“PREVIEW: Hell Made Of Diamonds About to Be Captured By Nasa”

Pig virus may have been factor in death of man who received pig heart transplant, researchers say

www.foxnews.com

Bradford Betz

A pig virus may have contributed to the death of a man who was the first person to have received a heart transplant from a pig, though the evidence is inconclusive, researchers say. 

David Bennett Sr., 57, of Maryland, died in March, just two months after the groundbreaking experimental transplant. University of Maryland doctors said Thursday they found viral DNA inside the pig heart. They did not find signs that this bug, called “porcine cytomegalovirus,” was causing an active infection.

In this photo provided by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, members of the surgical team show the pig heart for transplant into patient David Bennett in Baltimore on Friday, Jan. 7, 2022. 

In this photo provided by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, members of the surgical team show the pig heart for transplant into patient David Bennett in Baltimore on Friday, Jan. 7, 2022.  (Mark Teske/University of Maryland School of Medicine via AP, File)

The animal virus was first reported by MIT Technology Review, citing a scientific presentation from Dr. Bartley Griffith, the surgeon who performed Bennett’s transplant.

A major worry about animal-to-human transplants is the risk that it could introduce new kinds of infections to people. Griffith told The Associated Press that some viruses can be a “hitchhiker” because they lurk without causing diseases. Now, researchers are pursuing more tests to ensure they don’t miss these kinds of viruses. 

SINGLE DAD RECEIVES KIDNEY DONATION FROM TOTAL STRANGER WHO REPLIED ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Doctors have for decades tried using animal organs to save human lives without success. Bennett, who was dying and ineligible for a human heart transplant, underwent the last-ditch operation using a heart from a pig genetically modified to lower the risk that his immune system would rapidly reject such a foreign organ.

The Maryland team said the donor pig was healthy, had passed testing required by the Food and Drug Administration to check for infections, and was raised in a facility designed to prevent animals from spreading infections. 

FILE: David Bennett Jr., right, stands next to his father's hospital bed in Baltimore, Md., on Jan. 12, 2022, five days after doctors transplanted a pig heart into Bennett Sr., in a last-ditch effort to save his life. 

FILE: David Bennett Jr., right, stands next to his father’s hospital bed in Baltimore, Md., on Jan. 12, 2022, five days after doctors transplanted a pig heart into Bennett Sr., in a last-ditch effort to save his life.  (University of Maryland School of Medicine via AP)

Griffith said his patient, while very ill, had been recovering fairly well from the transplant when one morning he woke up worse, with symptoms similar to an infection. Doctors ran tests to try to understand the cause, and gave Bennett a variety of antibiotics, antiviral medication and an immune-boosting treatment. But the pig heart became swollen, filled with fluid and eventually quit functioning.

“What was the virus doing, if anything, that might have caused the swelling in his heart?” Griffith asked. “Honestly we don’t know.”

Meanwhile, doctors at other medical centers around the country have been experimenting with animal organs in donated human bodies and are anxious to attempt formal studies in living patients soon. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report

https://www.foxnews.com/science/pig-virus-death-man-received-pig-heart-transplant-researchers

Venus and Jupiter Conjunction: Planets to almost touch in night sky

Venus and Jupiter have been drawing closer together all week
Image caption, Venus and Jupiter have been drawing closer together all week

www.bbc.com

By Georgina Rannard
BBC News Climate & Science

Look up in the sky at the right moment this weekend and you could see two of the solar system’s brightest planets almost touching.

Venus and Jupiter will be millions of miles apart, but from Earth they will appear close to colliding.

This planetary conjunction happens annually but this year they will appear much closer than usual.

The same spectacle won’t occur again like this until 2039.

Just the naked eye or binoculars should be enough to see it in a clear sky.

After Saturday, the two planets will go their separate ways as they drift apart in the coming days.

“It’s very exciting for astronomers and it’s a really great opportunity for people to get out and have a look,” explains space scientist and chief stargazer at the Society for Popular Astronomy Prof Lucie Green.

What is a planetary conjunction?

A conjunction is when two planets appear close together or even touching in the Earth’s night sky.

In the days running up to Saturday, Venus and Jupiter have been gradually coming together in the sky.

Planets Jupiter and Venus in conjunction rise before sunrise behind Rocca Calascio castle, Italy, on April 30, 2022.
Image caption, The two planets rise side-by-side over Rocca Calascio castle in Italy early on Saturday
Graphic

The actual orbit of the planets are about 430 million miles apart but their apparent alignment seen from Earth gives the illusion that they are touching.

How can I see it?

The peak time to see it was Saturday at around 05:00 BST. But it will still be visible on Sunday and in the coming days as the planets slowly move apart.

Pre-dawn is best, looking east before the Sun rises.

The two planets seen side-by-side between the trees in pre-dawn light
Image caption, Social media user @DebraJ54 took this photo in Humboldt, Tennessee, on Saturday morning

The planets will be low down in the sky, close to the horizon, and hills and buildings will block the view. If you can, find a high spot and look for two dazzlingly bright spots very close together.

“The planets will differ in their brightness. Venus is brighter than Jupiter so it will look dazzlingly bright when you see it. Jupiter will be slightly fainter, about one-sixth of the brightness of Venus,” explains Prof Green.

She suggests using an app to help navigate your way around the skies.

Diagram

And if you have telescope, you might be able to make out some structure in the atmosphere of Jupiter or some of its largest moons.

The conjunction can be seen from both of Earth’s hemispheres at different times of day and night.

Those observing with a telescope may also be treated to a view of Mars and Saturn forming a line of four planets.

Prof Green says she plans to be up and out of bed to watch it from the UK.

“But if I do miss it on Saturday morning, I’m not going to be too worried,” she explains.

“In the coming days the two planets start to get further and further apart – So I will still be able to see them.”

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https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-61259569

Record Broken: Hubble Spots Farthest Star Ever Seen

www.nasa.gov

Record Broken: Hubble Spots Farthest Star Ever Seen

Andrea Gianopoulos

7 – 9 minutes


The previous record holder’s light took 9 billion years to reach Earth. It’s an enormous blue star nicknamed “Icarus.”

Earendel should not be confused with the oldest known star, nicknamed “Methuselah,” discovered by Hubble in 2013.

Hubble also holds the cosmic distance record for a galaxy. Its light took 13.4 billion years to reach Earth.

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has established an extraordinary new benchmark: detecting the light of a star that existed within the first billion years after the universe’s birth in the big bang – the farthest individual star ever seen to date.

The find is a huge leap further back in time from the previous single-star record holder; detected by Hubble in 2018. That star existed when the universe was about 4 billion years old, or 30 percent of its current age, at a time that astronomers refer to as “redshift 1.5.” Scientists use the word “redshift” because as the universe expands, light from distant objects is stretched or “shifted” to longer, redder wavelengths as it travels toward us.

The newly detected star is so far away that its light has taken 12.9 billion years to reach Earth, appearing to us as it did when the universe was only 7 percent of its current age, at redshift 6.2. The smallest objects previously seen at such a great distance are clusters of stars, embedded inside early galaxies.

“We almost didn’t believe it at first, it was so much farther than the previous most-distant, highest redshift star,” said astronomer Brian Welch of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, lead author of the paper describing the discovery, which is published in the March 30 journal Nature. The discovery was made from data collected during Hubble’s RELICS (Reionization Lensing Cluster Survey) program, led by co-author Dan Coe at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), also in Baltimore.

“Normally at these distances, entire galaxies look like small smudges, with the light from millions of stars blending together,” said Welch. “The galaxy hosting this star has been magnified and distorted by gravitational lensing into a long crescent that we named the Sunrise Arc.”

After studying the galaxy in detail, Welch determined that one feature is an extremely magnified star that he called Earendel, which means “morning star” in Old English. The discovery holds promise for opening up an uncharted era of very early star formation.

Upper left galaxy cluster creates a gravitational lens. Faint red arc bisects image (upper right to lower left). 3 bright spots in the arc, center one is Earendel. The spots on either side are mirrored images of a star cluster.

hubble_earendel_annotated.png

This detailed view highlights the star Earendel’s position along a ripple in space-time (dotted line) that magnifies it and makes it possible for the star to be detected over such a great distance—nearly 13 billion light-years. Also indicated is a cluster of stars that is mirrored on either side of the line of magnification. The distortion and magnification are created by the mass of a huge galaxy cluster located in between Hubble and Earendel. The mass of the galaxy cluster is so great that it warps the fabric of space, and looking through that space is like looking through a magnifying glass—along the edge of the glass or lens, the appearance of things on the other side are warped as well as magnified.

Credits: Science: NASA, ESA, Brian Welch (JHU), Dan Coe (STScI); Image processing: NASA, ESA, Alyssa Pagan (STScI)

“Earendel existed so long ago that it may not have had all the same raw materials as the stars around us today,” Welch explained. “Studying Earendel will be a window into an era of the universe that we are unfamiliar with, but that led to everything we do know. It’s like we’ve been reading a really interesting book, but we started with the second chapter, and now we will have a chance to see how it all got started,” Welch said.

When Stars Align

The research team estimates that Earendel is at least 50 times the mass of our Sun and millions of times as bright, rivaling the most massive stars known. But even such a brilliant, very high-mass star would be impossible to see at such a great distance without the aid of natural magnification by a huge galaxy cluster, WHL0137-08, sitting between us and Earendel. The mass of the galaxy cluster warps the fabric of space, creating a powerful natural magnifying glass that distorts and greatly amplifies the light from distant objects behind it.

Thanks to the rare alignment with the magnifying galaxy cluster, the star Earendel appears directly on, or extremely close to, a ripple in the fabric of space. This ripple, which is defined in optics as a “caustic,” provides maximum magnification and brightening. The effect is analogous to the rippled surface of a swimming pool creating patterns of bright light on the bottom of the pool on a sunny day. The ripples on the surface act as lenses and focus sunlight to maximum brightness on the pool floor.

This caustic causes the star Earendel to pop out from the general glow of its home galaxy. Its brightness is magnified a thousandfold or more. At this point, astronomers are not able to determine if Earendel is a binary star, though most massive stars have at least one smaller companion star.

Confirmation with Webb

Astronomers expect that Earendel will remain highly magnified for years to come. It will be observed by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. Webb’s high sensitivity to infrared light is needed to learn more about Earendel, because its light is stretched (redshifted) to longer infrared wavelengths due to the universe’s expansion.

“With Webb we expect to confirm Earendel is indeed a star, as well as measure its brightness and temperature,” Coe said. These details will narrow down its type and stage in the stellar lifecycle. “We also expect to find the Sunrise Arc galaxy is lacking in heavy elements that form in subsequent generations of stars. This would suggest Earendel is a rare, massive metal-poor star,” Coe said.

Earendel’s composition will be of great interest for astronomers, because it formed before the universe was filled with the heavy elements produced by successive generations of massive stars. If follow-up studies find that Earendel is only made up of primordial hydrogen and helium, it would be the first evidence for the legendary Population III stars, which are hypothesized to be the very first stars born after the big bang. While the probability is small, Welch admits it is enticing all the same.

“With Webb, we may see stars even farther than Earendel, which would be incredibly exciting,” Welch said. “We’ll go as far back as we can. I would love to see Webb break Earendel’s distance record.”

Record Broken: Hubble Spots Farthest Star Ever Seen

Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Lead Producer: Paul Morris

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy in Washington, D.C.

Media Contacts:

Claire Andreoli
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
301-286-1940

Leah Ramsay
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland

Ray Villard
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland

Science Contacts:

Brian Welch
Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland

Dan Coe
Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland

Last Updated: Mar 30, 2022

Editor: Andrea Gianopoulos

https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2022/record-broken-hubble-spots-farthest-star-ever-seen

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope reaches alignment milestone, shares stunning view of cosmos

While the purpose of this image was to focus on the bright star at the center for alignment evaluation, Webb's optics and NIRCam are so sensitive that the galaxies and stars seen in the background show up.

While the purpose of this image was to focus on the bright star at the center for alignment evaluation, Webb’s optics and NIRCam are so sensitive that the galaxies and stars seen in the background show up. (Credits: NASA/STScI)

Julia Musto

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has reached another milestone, with the agency announcing that its main mirror is fully aligned.

NASA said the Webb team completed the stage of alignment known as “fine phasing” on March 11, with every optical parameter for Webb’s Optical Telescope Element performing “at, or above, expectations.” 

JAMES WEBB SPACE TELESCOPE TAKES FIRST IMAGES, SELFIE

The group also found no critical issues or measurable contamination or blockages to Webb’s optical path. 

NASA said the observatory is able to successfully gather light from distant objects and deliver it to its instruments without an issue.

“More than 20 years ago, the Webb team set out to build the most powerful telescope that anyone has ever put in space and came up with an audacious optical design to meet demanding science goals,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said in a statement. “Today we can say that design is going to deliver.”

Webb – an international venture with the European Space Agency (ESA) and Canadian Space Agency – is the first telescope in space to use segmented primary mirrors, like the primary mirror’s 18 hexagonal, beryllium segments.

The team has also now fully aligned Webb’s primary imager, the Near-Infrared Camera, to the observatory’s mirrors.

Over the course of the next six weeks, the Webb team will further act to align the telescope to include the Near-Infrared Spectrograph, Mid-Infrared Instrument and Near InfraRed Imager and Slitless Spectrograph.

JAMES WEBB SPACE TELESCOPE’S IMAGE OF STAR GETS PHOTOBOMBED BY GALAXIES

All of this comes before the $10 billion telescope’s final alignment step will begin, in addition to adjustments of any small, residual positioning errors in the mirror segments.

“We have fully aligned and focused the telescope on a star, and the performance is beating specifications. We are excited about what this means for science,” Ritva Keski-Kuha, deputy optical telescope element manager for Webb, said. “We now know we have built the right telescope.”

This new "selfie" was created using a specialized pupil imaging lens inside the NIRCam instrument that was designed to take images of the primary mirror segments instead of images of the sky.

This new “selfie” was created using a specialized pupil imaging lens inside the NIRCam instrument that was designed to take images of the primary mirror segments instead of images of the sky. (Credits: NASA/STScI)

NASA shared additional engineering images from its NIRCam instrument during the “fine phasing,” revealing the star 2MASS J17554042+6551277 and galaxies and stars in the background. The image uses a red filter to optimize visual contrast. 

At the beginning of alignment, NASA released a mosaic image, with 18 individual images of the star HD 84406. 

A new “selfie” was also created using a specialized pupil imaging lens inside the NIRCam instrument that was designed to take images of the primary mirror segments. It shows all of Webb’s 18 primary mirror segments collecting light from the same star in unison.

The Webb team will include all aspects of Optical Telescope Element alignment by early May. 

Webb’s first full-resolution imagery and science data will be released over the summer.

https://www.foxnews.com/science/nasas-james-webb-space-telescope-alignment-milestone-view-cosmos

Man Receives Heart Transplant From Genetically Altered Pig: ‘This Has Never Been Done Before’

www.dailywire.com

Charlotte Pence Bond

A 57-year-old man with serious heart disease was given a heart from a genetically modified pig in a new, unprecedented transplant operation

The New York Times reported on the “first successful transplant of a pig’s heart into a human being,” a procedure that lasted eight hours and took place in Baltimore, Maryland, on Friday. The man, David Bennett Sr., received the heart and was in good condition on Monday, per surgeons at the University of Maryland Medical Center. 

“It creates the pulse, it creates the pressure, it is his heart,” said Dr. Bartley Griffith, who carried out the operation. He is the director of the cardiac transplant program at the center. 

Griffith added, “It’s working and it looks normal. We are thrilled, but we don’t know what tomorrow will bring us. This has never been done before.”

“This is a watershed event,” said Dr. David Klassen, the chief medical officer of the United Network for Organ Sharing and a transplant doctor. “Doors are starting to open that will lead, I believe, to major changes in how we treat organ failure.” 

“Events like these can be dramatized in the press, and it’s important to maintain perspective,” Klassen added. “It takes a long time to mature a therapy like this.” He noted that there are lots of challenges to surpass before an operation like this one could be widely done.

Bennett chose to go forward with the procedure because he would not have survived without getting a new heart, had already gone through with other treatments, and was not healthy enough to meet the qualifications for a heart from a human donor, per members of his family and physicians, according to the Times. 

Bennett is still on a heart-lung bypass machine, as he was before the procedure took place, but that is not uncommon for someone who has newly received a heart transplant, according to medical experts.

His physicians stated that he could be brought off the machine on Tuesday. He is also being carefully watched for evidence that his body is fighting the new organ transplant, but he got through the first 48 hours without problems, which is reportedly an important time period. 

“It was either die or do this transplant,” Bennett said before the surgery, according to authorities at the University of Maryland Medical Center. “I want to live. I know it’s a shot in the dark, but it’s my last choice.”

The outlet reported that the heart which was put into Bennett’s body “came from a genetically altered pig provided by Revivicor, a regenerative medicine company based in Blacksburg, Va.”

The animal “had 10 genetic modifications. Four genes were knocked out, or inactivated, including one that encodes a molecule that causes an aggressive human rejection response,” the outlet noted, adding that a growth gene was also deactivated to not allow the pig’s heart to keep growing after implantation. 

“In addition, six human genes were inserted into the genome of the donor pig — modifications designed to make the porcine organs more tolerable to the human immune system,” the Times noted. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave the transplant doctors an emergency authorization for the procedure on New Year’s Eve. 

Dr. Christine Lau is the chair of the Department of Surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and was in the operating room during the procedure. 

“He’s at more of a risk because we require more immunosuppression, slightly different than we would normally do in a human-to-human transplant. How well the patient does from now is, you know, it’s never been done before so we really don’t know,” she told the BBC. 

“People die all the time on the waiting list, waiting for organs. If we could use genetically engineered pig organs they’d never have to wait, they could basically get an organ as they needed it. …Plus, we wouldn’t have to fly all over the country at night-time to recover organs to put them into recipients,” she added.

The Times noted that there is an organ shortage and around twelve people on the transplant waiting lists die every day. 

The pandemic has impacted the low number of organ donations and transplant operations, as well. 

A May 2020 report from Penn Medicine News noted that by early April 2020 transplant centers in France and the United States were carrying out fewer deceased donor transplants than they had been one month prior. 

The findings, published in The Lancet in May of 2020, noted, “The overall reduction in deceased donor transplantations since the COVID-19 outbreak was 90·6% in France and 51·1% in the USA, respectively.”

https://www.dailywire.com/news/man-receives-heart-transplant-from-genetically-altered-pig-this-has-never-been-done-before?%3Futm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=dwtwitter

A tornado expert explains why last week’s twisters were so devastating

www.theverge.com

Justine Calma 9 – 12 minutes

Meteorologists wereshocked by the tornadoes that devastated the Midwest and Southern US over the weekend. The twisters, which struck during the evening of December 10th, plowed across multiple states with incredible ferocity much later in the year than most tornadoes usually hit. Entire communities were devastated, and at least 90people lost their lives. Residents across Kentucky, Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi, Illinois are still recovering and searching for missing loved ones.

Tornadoes are still somewhat of an enigma to scientists. We know the basic meteorological ingredients needed to cause a tornado to form, as well as where and when they tend to appear. But what’s normal for the US — which sees more tornadoes than any other country on Earth — could be changing, according to some early research. Yet the relationship between climate change and tornadoes is still hazy. Scientists still need a better understanding of what is the perfect storm of conditions for triggering tornadoes so that they can suss out how things could change in a warming world.

The Verge spoke with John T. Allen, an associate professor of meteorology with a focus on tornadoes at Central Michigan University. He tells us what scientists are still trying to learn about tornadoes, and what we might expect in the future.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

As someone who’s studied tornadoes for a long time, what was running through your head as you were watching what happened over the weekend?

I’ll be honest, it’s never a pleasant thought. Having seen a few of these high end tornadoes in person and seeing the devastation that they leave behind, there’s a sense of powerlessness that comes from… you sort of know that it’s going to happen, but you can do very little about it.

In this particular case, part of you is just hoping that something changes in the storm: that it stops doing this and doesn’t hit a town or it misses a town to the south, or it misses that populated area. You really don’t want to see this outcome.

What made the tornadoes that struck over the weekend unusual?

What I think has made this event stand out was a couple of particularly long-track tornadoes that stretch from Arkansas into Kentucky. One particular storm produced an extremely long-track tornado. We don’t know exactly how long that track was, but it will probably find itself in the upper echelon of the longest track tornadoes we have in history. Another aspect of that tornado was that it was particularly intense. We saw quite a number of fatalities associated with this tornado, had a number of towns absolutely devastated by it. So certainly, it will be one of those historic events that goes down in people’s memories and will be something that will be felt by those communities for a very long time.

This tornado outbreak was certainly on the larger scale for December tornado outbreaks. We have had tornadoes previously in December, even on Christmas day you can have a tornado outbreak if the conditions are right. So at least in terms of getting tornadoes in December, that’s not too surprising. The sheer number of tornadoes wasn’t overly large. We’re talking on the order of somewhere around about 30 tornadoes overall, we won’t know until the survey’s finished in the coming days.

Was there anything else that might have made this tornado outbreak especially dangerous, like its path or the fact that it happened at night when it’s difficult for people to see them coming?

This area is relatively highly populated, and that’s never a good thing when it comes to tornadoes. Out in the plains, the population is relatively sparse. It means that there are fewer places that are likely to be impacted. But when you’ve got a very long track like this, the chance of hitting something goes up. As you move into the southeastern United States, it increases exponentially. [Editor’s note: some research has also found a trend toward more tornadoes in parts of the Midwest and Southeast and fewer in the Great Plains, where they’ve been more common in the past.]

Adding to that, we’ve got a tornado that’s late at night when people aren’t necessarily expecting it. That we’re not in what people typically think of as tornado season means that the overall vulnerability and chance that people may get caught unawares was much higher. Nocturnal tornadoes certainly have a disproportionate share of fatalities.

Questions are already being raised around what can or should be done to prepare for tornadoes in the future. What do we know so far about how climate change might affect tornadoes in the US?

It’s very difficult to say specifically for tornadoes. They’re very small-scale phenomena. And even on a daily basis, it can be quite difficult to predict whether a storm is going to produce a tornado or not. A lot of the research that has been done to date looks at the sort of ingredients, the conditions that could lead to tornadoes: warm, humid air, changing wind speed with height, which allows storm organization. And what we’ve found is that, at least for the future, there is definitely an increasing sort of length to the season. We’re seeing more potential for these tornadoes. The storms that produce tornadoes in the fall and winter and early spring are increasing up to 25 percent per degree Celsius of warming relative to now.

We had an abnormally warm period — I mean, Memphis hit 80 degrees Fahrenheit on Friday, which was unusually warm for the winter. Storms rely on relatively warm, moist air near the surface to increase the available energy to basically produce strong updraft. So in this case, you get much stronger vertical motion in the storms and that tends to be a thing that we see favoring stronger storms which might produce tornadoes.

The other factor that comes in there, and one that doesn’t really change is wind shear. So if you think about clouds moving in different directions at different heights, that’s what wind shear is. What wind shear does is it allows the storms to sort of organize themselves into something that is more sustained. It lasts a lot longer. It’s not your typical everyday thunderstorm. This is a storm that, in this particular case, might have persisted for over seven hours. And those sorts of storms are known to be more frequent producers of tornadoes.

And how does a tornado form?

There are a lot of different mechanisms that we’re aware of that potentially could produce a tornado. Generally speaking, you need a supercell thunderstorm. That supercell thunderstorm begins to rotate at the mid levels and that process produces a downdraft that then causes rotation at the surface to become more intense, and eventually we refer to it as a tornado when it exceeds 50 miles per hour. But the exact mechanisms of tornado formation are still an open topic of scientific research.

In this case, we had multiple storms producing very strong and intense tornadoes. Usually about six or more is defined as an outbreak, although other metrics exist. Tornado outbreaks are associated with a large-scale synoptic system. This particular system ended up producing snowfall in the Dakotas. It produced strong winds through Michigan, about 60 miles an hour. That particular system, as it moved eastward, pulled warm moist air up from the Gulf of Mexico, which was running a little bit warmer than normal. That warm, moist air is juxtaposed with relatively cool air coming behind the system. The interaction of those and an upper-level system that moved in as well produces a large area over which the conditions are favorable. It pulls those ingredients together. And so in this particular case, we had a system that produced an unusually large area of favorable conditions, which is what allowed for long-track tornadoes.

How do meteorologists forecast tornadoes? And how much warning do we typically have?

Warning times on average are in excess of 13 minutes. In this case, we had in excess of 20 minutes for Mayfield, one of the worst impacted locations. So there was certainly good anticipation of this particular event.

In terms of forecasting the likelihood of tornadoes, it really comes back to those ingredient conditions which we talked about earlier.

We have a whole suite of models we operate at our storm prediction center and other groups to basically predict the storms themselves and try and get an idea of will a storm form? How intense might it be? And we use that to formulate outlooks which are issued up to eight days in advance. The final outlooks are down to the day, then are proceeded by tornado watches. Tornado watches say, “the conditions are likely to get a tornado in the next few hours.” And then a tornado warning is, “the tornado was coming to you.”

What are scientists still trying to understand about tornadoes? And what makes them difficult to study?

Really pinning down why is it that a given scenario produces a tornado, I think, is a question we’re still sort of trying to wrap our heads around.

It’s not uncommon to have field projects in which you’ve had extreme trouble actually getting out in the field to observe a tornado. At the same time, we’ve had other situations where we’ve had very good observations of these events. The challenge is that there are a lot of physical processes at very small scales that really matter for tornadoes. That small scale influence means that it’s very hard to actually identify which storm is going to produce a tornado. Which one is it? On the same token, is it going to produce a long-track, higher-scale tornado? Or is it going to produce a relatively weaker tornado? We don’t have great answers for that.

We really do need a greater degree of field observations. We need more modeling studies to understand what’s going on. There’s a lot of science and research that needs to be done and those sort of things need federal support to do so.

https://www.theverge.com/2021/12/13/22832647/tornadoes-science-behind-climate-change

Very cool… But turn your volume down the noise hurt my ears 😬

In Jupiter’s swirling Great Red Spot, NASA spacecraft finds hidden depths

www.npr.org

 

Brendan Byrne


This new perspective of Jupiter from the south makes the Great Red Spot appear as though it is in northern territory. This view is unique to Juno. NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstäd/Seán Doran © CC NC SA hide caption

toggle caption

NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstäd/Seán Doran © CC NC SA

This new perspective of Jupiter from the south makes the Great Red Spot appear as though it is in northern territory. This view is unique to Juno.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstäd/Seán Doran © CC NC SA

Jupiter is well-known for being the biggest planet in our solar system, and it’s also home to the biggest storm. It’s called the Great Red Spot, an enormous vortex that has been swirling for centuries. It’s bigger than our own planet, and yet we don’t know much about it. Until now, scientists could only observe the spot from afar. But thanks to a NASA spacecraft launched a decade ago, we’re finally getting a look inside Jupiter’s storm.

The Great Red Spot is like a storm here on Earth, but supersized. “It’s basically clouds,” says Paul Byrne, a planetary scientist at Washington University in St. Louis. Really, “it’s not all that dissimilar to the kinds of things we know as cyclones or hurricanes or typhoons on Earth.”

At 10,000 miles across, the Great Red Spot is the largest storm in our solar system and has been continually observed for around 200 years, but it’s been around for much longer. (Compare that with big storms on Earth, which generally last a few days or weeks at most.)

“We believe this thing is really old,” says Scott Bolton, principal investigator of NASA’s Juno mission. “How it lasts that long is a mystery.”

Before Juno, scientists could only observe the storm from afar. Even from a distance, they noticed it was changing shape and actually shrinking.

This illustration depicts Juno in an elliptical, polar orbit around Jupiter. NASA hide caption

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NASA

This illustration depicts Juno in an elliptical, polar orbit around Jupiter.

NASA

NASA’s Juno mission launched from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida back in 2011 and arrived at Jupiter in 2016. In 2019, the spacecraft changed course slightly and passed over the Great Red Spot twice.

Bolton and his team used microwave sensors to slice into the depths of the storm, getting the first 3D model of the Great Red Spot. “It’s a pancake, because it’s so wide at the top. But the depth of that pancake is much thicker than what we would have anticipated.”

The microwave observations show these storms on Jupiter, called vortices, extend below the cloud deck of the planet. In the case of the Great Red Spot, it extends at least 200 miles into the clouds of Jupiter, beyond the depths of where clouds form and water condenses.

“That’s very different than the way we think Earth’s atmosphere works, which is largely driven by water, clouds, condensation and sunlight,” says Bolton. “How that works is going to require new models and new ideas to explain.”

Measuring the Great Red Spot’s gravity

During its 2019 pass over the Great Red Spot, the Juno spacecraft buzzed the planet at a blistering 130,000 miles per hour. The storm is so massive that its gravity field actually jostled the spacecraft during its flyby.

“The local gravity tends to pull and push away the spacecraft as it flies over the vortex, and this creates sort of like bumps in the road for Juno,” says Marzia Parisi, a Juno scientist from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California and lead author of a paper in the journal Science on gravity overflights of the Great Red Spot.

Scientists here on Earth could see the effect of these gravitational “bumps.” That’s because every time they jostled Juno, they nudged the spacecraft closer to or farther from Earth. That changing distance caused the radio waves sent back to Earth some 400 million miles away to be subtly squeezed and stretched, a phenomenon known as a Doppler shift.

Using this effect, the spacecraft could pick up tiny jostles as small as 0.01 millimeters per second.

“The precision required to get the Great Red Spot’s gravity during the July 2019 flyby is staggering,” says Parisi. The findings from the gravity observations complemented Bolton’s earlier microwave measures, concluding the storm penetrates some 300 miles into Jupiter’s atmosphere.

The shrinking spot

Observations of the Great Red Spot show that it’s shrinking. For nearly a century and a half, the iconic spot has been getting smaller and it’s unclear just how long it will last.

Juno is taking a closer look at this phenomenon. “What we’re doing is seeing up close what’s happening while that shrinking has happened,” says Bolton.

The spacecraft is observing flecks of the storm getting caught up in neighboring clouds. The storm itself also appears to be trapped by powerful conveyer belts of wind on the planet that are stabilizing the storm.

“I don’t think the theory is very far advanced to the sense where we can connect all of that to the changes in the size,” said Bolton.

Data from Juno will help scientists predict what could possibly happen to the Great Red Spot.

“Understanding what’s happening with the storm now allows scientists to make much more sophisticated models to simulate what we see and then make predictions for what will happen in the future, including up to perhaps when the Great Red Spot may eventually go away,” says planetary scientist Paul Byrne.

Understanding other Jupiter-like planets

The findings from the Juno spacecraft are shedding light on the early formation of giant planets like Saturn, Uranus and Neptune — and even planets beyond our own solar system.

“When we get up close, and this is the first planet we’ve actually been able to open up and look inside, this is going to tell us a lot about how giant planets work throughout the galaxy,” says Bolton.

The JunoCam imager aboard NASA’s Juno spacecraft captures a Jovian cyclone known as a barge type in polar jet stream called “Jet N4.” NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS. Image processing: Gerald Eichstädt CC BY hide caption

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NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS. Image processing: Gerald Eichstädt CC BY

The JunoCam imager aboard NASA’s Juno spacecraft captures a Jovian cyclone known as a barge type in polar jet stream called “Jet N4.”

NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS. Image processing: Gerald Eichstädt CC BY

To date, astronomers have identified thousands of exoplanets — planets that orbit a star other than our sun. These planets are far away, with the closest one around 10.5 light-years from Earth. That makes observing what’s happening on the surface difficult.

Around 1,400 of these exoplanet candidates are thought to be gas giants, much like Jupiter. Understanding what happens on Jupiter can help scientists get a better sense of what’s happening beyond our solar system.

“By understanding the physics and the processes that go into shaping Jupiter,” says Byrne, “we’ll get a better better understanding of not just Jupiter, but of these kinds of worlds.”

https://www.npr.org/2021/11/09/1052773575/in-jupiters-swirling-great-red-spot-nasa-spacecraft-finds-hidden-depths?utm_source=pocket-newtab-android

“‘Madam Speaker, You Don’t Know The Facts Or The Science’: McCarthy Assails Pelosi For Mask Mandate”

Tom Ford Announces $1.2 Million Plastic Innovation Prize

www.onegreenplanet.org

By Eliza Erskine

Fashion innovator Tom Ford and 52HZ announced that submissions for the Tom Ford Plastic Innovation Prize are open!

The prize’s aim is to “accelerate meaningful innovation around a replacement for thin-film plastic.” The two-year competition includes a $1 million prize. Thin-film plastic accounts for 46% of the plastic that leaks into the ocean annually.

“Thin-film plastic enters our lives for a minute, yet continues on as waste, never truly disappearing,” says Dr. Dune Ives, CEO of Lonely Whale. “The origin story of plastic starts with an innovation prize and the solution to the plastic crisis can be found in the tale of its creation. As a campaign organization capable of catalyzing global change on a massive scale, the Tom Ford Plastic Innovation Prize is an opportunity to create another new beginning and promote solutions commensurate with the plastic pollution problem.”

Judges for the panel include Don Cheadle, Tom Ford, Stella McCartney, Livia Firth, Trudie Styler, Susan Rockefeller, and more. The Tom Ford Plastic Innovation Prize is open May 20 through October 24, 2021, and guidelines and prize rules are available at www.plasticprize.org

“Sustainability is a key critical issue in our lives now,” says Tom Ford. “Plastic pollution is taking one of the greatest tolls on our environment and thin-film plastic makes up 46% of all plastic waste entering our ocean. We will continue to advocate for the adoption of the winning innovations and will do whatever we can to turn the tide of plastic pollution and thin-film plastic specifically. We need to work towards finding a solution before it’s too late to save our environment.”

Recently, other environmental prizes have been announced, such as Elon Musk‘s XPRIZE Carbon Removal competition, Prince William’s Earthshot Prize, and the Rockefeller Foundation’s Food System Vision Prize.

Read more about fashion in One Green Planet:

For more Animal, Earth, Life, Vegan Food, Health, and Recipe content published daily, subscribe to the One Green Planet Newsletter! Also, don’t forget to download the Food Monster App on iTunes — with over 15,000 delicious recipes it is the largest meatless, vegan, and allergy-friendly recipe resource to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy! Lastly, being publicly-funded gives us a greater chance to continue providing you with high-quality content. Please consider supporting us by donating!

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Drinking From a Can Has One Major Side Effect, Study Says

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https://www.onegreenplanet.org/environment/tom-ford-announces-1-2-million-plastic-innovation-prize/

Launch update 🚀

Biden’s Bonanza: Poor Will Suffer Most From Democrats Wind & Solar Obsession

Iowa Climate Science Education

Joe Biden?s plan to carpet America wall-to-wall with 60,000 wind turbines and millions of solar panels comes with a staggering cost, and it?s America?s poor that will pay the heaviest price for the Democrat?s delusional energy policy.

The only thing guaranteed about subsidising wind and solar is rocketing power prices and unreliable electricity. Ask a German, Dane or South Australian.

In a country still reeling from the economic havoc caused by political responses to the coronavirus, the last thing Americans need is to increase the cost of living and doing business.

But that?s precisely what?s coming, as Brian Leyland and Tom Harris contend below.

Bryan Leyland MSc, DistFEngNZ, FIMechE, FIEE (rtd), MRSNZ, is a Power Systems engineer with more than 60 years? experience in New Zealand and overseas. Tom Harris, M. Eng, is executive director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition.

Biden?s Energy Plans Are Expensive?and Dangerous
PJ…

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Robots Grooving to Motown Classic

Atlas and Spot robots dancing to Do You Love Me by The Contours

These robots can probably dance better than you.

Before 2020 came to a close, Boston Dynamics shared a fun (or, for some, eerie) video featuring four of its robots dancing to the tune of the 1962 Motown hit “Do You Love Me?” by The Contours.

“Our whole crew got together to celebrate the start of what we hope will be a happier year. Happy New Year from all of us at Boston Dynamics,” the Waltham, Massachusetts, company wrote in the caption.

The clip began with two of the company’s humanoid Atlas models performing various classic dance moves, such as the twist and mashed potato. A doglike robot named Spot joins them a minute into the video. It even mouthed a few lines of the song as it danced!

The trio later does the running man in perfect synchrony.

Handle, a wheeled robot designed to move boxes in warehouses, completes the groovy quartet as it wheels itself in while dancing to the music’s rhythm.

The mobility and coordination of their choreography—put together by dancer Monica Thomas—is impressively smooth that it’s hard to believe they’re merely inanimate objects!

Atlas can jump and do high leg kicks, Spot can mimic a ballerina, and Handle makes the most out of its long and flexible neck.

This isn’t the first time that Boston Dynamics shared a video of their machines in action. In one inevitably viral clip, Spot was seen grooving to a Bruno Mars track. Atlas was seen performing gymnastics and parkour tricks in another video, such as backflips, 360-degree turn-around jumps, and aerial somersaults. This latest one, however, is their most elaborate yet.

Of course, these robots do more than just dance. The MIT spinoff offers them to warehouses, police, utilities, laboratories, and factories to help with various tasks that robots can do better and more safely than humans. YouTube

2020 has been a big year for the robotics company. Spot, its most famous product, made its commercial debut in June. Each unit is being sold for $74,500 each. It can run, climb stairs, and even remind people to practice social distancing. The machine is generally used for inspections on construction sites or similar settings.

Hyundai Motor Group also bought a controlling interest in Boston Dynamics in a $1.1 billion deal in December 2020.

The video spread like wildfire on social media, where it gathered a mix of reactions from viewers. Thousands praised the brilliant technology behind these dancing robots, including Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

“This is not CGI,” he noted in a tweet sharing the dancing video. YouTube

Others seem to be a little bothered by their almost human-like proficiency.

“Slightly creepy, I have to admit. Robots from Boston Dynamics are having a party and seem to be throughly enjoying it. What’s next?” tweeted Swedish diplomat Carl Bildt.

“Do you love me? Not when you come to annihilate us,” wrote photographer Jan Nicholas.

“This is cool and all,” one user said. “But when they rise up and destroy us all, I won’t feel very good knowing there could be a Boston Dynamics robot Default Dancing over my grave.”

Nevertheless, we can’t deny that the creation of these robots is a testament to how far we’ve come in the world of artificial intelligence. Humanity—and robots—are literally changing the future. Let’s just hope with fingers crossed that these machines don’t turn against us and start an uprising!

Watch the jaw-dropping performance of Atlas, Spot, and Handle in the video below.

If you would like to see more videos of the same robots performing various feats and tasks, you may visit the Boston Dynamics YouTube channel.

https://mypositiveoutlooks.com/robots-dancing-to-motown-classic/

The Orionid meteor shower peaks this week! Here’s what to expect. | Space

The Orionid meteor shower peaks this week! Here’s what to expect.

On a night this past summer, soon after sunset, a number of people gathered at a little-league field, not far from my home, eagerly awaiting nightfall and the appearance of the stars. We had also gathered there because there wasn’t much in the way of light pollution and we were afforded a clear and unobstructed view toward the northwest. As the sky darkened, we finally could see it: Comet NEOWISE, displaying a lovely, curved tail. 

“Not a bad show, considering we’re looking at a cosmic litterbug,” I said to the coterie of comet gazers. “Really, what we’re looking at is a piece of garbage out in space; think of that beautiful tail as ‘cosmic litter’; little pieces of dust and grit left behind by NEOWISE, all cluttering up the solar system.” nullADVERTISINGnull

If you step outside before dawn during the next week or so, you might try to catch a view of cosmic litter that has been left behind in space by an even more famous comet: Halley’s. We call that cosmic litter the Orionid meteor shower. And 2020 will be an excellent year to look for them, since the moon will be a slender crescent, four days past new phase and will have set before 9:30 p.m. local time on the night of their peak activity, and will not pose any hindrance whatsoever to prospective meteor observers.

Related: How to see the best meteor showers of 2020 Click here for more Space.com videos…

If the December Geminids and August Perseids can be considered ranking as the “first string” among the annual meteor showers in terms of brightness and reliability, then the Orionids are on the junior varsity. This year they are scheduled to reach their maximum before sunrise on Wednesday morning (Oct. 21). 

The name “Orionid” comes from the fact that the radiant — that spot on the sky from where the meteors appear to fan out from — is just above Orion’s second brightest star, ruddy Betelgeuse

Currently, the Orion constellation appears ahead of us in our journey around the sun and has not completely risen above the eastern horizon until after 11 p.m. local daylight time. At its best several hours later, at around 5 a.m., Orion will be highest in the sky toward the south.

But to see the greatest number of meteors, don’t look in the direction of the radiant, but rather about 30 degrees from it, in the direction of the point directly overhead (the zenith). Your clenched fist held at arm’s length is roughly equivalent to 10 degrees wide, so looking “three fists” up from Betelgeuse will be where to concentrate your view. null

Best times to watch

Orionid visibility extends from Oct. 16 to Oct. 26, with peak activity of perhaps 15 to 30 meteors per hour coming on the morning of Oct. 21. Step outside before sunrise on any of these mornings and if you catch sight of a meteor, there’s about a 75% chance that it likely is a byproduct of Halley’s Comet. The very last Orionid stragglers usually appear sometime in early to mid-November. 

The best time to watch begins from about 1 or 2 a.m. local daylight time until the first light of dawn (at around 5:45 a.m.), when Orion stands highest above the southern horizon. The higher in the sky Orion is, the more meteors appear all over the sky. The Orionids are one of just a handful of known meteor showers that can be observed equally well from both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. 

Orionid meteors are normally dim and not well seen from urban locations, so it’s suggested that you find a safe rural location to see the best Orionid activity. 

“They are easily identified … from their speed,” authors David Levy and Stephen Edberg wrote in their book, “Observe Meteors: The Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers Meteor Observer’s Guide” (Astronomical League, 1986). “At 66 kilometers (41 miles) per second, they appear as fast streaks, faster by a hair than their sisters, the Eta Aquarids of May. And like the Eta Aquarids, the brightest family members tend to leave long-lasting trains. Fireballs are possible three days after maximum.” 

Undoubtedly this is connected in some way to the makeup of Halley’s Comet. 

Halley’s legacy

Comets are the leftovers of the earliest days of the solar system, the odd bits and pieces of simple gases — methane, ammonia, carbon dioxide and water vapor — that went unused when the sun and planets came into their present form. Meteoroids that are released into space out of this cometary debris are the remnants of a comet’s nucleus. All comets eventually disintegrate into meteor swarms and Halley’s is well into that process at this time. 

These tiny particles — mostly ranging in size from dust to sand grains — remain along the original comet’s orbit, creating a “river of rubble” in space. In the case of Halley’s Comet, its dirty trail of debris has been distributed more or less uniformly all along its entire orbit. When these tiny bits of comet collide with Earth, friction with our atmosphere raises them to white heat and produces the effect popularly referred to as “shooting stars.” 

And Halley’s Comet has left a legacy that is visible to us in the form of not just one, but two annual meteor showers. This is because its orbit closely approaches the Earth’s orbit at two different places. One intersection point (alluded to by Levy and Edberg) is in the early part of May, producing a meteor display known as the Eta Aquarids. The other point comes right now, in the middle to latter part of October, producing the Orionids. 

At this moment in time, Halley itself is nearing the far end of its long elliptical path around the sun, out beyond the orbit of Neptune. Its last visit through the inner solar system was in the winter of 1986. It will arrive at aphelion — its farthest point from the sun, 3.28 billion miles (5.28 billion km) — in early December 2023. Thereafter, it will begin its long journey back toward the sun, due to return in the midsummer of 2061. If you were born any time after 1983, you probably have a better than 50-50 chance to catch it on its next return. 

But for folks like myself — who will probably not be around when it returns — the Orionids will give us a chance to at least catch a view of some of the cosmic debris Halley has left behind in its wake.

https://www.space.com/orionid-meteor-shower-2020-peaks-soon?utm_source=Selligent&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=9155&utm_content=SDC_Newsletter+&utm_term=3223716&m_i=U87DZIIa%2BfCuNcCyJW5Iypl7yi6_x7WM%2BlOFZNp9x26w_l9I8IE%2B33MJaPkAVECMkONAM4e70Tjui007meu9UMFGT3uGiqLKDrFzchUUUK

News | ‘Shallow Lightning’ and ‘Mushballs’ Reveal Ammonia to NASA’s Juno Scientists

In the center of this JunoCam image, small, bright “pop-up” clouds seen rise above the surrounding features. Clouds like these are thought to be the tops of violent thunderstorms responsible for “shallow lighting.” Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill © CC BY
› Full image and caption


The spacecraft may have found where the colorless gas has been hiding on the solar system’s biggest planetary inhabitant.


New results from NASA’s Juno mission at Jupiter suggest our solar system’s largest planet is home to what’s called “shallow lightning.” An unexpected form of electrical discharge, shallow lightning originates from clouds containing an ammonia-water solution, whereas lightning on Earth originates from water clouds.

Other new findings suggest the violent thunderstorms for which the gas giant is known may form slushy ammonia-rich hailstones Juno’s science team calls “mushballs”; they theorize that mushballs essentially kidnap ammonia and water in the upper atmosphere and carry them into the depths of Jupiter’s atmosphere.Get the Latest JPL News: Subscribe to the Newsletter »

The shallow-lightning findings will be published Thursday, Aug. 6, in the journal Nature, while the mushballs research is currently available online in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.

Since NASA’s Voyager mission first saw Jovian lightning flashes in 1979, it has been thought that the planet’s lightning is similar to Earth’s, occurring only in thunderstorms where water exists in all its phases – ice, liquid, and gas. At Jupiter this would place the storms around 28 to 40 miles (45 to 65 kilometers) below the visible clouds, with temperatures that hover around 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius, the temperature at which water freezes). Voyager, and all other missions to the gas giant prior to Juno, saw lightning as bright spots on Jupiter’s cloud tops, suggesting that the flashes originated in deep water clouds. But lightning flashes observed on Jupiter’s dark side by Juno’s Stellar Reference Unit tell a different story.

“Juno’s close flybys of the cloud tops allowed us to see something surprising – smaller, shallower flashes – originating at much higher altitudes in Jupiter’s atmosphere than previously assumed possible,” said Heidi Becker, Juno’s Radiation Monitoring Investigation lead at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California and the lead author of the Nature paper.

Becker and her team suggest that Jupiter’s powerful thunderstorms fling water-ice crystals high up into the planet’s atmosphere, over 16 miles (25 kilometers) above Jupiter’s water clouds, where they encounter atmospheric ammonia vapor that melts the ice, forming a new ammonia-water solution. At such lofty altitude, temperatures are below minus 126 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 88 degrees Celsius) – too cold for pure liquid water to exist. https://www.youtube.com/embed/tq_6DClZ0Ns

This animation takes the viewer on a simulated journey into Jupiter’s exotic high-altitude electrical storms. Get an up-close view of Mission Juno’s newly discovered “shallow lighting” flashes and dive into the violent atmospheric jet of the Nautilus cloud. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill

“At these altitudes, the ammonia acts like an antifreeze, lowering the melting point of water ice and allowing the formation of a cloud with ammonia-water liquid,” said Becker. “In this new state, falling droplets of ammonia-water liquid can collide with the upgoing water-ice crystals and electrify the clouds. This was a big surprise, as ammonia-water clouds do not exist on Earth.”

The shallow lightning factors into another puzzle about the inner workings of Jupiter’s atmosphere: Juno’s Microwave Radiometer instrument discovered that ammonia was depleted – which is to say, missing – from most of Jupiter’s atmosphere. Even more puzzling was that the amount of ammonia changes as one moves within Jupiter’s atmosphere.

“Previously, scientists realized there were small pockets of missing ammonia, but no one realized how deep these pockets went or that they covered most of Jupiter,”said Scott Bolton, Juno’s principal investigator at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “We were struggling to explain the ammonia depletion with ammonia-water rain alone, but the rain couldn’t go deep enough to match the observations. I realized a solid, like a hailstone, might go deeper and take up more ammonia. When Heidi discovered shallow lightning, we realized we had evidence that ammonia mixes with water high in the atmosphere, and thus the lightning was a key piece of the puzzle.”

This graphic depicts


This graphic depicts the evolutionary process of “shallow lightning” and “mushballs” on Jupiter. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/CNRS
› Full image and caption

Jovian Mushballs

A second paper, released yesterday in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets,envisions the strange brew of 2/3 water and 1/3 ammonia gas that becomes the seed for Jovian hailstones, known as mushballs. Consisting of layers of water-ammonia slush and ice covered by a thicker water-ice crust, mushballs are generated in a similar manner as hail is on Earth – by growing larger as they move up and down through the atmosphere.

“Eventually, the mushballs get so big, even the updrafts can’t hold them, and they fall deeper into the atmosphere, encountering even warmer temperatures, where they eventually evaporate completely,” said Tristan Guillot, a Juno co-investigator from the Université Côte d’Azur in Nice, France, and lead author of the second paper. “Their action drags ammonia and water down to deep levels in the planet’s atmosphere. That explains why we don’t see much of it in these places with Juno’s Microwave Radiometer.”

“Combining these two results was critical to solving the mystery of Jupiter’s missing ammonia,” said Bolton. “As it turned out, the ammonia isn’t actually missing; it is just transported down while in disguise, having cloaked itself by mixing with water. The solution is very simple and elegant with this theory: When the water and ammonia are in a liquid state, they are invisible to us until they reach a depth where they evaporate – and that is quite deep.”

Understanding the meteorology of Jupiter enables us to develop theories of atmospheric dynamics for all the planets in our solar system as well as for the exoplanets being discovered outside our solar system. Comparing how violent storms and atmospheric physics work across the solar system allows planetary scientists to test theories under different conditions.

More About the Mission

The solar-powered Jupiter explorer launched nine years ago today, on Aug. 5, 2011. And last month marked the fourth anniversary of its arrival at Jupiter. Since entering the gas giant’s orbit, Juno has performed 27 science flybys and logged over 300 million miles (483 million kilometers).

JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. Juno is part of NASA’s New Frontiers Program, which is managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built and operates the spacecraft.

More information about Juno is available at:

https://www.nasa.gov/juno

https://www.missionjuno.swri.edu

Follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter at:

https://www.facebook.com/NASAJuno

https://www.twitter.com/NASAJuno

News Media ContactDC Agle
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
818-393-9011
agle@jpl.nasa.gov

Alana Johnson / Grey Hautaluoma
NASA Headquarters, Washington
202-672-4780 / 202-358-0668
alana.r.johnson@nasa.gov / grey.hautaluoma-1@nasa.gov

Deb Schmid
Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio
210-522-2254
dschmid@swri.org

François Maginiot
French National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris
+33 1 44 96 51 51
presse@cnrs.fr

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Young girl wins $20K after creating car seat device that helps prevent hot car deaths

 

mypositiveoutlooks.com

At the young age of 12, a girl from North Carolina already impacted this world. Lydia Denton was named as the winner of CITGO’s Fueling Education Student Challenge. Lydia won $20,000 with her invention called “Beat the Heat Carseat.” The device Lydia invented helps save babies left in cars.

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It all started when Lydia saw the news about babies and toddlers being left in hot cars by accident. What the wiz kid saw in the news moved her, inspiring her to act. “I did some research and saw that it happened a lot and that it wasn’t just neglectful parents,” Lydia said. “I got really upset and wanted to try and help.”Facebook

DS

The twelve-year-old initially thought of raising money for the families, but Lydia wanted a long-term solution that prevents tragic hot car deaths from happening in the first place. “My mom has a saying: ‘Stop complaining and do something about it.’ Complaining or being sad doesn’t solve the problem, we have to take action to make a change,” Lydia recalled.

With her mother’s support, and a fiery desire to make a difference, Lydia began researching what the market already has. Some companies issue car seat recalls when they encounter problems in their car seat’s mechanism.

Experts also advise parents never to leave their car at home unlocked. “Kids are very, very curious… Th1-7ey get into the car on their own,” said Janette Fennell, president and founder of Kids and Cars, a non-profit organization on improving child safety around cars.Facebook

85083461_10220080953870521_7060500835293200384_o

 

Besides car seat recalls, Lydia noticed the lack of safety precaution that can prevent hot car deaths from occurring. Although some car models come with warnings and smart cart seats, not everyone has hundreds of dollars for a new car, much less an expensive car seat.

“What I wanted was a device that had the ability to get 911 there to save the baby if a parent didn’t respond,” Lydia explained. “I also wanted something everyone could afford.”

Nearly every state has experienced at least one casualty from a hot car since 1998. Just last year, the country recorded 52 child heatstroke deaths. This was the statistic the young genius wanted to overcome.

Beat the Heat Car Seat works through a pad under the car seat cover. The device starts to monitor the temperature once it detects pressure weighing more than 5 lbs.Facebook

If the system detects the temperature reaching over 102 degrees, the device will set off an alarm and a warning message on the LCD. The parents will receive a text message, and they have to respond within 60 seconds to reset the device. If they don’t, Beat the Heat Car Seat sends a message to 911 with the car’s location.

The best part is, Lydia’s invention is portable and only costs $40. Almost everyone can afford the Beat the Heat Car Seat. And once a family’s baby grows up, it can still be reused.Facebook

Lydia spent over 100 tries to get her invention working and had to push through failed trials and frustration. But in the end, Lydia was able to finish the device with her mom, Covey, a science teacher, and her older brother. All of them helped Lydia fix and improve Beat the Heat Cart Seat to reach its final form.

Lydia’s younger sister also provided moral support and encouragement during the development phase, giving her tight hugs and bringing her snacks.

“I was so excited. I didn’t think I would win. So many kids invent so many things and I know that my ideas aren’t always the best,” Lydia admitted. “Winning the money is cool, but I really care about saving lives. My first thought was, ‘Maybe no babies will die this summer!’”

After winning the competition, Lydia is now working with a mentor to help her manufacture the device. But for the twelve-year-old, there is still much work needed to be done. She’s still wracking her brain for brilliant ideas to invent.

For kids out there who want to make a difference but don’t know where to start, Lydia has the perfect advice: “Don’t think that you have to accept things in the world.

If there is something that bothers you, think of ways to make it better! Sometimes, that means changing your attitude, but sometimes that means an invention,” she clarified. “You’ve got to push and learn, and you can’t give up!”

Kids like Lydia are exactly what this world needs. Imagine the things she can do when she grows up!

https://mypositiveoutlooks.com/girl-creates-car-seat-device-prevent-hot-car-deaths/

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How to watch the ‘ring of fire’ solar eclipse Sunday online | Space

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Update for June 21: The 2020 annular solar eclipse wowed skywatchers across Asia and Africa. See the amazing photos in our story here.

A “ring of fire” solar eclipse will briefly appear in parts of Africa and Asia this weekend, and if you aren’t out there in person, you can take in the spectacular show online.nullnull

Sunday’s solar eclipse is what is known as an annular eclipse, in which the moon does not completely cover the sun as it passes between the star and Earth as seen from our planet. Instead, a ring of sunlight will still shine around the outer edge, hence its nickname: a “ring of fire” eclipse. 

The time of maximum eclipse, when that “ring of fire” event happens, will be at 2:40 a.m. EDT (0640 GMT) Sunday, June 21, when the moon crosses into the center of the sphere of the sun, from Earth’s perspective. The eclipse starts at 11:45 p.m. EDT Saturday, June 20 (0345 GMT Sunday) and ends at 5:34 a.m. EDT (1034 GMT) June 20, according to NASA.

Related: Solar eclipse guide 2020: When, where & how to see them

The annular solar eclipse of Feb. 26, 2017, as seen by the Slooh community observatory.
An annular solar eclipse, as seen by the Slooh online observatory, on Feb. 26, 2017. (Image credit: Slooh)

The eclipse will happen just a couple of hours after the moon enters the “new moon” phase. Because the moon will be near its apogee or farthest part from Earth, the size of the moon’s disk will not be quite enough to cover the sun. The small ring of sunlight still visible will make this an “annular” eclipse (from the Latin annulus, meaning ring-shaped.)

Regions in the path of visibility include the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Sudan, Ethiopia, the Red Sea, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Oman, the Gulf of Oman, Pakistan, India, China, Taiwan, the Philippine Sea (south of Guam), northern Australia and the north Pacific Ocean. 

IMPOWhile you will need to take precautions to protect your eyes if you are there in person, online the solar eclipse is perfectly safe to view with unprotected eyes. There are several options available.null

Slooh webcast

Astronomy broadcasting service Slooh will have a virtual star party starting at 1 a.m. EDT (0500 GMT). You can watch it live here on Space.com, courtesy of Slooh. 

While the general public can also stream the show on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, paid Slooh members (individual membership annual prices start at $20 USD) can join a live discussion together at Slooh.com.

“Slooh will feature live streams of the eclipse from several partner observatories in the Middle East, India, and the Far East,” Slooh said in a release. “Members will be able to snap photos of the eclipse throughout the live coverage. They can load their images into Slooh’s new Eclipse Quest, which will automatically generate a superb memento poster of the event.”

Time and Date

Time and Date, a website that tracks skywatching events, will start its own webcast at 1 a.m. EDT (0500 GMT). 

“Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, our original plan of sending our mobile observatory to Oman had to be scrapped,” representatives stated about the broadcast. “While we are sad about not being able to go, we are working hard to make sure that we still bring you stunning live images and commentary of this extraordinary astronomical event.”

The Virtual Telescope Project

The Virtual Telescope Project will begin its webcast at 1:30 a.m. EDT (0530 GMT). The company is based in Rome, but will partner with imagers and videographers in Africa and Asia “thanks to very generous people willing to share their views with the world,” said founder Gianluca Masi in a statement. 

“Yes, it will be somewhat unique; the … solar eclipse will happen soon after the solstice, making the event even more fascinating,” Masi added.

Participants in The Virtual Telescope Project’s webcast so far include Masi himself, Ahmed Saad (Karachi, Pakistan), the Taqwa Observatory in Pakistan, Space India, the Astronomical Society of Somalia, Abu Dhabi’s International Astronomical Center, Ali Abdullah (Lahore, Pakistan) and Lij Tuha (Dodola, Ethiopia.)

A visibility map for the annular solar eclipse of June 21, 2020.
A visibility map for the annular solar eclipse of June 21, 2020. (Image credit: Fred Espenak/NASA)

While the path of the eclipse is long — going across two continents and 14 countries — the path of greatest visibility is quite narrow, Time and Date said. In West Africa, the path reaches its maximum width of 53 miles (85 kilometers) wide and the “ring of fire” lasts for about 1 minute and 20 seconds.

Sunday’s “ring of fire” solar eclipse comes amid the so-called eclipse season of 2020, which features three eclipses (two of the moon and one of the sun) in the space of one month. 

The first event was a relatively minor penumbral lunar eclipse on June 5. After Sunday’s solar eclipse, another minor lunar eclipse will occur overnight on July 4 and 5.

Editor’s Note: If you snap an amazing night sky picture and would like to share it with Space.com’s readers, send your photos, comments, and your name and location to spacephotos@space.com.  

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook

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The Towers of Ladakh – Overheard at National Geographic | Podcast on Spotify

The Towers of Ladakh

Overheard at National Geographic

June 15, 2020 19 MINS

A mechanical engineer teams up with an unlikely band of students who use middle school math and science to create artificial glaciers that irrigate Ladakh, a region in India hit hard by climate change. For more information on this episode, visit nationalgeographic.com/podcasts/overheard.June 15, 202019 MINS

Podcast Episode

Mother Nature making a bubble freeze

Updates to Coverage of NASA SpaceX Commercial Crew Test Flight

nasa.gov

Sean Potter 6-8 minutes

May 28, 2020

MEDIA ADVISORY M20-062

NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley (left) and Robert Behnken (right) participate in a dress rehearsal for launch

NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley (left) and Robert Behnken (right) participate in a dress rehearsal for launch at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 23, 2020, ahead of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station. Demo-2 will serve as an end-to-end flight test of SpaceX’s crew transportation system, providing valuable data toward NASA certifying the system for regular, crewed missions to the orbiting laboratory under the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. The launch is now scheduled for 3:22 p.m. EDT Saturday, May 30.

Credits: NASA/Kim Shiflett

NASA will provide live coverage of prelaunch and launch activities for the agency’s SpaceX Demo-2 test flight, carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the International Space Station.

NASA and SpaceX now are targeting 3:22 p.m. EDT Saturday, May 30, for the launch of the first commercially built and operated American rocket and spacecraft carrying astronauts to the space station. The first launch attempt, on May 27, was scrubbed due to unfavorable weather conditions.

Full mission coverage begins at 11 a.m., and will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website, as well as numerous other platforms. The launch broadcast commentators are: Marie Lewis, Dan Huot, Gary Jordan, Derrol Nail, and Tahira Allen from NASA; and Lauren Lyons, John Insprucker, and Jessie Anderson from SpaceX; with special guest host and former NASA astronaut Leland Melvin. Postlaunch coverage commentators are Leah Cheshier, Courtney Beasley, Gary Jordan and Dan Huot from NASA; and Kate Tice, Siva Bharadvaj, and Michael Andrews from SpaceX.

Prelaunch coverage also includes a special performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” by Grammy Award-winning singer Kelly Clarkson.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft will launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and is scheduled to dock to the space station at 10:29 a.m. Sunday, May 31.

This will be SpaceX’s final test flight for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and will provide critical data on the performance of the Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon spacecraft, and ground systems, as well as in-orbit, docking, and landing operations. 

The test flight also will provide valuable data toward certification of SpaceX’s crew transportation system for regular flights carrying astronauts to and from the space station. SpaceX currently is readying the hardware for the first space station crew rotational mission, which would happen after data from this test flight is reviewed for certification.

Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, media participation in news conferences will be remote, with only a limited number of media, who already have been accredited, will be accommodated at Kennedy. For the protection of media and Kennedy employees, the Kennedy Press Site News Center facilities will remain closed to all media throughout these events.

To participate in the Kennedy briefing by phone, reporters must e-mail ksc-newsroom@mail.nasa.gov no later than one hour prior to each event.

To participate by phone in the post-arrival news conference held at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, reporters must contact the Johnson newsroom at 281-483-5111 no later than one hour prior to the event.

Live NASA coverage is as follows. All times are EDT:

Friday, May. 29

  • 10 a.m. – Administrator Countdown Clock Briefing (weather permitting; limited in-person media only, no dial in)
    • NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine
    • Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana
    • NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren
    • NASA astronaut Nicole Mann

Saturday, May 30

  • 11 a.m. – NASA TV launch coverage begins (continues through docking)
    • 3:22 p.m. – Liftoff
    • 4:09 p.m. – Crew Dragon phase burn 
    • 4:55 p.m. – Far-field manual flight test 
    • TBD p.m. – Astronaut downlink event from Crew Dragon
  • 6:30 p.m. – Postlaunch news conference at Kennedy
    • Administrator Bridenstine
    • Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
    • SpaceX representative
    • Kirk Shireman, manager, International Space Station Program
    • NASA Chief Astronaut Pat Forrester

A media phone bridge will be available for this event. Mission operational coverage will continue on NASA TV’s Media Channel.  

Sunday, May 31

  • TBD a.m. – Astronaut downlink event from Crew Dragon
  • 10:29 a.m. – Docking
  • 12:45 p.m. – Hatch Open
  • 1:05 p.m. – Welcome ceremony
  • 3:15 p.m. – Post-arrival news conference at Johnson
    • NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine
    • Johnson Space Center Director Mark Geyer
    • NASA Chief Astronaut Pat Forrester

A media phone bridge will be available for this event. Launch commentary will switch to NASA TV’s Media Channel.

Monday, June 1

  • 11:15 a.m. – Space Station crew news conference, with NASA astronauts Chris Cassidy, Bob Behnken, and Doug Hurley
  • 12:55 p.m. – SpaceX employee event and Class of 2020 Mosaic presentation, with NASA astronauts Chris Cassidy, Bob Behnken, and Doug Hurley

The deadline for media to apply for accreditation for this launch has passed, but more information about media accreditation is available by emailing ksc-media-accreditat@mail.nasa.gov.

This test flight is a pivotal point in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which is working with the U.S. aerospace industry to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil to the space station for the first time since 2011.

The goal of the Commercial Crew Program is to provide safe, reliable, and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station. This could allow for additional research time and increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s testbed for exploration, including preparation for human exploration of the Moon and Mars.

For launch countdown coverage, NASA’s launch blog, and more information about the mission, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/commercialcrew

-end-

Last Updated: May 28, 2020

Editor: Sean Potter

Read Next Related Article

https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/updates-to-coverage-of-landmark-nasa-spacex-commercial-crew-test-flight

Watch it live at 3/2c

Engineering Coastal Communities as Nature Intended

defenders.org

9-11 minutes


People love to live by the water. For centuries, cities like New York, Miami, Honolulu and San Francisco have attracted residents and tourists from around the world. In fact, almost half of the U.S. population lives in counties on the coast, and that percentage is growing in footprint, density, number and population, reshaping and hardening coastlines in the process. 

Coasts also provide habitat for great numbers of plants and animals and are typically biodiversity hotspots. But all this coastal development is reducing the amazing biodiversity along our shorelines. 

Oregon coast as seen from Ecola State Park

Sristi Kamal

Coastal Defenses

Development has also reduced our coasts’ natural ability to resist and recover from natural disasters and has removed habitat that provides shelter for wildlife and ecosystem services for humans. Traditional coastal defenses like sea walls and levees are widely used to protect communities, but these artificial coastal barriers can lead to significant erosion or unwanted sediment deposition and negatively impact water quality. They are also time-consuming to build and cost billions to construct, maintain and repair.

Increasingly, engineers and planners are starting to pay more attention to the potential of “Nature and Nature-Based Features” (NNBFs) as environmentally friendly solutions—like mangrove forests, beach dunes, coral reefs and wetlands—that fulfill the same roles as an important weapon in the fight against coastal storms and flooding. 

Pea Island NWR dunes Cape Hatteras

D. Rex Miller

NNBFs include natural defenses and human-built features that mimic them. Using NNBFs in coastal development decisions can therefore mean constructing new ones or protecting existing natural ones. NNBFs are often cheaper and require less maintenance and management. They can also make communities more resilient to climate change by adapting to changes in the environment. They are part of the larger concept of “green infrastructure,” or attempting to harness nature’s resilience to solve human problems. And its not all-or-nothing – NNBFs can complement artificial coastal infrastructure. 

NNBFs like wetlands are essential to protect coasts from storm surges because they can store and slow the release of floodwaters, reducing erosion and damage to buildings. One study found that salt marshes can reduce wave height by an average of 72%. Coral reefs can serve as a barrier and reduce wave height by an average of 70%. These reefs protect coastal cities near them such as Honolulu and Miami, saving lives and preventing monetary damage.

Downtown Honolulu and Waikiki from Diamond Head

Megan Joyce/Defenders of Wildlife

 
When Superstorm Sandy slammed the Northeast in 2012, homes on beaches fairly near to sand dunes were protected by these natural buffers, which can blunt the force of waves and wind. In many cases, homes on beach areas where dunes had been removed (often to improve ocean views) were completely destroyed by Sandy. Removing many of the mangroves that lined Biscayne Bay in South Florida may have helped spur economic development. However, it also removed another natural barrier against storm surge. This increased vulnerability of homes and businesses to the hurricanes that frequently hit Miami. Coastal communities in Indonesia hit by the devastating 2004 tsunami that had removed their mangrove forests suffered more damage and more lost lives than areas where mangroves had been allowed to remain. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is currently working on a number of projects that look at features like mangroves and their ability to protect coasts.

Hurricane Sandy damaged Cape May National Wildlife Refuge

Image

Image Credit

David Bocanegra/USFWS

Breach at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge (DE) after Hurricane Sandy

Image

Image Credit

Lia McLaughlin/USFWS

Aerial photo of damaged homes along New Jersey shore after Hurricane Sandy

Image

Image Credit

Greg Thompson/USFWS

Damage from Hurricane Sandy at Cape May National Wildlife Refuge, Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, homes on the Jersey Shore

Bringing Wildlife Back 

People are not the only ones who can benefit from NNBF. Restoring or protecting habitat can bring back habitat for wildlife and provide space for wildlife to live alongside coastal human communities. This includes imperiled species.

For example, coastal dunes restoration can improve habitat for threatened species like the piping plover, red knot and seabeach amaranth. Restoring mangroves can help protect species like the wood stork and American alligator, and the endangered hawksbill turtle. Protecting coral reefs can help threatened elkhorn and boulder star corals, and ensure habitat remains for the hawksbill sea turtle. People and wildlife can both have space.

Red knots and horseshoe crabs

Image

Alligator Okefenokee NWR

Image

Image Credit

Steve Brooks

Hawksbill sea turtle

Image

Image Credit

Michele Hoffman

NNBFs can also improve water quality. Much of the rainwater and flood water that goes on vegetation or sand will sink into the ground where it is cleaned. Healthy coral reefs and healthy mangroves help improve marine waters. And by avoiding artificial coastal defenses, polluted runoff can be avoided. Improving water quality can help marine imperiled species. For example, manatees in Florida have been devastated by red tide in recent years. Similarly, water quality issues can stress or kill threatened corals that need clear water for photosynthesis. Even species far offshore, like orca, can be hurt by contaminated runoff from development. Creating habitat for wildlife can even have additional economic benefits beyond coastal protection. It can offer opportunities for economic activity like kayaking, fishing and birding.

Corals at Barren Island, Palmyra Atoll

Image

Image Credit

Andrew S. Wright/USFWS

Scenic Mangroves on the Bear Lake Canoe Trail Everglades National Park

Image

The Future of NNBF

In recent years, the U.S. Congress has become interested in the potential of NNBFs, instructing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to incorporate NNBFs into coastal defense projects where appropriate. The Corps’ research and development center has taken a leading role in researching NNBFs. Through its engineering with nature initiative, it has developed numerous projects exploring NNBFs’ potential. However, the regional offices have made less progress in taking advantage of NNBFs in their coastal defense projects. NNBFs should be a priority for the Corps and coastal communities around the country – and the world. 

Advocating for NNBFs is part of Defenders of Wildlife’s mission to protect habitat and we believe they are a strong tool for addressing the overall biodiversity crisis faced by the planet. 


More information:

To learn more about NNBFs generally, check out the Army Corps’ Engineering with Nature website. If you’re interested in learning more, Defenders of Wildlife’s Center for Conservation Innovation will be hosting a talk on NNBFs given by an Army Corp’ expert. Click here to sign up to watch it. To learn more about green infrastructure generally, check out ESRI’s Green Infrastructure story map. There are a lot of green infrastructure projects that you can help with at home, such as Defender’s Orcas Love Raingardens project in the Pacific Northwest. 

Author(s)

Andrew Carter

Andrew Carter

Senior Conservation Policy Analyst

Andrew works on wildlife conservation policy at the Center for Conservation Innovation, where he researches and analyzes conservation governance strategies and emerging policy issues, and works with other CCI members to develop innovative approaches to habitat and species protection.

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Sunset over Rodeo Beach CA

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How to see the ‘elusive planet’ Mercury in the night sky in February

space.com
By Joe Rao 21 hours ago Shares

During the first half of February, Mercury will complete its best evening appearance for mid-northern latitude observers during 2020, climbing higher in the west-southwestern sky every evening.

During the first half of February, Mercury will complete its best evening appearance for mid-northern latitude observers during 2020, climbing higher in the west-southwestern sky every evening.

Mercury is often cited as the most difficult of the naked-eye planets to see. Because it’s the closest planet to the sun, it is usually obscured by the light from our star.

“Mercury has been known since very early times, but it is never very conspicuous, and there are many people who have never seen it at all,” legendary British astronomer Sir Patrick Moore wrote in “The Boy’s Book of Astronomy,” (Roy Publishers, 1958). “The reason for this is that it always seems to keep close to the sun in the sky, and can never be observed against a dark background.”

Although that’s mostly true, there are times during the year when Mercury can be surprisingly easy to spot. And we are in just such a period right now.

Mercury is called an “inferior planet” because its orbit is nearer to the sun than Earth’s is. Therefore, Mercury always appears, from our vantage point (as Moore wrote), to be in the same general direction as the sun. That’s why relatively few people have set eyes on it. There is even a rumor that Nicolaus Copernicus — who, in the early 1500s, formulated a model of the universe that placed the sun, rather than Earth, at the center of the solar system — never saw it.

Yet Mercury is not really hard to see. You simply must know when and where to look, and find a clear horizon.

For those living in the Northern Hemisphere, a great “window of opportunity” for viewing Mercury in the evening sky opened up in late January. That window will remain open through Feb. 17, giving you a number of chances to see this so-called elusive planet with your own eyes.

When and where to look

Currently, Mercury is visible about 35 to 40 minutes after sunset, very near to the horizon, about 25 degrees south of due west. Your clenched fist held at arm’s length measures roughly 10 degrees, so approximately 2.5 “fists” to the left of due west, along the horizon, will bring you to Mercury.

On the evening of Monday, Feb. 10, Mercury (orbit shown as red curve) will reach its widest separation, 18 degrees east of the sun. With Mercury sitting above a nearly vertical evening ecliptic, this will be the best appearance of the planet in 2020 for Northern Hemisphere observers. The optimal viewing times fall between 6 and 7 p.m. local time. Viewed in a telescope (inset), the planet will exhibit a waning half-illuminated phase.

On the evening of Monday, Feb. 10, Mercury (orbit shown as red curve) will reach its widest separation, 18 degrees east of the sun. With Mercury sitting above a nearly vertical evening ecliptic, this will be the best appearance of the planet in 2020 for Northern Hemisphere observers. The optimal viewing times fall between 6 and 7 p.m. local time. Viewed in a telescope (inset), the planet will exhibit a waning half-illuminated phase. (Image credit: Starry Night)

You can also use brilliant Venus as a benchmark. Just look the same distance — 25 degrees — to Venus’ lower right, and you’ll come to Mercury. If your sky is clear and there are no tall obstructions (like trees or buildings), you should have no trouble seeing Mercury as a very bright “star” shining with a trace of a yellowish-orange tinge. Tonight (Jan. 31), Mercury will be shining at magnitude -1.0, which means that only three other objects in the sky will appear brighter: the moon, Venus and Sirius (the brightest star in Earth’s night sky).

In the evenings that follow, Mercury will slowly diminish in brightness, but it will also slowly gain altitude as it gradually moves away from the sun’s vicinity.

It will be at greatest elongation, 18.2 degrees to the east of the sun, on Feb. 10. Look for it about 45 minutes to an hour after sundown, still about 25 degrees to the lower right of Venus. Shining at magnitude -0.5 (just a smidge dimmer than the second-brightest star in the sky, Canopus, in the constellation Carina), it sets more than 90 minutes after the sun, making this Mercury’s best evening apparition of 2020.

While viewing circumstances for Mercury are quite favorable north of the equator, that is not so for those in the Southern Hemisphere, where this rocky little world will hang very low to the horizon while deeply immersed in bright twilight, making the planet very difficult to see. Southern Hemisphere observers will get their chance to spot Mercury in late March and early April, when the elusive planet will appear to soar high into the eastern sky at dawn.

Mercury, like Venus and the moon, appears to go through phases. Soon after it emerged into the evening sky in January, Mercury was a nearly full disk, which is why it currently appears so bright. By the time it arrives at its greatest elongation, or its greatest separation from the sun, on Feb. 10, it will appear nearly half-illuminated. The amount of the planet’s surface illuminated by the sun will continue to decrease in the days to come. When Mercury begins to turn back toward the sun’s vicinity after Feb. 10, it will fade at a rather rapid pace. By Feb. 14, it will dim to magnitude +0.2, nearly as bright as the star Rigel, in the constellation Orion.

By the evening of Feb. 17, Mercury’s brightness will drop to magnitude +1.6 — about as bright as the star Castor, in the constellation Gemini, but only about 9% as bright as it appears now. In telescopes, Mercury will appear as a narrowing crescent. This, in all likelihood, will be your last view of the elusive planet this month, for the combination of its lowering altitude and its descent into the brighter sunset glow will finally render Mercury invisible in the evenings that follow. It will arrive at inferior conjunction, meaning it will pass between Earth and the sun, on Feb. 25. It will reappear in the morning sky in late March and early April.
Swift, with a dual identity

In ancient Roman mythology, Mercury was the swift-footed messenger of the gods. The planet is well named, for it is the closest planet to the sun and the swiftest of the solar system. Averaging about 30 miles per second (48 kilometers per second), Mercury makes a journey around the sun in only 88 Earth days. Interestingly, it takes Mercury 59 Earth days to rotate once on its axis, so all parts of its surface experience long periods of intense heat and extreme cold. Although its mean distance from the sun is only 36 million miles (58 million km), Mercury experiences by far the greatest range of temperatures: 800 degrees Fahrenheit (426 degrees Celsius) on its day side, and minus 280 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 173 degrees Celsius) on its night side.

In the pre-Christian era, this speedy planet actually had two names, as astronomers did not realize that it could alternately appear on one side of the sun and then the other. The planet was called Mercury when it was in the evening sky, but it was known as Apollo when it appeared in the morning. It is said that Pythagoras, in about the fifth century B.C., pointed out that they were one and the same.

Rare Mercury transit, the last until 2032, thrills skywatchers around the world
The most enduring mysteries of Mercury
Surprise! Dust ring discovered in Mercury’s orbit

Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York’s Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for Natural History magazine, the Farmers’ Almanac and other publications. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

https://www.space.com/how-to-see-mercury-february-2020.html?utm_source=Selligent&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=9155&utm_content=SDC_Newsletter+&utm_term=3223716&m_i=5VZinqyUi0x8NGy5q17ENPjc6BPsoXxU8BxxFJF0qJVeZ23FZF%2BwuWUsG6VMZFOfszvtnpQThHQ6%2BlJxP68FwWZlKZOoXo%2BIMMLn94o55f

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Found a Bug? | Kissing Bugs and Chagas Disease in the U.S. | Texas A&M

Found a kissing bug?

/Precautions and Procedure

Citizen science offers the opportunity for non-scientists and scientists to work together to collect large amounts of data. This project is currently seeking the help of citizens scientist (like you!) To submit carefully collected kissing bugs from Texas and throughout the U.S.

We are interested in learning more about the distribution of different species of kissing bugs, their interactions with host species. If you have come across a suspected kissing bug in or around your home, kennel, yard, or other area, we are interested in hearing about it.

Continue reading here for more information and pictures.

https://kissingbug.tamu.edu/found-a-bug/#non-kissing-bugs

A ‘Black Supermoon’ Will Make This Meteor Shower Incredible

This show is set to peak on Sunday July 28,2019

If you’re in need of some wishes, then you’re in luck. From now to the end of August, a wave of shooting stars will be taking over the skies and putting on a show just for us.

These celestial objects are part of the Delta Aquarids meteor shower, which began on July 12th and is ongoing through August 23rd. Coming from the direction of Aquarius — the constellation also known as the Water Bearer — this show is set to peak on Sunday, July 28. The reason it’ll be so good? Why, the moon, of course.

Over the Moon

Adventure_Photo/iStock

The next new Moon occurs on Wednesday, July 31 making it the second New Moon this month. This phenomenon even has a catchy name: the Black Supermoon. Though not an official astronomical term, “black moon” is the name given to the second New Moon of the month — an event that only occurs once every 32 months. This one is of the Super variety because it takes place when the earth and moon are at their closest point. You won’t really be able to see it, however the diminished light means you’ll have perfect, unobstructed views of the meteor shower.

Don’t Miss Out

Credit: Belish/Shutterstock

This stargazing event is especially significant given that the Perseids — another regular meteor show that occurs in mid-August and tends to be the year’s easiest-to-see celestial event — is taking place during a full moon this time around. That extra lunar light means the Perseids will be harder to see this year, so you’ll want to take advantage of the next few nights of stargazing.

The Delta Aquarids meteor shower is named after Delta, the third-brightest star in Aquarius, which is best seen by looking south if you’re in the northern hemisphere. There will be as many as 20 shooting stars every hour at the shower’s peak, with each of them moving at speeds of 25 miles per second. Whatever you do, put your phone away — its bright screen will dampen your night vision and distract you from the real show.

Want to make sure you have the best seat for the show? Check out our list of the best places to see the stars in the U.S.

https://www.thediscoverer.com/blog/a-black-supermoon-will-make-this-meteor-shower-incredible/

Michael Nordine is the Creative Writer at Inboxlab. A native Angeleno, he recently moved to Denver with his two cats.

An Asteroid with Its Own Moon Will Zip Past Earth | Space

EarthSky reported that during the space rocks’ closest approach, they’ll be most visible in the southern hemisphere, appearing as fast moving shadows again stars in the constellation Puppis. The two remain visible for several days, according to EarthSky. North America asteroid hunters may spot the objects near the constellation Hydra on the evening of May 27.

Continue reading here and watch the amazing video.

https://www.space.com/asteroid-passes-close-to-earth.html

What if air conditioners could help save the planet instead of destroying it?

grist.org
By Matt Simon on May 5, 2019

This story was originally published by Wired and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Earth’s climate is full of terrifying feedback loops: Decreased rainfall raises the risk of wildfires, which release yet more carbon dioxide. A warming Arctic could trigger the release of long-frozen methane, which would heat the planet even faster than carbon. A lesser-known climate feedback loop, though, is likely mere feet from where you’re sitting: the air conditioner. Use of the energy-intensive appliance causes emissions that contribute to higher global temperatures, which means we’re all using AC more, producing more emissions and more warming.

But what if we could weaponize air conditioning units to help pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere instead? According to a new paper in Nature, it’s feasible. Using technology currently in development, AC units in skyscrapers and even your home could get turned into machines that not only capture CO2, but transform the stuff into a fuel for powering vehicles that are difficult to electrify, like cargo ships. The concept, called crowd oil, is still theoretical and faces many challenges. But in these desperate times, crowd oil might have a place in the fight to curb climate change.

The problem with air conditioners isn’t just that they suck up lots of energy but that they also emit heat. “When you run an air conditioning system, you don’t get anything for nothing,” says materials chemist Geoffrey Ozin of the University of Toronto, coauthor on the new paper. “If you cool something, you heat something, and that heat goes into the cities.” Their use exacerbates the heat island effect of cities — lots of concrete soaks up lots of heat, which a city releases well after the sun sets.

To retrofit an air conditioner to capture CO2 and turn it into fuel, you’d need a rather extensive overhaul of the components. Meaning, you wouldn’t just be able to ship a universal device for folks to bolt onto their units. First of all, you’d need to incorporate a filter that would absorb CO2 and water from the air. You’d also need to include an electrolyzer to strip the oxygen molecule from H2O to get H2, which you’d then combine with CO2 to get hydrocarbon fuels. “Everyone can have their own oil well, basically,” Ozin says.

The researchers’ analysis found that the Frankfurt Fair Tower in Germany (chosen by lead author Roland Dittmeyer of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, by the way, because of its landmark status in the city’s skyline), with a total volume of about 200,000 cubic meters, could capture 1.5 metric tons of CO2 per hour and produce up to 4,000 metric tons of fuel a year. By comparison, the first commercial “direct air capture” plant, built by Climeworks in Switzerland, captures 900 metric tons of CO2 per year, about 10 times less, Dittmeyer says. An apartment building with five or six units could capture 0.5 kg of CO2 an hour with this proposed system.

Theoretically, anywhere you have an air conditioner, you have a way to make synthetic fuel. “The important point is that you can convert the CO2 into a liquid product onsite, and there are pilot-scale plants that can do that,” says Dittmeyer, who is working on one with colleagues that is able to produce 10 liters (2.6 gallons) a day. They hope to multiply that output by a factor of 20 in the next two years.

For this process to be carbon neutral, though, all those souped-up air conditioners would need to be powered with renewables, because burning the synthetic fuel would also produce emissions. To address that problem, Dittmeyer proposes turning whole buildings into solar panels — placing them not just on rooftops but potentially coating facades and windows with ultrathin, largely transparent panels. “It’s like a tree — the skyscraper or house you live in produces a chemical reaction,” Dittmeyer says. “It’s like the glucose that a tree is producing.” That kind of building transformation won’t happen overnight, of course, a reminder that installing carbon scrubbers is only ever one piece of the solution.

Scaling up the technology to many buildings and cities poses yet more challenges. Among them, how to store and then collect all that accumulated fuel. The idea is for trucks to gather and transport the stuff to a facility, or in some cases when the output is greater, pipelines would be built. That means both retrofitting a whole lot of AC units (the cost of which isn’t yet clear, since the technology isn’t finalized yet), and building out an infrastructure to ferry that fuel around for use in industry.

“Carbon-neutral hydrocarbon fuels from electricity can help solve two of our biggest energy challenges: managing intermittent renewables and decarbonizing the hard-to-electrify parts of transportation and industry,” says David Keith, acting chief scientist of Carbon Engineering, which is developing much larger stand-alone devices for sucking CO2 out of the air and storing it, known as carbon capture and storage, or CCS. “While I may be biased by my work with Carbon Engineering, I am deeply skeptical about a distributed solution. Economies of scale can’t be wished away. There’s a reason we have huge wind turbines, a reason we don’t feed yard waste into all-in-one nano-scale pulp-and-paper mills.”

Any carbon capture technology also faces the sticky problem of the moral hazard. The concern is that negative emissions technologies, like what Carbon Engineering is working on, and neutral emissions approaches, like this new framework, distract from the most critical objective for fighting climate change: reducing emissions, and fast. Some would argue that all money and time must go toward developing technologies that will allow any industry or vehicle to become carbon neutral or even carbon negative.

This new framework isn’t meant to be a cure-all for climate change. After all, for it to be truly carbon neutral it’d need to run entirely on renewable energy. To that end, it would presumably encourage the development of those energy technologies. (The building-swaddling photovoltaics that Dittmeyer envisions are just becoming commercially available.) “I don’t think it would be ethically wrong to pursue this,” says environmental social scientist Selma L’Orange Seigo of ETH Zurich, who wasn’t involved in this research but has studied public perception of CCS. “It would be ethically wrong to only pursue this.”

One potential charm of this AC carbon-capture scenario, though, is that it attempts to address a common problem faced by CCS systems, which is that someone has to pay for it. That is, a business that captures and locks away its CO2 has nothing to sell. AC units that turn CO2 into fuel, though, would theoretically come with a revenue stream. “There’s definitely a market,” Seigo says. “That’s one of the big issues with CCS.”

Meanwhile, people will continue running their energy-hungry air conditioners. For sensitive populations like the elderly, access to AC during heat waves is a life or death matter: Consider that the crippling heat wave that struck Europe in August 2003 killed 35,000 people, and these sorts of events are growing more frequent and intense as the planet warms as a whole. A desert nation like Saudi Arabia, by the way, devotes a stunning 70 percent of its energy to powering AC units; in the near future, a whole lot of other places on Earth are going to feel a lot more like Saudi Arabia.

So no, carbon-capturing AC units won’t save the world on their own. But they could act as a valuable intermittent renewable as researchers figure out how to get certain industries and vehicles to go green.

https://grist.org/news/what-if-air-conditioners-could-help-save-the-planet-instead-of-destroying-it/

Genetically Engineered Salmon May be Coming To A Store Near You

https://grist.org/food/genetically-engineered-salmon-may-be-coming-to-a-store-near-you/

One fish, two fish, strange fish, new fish
By Richard Martin on Mar 9, 2018

This story originally appeared in bioGraphic, an online magazine about nature and sustainability powered by the California Academy of Sciences.

One day in 1992, a technology entrepreneur sat down for a meeting with a pair of biologists who were studying the genes of fish. The scientists, Choy Hew and Garth Fletcher, were working on a method of purifying “antifreeze proteins” that would help Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) survive so-called superchill events in the North Atlantic. Normally, these salmon migrate out of the subzero ice-laden seawater of the far North Atlantic to overwinter in less frigid waters. Increasingly, though, such fish were being farmed, penned year-round in offshore cages, in near-Arctic waters to which they were not adapted. Fish farmers were looking for a way to keep the fish alive through the winter, and the antifreeze protein seemed like a possible solution.

As the meeting drew to a close, Fletcher and Hew showed Elliot Entis, the entrepreneur, a photo of two fish of equal age. One dwarfed the other. “I sat back down,” Entis recalled recently.

Fletcher and Hew, it turned out, had not just been putting antifreeze proteins into Atlantic salmon. They had also figured out a way to add a growth hormone from Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), plus a fragment of DNA from the ocean pout (Zoarces americanus), an eel-like creature that inhabits the chilly depths off the coast of New England and eastern Canada. This genetic code acts like an “on” switch to activate the growth hormone. The result was a genetically engineered superfish that grew nearly twice as fast, on less food, than conventional salmon.

Those salmon, grown and marketed by a company called AquaBounty Technologies that was founded by Entis, could be coming to U.S. grocery stores next year. And they could offer a way out of the deadly spiral of overfishing that is decimating wild fish stocks.

Open-ocean fishing for wild species is no longer sustainable; it hasn’t been for a long time. While some of the most damaging forms of industrial fishing have been outlawed over the years, a combination of continued overfishing, habitat destruction, and warming oceans has dramatically reduced salmon populations. According to the Northwest Fisheries Science Center, of the 17 distinct populations of Pacific salmon, all are considered either “in danger of extinction” or “likely to become endangered.” Atlantic salmon, too, have been battered by commercial overfishing, climate change, and cross-contamination by farmed salmon and the resulting spread of disease; according to a 2001 World Wildlife Fund report, their population fell by more than 75 percent between 1984 and 2001.

At current rates, according to a 2006 article in the journal Science, the world will run out of all wild-caught fish by mid-century.

Genetically engineered fish could provide a solution, taking the pressure off wild stocks and reducing the energy and carbon emissions required to feed the world’s seafood appetite. Because AquaBounty’s salmon are sterile and raised in land-based tanks, they can’t breed with wild populations. And because they efficiently convert fish feed into edible protein, they offer a potential low-cost solution for nourishing not only affluent consumers in North America but hungry people in the developing world with little access to meat.
The eyespots of developing embryos are clearly visible inside these fertilized salmon eggs. AquaBounty

But there is something about genetically engineered fish that many find uniquely disturbing. In a 2013 poll by The New York Times, 75 percent of respondents said they wouldn’t eat genetically modified fish. (That number dropped to two-thirds for other forms of GE meat.) The nation’s largest grocery chains, including Safeway and Kroger as well as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, have signed a statement saying they will not sell genetically modified fish.

There’s also a tangle of bureaucratic red tape to get through before GE fish finds its way into U.S. grocery stores. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration approved AquaBounty salmon for sale in this country more than two years ago, in November 2015. But an obscure rider attached to a budget bill by Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski in December of that same year effectively blocked the FDA from allowing GE salmon into the U.S. That import ban still stands.

It’s a strange paradox: If you could get the fish here, you could sell them; but you can’t legally bring GE salmon into the country.

Undeterred, in June 2017, AquaBounty, which is headquartered in Maynard, Massachusetts, purchased a land-based fish farm near Albany, Indiana. If the import ban can be overturned, enabling the company to bring in transgenic eggs produced in Canada, AquaBounty could begin raising fish there sometime this year. That means the company’s salmon could be on sale in the U.S. by 2019, which would make it the first genetically modified animal food ever sold and eaten in this country.

Opposition, naturally, is fierce. But to AquaBounty CEO Ron Stotish, bringing superfish to global markets is not just a promising business opportunity; it also has the potential to change an industry.

“We are providing technology to improve food production and make it sustainable,” Stotish says. This, he says, will put society in a better position “to address the global food security issues we’ll face as the world’s population approaches 10 billion.”

Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada Ian Mcallister/Getty

Eager to see how AquaBounty got to this point and what the future of fish farming might look like, I traveled to the company’s hatchery at Bay Fortune, on Prince Edward Island. The island — known as PEI — forms an arc in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, just off the coasts of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Driving out from Charlottetown to the far eastern peninsula, we pass small, picturesque fishing villages and tidy farms flying Canadian flags. AquaBounty’s lab and hatchery is a metal-sided, two-story building, painted the cheery shade of ocean blue that has become the company’s trademark color. Belying the research and engineering underway inside, the exterior looks more like a roadside warehouse than a lab for mad fish science.

Inside, in big green fiberglass tanks, swim the salmon: conventional and transgenic in separate tanks, each fish individually microchipped. Called “AquAdvantage Salmon” in the company’s marketing materials, the genetically engineered fish are more than twice the size of conventional fish at 12 months of age — around 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) compared to 300 to 400 grams (0.7 to 0.9 pounds) for the regular salmon.

This is Fletcher and Hew’s innovation, pictured in the photo they showed to Entis 25 years earlier. Entis, whose father ran one of the first companies to import farm-raised salmon from Norway, had seen a revolution in the making. “The first thing I thought was, ‘My God, these guys don’t know what they’re sitting on.’ To raise fish in half the time, that has enormous implications. I pretty quickly realized that this is the kind of massive breakthrough that could be critically important to an entire industry.”

What Entis didn’t realize at the time was just how long it would take to bring that breakthrough to market — nor that he would no longer be there to see it through. Along the way, both Entis and Fletcher — who joined the company in 1994 — were ousted.

In 2012, the company’s primary investor, Kakha Bendukidze, a biologist and entrepreneur who’d served as Minister of Economy in the former Soviet Socialist Republic of Georgia, lost patience and pulled out. AquaBounty was close to collapse before receiving a $6 million investment in 2012 from Intrexon Corp., a synthetic biology company.

Today, AquaBounty’s fish are available in Canadian grocery stores. Five tons were sold there in 2017 without being labeled as such. Canada has no law that requires labeling of genetically modified seafood.

Back in the Bay Fortune hatchery, the transgenic fish patrol the tanks ceaselessly, the only sound the occasional splash as a fish breaks the surface, thinking we might have food. The salmon are stippled and banded in endless shades of gray, silver, and black, with occasional flashes of green. Evolved to travel hundreds of miles from their freshwater spawning grounds to the open ocean and back, these fish will live out their lives in these tanks, fed by constantly circulating filtered freshwater, never leaving this building.
Market-sized, genetically modified salmon patrol the indoor tanks inside AquaBounty’s Prince Edward Island facility. Stephen DesRoches

Dawn Runighan, the facility manager, shows me the miniature tanks where the baby fish are raised, and the grow-out area where they reach maturity. There are big bags of fish feed, and canisters of sperm lined up like old-fashioned milk tanks. In another room are tubular incubators containing the eggs that will become superfish. If I was expecting a high-tech sanctum where Faustian scientists use supercomputers to meddle with the building blocks of nature, what I found was more quotidian: a few technicians in rubber boots moving equipment around and checking water levels. Much of the space in an adjoining room is taken up by an elaborate, three-phase filtration system that includes settling tanks, “bio-beads” impregnated with organisms that remove ammonia and organic matter from the water, and finally a UV-light filter to finish the cleansing process. “It’s basically a wastewater treatment plant, with fish,” cracks Runighan.

Upstairs there is a lab where quality control and R&D on the company’s proprietary gene technology takes place. A white-coated technician dips a pipette and fills tiny tubes in a rack. These will go into a machine that multiplies copies of a specific sequence of DNA for later analysis. No actual gene-splicing goes on at Bay Fortune. In fact, none has gone on for 13 generations of AquaBounty salmon, dating back to a single ancestor fish that reproduced and died in 1992. Each descendant carries a copy of the genetic construct that combines the Chinook growth hormone gene with the promoter gene from the ocean pout.

“Today,” says company spokesman Dave Conley, “we are in the business of breeding fish.”

It’s a messy business. At spawning time, conventional females are milked of their eggs by hand, a method that requires two fish wranglers per female — one to handle the fish and another to hold the container that collects the eggs. The technicians use the same squeeze technique to extract semen, or “milt,” from the males.

To prevent uncontrolled reproduction of genetically engineered fish, AquaBounty produces only transgenic females for market. To avoid the possibility of male eggs being produced, the male fish that produce the milt are actually “neomales”: female fish that have undergone a sort of piscine sex change. Exposed to testosterone when they’re juveniles, they produce milt that contains only female sex chromosomes. This is a common technique in aquaculture. When the sperm from neomales is used to fertilize the eggs (also with female sex chromosomes), only female fish can result.

When combined, the eggs and milt produce fertilized eggs. The technicians place the developing embryos in a stainless-steel tube where they’re subjected to high pressure. This renders all the embryos’ cells triploid — meaning they have three sets of chromosomes instead of two, which makes the fish incapable of reproducing — another biological barrier to the spread of transgenic salmon in the wild.

After a period of incubation at the Bay Fortune hatchery, the sterile, all-female transgenic embryos are then flown to a rearing facility in the highlands of Panama, where the resulting salmon are grown to maturity before being re-imported into Canada. (According to Conley, Panama was selected because the president of the company at the time had contacts there and the cost of building a facility was far less than it would have been in North America.) Eventually, AquaBounty plans to produce market-ready fish at a new facility now under construction at Rollo Bay, on Prince Edward Island, and at the Indiana facility — an existing fish production factory that belonged to a now-defunct aquaculture company.

Aerial view of workers in boats feeding salmon in off-shore enclosures near Seal Cove, Grand Manan, New Brunswick, Canada. Marc Guitard/Getty

The key fact about all of these places, existing and under construction, is their location: They’re on land. Nearly all other aquaculture takes place in ponds, lakes, or the sea — in pens designed to keep farmed fish in and wild fish out. Unlike fish produced using this conventional approach, AquaBounty salmon have no chance of escaping into wild habitats. That was key to the company’s application for approval by the FDA. But land-based aquaculture is expensive, and many previous attempts have failed. Finding cost-efficient ways to maintain water temperature and quality at levels needed to grow healthy fish — things nature does for free — is critical to AquaBounty’s business success.

“We saw the convergence of these two technologies: the improved biology of the fish, and the improved technology of contained aquaculture systems,” says Stotish, a former pharmaceutical executive. He says the company has “altered the economics of growth and production.”

Producing salmon in Indiana, Stotish points out, would eliminate the need for long-distance flights that now carry frozen fish from overseas fish farms to the U.S. market. Producing fast-growing fish on land reduces the amount of food and energy required to grow a given volume of food, while also reducing the use of fungicides, antibiotics, and pesticides that are prevalent in conventional aquaculture. AquaBounty’s scientists say they have devised a sustainable, environmentally friendly and economical way of producing high volumes of healthy seafood, without the environmental risks of conventional aquaculture.

Most scientists who have studied the matter concur — and believe that the significance of AquaBounty salmon extends far beyond the fishing industry. A 1992 article in Nature Biotechnology by Fletcher, Hew, and five other scientists laid out the evidence behind the company’s claims, and since then those claims have been validated by a number of other studies. An article published in the journal Aquaculture in 2013 (by seven scientists independent of the company) concluded that transgenic AquAdvantage salmon had higher feed-conversion ratios, retained nitrogen more efficiently, and achieved their target weight 40 percent faster than conventional Atlantic salmon fed the same diet.

“In 20 or 25 years we’re all going to be eating genetically modified animal products,” says Eric Hallerman, a professor of marine biology at Virginia Tech who served on an expert panel that reviewed AquaBounty’s technology for the FDA application. “What’ll make it attractive to producers is the benefit to consumers.”

That potential benefit has not allayed the concerns of the vocal movement opposed to GMOs in general and to genetically engineered “Frankenfish” in particular.
Nick Norman/Getty

Humans have been consuming salmon virtually since we first arrived in North America, and salmon have become deeply intertwined with both the cultures and the ecosystems of the places where they thrived. Indeed, salmon in many ways shaped both the civilization and the environment of those places. And salmon have been an intensely managed food source all along.

“The anadromous fish resource was perhaps the most intensely managed and ecologically manipulated food resource among these aboriginal societies,” wrote the anthropologists Sean Swezey and Robert Heizer in a 1977 study.

“Ecological manipulation” is a good description of today’s salmon market. Even the wild salmon fishery of Alaska is helped along by human intervention: Each year the Alaska Department of Fish and Game releases nearly 2 billion juvenile salmon spawned in hatcheries into the waters of Prince William Sound and Southeast Alaska. In 2015 Alaskan fishermen caught 93 million hatchery-born salmon, more than one-third of the total harvest of 263 million. Salmon stocks in the northern Pacific have recovered since bottoming out in the 1970s; that would not have happened without the coastal hatcheries.

U.S. imports of salmon totaled 339,000 metric tons in 2016, worth more than $3 billion. The vast majority of that came from farmed Atlantic salmon raised in floating cages off the coasts of Canada, Chile, Norway, and Scotland, and flown into the U.S. According to SINTEF, an independent research institute in Norway, accounting for feed, aquaculture, and energy to freeze and transport the fish, 1 kilogram of farmed salmon eaten in Paris or New York produces the equivalent of 2.9 kilograms of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere. A 2016 paper in Aquaculture Engineering found that the carbon footprint of salmon produced in land-based closed systems, like AquaBounty’s, is less than half of that from salmon produced in conventional fish farms in Norway and delivered to the U.S. by air.

But carbon footprints don’t pack the emotional punch of cultural legacy. “The Coast Salish people have organized their lives around salmon for thousands of years,” Valerie Segrest, the project coordinator for the Muckleshoot Food Sovereignty Project, said in a 2017 statement. The group is based at the Northwest Indian College in Bellingham and works to preserve access to traditional foods.The Salish fear that GE salmon could wreak environmental havoc with native species, and that the combination of genetic engineering and aquaculture could finally overwhelm the traditional fishing methods that they still carry out. “Corporate ownership of such a cultural keystone is a direct attack on our identity and the legacy our ancestors have left us.”

In July 2016, the Quinault Indian Nation joined a lawsuit put forth by environmental groups and recreational fishermen in March of that same year. It challenged the FDA approval, saying the agency “has not adequately assessed the full range of potentially significant environmental and ecological effects presented by the AquaBounty application.” That lawsuit is still pending. Led by the Center for Food Safety, anti-GMO activists are concerned that GE salmon could threaten native species if some fish Houdini escaped and spread its transgenic kind in the wild.

But scientists who have followed AquaBounty’s long road to regulatory approval believe that the quarter-century process signals a flawed and politicized approval mechanism. The delay “sends the message to the rest of the world that the science-based regulatory oversight as embodied in the FDA review process is subject to political intervention,” testified the late Calestous Juma, of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, in a 2011 hearing before House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Rural Development, Research, Biotechnology, and Foreign Agriculture. “Furthermore, it signals to the world that the United States may cede its leadership position in the agricultural use of biotechnology.”

According to the scientific panel that reviewed the evidence submitted by AquaBounty to the FDA, the genetically engineered salmon “is as safe as food from conventional Atlantic salmon, and … there is a reasonable certainty of no harm from the consumption of food from this animal.”

The agency concluded that because AquaBounty salmon is “not materially different from other Atlantic salmon” — meaning it is nutritionally and chemically indistinguishable — no additional labeling was required.

In the early 2000s, William Muir, a professor of genetics at Purdue University and a pioneer in the risk analysis for GE fish, and his colleague Richard Howard developed a quantitative model to assess risks associated with the other major fear about GE salmon: escape. In simple terms, Muir’s method quantifies the probability of an escaped transgenic fish interbreeding in the wild, and the level of harm it would cause if that should happen. The first part is itself the product of two factors: “the probability of the organism escaping into the wild, dispersing and becoming feral” and the ability of the new gene to spread.

If either of those terms is zero, according to the model, the risk of environmental damage from transgenic fish farming is zero. It’s a simple matter of multiplication. “If it can’t escape, then don’t worry about it,” Muir says. “Or if it escapes and then can’t proliferate, don’t worry about it.”

By raising the fish on land, in contained tanks, far from cold-water environments, AquaBounty has reduced the risk of escape to near zero (unlike conventional aquaculture, where the farmed fish can and often do escape into the wild). The second factor — the risk of an escaped fish spreading its genetic material — should also be zero, because AquaBounty produces sterile, triploid females. Even if these fish did escape, wild salmon couldn’t successfully breed with them, so they wouldn’t be able to reproduce and persist in the environment. In contrast, when a net pen containing conventional farmed salmon breaks, the escapees can overwhelm an environment with their sheer numbers, and since they’re fertile, they can interbreed and bring down the fitness of native salmon.

“In my view the risk of harm from GE salmon as developed and managed by AquaBounty is less than that of farmed salmon,” says Muir, who is now retired.

Alison Van Eenennaam, an animal genomics and biotechnology specialist at the University of California, Davis, who served as a subject matter expert for the scientific panel that evaluated AquaBounty’s FDA application, says that conventional farmed fish carry different, and arguably higher, risks. “Conventionally bred Atlantic salmon undergo no food safety tests, grow faster as a result of selective breeding, are fertile, and are raised in ocean net pens where they can escape to the ocean and transmit/acquire diseases and parasites,” she says.

Like most scientists who have examined the matter, Hallerman dismisses the claim that GE salmon pose a threat to existing fisheries. “This technology has been sitting on the shelf for way too long. People want more meat and this is a way to get it to them.”

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Stephen DesRoches

But not all scientists agree with this consensus. In 2013, after the FDA issued its draft environmental assessment of the AquaBounty breeding program, Anne Kapuscinski, a professor of sustainability science at Dartmouth College, and Fredrik Sundström, an assistant professor of ecology and genetics at Uppsala University in Sweden, submitted comments criticizing the agency’s finding of “no significant impact.”

The two scientists wrote that they “found major scientific inadequacies” in the assessment. Among their many concerns was that while the risk of exposure to the open sea and harm to the marine environment from GE salmon is probably low at the existing PEI and Panama sites, those facilities are only the first of many probable hatcheries and production farms — and there is no guarantee that other locations will maintain the same standards.

“The future of GE fish farming will surely involve larger fish farms, with less confinement, in many different environments,” wrote Kapuscinski and George Leonard, the chief scientist at the Ocean Conservancy, in a 2015 opinion piece. The risks posed by those hypothetical future farms are harder to determine.

Meanwhile, Murkowski, whose legislation is at this point the only remaining legal obstacle for AquaBounty in the U.S., has said allowing GE salmon would amount to “messing with nature’s perfect brain food.” In July 2017, vowing to continue her “years-long fight against ‘Frankenfish,’” Murkowski introduced the Genetically Engineered Salmon Labeling Act, which would not only require plain-English labels for GE salmon but would mandate a review of the FDA’s procedures for approving AquaBounty’s fish. AquaBounty officials say they have no problem with labeling their fish, if regulations require it; but Murkowski’s bill, cosponsored by senators from Washington and Oregon, would effectively maintain the ban on AquaBounty salmon in the U.S. market.

Ultimately, the future of AquaBounty’s superfish will most likely hinge more on marketing than on legal challenges. Will grocers carry the fish, and will consumers buy it? If the answers to those questions are yes, the sustained outcry over GE salmon will ultimately matter little. Muir points out that research on transgenic fish is proceeding worldwide, regardless of what happens with AquaBounty salmon in the U.S. market. Scientists in Cuba and the UK have engineered tilapia to add weight three times faster than normal fish. A mud loach developed in South Korea can grow up to 35 times faster than conventional varieties.

At the end of my visit to Bay Fortune, I sat in the small company kitchen with Stotish and the AquaBounty staff and enjoyed some smoked salmon, grown in AquaBounty’s indoor fish farm and prepared by a local chef. It was delicious. I could not have told it from conventional salmon.

Stotish hopes that Murkowski’s import ban will be dropped in an upcoming appropriations bill, should Congress ever manage to agree on a budget. He won’t say much about AquaBounty’s future plans for worldwide production, other than to mention that he’s talked to more than one Asian fish supplier who’s interested in growing and marketing AquaBounty salmon. The U.S. market may be important to AquaBounty’s success as a company, but Stotish is working in other places where the opposition to GE seafood is less pitched, and less political. In other words, whether AquaBounty ever gets to sell its fish in the United States may ultimately be moot, in terms of the future of GE aquaculture.

Meanwhile, AquaBounty’s new indoor aquaculture facility at Rollo Bay, on PEI — two warehouse-sized buildings with enough space for more than 2,500 cubic meters of fish tanks — is nearing completion. It will supply 13 to 15 million eggs a year when it reaches full capacity. The company expects to be producing eggs there by the second quarter of 2018.

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