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Atlantic discovery: 12 new species 'hiding in the deep' – BBC News



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.css-1ecljvk-StyledFigureCopyrightposition:absolute;bottom:0;right:0;background:#3F3F42;color:#EEEEEE;padding:0.25rem 0.5rem;text-transform:uppercase;ATLAS


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.css-14iz86j-BoldTextfont-weight:bold;Almost five years of studying the deep Atlantic in unprecedented detail has revealed 12 species new to science.

The sea mosses, molluscs and corals had eluded discovery because the sea floor is so unexplored, scientists say.

Researchers warn that the newly discovered animals could already be under threat from climate change.

Carbon dioxide absorbed by the ocean is making it more acidic, causing coral skeletons in particular to corrode.

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Deep sea coral on a seamount


The scientists involved stressed it was “not too late to protect these special species” and the important habitats they occupied.

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Some key Atlantic discoveries from the mission:

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  • New species: “At least” 12 new deep-sea species. The team also found approximately 35 new records of species in areas where they were previously unknown
  • Climate change: Ocean warming, acidification, and decreasing food availability will combine to significantly shift and reduce the availability of suitable habitats for deep-sea species by 2100
  • Hydrothermal vents: Scientists discovered a field of these sea-floor hot springs in the Azores. Hydrothermal fields are important areas of relatively high biological productivity that host complex communities in the midst of the vast deep ocean

Cities of the deep

As Prof George Wolff, an ocean chemist from the University of Liverpool who was involved in the project pointed out: “We can still say we have better maps of the surface of the Moon and Mars than of the sea floor.”

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Newly discovered Atlantic species


“So whenever you go to the deep ocean, you find something new – not just individual species but entire ecosystems.”

Prof Murray Roberts from the University of Edinburgh led .css-yidnqd-InlineLink:linkcolor:#3F3F42;.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visitedcolor:#696969;.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visitedfont-weight:bolder;border-bottom:1px solid #BABABA;-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link:hover,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited:hover,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link:focus,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited:focusborder-bottom-color:currentcolor;border-bottom-width:2px;color:#B80000;@supports (text-underline-offset:0.25em).css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visitedborder-bottom:none;-webkit-text-decoration:underline #BABABA;text-decoration:underline #BABABA;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-skip-ink:none;text-decoration-skip-ink:none;text-underline-offset:0.25em;.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link:hover,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited:hover,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:link:focus,.css-yidnqd-InlineLink:visited:focus-webkit-text-decoration-color:currentcolor;text-decoration-color:currentcolor;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:2px;text-decoration-thickness:2px;color:#B80000;the Atlas project, as it is called. He told BBC News that nearly five years of exploration and investigation had revealed some “special places” in the ocean and worked out “how they tick”.

Underwater robot


“We found whole communities formed by sponges or deep ocean corals that form the cities of the deep sea,” he explained. “They support life. So really important fish use these places as spawning grounds.

“If those cities are damaged by destructive human uses, those fish have nowhere to spawn and the function of those whole ecosystems is lost for future generations.

“It’s like understanding that the rainforest is an important place for biodiversity on the land; the same is true of the deep sea – there are important places that need to be protected and, crucially , they are all connected.”

Slowing ocean currents

The project involved researchers from 13 countries around the Atlantic – combining ocean chemistry and physics, as well as biological discovery, to work out how the ocean environment is changing as the world warms and as humans exploit more of the deep sea for fishing and mineral extraction.

Research ship in icy North Atlantic water


Studying ocean currents and depositions of fossils on the seabed revealed that the major currents in the North Atlantic have slowed dramatically in response to climate change.

“The implications of that are complicated, but potentially the connections between ecosystems are being reduced,” Prof Roberts explained, because ocean currents are the highways that link different habitats together in the vastness of the deep ocean.

Out of sight

Newly discovered coral species


“The value of all this knowledge is that it enables us to understand what we might risk losing,” said Prof Claire Armstrong, a natural resource economist from the University of Tromsø.

“The deep ocean can be so out of sight and out of mind that we’re not really aware of what we’re doing to its environments and the consequences of what we do.”

With a growing global population, increasing pollution and emerging areas of commercial activity in the deep sea, including prospecting for medically and industrially useful products, marine scientists say it is vital to fill the gaps in our ocean knowledge.

The ocean is not an endless resource, Prof Armstrong added. “Conserving and knowing what we might need in the future is really, really difficult.”

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In Photos: Hubble Captures Echoes Of Violent Supernova ‘Fireworks’ That Lit-Up Night Sky In The Third Century – Forbes



The Hubble Space Telescope has captured light from a supernova blast—an exploding star—that would have been seen from Earth 1,700 years ago.

Although there are no known records of anyone seeing it, a cosmic explosion that’s been compared to fireworks would have been visible to people in Earth’s southern hemisphere.

It’s now visible to the Hubble Space telescope as a delicate greenish-blue shell—a supernova remnant (SNR)—in a nearby galaxy to the Milky Way called the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC).

The SNR is called 1E0102.2-7219, or E0102 for short. Here’s everything you need to know about how Hubble’s spectacular images have been used to precisely date an incredible supernova explosion.

What and where is E0102?

E0102 is the leftovers of a massive explosion of a star in a nearby dwarf galaxy—the SMC.

The images from Hubble show the aftermath of a supernova—the dissipating energy has created a spectacular display of greenish-blue filaments.

The above image of part of the SMC shows that E0102 is “close”—about 50 light-years—from a massive star-forming region of glowing hydrogen emission called N 76 and Henize. You can see that as the pink-ish section in the upper-right of the image. E0102 is at the center of the image.

What do we know about the star?

Not much, though it may have been a Wolf-Rayet star—a very large and old star made from heavy elements that had probably blown-off its hydrogen before the explosion.

Astronomers think that because the colors of E0102 indicate that it was rich in oxygen rather than hydrogen and helium.

How did astronomers use Hubble’s images?

Although E0102 was previously known about, its age was unknown. Treating E0102 as forensic evidence, astronomers used Hubble’s observations of E0102 taken a decade apart to calculate the cloud’s expansion rate.

They did that by calculating how fast 22 separate oxygen-rich knots of debris in the SNR had moved in 10 years. They then traced it back to the point in space where the progenitor star must have exploded.

Why Hubble’s longevity was so crucial

“A prior study compared images taken years apart with two different cameras on Hubble, the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 and the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS),” said Danny Milisavljevic of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, one of the leaders of the research team whose paper was presented yesterday at the 237th meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

“But our study compares data taken with the same camera, the ACS, making the comparison much more robust; the knots were much easier to track using the same instrument,” he said.

“It’s a testament to the longevity of Hubble that we could do such a clean comparison of images taken 10 years apart.”

What is the SMC?

The Small Magellanic Cloud is a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way. It’s about 200,000 light-years away in the constellation Tucana. It’s really easy to see in the night skies in the southern hemisphere.

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.

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Creation by catastrophe – Skywatching –



Collision of the Galaxies sounds like a good title for a spectacular disaster movie.

Actually, a lot of things in the universe depend on things smashing together, including galaxies. The object
Arp 299 is two galaxies in collision.

The two, designated NGC 3690 and IC 694, lying about 134 million light years away from us, have been in the process of collision for around 700 million years. The Hubble Space Telescope image can be found at The image is dotted with many bright, blue stars.

This is interesting because there are only two types of bright, blue star. One kind are young stars that will dim down a bit as they settle down.

The other kind are stars that collected an exceptionally large amount of hydrogen when they formed. These stars shine extremely brightly, run out of fuel soon, collapse and then explode. These explosions are called supernovae.

In either case, these blue stars cannot be very old. This relates to another interesting aspect of this pair of galaxies: the oddly large number of supernova explosions. What has produced these unusual circumstances?

If you look at a nearby spiral galaxy, such as our close neighbour, the Andromeda Galaxy, you will see the spiral arms glowing with little knots of pink, and sparkling with young stars.

If we could go a couple of million light years off into space, our galaxy, the Milky Way, would look much the same. The reason is that the spiral arms of galaxies are loaded with hydrogen gas, the primary ingredient for making stars.

If we look closer, we will see that these clouds are not uniform; some regions are much denser than others. On occasion, something triggers one of these denser regions to collapse, forming one or more stars.

These youngsters are hot and blue, and their high output of ultraviolet radiation makes the surrounding clouds glow pink. This pink, a characteristic of hydrogen, is known as hydrogen-alpha emission.

Therefore, when we look at a distant galaxy, those pink glows mean two things:

  • There is hydrogen to glow
  • Hot, blue stars to make it glow.

However, the jewel-box of bright, blue stars we see in the Arp 299 pair of galaxies is really unusual. Some major event caused massive collapses of hydrogen clouds, forming showers of new stars. We are pretty sure this outburst of star formation was caused by the two galaxies colliding.

Paradoxically, collisions between galaxies are not totally catastrophic; they trigger the formation of new stars and planets.

When we look at the computer simulations of collisions between galaxies (there are many on the web), they look pretty catastrophic. One can imagine stars and planets being annihilated on a huge scale.

The youtube on this link is a good example of what we believe a collision between two galaxies would look like. However, the situation is nothing like as bad as it looks.

The nearest star to us, after the Sun, lies about four light years away. This distance is fairly typical of the average distance between stars. So the chance of stars in two colliding galaxies passing close to one another is tiny. Even as fragments fly around and the galaxies combine, all the inhabitants of worlds in those galaxies will see is their equivalent of the Milky Way changing shape over millions of years.

However, for the gas clouds between the stars it’s a different matter. These will collide and collapse, forming lots of new stars.

We will get a chance to experience this first hand. The Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy are racing toward each other at 110 km/s, and will collide in about four billion years. There are computer simulations of this collision on the web.

  • The only easily visible planet is Mars, which can be found high in the southwest during the evening.
  • The Moon will reach First Quarter on the 20th.

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Oldest quasar and supermassive black hole discovered in the distant universe – CTV News



The most distant quasar and the earliest known supermassive black hole have been discovered, shedding light on how massive galaxies formed in the early universe.

This discovery was revealed Tuesday at the 237th meeting of The American Astronomical Society, happening virtually due to the pandemic. The study has been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

A quasar, or quasi-stellar object, is the compact region at the center of a galaxy that throws off enormous energy. They emit so much energy that quasars appear like stars through a telescope. Astronomers believe that the supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies actually power quasars, acting like an engine.

When gas falls into quasars at the centers of galaxies, they form disks of gas and dust that emit electromagnetic energy. This creates a brightness greater than entire galaxies.

Jets shoot out of the quasar, pulsing with X-rays, and they are some of the hottest things in the entire universe. The jets blow gas and dust, which are essential to form stars, out of the galaxy. When a quasar forms, it signals the end of a galaxy’s star-forming days.

This quasar is a thousand times more luminous than our Milky Way galaxy, and it’s powered by the earliest known supermassive black hole. The light from this quasar took more than 13 billion years to reach Earth, and astronomers were able to observe it as the quasar appeared just 670 million years after the Big Bang.

Its black hole engine weighs more than 1.6 billion times the mass of our sun, making it twice as massive as that of the previous record holder.

“This is the earliest evidence of how a supermassive black hole is affecting the galaxy around it,” said Feige Wang, lead study author and NASA Hubble fellow at the University of Arizona, in a statement. “From observations of less distant galaxies, we know that this has to happen, but we have never seen it happening so early in the Universe.”

The quasar has been dubbed J0313-1806 by the astronomers who discovered it.

“The most distant quasars are crucial for understanding how the earliest black holes formed and for understanding cosmic reionization — the last major phase transition of our Universe,” said Xiaohui Fan, study coauthor and regents professor of astronomy at the University of Arizona, in a statement.

To picture the brightness of this highly energetic object, imagine our sun — but 10 trillion times more luminous.

Astronomers were surprised to discover this quasar was fully formed in such a short time, astronomically speaking, after the Big Bang. The presence of the massive black hole that powers it at this early point in the universe’s timeline also challenges how astronomers understand black hole formation.

For example, how did this black hole have time to form?

“Black holes created by the very first massive stars could not have grown this large in only a few hundred million years,” Wang said.

Typically, such massive black holes form when giant stars explode and collapse, forming black holes that grow in size. They can also form when a dense cluster of stars collapses. Both of these take time.

“This tells you that no matter what you do, the seed of this black hole must have formed by a different mechanism,” Fan said. “In this case, it’s a mechanism that involves vast quantities of primordial, cold hydrogen gas directly collapsing into a seed black hole.”

The brightness of the quasar indicates that the black hole is gobbling up about 25 stars like our sun each year, which powers an outflow of gas moving at 20% the speed of light.

This loss of gas typically halts the birth of stars in a galaxy because that gas is a necessary ingredient in star formation.

“We think those supermassive black holes were the reason why many of the big galaxies stopped forming stars at some point,” Fan said.

Ultimately, the black hole will eventually run out of food, stunting its growth, Fan said.

Multiple telescopes were used in the discovery and astronomers are eager to observe it more in the future.

The galaxy that hosts the quasar is rapidly producing stars at a rate that is 200 times faster than the Milky Way.

“This would be a great target to investigate the formation of the earliest supermassive black holes,” Wang said. “We also hope to learn more about the effect of quasar outflows on their host galaxy — as well as to learn how the most massive galaxies formed in the early Universe.”

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