Connect with us

Science

International deal to protect ozone layer behind new contaminant problem: study – Ponoka News

Published

on


EDMONTON — A landmark environmental agreement that helped close the ozone hole in the 1990s has led to new chemical contaminants forming in the atmosphere and accumulating on land.

“The Montreal Protocol was probably one of the best regulations out there to involve all the countries at once,” said Heidi Pickard, one of nine researchers to publish the findings in a paper Thursday.

“But, of course, you have these unintended consequences.”

The Montreal Protocol, which came into force in 1989, banned chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, that were used in refrigerators, air conditioners and aerosol sprays. They were destroying the ozone layer, which helps protect the planet from damaging ultraviolet solar radiation.

It has been signed by 197 parties and is considered the world’s most successful environmental agreement.

But the chemicals used to replace the banned ones are breaking down in the atmosphere into new contaminants known as short-chain fluorinated alkyl acids.

They don’t seem to be as toxic as other long-lived contaminants such as dioxins. They are, however, highly persistent, said co-author Amila De Silva of Environment Canada.

“They’re known as forever chemicals. They just don’t break down.”

Little is known about this family of chemicals, said Pickard, who now works at Harvard University. But at least one of them is known to be toxic to plants. Others harm freshwater insects. Others accumulate in plants, including food crops.

Their presence is growing. Although still measured in billionths of a gram per litre, their concentration in ice cores from two High Arctic locations has increased about sevenfold since 1990, said co-author Alison Criscitiello from the University of Alberta.

“It’s significant,” she said. “The accumulation rate is fairly high.”

Concentrations of one chemical known to be harmful are expected to increase as further substitutes for the banned compounds are phased in.

As well, preliminary data suggests the concentration of these chemicals is higher in the south.

“When we measure rain and snow in populated urban areas, we’re finding quite a prevalence of these substances in much higher concentration,” De Silva said.

Finding these acids in two of Earth’s remotest places — the Devon Island ice cap and Mt. Oxford on Ellesmere Island — should be a warning, the scientists say. More needs to be known about them, and soon.

“There is not toxicological information out there,” Pickard said.

No one knows, for instance, if they increase in concentrations higher up the food chain.

“The lower end of the food web is probably the target for these substances — the invertebrates, the plankton, plants that take up water,” De Silva said.

Pickard said some scientists believe the chemicals have immune-system impacts on children at levels already exceeded in the ice cores.

“There’s a lot of research that needs to be done,” said Criscitiello. “It’s quite a large class of chemicals.”

The researchers hope their paper in Geophysical Research Letters will spark interest. And, if nothing else, they hope their findings highlight a need to cast a wide scientific net when environmental regulations are drafted.

“When the Montreal Protocol came into effect, there wasn’t enough research available to understand (the consequences),” said De Silva. ”A more holistic approach to decision-making when it comes to environmental impacts is necessary.

“It’s difficult to do, but it is necessary.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 14, 2020

— Follow @row1960 on Twitter

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won’t find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Science

Watch SpaceX launch its latest batch of Starlink satellites, including one with a sun visor – TechCrunch

Published

on


SpaceX just launched its most important and historic launch ever this past weekend, flying NASA astronauts for the first time – on Wednesday, it’s set to follow that up with a less significant Falcon 9 rocket launch, but one that’s still vital to the company’s future. This mission is the latest of SpaceX’s Starlink launches, which the company is using to put up a vast network of small satellites to provide low-cost, high-bandwidth internet access to customers globally.

SpaceX’s Starlink mission today has a launch window of 9:25 PM EDT (6:25 PM PDT) and includes a payload of 60 more satellites for the constellation, which already has 420 operating in low Earth orbit. The goal is ultimately to launch as many as 40,000 or of these small satellites in order to blanket the globe with connectivity that’s broadly available, and that provides rock solid network consistency by handing off connections among the satellites as they make their way around the Earth.

This launch was originally scheduled to fly the week prior to SpaceX’s Demo-2 crewed mission, which carried NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station on Saturday and Sunday, but was bumped due to a scheduling conflict with a ULA launch, and then further postponed until after the astronaut flight. It’s still already the fifth batch of 60 Starlink satellites that SpaceX has flown in 2020. In total, SpaceX is hoping for up to two dozen Starlink launches in total before year’s end, which will help it meet its goal of launching an initial beta service in Canada and the U.S. later this year, with a more global rollout following in 2021 or 2022.

This launch will take off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and will use a Falcon 9 first stage that flew previously on four previous missions. SpaceX will attempt to recover the booster again through a controlled landing, and will also try to catch the fairing halves used to protect the satellite cargo using its ‘Ms. Tree’ and ‘Ms. Chief’ ships.

One key novel element for this flight is the test of a new technology SpaceX is hoping will help mitigate the impact of the Starlink constellation on night sky observation from Earth. Scientists have complained that Starlink is bright enough to interfere with sensitive optical instrumentation used to gather data deep space bodies and phenomena. To address that, SpaceX has designed a deployable ‘visor’ system which extends from Starlink satellites post-launch and attempts to block sunlight reflecting off of their communications arrays.

SpaceX has equipped one of the 60 satellites on this launch with that system, as way of testing its efficacy before making it a standard part of the Starlink satellite build going forward. Depending on results, it could become a permanent fixture on all SpaceX’s Starlink spacecraft for future missions.

Should today’s launch be delayed (weather is currently looking around 60% favorable for the mission), there’s a backup opportunity tomorrow, June 4 at 9:03 PM EDT (6:03 PM PDT).

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Science

Why a rocket launch can’t unite us right now – The Verge

Published

on


At 9:30AM ET on Tuesday, three American astronauts symbolically rang the Nasdaq opening bell from space — a celebration of SpaceX’s historic launch that sent astronauts into orbit three days prior. The short ceremony played out live on the Nasdaq’s giant screen in Times Square, with various NASA personnel clapping as one astronaut clanged a bell on the International Space Station.

The video glowed over the same streets where, in the days and nights before, thousands of demonstrators had gathered nearby to protest systemic racism and police brutality against black Americans.

This kind of cognitive dissonance has permeated SpaceX’s first passenger flight — the first time that NASA astronauts have launched from the US in nearly a decade. NASA has been waiting for this moment since the last Space Shuttle landed in 2011, and now the agency wants to celebrate. It wants the United States and the world to celebrate, too. But if the space community expects the world to care about the things we do in space, there must be an acknowledgment of how broken things are on the ground and the injustices that still exist in the United States.

That might mean passing up the chance to ring the bell on Wall Street while the economy remains in tatters. It might mean a compassionate statement from the crew addressing the people on the Earth below, instead of answering rote questions from dignitaries and press.

There are eerie echoes between this SpaceX launch and Apollo 8, as others have pointed out. That mission, the first to reach the vicinity of the Moon, launched in 1968, a year that mirrors 2020 in its apocalyptic bleakness. The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. had sparked protests throughout the country. Space enthusiasts like to look back on that mission with rose-colored glasses, as something that served as a shining beacon of hope during a tough time for the country.

[embedded content]

But as others have pointed out, Apollo 8 didn’t fix the turmoil of the time. Just look at where we stand today. Likewise, SpaceX’s launch did not unite the country or the world, though NASA certainly tried to make that claim. “This was an amazing moment of unity for the nation,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said during a call with the astronauts after the launch. “It was an amazing moment for the whole world to look out in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and the challenges. We’re able to have very, very special moments where we can all look at the future and say that things are going to be brighter tomorrow than they are today.”

If only it were that simple. The problem that NASA and the space community doesn’t often understand is that spaceflight still isn’t inclusive. These launches may be fun and emotional to watch, but they don’t always feel like they’re for everyone. Space is still an exclusive and expensive domain, and the people who are in charge of this industry are still predominately male and white. The idea that a launch could bring the public together during a time when widespread racism and injustice are at the forefront of people’s minds is naive at best.

To be fair to NASA, Bridenstine acknowledged that an important space launch couldn’t “fix” the world. “Look, I think what NASA does is astonishing. It’s impressive, and it does bring people together,” he said. “If the expectation was that things on the ground were going to change because we launched a rocket, I think maybe the expectation might have been a little high.” He then proceeded to talk about just how many people tuned into NASA and SpaceX’s launch coverage over the weekend.

Those numbers are just not important right now. Yes, the launch must have been a small bright moment for people who turned their attention to a rocket soaring into space for one brief moment this weekend. But if the space community wants to really have a uniting effect on the world, it must be deeply rooted in the happenings of Earth. And the space world seems to exist in a bubble where these things just don’t have an effect.

While NASA acknowledged the problems going on down on the surface throughout the SpaceX launch, the statements didn’t stray much from touting the idea that this launch was a beacon of hope for the world during a difficult time. Meanwhile, the industry has mostly sheltered in its celebratory bubble. While many other major industries have issued a flurry of statements addressing the protests, the giants of the spaceflight industry remained silent.

Instead, compassionate demands for change have been left to individuals in the spaceflight world, including former astronauts.

“It is not this mission that will bring us together but the individual people following it who step forward to lock arms with people we don’t know but must learn to trust,” former astronaut and former NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said on Twitter.

“Today demands we take pride not only in reaching the sky, but also sustained heights of decency, truth, compassion and justice for all, now!” former astronaut Mae Jemison said on Twitter.

“America let’s get our crap together,” former astronaut Leland Melvin said during a Facebook video. “This is unsatisfactory. We’ve got to stop this. And it’s going to be the good people that do nothing now that start doing something to stamp this hatred, evil, and racism out.”

Even if the space industry were to come out with a unified statement, from the outside, it feels like it’s more or less business as usual within the space world. NASA and space companies continue to move forward with many of the same things they had planned, such as handing out contracts for major programs, making major announcements, and launching vehicles. But the times are anything but business as usual. If the space community wants to unite people, then it must make people feel like they are part of space, and that means being conscious of where people’s lives are on the ground. It means committing to fix the wrongs in our society while also building vehicles to break the bonds of gravity.

Only then will people feel like they can come together to wonder in our journey toward the stars.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Science

Evaluating SpaceX's Starlink Push – NASASpaceflight.com

Published

on


Evaluating SpaceX’s Starlink Push – NASASpaceFlight.com

Let’s block ads! (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Trending