Arnhem

Climate & Environment
UNO reports record high CO₂ concentration in the atmosphere
UNO reports record high CO₂ concentration in the atmosphere
Credit: unsplash.com / Ishan @seefromthesky

According to the annual greenhouse gas bulletin by the World Meteorological Organization directed to the UNO, the global average of 410 ppm carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) in the atmosphere has been reached for the first time in 2019 since the beginning of industrialisation in 1750.

WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taala stated that "The last time the Earth experienced similar CO 2 concentrations was three to five million years ago".

Science • Space
Microbes could mine valuable elements from rocks on the moon or Mars
Sphingomonas desiccabilis, the bacterium capable of “biomining” rare-earth elements from basalt rock.
Sphingomonas desiccabilis, the bacterium capable of “biomining” rare-earth elements from basalt rock. Credit: Rosa Santomartino

Recent experiments aboard the International Space Station have shown that some microbes can harvest valuable rare-earth elements from rocks, even when exposed to microgravity conditions. Microorganisms are already used on Earth to mine economically important elements from rocks, including rare earth elements, used in mobile phones and electronics.

It's unlikely to be economically viable to mine these elements in space and bring them back to Earth, according to Charles Cockell, a professor of astrobiology at the University of Edinburgh's School of Physics and Astronomy, who led the project.

Science • Space
NASA's Artemis Accords to guide moon exploration signed by eight nations
NASA's Artemis Accords to guide moon exploration signed by eight nations
Credit: NASA

Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States of America have signed on as founding member nations to NASA's Artemis Accords, an international agreement that "will help to avoid conflict in space and on Earth by strengthening mutual understanding and reducing misperceptions."

"Artemis will be the broadest and most diverse international human space exploration program in history, and the Artemis Accords are the vehicle that will establish this singular global coalition," so NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. "With today's signing, we are uniting with our partners to explore the Moon and are establishing vital principles that will create a safe, peaceful, and prosperous future in space for all of humanity to enjoy."

Science • Space
Solar Cycle 25 has begun
This split image shows the difference between an active Sun during solar maximum (on the left, captured in April 2014) and a quiet Sun during solar minimum (on the right, captured in December 2019).
This split image shows the difference between an active Sun during solar maximum (on the left, captured in April 2014) and a quiet Sun during solar minimum (on the right, captured in December 2019). Credit: NASA/SDO

The sun is starting over. NASA reports that Solar Cycle 25 has begun in December 2019, signaling an increase in space weather that could impact the Earth's power grid, airlines and astronauts in space. Roughly every 11 years, the sun completes a solar cycle of various activity measures in the number of sunspots on the solar surface.

"As we emerge from solar minimum and approach Cycle 25’s maximum, it is important to remember solar activity never stops; it changes form as the pendulum swings," said Lika Guhathakurta, solar scientist at the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Climate & Environment
28 trillion tonnes of ice disappeared in the last 30 years, scientists find
Easton Glacier on Mount Baker in the North Cascades of Washington taken in 2003. It shows the terminus position of the glacier in 1985 as well.
Easton Glacier on Mount Baker in the North Cascades of Washington taken in 2003. It shows the terminus position of the glacier in 1985 as well. Credit: Mauri Pelto (talk · contribs) / Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

Scientists from universities in Leeds, Edinburg and London have analysed satellite images of the Earth's globes, glaciers and mountains and found that around 28 trillion tonnes of ice have disappeared since 1994. The "staggering" loss is due to rising greenhouse gas emission and global heating.

"In the past researchers have studied individual areas – such as the Antarctic or Greenland – where ice is melting. But this is the first time anyone has looked at all the ice that is disappearing from the entire planet. What we have found has stunned us," so Professor Andy Shepherd, director of Leeds University’s Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling.

Their research further warns that sea levels could rise by a metre by the end of the century and the melting could reduce our planet's ability to reflect solar radiation back into space.

"To put that in context, every centimetre of sea level rise means about a million people will be displaced from their low-lying homelands," so Shepherd.

Science • Space
An asteroid is headed towards Earth with an 0.41% chance of impact, NASA says
An asteroid is headed towards Earth with an 0.41% chance of impact, NASA says
Credit: unsplash.com/Chris Henry

A Near Earth Asteroid (NEA), also known as 2018VP1, is heading towards Earth and is predicted to pass near Earth on November 2, one day before the US election day. The asteroid, first detected in November 2018, has roughly 2 metres in diameter and has a 0,41% chance of impacting Earth. The Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), from Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, has predicted three potential impacts "based on 21 observations spanning 12.968 days," but a direct impact is most unlikely.

Science • Space
SpaceX Capsule splashdown successful, first water landing since 1975
SpaceX Capsule splashdown successful, first water landing since 1975
Credit: @NASA, via Twitter

Doug and Bob are back on planet Earth. The Crew Dragon capsule splashed down safely at 2:48 PM EDT in the Gulf of Mexico. Sunday's splashdown marked NASA's first water landing since 1975.

Science • Space
SpaceX Crew Dragon in preparation to return to Earth
Personnel from NASA, SpaceX and the U.S. Air Force practicing recovery operations for the SpaceX Crew Dragon.
Personnel from NASA, SpaceX and the U.S. Air Force practicing recovery operations for the SpaceX Crew Dragon. Credit: SpaceX / Public domain

Bob and Doug are coming home. SpaceX's Crew Dragon will undock from the ISS at 7:34 PM EDT on August 1. Splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Panama City is expected at around 2:42 PM EDT on August 2.

A final decision on whether to proceed with the mission will be made approximately six hours before undocking and will largely depend on weather conditions and Hurricane Isais, which is currently headed towards Florida.

Science • Space
Nasa has launched the Mars rover Perseverance to detect life on the Red Planet
Nasa has launched the Mars rover Perseverance to detect life on the Red Planet
Credit: Twitter Reproduction (Public Domain)

NASA’s Mars rover Perseverance blasted off from Cape Canaveral on Thursday atop an Atlas 5 rocket on a mission to search for traces of potential past life on Earth’s planetary neighbour. Perseverance was the third of three Mars missions to launch in the space of just ten days, after the United Arab Emirates’ Mars Hope orbiter, and China’s Tianwen-1.

The six-wheeled rover is on a path to intercept Mars in February next year, and when it lands, the Nasa robot will also gather rock and soil samples to be sent home later this decade.

Science • Space
Virgin Galactic reveals the cabin of SpaceShipTwo
The interior cabin of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo
The interior cabin of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo Credit: Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic revealed the interior of its spaceplane on Tuesday. The cabin. a collaboration of Virgin Galactic with London design agency, Seymourpowell, has six tailored, teal-coloured seats and 12 cabin circular windows for astronauts to gaze at Earth from.

A ticket for the suborbital flight aboard the air-launched SpaceShipTwo costs $250,000.

Science • Space
UAE launched its first mission to Mars successfully
"We have lift-off. H2A, the rocket carrying the Hope Probe to space, has launched from the Tanegashima Space Centre in Japan."
"We have lift-off. H2A, the rocket carrying the Hope Probe to space, has launched from the Tanegashima Space Centre in Japan." Credit: @HopeMarsMission via Twitter

UAE's Mars Hope lift-off was a success. On Sunday the United Arab Emirates launched its Hope probe, a probe designed to orbit Mars to gather data from the Red Planet, from the Tanegashima Space Centre in Japan. The probe, which should reach March sometime in February 2021, will track day-to-night cycles of the planet's weather over the period of a Martian year which equals 687 days on Earth.

Science • Space
Crew Dragon set to return on August 1
NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission will return U.S human spaceflight to the International Space Station from U.S. soil with astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley on an American rocket and spacecraft for the first time since 2011.
NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission will return U.S human spaceflight to the International Space Station from U.S. soil with astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley on an American rocket and spacecraft for the first time since 2011. Credit: SpaceX (Creative Commons CC0 Waiver)

Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are coming home. SpaceX's Crew Dragon is set to return home to Earth on August 1 and splashdown is targeted for August 2. The actual date though is depending on the weather.

Science • Space
The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover is scheduled for July 30th launch date
The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover's astrobiology mission will search for signs of ancient microbial life.
The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover's astrobiology mission will search for signs of ancient microbial life. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech (Public Domain)

Soon it will be "go for launch" for Mars 2020 Perseverance rover. On July 30, NASA's new Mars rover will go on its seven-month-long journey to the Red Planet. The launch had been postponed a couple of times because of technical difficulties and setbacks related to COVID-19.

Perseverance will land in Jezero Crater where it will search for "signs that microbes might have lived on Mars long ago, collect soil samples to be returned to Earth on a future mission and pave the way for human exploration beyond the Moon."

Science • Nature
An asteroid and not a volcanic eruption killed the dinosaurs, study finds
Artist's impression of a 1000km-diameter planetoid hitting a young Earth.
Artist's impression of a 1000km-diameter planetoid hitting a young Earth. Credit: Don Davis (work commissioned by NASA) / Public domain

For decades scientists believed the reason for the mass extinction of dinosaurs and three-quarters of all life on earth 66 million years ago was a prolonged period of climate change caused by volcanic activity. A new study by researchers from the Imperial College London just disproved this theory: turns out it was an asteroid impact that struck Earth which also created the Chicxulub impact crater in southeast Mexico. According to the study, only an asteroid impact could have created conditions that made Earth uninhabitable.

“We show that the asteroid caused an impact winter for decades, and that these environmental effects decimated suitable environments for dinosaurs. In contrast, the effects of the intense volcanic eruptions were not strong enough to substantially disrupt global ecosystems,” so the lead researcher Alessandro Chiarenza in his statement. “Our study confirms, for the first time quantitatively, that the only plausible explanation for the extinction is the impact winter that eradicated dinosaur habitats worldwide.”

Science • Space
SpaceX's Crew Dragon will return to Earth with astronauts Behnken and Hurley
Doug Hurley (left) and Bob Behnken (right) at crew extraction rehearsal from SpaceX’s Crew Dragon
Doug Hurley (left) and Bob Behnken (right) at crew extraction rehearsal from SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls / Public domain

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will return to Earth from the ISS on SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft in August. Their exact return date will depend on numerous factors such as weather conditions, the astronauts' work progress onboard ISS as well as the overall condition and performance of Crew Dragon.

Science • Space
2020 Strawberry Moon lunar eclipse occurs today
Full moon, so called "Strawberry moon" viewed  from Tochigi prefecture, eastern Japan.
Full moon, so called "Strawberry moon" viewed from Tochigi prefecture, eastern Japan. Credit: On-chan (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

Today's lunar eclipse that begins at 17:45(UTC) and lasts until 21:04(UTC) will be a "penumbral eclipse," which occurs when the outer ring of Earth's shadow just grazes the moon.

This subtle lunar eclipse will be entirely visible for observers in eastern Africa, the Middle East, southern Asia and Australia. It will start at moonrise for those on the eastern coast of South America, western Africa and Europe, and at moonset for skywatchers in Japan and New Zealand.

The full moon in June is called a Strawberry Moon because it coincides with the strawberry harvest. In Europe, an old name for this full Moon is the Mead Moon or the Honey Moon.

Science • Space
SpaceX launched 60 more Starlink satellites
SpaceX Logo
SpaceX Logo Credit: YouTube (Reproduction)

SpaceX has launched on Wednesday another 60 internet-beaming satellites, bringing the company's constellation to around 480.

One of the 60 Starlink satellites has a visor system installed to block the sun from reflecting off of its communication antenna surfaces. If the system works, it should greatly reduce sunlight reflected off of the satellite back to Earth, one of the major criticisms from astronomers.

Also, this was the fifth launch of the Falcon 9 rocket, achieving a new record in booster reusability for the company.

Science • Nature
Study shows erosion of ozone layer responsible for mass extinction event

Researchers at the University of Southampton have found evidence showing high levels of UV radiation, caused by a brief breakdown of the ozone layer, collapsed forest ecosystems and killed off many species of fish and tetrapods in an extinction event at the end of the Devonian geological period, 359 million years ago.

The ozone collapse occurred as the climate rapidly warmed pushing more naturally generated ozone-destroying chemicals into the upper atmosphere. Researchers suggest that the Earth today could reach comparable temperatures, possibly triggering a similar event.

Science • Space
Discovery of Rare Super-Earth at End of Galaxy

A discovery made by University of Canterbury astronomers shows a rare Super-Earth planet near the end of our galaxy. The planet was discovered using gravitational microlensing, a technique that detects planets regardless of the amount of light they emit. The planet's mass and orbit are both similar to that of Earth.