies further back in time than in other similar surveys. For example, the Dark Energy Survey analyzes a much larger area of the sky at a similar level of precision as HSC, but only surveys the nearby universe. HSC takes a narrower, but deeper view, which allowed researchers to see fainter galaxies and make a sharper map of dark matter distribution.


The research team compared their map with the fluctuations predicted by the European Space Agency Planck satellite’s observations of the cosmic microwave background radiation — radiation from the earliest days of the universe. The HSC measurements were slightly lower than, but still statistically consistent with Planck’s. The fact that HSC and other weak lensing surveys all find slightly lower results than Planck raises the tantalizing question of whether dark energy truly behaves like Einstein’s cosmological constant.











Hyper Suprime-Cam survey maps dark matter in the universe
Left panel: The 3-dimensional dark matter map of the universe inferred from one of the six HSC observation areas is
shown in the background with various shades of blue (brighter areas have more dark matter). The map was inferred
from the distortions of shapes of galaxies in the HSC data which are indicated by white sticks. The stick lengths represent
the amount of distortion and the angle of the stick corresponds to the direction of the distortion. Right panel: The
measurements are enabled by the light from distant galaxies that travels through the universe and gets deflected
by matter at different epochs in the universe, before reaching the Subaru telescope
[Credit: HSC project/UTokyo]

“Our map gives us a better picture of how much dark energy there is and tells us a little more about its properties and how it’s making the expansion of the universe accelerate,” Mandelbaum said. “The HSC is a great complement to other surveys. Combining data across projects will be a powerful tool as we try uncover more and more about the nature of dark matter and dark energy.”


Measuring the distortions caused by weak gravitational lensing isn’t easy. The effect is quite small and distortions in galaxy shapes can also be caused by the atmosphere, the telescope and the detector. To get precise, accurate results, researchers need to know that they are only measuring effects from weak lensing.


Mandelbaum, associate professor of physics and member of the McWilliams Center for Cosmology at Carnegie Mellon, is an expert at controlling for these outside distortions. She and her team created a detailed image simulation of the HSC survey data based on images from the Hubble Space Telescope. From these simulations, they were able to apply corrections to the galaxy shapes to remove the shape distortions caused by effects other than lensing.


These results come from the HSC survey’s first year of data. In all, the HSC survey will collect five years of data that will yield even more information about the behavior of dark energy and work towards other goals such as studying the evolution of galaxies and massive clusters of galaxies across cosmic time, measuring time-varying objects like supernovae, and even studying our own Milky Way galaxy.


The research will be uploaded to the preprint server arxiv.org and will be submitted to the Publication of the Astronomical Society of Japan.


Source: Carnegie Mellon University [September 25, 2018]



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Climate change not main driver of amphibian decline

While a warming climate in recent decades may be a factor in the waning of some local populations of frogs, toads, newts and salamanders, it cannot explain the overall steep decline of amphibians, according to researchers.











Climate change not main driver of amphibian decline
The spotted salamander or yellow spotted salamander is one of the species of amphibians that is way less common
 than it used to be. Found in the eastern United States and Canada, the spotted salamander is the state
amphibian of Ohio and South Carolina [Credit: Brad Glorioso/US Geologic Survey]

After analyzing many years of data for 81 North American amphibian species including more than 500,000 observations collected at more than 5,000 sites in 86 study areas by a broad coalition of herpetologists, it is clear a warming climate is not the primary driver in their disappearance, according to lead researcher David Miller, associate professor of wildlife population ecology in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.


The researchers focused on how colonization and persistence of local populations were related to annual variation in five climate variables thought to affect key components of amphibian life cycles: winter severity, snowfall, breeding water availability, summer soil moisture and maximum temperature.


“The influence of climate on amphibian populations is complex,” Miller said. “In the last 30 years, we have seen increases in temperature, while some spots have gotten drier and others have gotten wetter. In the big picture, those developments seem to counteract each other. As a result, the impact of climate change for the measures we focused on cannot explain the sharp decline we have seen and continue to see across amphibian populations.”


The study showed that, on average, 3.4 percent of amphibian species are disappearing from local amphibian habitats each year. That is the equivalent of losing half the species in any wetland, stream reach or forest site every 20 years. Miller believes these declines are a continuation of losses of amphibian populations that have been occurring since the 19th century when human land-use began destroying their habitats.











Climate change not main driver of amphibian decline
The gray treefrog is a species of small arboreal frog native to much of the eastern United States and southeastern
Canada that is not seen as often as it used to be [Credit: Julian Avery/Penn State]

“It is an alarming trend,” he said. “Across species, on average, we lose more than three in 100 of the sites where they occur each year. Whether the sites are ponds, short stretches of streams or, if we’re talking about salamanders, forest plots — they’re gone. Our research took place in the United States and Canada, but it’s a trend worldwide.”


In the study — the findings of which were published in Nature Communications — 41 researchers estimated changes in amphibian numbers in plots they have been watching, in many cases, for a decade or more. They collected data on both public and private lands, including national parks, forests, and wildlife refuges.


Researchers correlated those changes with weather trends and climate-related conditions, directly measuring how climate drivers are affecting the processes that determine amphibian range shifts. For example, they found that less precipitation during breeding seasons generally has a negative effect on amphibian populations, while less snowfall during winter may benefit many populations.


The researchers determined that, while climate change likely has been and will be a factor in the decline of some local populations such as in the Rocky Mountain West — where the effect of a warming climate seems to be more severe for amphibians — it is not responsible for the current declines that are occurring.











Climate change not main driver of amphibian decline
The eastern newt is not as often seen in eastern North America as it once was.
It frequents small lakes, ponds and streams or near-by wet forests. The eastern
newt produces tetrodotoxin, which makes the species unpalatable to
predatory fish and crayfish [Credit: Julian Avery/Penn Stat]

That conclusion, of course, has scientists pondering the culprits most responsible for amphibian decline. Erin Muths, a scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey and a co-lead on the project, believes that the cause of declines comes down to a suite of local factors.


“It depends on the location whether habitat loss, disease, contaminants, climate, or a combination of these local factors is the culprit,” she said. “Amphibians are challenged by a range of stressors that may be unique to location but in combination are leading to wide-range declines.”


To better understand the causes of declines, Miller and colleagues from the USGS have initiated new work studying emerging pathogens that affect amphibians. A major concern for amphibian populations are new and deadly pathogens, mostly spread around the planet by humans — likely propelled by the pet trade.


According to Evan Grant, with the USGS Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative, there are at least two new pathogens that researchers know of that are currently affecting North American amphibians.











Climate change not main driver of amphibian decline
The spring peeper is a small chorus frog widespread throughout the eastern United States and Canada. They
are so called because of their chirping call that marks the beginning of spring. Still very numerous,
 their numbers are down [Credit: Brad Glorioso/US Geologic Survey]

“One is the chytrid fungus and the other is ranaviruses,” he said. “We are trying to figure out how these affect populations of amphibians in the Northeast. We are still learning how infections are spread and why some species are more susceptible.”


This past summer, for example, Miller’s research group at Penn State watched the die-off of salamander larvae and tadpoles in the ponds they monitor in a Centre County, Pennsylvania, site called the Scotia Barrens. Preliminarily, Miller believes ranavirus caused the mortality event.


“Once these diseases make it to North America then the animals themselves can spread them around,” he said. “But it really takes people to be involved in carrying the diseases from, say, Asia to the United States.”


Author: Jeff Mulhollem | Source: Pennsylvania State University [September 25, 2018]



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Once majestic Atlantic Forest ’empty’ after 500 years of over-exploitation

Five centuries of over-exploitation has halved mammal populations in South America’s Atlantic Forest – according to new research from the University of East Anglia.











Once majestic Atlantic Forest 'empty' after 500 years of over-exploitation
New research finds that 500 years of over-exploitation has halved mammal populations in South America’s once
majestic Atlantic Forest. 
A new analysis of mammal populations reveals the devastating effects of human
disturbance since the area was first colonised in the 1500s
[Credit: Juliano A. Bogoni]

A new analysis of mammal populations, published today in the journal PLoS ONE, has revealed the devastating effects of human disturbance over the last 500 years.


More than half of the local species assemblages – sets of co-existing species – of medium and large mammals living in the forest have died out since the area was first colonised in the 1500s.


Human activity is largely responsible for this overwhelming biodiversity loss according to the study, which compared inventories published over the past 30 years with baseline data going back to historical times in Colonial Brazil.


Originally covering around 1.1 million square km, the Atlantic Forest lies mostly along the coast of Brazil and is the world’s longest continuous latitudinal stretch of tropical forest. Activities such as farming and logging – as well as fires – have reduced the Forest to about 0.143 million square km which has, in turn, had a significant impact on mammalian populations.











Once majestic Atlantic Forest 'empty' after 500 years of over-exploitation
Human activity is largely responsible for this overwhelming biodiversity loss according to the study. Originally
covering around 1.1 million square km, the Atlantic Forest lies mostly along the coast of Brazil and is the
world’s longest continuous latitudinal stretch of tropical forest.  [Credit: Juliano A. Bogoni]

Dr Juliano Bogoni – currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of São Paulo, Brazil – led the study, along with Professor Carlos Peres from the University of East Anglia (UEA), and collaborators from the Federal University of Santa Catarina in Brazil.


The team analysed species loss among almost 500 medium-to-large-bodied local sets of mammal species that had been surveyed within the vast Atlantic Forest region.


As well as looking at individual species, the team examined species groups, to try to understand which ecologically related groups of species had diminished most rapidly. They found that apex predators and large carnivores, such as jaguars and pumas, as well as large-bodied herbivores, such as tapirs were among the groups whose numbers had suffered the most.


Prof Peres, from UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences, said: “Our results highlight the urgent need for action in protecting these fragile ecosystems.











Once majestic Atlantic Forest 'empty' after 500 years of over-exploitation
Activities such as farming and logging – as well as fires – have reduced the Forest to about 0.143 million square km
which has, in turn, had a significant impact on mammalian populations [Credit: Mariana Landis 2011 –
Wildlife Ecology, Management, and Conservation Lab (LEMaC)]

“In particular, we need to carry out more comprehensive regional scale studies to understand the local patterns and drivers of species loss.


“Efforts to protect the Atlantic Forest and other tropical forest ecosystems often rests on uncooperative political will and robust public policies, so we need compelling data to drive change.”


Dr Bogoni, first author of the study, said: “The mammalian diversity of the once majestic Atlantic Forest has been largely reduced to a pale shadow of its former self.


“These habitats are now often severely incomplete, restricted to insufficiently large forest remnants, and trapped in an open-ended extinction vortex. This collapse is unprecedented in both history and pre-history and can be directly attributed to human activity.”


Source: University of East Anglia [September 25, 2018]



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Bacteria’s password for sporulation hasn’t changed in 2.7 billion years

When it comes to changing their passwords, bacteria are just as bad as you and me — maybe even worse. A Carnegie Mellon University research team has found that despite 2.7 billion years of evolution, bacteria are still using the same “password” to initiate the process for making spores. Their findings were published in the September issue of PLOS Genetics.











Bacteria's password for sporulation hasn't changed in 2.7 billion years
This image illustrates the evolution of the sporulation initiation pathway in Bacilli and Clostridia,
 a compelling example of pathway remodeling [Credit: Carnegie Mellon University]

The Carnegie Mellon researchers, led by the Department of Biological Sciences’ Dannie Durand, used computational and experimental techniques to study how the signaling network that causes Bacilli and Clostridia to form spores has evolved since the two bacteria diverged from a common ancestor 2.7 billion years ago.


Bacteria make spores when times are tough. A protective shell forms around dormant cells to let them withstand harsh conditions like heat, acidity and radiation. Understanding sporulation has implications for many fields, including health care. For example, the spores of C. difficile can survive hand sanitizer, making that bacterium the leading cause of hospital-acquired infections.


Bacteria use “plug-and-play” signaling networks to sense and respond to environmental challenges. A sensor protein recognizes an environmental signal and passes a message to an activator protein, which turns on the appropriate response. Each sensor-activator pair has a specific set of amino acids that act like a password, which ensures that the sensor passes the message to the correct activator.


In the case of the sporulation network, a sensor protein recognizes environmental threats and alerts an activator protein that controls sporulation. The plug-and-play nature of signaling networks makes it easy for bacteria to adapt in a constantly changing world by integrating new sensors into the sporulation network. A sensor that recognizes a new challenge can turn on sporulation, as long as it has the password for the sporulation activator.


Prior studies have shown that in certain well-studied species of Bacillus and Clostridium, the proteins that activate sporulation are very similar, but the signaling networks that deliver the message are not. In Clostridium acetobutylicum, the sporulation signaling network consists of two proteins: the sensor and the activator. In Bacillus subtilis, the network consists of four proteins: the message passes from the sensor through two intermediate proteins before reaching the activator. This raised the question — how did evolution produce different networks that achieve the same results?


It was thought that the common ancestor had the simple two-protein network. Researchers hypothesized that the Bacillar sporulation network gained two proteins over the course of evolution, resulting in the four-protein version we see in Bacilli today. The Clostridia continued to use the two-protein network. This hypothesis was hard to test using standard sequence comparison methods, which are unable to distinguish one signaling network from another.


Durand and colleagues overcame this obstacle by developing a targeted computational approach that combined sequence similarity, protein domain content and neighboring genes to find the genes involved in the sporulation signaling network. When they applied this approach to 28 Bacillar genomes and 56 Clostridial genomes, they found genes encoding four sporulation network proteins in the Bacilli, as expected. Surprisingly, they also found all four genes in many Clostridial genomes.


This overturned the prevailing theory, revealing that the common ancestor must have had the four-protein network. This means that over time some of the Clostridia evolved to use the simpler two-protein network.


“It was surprising, because traditionally we think about evolution going from simple to complex,” said Durand. “But there are more and more examples of evolution going in the other direction, from complex to simple.”


To better understand these changes, study co-author Philip Davidson built artificial four-protein networks in test tubes, each with different combinations of the proteins found in the four-protein sporulation networks. He was able to replace any protein in a Bacillar four-protein sporulation network with the corresponding protein from a Clostridial four-protein network, and vice versa, and the activator still got the message. This shows that Clostridia and Bacilli are still using the same passwords as their ancestor that lived 2.7 billion years ago.


“It’s like your home wireless network. When you first got it, you set up a password and put it in all of your wireless devices. Over the years, you got new computers and smart phones, or had visitors who needed to use the wireless network. If you changed the password, the old devices wouldn’t work, which would be a hassle. So, you continue to use the old password to ensure that everyone could still access the system,” Durand said. “Philip’s experiments show that the Clostridia and the Bacilli get stuck in the same rut when it comes to changing passwords as we do.”


Source: Carnegie Mellon University [September 25, 2018]



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Retracing Antarctica’s glacial past

More than 26,000 years ago, sea level was much lower than it is today partly because the ice sheets that jut out from the continent of Antarctica were enormous and covered by grounded ice — ice that was fully attached to the seafloor. The ice sheets were as large as they could get and at the time, sea level was much lower because a lot of ice was sequestered on the continent. As the planet warmed, the ice sheets melted and contracted, and sea level began to rise. LSU Department of Geology & Geophysics Associate Professor Phil Bart and his students have discovered new information that illuminates how and when this global phenomenon occurred. Their research recently published in Nature’s Scientific Reports may change today’s sea level rise predictions as Earth and its icy continent continues to warm.











Retracing Antarctica's glacial past
Researchers excavated and analyzed ancient fossilized organisms from the bottom of the ocean in Antarctica
and discovered new information about an ice shelf that will inform future sea level rise predictions
[Credit: Phil Bart, LSU]

Bart and his students conducted one of the largest geological surveys of the Antarctic continental shelf to-date. His team of undergraduate and graduate students spent 28 days at sea aboard the U.S. Antarctic Programs’ research ship, the Nathaniel B. Palmer RVIB, to scan the topography of the seafloor in the Ross Sea. They scanned and mapped a roughly 2,500-square-kilometer, or 965-square-mile, area to create a three-dimensional picture of the ocean floor.
The scientists retraced the past movements of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and its adjacent floating ice shelf as global climate warmed. The ice shelf is a critical part of the climate system, because it slows down the breaking up and melting of grounded ice, which results in sea level rise. The scientists confirmed that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet had begun contracting and a relatively small ice shelf existed by 14,000 years ago. The ancient Ross Sea Ice Shelf then collapsed and calved into the ocean about 12,300 years ago.


More recently in 2002, in the northern part of Antarctica called the Antarctic Peninsula, the Larsen Ice Shelf collapsed. The collapse of this ice shelf quickly led to inland glaciers buttressed by the Larsen Ice Shelf to break up and melt. Scientists have thought that a similar process could have occurred when the Ross Ice Shelf collapsed thousands of years ago in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.











Retracing Antarctica's glacial past
LSU Geology & Geophysics Professor Phil Bart led a team of scientists to 3D map the sea floor to find out how
and when the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (outlined in white) moved and changed over the past 14,000 years
[Credit: Phil Bart, LSU]

However, Bart and colleagues from the University of South Florida, Auburn University and the Polish Academy of Sciences found that there was a centuries-long delay from when the Ross Ice Shelf collapsed and the grounded ice began to contract. In the Ross Sea, the delay was between 200 to 1,400 years later. This new information adds a layer of complexity for sea level rise computer simulations and predictions.
The researchers made this discovery by combing through the imagery from their virtual map to find where sediment was being deposited while the ice was last in contact with the seafloor. At those locations, they collected sediment cores, which they analyzed and looked for evidence of fossilized life near the bottom of the ocean. In the sediment cores, they found fossilized shells of single cell organisms called foraminifera. These fossils provide a timestamped footprint that give the researchers an estimate of when the ice was last there through radiocarbon dating. The fossils retrieved from where the ice shelf collapsed are about 200 to 1,400 years older than the fossils found in the grounding line trough.


“We know that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet retreated more than 200 kilometers after the paleo-ice shelf collapsed. The radiocarbon dating of this past event is important because it shows that ongoing changes to ice shelves may trigger dynamics whose consequences are realized only after a significant delay,” Bart said.


Source: Louisiana State University [September 25, 2018]



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Scientists name world’s largest ever bird: Vorombe titan

After decades of conflicting evidence and numerous publications, scientists at international conservation charity ZSL’s (Zoological Society of London) Institute of Zoology, have finally put the ‘world’s largest bird’ debate to rest. Published in Royal Society Open Science – Vorombe titan (meaning ‘big bird’ in Malagasy and Greek), has taken the title reaching weights of up to 800 kg and three metres tall, with the research also discovering unexpected diversity in these Madagascan creatures.











Scientists name world's largest ever bird: Vorombe titan
An artist’s illustration of the giant elephant bird [Credit: (c) Jaime Chirinos]

Until now, it was previously suggested that up to 15 different species of elephant birds had been identified under two genera, however research by ZSL scientists boasts new rigorous and quantitative evidence – that shows, in fact, this is not the case. Armed with a tape measure and a pair of callipers, Dr Hansford analysed hundreds of elephant bird bones from museums across the globe to uncover the world’s largest bird, while also revealing their taxonomy is in fact spread across three genera and at least four distinct species; thus, constituting the first taxonomic reassessment of the family in over 80 years.
Elephant birds (belonging to the family Aepyornithidae) are an extinct group of colossal flightless birds that roamed Madagascar during the Late Quaternary, with two genera (Aepyornis and Mullerornis) previously recognised by scientists. The first species to be described, Aepyornis maximus, has often been considered to be the world’s largest bird. In 1894, British scientist C.W. Andrews described an even larger species, Aepyornis titan, this has usually been dismissed as an unusually large specimen of A. maximus. However, ZSL’s research reveals Andrew’s ‘titan’ bird was indeed a distinct species. The shape and size of its bones are so different from all other elephant birds that it has now been given the new genus name Vorombe by ZSL.











Scientists name world's largest ever bird: Vorombe titan
Vorombe titan bones [Credit: (c) ZSL]

Lead Author at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology, Dr James Hansford said: “Elephant birds were the biggest of Madagascar’s megafauna and arguably one of the most important in the islands evolutionary history – even more so than lemurs. This is because large-bodied animals have an enormous impact on the wider ecosystem they live in via controlling vegetation through eating plants, spreading biomass and dispersing seeds through defecation. Madagascar is still suffering the effects of the extinction of these birds today.”
Co-Author Professor Samuel Turvey from ZSL’s Institute of Zoology said: “Without an accurate understanding of past species diversity, we can’t properly understand evolution or ecology in unique island systems such as Madagascar or reconstruct exactly what’s been lost since human arrival on these islands. Knowing the history of biodiversity loss is essential to determine how to conserve today’s threatened species.”


Analysing this data in a novel combination of machine learning combined with Bayesian clustering, Dr Hansford applied modern techniques to solve a 150-year-old taxonomic knot, that will form the modern understanding of these enigmatic avian megafauna. The revelation that the biggest of these birds was forgotten by history is just one part of their remarkable story.


Source: Zoological Society of London [September 25, 2018]



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Neutron star jets shoot down theory

Astronomers have detected radio jets belonging to a neutron star with a strong magnetic field — something not predicted by current theory, according to a new study published in Nature.











Neutron star jets shoot down theory
Artist’s impression of the strong magnetic field neutron star in Swift J0243.6+6124 launching a jet. During the bright 
outburst event in which it was first discovered, the neutron star in Swift J0243.6+6124 was accreting at a very high 
rate, producing copious X-ray emission from the inner parts of the accretion disk. At the same time, the team detected 
radio emission with a sensitive radio telescope, the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array in the USA. By studying how
 this radio emission changed with the X-rays, we could deduce that it came from fast-moving, narrowly-focused 
beams of material known as jets, seen here moving away from the neutron star magnetic poles 
[Credit: ICRAR/University of Amsterdam]

The team, led by researchers at the University of Amsterdam, observed the object known as Swift J0243.6+6124 using the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array radio telescope in New Mexico and NASA’s Swift space telescope.


“Neutron stars are stellar corpses,” said study co-author Associate Professor James Miller-Jones, from Curtin University’s node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR).


“They’re formed when a massive star runs out of fuel and undergoes a supernova, with the central parts of the star collapsing under their own gravity.


“This collapse causes the star’s magnetic field to increase in strength to several trillion times that of our own Sun, which then gradually weakens again over hundreds of thousands of years.”











Neutron star jets shoot down theory
Artist’s impression of the neutron star in Swift J0243.6+6124.The neutron star has a very strong magnetic field which
prevents the accretion disk from making it all the way in to the neutron star surface. Some of the gas in the disk is channeled
along the magnetic field lines onto the neutron star’s magnetic poles, giving rise to X-ray emission that we see as brief,
 regular pulses of X-rays as the star spins around once every 10 seconds [Credit: ICRAR/University of Amsterdam]

University of Amsterdam PhD student Jakob van den Eijnden, who led the research, said neutron stars and black holes are sometimes found in orbit with a nearby “companion” star.


“Gas from the companion star feeds the neutron star or black hole and produces spectacular displays when some of the material is blasted out in powerful jets travelling at close to the speed of light,” he said.


Astronomers have known about jets for decades but until now, they had only observed jets coming from neutron stars with much weaker magnetic fields. The prevailing belief was that a sufficiently strong magnetic field prevents material getting close enough to a neutron star to form jets.


“Black holes were considered the undisputed kings of launching powerful jets, even when feeding on just a small amount of material from their companion star,” Van den Eijnden said.











Neutron star jets shoot down theory
Artist’s impression of the binary system Swift J0243.6+6124.A binary system with a neutron star in a 27-day orbit and
a more massive, rapidly-rotating donor star. The rapid rotation of the donor star throws off a disk of material around
the stellar equator. As the neutron star passes through the disk during its orbit, it picks up some of this outflowing gas,
which then spirals in towards the neutron star in an accretion disk [Credit: ICRAR/University of Amsterdam]

“The weak jets belonging to neutron stars only become bright enough to see when the star is consuming gas from its companion at a very high rate.


“The magnetic field of the neutron star we studied is about 10 trillion times stronger than that of our own Sun, so for the first time ever, we have observed a jet coming from a neutron star with a very strong magnetic field.


“The discovery reveals a whole new class of jet-producing sources for us to study,” he said.


Astronomers around the world study jets to better understand what causes them and how much power they release into space.


“Jets play a really important role in returning the huge amounts of gravitational energy extracted by neutron stars and black holes back into the surrounding environment,” Associate Professor Miller-Jones said.


“Finding jets from a neutron star with a strong magnetic field goes against what we expected, and shows there’s still a lot we don’t yet know about how jets are produced.”


Source: International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research [September 26, 2018]



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Elusive origin of stellar geysers revealed by 3D simulations

Astrophysicists finally have an explanation for the violent mood swings of some of the biggest, brightest and rarest stars in the universe.











Elusive origin of stellar geysers revealed by 3D simulations
A snapshot from a simulation of the churning gas that blankets a star 80 times the sun’s mass. Intense light from the star’s
core pushes against helium-rich pockets in the star’s exterior, launching material outward in spectacular geyser-like
eruptions. The solid colors denote radiation intensity, with bluer colors representing regions of larger intensity.
The translucent purplish colors represent the gas density, with lighter colors denoting denser regions
[Credit: Joseph Insley/Argonne Leadership Computing Facility]

The stars, called luminous blue variables, periodically erupt in dazzling outbursts nicknamed “stellar geysers.” These powerful eruptions launch entire planets’ worth of material into space in a matter of days. The cause of this instability, however, has remained a mystery for decades.


Now, new 3-D simulations by a team of astrophysicists suggest that turbulent motion in the outer layers of a massive star creates dense clumps of stellar material. These clumps catch the star’s intense light like a solar sail, erupting material into space. After jettisoning enough mass, the star calms down until its outer layers re-form and the cycle begins anew, the astrophysicists report in Nature.


Identifying the cause of the stellar geysers is significant because every extremely massive star probably spends part of its life as a luminous blue variable, says study co-author Matteo Cantiello, an associate research scientist at the Center for Computational Astrophysics at the Flatiron Institute in New York City.


“This finding represents an important step forward in understanding the life and death of the biggest stars in the universe,” says Cantiello. “These massive stars, despite their small number, largely determine the evolution of galaxies through their stellar winds and supernova explosions. And when they die, they leave behind black holes.”


A simulation of the turbulent gas that envelops a star 80 times the mass of the sun. Intense light from within the star 


pushes against dense pockets of helium-rich material in the star’s outer layers, launching the material spaceward. 


The colors represent the density of the gas, with lighter colors signifying denser regions 


[Credit: Joseph Insley/Argonne Leadership Computing Facility]


Luminous blue variables, or LBVs, are exceedingly rare, with only around a dozen spotted in and around the Milky Way galaxy. The gargantuan stars can exceed 100 times the mass of the sun and approach the theoretical limit of how massive stars can get. LBVs are also exceptionally radiant: The brightest ones shine with more than 1 million times the luminosity of the sun. That light pushes matter spaceward because absorption and re-emission of a photon by an atom results in a net outward shove.


The tug of war between extreme gravity pulling material in and extreme luminosity pushing it out is responsible for the trademark outbursts of LBVs, scientists believe. The absorption of a photon by an atom, however, requires that electrons be bound in orbits around the atom’s nucleus. In the deepest, hottest layers of a star, matter behaves as a plasma with electrons untethered from atoms. In the cooler outer layers, electrons begin rejoining their atoms and can therefore absorb photons again.


Previously proposed explanations for the outbursts predicted that elements such as helium in the outer layers could absorb enough photons to overcome gravity and fly into space as an outburst. But simple, one-dimensional calculations didn’t back up this hypothesis: The outer layers didn’t seem sufficiently dense to catch enough light to overpower gravity.


Those simple calculations, however, didn’t capture the full picture of the complex dynamics within a colossal star. Cantiello, along with Yan-Fei Jiang of the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and colleagues took a more realistic approach. The researchers created a detailed, three-dimensional computer simulation of how matter, heat and light flow and interact within supersize stars. The calculations involved required more than 60 million computer processor hours to solve.


A simulation of the turbulent gas that envelops a star 80 times the mass of the sun. Intense light from within the star


 pushes against dense pockets of helium-rich material in the star’s outer layers, launching the material spaceward. 


The solid colors denote radiation intensity, with bluer colors representing regions of larger intensity. The 


translucent purplish colors represent the gas density, with lighter colors denoting denser regions 


[Credit: Joseph Insley/Argonne Leadership Computing Facility]


In the simulation, the average density of the outer layers was too low for material to go flying — just as the one-dimensional calculations predicted. However, the new calculations revealed that convection and mixing in the outer layers resulted in some regions being denser than others, with some clumps opaque enough to be launched into space by the star’s light. Such eruptions occur over timescales ranging from days to weeks as the star churns and its brightness fluctuates. The team estimates that such stars can shed around 10 billion trillion metric tons of material each year, roughly double the Earth’s mass.
The researchers plan to improve the accuracy of their simulations by incorporating other effects such as the star’s rotation, which can make launching material into space easier near the star’s fast-spinning equator than near the almost stationary poles. (This effect is the reason NASA launches its rockets from Florida and California rather than Maine or Alaska.)


Improving the fidelity of star simulations is crucial to achieving astrophysical insights, Cantiello says. The move from simple, single-dimensional calculations to full 3-D simulations requires more computational muscle and more complex physics, but the results are well worth the trouble. “We had to implement all of these physics to see, with our own eyes, that this process — that we didn’t expect to be important — would turn out to be key to understanding these violent eruptions and the evolution of these massive stars,” he says.


Source: Simons Foundation [September 26, 2018]



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Did key building blocks for life come from deep space?

All living beings need cells and energy to replicate. Without these fundamental building blocks, living organisms on Earth would not be able to reproduce and would simply not exist.











Did key building blocks for life come from deep space?
Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko [Credit ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM]

Little was known about a key element in the building blocks, phosphates, until now. University of Hawaii at Manoa researchers, in collaboration with colleagues in France and Taiwan, provide compelling new evidence that this component for life was found to be generated in outer space and delivered to Earth in its first one billion years by meteorites or comets. The phosphorus compounds were then incorporated in biomolecules found in cells in living beings on Earth.


The breakthrough research is outlined in “An Interstellar Synthesis of Phosphorus Oxoacids,” authored by UH Manoa graduate student Andrew Turner, now assistant professor at the University of Pikeville, and UH Manoa chemistry Professor Ralf Kaiser in the September issue of Nature Communications.


According to the study, phosphates and diphosphoric acid are two major elements that are essential for these building blocks in molecular biology. They are the main constituents of chromosomes, the carriers of genetic information in which DNA is found. Together with phospholipids in cell membranes and adenosine triphosphate, which function as energy carriers in cells, they form self-replicating material present in all living organisms.


In an ultra-high vacuum chamber cooled down to 5 K (-450°F) in the W.M. Keck Research Laboratory in Astrochemistry at UH Manoa, the Hawaii team replicated interstellar icy grains coated with carbon dioxide and water, which are ubiquitous in cold molecular clouds, and phosphine. When exposed to ionizing radiation in the form of high-energy electrons to simulate the cosmic rays in space, multiple phosphorus oxoacids like phosphoric acid and diphosphoric acid were synthesized via non-equilibrium reactions.


“On Earth, phosphine is lethal to living beings,” said Turner, lead author. “But in the interstellar medium, an exotic phosphine chemistry can promote rare chemical reaction pathways to initiate the formation of biorelevant molecules such as oxoacids of phosphorus, which eventually might spark the molecular evolution of life as we know it.”


Kaiser added, “The phosphorus oxoacids detected in our experiments by combination of sophisticated analytics involving lasers, coupled to mass spectrometers along with gas chromatographs, might have also been formed within the ices of comets such as 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which contains a phosphorus source believed to derive from phosphine.” Kaiser says these techniques can also be used to detect trace amounts of explosives and drugs.


“Since comets contain at least partially the remnants of the material of the protoplanetary disk that formed our solar system, these compounds might be traced back to the interstellar medium wherever sufficient phosphine in interstellar ices is available,” said Cornelia Meinert of the University of Nice (France).


Upon delivery to Earth by meteorites or comets, these phosphorus oxoacids might have been available for Earth’s prebiotic phosphorus chemistry. Hence an understanding of the facile synthesis of these oxoacids is essential to untangle the origin of water-soluble prebiotic phosphorus compounds and how they might have been incorporated into organisms not only on Earth, but potentially in our universe as well.


Source: University of Hawaii at Manoa [September 26, 2018]



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Newly discovered hummingbird species already critically endangered

In 2017, researchers working in the Ecuadorian Andes stumbled across a previously unknown species of hummingbird — but as documented in a new study published in The Auk: Ornithological Advances, its small range, specialized habitat, and threats from human activity mean the newly described Blue-throated Hillstar is likely already critically endangered.











Newly discovered hummingbird species already critically endangered
This photo of a previously unknown species of hummingbird led to the discovery of the critically
endangered Blue-throated Hillstar [Credit: F. Sornoza]

Hillstars are unusual among hummingbirds — they live in high-elevation habitats in the Andes and have special adaptations to cold temperatures. Francisco Sornoza of Ecuador’s Instituto Nacional de Biodiversida, first observed and photographed a previously unknown hillstar during fieldwork in southwest Ecuador in April 2017. After this first expedition, Francisco engaged fellow researchers Juan Freile, Elisa Bonaccorso, Jonas Nilsson, and Niels Krabbe in the study of this possible new species, returning in May to capture specimens and confirm the finding. They dubbed the new species Oreotrochilus cyanolaemus, or the Blue-throated Hillstar, for its iridescent blue throat.
The Blue-throated Hillstar is found only along bush-lined creeks in an area of about 100 square kilometers, and the researchers estimate there are no more than 750 individuals, perhaps fewer than 500. Threats to its habitat include fire, grazing, and gold mining, and it meets the criteria to be considered critically endangered. “Complete support from national and international conservation agencies is needed in order to save this species,” says coauthor Francisco Sornoza-Molina. “The action plan for the conservation of this bird is creating a network of protected areas along its geographic range.”
“The hillstar hummingbirds occur in the most rugged, isolated, and inaccessible parts of the Andes, where they roost in caves, forage on the ground, and spend half their lives in hypothermic torpor, so the discovery of a new species in this group is incredibly exciting. This striking discovery confirms that life in the high Andes still holds many secrets to be revealed,” according to the University of New Mexico’s Christopher Witt, a hummingbird expert who wasn’t involved in the study. “The location is fitting for a new species of hillstar, because it’s a remote, high mountain range that is isolated and is sandwiched between the ranges of two other hillstar species. The authors did a thorough job comparing the new form to its relatives in every respect.”


Source: American Ornithological Society Publications Office [September 26, 2018]



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Japan’s Kounotori Spaceship Attached to Station


JAXA – H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-7) patch.


September 27, 2018


Ground controllers successfully installed the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Kounotori 7 H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-7) to the International Space Station’s Earth-facing port of the Harmony module at 10:09 a.m. EDT.



HTV-7 berthing

The spacecraft’s arrival supports the crew members’ research off the Earth to benefit the Earth. The cargo spacecraft began its trip on an H-IIB rocket at 1:52 p.m. EDT (2:52 a.m. Japan time) on Saturday, Sat. 22 from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan.



Image above: Sept. 27, 2018: International Space Station Configuration. Four spaceships are parked at the space station including the HTV-7 and Progress 70 resupply ships and the Soyuz MS-08 and MS-09 crew ships. Image Credit: NASA.


The early Thursday morning cargo delivery includes more than five tons of supplies, water, spare parts and experiments for the crew aboard the International Space Station. The spacecraft also is carrying a half dozen new lithium-ion batteries to continue upgrades to the station’s power system.


Related articles:


Japanese Rocket Blasts Off to Resupply Station
https://orbiterchspacenews.blogspot.com/2018/09/japanese-rocket-blasts-off-to-resupply.html


Partnership, Teamwork Enable Landmark Science Glovebox Launch to Space Station
https://orbiterchspacenews.blogspot.com/2018/09/partnership-teamwork-enable-landmark.html


Related links:


H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-7): https://www.nasa.gov/feature/kounotori-htv-launches-arrivals-and-departures


Space Station Research and Technology: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/index.html


International Space Station (ISS): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html


Image (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia/NASA TV/SciNews.


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