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  • richardmitnick 8:29 am on June 28, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Devastating 'Heat Dome' Keeps Shattering Extreme Temp Records in North America", , , , , Science Alert (AU)   

    From Science Alert (US) : “Devastating ‘Heat Dome’ Keeps Shattering Extreme Temp Records in North America” 


    From Science Alert (US)

    28 JUNE 2021

    Credit: Jeff Berardelli/Twitter.

    A “heat dome” over western Canada and the US Pacific northwest sent temperatures soaring to new highs, triggering heat warnings from Oregon to Canada’s Arctic territories on Sunday.

    More than 40 new temperature highs were recorded in British Columbia over the weekend, including in the ski resort town of Whistler. And the high pressure ridge trapping warm air in the region is expected to continue breaking records throughout the week.

    Environment Canada issued alerts for British Columbia, Alberta, and parts of Saskatchewan, Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

    “A prolonged, dangerous, and historic heat wave will persist through this week,” it said in the warnings.

    “Afternoon high temperatures will climb to the mid 30’s today (Sunday), and will peak near 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in some regions by midweek.”

    These temperatures are 10-15 degrees Celsius hotter than normal.

    The US National Weather Service issued a similar warning about a “dangerous heat wave” that could see record temperatures rise to more than 30 degrees Fahrenheit above normal in parts of Washington and Oregon states.

    “The historic Northwest heat wave will continue through much of the upcoming week, with numerous daily, monthly and even all time records likely to be set,” it said in a statement.

    Monday is expected to be the hottest day in big cities such as Seattle and Portland with all time record highs likely in both cities.

    The highest temperature ever recorded in Canada was 45 °C (113 °F) in two towns in southeastern Saskatchewan on July 5, 1937. And it was broken on 27 June as current hotspot Lytton, British Columbia – about 250 kilometers (155 miles) northeast of Vancouver – reached 46.1 °C (114.98 °F).

    “I like to break a record, but this is like shattering and pulverizing them,” Environment Canada senior climatologist David Phillips told broadcaster CTV.

    “It’s warmer in parts of western Canada than in Dubai.”

    Wildfire risks are elevated, and water levels in lakes and rivers are lower.

    Stores reportedly sold out of portable air conditioners and fans, while cities opened emergency cooling centers and several COVID-19 vaccination clinics were cancelled.

    The British Columbia power utility, meanwhile, said electricity demand has soared to record levels as residents sought to keep cool.

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 11:17 am on June 25, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Earth's Atmosphere Could Be a Truly Rare Thing Thanks to One Chemical Process", , As we expand our library of known worlds it's possible we'll uncover better candidates for biospheres like ours., , Evolution continues to shock us on our own planet so we can only imagine the diverse kinds of ecosystems possible out in the cosmos., Growing even the simplest of gardens – at least by Earth's standards – demands ample sunlight., Learning we're unusual doesn't mean we're necessarily alone., Oxygenic photosynthesis, , Science Alert (AU)   

    From Science Alert (AU) : “Earth’s Atmosphere Could Be a Truly Rare Thing Thanks to One Chemical Process” 


    From Science Alert (AU)

    25 JUNE 2021

    Kepler-442b could have an atmosphere like ours (Ph03nix1986/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-04)

    Life currently has a sample size of just one. Without an alien or two to expand the boundaries of biology, Earth’s evolutionary history sets the limits on whether we can expect other planets to spawn complex critters like, well, us.

    Given many life forms owe a great debt to the oxygen in our atmosphere, it’s natural to look to other planets surrounded by a similar mix of gases in our search for aliens. But a new study suggests we’re going to need a lot of patience.

    Researchers from the University of Naples Federico II [Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II] (IT) and Astronomical Observatory of Capodimonte [Osservatorio Astronomico di Capodimonte] (IT) in Italy studied levels of light received by 10 potentially habitable exoplanets around different kinds of star, and failed to find a single match for Earth’s atmosphere.

    Based on what we’ve observed of the thousands of planets found orbiting other stars, Earth is already a member of a relatively exclusive club. Once you’ve excluded numerous gas giants, roasted balls of rock, and frozen super-Earths, there aren’t many candidates that might have the kind of biochemistry we’re familiar with.

    Still, if even a small fraction of billions of stars have a few large bodies circling close enough to allow liquid water to pool on their surfaces, we could be looking up at hundreds of millions of Gardens of Eden in our galaxy.

    Growing even the simplest of gardens – at least by Earth’s standards – demands ample sunlight. Not just any kind of solar radiation will do, either. Rearranging carbon dioxide and water into glucose and those oh-so-handy oxygen molecules requires a quality of light energetic enough to generate reactions, without blasting apart proteins.

    Given exoplanets in habitable zones generally receive plenty of sunlight, and the fact oxygenic photosynthesis arose so early in Earth’s history, it’d be fair to assume it to be quite a common process among the stars.

    To test that assumption, the researchers took measures of light falling across different planetary surfaces and the spread of wavelengths making up the radiation, and calculated the level of ‘exergy’, or amount of work that could be squeezed out of the sunshine.

    If only more of those stars were as nice as ours.

    Most happen to be red dwarfs – temperamental suns capable of scouring their inner planets with furious winds that would quickly strip away their atmosphere.

    Assuming there were planets capable of weathering such outbursts, the researchers found a red dwarf’s cooler temperatures would still be unlikely to provide an intensity of the right wavelengths to activate photosynthesis.

    “Since red dwarfs are by far the most common type of star in our galaxy, this result indicates that Earth-like conditions on other planets may be much less common than we might hope,” says Covone.

    Brighter stars would be better, churning out plenty of energy, but aren’t likely to live the billions of years required to pump out the oxygen complex life on Earth needed to get going.

    In all, a star half as bright as our Sun could see photosynthesis get started, but would have a hard time generating a complex biosphere.

    Among the planets used as case studies, precisely zero would be capable of fueling enough photosynthesis to tip an atmosphere flush with carbon dioxide into an Earth-like direction.

    “This study puts strong constraints on the parameter space for complex life, so unfortunately it appears that the “sweet spot” for hosting a rich Earth-like biosphere is not so wide,” says Covone.

    One planet we know of comes fairly close to that sweet spot.

    Kepler-442b orbits an orange dwarf with roughly 60 percent the mass of the Sun’s, some 1,200 light years away. At around double the mass of Earth, and a rotation that allows it to shed heat, it’s looking like a potential paradise so far.

    Most photosynthesizing reactions on Earth top out at wavelengths of around 700 nanometers. But if some kind of alien moss on Kepler-442b evolved a way to soak up slightly longer wavelengths, of around 800 nanometers, it would gain the benefits of 20 percent more photons.

    As we expand our library of known worlds it’s possible we’ll uncover better candidates for biospheres like ours.

    Evolution continues to shock us on our own planet so we can only imagine the diverse kinds of ecosystems possible out in the cosmos. Chemosynthetic ice moons might be in the majority, for all we know. Perhaps there are variations on photosynthesis we just can’t comprehend, given the limits of our experience on Earth.

    Learning we’re unusual doesn’t mean we’re necessarily alone. But based on what we’re discovering, we can take a moment to appreciate our flavor of life is pretty special.

    This study was published in MNRAS.

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 10:56 am on June 20, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Over 50% of Earth's 'Rivers' Actually Stand Still or Run Dry Every Year", , , Ecohydrology, , Science Alert (AU)   

    From McGill University (CA) via Science Alert (AU) : “Over 50% of Earth’s ‘Rivers’ Actually Stand Still or Run Dry Every Year” 

    From McGill University (CA)



    Science Alert (AU)

    20 JUNE 2021

    Credit: Anton Petrus/Getty Images.

    Our traditional idea of a river, an endlessly flowing stream of water, needs a rethink, scientists argue in a new study.

    Even when a river runs dry, they say, it’s still a river. These winding watercourses shouldn’t have to flow all year round to receive our attention and protection. In fact, most of them don’t.

    In new research, scientists found at least 51 percent of all rivers worldwide stop running for at least one day per year.

    In colder climates, rivers may temporarily freeze up, and in warmer climates, water may evaporate to stall flow. In Australia, for instance, 70 percent of the rivers are thought to be non-perennial.

    It’s the first time researchers have attempted to map all the non-perennial waterways in the world, and as it turns out they’re ubiquitous.

    Almost every river network on our planet hosts a channel that periodically stops flowing, from Himalayan snow-fed creeks to occasionally water-filled Saharan wadis [Nature]. The nearest river or stream for more than half the world’s population stops flowing at some point in the year.

    Global distribution of non-perennial rivers and streams. Credit: Messager et al., Nature, 2021.

    “Non-perennial rivers and streams are very valuable ecosystems as they are home to many distinct species that are adapted to cycles of water presence and absence,” says ecohydrologist Mathis Messager from McGill University in Canada.

    “These rivers can provide critical water and food sources for people and they play an important role in controlling water quality. But more often than not they are mismanaged or altogether excluded from management actions and conservation laws as they are simply overlooked.”

    Previous studies have found non-perennial rivers are generally considered less valuable and less worthy of conservation. Today, many are unnamed and missing from maps [EPA], but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important.

    Intermittent rivers and ephemeral streams combine to create much larger waterways, which are a major source of freshwater around the world. Headwaters help trap floodwaters, refill groundwater, reduce pollution, and provide important habitats for flora and fauna, making the timing of their flow an important factor in a variety of environmental activities.

    Ignoring them, researchers say, is a mistake, especially in a time of rapid climate changes.

    Over the past 50 years, global warming and land use changes have stopped the flow of more and more rivers and streams. Even parts of the Nile in Egypt, the Indus in Asia, the Yellow in China, and the Colorado River in North America have started to experience stops and starts of flow.

    “Given continued global change, an increasingly large proportion of the global river network is expected to seasonally cease to flow over the coming decades,” the authors warn.

    Places where aridity is increasing are particularly at risk of seeing reduced river flow. In hot and dry regions like India, northern Australia, and equatorial Africa, researchers found 95 percent of rivers and streams are already intermittent.

    Even the main stem of major rivers like the Niger River in West Africa and the Godavari in India can dry out under the right conditions.

    Given these results, the authors are calling for a paradigm shift in river research and conservation. They say we need to incorporate non-perennial rivers and streams into our studies and afford them the same protections as constantly flowing rivers.

    Many ephemeral streams are currently excluded from management and conservation laws, as well as scientific studies. As a result, we know very little about how these waterways are coping in a changing world. Very few people are monitoring their health.

    “The foundational concepts of river hydrology, ecology, and biogeochemistry have been developed from and for perennial waterways, and as a result, have all traditionally assumed year-round surface channel flow,” the authors write.

    “Here we show that this assumption is invalid for most rivers on Earth, which bolsters previous appeals for bringing together aquatic and terrestrial disciplines into river science.”

    See the full article here .


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    All about
    McGill Unversity (CA)

    With some 300 buildings, more than 38,500 students and 250,000 living alumni, and a reputation for excellence that reaches around the globe, McGill has carved out a spot among the world’s greatest universities.

    Founded in Montreal, Quebec, in 1821, McGill (CA) is a leading Canadian post-secondary institution. It has two campuses, 11 faculties, 11 professional schools, 300 programs of study and some 39,000 students, including more than 9,300 graduate students. McGill attracts students from over 150 countries around the world, its 8,200 international students making up 21 per cent of the student body.

    McGill University (CA) is a public research university in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Founded in 1821 by royal charter granted by King George IV, the university bears the name of James McGill, a Scottish merchant whose bequest in 1813 formed the university’s precursor, University of McGill College (or simply, McGill College); the name was officially changed to McGill University in 1885.

    McGill’s (CA) main campus is on the slope of Mount Royal in downtown Montreal, with a second campus situated in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, also on Montreal Island, 30 kilometres (19 mi) west of the main campus. The university is one of two universities outside the United States which are members of the Association of American Universities (US), alongside the University of Toronto (CA), and it is the only Canadian member of the Global University Leaders Forum (GULF) within the World Economic Forum.

    McGill (CA) offers degrees and diplomas in over 300 fields of study, with the highest average entering grades of any Canadian university. Most students are enrolled in the five largest faculties, namely Arts, Science, Medicine, Engineering, and Management. With a 32.2% international student body coming to McGill from over 150 countries, its student body is the most internationally diverse of any medical-doctoral research university in the country. Additionally, over 41% of students are born outside of Canada. In all major rankings, McGill consistently ranks in the top 50 universities in the world and among the top 3 universities in Canada. It has held the top position for the past 16 years in the annual Maclean’s Canadian University Rankings for medical-doctoral universities.

    McGill counts among its alumni and faculty 12 Nobel laureates and 147 Rhodes Scholars, both the most of any university in Canada, as well as 13 billionaires, the current prime minister and two former prime ministers of Canada, a former Governor General of Canada, at least eight foreign leaders, 28 foreign ambassadors and more than 100 members of national legislatures. McGill alumni also include eight Academy Award winners, 10 Grammy Award winners, at least 13 Emmy Award winners, four Pulitzer Prize winners, and 121 Olympians with over 35 Olympic medals. The inventors of the game of basketball, modern organized ice hockey, and the pioneers of gridiron football, as well as the founders of several major universities and colleges are also graduates of the university.

    Notable researchers include Ernest Rutherford, who discovered the atomic nucleus and conducted his Nobel Prize-winning research on the nature of radioactivity while working as Professor of Experimental Physics at the university. Other notable inventions by McGillians include the world’s first artificial cell, web search engine, and charge-couple device, among others.

    McGill has the largest endowment per student in Canada. In 2019, it was the recipient of the largest single philanthropic gift in Canadian history, a $200 million donation to fund the creation of the McCall MacBain Scholarships programme.


    Research plays a critical role at McGill. McGill is affiliated with 12 Nobel Laureates and professors have won major teaching prizes. According to the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, “researchers at McGill are affiliated with about 75 major research centres and networks, and are engaged in an extensive array of research partnerships with other universities, government and industry in Quebec and Canada, throughout North America and in dozens of other countries.” In 2016, McGill had over $547 million of sponsored research income, the second highest in Canada, and a research intensity per faculty of $317,600, the third highest among full-service universities in Canada. McGill has one of the largest patent portfolios among Canadian universities. McGill’s researchers are supported by the McGill University Library, which comprises 13 branch libraries and holds over six million items.

    Since 1926, McGill has been a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU), an organization of leading research universities in North America. McGill is a founding member of Universitas 21, an international network of leading research-intensive universities that work together to expand their global reach and advance their plans for internationalization. McGill is one of 26 members of the prestigious Global University Leaders Forum (GULF), which acts as an intellectual community within the World Economic Forum to advise its leadership on matters relating to higher education and research. It is the only Canadian university member of GULF. McGill is also a member of the U15, a group of prominent research universities within Canada.

    McGill-Queen’s University Press began as McGill in 1963 and amalgamated with Queen’s in 1969. McGill-Queen’s University Press focuses on Canadian studies and publishes the Canadian Public Administration Series.

    McGill is perhaps best recognized for its research and discoveries in the health sciences. Sir William Osler, Wilder Penfield, Donald Hebb, Brenda Milner, and others made significant discoveries in medicine, neuroscience and psychology while working at McGill, many at the University’s Montreal Neurological Institute. The first hormone governing the Immune System (later christened the Cytokine ‘Interleukin-2’) was discovered at McGill in 1965 by Gordon & McLean.

    The invention of the world’s first artificial cell was made by Thomas Chang while an undergraduate student at the university. While chair of physics at McGill, nuclear physicist Ernest Rutherford performed the experiment that led to the discovery of the alpha particle and its function in radioactive decay, which won him the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1908. Alumnus Jack W. Szostak was awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in medicine for discovering a key mechanism in the genetic operations of cells, an insight that has inspired new lines of research into cancer.

    William Chalmers invented Plexiglas while a graduate student at McGill. In computing, MUSIC/SP, software for mainframes once popular among universities and colleges around the world, was developed at McGill. A team also contributed to the development of Archie, a pre-WWW search engine. A 3270 terminal emulator developed at McGill was commercialized and later sold to Hummingbird Software. A team has developed digital musical instruments in the form of prosthesis, called Musical Prostheses.

    Since 2017, McGill has partnered with the University of Montréal [Université de Montréal] (CA) on Mila (research institute), a community of professors, students, industrial partners and startups working in AI, with over 500 researchers making the institute the world’s largest academic research center in deep learning.

  • richardmitnick 9:20 am on June 18, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Physicists Nearly Reach Elusive Quantum Ground State on The Largest 'Object' Yet", Achieving the quantum ground state of a cloud of atoms isn't easy. You need to cool the atom by applying just the right amount of force to stop its vibrations., , , , , , , , , , Science Alert (AU), The work represents a new way to probe the quantum realm.   

    From Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) via Science Alert (AU) : “Physicists Nearly Reach Elusive Quantum Ground State on The Largest ‘Object’ Yet” 

    MIT News

    From Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US)


    http://www.sciencealert.com/”> Science Alert (AU)

    17 JUNE 2021

    One of LIGO’s mirrors. Credit: Caltech/ MIT Advanced aLIGO (US).

    Very rarely is anything completely still. All normal matter in the Universe is made of humming particles, minding their own business and vibrating at their own frequencies.

    If we can get them to slow down as much as possible, the material enters what is known as the motional ground state. In this state, physicists can perform tests of quantum mechanics and quantum gravity, probing the boundary with classical physics to search for a way to unify the two.

    Previously, this has been performed in the nanoscale; but now, for the first time, it’s been done on a massive ‘object’ – the collective motions of the four mirrors of the LIGO gravitational wave interferometer, known as an optomechanical oscillator, with an effective mass of 10 kilograms (22 pounds).

    Caltech /MIT Advanced aLigo .

    The work represents a new way to probe the quantum realm.

    “Nobody has ever observed how gravity acts on massive quantum states,” said mechanical engineer Vivishek Sudhir of MIT.

    “We’ve demonstrated how to prepare kilogram-scale objects in quantum states. This finally opens the door to an experimental study of how gravity might affect large quantum objects, something hitherto only dreamed of.”

    Achieving the quantum ground state of a cloud of atoms isn’t easy. You need to cool the atom by applying just the right amount of force to stop its vibrations. If you don’t cool it enough, it merely slows; so you need to know the exact energy level and direction of the atom’s vibrations in order to apply the appropriate force to stop it.

    This is called ‘feedback cooling’, and on the nanoscale it’s simpler to do, because it’s easier to isolate the smaller groups of atoms and minimize interference. The larger you go, though, the harder it becomes to handle that interference.

    LIGO is one of the most precise instruments for measuring fine motion. It’s designed to detect tiny ripples in space-time generated by collisions between massive objects up to billions of light-years away.

    It consists of an L-shaped vacuum chamber, with laser lights beamed along its two 4-kilometer (2.5-mile) tunnels, and sent to a beam splitter to four mirrors, one at each end of each tunnel. When space-time ripples, the mirrors distort the light, producing an interference pattern that scientists can decode to determine the cause. And it’s so sensitive that it can detect a change just one ten-thousandth the width of a proton, or 10-19 meters.

    Each of LIGO’s four 40-kilogram mirrors is suspended, and it’s their collective motion that makes up the oscillator. The balance of the mirrors effectively reduces 160 kilograms of total weight to a single object of just 10 kilograms.

    “LIGO is designed to measure the joint motion of the four 40-kilogram mirrors,” Sudhir said. “It turns out you can map the joint motion of these masses mathematically, and think of them as the motion of a single 10-kilogram object.”

    By precisely measuring the motion of this oscillator, the team hoped to work out exactly the rate of feedback cooling required to induce the motional ground state… and then, obviously, apply it.

    Unfortunately the very act of measuring throws a degree of randomness into the equation, making it difficult to predict the kinds of nudges needed to sap the energy out of the mirror’s atoms.

    To correct for this, the team cleverly studied each photon to estimate the activity of previous collisions, continuously building a more accurate map of how to apply the correct forces and achieve cooling.

    Then, they applied the calculated force using electromagnets attached to the backs of the mirrors.

    It worked. The oscillator stopped moving, almost completely. Its remaining energy was equivalent to a temperature of 77 nanokelvin (-273.15 degrees Celsius, or -459.67 degrees Fahrenheit).

    Its motional ground state, 10 nanokelvin, is extremely close, especially considering the room temperature starting point. And 77 nanokelvin is also very close to the temperatures used in motional ground state studies on the nanoscale.

    Moreover, it opens the door to some exciting possibilities. Macro-scale demonstrations and measurements of quantum phenomena – and maybe even applications for the same.

    But quantum gravity is the big kicker. Kilogram-mass objects are more susceptible to gravity; the team’s work raises hope to use this mass regime to study the quantum realm.

    “Preparing something in the ground state is often the first step to putting it into exciting or exotic quantum states,” said physicist Chris Whittle of MIT and the LIGO collaboration.

    “So this work is exciting because it might let us study some of these other states, on a mass scale that’s never been done before.”

    The research has been published in Science.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    MIT Seal

    USPS “Forever” postage stamps celebrating Innovation at MIT.

    MIT Campus

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) is a private land-grant research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The institute has an urban campus that extends more than a mile (1.6 km) alongside the Charles River. The institute also encompasses a number of major off-campus facilities such as the MIT Lincoln Laboratory, the Bates Center, and the Haystack Observatory, as well as affiliated laboratories such as the Broad and Whitehead Institutes.

    Founded in 1861 in response to the increasing industrialization of the United States, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) adopted a European polytechnic university model and stressed laboratory instruction in applied science and engineering. It has since played a key role in the development of many aspects of modern science, engineering, mathematics, and technology, and is widely known for its innovation and academic strength. It is frequently regarded as one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

    As of December 2020, 97 Nobel laureates, 26 Turing Award winners, and 8 Fields Medalists have been affiliated with MIT as alumni, faculty members, or researchers. In addition, 58 National Medal of Science recipients, 29 National Medals of Technology and Innovation recipients, 50 MacArthur Fellows, 80 Marshall Scholars, 3 Mitchell Scholars, 22 Schwarzman Scholars, 41 astronauts, and 16 Chief Scientists of the U.S. Air Force have been affiliated with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) . The university also has a strong entrepreneurial culture and MIT alumni have founded or co-founded many notable companies. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) is a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU).

    Foundation and vision

    In 1859, a proposal was submitted to the Massachusetts General Court to use newly filled lands in Back Bay, Boston for a “Conservatory of Art and Science”, but the proposal failed. A charter for the incorporation of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, proposed by William Barton Rogers, was signed by John Albion Andrew, the governor of Massachusetts, on April 10, 1861.

    Rogers, a professor from the University of Virginia (US), wanted to establish an institution to address rapid scientific and technological advances. He did not wish to found a professional school, but a combination with elements of both professional and liberal education, proposing that:

    “The true and only practicable object of a polytechnic school is, as I conceive, the teaching, not of the minute details and manipulations of the arts, which can be done only in the workshop, but the inculcation of those scientific principles which form the basis and explanation of them, and along with this, a full and methodical review of all their leading processes and operations in connection with physical laws.”

    The Rogers Plan reflected the German research university model, emphasizing an independent faculty engaged in research, as well as instruction oriented around seminars and laboratories.

    Early developments

    Two days after Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) was chartered, the first battle of the Civil War broke out. After a long delay through the war years, MIT’s first classes were held in the Mercantile Building in Boston in 1865. The new institute was founded as part of the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act to fund institutions “to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes” and was a land-grant school. In 1863 under the same act, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts founded the Massachusetts Agricultural College, which developed as the University of Massachusetts Amherst (US)). In 1866, the proceeds from land sales went toward new buildings in the Back Bay.

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) was informally called “Boston Tech”. The institute adopted the European polytechnic university model and emphasized laboratory instruction from an early date. Despite chronic financial problems, the institute saw growth in the last two decades of the 19th century under President Francis Amasa Walker. Programs in electrical, chemical, marine, and sanitary engineering were introduced, new buildings were built, and the size of the student body increased to more than one thousand.

    The curriculum drifted to a vocational emphasis, with less focus on theoretical science. The fledgling school still suffered from chronic financial shortages which diverted the attention of the MIT leadership. During these “Boston Tech” years, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) faculty and alumni rebuffed Harvard University (US) president (and former MIT faculty) Charles W. Eliot’s repeated attempts to merge MIT with Harvard College’s Lawrence Scientific School. There would be at least six attempts to absorb MIT into Harvard. In its cramped Back Bay location, MIT could not afford to expand its overcrowded facilities, driving a desperate search for a new campus and funding. Eventually, the MIT Corporation approved a formal agreement to merge with Harvard, over the vehement objections of MIT faculty, students, and alumni. However, a 1917 decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court effectively put an end to the merger scheme.

    In 1916, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) administration and the MIT charter crossed the Charles River on the ceremonial barge Bucentaur built for the occasion, to signify MIT’s move to a spacious new campus largely consisting of filled land on a one-mile-long (1.6 km) tract along the Cambridge side of the Charles River. The neoclassical “New Technology” campus was designed by William W. Bosworth and had been funded largely by anonymous donations from a mysterious “Mr. Smith”, starting in 1912. In January 1920, the donor was revealed to be the industrialist George Eastman of Rochester, New York, who had invented methods of film production and processing, and founded Eastman Kodak. Between 1912 and 1920, Eastman donated $20 million ($236.6 million in 2015 dollars) in cash and Kodak stock to MIT.

    Curricular reforms

    In the 1930s, President Karl Taylor Compton and Vice-President (effectively Provost) Vannevar Bush emphasized the importance of pure sciences like physics and chemistry and reduced the vocational practice required in shops and drafting studios. The Compton reforms “renewed confidence in the ability of the Institute to develop leadership in science as well as in engineering”. Unlike Ivy League schools, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) catered more to middle-class families, and depended more on tuition than on endowments or grants for its funding. The school was elected to the Association of American Universities (US)in 1934.

    Still, as late as 1949, the Lewis Committee lamented in its report on the state of education at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) that “the Institute is widely conceived as basically a vocational school”, a “partly unjustified” perception the committee sought to change. The report comprehensively reviewed the undergraduate curriculum, recommended offering a broader education, and warned against letting engineering and government-sponsored research detract from the sciences and humanities. The School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences and the MIT Sloan School of Management were formed in 1950 to compete with the powerful Schools of Science and Engineering. Previously marginalized faculties in the areas of economics, management, political science, and linguistics emerged into cohesive and assertive departments by attracting respected professors and launching competitive graduate programs. The School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences continued to develop under the successive terms of the more humanistically oriented presidents Howard W. Johnson and Jerome Wiesner between 1966 and 1980.

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) ‘s involvement in military science surged during World War II. In 1941, Vannevar Bush was appointed head of the federal Office of Scientific Research and Development and directed funding to only a select group of universities, including MIT. Engineers and scientists from across the country gathered at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) ‘s Radiation Laboratory, established in 1940 to assist the British military in developing microwave radar. The work done there significantly affected both the war and subsequent research in the area. Other defense projects included gyroscope-based and other complex control systems for gunsight, bombsight, and inertial navigation under Charles Stark Draper’s Instrumentation Laboratory; the development of a digital computer for flight simulations under Project Whirlwind; and high-speed and high-altitude photography under Harold Edgerton. By the end of the war, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) became the nation’s largest wartime R&D contractor (attracting some criticism of Bush), employing nearly 4000 in the Radiation Laboratory alone and receiving in excess of $100 million ($1.2 billion in 2015 dollars) before 1946. Work on defense projects continued even after then. Post-war government-sponsored research at MIT included SAGE and guidance systems for ballistic missiles and Project Apollo.

    These activities affected Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) profoundly. A 1949 report noted the lack of “any great slackening in the pace of life at the Institute” to match the return to peacetime, remembering the “academic tranquility of the prewar years”, though acknowledging the significant contributions of military research to the increased emphasis on graduate education and rapid growth of personnel and facilities. The faculty doubled and the graduate student body quintupled during the terms of Karl Taylor Compton, president of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) between 1930 and 1948; James Rhyne Killian, president from 1948 to 1957; and Julius Adams Stratton, chancellor from 1952 to 1957, whose institution-building strategies shaped the expanding university. By the 1950s, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) no longer simply benefited the industries with which it had worked for three decades, and it had developed closer working relationships with new patrons, philanthropic foundations and the federal government.

    In late 1960s and early 1970s, student and faculty activists protested against the Vietnam War and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) ‘s defense research. In this period Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) ‘s various departments were researching helicopters, smart bombs and counterinsurgency techniques for the war in Vietnam as well as guidance systems for nuclear missiles. The Union of Concerned Scientists was founded on March 4, 1969 during a meeting of faculty members and students seeking to shift the emphasis on military research toward environmental and social problems. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) ultimately divested itself from the Instrumentation Laboratory and moved all classified research off-campus to the MIT (US) Lincoln Laboratoryfacility in 1973 in response to the protests. The student body, faculty, and administration remained comparatively unpolarized during what was a tumultuous time for many other universities. Johnson was seen to be highly successful in leading his institution to “greater strength and unity” after these times of turmoil. However six Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) students were sentenced to prison terms at this time and some former student leaders, such as Michael Albert and George Katsiaficas, are still indignant about MIT’s role in military research and its suppression of these protests. (Richard Leacock’s film, November Actions, records some of these tumultuous events.)

    In the 1980s, there was more controversy at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) over its involvement in SDI (space weaponry) and CBW (chemical and biological warfare) research. More recently, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) ‘s research for the military has included work on robots, drones and ‘battle suits’.

    Recent history

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) has kept pace with and helped to advance the digital age. In addition to developing the predecessors to modern computing and networking technologies, students, staff, and faculty members at Project MAC, the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and the Tech Model Railroad Club wrote some of the earliest interactive computer video games like Spacewar! and created much of modern hacker slang and culture. Several major computer-related organizations have originated at MIT since the 1980s: Richard Stallman’s GNU Project and the subsequent Free Software Foundation were founded in the mid-1980s at the AI Lab; the MIT Media Lab was founded in 1985 by Nicholas Negroponte and Jerome Wiesner to promote research into novel uses of computer technology; the World Wide Web Consortium standards organization was founded at the Laboratory for Computer Science in 1994 by Tim Berners-Lee; the MIT OpenCourseWare project has made course materials for over 2,000 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) classes available online free of charge since 2002; and the One Laptop per Child initiative to expand computer education and connectivity to children worldwide was launched in 2005.

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) was named a sea-grant college in 1976 to support its programs in oceanography and marine sciences and was named a space-grant college in 1989 to support its aeronautics and astronautics programs. Despite diminishing government financial support over the past quarter century, MIT launched several successful development campaigns to significantly expand the campus: new dormitories and athletics buildings on west campus; the Tang Center for Management Education; several buildings in the northeast corner of campus supporting research into biology, brain and cognitive sciences, genomics, biotechnology, and cancer research; and a number of new “backlot” buildings on Vassar Street including the Stata Center. Construction on campus in the 2000s included expansions of the Media Lab, the Sloan School’s eastern campus, and graduate residences in the northwest. In 2006, President Hockfield launched the MIT Energy Research Council to investigate the interdisciplinary challenges posed by increasing global energy consumption.

    In 2001, inspired by the open source and open access movements, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) launched OpenCourseWare to make the lecture notes, problem sets, syllabi, exams, and lectures from the great majority of its courses available online for no charge, though without any formal accreditation for coursework completed. While the cost of supporting and hosting the project is high, OCW expanded in 2005 to include other universities as a part of the OpenCourseWare Consortium, which currently includes more than 250 academic institutions with content available in at least six languages. In 2011, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) announced it would offer formal certification (but not credits or degrees) to online participants completing coursework in its “MITx” program, for a modest fee. The “edX” online platform supporting MITx was initially developed in partnership with Harvard and its analogous “Harvardx” initiative. The courseware platform is open source, and other universities have already joined and added their own course content. In March 2009 the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) faculty adopted an open-access policy to make its scholarship publicly accessible online.

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) has its own police force. Three days after the Boston Marathon bombing of April 2013, MIT Police patrol officer Sean Collier was fatally shot by the suspects Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, setting off a violent manhunt that shut down the campus and much of the Boston metropolitan area for a day. One week later, Collier’s memorial service was attended by more than 10,000 people, in a ceremony hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) community with thousands of police officers from the New England region and Canada. On November 25, 2013, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) announced the creation of the Collier Medal, to be awarded annually to “an individual or group that embodies the character and qualities that Officer Collier exhibited as a member of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) community and in all aspects of his life”. The announcement further stated that “Future recipients of the award will include those whose contributions exceed the boundaries of their profession, those who have contributed to building bridges across the community, and those who consistently and selflessly perform acts of kindness”.

    In September 2017, the school announced the creation of an artificial intelligence research lab called the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab. IBM will spend $240 million over the next decade, and the lab will be staffed by MIT and IBM scientists. In October 2018 MIT announced that it would open a new Schwarzman College of Computing dedicated to the study of artificial intelligence, named after lead donor and The Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman. The focus of the new college is to study not just AI, but interdisciplinary AI education, and how AI can be used in fields as diverse as history and biology. The cost of buildings and new faculty for the new college is expected to be $1 billion upon completion.

    The Caltech/MIT Advanced aLIGO (US) was designed and constructed by a team of scientists from California Institute of Technology (US), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) , and industrial contractors, and funded by the National Science Foundation (US) .

    MIT/Caltech Advanced aLigo .

    It was designed to open the field of gravitational-wave astronomy through the detection of gravitational waves predicted by general relativity. Gravitational waves were detected for the first time by the LIGO detector in 2015. For contributions to the LIGO detector and the observation of gravitational waves, two Caltech physicists, Kip Thorne and Barry Barish, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) physicist Rainer Weiss won the Nobel Prize in physics in 2017. Weiss, who is also an Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) graduate, designed the laser interferometric technique, which served as the essential blueprint for the LIGO.

    The mission of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the twenty-first century. We seek to develop in each member of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) community the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.

  • richardmitnick 11:16 am on June 15, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "We Have The First-Ever 3D Map of Our Solar System's Heliosphere And It's Amazing", , , , , , NASA IBEX - Interstellar Boundary Explorer (US), NASA Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP) spacecraft due to launch in 2025., Science Alert (AU)   

    From DOE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory (US) via Science Alert (AU) : “We Have The First-Ever 3D Map of Our Solar System’s Heliosphere And It’s Amazing” 

    LANL bloc

    From DOE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory (US)



    Science Alert (AU)

    15 JUNE 2021

    Diagram of the heliosphere. (National Aeronautics Space Agency (US)/NASA IBEX – Interstellar Boundary Explorer (US)/Adler Planetarium (US))

    We now have a three-dimensional map of one of the boundaries of the Solar System.

    For the first time, astronomers have been able to determine the shape of the heliosphere, the boundary that marks the end of the influence of our star’s solar wind. This discovery could help us better understand the environment of the Solar System, and how it interacts with interstellar space.

    “Physics models have theorized this boundary for years,” said astronomer Dan Reisenfeld of Los Alamos National Laboratory. “But this is the first time we’ve actually been able to measure it and make a three-dimensional map of it.”

    Actually, we have had encounters with the edge of the heliosphere, a boundary known as the heliopause [above]. Both Voyager probes, launched over 40 years ago, have encountered it and traveled past into interstellar space.

    The heliopause is a fascinating place. The Sun is constantly gusting a stream of charged particles – a supersonic wind of ionized plasma – out into space. Eventually, the solar wind loses strength over distance, so that it is no longer sufficient to push against the pressure of interstellar space. The point at which that happens is the heliopause.

    Interstellar space doesn’t have a great deal of material in it, but there’s enough that it does have a low density of atoms, and a cosmic wind blowing between the stars.

    The shape of the boundary between the two has been a matter of some debate. Is it a rounded bubble? A comet-shaped structure, with a tail streaming behind the Solar System as it moves around the Milky Way galaxy? Or something a bit more like a strange croissant?

    We can’t exactly just nip over and take a survey – Voyagers 1 and 2 were 121 and 119 astronomical units from the Sun respectively when they encountered the heliopause, and had taken decades to get there.

    But that doesn’t mean we can’t take a look. Reisenfeld and his team used data from NASA’s Earth-orbiting Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) satellite [above], an observatory that measures particles flung from the heliosheath, the very outer region of the heliosphere.

    Some of those particles are what scientists call energetic neutral atoms, or ENAs. These are generated by collisions between particles from the solar wind and particles from the interstellar wind, and the strength of their signal depends on the strength of the solar wind at the time of the collision – just like the wind on Earth, the solar wind doesn’t always blow at the same intensity.

    Decoding this signal to map the heliopause is a bit like the way a bat uses sonar to map its physical surroundings. The strength of the signal and the time lag between sending and receiving can reveal the shape and distance of obstacles.

    “The solar wind ‘signal’ sent out by the Sun varies in strength, forming a unique pattern,” explained Reisenfeld.

    “IBEX will see that same pattern in the returning ENA signal, two to six years later, depending on ENA energy and the direction IBEX is looking through the heliosphere. This time difference is how we found the distance to the ENA-source region in a particular direction.”

    The team used data from a full solar cycle, from 2009 to 2019. The map thus generated is still a little approximate, but it’s already revealing interesting things about the heliopause.

    We now know, for example, that the shape of it appears to be a bit comet-like after all, with a tail that’s at least 350 astronomical units long (that’s the current limit of IBEX’s reach), although the length of the tail is impossible to gauge. It could be short and stumpy. On the other hand, the minimum radial distance to the ‘nose’ of the heliopause seems to be around 110 to 120 astronomical units, consistent with the Voyager crossings.

    At high latitudes, the heliopause extends to 150 to 175 astronomical units. This shows that the shape is more bullet-like, not at all consistent with the weird croissant model.

    The IBEX mission is still going, and will continue until at least 2025. The Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe is due to commence in 2025, picking up where IBEX leaves off.

    NASA Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP). Credit: Princeton University.

    The team hopes that both these missions will provide more data to help refine the heliopause’s shape.

    The research has been published in The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    DOE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory (US) mission is to solve national security challenges through scientific excellence.

    LANL campus
    DOE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory (US), a multidisciplinary research institution engaged in strategic science on behalf of national security, is operated by Los Alamos National Security, LLC, a team composed of Bechtel National, the University of California, The Babcock & Wilcox Company, and URS for the
    Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.
    Los Alamos enhances national security by ensuring the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile, developing technologies to reduce threats from weapons of mass destruction, and solving problems related to energy, environment, infrastructure, health, and global security concerns.

    Operated by Los Alamos National Security, LLC for the DOE National Nuclear Security Administration (US)

  • richardmitnick 7:41 am on June 13, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Rogue Exoplanets Lurking in Space Could Have Habitable Moons Scientists Say", , , , , , , Science Alert (AU), University of Concepción [Universidad de Concepción] (CL)   

    From University of Concepción [Universidad de Concepción] (CL) via Science Alert (AU) : “Rogue Exoplanets Lurking in Space Could Have Habitable Moons Scientists Say” 

    From University of Concepción [Universidad de Concepción] (CL)



    Science Alert (AU)

    12 JUNE 2021

    Artist’s impression of a potentially habitable exomoon. (Tommaso Grassi/LMU)

    It’s hard to tell what’s lurking out there, in the dark voids between the stars.

    Evidence, however, suggests the existence of a vast population of rogue exoplanets, set adrift and tethered to no star. Far from the live-giving warmth a star provides, these lonely exoplanets are unlikely to be habitable.

    Their moons might be another story.

    According to new mathematical modeling, some of those moons – at least, those with very specific conditions – could potentially harbor both atmospheres and liquid water, thanks to a combination of cosmic radiation and the tidal forces exerted on the moon by the gravitational interaction with its planet.

    While it’s difficult to catalog exoplanets in general, never mind exoplanets unattached to a star, surveys have identified candidates by studying the gravitational effect these exoplanets should have on distant starlight.

    Estimates from these surveys suggest there may be at least one rogue Jupiter-sized gas giant exoplanet for every star in the Milky Way.

    If so, that’s at least 100 billion rogue exoplanets – and previous research found that at least some of these rogue exoplanets could have been yeeted out of their home system along with an exomoon. (We’ve not yet conclusively detected an exomoon, but given the preponderance of moons within the Solar System, the existence of exomoons is all but certain.)

    Here on Earth, most life relies upon a food web resting on a foundation of photosynthesis – that is, it absolutely requires the light and heat of the Sun. This heat is also what helps keep the water on Earth’s surface liquid – a prerequisite for life as we know it.

    Yet, out beyond the Solar System’s frost line, where liquid water is expected to freeze, there are places where it can still be found. These are the ice moons Ganymede and Europa, in orbit around Jupiter, and Enceladus, in Saturnian orbit.

    Although encased in thick shells of ice, these moons harbor liquid oceans below their surfaces, thought to be kept from freezing by internal heat generated by the stretching and squeezing exerted by the planets’ gravitational field as the moons orbit.

    Thus, it’s thought that Europa and Enceladus might harbor life. Although shielded from sunlight, there is a type of ecosystem here on Earth that doesn’t rely on the photosynthetic food web – the hydrothermal vents, where heat and chemicals escape from Earth’s interior, into the bottom of the ocean.

    Around these vents, bacteria that harness energy from chemical reactions thrive; on those bacteria, other organisms can feed, building a whole new food web that doesn’t involve sunlight at all.

    So, a team of scientists led by astronomer Patricio Javier Ávila of the University of Concepción in Chile sought to model the possibility of such exomoons existing around rogue gas giant exoplanets.

    Specifically, an exoplanet the mass of Jupiter, hosting an exomoon the mass of Earth with an atmosphere that’s 90 percent carbon dioxide and 10 percent hydrogen, over the system’s evolutionary history.

    Their findings suggest that a significant amount of water can be formed in the exomoon’s atmosphere, and retained in liquid form.

    Cosmic radiation would be the main driver of chemical kinematics to convert hydrogen and carbon dioxide into water. This would produce 10,000 times less water than Earth’s oceans, but 100 times more than the atmosphere – that, the researchers said, would be sufficient for life.

    Tidal forces from the exoplanet’s gravity would then generate much of the heat required to keep the water liquid. Even more heat could be contributed by carbon dioxide in the exomoon’s atmosphere, which could create a greenhouse effect to also help keep the world temperate.

    “The presence of water on the surface of the exomoon, affected by the capability of the atmosphere to keep a temperature above the melting point, might favor the development of prebiotic chemistry,” the researchers wrote in their paper [International Journal of Astrobiology].

    “Under these conditions, if the orbital parameters are stable to guarantee a constant tidal heating, once water is formed, it remains liquid over the entire system evolution, and therefore providing favorable conditions for the emergence of life.”

    See the full article here.


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    University of Concepción [Universidad de Concepción] (CL) is a traditional Chilean private university, the work of the Penquista community, one of the most traditional and prestigious in its country, considered complex due to its extensive research in the various areas of knowledge. Founded on May 14, 1919, it is the third oldest university in Chile, and one of the 25 universities belonging to the Council of Rectors of Chilean Universities [Universidad Católica del Norte] (CL).

    Its headquarters are located in the city of Concepción, and also has two other campuses in Chillán and Los Ángeles. In a citizen survey carried out in 2012, it was chosen as the symbol that most identifies Penquists.

    It was the first University created in the center-south zone of the country, besides being the 1st to be constituted as a private law corporation and belong to the Cruz del Sur University Network; it also belongs to the G9 University Network. The University of Concepción also had a pioneering role in the reform movement of Chilean universities that took place at the end of the 1960s. It was the first Chilean university that approved the University Reform in that period (1968), giving greater participation to students in university management.

    Its main promoter was Chilean educator and lawyer Enrique Molina Garmendia, who sought to create the 1st secular university in Chile. As part of its educational line, the University of Concepción devotes a large part of its budget to academic research. It has in its facilities the most complete museum of Chilean art in the country, several sports centers and a network of 11 libraries, the main one occupying an area of 10,000 m² with a total of 100,000 volumes.

    By 2012, the total number of graduates of this house of studies amounted to 57,000. It also teaches 23,700 students, 2,166 of them graduate programs; 72% of its professors have doctorates or master’s degrees and its infrastructure, with 243,556 m² built, is one of the largest in Chile.

    It is currently accredited by the National Accreditation Commission (CNA-Chile) for the maximum period of 7 years (of a maximum of 7), from November 2016 to November 2023. Figure in the third position within the Chilean universities according to the webometric classification of the CSIC (July 2017) and in the third position according to the AméricaEconomía 2017 ranking as well as national and international rankings. Within the Chilean universities, it is also among the 11 that figure in the QS 2017 world university ranking, among the 10 that appear in the Times Higher Education 2017 ranking, and among the 25 that appear in the ranking of Scimago Institution Rankings (SIR) 2017, with the 3rd position nationally and 572th worldwide.

    Its Concepción campus was declared a National Heritage in 2016 by the Council of National Monuments of Chile; what makes it the 1st and only University in Chile to have this recognition due to the design and architectural style of its environment that has been implemented in its buildings and campus-level environment since its foundation; the proclamation grants the university special protection and conservation of the campus and its space by the state; therefore, any intervention to the same has to be reported to the Council of Monuments, while any damage and type of vandalism that jeopardizes the integrity and security of the campus will be seriously penalized according to the law that regulates and covers the National Monuments, as well as the prompt construction of the 1st and only Bío Bío Technological Science Park (PACYT) in all of Chile located in the Bío-Bío Region, near the campus of the Universidad de Concepción; which at the same time will be in charge of the administration, organization, and projection of new ideas with a view to the future of it together with the Government of Chile; this initiative is going to be projected as a productive space of the future and a relevant pole of the development of the country, the place where all the creative potential will be housed, knowledge and innovations of high impact will be generated.

    Schools and Departments

    The University of Concepción is made up of 19 schools and departments:

    Department of Agronomy.
    Department of Architecture, Urban Planning and Geography.
    Department of Biological Sciences.
    School of Economics and Business Administration.
    Department of Physical Sciences and Mathematics.
    Department of Forestry.
    School of Law and Social Sciences.
    Department of Natural and Oceanographic Sciences.
    Department of Chemical Sciences.
    Department of Nursing.
    Department of Social Sciences.
    School of Veterinary Science.
    School of Education.
    Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry.
    School of Humanities and Arts.
    Department of Engineering.
    Department of Agricultural Engineering.
    School of Medicine.
    School of Dentistry.
    School of Pharmacy.
    School of Environmental Sciences

  • richardmitnick 7:11 am on June 7, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Could NASA Really Find Life on Venus? Here's The Most Likely Place to Look", , , , Science Alert (AU)   

    From NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and From NASA JPL-Caltech via Science Alert (AU) : “Could NASA Really Find Life on Venus? Here’s The Most Likely Place to Look” 

    NASA Goddard Banner

    From NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (US)


    NASA JPL Banner

    From NASA JPL-Caltech (US)



    Science Alert (AU)

    7 JUNE 2021

    Credit:National Aeronautics Space Agency (US).

    NASA has selected two missions, dubbed DAVINCI+ and VERITAS, to study the “lost habitable” world of Venus. Each mission will receive approximately US$500 million for development and both are expected to launch between 2028 and 2030.

    Artist’s conception of DAVINCI probe descent stages. Credit:NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (US).

    Artist’s concept of the Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy (Veritas) spacecraft, a proposed mission for NASA’s Discovery program. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech (US)

    It had long been thought there was no life on Venus, due to its extremely high temperatures. But late last year, scientists studying the planet’s atmosphere announced the surprising (and somewhat controversial) discovery of phosphine. On Earth, this chemical is produced primarily by living organisms.

    The news sparked renewed interest in Earth’s “twin”, prompting NASA to plan state-of-the-art missions to look more closely at the planetary environment of Venus – which could hint at life-bearing conditions.

    Conditions for life

    Ever since the Hubble Space Telescope revealed the sheer number of nearby galaxies, astronomers have become obsessed with searching for exoplanets in other star systems, particularly ones that appear habitable.

    But there are certain criteria for a planet to be considered habitable. It must have a suitable temperature, atmospheric pressure similar to Earth’s and available water.

    In this regard, Venus probably wouldn’t have attracted much attention if it were outside our Solar System. Its skies are filled with thick clouds of sulfuric acid (which is dangerous for humans), the land is a desolate backdrop of extinct volcanoes and 90 percent of the surface is covered in red hot lava flows.

    Despite this, NASA will search the planet for environmental conditions that may have once supported life. In particular, any evidence that Venus may have once had an ocean would change all our existing models of the planet.

    And interestingly, conditions on Venus are far less harsh at a height of about 50 km (30 miles) above the surface. In fact, the pressure at these higher altitudes eases so much that conditions become much more Earth-like, with breathable air and balmy temperatures.

    If life (in the form of microbes) does exist on Venus, this is probably where it would be found.

    The DAVINCI+ probe

    NASA’s DAVINCI+ (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging) mission has several science goals, relating to:

    -Atmospheric origin and evolution

    It will aim to understand the atmospheric origins on Venus, focusing on how it first formed, how it evolved and how (and why) it is different from the atmospheres of Earth and Mars.

    -Atmospheric composition and surface interaction

    This will involve understanding the history of water on Venus and the chemical processes at work in its lower atmosphere. It will also try to determine whether Venus ever had an ocean. Since life on Earth started in our oceans, this would become the starting point in any search for life.

    -Surface properties

    This aspect of the mission will provide insights into geographically complex tessera regions on Venus (which have highly deformed terrain), and will investigate their origins and tectonic, volcanic and weathering history.

    These findings could shed light on how Venus and Earth began similarly and then diverged in their evolution.

    The DAVINCI+ spacecraft, upon arrival at Venus, will drop a spherical probe full of sensitive instruments through the planet’s atmosphere. During its descent, the probe will sample the air, constantly measuring the atmosphere as it falls and returning the measurements back to the orbiting spacecraft.

    The probe will carry a mass spectrometer, which can measure the mass of different molecules in a sample. This will be used to detect any noble gases or other trace gases in Venus’s atmosphere.

    In-flight sensors will also help measure the dynamics of the atmosphere, and a camera will take high-contrast images during the probe’s descent. Only four spacecraft have ever returned images from the surface of Venus, and the last such photo was taken in 1982.

    The highest shield volcano on Venus, Maat Mons. (NASA)


    Meanwhile, the VERITAS (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy) mission will map surface features to determine the planet’s geologic history and further understand why it developed so differently to Earth.

    Historical geology provides important information about ancient changes in climate, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. This data can be used to anticipate the possible size and frequency of future events.

    The mission will also seek to understand the internal geodynamics that shaped the planet. In other words, we may be able to build a picture of Venus’s continental plate movements and compare it with Earth’s.

    In parallel with DAVINCI+, VERITAS will take planet-wide, high-resolution topographic images of Venus’s surface, mapping surface features including mountains and valleys.

    At the same time, the Venus Emissivity Mapper (VEM) instrument on board the orbiting VERITAS spacecraft will map emissions of gas from the surface, with such accuracy that it will be able to detect near-surface water vapor. Its sensors are so powerful they will be able to see through the thick clouds of sulfuric acid.

    Key insight into conditions on Venus

    The most exciting thing about these two missions is the orbit-to-surface probe. In the 1980s, four landers made it to the surface of Venus, but could only operate for two days due to crushing pressure. The pressure there is 93 bar, which is the same as being 900 m below sea level on Earth.

    Then there’s the lava. Many lava flows on Venus stretch for several hundred kilometers. And this lava’s mobility may be enhanced by the planet’s average surface temperature of about 470°C.

    Meanwhile, “shield” volcanoes on Venus are an impressive 700 km (435 miles) wide at the base, but only about 5.5 km high on average. The largest shield volcano on Earth, Mauna Loa in Hawaii, is only 120 km wide at the base.

    There are only three bodies in our Solar System with confirmed active fire volcanoes: Earth, Mars and Jupiter’s Io moon. But recent research has proposed Idunn Mons (pictured), a volcanic peak on Venus, may still be active

    The information obtained from DAVINCI+ and VERITAS will provide crucial insight into not only how Venus formed, but how any rocky, life-giving planet forms. Ideally, this will equip us with valuable markers to look for when searching for habitable worlds outside our Solar System.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    NASA JPL Campus

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) (US)) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge, on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

    Caltech Logo

    NASA/Goddard Campus

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD (US) is home to the nation’s largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

    Named for American rocketry pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the center was established in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight complex. Goddard and its several facilities are critical in carrying out NASA’s missions of space exploration and scientific discovery.

    GSFC also operates two spaceflight tracking and data acquisition networks (the NASA Deep Space Network(US) and the Near Earth Network); develops and maintains advanced space and Earth science data information systems, and develops satellite systems for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(US) .

    GSFC manages operations for many NASA and international missions including the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope; the Explorers Program; the Discovery Program; the Earth Observing System; INTEGRAL; MAVEN; OSIRIS-REx; the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory ; the Solar Dynamics Observatory; Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System ; Fermi; and Swift. Past missions managed by GSFC include the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE), Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, SMM, COBE, IUE, and ROSAT. Typically, unmanned Earth observation missions and observatories in Earth orbit are managed by GSFC, while unmanned planetary missions are managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California(US).

    Goddard is one of four centers built by NASA since its founding on July 29, 1958. It is NASA’s first, and oldest, space center. Its original charter was to perform five major functions on behalf of NASA: technology development and fabrication; planning; scientific research; technical operations; and project management. The center is organized into several directorates, each charged with one of these key functions.

    Until May 1, 1959, NASA’s presence in Greenbelt, MD was known as the Beltsville Space Center. It was then renamed the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), after Robert H. Goddard. Its first 157 employees transferred from the United States Navy’s Project Vanguard missile program, but continued their work at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., while the center was under construction.

    Goddard Space Flight Center contributed to Project Mercury, America’s first manned space flight program. The Center assumed a lead role for the project in its early days and managed the first 250 employees involved in the effort, who were stationed at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. However, the size and scope of Project Mercury soon prompted NASA to build a new Manned Spacecraft Center, now the Johnson Space Center, in Houston, Texas. Project Mercury’s personnel and activities were transferred there in 1961.

    The Goddard network tracked many early manned and unmanned spacecraft.

    Goddard Space Flight Center remained involved in the manned space flight program, providing computer support and radar tracking of flights through a worldwide network of ground stations called the Spacecraft Tracking and Data Acquisition Network (STDN). However, the Center focused primarily on designing unmanned satellites and spacecraft for scientific research missions. Goddard pioneered several fields of spacecraft development, including modular spacecraft design, which reduced costs and made it possible to repair satellites in orbit. Goddard’s Solar Max satellite, launched in 1980, was repaired by astronauts on the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1984. The Hubble Space Telescope, launched in 1990, remains in service and continues to grow in capability thanks to its modular design and multiple servicing missions by the Space Shuttle.

    Today, the center remains involved in each of NASA’s key programs. Goddard has developed more instruments for planetary exploration than any other organization, among them scientific instruments sent to every planet in the Solar System. The center’s contribution to the Earth Science Enterprise includes several spacecraft in the Earth Observing System fleet as well as EOSDIS, a science data collection, processing, and distribution system. For the manned space flight program, Goddard develops tools for use by astronauts during extra-vehicular activity, and operates the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, a spacecraft designed to study the Moon in preparation for future manned exploration.

  • richardmitnick 9:58 am on June 6, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "The World's Oldest Water Lies Deep Below Canada And Is 2 Billion Years Old", , , , Science Alert (AU), , Women in STEM- geochemist Barbara Sherwood Lollar   

    From University of Toronto (CA) via Science Alert (AU) : Women in STEM- geochemist Barbara Sherwood Lollar “The World’s Oldest Water Lies Deep Below Canada And Is 2 Billion Years Old” 

    From University of Toronto (CA)



    Science Alert (AU)

    5 JUNE 2021

    Researchers have found evidence that the world’s oldest water, found deep below ground in northern Ontario, could harbour microbial life that’s totally ‘alien’ to life on the surface. Credit: University of Toronto.

    Credit: Levi XU/Unsplash.

    The world’s oldest known water was found in an ancient pool below Canada in 2016, and is at least 2 billion years old.

    Back in 2013 scientists found water dating back about 1.5 billion years at the Kidd Mine in Ontario, but in 2016, deeper investigation revealed an even older source buried underground.

    The initial discovery of the ancient liquid in 2013 came at a depth of around 2.4 kilometers (1.5 miles) in an underground tunnel in the mine. But the extreme depth of the mine – which at 3.1 kilometers (1.9 miles) is the deepest base metal mine in the world – gave researchers the opportunity to keep digging.

    “[The 2013 find] really pushed back our understanding of how old flowing water could be and so it really drove us to explore further,” geochemist Barbara Sherwood Lollar from the University of Toronto told Rebecca Morelle at the BBC back in 2016.

    “And we took advantage of the fact that the mine is continuing to explore deeper and deeper into the earth.”

    The 2016 source was found at about 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) down, and according to Sherwood Lollar, there’s a lot more of it than you might expect.

    “When people think about this water they assume it must be some tiny amount of water trapped within the rock,” she said.

    “But in fact it’s very much bubbling right up out at you. These things are flowing at rates of liters per minute – the volume of the water is much larger than anyone anticipated.”

    Groundwater usually flows extremely slowly compared to surface water – as slowly as 1 meter per year. But when tapped with boreholes drilled in the mine, it can flow at about 2 liters per minute.

    By analyzing gases dissolved in this ancient groundwater – including helium, neon, argon, and xenon – the researchers were able to date it back to at least 2 billion years, making it the oldest known water on Earth.

    The findings were presented in December 2016 at the American Geophysical Union (US) Fall Meeting in San Francisco.

    In previous research that the team published in October [Nature Communications], analysis of the sulfate content of the water found at 2.4 km down showed something interesting – that the sulfate was produced in situ in a chemical reaction between the water and the rock, and not the result of sulfate being carried underground by surface water.

    This means that the geochemical conditions in these ancient pools of water that are cut off from the surface could be sufficient in themselves to sustain microbial life – an independent, underground ecosystem that could last for potentially billions of years.

    “The wow factor is high,” one of the researchers, Long Li from the University of Alberta (CA), said in a press release [link does not work].

    “If geological processes can naturally supply a steady energy source in these rocks, the modern terrestrial subsurface biosphere may expand significantly both in breadth and depth.”

    Not only does that mean Earth’s potentially habitable areas could be a whole lot bigger – given comparable billion-year-old rocks make up about half of Earth’s continental crust – it could also mean that planetary habitability on other worlds might be wider than we thought.

    “If this can work on ancient rocks on Earth, then similar processes could make the Martian subsurface habitable,” Sherwood Lollar explained to Hannah Fung at The Varsity back in 2016.

    While we haven’t found any actual living microbes in this ancient underground water yet – on Earth or anywhere else for that matter – with the more ancient pools we find, the closer we could get.

    But there’s a lot more research to be done.

    “We still need to determine what the distribution of ancient waters are on Earth, what the ages of this deep hydrogeosphere are, how many are inhabited,” said Sherwood Lollar.

    “[A]nd how any life we might find in those isolated waters is the same or different from other microbial life found for instance at the hydrothermal vents on the ocean floors.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The University of Toronto (CA) is a public research university in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, located on the grounds that surround Queen’s Park. It was founded by royal charter in 1827 as King’s College, the oldest university in the province of Ontario.

    Originally controlled by the Church of England, the university assumed its present name in 1850 upon becoming a secular institution.

    As a collegiate university, it comprises eleven colleges each with substantial autonomy on financial and institutional affairs and significant differences in character and history. The university also operates two satellite campuses located in Scarborough and Mississauga.

    University of Toronto has evolved into Canada’s leading institution of learning, discovery and knowledge creation. We are proud to be one of the world’s top research-intensive universities, driven to invent and innovate.

    Our students have the opportunity to learn from and work with preeminent thought leaders through our multidisciplinary network of teaching and research faculty, alumni and partners.

    The ideas, innovations and actions of more than 560,000 graduates continue to have a positive impact on the world.

    Academically, the University of Toronto is noted for movements and curricula in literary criticism and communication theory, known collectively as the Toronto School.

    The university was the birthplace of insulin and stem cell research, and was the site of the first electron microscope in North America; the identification of the first black hole Cygnus X-1; multi-touch technology, and the development of the theory of NP-completeness.

    The university was one of several universities involved in early research of deep learning. It receives the most annual scientific research funding of any Canadian university and is one of two members of the Association of American Universities (US) outside the United States, the other being McGill(CA).

    The Varsity Blues are the athletic teams that represent the university in intercollegiate league matches, with ties to gridiron football, rowing and ice hockey. The earliest recorded instance of gridiron football occurred at University of Toronto’s University College in November 1861.

    The university’s Hart House is an early example of the North American student centre, simultaneously serving cultural, intellectual, and recreational interests within its large Gothic-revival complex.

    The University of Toronto has educated three Governors General of Canada, four Prime Ministers of Canada, three foreign leaders, and fourteen Justices of the Supreme Court. As of March 2019, ten Nobel laureates, five Turing Award winners, 94 Rhodes Scholars, and one Fields Medalist have been affiliated with the university.

    Early history

    The founding of a colonial college had long been the desire of John Graves Simcoe, the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada and founder of York, the colonial capital. As an University of Oxford (UK)-educated military commander who had fought in the American Revolutionary War, Simcoe believed a college was needed to counter the spread of republicanism from the United States. The Upper Canada Executive Committee recommended in 1798 that a college be established in York.

    On March 15, 1827, a royal charter was formally issued by King George IV, proclaiming “from this time one College, with the style and privileges of a University … for the education of youth in the principles of the Christian Religion, and for their instruction in the various branches of Science and Literature … to continue for ever, to be called King’s College.” The granting of the charter was largely the result of intense lobbying by John Strachan, the influential Anglican Bishop of Toronto who took office as the college’s first president. The original three-storey Greek Revival school building was built on the present site of Queen’s Park.

    Under Strachan’s stewardship, King’s College was a religious institution closely aligned with the Church of England and the British colonial elite, known as the Family Compact. Reformist politicians opposed the clergy’s control over colonial institutions and fought to have the college secularized. In 1849, after a lengthy and heated debate, the newly elected responsible government of the Province of Canada voted to rename King’s College as the University of Toronto and severed the school’s ties with the church. Having anticipated this decision, the enraged Strachan had resigned a year earlier to open Trinity College as a private Anglican seminary. University College was created as the nondenominational teaching branch of the University of Toronto. During the American Civil War the threat of Union blockade on British North America prompted the creation of the University Rifle Corps which saw battle in resisting the Fenian raids on the Niagara border in 1866. The Corps was part of the Reserve Militia lead by Professor Henry Croft.

    Established in 1878, the School of Practical Science was the precursor to the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering which has been nicknamed Skule since its earliest days. While the Faculty of Medicine opened in 1843 medical teaching was conducted by proprietary schools from 1853 until 1887 when the faculty absorbed the Toronto School of Medicine. Meanwhile the university continued to set examinations and confer medical degrees. The university opened the Faculty of Law in 1887, followed by the Faculty of Dentistry in 1888 when the Royal College of Dental Surgeons became an affiliate. Women were first admitted to the university in 1884.

    A devastating fire in 1890 gutted the interior of University College and destroyed 33,000 volumes from the library but the university restored the building and replenished its library within two years. Over the next two decades a collegiate system took shape as the university arranged federation with several ecclesiastical colleges including Strachan’s Trinity College in 1904. The university operated the Royal Conservatory of Music from 1896 to 1991 and the Royal Ontario Museum from 1912 to 1968; both still retain close ties with the university as independent institutions. The University of Toronto Press was founded in 1901 as Canada’s first academic publishing house. The Faculty of Forestry founded in 1907 with Bernhard Fernow as dean was Canada’s first university faculty devoted to forest science. In 1910, the Faculty of Education opened its laboratory school, the University of Toronto Schools.

    World wars and post-war years

    The First and Second World Wars curtailed some university activities as undergraduate and graduate men eagerly enlisted. Intercollegiate athletic competitions and the Hart House Debates were suspended although exhibition and interfaculty games were still held. The David Dunlap Observatory in Richmond Hill opened in 1935 followed by the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies in 1949. The university opened satellite campuses in Scarborough in 1964 and in Mississauga in 1967. The university’s former affiliated schools at the Ontario Agricultural College and Glendon Hall became fully independent of the University of Toronto and became part of University of Guelph (CA) in 1964 and York University (CA) in 1965 respectively. Beginning in the 1980s reductions in government funding prompted more rigorous fundraising efforts.

    Since 2000

    In 2000 Kin-Yip Chun was reinstated as a professor of the university after he launched an unsuccessful lawsuit against the university alleging racial discrimination. In 2017 a human rights application was filed against the University by one of its students for allegedly delaying the investigation of sexual assault and being dismissive of their concerns. In 2018 the university cleared one of its professors of allegations of discrimination and antisemitism in an internal investigation after a complaint was filed by one of its students.

    The University of Toronto was the first Canadian university to amass a financial endowment greater than c. $1 billion in 2007. On September 24, 2020 the university announced a $250 million gift to the Faculty of Medicine from businessman and philanthropist James C. Temerty- the largest single philanthropic donation in Canadian history. This broke the previous record for the school set in 2019 when Gerry Schwartz and Heather Reisman jointly donated $100 million for the creation of a 750,000-square foot innovation and artificial intelligence centre.


    Since 1926 the University of Toronto has been a member of the Association of American Universities (US) a consortium of the leading North American research universities. The university manages by far the largest annual research budget of any university in Canada with sponsored direct-cost expenditures of $878 million in 2010. In 2018 the University of Toronto was named the top research university in Canada by Research Infosource with a sponsored research income (external sources of funding) of $1,147.584 million in 2017. In the same year the university’s faculty averaged a sponsored research income of $428,200 while graduate students averaged a sponsored research income of $63,700. The federal government was the largest source of funding with grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research; the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council; and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council amounting to about one-third of the research budget. About eight percent of research funding came from corporations- mostly in the healthcare industry.

    The first practical electron microscope was built by the physics department in 1938. During World War II the university developed the G-suit- a life-saving garment worn by Allied fighter plane pilots later adopted for use by astronauts.Development of the infrared chemiluminescence technique improved analyses of energy behaviours in chemical reactions. In 1963 the asteroid 2104 Toronto was discovered in the David Dunlap Observatory (CA) in Richmond Hill and is named after the university. In 1972 studies on Cygnus X-1 led to the publication of the first observational evidence proving the existence of black holes. Toronto astronomers have also discovered the Uranian moons of Caliban and Sycorax; the dwarf galaxies of Andromeda I, II and III; and the supernova SN 1987A. A pioneer in computing technology the university designed and built UTEC- one of the world’s first operational computers- and later purchased Ferut- the second commercial computer after UNIVAC I. Multi-touch technology was developed at Toronto with applications ranging from handheld devices to collaboration walls. The AeroVelo Atlas which won the Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition in 2013 was developed by the university’s team of students and graduates and was tested in Vaughan.

    The discovery of insulin at the University of Toronto in 1921 is considered among the most significant events in the history of medicine. The stem cell was discovered at the university in 1963 forming the basis for bone marrow transplantation and all subsequent research on adult and embryonic stem cells. This was the first of many findings at Toronto relating to stem cells including the identification of pancreatic and retinal stem cells. The cancer stem cell was first identified in 1997 by Toronto researchers who have since found stem cell associations in leukemia; brain tumors; and colorectal cancer. Medical inventions developed at Toronto include the glycaemic index; the infant cereal Pablum; the use of protective hypothermia in open heart surgery; and the first artificial cardiac pacemaker. The first successful single-lung transplant was performed at Toronto in 1981 followed by the first nerve transplant in 1988; and the first double-lung transplant in 1989. Researchers identified the maturation promoting factor that regulates cell division and discovered the T-cell receptor which triggers responses of the immune system. The university is credited with isolating the genes that cause Fanconi anemia; cystic fibrosis; and early-onset Alzheimer’s disease among numerous other diseases. Between 1914 and 1972 the university operated the Connaught Medical Research Laboratories- now part of the pharmaceutical corporation Sanofi-Aventis. Among the research conducted at the laboratory was the development of gel electrophoresis.

    The University of Toronto is the primary research presence that supports one of the world’s largest concentrations of biotechnology firms. More than 5,000 principal investigators reside within 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) from the university grounds in Toronto’s Discovery District conducting $1 billion of medical research annually. MaRS Discovery District is a research park that serves commercial enterprises and the university’s technology transfer ventures. In 2008, the university disclosed 159 inventions and had 114 active start-up companies. Its SciNet Consortium operates the most powerful supercomputer in Canada.

  • richardmitnick 11:45 am on June 4, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Astronomers May Have Just Detected a New Magnetar!", , , , Science Alert (AU), Swift Burst Alert Telescope, Swift J1555.2-5402 magnetar   

    From Science Alert (AU) : “Astronomers May Have Just Detected a New Magnetar!” 


    From Science Alert (AU)

    4 JUNE 2021

    A new discovery could soon be raising the total number of confirmed magnetars to 25.

    On 3 June, a brief X-ray burst close to the galactic plane caught the attention of the Swift Burst Alert Telescope (BAT). Follow-up observation and analysis seem to confirm that it was emitted by a previously unknown magnetar, now named Swift J1555.2-5402.

    Burst Alert Telescope (BAT) annotated. Credit: NASA Goddard.

    Given how few magnetars we have identified within the Milky Way, any new addition has the potential to vastly increase our understanding of these mysterious objects.

    Magnetars have been something of a cosmic celebrity lately. They’re a very rare type of neutron star, which are the collapsed cores of stars that started out with masses between 8 and 30 times that of the Sun.

    When these stars go supernova and blow off their outer material, their cores collapse down into some of the densest objects in the Universe – up to about twice the Sun’s mass, packed into a sphere just 20 kilometers (12 miles) across.

    Magnetars are all this, and more. As the name suggests, they have an insanely powerful magnetic field – around 1,000 times more powerful than a normal neutron star’s, and a quadrillion times more powerful than Earth’s.

    These stars are difficult to detect, which makes them challenging to understand. Just 24 magnetars have been confirmed to date, with another six candidates in the wings. This means there’s a whole lot we don’t know about them, such as how they grew such nutso magnetic fields.

    A recent discovery catapulted magnetars into the spotlight: one of these mysterious stars was caught spitting out a type of powerful radio signal called a fast radio burst that had previously only been detected from sources outside the Milky Way, and whose provenance was unknown.

    It makes sense – magnetars are turbulent beasts. As gravity tries to keep the star together – an inward force – the magnetic field is so powerful, it exerts an outward force, distorting the star’s shape. This leads to an ongoing tension between the two forces, which occasionally produces gargantuan starquakes and giant magnetar flares.

    Swift J1555.2-5402 revealed its presence with a burst of X-radiation. Follow-up observations were then conducted using NASA’s Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) telescope and Swift’s X-ray Telescope [above], both space instruments in Earth orbit.

    Swift identified a new X-ray source at the coordinates of the burst, and NICER detected coherent pulsations characteristic of a magnetar – “which confirms that the short burst was indeed emitted by a new magnetar,” according to a follow-up posted to Astronomers Telegram.

    A full analysis is, of course, pending, and we’ll be looking forward to learning more about this newly discovered object, and if it can tell us anything new about magnetars in general.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

  • richardmitnick 8:34 am on June 1, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Mysterious Shining Clouds Seen Above Mars Are Both Beautiful And Unusual", , , Science Alert (AU)   

    From National Aeronautics Space Agency (US) via Science Alert (AU) : “Mysterious Shining Clouds Seen Above Mars Are Both Beautiful And Unusual” 

    From National Aeronautics Space Agency (US)



    Science Alert (AU)

    31 MAY 2021

    The shimmering appearance of frosty, white clouds in the atmosphere of Mars has surprised NASA scientists, with the wispy formations emerging in unexpected ways.

    Clouds are a rarer weather phenomenon on Mars as compared to Earth, thanks to the red planet’s thin, dry atmosphere, but they’re certainly not unheard of.

    Still, a number of unusual cloud formations observed by NASA’s Curiosity rover in recent times have been somewhat remarkable, arriving both earlier than expected in the Martian year, and at higher altitudes in the atmosphere.

    According to the space agency, cloudy days on Mars usually occur around the equator at the planet’s coldest time of the year, which is when Mars is farthest from the Sun in its slightly elliptical orbit.

    Clouds drifting over Mount Sharp on 19 March 2021. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech (US)/Malin Space Science Systems (US))

    Two years ago, however, clouds began to emerge earlier than generally expected, and this year the trend continued, with early clouds showing up in January, and higher in the sky as well.

    NASA researchers aren’t entirely sure, but these unusual characteristics could be because these aren’t clouds of water ice.

    The majority of Martian clouds are made up of water ice crystals that shimmer with light reflected from the Sun. Such clouds usually sit at a maximum altitude of around 60 kilometers (about 37 miles).

    Clouds just after sunset on March 31, 2021. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

    Further analysis is required to be sure, but the higher-altitude clouds Curiosity has seen recently may be of a different kind, and could be made of frozen carbon dioxide (aka dry ice) suspended in a higher, colder section of the sky.

    Whatever they are, they’re a sight to behold thanks to Curiosity’s keen vision.

    Amongst the rover’s recent captures are noctilucent (night shining) clouds, which reflect the last, fleeting light of the day as it’s chased away by the sweeping darkness of night.

    Mars’s iridescent (aka ‘mother of pearl’) clouds are an even more captivating phenomenon, revealing a subtle palette of different colors in the cloud, which speaks to how they take shape.

    Colorful, iridescent clouds seen on 5 March 2021. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

    “If you see a cloud with a shimmery pastel set of colors in it, that’s because the cloud particles are all nearly identical in size,” explains atmospheric scientist Mark Lemmon from the Space Science Institute – Boulder Colorado (US).

    “That’s usually happening just after the clouds have formed and have all grown at the same rate.”

    While the colors are faint, they’re still some of the more colorful things you could ever see on the red planet, Lemmon says.

    “I always marvel at the colors that show up: reds and greens and blues and purples,” Lemmon says. “It’s really cool to see something shining with lots of color on Mars.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) (US) is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation’s civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research.

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (rather than military) orientation encouraging peaceful applications in space science. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed on July 29, 1958, disestablishing NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The new agency became operational on October 1, 1958.

    Since that time, most U.S. space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Commercial Crew vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program (LSP) which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches. Most recently, NASA announced a new Space Launch System that it said would take the agency’s astronauts farther into space than ever before and lay the cornerstone for future human space exploration efforts by the U.S.

    NASA science is focused on better understanding Earth through the Earth Observing System, advancing heliophysics through the efforts of the Science Mission Directorate’s Heliophysics Research Program, exploring bodies throughout the Solar System with advanced robotic missions such as New Horizons, and researching astrophysics topics, such as the Big Bang, through the Great Observatories [Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer, and associated programs. NASA shares data with various national and international organizations such as from the [JAXA] Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite.

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