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Japan’s Hayabusa2 delivers rock samples from asteroid Ryugu – Al Jazeera English



Japan’s space agency has retrieved a capsule carrying the first rock samples from beneath the surface of an asteroid that scientists say could provide clues to the origin of the solar system and life on our planet.

The spacecraft Hayabusa2 released the small capsule on Saturday and sent it towards Earth to deliver samples from the asteroid Ryugu, about 300 million kilometres (180 million miles), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said.

“The capsule collection work at the landing site was completed,” the agency said in a tweet about four hours after the capsule landed.

“We practiced a lot for today … it ended safe.”

The return of the capsule with the world’s first asteroid subsurface samples comes weeks after NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft made a successful touch-and-go grab of surface samples from asteroid Bennu. China, meanwhile, announced this week its lunar lander collected underground samples and sealed them within the spacecraft for return to Earth, as space-developing nations compete in their missions.

Early on Sunday, the capsule briefly turned into a fireball as it re-entered the atmosphere 120 km (75 miles) above Earth.

At about 10 km (6 miles) above ground, a parachute was opened to slow its fall and beacon signals were transmitted to indicate its location.

“It was great … It was a beautiful fireball, and I was so impressed,” said JAXA’s Hayabusa2 project manager Yuichi Tsuda as he celebrated the successful capsule return and safe landing from a command centre in Sagamihara, near Tokyo.

“I’ve waited for this day for six years.”

The capsule descended from 220,000 km (136,700 miles) away after it was separated from Hayabusa2 in a challenging operation that required precision control.

About two hours after the capsule’s re-entry, JAXA said its helicopter search team found the capsule in the planned landing area in a remote, sparsely populated area of Woomera, Australia. The retrieval of the pan-shaped capsule, about 40 centimetres (15 inches) in diameter, was completed about two hours later.

JAXA officials said they hoped to conduct a preliminary safety inspection at an Australian lab and bring the capsule back to Japan early next week.

The material collected from the asteroid is believed to be unchanged since the time the universe was formed. Larger celestial bodies like Earth went through radical changes including heating and solidifying, changing the composition of the materials on their surface and below.

But “when it comes to smaller planets or smaller asteroids, these substances were not melted, and therefore it is believed that substances from 4.6 billion years ago are still there,” Makoto Yoshikawa, the mission manager, told reporters before the capsule arrived.

Scientists are especially keen to discover whether the samples contain organic matter, which could have helped seed life on Earth.

“We still don’t know the origin of life on Earth and through this Hayabusa-2 mission, if we are able to study and understand these organic materials from Ryugu, it could be that these organic materials were the source of life on Earth,” Yoshikawa said

Half the Hayabusa-2’s samples will be shared between JAXA, US space agency NASA and other international organisations and the rest kept for future study as advances are made in analytic technology.

This computer graphics image released by JAXA shows the Hayabusa2 spacecraft above the asteroid Ryugu. [File: ISAS/JAXA via AP]

For Hayabusa2, it is not the end of the mission it started in 2014. It is now heading to a small asteroid called 1998KY26 on a journey slated to take 10 years one way, for possible research including finding ways to prevent meteorites from hitting Earth.

So far, its mission has been fully successful. It touched down twice on Ryugu despite the asteroid’s extremely rocky surface, and successfully collected data and samples during the one and a half years it spent near Ryugu after arriving there in June 2018.

In its first touchdown in February 2019, it collected surface dust samples. In a more challenging mission in July that year, it collected underground samples from the asteroid for the first time in space history after landing in a crater that it created earlier by blasting the asteroid’s surface.

Asteroids, which orbit the sun but are much smaller than planets, are among the oldest objects in the solar system and therefore may help explain how Earth evolved.

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Hearing the dead person? Here’s what research says – Tech Explorist



Why some people and not others say they receive communications from ‘the dead’?

This is horrifying. Right?

But why this happens?

A new study by Durham University explains the reason. The study found that spiritualist mediums might be more prone to immersive mental activities and unusual auditory experiences early in life.

Spiritualism is a religious movement dependent on the possibility that human spirits keep on existing after death and speak with the living through a medium or psychic.

A medium that hears the dead person is believed to be experiencing clairaudient communications instead of clairvoyant (“seeing”) or clairsentient (“feeling” or “sensing”) communications.

The study involved 65 clairaudient spiritualist mediums from the Spiritualists’ National Union and 143 members of the general population.

Spiritualist mediums completed an online questionnaire assessing the timing, nature, and frequency of their auditory (clairaudient) spiritual communications – including scales measuring paranormal beliefs, absorption, hallucination-proneness, and aspects identity. These measures were compared to a general population group.

They found that these spiritualists have a strong leaning towards absorption – a trait linked to immersion in mental or imaginative activities and altered states of consciousness.

Eighteen percent revealed having clairaudient experiences ‘for as far back as they could recall’, and 71 percent had not experienced Spiritualism as a religious movement preceding their first experience.

Numerous who experience hearing dead voices experience spiritualist beliefs while looking for the meaning behind, or heavenly significance of, their own and unusual experiences.

Spiritualists tend to report unusual auditory experiences that are positive, start early in life and are often then able to control.

Understanding how these develop is important in helping us learn more about distressing or non-controllable experiences of hearing voices and how to support those whose voices are linked to psychosis or other mental health problems.

Journal Reference:
  1. Adam Powell et al. When spirits speak: absorption, attribution, and identity among spiritualists who report “clairaudient” voice experiences. DOI: 10.1080/13674676.2020.1793310

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Three more COVID-19 cases at GRT –



Grand River Transit is confirming three more COVID cases.

All the affected employees are bus drivers.

Two of them last worked on January 15, while the third was last on the job on Jan. 11.

GRT points out all three are now self-isolating at home.

So far in Janaury, nine employees have tested positive for the virus.

Grand River Transit lists COVID-19 cases on its website for transparency purposes, but some details are not released due to privacy concerns.

Since the on-set of the pandemic, multiple safety precautions have been put in place to protect drivers and riders, including barriers and mandatory masks.

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Microplastics could be eliminated from wastewater at source – E&T Magazine



A team of researchers from the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS), Quebec, Canada, have developed an electrolytic process for treating wastewater, degrading microplastics at the source.

Microplastics are fragments of plastic less than 5mm long, often contained in toiletries or shedding from polyester clothing. They are present in virtually every corner of the Earth, and pose a particularly serious threat to marine ecosystems. High concentrations of microplastics can be carried into the environment in wastewater.

There are no established degradation methods to handle microplastics during wastewater treatment; although some techniques exist, these involve physical separation as a means of filtering the pollutant. These techniques do not degrade microplastics, which requires additional work to manage the separated fragments. So far, research into degradation of microplastics has been very limited.

The INRS researchers, led by water treatment expert Professor Patrick Drogui, decided to try degrading plastic particles through electrolytic oxidation – a process that does not require the addition of chemicals.

“Using electrodes, we generate hydroxyl radicals to attack microplastics,” Drogui said. “This process is environmentally friendly because it breaks them down into CO2 and water molecules, which are non-toxic to the ecosystem.”

Drogui and his colleagues experimented with different anode materials and other parameters such as current intensity, anode surface, electrolyte type, electrolyte concentration and reaction time. They found that the electrolytic oxidation could degrade more than 58 ± 21 per cent of microplastics in one hour. The microplastics appeared to degrade directly into gas rather than breaking into smaller particles.

Lab-based tests on water artificially contaminated with fragments of polystyrene showed a degradation efficiency as high as 89 per cent.

“This work demonstrated that [electrolytic oxidation] is a promising process for degradation of microplastics in water without production of any waste or by-products,” the researchers wrote in their Environmental Pollution report.

Drogui envisions this technology being used to treat microplastic-rich wastewater emerging from sources such as commercial laundries.

“When this commercial laundry water arrives at the wastewater treatment plant, it is mixed with large quantities of water, the pollutants are diluted and therefore more difficult to degrade,” he explained. “Conversely, by acting at the source, i.e. at the laundry, the concentration of microplastics is higher, thus more accessible for electrolytic degradation.”

Next, the researchers will move on to experimenting with degrading microplastics on water outside the artificial laboratory environment. Real commercial laundry water contains other materials that can affect the degradation process, such as carbonates and phosphates, which can trap radicals and limit degradation. If the technology is effective under these circumstances, the researchers plan to conduct a study to determine the cost of scaling up this treatment to implement in laundries.

Last week, researchers from the University of Barcelona published a study suggesting that encouraging a greater proliferation of seagrass meadows in the shallows of oceans could help trap, extract and carry marine plastic debris to shore.

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