New data from a Canadian-led team of astronomers, including researchers from the McGill Space Institute and McGill University Department of Physics, strongly suggest that magnetars—a type of neutron star believed to have an extremely powerful magnetic field—could be the source of some fast radio bursts (FRBs). Though much research has been done to explain the mysterious phenomenon, their source has thus far remained elusive and the subject of some debate.
First detection of an intense radio burst from a Galactic magnetar
On 28 April 2020, a team of approximately 50 students, postdocs and professors from the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) Fast Radio Burst Collaboration detected an unusually intense radio burst emanating from a nearby magnetar located in the Milky Way. In a study published today in Nature, they show that the intensity of the radio burst was three thousand times greater than that of any magnetar measured thus far, lending weight to the theory that magnetars are at the origin of at least some FRBs.
“We calculated that such an intense burst coming from another galaxy would be indistinguishable from some fast radio bursts, so this really gives weight to the theory suggesting that magnetars could be behind at least some FRBs,” said Pragya Chawla, one of the co-authors on the study and a senior Ph.D. student in the Physics Department at McGill.
Competing theories about the origins of FRBs
FRBs were first discovered over a decade ago. Originally thought to be singular events, astronomers have since discovered that some of these high-intensity blasts of radio emissions—more intense than the energy generated by the Sun over millions to billions of years—in fact repeat.
One theory hypothesized FRBs to be extragalactic magnetars—young extremely magnetic neutron stars that occasionally flare to release enormous amounts of energy.
“So far, all of the FRBs that telescopes like CHIME have picked up were in other galaxies, which makes them quite hard to study in great detail,” said Ziggy Pleunis, a senior Ph.D. student in McGill’s Physics department and one of the co-authors of the new study. “Moreover, the magnetar theory was not supported by observations of magnetars in our own galaxy as they were found to be far less intense than the energy released by extragalactic FRBs until now.”
Magnetar origin for all FRBs remains to be confirmed
“However, given the large gaps in energetics and activity between the brightest and most active FRB sources and what is observed for magnetars, perhaps younger, more energetic and active magnetars are needed to explain all FRB observations,” added Dr. Paul Scholz from the Dunlap Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto.
Smoking-gun proof of a magnetar origin for some FRBs would come from the simultaneous detection of an extragalactic radio burst and an X-ray burst. However, this will likely only be possible for nearby FRBs. Fortunately, CHIME/FRB is discovering these in good numbers.
A bright millisecond-duration radio burst from a Galactic magnetar, Nature (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2863-y , www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2863-y
Detection of a short, intense radio burst in Milky Way (2020, November 4)
retrieved 4 November 2020
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Cochrane company making Virtual Reality for astronauts – CTV Toronto
Stardust Technologies is on a mission to take virtual reality where it’s never been before.
The Cochrane-based tech company is researching how simulating Earth-bound activities can help improve astronauts’ mental health while on board the International Space Station (ISS) — and eventually during long-distance space travel.
“It’s a very important thing that astronauts feel like they are on Earth,” said the company’s chief technology office, Jawad El Houssine.
“VR technology will be very, very useful for this.”
Testing VR zero gravity
The team is the first to use Facebook’s Oculus Quest VR headset in this way and is collaborating with the Canadian Space Agency and the National Research Council of Canada to test out how to make it work outside of Earth — since the technology was first created to work with this planet’s gravity.
Shy of going to space themselves to research this, Stardust has been conducting test flights in Ottawa, using an airplane that can mimic gravity in space, on the moon and on Mars.
“We succeeded to make the Oculus Quest work 100 per cent in zero gravity,” Jawad said, after conducting only a couple test flights so far.
Simulating Earth… in space
This is part of what the company calls ‘Project EDEN,’ with the goal being to create a fully-simulated Earth experience in space — using a combination of virtual reality, artificial intelligence and a haptic feedback suit that can simulate sensations like wind, rain and touch.
The company’s CEO, Jason Michaud, said the project is intended to help astronauts with feelings of homesickness, loneliness, isolation, and stress. He compares it to feelings many people on Earth have been experiencing during the pandemic.
“Our EDEN project is going to be targeted at doing simulations where you’ll be able to play, let’s say golf in microgravity, for the astronauts,” Michaud said.
“If you like, you could play hockey, do some meditation with other people on Earth that could be, potentially, with the astronauts while they’re on the International Space Station.”
(Out-of-this) world of possibilities
Michaud has high ambitions for the project. He sees it being used on the moon, when NASA builds its lunar base planned for 2024 — and even on an eventual human mission to Mars.
The need for engaging entertainment on long voyages is not a new concept for humanity, said El Houssine, thinking all the way back to the 15th century, when Spaniards would play games and sing songs on their voyage to the New World.
It stands to reason that people will need more advanced and immersive entertainment as we travel through space, he said. And so the work continues to make sure ‘Project EDEN’ will be ready for work on the ISS and future space voyages.
“We are hoping to be able to (have an astronaut) test that next year on the International Space Station directly,” said Michaud.
Though many more microgravity test flights are needed to get to that point, he said.
‘I believe you can achieve anything’
As for researching the technology’s ability to help with mental health, particularly isolation, Michaud said he is planning to send El Houssine on his own journey to test the technology alone — in Antarctica.
Reflecting on the progress of ‘Project EDEN’ and his company — which also services the mining and medicine industries — Michaud credits it to his upbringing in northern Ontario.
He hopes to inspire young people in the region with the possibilities of technology — and hopes more entrepreneurs arise in the region.
“As long as you have the drive for it and the community to support you, I believe you can achieve anything.”
COVID-19 outbreak that infected 133, killed 31 at New West care home has ended, Fraser Health says – CTV News Vancouver
One of B.C.’s largest care home outbreaks of COVID-19 is now officially over.
The outbreak at Royal City Manor, a long-term care home in New Westminster, began on Jan. 3 and quickly grew to include dozens of residents and staff members.
As of March 3, the outbreak was responsible for 133 cases of the coronavirus. A total of 102 residents were infected, and 31 died, according to data from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.
On Sunday night, Fraser Health announced in a news release that the outbreak had been declared over.
“With the implementation of comprehensive strategies to prevent and respond to COVID-19 in care facilities, there are no longer any COVID-19 cases at this location,” the health authority said in its release.
The end of the Royal City Manor outbreak means there are no longer any active outbreaks involving more than 100 cases of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities in B.C.
The largest ongoing outbreak in a long-term care home in the province is now the one at Acropolis Manor in Prince Rupert, where 57 people had tested positive and 14 residents had died, as of the latest BCCDC update.
Health officials have attributed the decline in the number and severity of outbreaks in care homes in the province in recent months to the proliferation of COVID-19 vaccines in the system. As of mid-February, some 91 per cent of residents in long-term care had received at least one dose of a vaccine.
Outbreaks in hospitals, meanwhile, have not noticeably declined in frequency in 2021.
On Saturday, an outbreak was declared at Kelowna General Hospital, where a separate, unrelated outbreak was already ongoing in a different unit.
On Sunday, Interior Health announced that the earlier outbreak, in unit 4B, had ended. A total of seven people – six patients and one staff member – tested positive for COVID-19 in association with that outbreak. Two of the patients died.
“I would like to thank the team at KGH for their efforts in containing this outbreak and preventing further spread throughout the hospital,” said Interior Health president and CEO Susan Brown in a news release Sunday.
“We send our condolences to the families of the two patients who passed away and will work equally as hard to contain the second outbreak declared on March 6,” Brown added.
Ontario universities eye opening up campuses this fall – ThePeterboroughExaminer.com
Ontario universities are eyeing on-campus classes and activities this fall — or possibly even sooner — as the province’s vaccination rollout ramps up.
“We expect to return to face-to-face instruction, and more of the on-campus experiences we all love, this coming September,” Western University President Alan Shepard said in a written release. “We know this question has been top of mind for our current students and for new students considering Western.”
And, he added, “as vaccines become more readily available over the spring and summer and as the Western community continues to remain vigilant both on and off campus, we’re increasingly confident of these plans.”
The province-wide lockdown last March sent post-secondary students home from campus, with almost all — except for those requiring hands-on labs for things like health studies — learning remotely this school year. While residences opened to first-year students last September, they did so at a much lower capacity than normal.
Schools now say they hope to have a clearer picture to give their students before the end of the winter term, at the end of April.
The University of Guelph is planning for a “safe gradual return to face-to-face learning for the fall 2021 semester” — or even earlier.
“We anticipate that this spring we will begin welcoming increased numbers of faculty and staff back to our campuses and facilities, following strict health and safety protocols and public health guidelines,” said Interim President Charlotte Yates in a written release to faculty and staff.
“This gradual return will help us ensure we can provide a safe environment for everyone.”
At Waterloo University, Media Relations Manager Rebecca Elming said it is looking to get back to normal as soon as it is safe, though specifics are still in the works.
“We have been and will continue to work with health officials and all levels of government to make the transition back to in-person campus operations safe for students, staff and faculty,” she said.
Queen’s University is “cautiously optimistic” that by the winter term — which starts in January 2022 — campus life will be back to what it was pre-pandemic.
However, for September, it is considering a hybrid model.
“We will still be living with COVID-19 in the fall, so flexible options may still be required as appropriate,” but “as part of society’s hope to be back to some degree of normalcy by fall, we are planning that many small classes, labs, and tutorials will be offered in-person, with appropriate safety protocols in place,” said Mark Green, provost and academic vice-principal, in a written release, acknowledging “this past year has been challenging.”
However, “if restrictions remain in place throughout the fall, such as physical distancing measures and class size limitations, we expect most large classes may need to be delivered remotely.”
Ryerson University says it is “actively planning for a number of scenarios in advance of the 2021-22 academic year, but no final decision has been made” as yet.
“We will not ask anyone to come to campus until government and public health agencies have told us that it’s safe to open and that the safety and well-being of our community can be assured,” the school said in a statement.
“This will likely mean a gradual return — prioritizing areas that would most benefit from in-person interaction. Our goal is to inform our community 90 days prior to the beginning of the fall semester to give time for students to plan to attend campus and for faculty to plan course delivery.”
The University of Toronto said it is “looking forward, with optimism, to fall 2021 when people can once more gather on our campuses, as permitted by public health guidelines … By September, we aim to support students, faculty, staff and librarians to return to campus, while also preserving some of the best innovations of the past year in terms of technology and flexible work arrangements.”
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