Scientists from Kyoto University teamed up a forestry company in order to investigate how wood could be used in space. The aim is to prevent pollution in the upper atmosphere which occurs when conventional satellites burn up on re-entry.
Takao Doi, a former International Space Station astronaut, told the BBC his team are “very concerned” about the miniscule “alumina particles” that accumulate in Earth’s atmosphere when satellites return.
These particles can remain in the atmosphere for “many years,” he added. In contrast, the wooden satellites would allegedly burn up in a cleaner way.
The researchers are keeping the specific types of wood they are using a secret. Still, it is understood they are set to trial different types thanks to their partnership with Sumitomo Forestry.
However, some analysts have hit out at the reports. John Timmer, a reporter for tech news site Ars Technica, has claimed the wooden housing “won’t help” eliminate the issue of space junk.
Mr Timmer claimed the satellite housing only makes up “a fraction” of the material used in the satellite overall, and that other vital components such as boosters constitute “a lot of the junk” in space.
Elsewhere other analysts suggest wooden satellites could have benefits aside from ‘green’ re-entry incineration.
According to one estimate, there are almost 6,000 satellites orbiting the Earth currently.
Of these, most – roughly 60 percent – are no longer in use.
Figures released in August by the Union of Concerned Scientists claim the vast majority of operational satellites – 1,425 – belong to the US.
Many of the satellites operate in a LEO, or low-Earth orbit, configuration.
One concern about space pollution is that it potentially poses risks for objects in orbit.
Depending on the height of their orbit, satellites can travel at eye-watering speeds.
The lower their orbit, the faster they tend to go. The European Space Agency states satellites in low-Earth orbit generally travel around 17,000 miles per hour.
Due to the high speeds, a collision between two objects in orbit could cause significant damage.
Meanwhile, astronomers have pointed out another issue with space debris made worse by SpaceX’s Starlink satellite programme.
Elon Musk’s rocket firm aims to launch tens of thousands of the internet-beaming satellites into space in the coming years in order to provide worldwide internet coverage.
However, sky gazers have complained that the orbiting satellites are crowding the clear night-time sky, making it harder to peer at the stars uninterrupted.
SpaceX has responded by reconfiguring future models to reflect less sunlight, though concerns still remain, the Scientific American reported earlier this year.
B.C. researchers find evidence of ancient predatory sand worms that were two metres long – Calgary Herald
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The trace fossils showed feather-like structures around the upper parts of the burrows, which the researchers believe would have been caused by the worms dragging their struggling prey under the ocean floor to eat them.
The study’s lead author, earth sciences student Yu-Yen Pan, said the giant burrows are much larger than other trace fossils of ocean worms found in the past.
“Compared to other trace fossils which are usually only a few tens of centimetres long, this one was huge; two-metres long and two to three centimetres in diameter,” she said in a press release. “The distinctive, feather-like structures around the upper burrow were also unique and no previously studied trace fossil has shown similar features.”
The researchers say that these worms likely would have fed similarly to the bobbit worm, often called the “sand striker.”
Bobbit worms wait in their burrow for unsuspecting prey, then explode upwards, grabbing the prey in their mouths and pulling them back down into the sediment.
The researchers also found evidence that led them to believe the worms secreted mucus after each feeding that rebuilt and reinforced their burrows, allowing them to lie in wait for their next victim without being seen.
Pan and an international team that studies the ancient sea floor has named the homes of these worms Pennichnus formosae.
According to the study, previous research on Eunicid polychaetes, the family that these ancient worms and bobbit worms belong to, was limited because they only stuck a small portion of their bodies out from the ocean floor.
These trace fossils have allowed researchers to better understand the activity and habits of the ancient species.
Predatory ocean worms have existed for over 400 million years, and while these ancient burrows are long when compared to others that had previously been studied, giant marine worms are not just creatures of the ancient past.
Bobbit worms can grow up to three metres long themselves, and lay in their burrows just beneath the ocean floor today.
13 new North Atlantic right whale calves recorded this season – CBC.ca
Thirteen North Atlantic whale calves have been spotted off the coast of the southern United States — more than the number born in a single winter since 2016.
The calves, recorded only about halfway through the calving season, are reason for “guarded optimism” about the endangered whale’s population, a researcher says.
“In 2018 we didn’t have any calves born and we’ve had ten or less in most of the previous five years,” said Philip Hamilton, a research scientist with the Anderson Cabot Centre for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium. “So that’s very positive news.”
Calving season for North Atlantic right whales typically runs from the start of December to the end of March. So, it’s possible this could be the first year in a long time the population hits a supposed reproduction average.
Scientists expect 23 calves a year
Hamilton said that given the current state of the whale population, scientists would expect an average of around 23 calves a year. That hasn’t happened in years, likely because of the stress whales are experiencing finding enough food.
The North Atlantic right whale population have recently moved into unfamiliar and more hazardous waters in search of a dwindling food supply.
While there are some first-time mothers with calves this year, several of the mothers haven’t reproduced in a decade.
“On average a right whale should be able to give birth every three or four years, and some of the mothers that are giving birth this year have gone 10 or 11 years without calving,” said Hamilton. “So, there’s a backlog of whales that should be able to calve and it’s really encouraging that they are.”
‘We need to stop killing these animals’
Hamilton says he is optimistic about this year’s calving season, but says it’s important to put things into context.
“We really need to stop killing these animals,” said Hamilton. “We’ve had 32 deaths between 2017 … we know that we’re missing probably two-thirds of the deaths.”
Hamilton estimates that as many as 100 of the whales may have died in the last four years.
Necropsies determined that many of them were killed as a result of blunt trauma likely due to being struck by passing ships. Entanglement in fishing gear has been cited as a cause of deaths.
Both Canada and the United States have implemented restrictions to curb the number of North Atlantic right whale deaths in recent years.
“Clearly we’re not doing enough,” Hamilton said. “Not enough, when we have a population of around 350.”
Starlink satellite internet grants instant sign-up for eligible Canadians – Saskatoon StarPhoenix
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In a CBC article, some Starlink subscribers have reported service speeds of up to 150Mbps.
The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunication Commission (CRTC) granted Starlink’s operator, SpaceX, a Basic International Telecommunications Service (BITS) license in October 2020. The license allows SpaceX to provide telecommunication services in Canada but does not allow it to operate as an internet service provider within the issuing nation.
SpaceX granted basic telecom license in Canada
Starlink says it aims to establish a global network by using a massive constellation of satellites. The satellites float at low earth orbit, which both cuts down on signal latency and can more easily return to earth once they’re decommissioned. But stargazers are worried that the massive amount of satellites could obscure the view of the night sky.
The company has expressed a keen interest in providing internet service to rural and underserved areas in Canada and the United States. It’s currently extending beta testing offers in Canada, U.S. and U.K.
Starlink says it has launched 955 satellites so far.
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