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Life on Venus? Study poses new theory on the possibility – CTV News

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A team of researchers has put forward a new theory suggesting possible life on the planet Venus could be making the environment more hospitable.

Published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team from Cardiff University in Wales, MIT in Cambridge, Mass., and Cambridge University in England say potential life may be creating its own habitable environment in the clouds of Venus through a “cascade of chemical reactions,” which in turn may also explain other “strange anomalies” that have puzzled scientists for decades.

Among those puzzling questions has been the presence of ammonia, a gas that was “tentatively” detected in the 1970s, and which the team says by all accounts shouldn’t be produced through any chemical process known on Venus — the second planet from the sun after Mercury and before Earth.

Simply put, the group says: “Life could be making its own environment on Venus.”

“We know that life can grow in acid environments on Earth, but nothing as acid as the clouds of Venus were believed to be,” William Bains of Cardiff University’s School of Physics and Astronomy, and a co-author of the study, said in a news release.

“But if something is making ammonia in the clouds, then that will neutralize some of the droplets, making them potentially more habitable.”

The scientists note that certain life forms on Earth have the ability to produce ammonia in order to neutralize and make an otherwise highly acidic environment livable.

As part of their work, the researchers modelled a set of chemical processes to show that if ammonia is present on Venus, the gas would set off a series of chemical reactions, neutralizing surrounding droplets of sulfuric acid.

The pH level of the clouds, or how acidic or basic they are, would then increase from roughly -11 to 0, the team says. While still very acidic, the researchers say this would be within the range of acidity that life could tolerate.

The team also tested whether dust could be sweeping minerals into the clouds of Venus and causing them to interact with the sulfuric acid.

However, it was determined that a massive amount of dust would be needed, which led the team to consider ammonia.

If life were producing ammonia, the researchers say the associated chemical reactions would naturally yield oxygen, which has been identified as one anomaly on the planet.

Once ammonia is in the clouds, it would dissolve in droplets of sulfuric acid and effectively neutralize it, creating a salt-like slurry.

The most plausible explanation for where ammonia would originate from, the researchers hypothesize, is biological, as opposed to a non-biological source such as lightning, volcanic eruptions or even a meteor strike.

“Ammonia shouldn’t be on Venus,” study co-author Sara Seager from MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences said.

“It has hydrogen attached to it, and there’s very little hydrogen around. Any gas that doesn’t belong in the context of its environment is automatically suspicious for being made by life.”

The group says a set of proposed privately funded missions, called the Venus Life Finder Missions, of which Seager is principal investigator, could serve as an opportunity to check for the presence of ammonia — and signs of life — in the next several years.

“There are many other challenges for life to overcome if it is to live in the clouds of Venus,” Bains adds.

“There is almost no water there for a start, and all life that we know of needs water. But if life is there, then neutralizing the acid will make the clouds just a bit more habitable than we thought.”

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Scientists study travels of meteorite that landed in B.C. in October – Vancouver Sun

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The small meteorite broke through a woman’s ceiling in Golden, B.C., in October, landing on her pillow, next to where she had been sleeping moments earlier.

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Scientists studying a meteorite that landed next to a B.C. woman’s head last year say it was diverted to that path about 470 million years ago.

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The small meteorite broke through a woman’s ceiling in Golden in October, landing on her pillow, next to where she had been sleeping moments earlier.

Philip McCausland, a lead researcher mapping the meteorite’s journey, said Monday they know the 4.5-billion-year-old rock collided with something about 470 million years ago, breaking into fragments and changing the trajectory of some of the pieces.

McCausland, who’s an adjunct professor at Western University in London, Ont., said the meteorite is of scientific significance because it will allow scientists to study how material from the asteroid belt arrives on Earth.

“There’s 50,000 to 60,000 identified meteorites now in the world, but most have no context. We don’t know really where they came from,” he said.

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“In cases where we have known orbits, where they were observed coming in well enough that we can reconstruct what the orbit was before it hit the Earth’s atmosphere, we can actually (determine) where they came from in the asteroid belt. Golden is one of those,” he said, referring to the location of where the meteorite landed.

Researchers determined the meteorite is an L chondrite, one of the most commonly found types of meteorites to fall to Earth. Despite this, he said only about five L chondrites have known orbits.

He said the Canadian team is now working with scientists in Switzerland, the U.K., U.S. and Italy to learn more about the meteorite and its path to Golden.

“We know we’re still going to get something interesting out of this,” McCausland said. “We actually do want to get a good handle on how things get delivered from the asteroid belt, and this is a useful part of putting that together.”

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Most of the meteorite has been returned to Ruth Hamilton, the woman who had the close call, and McCausland said it’s up to her to decide what to do with it.

Whether she decides to keep, sell or donate the rock, he said there is cultural significance of the rock to Canada. If she sells it to an international buyer, she would be required to go through the exportation process, he said.

Hamilton said she hasn’t yet made up her mind on what to do with the meteor. It’s currently sitting in a safety deposit box.

“I don’t have any plans for it right now, but once they’re done analyzing it, I’ll get all the documentation that proves it’s a meteorite,” she said. “It’s going to be officially named the Golden Meteorite.”

Before her roof is permanently repaired this spring, Hamilton said she intends to remove the section where the meteorite crashed through to keep it preserved alongside the rock.

McCausland said the research will likely conclude in May, and the scientists will then publish their work in an academic journal.

“Whenever something like this happens, I like to tell people it could happen to any of us; anyone can find a meteorite. It’s unlikely one will crash through your roof, but it can happen,” McCausland said. “It’s nature and, if anything, it’s a reminder that we’re part of something bigger.”

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Researchers at UBCO determine 'smart windows' can disinfect surfaces – Kelowna News – Castanet.net

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A new study at the University of British Columbia Okanagan shines a light on how sunlight can be used to disinfect surfaces in your home or workplace.

The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified concerns over how buildings might influence the health of the people who live and work in them. There has been some attention paid to ventilation, cleaning and filtration, however, the importance of daylight has been ignored, until now.

The UBCO research shows daylight passing through smart windows results in almost complete disinfection of surfaces within 24 hours while still blocking harmful ultraviolet light.

Dr. Sepideh Pakpour, an assistant professor at UBCO’s School of Engineering tested four strains of hazardous bacteria—methicillin-resistance Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, E. coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa—using a mini-living lab set-up. The lab used smart windows, which tint based on outdoor light conditions, and traditional windows with blinds. Dr. Pakpour found that, compared to windows with blinds, the smart windows significantly reduce bacterial growth rate. In fact the smart windows blocked more than 99.9 per cent of UV light, but still let in short-wavelength, high-energy daylight which acts as a disinfectant. This shorter wavelength light effectively eliminated contamination on glass, plastic and fabric surfaces.

Traditional window blinds block daylight, therefore, preventing surfaces from being disinfected. Dr. Pakpour noted previous research shows 92 per cent of hospital curtains can get contaminated within a week of being cleaned.

“We know that daylight kills bacteria and fungi,” she says. “But the question is, are there ways to harness that benefit in buildings, while still protecting us from glare and UV radiation? Our findings demonstrate the benefits of smart windows for disinfection, and have implications for infectious disease transmission in laboratories, health-care facilities and the buildings in which we live and work.”

A study from the Harvard Business Review points to natural light and views being among the most sought after by potential employees. Combine that with a push for “healthy buildings” as part of the COVID-19 return to work and employers could benefit from installing smart windows.

“Our buildings need to go beyond sustainable and smart to become healthy and safe environments first and foremost,” says Dr. Rao Mulpuri, Chairman and CEO at View, the company partnering with UBC for this research. “Companies are grappling with how to bring their people back to the office in a safe way. This research provides yet another reason why increased access to natural light needs to be part of the equation.”

Studies have shown that pathogenic bacteria and fungi can survive on inanimate surfaces for prolonged periods, which can lead to disease transmission.

“With the rise of antimicrobial resistance, antibiotics are no longer a silver bullet in treating health-care-associated infections, which cause tens of thousands of deaths in the US each year,” says Dr. Tex Kissoon, Vice Chair of the Global Sepsis Alliance, UBC Children’s Hospital Endowed Chair in Acute and Critical Care for Global Child Health. “The potential for daylight to sterilize surfaces and avoid these infections altogether is promising and should be factored into health-care facility design.”

Dr. Pakpour presented her findings Wednesday at the international Healthy Buildings Conference in Amsterdam.

“Our findings demonstrate the benefits of smart windows for disinfection, and have implications for infectious disease transmission in laboratories, health care facilities and the buildings in which we live and work.”

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Asteroid Bigger Than the Tallest Building on Earth Just Flew by Safely: Here's How People Are Reacting to… – Gadgets 360

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An asteroid bigger than the tallest building on Earth safely flew by on January 19. The giant rock, named 7482 (1994 PC1), zipped past our planet, nearly 1.93 million kilometres away. That’s more than five times the distance between Earth and Moon. It has been classified as “potentially hazardous” because of its size and its regular close visits to our planet, and not because it poses any threat to us. The asteroid came closest to Earth at 3:21am IST.

Astronomers say this will remain the closest approach of the asteroid for at least the next 200 years. They added that regular close visits by this asteroid should not lead to fear among people as its trajectory has a margin of error of only 133km.

The rock was travelling at a speed of 19.56kmph, relative to Earth, when it flew by us. The considerable speed with which it was travelling should have enabled amateur astronomers to spot it. It should have appeared as a point of light in the night sky. Earth Sky has shared a video of the asteroid moving rapidly in the sky. It said the video was recorded in Puerto Rico and the asteroid was visible despite a Full Moon on January 18 (local time) since the Moon was at a good distance from the asteroid’s path. See the video below (published by kevinizooropa):

Many people shared their excitement on Twitter at being able to see the asteroid or even after simply knowing that something like this had happened.

“While we were busy surviving another day, another year, another job, an asteroid bigger than Burj Khalifa just passed by…Notice the shooting star, which steals the show. Money and jobs are the biggest distraction to our real growth and finding answers to our existence,” said a user.

Some users have also shared images of the asteroid.

Many just found an opportunity to have a little fun, now that the celestial event passed safely. Check out their reactions below:

The asteroid was discovered by Australian astronomer Robert McNaught in 1994.


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