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Ancient dormant viruses found in permafrost, once revived, can infect amoeba

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Morphological features guiding the preliminary identification of newly isolated viruses (negative staining, TEM). (A) The large ovoid particle (1000 nm in length) of Pandoravirus yedoma (strain Y2) showing the apex ostiole (white arrowhead) and the thick tegument characteristic of the Pandoraviridae family. (B) A mixture of Pandoravirus mammoth (strain Yana14) oblate particles and of Megavirus mammoth (strain Yana14) icosahedral particles exhibiting a “stargate” (white starfish-like structure crowning a vertex, white arrowhead). (C) The elongated particle of Cedratvirus lena (strain DY0) (1500 nm in length) exhibits two apex cork-like structures (white arrowheads). (D) The elongated particle of Pithovirus mammoth (1800 nm in length) exhibiting a single apex cork-like structure (white arrowhead). (E) The large (770 nm in diameter) “hairy” icosahedral particle of Megavirus mammoth (strain Yana14), showing the “stargate” (white arrowhead) characteristic of the Megavirinae subfamily. (F) The smaller icosahedral particle (200 nm in diameter) of Pacmanvirus lupus (strain Tums2) typical of asfarviruses/pacmanviruses. Credit: Viruses (2023). DOI: 10.3390/v15020564

A team of climate scientists from France, Russia and Germany has found that ancient viruses dormant for tens of thousands of years in permafrost can infect modern amoeba when they are revived. For their study, reported on the open-access site Viruses, the group collected several giant virus specimens from permafrost in Siberia and tested them to see if they could still infect modern creatures.

Prior research has shown that permafrost—frozen soil—is an excellent preservative. Many carcasses of frozen have been extracted from permafrost in the Northern Hemisphere. Prior research has also shown that lying dormant in permafrost can be coaxed to grow once revived. And there is evidence suggesting that viruses and bacteria trapped in permafrost could infect hosts if revived. In this new effort, the researchers tested this theory.

The effort by the research team followed up on prior work in 2014 that showed a 30,000-year-old virus could be revived—and that it could be infectious. The team followed up on that effort by reviving a different virus in 2015 and allowing it to infect an amoeba. In this new effort, the team collected several virus specimens from multiple permafrost sites across Siberia for lab testing.

For , the research team collects only so-called giant viruses and only those that can infect amoeba, not humans or any other creature. In reviving the virus samples, the team found that they were still capable of infecting amoeba. They also found, via radiocarbon dating of the permafrost in which they were found, that the viruses had been in a dormant state for between 27,000 and 48,500 years.

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The researchers suggest their findings hint at a much bigger problem—as the planet warms and the permafrost melts, there is a chance of viruses emerging that are capable of infecting humans. Such a threat is not science fiction, they note—prior researchers found in a lung sample of a woman who had died in Alaska during the flu pandemic of 1918. And another team found a virus related to smallpox in a mummified woman found in Siberia—she had been there for 300 years.

More information:
Jean-Marie Alempic et al, An Update on Eukaryotic Viruses Revived from Ancient Permafrost, Viruses (2023). DOI: 10.3390/v15020564

© 2023 Science X Network

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Ancient dormant viruses found in permafrost, once revived, can infect amoeba (2023, March 10)
retrieved 11 March 2023
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NASA’S JWST measures the temperature of a rocky exoplanet – Tech Explorist

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An international team of researchers has used the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope to measure the temperature of the rocky exoplanet TRAPPIST-1 b. The measurement is based on the planet’s thermal emission: heat energy given off in the form of infrared light detected by Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI). The result indicates that the planet’s dayside has a temperature of about 500 kelvins (roughly 230°C), and suggests that it has no significant atmosphere. This is the first detection of any form of light emitted by an exoplanet as small and as cool as the rocky planets in our own solar system. The result marks an important step in determining whether planets orbiting small active stars like TRAPPIST-1 can sustain atmospheres needed to support life. It also bodes well for Webb’s ability to characterise temperate, Earth-sized exoplanets using MIRI.

“These observations really take advantage of Webb’s mid-infrared capability,” said Thomas Greene, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Ames Research Center and lead author on the study published today in the journal Nature. “No previous telescopes have had the sensitivity to measure such dim mid-infrared light.”

Rocky planets orbiting ultra cool red dwarfs

In early 2017, astronomers reported the discovery of seven rocky planets orbiting an ultracool red dwarf star (or M dwarf) 40 light-years from Earth. What is remarkable about the planets is their similarity in size and mass to the inner, rocky planets of our own solar system. Although they all orbit much closer to their star than any of our planets orbit the Sun – all could fit comfortably within the orbit of Mercury – they receive comparable amounts of energy from their tiny star.

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TRAPPIST-1 b, the innermost planet, has an orbital distance about one hundredth that of Earth’s and receives about four times the amount of energy that Earth gets from the Sun. Although it is not within the system’s habitable zone, observations of the planet can provide important information about its sibling planets, as well as those of other M-dwarf systems.

“There are ten times as many of these stars in the Milky Way as there are stars like the Sun, and they are twice as likely to have rocky planets as stars like the Sun,” explained Greene. “But they are also very active – they are very bright when they’re young and they give off flares and X-rays that can wipe out an atmosphere.”

Co-author Elsa Ducrot from CEA in France, who was on the team that conducted the initial studies of the TRAPPIST-1 system, added, “It’s easier to characterise terrestrial planets around smaller, cooler stars. If we want to understand habitability around M stars, the TRAPPIST-1 system is a great laboratory. These are the best targets we have for looking at the atmospheres of rocky planets.”

Detecting an atmosphere (or not)

Previous observations of TRAPPIST-1 b with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, as well as NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, found no evidence for a puffy atmosphere, but were not able to rule out a dense one.

One way to reduce the uncertainty is to measure the planet’s temperature. “This planet is tidally locked, with one side facing the star at all times and the other in permanent darkness,” said Pierre-Olivier Lagage from CEA, a co-author on the paper. “If it has an atmosphere to circulate and redistribute the heat, the dayside will be cooler than if there is no atmosphere.”

Light curve showing the change in brightness of the TRAPPIST-1 system as the innermost planet, TRAPPIST-1 b, moves behind the star. This phenomenon is known as a secondary eclipse.

Astronomers used Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) to measure the brightness of mid-infrared light. When the planet is beside the star, the light emitted by both the star and the dayside of the planet reach the telescope, and the system appears brighter. When the planet is behind the star, the light emitted by the planet is blocked and only the starlight reaches the telescope, causing the apparent brightness to decrease.

Astronomers can subtract the brightness of the star from the combined brightness of the star and planet to calculate how much infrared light is coming from the planet’s dayside. This is then used to calculate the dayside temperature.

The graph shows combined data from five separate observations made using MIRI’s F1500W filter, which only allows light with wavelengths ranging from 13.5-16.6 microns to pass through to the detectors. The blue squares are individual brightness measurements. The red circles show measurements that are “binned,” or averaged to make it easier to see the change over time. The decrease in brightness during the secondary eclipse is less than 0.1%. MIRI was able to detect changes as small as 0.027% (or 1 part in 3700).

This is the first thermal emission observation of TRAPPIST-1 b, or any planet as small as Earth and as cool as the rocky planets in the Solar System.

The observations are being repeated using a 12.8-micron filter in order to confirm the results and narrow down the interpretations.

MIRI was developed as a partnership between Europe and the USA: the main partners are ESA, a consortium of nationally funded European institutes, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the University of Arizona. The instrument was nationally funded by the European Consortium under the auspices of the European Space Agency.

[Image description: At the top of the infographic is a diagram showing a planet moving behind its star (a secondary eclipse). Below the diagram is a graph showing the change in brightness of 15-micron light emitted by the star-planet system over the course of 3.5 hours. The infographic shows that the brightness of the system decreases markedly as the planet moves behind the star.]

Credit:
NASA, ESA, CSA, J. Olmsted (STScI), T. P. Greene (NASA Ames), T. Bell (BAERI), E. Ducrot (CEA), P. Lagage (CEA)

The team used a technique called secondary eclipse photometry, in which MIRI measured the change in brightness from the system as the planet moved behind the star. Although TRAPPIST-1 b is not hot enough to give off its own visible light, it does have an infrared glow. By subtracting the brightness of the star on its own (during the secondary eclipse) from the brightness of the star and planet combined, they were able to successfully calculate how much infrared light is being given off by the planet.

Measuring minuscule changes in brightness

Webb’s detection of a secondary eclipse is itself a major milestone. With the star more than 1,000 times brighter than the planet, the change in brightness is less than 0.1%.

“There was also some fear that we’d miss the eclipse. The planets all tug on each other, so the orbits are not perfect,” said Taylor Bell, the post-doctoral researcher at the Bay Area Environmental Research Institute who analysed the data. “But it was just amazing: The time of the eclipse that we saw in the data matched the predicted time within a couple of minutes.”

Analysis of data from five separate secondary eclipse observations indicates that TRAPPIST-1 b has a dayside temperature of about 500 kelvins, or roughly 230°C. The team thinks the most likely interpretation is that the planet does not have an atmosphere.

Rocky exoplanet TRAPPIST-1 b (temperature comparison)
Comparison of the dayside temperature of TRAPPIST-1 b as measured using Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) to computer models showing what the temperature would be under various conditions. The models take into account the known properties of the system, including the planet’s size and density, the temperature of the star, and the planet’s orbital distance. The temperature of the dayside of Mercury is also shown for reference.

The dayside brightness of TRAPPIST-1 b at 15 microns corresponds to a temperature of about 500 K (roughly 230°C). This is consistent with the temperature assuming the planet is tidally locked (one side facing the star at all times), with a dark-coloured surface, no atmosphere, and no redistribution of heat from the dayside to the nightside.

If the heat energy from the star were distributed evenly around the planet (for example, by a circulating carbon dioxide-free atmosphere), the temperature at 15 microns would be 400 K (125°C). If the atmosphere had a substantial amount of carbon dioxide, it would emit even less 15-micron light and would appear to be even cooler.

Although TRAPPIST-1 b is hot by Earth standards, it is cooler than the dayside of Mercury, which consists of bare rock and no significant atmosphere. Mercury receives about 1.6 times more energy from the Sun than TRAPPIST-1 b does from its star.

MIRI was developed as a partnership between Europe and the USA: the main partners are ESA, a consortium of nationally funded European institutes, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the University of Arizona. The instrument was nationally funded by the European Consortium under the auspices of the European Space Agency.

[Image description: Infographic titled, “Rocky Exoplanet TRAPPIST-1 b Dayside Temperature Comparison, MIRI F1500W” showing five planets plotted along a horizontal temperature scale: Earth, TRAPPIST-1 b, Mercury, and two different models of TRAPPIST-1 b.]

Credit:
NASA, ESA, CSA, J. Olmsted (STScI), T. P. Greene (NASA Ames), T. Bell (BAERI), E. Ducrot (CEA), P. Lagage (CEA)

“We compared the results to computer models showing what the temperature should be in different scenarios,” explained Ducrot. “The results are almost perfectly consistent with a blackbody made of bare rock and no atmosphere to circulate the heat. We also didn’t see any signs of light being absorbed by carbon dioxide, which would be apparent in these measurements.”

This research was conducted as part of Guaranteed Time Observation (GTO) program 1177, which is one of eight approved GTO and General Observer (GO) programs designed to help fully characterise the TRAPPIST-1 system. Additional secondary eclipse observations of TRAPPIST-1 b are currently in progress, and now that they know how good the data can be, the team hopes to eventually capture a full phase curve showing the change in brightness over the entire orbit. This will allow them to see how the temperature changes from the day to the nightside and confirm if the planet has an atmosphere or not.

“There was one target that I dreamed of having,” said Lagage, who worked on the development of the MIRI instrument for more than two decades. “And it was this one. This is the first time we can detect the emission from a rocky, temperate planet. It’s a really important step in the story of discovering exoplanets.”

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How to watch 5 planets in rare celestial event tonight – The Indian Express

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This is not a true planetary alignment where they will appear in a straight line, but NASA scientist Bill Cooke told CBS News that the planets will be visible on March 28 and that the “alignment: will look “very pretty.”

How to watch the 5 planets

While the five planets should technically be visible along with the waxing crescent moon in most parts of the world, you will not be able to see it unless you are in a location with an unobstructed view of the horizon.

According to Rick Feinberg, senior contributing editor at Sky & Telescope magazine, Venus and Mars should be easy to spot. Venus is the brightest planet in the solar system and will be high in the sky, and Mars will shine brightly next to the waxing Moon. But on the other hand, Uranus, which will appear near Venus, will appear faint and will only be visible next.

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“Wait until the sun has set and then go out and look low in that bright part of the sky where the sun has just set with binoculars, and you should see brighter Jupiter next to fainter Mercury,” said Fienberg to NPR.

In order to get the best view of this rare celestial event, go to a location with as little light pollution as possible and a clear horizon with not obstructions. Once there, you should be able to spot most planets, apart from Jupiter and Mercury, without the use of binoculars.

Is this a rare event?

While tonight is not an everyday event, it is not truly a five-planet alignment since the planets will not appear as if they form a single straight line.

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If you were looking for an actual alignment of five planets, that time has passed. A true 5 planet alignment happened in June last year when Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn stretched across the sky from low in the east to higher in the south in the order of their distance from the Sun.

Even discounting the rare coincidence where they appeared in that particular order, the planetary alignment in June was the first one in nearly eighteen years, with the last time being on December 2004. Such an event is not expected to happen again until 2040, according to NPR.

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Uncrewed Russian spacecraft that leaked coolant lands safely – CTV News

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MOSCOW –

A Russian space capsule safely returned to Earth without a crew Tuesday, months after it suffered a coolant leak in orbit.

The Soyuz MS-22 leaked coolant in December while attached to the International Space Station. Russian space officials blamed the leak on a tiny meteoroid that punctured the craft’s external radiator. They launched an empty replacement capsule last month to serve as a lifeboat for the crew.

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The damaged capsule safely landed Tuesday under a striped parachute in the steppes of Kazakhstan, touching down as scheduled at 5:45 p.m. (7:45 a.m. EDT) 147 kilometres (91 miles) southeast of Zhezkazgan under clear blue skies.

Space officials determined it would be too risky to bring NASA’s Frank Rubio and Russia’s Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitri Petelin back in the Soyuz in March as originally planned, as cabin temperatures would spike with no coolant, potentially damaging computers and other equipment, and exposing the suited-up crew to excessive heat.

The three launched in September for what should have been a six-month mission on the International Space Station. They now are scheduled to return to Earth in September in a new Soyuz that arrived at the space outpost last month with no one on board, meaning the trio will spend a year in orbit.

Also on the station are NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg, the United Arab Emirates’ Sultan Alneyadi, and Russia’s Andrey Fedyaev.

A similar coolant leak was spotted in February on the Russian Progress MS-21 cargo ship docked at the space outpost, raising suspicions of a manufacturing flaw. Russian state space corporation Roscosmos ruled out any defects after a check and concluded that both incidents resulted from hits by meteoroids.

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