(Bloomberg) — Early Covid-19 cases traced to markets in Wuhan, China, mirror the initial spread of SARS 17 years earlier, scientists said in a paper that concludes that an animal contagion is the most likely explanation for the pandemic’s genesis.
The epidemiological history of SARS-CoV-2 is comparable to previous animal market-associated outbreaks of coronaviruses and offers a simple route for human exposure, Edward Holmes, Andrew Rambaut and 19 other researchers said Wednesday in a review of the scientific evidence pertaining to the pandemic’s origins.
The paper was released on Zonodo Wednesday ahead of peer-review, and is being prepared for submission to a journal for publication, one of the authors said. It gives a detailed explanation for SARS-CoV-2’s genetic signatures, early epidemiology and research undertaken at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Debate about Covid’s emergence has coalesced around two competing ideas: a “laboratory escape” scenario and a spillover from animals. The authors, who also include Nobel prize-winner Peter Doherty and Wellcome Trust Director Jeremy Farrar, said there is no evidence that SARS-CoV-2 has a laboratory origin, and the suspicion stems from the coincidence that the pandemic virus was first detected in a city that houses the institute’s maximum biosafety lab that studies coronaviruses and deadly diseases, such as Ebola.
The Last–And Only–Foreign Scientist in the Wuhan Lab Speaks Out
The lab accident theory “cannot be entirely dismissed,” but it’s very unlikely, the authors said, compared with “the numerous and repeated human-animal contacts that occur routinely in the wildlife trade.”
Failure to investigate and understand the contagion’s viral origin through collaborative and carefully coordinated studies “would leave the world vulnerable to future pandemics arising from the same human activities that have repeatedly put us on a collision course with novel viruses,” they wrote.
Wuhan is the largest city in central China with multiple animal markets and is a major hub for travel and commerce, well connected to other areas both within China and internationally, the authors said. The link to Wuhan, therefore, more likely reflects the fact that pathogens often require heavily populated areas to become established.
Where Are We in Hunting for the Coronavirus’s Origin?: QuickTake
Although no bat reservoir nor intermediate animal host for SARS-CoV-2 has been found so far, the virus’s transmission from one animal species to another is likely to go undetected, the authors said. Most SARS-CoV-2 index cases aren’t likely to have spread the virus to other people, and only a small subset of spillover events from animals to humans results in major outbreaks.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.
NASA discovers double crater on the moon – CTV News
The moon has a new double crater after a rocket body collided with its surface on March 4.
New images shared by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been circling the moon since 2009, have revealed the location of the unusual crater.
The impact created two craters that overlap, an eastern crater measuring 59 feet (18 metres) across and a western crater spanning 52.5 feet (16 metres). Together, they create a depression that is roughly 91.8 feet (28 metres) wide in the longest dimension.
Although astronomers expected the impact after discovering that the rocket part was on track to collide with the moon, the double crater it created was a surprise.
Typically, spent rockets have the most mass at the motor end because the rest of the rocket is largely just an empty fuel tank. But the double crater suggests that this object had large masses at both ends when it hit the moon.
The exact origin of the rocket body, a piece of space junk that had been careening around for years, is unclear, so the double crater could help astronomers determine what it was.
The moon lacks a protective atmosphere, so it’s littered with craters created when objects like asteroids regularly slam into the surface.
This was the first time a piece of space junk unintentionally hit the lunar surface that experts know of. But craters have resulted from spacecraft being deliberately crashed into the moon.
For example, four large moon craters attributed to the Apollo 13, 14, 15 and 17 missions are all much larger than each of the overlapping craters created during the March 4 impact. However, the maximum width of the new double crater is similar to the Apollo craters.
Bill Gray, an independent researcher focused on orbital dynamics and the developer of astronomical software, was first to spot the trajectory of the rocket booster.
Gray had initially identified it as the SpaceX Falcon rocket stage that launched the US Deep Space Climate Observatory, or DSCOVR, in 2015 but later said he’d gotten that wrong and it was likely from a 2014 Chinese lunar mission — an assessment NASA agreed with.
However, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied the booster was from its Chang’e-5 moon mission, saying that the rocket in question burned up on reentry to Earth’s atmosphere.
No agencies systematically track space debris so far away from Earth, and the confusion over the origin of the rocket stage has underscored the need for official agencies to monitor deep-space junk more closely, rather than relying on the limited resources of private individuals and academics.
However, experts say that the bigger challenge is the space debris in low-Earth orbit, an area where it can collide with functioning satellites, create more junk and threaten human life on crewed spacecraft.
There are at least 26,000 pieces of space junk orbiting Earth that are the size of a softball or larger and could destroy a satellite on impact; over 500,000 objects the size of a marble — big enough to cause damage to spacecraft or satellites; and over 100 million pieces the size of a grain of salt, tiny debris that could nonetheless puncture a spacesuit, according to a NASA report issued last year.
7 Amazing Dark Sky National Parks – AARP
Can’t afford to join a commercial space mission offered by Jeff Bezos or Richard Branson? Consider the next best thing: seeing a starry, starry night in a sea of darkness, unimpeded by artificial light, at one of the International Dark Sky Parks in the U.S. It’s a rare treat, since light pollution prevents nearly 80 percent of Americans from seeing the Milky Way from their homes.
The International Dark-Sky Association (IDSA) has certified 14 of the nation’s 63 national parks as dark sky destinations. So visitors can take full advantage of such visibility, many of them offer specialized after-dark programs, from astronomy festivals and ranger-led full-moon walks to star parties and astrophotography workshops. If you prefer to stargaze on your own at a park, the National Park Service recommends bringing a pair of 7-by-50 binoculars, a red flashlight, which enhances night vision, and a star chart, which shows the arrangement of stars in the sky.
Here are seven of the IDSA-certified parks where you can appreciate how the heavens looked from the Earth before the dawn of electric light.
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Award-winning travel writer Veronica Stoddart is the former travel editor of USA Today. She has written for dozens of travel publications and websites.
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A Mystery Rocket Left A Crater On The Moon – Forbes
While we think of the moon as a static place, sometimes an event happens that reminds us that things can change quickly.
On March 4, a human-made object (a rocket stage) slammed into the moon and left behind a double crater, as seen by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission.
Officials announced June 23 that they spotted a double crater associated with the event. But what’s really interesting is there’s no consensus about what kind of rocket caused it.
China has denied claims that the rocket was part of a Long March 3 rocket that launched the country’s Chang’e-5 T1 mission in October 2014, although the orbit appeared to match. Previous speculation suggested it might be from a SpaceX rocket launching the DISCOVR mission, but newer analysis has mostly discredited that.
On a broader scale, the value of LRO observations like this is showing how the moon can change even over a small span of time. The spacecraft has been in orbit there since 2009 and has spotted numerous new craters since its arrival.
It’s also a great spacecraft scout, having hunted down the Apollo landing sites from orbit and also having tracked down a few craters from other missions that slammed into the moon since the dawn of space exploration.
It may be that humans return to the moon for a closer-up look in the coming decade, as NASA is developing an Artemis program to send people to the surface no earlier than 2025.
LRO will also be a valuable scout for that set of missions, as the spacecraft’s maps will be used to develop plans for lunar bases or to help scout safe landing sites for astronauts.
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