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  • richardmitnick 12:18 pm on July 9, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Atacama Desert-Chile-strange ice spire formations – called 'penitentes', , , , U Colorado Boulder   

    From University of Colorado Boulder via Science Alert: “Eerie Ice ‘Spires’ Harbor Life Forms in One of The Harshest Environments on Earth” 

    U Colorado

    From University of Colorado Boulder

    via

    ScienceAlert

    Science Alert

    9 JUL 2019
    PETER DOCKRILL

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    Penitentes ice formations in Chajnantor, Chile. (ESO)

    They’re one of the weirdest, most incongruous-looking natural phenomena you could ever see on Earth’s surface: massive dagger-shaped blades of vertically aligned ice, assembled in mysterious flocks in the middle of the desert.

    These strange ice spire formations – called ‘penitentes’ due to their resemblance to penitent, praying folk – take shape at high altitudes in cold, dry environments, like the hyper-arid wilderness of the Atacama Desert in Chile.

    But their jagged frostiness in the parched land is not the same as lack of hospitality. As it happens, these eerie congregations – aka nieves penitentes – are actually a shelter for invisible life forms.

    In a new study, a team of scientists led by researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder trekked up the side of the world’s second-highest volcano, Chile’s Volcán Llullaillaco, and found microbes making a home amongst these silent shards.

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    Penitentes on Volcán Llullaillaco in Chile. (Steve Schmidt/CU Boulder)

    “Snow algae have been commonly found throughout the cryosphere on both ice and snow patches, but our finding demonstrated their presence for the first time at the extreme elevation of a hyper-arid site,” says microbial biology researcher Lara Vimercati.

    “Interestingly, most of the snow algae found at this site are closely related to other known snow algae from alpine and polar environments.”

    At an elevation of around 5,000 metres (16,000 ft) above sea level, Llullaillaco’s icy penitentes revealed patches of red colouration, which the team says is a pigment-based signature of microbial activity in snow and ice formations.

    Taking samples back to the lab, the researchers identified microbes dominated by the algal genera Chlamydomonas and Chloromonas – the first time, the team says, that scientists have reported microbial life inhabiting these strange ice structures.

    “Given the harshness of the environments where they are found, nieves penitentes may represent oases for life, because, along with fumaroles [gassy vent-like openings in Earth’s crust], they represent intermittent water sources in these very arid environments,” the authors explain in their paper [below].

    It’s not just a new discovery for life on Earth, either, as the implications of the research might extend even further, hypothetically speaking.

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    Penitentes on Volcán Llullaillaco in Chile. (Steve Schmidt/CU Boulder)

    Analogues for Earth’s own icy penitentes have been identified in towering shard-like structures on Pluto and on Jupiter’s Moon Europa – and if the icy shards act as a watery oasis for life in the dry Andes, it’s just possible that the same could hold elsewhere in the Solar System.

    “This first report of snow algae occurring in penitente ice opens the door to future work that will address the altitudinal limits of these communities,” the researchers conclude.

    There’s still much to learn about how these microbial populations got to their dagger-shaped homes, the team says – including figuring out whether they contribute to the formation of the shards somehow, or simply migrate there afterwards.

    While the answers may be hard to come by given the difficulty of travelling to the extreme, remote environments in which penitentes arise, future science beckons nonetheless.

    “We’re generally interested in the adaptations of organisms to extreme environments,” says one of the team, microbial ecologist Steve Schmidt.

    “This could be a good place to look for [the] upper limits of life.”

    The findings are reported in Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Colorado Campus

    As the flagship university of the state of Colorado, CU-Boulder is a dynamic community of scholars and learners situated on one of the most spectacular college campuses in the country. As one of 34 U.S. public institutions belonging to the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU) – and the only member in the Rocky Mountain region – we have a proud tradition of academic excellence, with five Nobel laureates and more than 50 members of prestigious academic academies.

    CU-Boulder has blossomed in size and quality since we opened our doors in 1877 – attracting superb faculty, staff, and students and building strong programs in the sciences, engineering, business, law, arts, humanities, education, music, and many other disciplines.

    Today, with our sights set on becoming the standard for the great comprehensive public research universities of the new century, we strive to serve the people of Colorado and to engage with the world through excellence in our teaching, research, creative work, and service.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:19 pm on April 18, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Microsatellite ‘Challenger’, U Colorado Boulder   

    From U Colorado: “We Have Liftoff! Student-Built Satellite Launches from Cape Canaveral” 

    U Colorado

    University of Colorado Boulder

    April 18, 2017
    No writer credit

    1
    Members of the Challenger team with the microsatellite before it left CU Boulder.

    A University of Colorado Boulder student-built microsatellite is on its way to the International Space Station.

    The satellite, named ‘Challenger’, had a successful lift off Tuesday, April 18, 2017 at 9:11 AM MDT from Cape Canaveral. It is part of the European Union sponsored QB50 project to deploy a network of miniaturized satellites to study part of Earth’s atmosphere.

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    The effort is being led by the von Karman Institute, located in Belgium, with this mission being the first of two launches that will take the network of satellites into orbit. The first rocket, built by Colorado-based United Launch Alliance, carrying 28 CubeSats, will soon dock with the International Space Station. CubeSats are fully functional miniaturized satellites that are about the size of a loaf of bread. They generally weigh less than three pounds each and use off-the-shelf electronic components. They are designed to facilitate access to space research at lower cost.

    This QB50 project represents a unique collaboration between universities and research institutes from 23 countries around the world. All of the satellites were designed and built by students. At CU Boulder, aerospace professor Scott Palo says 53 students took part in the construction of Challenger.

    “We are developing young engineers who have already been through the lifecycle of a satellite from concept to operation, but this is more than just a training program. We’re combining learning with valuable scientific measurements,” Palo says.

    The QB50 mission is the first attempt to use a constellation of CubeSats to provide multi-point measurements of the mid-lower thermosphere, an area of the atmosphere located between 125-250 miles in altitude (200-400 km). What we know about this area of the thermosphere is limited because it is difficult and risky to reach. It is too high in altitude to be measured by ground radar or small rockets and is too low for most satellites.

    “Data gathered from this mission will help us gain a better understanding of the relationship between Earth’s atmosphere and the Sun’s radiation,” says Andrew Dahir, the lead CU Boulder PhD student on the project.

    After deployment, the CubeSats will orbit around the Earth several times a day, taking a large number of measurements of the gaseous molecules and electrical properties of the thermosphere.

    “This project is the very first international real-time coordinated study of the thermosphere phenomena. The data generated by the constellation will be unique in many ways and they will be used for many years by scientists around the world”, says Dr. Davide Masutti, QB50 project manager at the von Karman Institute.

    In addition to its scientific mission, Challenger also includes multiple personal touches. The satellite sports an engraved CU Boulder buffalo on an interior component, and contains a memorial to its namesake, the US Space Shuttle Challenger. CU Boulder aerospace graduate Ellison Onizuka (BS 69’, MS 69’) served as a mission specialist on the flight.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Colorado Campus

    As the flagship university of the state of Colorado, CU-Boulder is a dynamic community of scholars and learners situated on one of the most spectacular college campuses in the country. As one of 34 U.S. public institutions belonging to the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU) – and the only member in the Rocky Mountain region – we have a proud tradition of academic excellence, with five Nobel laureates and more than 50 members of prestigious academic academies.

    CU-Boulder has blossomed in size and quality since we opened our doors in 1877 – attracting superb faculty, staff, and students and building strong programs in the sciences, engineering, business, law, arts, humanities, education, music, and many other disciplines.

    Today, with our sights set on becoming the standard for the great comprehensive public research universities of the new century, we strive to serve the people of Colorado and to engage with the world through excellence in our teaching, research, creative work, and service.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:52 am on September 17, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , U Colorado Boulder   

    From U Colorado: “Landmark study on adolescent brain development begins” 

    U Colorado

    University of Colorado Boulder

    Sept. 12, 2016
    No writer credit found

    1
    An illustration of neurons in the brain. Credit: Institute of Cognitive Science / University of Colorado Boulder

    CU Boulder researchers will play a key role in a landmark National Institutes of Health (NIH) study of brain development and child health in the United States. The long-term study begins recruitment today.

    The Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study will follow the biological and behavioral development of more than 10,000 children beginning at ages 9-10 through adolescence into early adulthood. Recruitment will be done over a two-year period through partnerships with public and private schools near research sites across the country as well as through twin registries.

    CU Boulder is one of 19 sites across the nation selected to host the study. Research will be led by the university’s Institute of Cognitive Science (ICS) which runs the campus’s neuroimaging center and the Institute for Behavioral Genetics (IBG).

    “Adolescence is a remarkable period of brain development, a time when the brain is particularly malleable and receptive to the environment,” said Marie Banich, director of the CU Boulder neuroimaging center and one of the principal investigators of the ABCD study. “The size and scope of this study will provide foundational research to understand how brain development enables the growth in mental and emotional functions that characterize the transition from childhood to adolescence to adulthood.”

    CU Boulder will also be one of just four study sites to focus on twin pairs, specifically looking at developmental behaviors that can be attributed to environmental influences compared to those that are inherited genetically.

    “The selection to participate in a national study of this caliber speaks to the strength of both the twin study resources we have developed and the reputation IBG has in this area,” said John Hewitt, director of IBG. IBG has maintained the statewide Colorado Twin Registry since 1968.

    The study, which is supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, may also shed new light on the effects of adolescent experiences on brain development, including experimentation with drugs and alcohol. For example, the study may provide information on whether there are certain sensitive periods during adolescence when the brain is particularly influenced or affected by such experiences.

    “Overall, we hope to gain a better understanding of the brain’s emotional and cognitive development at this crucial point in life,” said Banich, who is also a professor in CU Boulder’s Department of Psychology & Neuroscience. “The results will help provide scientific evidence that can be used to help design educational programs and guide public policy so that the youth of Colorado, as well as other teens across the country, can lead the happiest and healthiest lives possible.”

    The ABCD study is supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the National Cancer Institute, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research and the Division of Adolescent and School Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Colorado Campus

    As the flagship university of the state of Colorado, CU-Boulder is a dynamic community of scholars and learners situated on one of the most spectacular college campuses in the country. As one of 34 U.S. public institutions belonging to the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU) – and the only member in the Rocky Mountain region – we have a proud tradition of academic excellence, with five Nobel laureates and more than 50 members of prestigious academic academies.

    CU-Boulder has blossomed in size and quality since we opened our doors in 1877 – attracting superb faculty, staff, and students and building strong programs in the sciences, engineering, business, law, arts, humanities, education, music, and many other disciplines.

    Today, with our sights set on becoming the standard for the great comprehensive public research universities of the new century, we strive to serve the people of Colorado and to engage with the world through excellence in our teaching, research, creative work, and service.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:43 pm on August 14, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Telomerase, U Colorado Boulder   

    From CU: “A deep look inside living cells reveals a key cancer process” 

    U Colorado

    University of Colorado Boulder

    August 11, 2016
    No writer credit found

    Telomerase, a powerful enzyme that acts at the ends of human chromosomes, can keep us healthy, but it can also promote cancer growth. Now, researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder have used a process called single-molecule imaging to visualize the process that this enzyme uses to attach itself to the ends of chromosomes.

    The new understanding could help researchers develop new approaches for treating cancer and other diseases.

    The findings, which were recently published in the journal Cell, show that telomerase has a small window of opportunity, lasting only minutes, to do its job at the ends of chromosomes. The team was surprised to find that telomerase may probe each telomere thousands of times, rarely forming a stable connection, in order to be successful at connecting to the chromosome end. Researchers believe that inhibiting telomerase from attaching to telomeres in cancer cells is a strategy for treatment of the disease.

    Telomerase is the enzyme that keeps cells young. From stem cells to germ cells, telomerase helps cells continue to live and multiply. Too little telomerase produces diseases of bone marrow, lungs and skin. Too much telomerase results in cells that over-proliferate and may become “immortal.” As these immortal cells continue to divide and replenish, they build cancerous tumors. Scientists estimate that telomerase activation is a contributor in up to 90 percent of human cancers.

    Telomeres have been studied since the 1970’s for their role in cancer. They are constructed of repetitive DNA sequences that sit at the ends of our chromosomes like the ribbon tails on a bow. This extra material protects the ends of the chromosomes from deteriorating or from fusing with neighboring chromosome ends.

    Telomeres are consumed during cell division and, over time, will become shorter and provide less cover for the chromosomes they are protecting. The enzyme, telomerase, replenishes telomeres throughout their lifecycles.

    “This discovery changes the way we look at how telomerase recruitment works,” said CU Boulder Distinguished Professor and Nobel laureate Thomas Cech, who is director of CU’s BioFrontiers Institute and the lead author on the study. “It’s exciting to see this in living cells as it happens. Single-molecule imaging isolates the process, allowing us to study its dynamics.”

    The research team included co-authors Jens Schmidt, a Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation postdoctoral fellow, and Staff Scientist Arthur Zaug. They used CRISPR genome editing and single-molecule imaging to track telomerase’s movements in the nuclei of living human cancer cells. CRISPR, or Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, allowed the team to attach fluorescent protein tags to telomerase and telomeres in human cancer cells so that the search process was visible under a powerful microscope.

    “At the end of the day, the goal is to target telomerase as an approach to treat cancer,” said Schmidt. “You can inhibit telomerase across the board, but the challenge is isolating the telomerase in cancer cells from the telomerase participating in the normal processes of healthy cells. This research brings us closer to understanding these processes.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Colorado Campus

    As the flagship university of the state of Colorado, CU-Boulder is a dynamic community of scholars and learners situated on one of the most spectacular college campuses in the country. As one of 34 U.S. public institutions belonging to the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU) – and the only member in the Rocky Mountain region – we have a proud tradition of academic excellence, with five Nobel laureates and more than 50 members of prestigious academic academies.

    CU-Boulder has blossomed in size and quality since we opened our doors in 1877 – attracting superb faculty, staff, and students and building strong programs in the sciences, engineering, business, law, arts, humanities, education, music, and many other disciplines.

    Today, with our sights set on becoming the standard for the great comprehensive public research universities of the new century, we strive to serve the people of Colorado and to engage with the world through excellence in our teaching, research, creative work, and service.

     
  • richardmitnick 5:57 am on July 2, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , U Colorado Boulder   

    From Boulder Weekly via U Colorado Boulder: “Boosting solar physics” 

    U Colorado

    University of Colorado Boulder

    1

    Boulder Weekly

    June 30, 2016
    Travis Metcalfe

    2
    The Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope is designed to image the surface of the sun in unprecedented detail, which will help scientists address fundamental questions about solar physics. Courtesy of dkist.nso.edu

    Shortly after the financial crash of 2008, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to stimulate the economy with $787 billion in government spending on public infrastructure. Although controversial at the time, ARRA was later credited with saving or creating millions of jobs during the Great Recession. The National Solar Observatory (NSO) received $146 million in ARRA funding to help build the largest solar telescope in the world on a mountaintop in Maui, a $344 million project that may not have moved forward without the stimulus. The investment sparked a chain of events that ultimately moved NSO staff from Arizona and New Mexico to the new headquarters in Boulder this year.

    The Advanced Technology Solar Telescope (ATST) was nearing its final design review in early 2009, after more than six years of development. Federal science funding had been slowly declining since 2004, so it was unclear whether construction of a large new facility would be feasible. The National Science Foundation (NSF) was already planning to shut down some older solar telescopes. With ATST moving forward, the NSO decided to consolidate its operations to one site. In early 2010, they issued a request for proposals to host the new headquarters. The University of Colorado Boulder was one of seven organizations to respond, and in late 2011 our city was selected over the other finalist in Huntsville, Alabama.

    Boulder has been a national hub for solar physics since Harvard astronomer Walter Orr Roberts founded the High Altitude Observatory (HAO) in 1940. Our first solar observatory was absorbed into NCAR when it was established 20 years later. With the announcement in 2011 that Boulder would soon be home to a second solar observatory, local scientists wondered how long it would take members of Congress to call for a merger of the two organizations. The role of NCAR in climate science made it particularly vulnerable, with numerous politicians looking for ways to slash the budget. The relocation of NSO to Boulder may have been seen as an unprecedented opportunity to cut out a portion of NCAR and give it to solar physicists whose research had less political impact. So far, the concerns have been unwarranted.

    With ATST under construction in Maui, the NSF wanted to inspire a new generation of solar physicists to enter the field. Hosting the NSO headquarters at a university was a strategic decision. Historically, most solar physicists worked at federally funded laboratories rather than universities. As a consequence, relatively few students were being trained in the field, and the demographics of solar physics meetings started to resemble a retirement seminar. The NSF subsidized the creation of faculty positions in solar physics across the country, and the University of Colorado enticed the NSO to relocate to Boulder in part by promising to hire several new faculty positions related to solar physics.

    “By bringing in students, I think we will be able to support NSO in a way that would not have been possible in other cities,” says Axel Brandenburg, visiting professor in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences at CU. Brandenburg first came to Boulder in 1992 to work as a postdoctoral fellow in the High Altitude Observatory at NCAR. He has spent the past 15 years working at research laboratories in Denmark and Sweden, but he jumped at the chance to return to Boulder last year for a rotating three-year faculty position in solar physics, created by CU as part of their agreement with the NSO. Earlier this month the university hosted a solar physics meeting for the American Astronomical Society.

    “The overall attendance was dominated by young people,” Brandenburg says, suggesting that the plan is already working.

    Construction of the new telescope in Maui has encountered some resistance from native Hawaiian groups. Although several telescopes were already on the site, the peak where ATST would be located was considered sacred by some indigenous groups.

    “I think it is important to be aware of these concerns and to work with the indigenous people to make it something positive for both sides,” Brandenburg says. In 2013, the project was officially renamed the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST) to honor the late senator from Hawaii who had a strong record of support for fundamental scientific research, and astronomy in particular. Brandenburg explains that in Hawaii everyone knows DKI, almost like JFK in the rest of the country.

    When it begins regular operations in 2020, DKIST will be the largest solar telescope in the world. It promises to revolutionize observations of the sun’s magnetic field, which are essential for understanding and predicting the explosive events that create space weather for our planet. The building that will house the telescope and instruments is now complete, and the team is beginning to integrate the major optical systems. The main mirror has a diameter of 4 meters (13 feet), and will generate 13 kW of power at the focus of the telescope, so heat management will be crucial. Local scientists expect DKIST to usher in a new era of solar physics. With NSO headquarters now in Boulder, and CU committed to training a new cadre of students, we can expect our city to remain a national hub for solar physics well into the future.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Colorado Campus

    As the flagship university of the state of Colorado, CU-Boulder is a dynamic community of scholars and learners situated on one of the most spectacular college campuses in the country. As one of 34 U.S. public institutions belonging to the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU) – and the only member in the Rocky Mountain region – we have a proud tradition of academic excellence, with five Nobel laureates and more than 50 members of prestigious academic academies.

    CU-Boulder has blossomed in size and quality since we opened our doors in 1877 – attracting superb faculty, staff, and students and building strong programs in the sciences, engineering, business, law, arts, humanities, education, music, and many other disciplines.

    Today, with our sights set on becoming the standard for the great comprehensive public research universities of the new century, we strive to serve the people of Colorado and to engage with the world through excellence in our teaching, research, creative work, and service.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:06 am on June 12, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Antarctica, , , U Colorado Boulder   

    From U Colorado: “Antarctic lakes provide glimpse of ancient forest fires” 

    U Colorado

    University of Colorado Boulder

    June 8, 2016

    1

    2
    LANDSAT 7

    The perpetually ice-covered lakes in Antarctica’s McMurdo Dry Valleys preserve the dissolved remnants of black carbon from thousand-year-old wildfires as well as modern day fossil fuel use, according to a new study led by the University of Colorado Boulder.

    The distinctive molecular signatures can provide researchers with a glimpse into the planet’s long history of combustion. Atmospheric black carbon, which is generated by wildfires or fossil fuel use, becomes preserved in glaciers, which in turn serve as long-term reservoirs and chemical time capsules.

    The McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica are the largest ice-free region of the continent and are considered a polar desert environment due to their low humidity, scarce precipitation and lack of plant life. During the summer, glacial melt feeds closed-basin lakes. Some of these lakes have saline bottom waters from drawdown events about a thousand years ago.

    These briny bottom waters preserve the chemical signatures of fires that occurred thousands of years ago and thousands of miles away, the study found. Dissolved black carbon is present in the world’s oceans as well as on land, and now has been found to be detectible in the pristine, isolated lakes of Antarctica.

    “We know the long-term history of these lakes and that there are no local forest fires burning nearby, so we can be more certain that these woody signatures have come over from South America, Africa or Australia, for instance,” said Alia Khan, a graduate researcher in the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) at CU-Boulder and lead author of the study.

    “Overall there have been relatively few direct measurements of dissolved black carbon in the cryosphere due to the difficulty of sample collection from these remote environments,” Khan added. “These are the first we know of from freshwater lakes in Antarctica.”

    Closer to the top of the lakes, the researchers also found low, but distinct, concentrations of man-made black carbon, possibly from helicopter use in and around the Antarctic continent.

    The study may open new avenues of inquiry into how black carbon signatures have shifted over time and how dissolved black carbon is transported to the world’s oceans and lakes.

    “Having a new chemical tool that allows us to identify the source and transformation of black carbon is very exciting,” said Diane McKnight, a professor of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering at CU-Boulder, an INSTAAR fellow and a co-author of the study.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Colorado Campus

    As the flagship university of the state of Colorado, CU-Boulder is a dynamic community of scholars and learners situated on one of the most spectacular college campuses in the country. As one of 34 U.S. public institutions belonging to the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU) – and the only member in the Rocky Mountain region – we have a proud tradition of academic excellence, with five Nobel laureates and more than 50 members of prestigious academic academies.

    CU-Boulder has blossomed in size and quality since we opened our doors in 1877 – attracting superb faculty, staff, and students and building strong programs in the sciences, engineering, business, law, arts, humanities, education, music, and many other disciplines.

    Today, with our sights set on becoming the standard for the great comprehensive public research universities of the new century, we strive to serve the people of Colorado and to engage with the world through excellence in our teaching, research, creative work, and service.

     
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