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Arecibo Observatory suffers more damage as second cable fails – Space.com

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The famed Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico has suffered another major blow in a difficult year that has seen two snapped cables damage the fragile dish.

The facility’s heart is a massive, delicate radio telescope built into the island’s geology and surrounded by jungle. Arecibo Observatory has operated for more than five decades, including perhaps most famously broadcasting in 1974 the so-called Arecibo Message meant to update any intelligent life about our technical skills. But lately, the observatory has been battered: First it suffered “relatively minor” damage during 2017’s massive Hurricane Maria; this year already it endured a batch of earthquakes in January and then lost one of its thick cables, which snapped and damaged the dish in August. Now, another cable has snapped just three months later.

“This is certainly not what we wanted to see, but the important thing is that no one got hurt,” Francisco Cordova, the director of the observatory, said in a statement released by the University of Central Florida, which manages the facility.

Related: The Arecibo Observatory: Puerto Rico’s giant radio telescope in photos

“We have been thoughtful in our evaluation and prioritized safety in planning for repairs that were supposed to begin Tuesday,” Cordova said, referring to the work planned to fix the cable that broke in August. “Now this. There is much uncertainty until we can stabilize the structure. It has our full attention. We are evaluating the situation with our experts and hope to have more to share soon.”

According to the statement, the newly broken cable was one of the main supporting cables connecting to the same tower as the cable that damaged the dish in August. That cable slipped out of its socket and potentially put extra weight on the cable that fully snapped on Nov. 6 and damaged both other cables and the main dish, the university said.

The incident didn’t cause any injuries but has prompted the observatory to limit access to the area. Now, observatory personnel hope to be able to install reinforcements to the tower to protect other cables while evaluating what additional repairs will be necessary.

“This is not good, but we remain committed to getting the facility back online,” Cordova said. “It’s just too important of a tool for the advancement of science.”

Email Meghan Bartels at mbartels@space.com or follow her on Twitter @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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Calgary man captures photo of SpaceX Dragon docked at the International Space Station – Calgary Herald

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When Shafqat Zaman takes photos of the International Space Station (ISS) from Calgary, it may help that he’s about 1 kilometre closer than photographers shooting from sea level.

However, the ISS is still about 399 kilometres away, and moving at a speed of about 7.66 kilometres per second relative to the ground. However you measure it, snapping a shot of the orbiting laboratory is an incredible feat.

Zaman captured this shot on Wednesday evening. It features a clear view of the SpaceX Dragon capsule, which lifted off on Nov. 15 and docked with the station about 27 hours later. It’s the white cone-shaped object on the left side, near the middle.

The SpaceX Dragon capsule is the bright white cone on the left of the ISS. Photo by Shafqat Zaman /Submitted

This wasn’t his first snapshot of the most expensive object ever constructed. Zaman captured several images of the ISS showing different angles as it passed overhead in late September.

A series of 3 images of the ISS taken as it passed over Calgary in September 2020. Photo by Shafqat Zaman /Submitted

He also captured this stunning transit of the ISS in front of the sun.

A series of shots of the ISS passing in front of the sun. Photo by Shafqat Zaman /Submitted

Zaman said he uses an 8″ Meade SCT telescope with a Canon M5 camera.

Zaman’s telescope. Photo by Shafqat Zaman

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Landmark wheat genome discovery could shore up global food security – New Food

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Project leader, Curtis Pozniak, compares the findings to locating a missing piece of your favourite puzzle, and hopes this will transform the way wheat is grown globally.

Scientists believe the genome sequencing will lead to higher wheat yields around the world.

An international team led by the University of Saskatchewan (USask) has sequenced the genomes for 15 wheat varieties representing breeding programmes around the world.

This landmark discovery will enable scientists and breeders to identify influential genes for improved yield, pest resistance and other important crop traits much more quickly.

The research results, published in Nature, provide what the research team has called the most comprehensive atlas of wheat genome sequences ever reported. The 10+ Genome Project collaboration involved more than 95 scientists from universities and institutes across Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Japan, the UK, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Israel, Australia and the US.

“It’s like finding the missing pieces for your favourite puzzle that you have been working on for decades,” said project leader Curtis Pozniak, wheat breeder and director of the USask Crop Development Centre (CDC). “By having many complete gene assemblies available, we can now help solve the huge puzzle that is the massive wheat pan-genome and usher in a new era for wheat discovery and breeding.”

Scientific groups across the global wheat community are expected to use the new resource to identify genes linked to in-demand traits, such as pest and diseases resistance, which will accelerate breeding efficiency.

“This resource enables us to more precisely control breeding to increase the rate of wheat improvement for the benefit of farmers and consumers, and meet future food demands,” Pozniak added.

As one of the world’s most cultivated cereal crops, wheat plays an important role in global food security, providing about 20 percent of human caloric intake globally. The university says it’s estimated that wheat production must increase by more than 50 percent by 2050 to meet an increasing global demand – knowing which wheat genomes ‘best perform’ could be crucial in delivering this target.

The researchers explain that they were able to track the unique DNA signatures of genetic material incorporated into modern cultivars from several of wheat’s undomesticated relatives by breeders over the last century.1

“These wheat relatives have been used by breeders to improve disease resistance and stress resistance of wheat,” said Pozniak. “One of these relatives contributed a DNA segment to modern wheat that contains disease-resistant genes and provides protection against a number of fungal diseases. Our collaborators from Kansas State University and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Mexico, showed that this segment can improve yields by as much as 10 percent. Since breeding is a continual improvement process, we can continue to cross plants to select for this valuable trait.”

Pozniak’s team, in collaboration with scientists from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and National Research Council of Canada, also used the genome sequences to isolate an insect-resistant gene (Sm1). This gene enables wheat plants to withstand the orange wheat blossom midge, a pest which can cause more than $60 million in annual losses to Western Canadian producers.1

“Understanding a causal gene like this is a game-changer for breeding because you can select for pest resistance more efficiently by using a simple DNA test than by manual field testing,” Pozniak concluded.

References 

  1. www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2961-x 

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T. rex got huge via major teenage growth spurt – CBC.ca

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Large meat-eating dinosaurs attained their great size through very different growth strategies, with some taking a slow and steady path and others experiencing an adolescent growth spurt, according to scientists who analyzed slices of fossilized bones.

The researchers examined the annual growth rings — akin to those in tree trunks — in bones from 11 species of theropods, a broad group spanning all the big carnivorous dinosaurs including Tyrannosaurus rex and even birds. The study provides insight into the lives of some of the most fearsome predators ever to walk the Earth.

The team looked at samples from museums in the United States, Canada, China and Argentina and even received clearance to cut into bones from one of the world’s most famous T. rex fossils, known as Sue and housed at the Field Museum in Chicago, using a diamond-tipped saw and drill.

Sue’s leg bones — a huge femur and fibula — helped illustrate that T. rex and its relatives — known as tyrannosaurs — experienced a period of extreme growth during adolescence and reached full adult size by around age 20. Sue, measuring about 13 metres, lived around 33 years.

Sue inhabited South Dakota about a million years before dinosaurs and many other species were wiped out by an asteroid impact 66 million years ago.

Other groups of large theropods tended to have more steady rates of growth over a longer period of time. That growth strategy was detected in lineages that arose worldwide earlier in the dinosaur era and later were concentrated in the southern continents.

Examples included Allosaurus and Acrocanthosaurus from North America, Cryolophosaurus from Antarctica and a recently discovered as-yet-unnamed species from Argentina that rivaled T. rex in size. The Argentine dinosaur, from a group called carcharodontosaurs, did not reach its full adult size until its 40s and lived to about age 50.

Big theropods share the same general body design, walking on two legs and boasting large skulls, strong jaws and menacing teeth.

“Prior to our study, it was known that T. rex grew very quickly, but it was not clear if all theropod dinosaurs reached gigantic size in the same way, or if there were multiple ways it was done,” said paleontologist and study lead author Tom Cullen of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and North Carolina State University, also affiliated with the Field Museum.

The research was published this week in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

“Theropod dinosaurs represent the largest bipedal animals to have ever lived and were also the dominant predators in terrestrial ecosystems for over 150 million years — more than twice as long as mammals have been dominant,” added University of Minnesota paleontologist and study co-author Peter Makovicky

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