Technology And Science News
Scientist Step Closeer to Learning More About Planet Nine
A planet spotted 336 light-years from Earth could help scientists learn more about whether there is a large “Planet Nine” or “Planet X” lurking in the outskirts of our solar system.
Why it matters: Scientists have been hunting for the hypothetical Planet Nine for years. The new characterization of this alien planet by the Hubble Space Telescope shows that worlds like the theoretical planet can exist in other solar systems.
Details: The exoplanet is “very widely separated from its host stars on an eccentric and highly misaligned orbit, just like the prediction for Planet Nine,” Meiji Nguyen, an author of the new study about the planet in the Astronomical Journal said in a statement.
- “This begs the question of how these planets formed and evolved to end up in their current configuration.”
- The double star system the planet was found in is relatively young, at 15 million years old, suggesting these types of worlds could form early in the histories of their solar systems.
- Scientists suggest the planet may have ended up in its strange orbit because it was flung far from its stars at some point in the past.
The big picture: Researchers think Planet Nine might exist in our solar system due to the strange orbits of a handful of objects past Neptune in what’s known as the Kuiper belt.
- Advocates of the theory suggest the gravity of a large planet in a strange orbit may be shaping how these other bodies move.
- The exoplanet studied by the Hubble could serve as a good model for what Planet Nine’s early history in our solar system could have looked like.
- “It’s as if we have a time machine for our own planetary system going back 4.6 billion years to see what may have happened when our young solar system was dynamically active and everything was being jostled around and rearranged,” Paul Kalas, another author of the study, said in the statement.
Mercury Putting On Rare Show Monday
Mercury is putting on a rare celestial show next week, parading across the sun in view of most of the world.
The solar system’s smallest, innermost planet will resemble a tiny black dot Monday as it passes directly between Earth and the sun. It begins at 7:35 a.m. Eastern.
The entire 5½-hour event will be visible, weather permitting, in the eastern U.S. and Canada, and all Central and South America. The rest of North America, Europe and Africa will catch part of the action. Asia and Australia will miss out.
Passing practically dead center in front of our star.
You’ll need eye protection for Monday’s spectacle: Telescopes or binoculars with solar filters are recommended. There’s no harm in pulling out the eclipse glasses from the total solar eclipse across the U.S. two years ago, but it would take “exceptional vision” to spot minuscule Mercury, said NASA solar astrophysicist Alex Young.
Mercury is 3,000 miles in diameter, compared with the sun’s 864,000 miles.
Mercury will cut a diagonal path left to right across the sun Monday, entering at bottom left (around the 8:00 point on a clock) and exiting top right (around the 2:00 point).
Although the trek will appear slow, Mercury will zoom across the sun at roughly 150,000 mph.
NASA will broadcast the transit as seen from the orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory, with only a brief lag. Scientists will use the transit to fine-tune telescopes, especially those in space that cannot be adjusted by hand
Spraying for mosquitoes could put one of the wolds rarest Butterflies at risk
While the organic pyrethrin product used to kill adult mosquitoes is safe for humans and animals, health officials emphasize, it’s not safe for other insects. That puts some endangered or threatened butterflies and moths at risk, along with essential, dwindling pollinators such as bees, some scientists worry.
Widespread insecticide spraying to kill mosquitoes potentially carrying the deadly Eastern equine encephalitis virus comes with a negative: It kills other bugs, too — including rare, endangered and highly beneficial ones
Among those that could be affected is the endangered Mitchell’s satyr butterfly, which the Michigan Department of Natural Resources calls on its website “one of the world’s rarest butterflies, found only in Michigan and Indiana.”
Amid an alarming rise in cases of the mosquito-spread disease in southern Michigan, state health officials are conducting widespread, airborne insecticide spraying for the first time in nearly 40 years.
More than 328,000 acres of southern Michigan had received spraying by airplane as of Friday, in seven counties: Allegan, Barry, Calhoun, Van Buren, Berrien, Cass and St. Joseph. At least three other counties — Jackson, Livingston and Lapeer — had areas slated for mosquito spraying in coming days; and three other counties, Montcalm, Kent and Newaygo, had areas under consideration for spraying.
“The pesticide being used is a broad spectrum pesticide that has the potential to affect any insect it comes in contact with, including the threatened species. … The main issue I have is that the decision (to spray) was fast, with limited public or scientific input, little time or opportunity to weigh the positives versus the negatives, and with little understanding of the possible nontarget organisms that might be affected.”
Rowe cited the example of bumblebee queens that may currently be searching for their overwintering hibernation sites that could be killed by the spraying. Bumblebees are one of several bee species suffering massive population and range declines in Michigan and elsewhere in recent years, for reasons that aren’t fully understood. Honeybees contribute $24 billion annually to U.S. agriculture, through pollination and increased crop yields.
Michigan Department of Natural Resources spokesman John Pepin confirmed the existence of threatened and endangered insect species in the general areas receiving spraying, including the endangered Mitchell’s satyr butterfly, the state-threatened Silphium borer moth and Persius duskywing butterfly.
The pesticide being applied in nighttime, aerial applications, Merus 3.0, contains 5% pyrethrin, a chemical found naturally in chrysanthemum flowers, which allows the pesticide to be considered organic. The pyrethrin kills mosquitoes — and other insects — through disrupting their nervous systems.
Scientists Revive Woolly Mammoth Cells
A team of researchers in Japan have taken a significant step towards possibly bringing the long-extinct woolly mammoth back to life. The breakthrough reportedly came when scientists managed to extract cell nuclei from the frozen remains of one of the famed creatures that had been recovered from the permafrost of Siberia. Incredibly, in what sounds like a scene from a science fiction film, when this 28,000-year-old material was injected into mouse ova, it began to stir.
Specifically, the researchers say that, in 5 out of 43 instances, a “pro-nucleus-like structure budded” from the cross-millennial concoction containing the ancient mammoth material. Although the biological process stopped short of the next step, which would be cell division, the scientists were hopeful that the activity indicated that the damaged cell nuclei could be naturally repaired. The team now hope to move beyond where their experiment came to an end and cautioned that their results are almost more of a ‘proof of concept’ at this point.
To that end, before one starts imagining a world in which the iconic creatures once again roam the planet, one of the scientists behind the project flatly stated that “it would be difficult to resurrect a mammoth as things stand.” He pointed to the extensive damaged inflicted upon the DNA from this particular specimen due to it being frozen for so long, but posited that “there’s a chance, if we can obtain better-preserved nuclei.” With that in mind, we’ll keep our fingers crossed that someone in Siberia will stumble upon a more pristine mammoth carcass which would allow for the long-dreamed-of scenario of reviving the legendary creature to finally happen.
World’s Largest Bee Thought By Some to be Extinct Seen in Asia
This big, black wasp-like bee was “thought by some to be extinct” since it hadn’t been seen since 1981, according to a statement from the University of Sydney. But Wallace’s Giant Bee is not extinct. A female bee was just found, and she was alive.
A team of researchers funded by the Global Wildlife Conservation went out to Indonesia with hopes of photographing a Wallace’s Giant Bee (otherwise known as Megachile pluto) and they did just that, according to the statement.
The search team found the bee in January, but the bee discovery was just announced recently.
“After doing a happy dance, I photographed the bee and shot some video proof,” photographer Clay Bolt wrote in a Global Wildlife Conservation blog post. The team found the female bee living in a termites’ nest in a tree.
The female bee had a wingspan of about 2.5 inches, according to the University of Sydney statement. Females are twice as big as the males.
“It was absolutely breathtaking to see this ‘flying bulldog’ of an insect that we weren’t sure existed anymore,” Bolt said in the statement.
LiveScience calls this insect a “massive, nightmare bee.”
Alfred Russell Wallace, the discoverer and namesake of the bee, described the insect as “a large black wasp-like insect, with immense jaws like a stag-beetle,” according to a copy of his journals that were obtained by Bolt. The bee was discovered in 1858.
But those huge jaws “aren’t for nipping,” Gizmodo reported. Rather, they’re used “like salad tongs” to take resin back to its nest. Resin keeps termites out of the nest, since the giant bees build nests in termite mounds.
Simon Robson, a biologist at the University of Sydney in Australia, told the New York Times that he believes the bees can sting, but the team of researchers hasn’t been stung.
“We were all keen to get stung to see how bad it was, but because we only found the one, we treated it very carefully,” he said, according to the New York Times. He also said Wallace’s giant bees are “relatively solitary,” according to the newspaper.
There’s not much else known about the giant bees, according to LiveScience.
“It’s just ridiculously large and so exciting,” Robson said, according to the Times.
The team that found the female bee released her back to the nest after observing it in a flybox, according to Global Wildlife Conservation.
The team now plans to collaborate with Indonesian researchers in hope of finding the bee in other places, the University of Sydney announced.
“To see how beautiful and big the species is in real life, to hear the sound of its giant wings thrumming as it flew past my head, was just incredible,” Bolt said in the release. “My dream is to now use this rediscovery to elevate this bee to a symbol of conservation in this part of Indonesia.”
Russian cosmonauts spend nearly eight hours cutting into their spacecraft
please be careful, my hand is there
On Tuesday, over the course of nearly eight hours, Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Sergei Prokopyev performed an unprecedented spacewalk outside the International Space Station.
The two Russians spent about three hours moving across the station, setting up a workstation from which they could stabilize themselves and cut into a Soyuz spacecraft attached to the station. Then, with an assortment of tools including a knife and pair of scissors, they tore through a wide swath of insulation protecting the orbital module of the spacecraft.
The entire procedure was absolutely riveting, as it is not every day that one sees a person in space slicing through several centimeters of insulation with a knife. As the cosmonauts took turns working away at the insulation, bits of Mylar and other shredded materials floated away from the work site like a dirty snowstorm. (As the station is at a relatively low altitude, these materials with low mass and a high drag area should get pulled down into Earth’s atmosphere and burn up, posing no threat to spaceflight activities).
Kononenko and Prokopyev worked at the insulation for a couple of hours, at times growing exasperated. A Russian translator, speaking on NASA TV, shared jarring remarks between the two cosmonauts and Roscosmos mission control, located just north of Moscow. “Please be careful, my hand is there,” the translator would say. And, “Careful not to cut the cable.” Repeatedly, mission control urged the hard-charging cosmonauts to take a break. It was nerve-wracking to watch the cosmonauts wield the knife in such an apparently casual manner, so close to their pressurized spacesuits.
we want to find the full name of who is responsible…….and we will.
Last week, a pressure leak occurred on the International Space Station. It was slow and posed no immediate threat to the crew, with the atmosphere leaving the station at a rate such that depressurization of the station would have taken 14 days.
Eventually, US and Russian crew members traced the leak to a 2mm breach in the orbital module of the Soyuz MS-09 vehicle that had flown to the space station in June. The module had carried Russian cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev, European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst, and NASA’s Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor.
The crew on the station was in no danger, and, over the course of several hours, Russian engineers devised a fix that involved epoxy. A preliminary analysis concluded that the vehicle is safe for return to Earth (the orbital module detaches from the small Soyuz capsule before entry into Earth’s atmosphere).
The drama might have ended there, as it was initially presumed that the breach had been caused by a tiny bit of orbital debris. However, recent Russian news reports have shown that the problem was, in fact, a manufacturing defect. It remains unclear whether the hole was an accidental error or intentional. There is evidence that a technician saw the drilling mistake and covered the hole with glue, which prevented the problem from being detected during a vacuum test.
“We are able to narrow down the cause to a technological mistake of a technician. We can see the mark where the drill bit slid along the surface of the hull,” Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, told RIA Novosti. (A translation of the Russian articles in this story was provided to Ars by Robinson Mitchell). “We want to find out the full name of who is at fault—and we will.”
NASA spokesman Dan Huot, based in Houston where the space station program is managed, deferred all comment on the issue to Roscosmos.
The spacecraft was manufactured by Energia, a Russian corporation. A former employee of the company who is now a professor at Moscow State University told another Russian publicationthat these kinds of incidents have occurred before at Energia.
“I have conducted investigations of all kinds of spacecraft, and after landing, we discovered a hole drilled completely through the hull of a re-entry module,” the former Energia employee, Viktor Minenko, said in Gazeta.RU. “But the technician didn’t report the defect to anyone but sealed up the hole with epoxy. We found the person, and after a commotion he was terminated,” said Minenko.
In this case, the technician used glue instead of epoxy. As the Soyuz hull is made from an aluminum alloy, it could have been properly repaired on Earth by welding, had the technician reported the mistake.
The Soyuz manufacturing issue represents another significant problem for the Russian space agency’s suppliers and its quality control processes. Already, the manufacturer of Proton rockets, Khrunichev, has had several serious problems that have led to launch failures. Rogozin was recently installed as the leader of Roscosmos to try to clean up corruption and address these kinds of issues.
Scientist Responsible For Gene Manipulation In humans Missing
The controversial Chinese doctor who made headlines last week with claims that he’d successfully edited the genes of unborn babies is now believed to be missing. He Jiankui became the target of considerable criticism from scientists around the world after he triumphantly revealed that the first-ever genetically altered babies had been born under his watch as part of a research project. Although he expressed no remorse for the ethically questionable procedure, likening it to the nascent days of IVF research, it would seem that Jiankui is facing some serious backlash in his native country.
The trouble reportedly began almost immediately after he made his announcement at a conference in Hong Kong as the doctor mysteriously failed to appear for a scheduled second appearance at the proceedings the next day. At almost the same time, the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology suspended his research project and announced plans to investigate his work. This does not bode well for Jiankui as the vice minister of the department lambasted the doctor, saying that his research was “extremely abominable in nature.”
Since that time, Jiankui has vanished from public view with speculation being that was put under house arrest upon returning to China following the conference. The university that employs the doctor has been tight-lipped about the entire affair, refusing to answer any questions about where Jiankui is or if he is facing any discipline. That said, this would appear to be the case as the same official who decried the project also declared that it “violated Chinese laws and regulations.” Whether Jiankui resurfaces anytime soon remains to be seen.
Chinese Scientist faces Law For Gene Manipulation In Humans
Shenzhen, China – China has suspended He Jiankui – the scientist who claims to have produced the world’s first gene-edited babies. He now looks set to face punishment after publicly revealing research many in the scientific community condemned as irresponsible.
His work was “extremely abominable in nature”, Xi Nanping, vice minister of the Ministry of Science and Technology, told state news agency Xinhua late on Thursday.
Xi said genetically engineering the DNA of twin girls so they would not develop HIV, breached scientific ethics, adding that gene-editing of human embryos for reproduction purposes was “explicitly banned” in China.
He admitted at a gene-editing conference in Hong Kong on Wednesday that he had already initiated another pregnancy, although it was too soon to tell if it would go to full term.
It is uncertain what punishment He may face since the law in China is vague on enforcement, according to Qiu Renzong, professor emeritus of the Institute of Philosophy and director of the Centre for Applied Ethics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
His research has sent shock-waves through the international scientific community, with many raising concerns over the lack of verified data and the risks of exposing healthy embryos to gene-editing. Scientists have long worried about the implications for humanity of such genetic engineering.
Two More Blood Pressure Drugs Recalled For Potential Cancer Risk
Teva Pharmaceuticals has launched a voluntary recall into two drugs used to treat high blood pressure as yet more medications face concerns over a possible cancer risk.
In a statement from Teva posted by the Food and Drug Administration, the recall affects all lots of combination tablets featuring the drugs amlodipine and valsartan and another combo drug featuring amlodipine, valsartan, and hydrochlorothiazide.
he drugs could contain an impurity called N-nitroso-diethylamine (NDEA), which has been classified as a possible human carcinogen, the FDA said.
Patients taking either drugs should contact their doctor or pharmacist for advice or alternative treatments. Stopping the drugs immediately with no comparable alternative could pose a greater risk to patients’ health, said Teva.
Customers and patients with questions can contact Teva by phone at 888-838-2872, or email at email@example.com.
Women Jailed When Cops Mistake Cotton Candy For Meth
A Georgia women spent three days in jail after her bag of cotton candy was mistaken for methamphetamine.
Dasha Fincher, is suing Monroe County, the police, and a drug test company, over the alleged mix up in a traffic stop. She was held in custody because she could not afford her $1m bond.
She was arrested and charged with meth trafficking and possession of meth with intent to distribute.
The court documents say she was improperly detained from 31 December 2016 until 4 April, when her charges of drug possession and trafficking were dropped.
A state crime laboratory had already tested the bag of light blue cotton candy cotton and determined on March 22 that it contained no drugs.
Ms. Fincher says she missed important life events due to the unlawful jailing, including the birth of her twin grandsons and the chance to care for her daughter after a miscarriage.
In addition, the arrest remains on her record despite her innocence.
Ms. Fincher is seeking damages for negligence and wrongful actions, as determined by a jury, from Monroe County, the two officers who arrested her and the drug test manufacturer Sirchie.
County officials and Sirchie did not immediately respond to a request for comment.