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Massive, deep-sea ‘entity’ leaves ocean scientists ‘blown away’ – Global News

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Scientists call it a siphonophore Apolemia, but you can call it the world’s longest “long stringy stingy thingy,” the giant alien tentacle or just “the entity.”

An international team of ocean researchers says it may have discovered the longest living … thing … in the world, although the thing’s alien nature makes it hard to call it a single animal. It’s actually a giant colony of tiny, genetically identical clones that work together to create a larger, jellyfish-like predator in the deep sea.

The creature was spotted about 630 metres below the surface, in the darkness of the ocean’s depths.


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Researchers at the Schmidt Ocean Institute shared footage of the largest siphonophore Apolemia specimen they’ve ever seen earlier this week, after recording it in a “UFO-like” feeding coil deep beneath the Indian Ocean west of Australia, in a region known as the Ningaloo Canyons.

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It seems likely that this specimen is the largest ever recorded,” the Schmidt Ocean Institute researchers wrote on Twitter.

They added that the outer ring of the ribbon was about 47 metres long, but they weren’t able to get a full measurement of the thing’s inner rings. Most of these things grow to be about 40 metres long in total, meaning this one is much, much bigger than normal.

“Everyone was blown away when it came into view,” biologists Nerida Wilson and Lisa Kirkendale of the Western Australian Museum told ScienceAlert. They were among several research groups on the expedition.

“It has yet to be formally measured,” they said. “However, it does appear to be longer than any other animal on the planet.”


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The entity is truly massive in scale, but you’d never know it was made of tiny organisms if you saw it up close. The ribbon-like thing is about as thick as a broomstick, according to the Schmidt Ocean Institute, and it looks like a snake’s body with fur spilling out of one side. That “fur” is actually an assortment of tentacles meant for snaring small creatures.

A huge siphonophore Apolemia sea creature is shown in this close-up view.

A huge siphonophore Apolemia sea creature is shown in this close-up view.


Schmidt Ocean Institute/Instagram

The so-called entity is actually a massive ribbon of tiny ocean-dwelling organisms called zooids, which latch onto one another and clone themselves so they can act like one big, cohesive organism. The zooids become dedicated organs for the larger colony and spend their whole lives fulfilling a single function such as stinging prey, digesting food, moving around or reproducing.

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“The whole thing looks like one animal, but it’s many thousands of individuals which form an entity on a higher level,” biologist Stefan Siebert of Brown University told Wired in 2014.

Siebert was talking about a smaller specimen at the time, but the Schmidt Ocean Institute shared his explanation this week as an apt way of describing their find.


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Biologist Rebecca Helm, who specializes in studying jellyfish at the University of North Carolina Asheville, said the footage gave her “chills” on Twitter.

“This is an ANIMAL,” she wrote in a Twitter thread. “I’m guessing it’s over a hundred feet long, forming a spiral in the middle of the deep sea.

“I’ve gone on numerous expeditions and have never, EVER, seen anything like this.”

A huge siphonophore Apolemia sea creature is shown in this close-up view.

A huge siphonophore Apolemia sea creature is shown in this close-up view.


Schmidt Ocean Institute/Instagram

She added that the creature is remarkable because it appears to be hunting for food, rather than simply hanging out and snaring whatever passes by.

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“A siphonophore colony in a line creates a curtain of deadly tentacles in the open ocean,” she wrote. “But in THIS case, the animal is hunting in a galaxy-like spiral.”

Humans rarely encounter siphonophores, although their “long stringy stringy thingy” nickname is well-earned from a handful of such incidents, according to the New Zealand government.

Many people marvelled at the deep-sea alien on Twitter.

“It doesn’t know that we exist,” one user said. “Trippy how many different worlds are on this planet!”

“Love this concept,” the Schmidt Ocean Institute wrote in response.

“Like AM and FM radio waves, passing each other in the same space, ‘unaware’ of the other’s existence.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Take 2 for SpaceX's first astronaut launch with more storms – CTV News

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CAPE CANAVERAL, FLA. —
SpaceX pressed ahead with its second attempt to launch astronauts for NASA — a historic first for a private company — but more stormy weather threatened more delays.

Elon Musk’s company came within 17 minutes Wednesday of launching a pair of NASA astronauts for the first time in nearly a decade from the U.S., before the threat of lightning forced a delay.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said managers were debating whether to bump the next launch attempt from Saturday to Sunday to take advantage of a slightly improved forecast at Kennedy Space Center.

At an outdoor news conference Friday, Bridenstine stressed the need for safety for astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken — no matter how many times it takes to launch them in a SpaceX Dragon capsule atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station.

“We cannot forget this is a test flight. This — is — a — test — flight,” he repeated. “We will go when everything is as safe as we can possibly make it.”

Forecasters put the odds of acceptable weather conditions Saturday at 50-50, with the outlook improving to 60% favourable on Sunday. Rain and clouds were the main concerns for both days.

While NASA urged spectators to stay home because of the pandemic, prime viewing spots at area parks and beaches were packed Wednesday. A weekend launch could draw even bigger crowds. The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex reopened Thursday, after a 2 1/2-month shutdown, and within a few hours, all 4,000 tickets were snapped up for Saturday’s launch attempt.

President Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence were expected to return for the Saturday attempt. The number of employees, journalists and guests inside remained extremely limited because of the pandemic.

Whether an attempt is made Saturday or Sunday, “There will be no pressure. We will launch when we’re ready,” Bridenstine said.

The last time astronauts launched to orbit from the U.S. was in 2011 when Atlantis closed out the 30-year space shuttle program. Hurley was on that mission as well.

NASA hired SpaceX and Boeing in 2014 to get the ball rolling again — kicking off a commercial revolution for getting people to low-Earth orbit, according to officials. In the meantime, NASA has spent billions of dollars to buy seats on Russian Soyuz capsules for U.S. astronauts, in order to keep the space station staffed.

Boeing’s first astronaut flight, on the company’s Starliner capsule, is not expected until next year.

Bridenstine offered high praise for Musk on Friday and all his personal touches: spiffy spacesuits, Tesla rides to the launch pad, a colour-co-ordinated rocket and capsule — and more.

Musk has brought “vision and inspiration” to the American space program, Bridenstine said. While there’s occasionally a little tension between NASA and SpaceX, “he gives me a commitment and he delivers on that commitment. That has happened every single time.”

——

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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Proxima b, a confirmed — potentially habitable — Earth-sized planet, is a mere 4.2 light years away – The Post – Ontario

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At 1.17 Earth masses and in the habitable zone, scientists says it’s orbiting the nearest star to our sun

An artist’s depiction of what the surface of Proxima b might look like.

ESO

A team of scientists from the University of Geneva has confirmed the existence of an Earth-sized planet orbiting the star closest to the sun. The planet, called Proxima b, is 1.17 times the mass of Earth and is located in the habitable zone of Promixa Centauri, 4.2 light years away.

Because Proxima Centauri is a red dwarf, much smaller and cooler than the sun, its habitable zone or Goldilocks zone — neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water to exist — is very close to the star. Proxima b orbits about 20 times closer to its star than Earth does to the sun, and a year on the planet is just over 11 Earth days long.

Red dwarf stars emit huge quantities of X-rays, and the scientists estimate the planet gets 400 times as much radiation as Earth. But Christophe Lovis, a researcher in the astronomy department of the university, was optimistic that this might not rule out the possibility of life, or at least habitability.

“Is there an atmosphere that protects the planet from these deadly rays?” he asks. “And if this atmosphere exists, does it contain the chemical elements that promote the development of life — oxygen, for example? How long have these favourable conditions existed?”

Proxima b could have a moon-sized neighbour.

Such questions will, he hopes, be answered in the next few years by the next generation of spectrometers, which will tease out data from the light of the star and its planet. The recent confirmation of Proxima b came from data from a spectrograph called ESPRESSO (Echelle Spectrograph for Rocky Exoplanet and Stable Spectroscopic Observations) mounted on the Very Large Telescope (yep, that’s its name) in Chile.

Proxima b was first detected by an earlier instrument called HARPS, or High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher. “We were already very happy with the performance of HARPS, which has been responsible for discovering hundreds of exoplanets over the last 17 years”, says lead researcher Francesco Pepe. “We’re really pleased that ESPRESSO can produce even better measurements.”

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In addition, data from ESPRESSO included a second signal that could indicate yet another planet orbiting even closer to the star. “If the signal was planetary in origin, this potential other planet accompanying Proxima b would have a mass less than one third of the mass of the Earth. It would then be the smallest planet ever measured using the radial velocity method,” says Pepe. Proxima b could have a moon-sized neighbour.

Despite the relative nearness of Proxima Centauri as the sun’s closest stellar neighbour, we will have to rely on spectrographic data for the foreseeable future. Our fastest interplanetary probes, the Voyagers and New Horizons, would take tens of thousands of years to reach Proxima Centauri, even if they were headed in that direction. A plan called Breakthrough Starshot imagines a tiny probe travelling at 20 per cent of light speed, and making the journey in 20 years, but it’s still very much on the drawing board.

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Proxima b, a confirmed Earth-sized planet, is a mere 4.2 light year away Scientists confirm Earth-sized planet orbiting nearest star to our sun – National Post

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A team of scientists from the University of Geneva has confirmed the existence of an Earth-sized planet orbiting the star closest to the sun. The planet, called Proxima b, is 1.17 times the mass of Earth and is located in the habitable zone of Promixa Centauri, 4.2 light years away.

Because Proxima Centauri is a red dwarf, much smaller and cooler than the sun, its habitable zone or Goldilocks zone — neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water to exist — is very close to the star. Proxima b orbits about 20 times closer to its star than Earth does to the sun, and a year on the planet is just over 11 Earth days long.

Red dwarf stars emit huge quantities of X-rays, and the scientists estimate the planet gets 400 times as much radiation as Earth. But Christophe Lovis, a researcher in the astronomy department of the university, was optimistic that this might not rule out the possibility of life, or at least habitability.

“Is there an atmosphere that protects the planet from these deadly rays?” he asks. “And if this atmosphere exists, does it contain the chemical elements that promote the development of life — oxygen, for example? How long have these favourable conditions existed?”

Proxima b could have a moon-sized neighbour.

Such questions will, he hopes, be answered in the next few years by the next generation of spectrometers, which will tease out data from the light of the star and its planet. The recent confirmation of Proxima b came from data from a spectrograph called ESPRESSO (Echelle Spectrograph for Rocky Exoplanet and Stable Spectroscopic Observations) mounted on the Very Large Telescope (yep, that’s its name) in Chile.

Proxima b was first detected by an earlier instrument called HARPS, or High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher. “We were already very happy with the performance of HARPS, which has been responsible for discovering hundreds of exoplanets over the last 17 years”, says lead researcher Francesco Pepe. “We’re really pleased that ESPRESSO can produce even better measurements.”

In addition, data from ESPRESSO included a second signal that could indicate yet another planet orbiting even closer to the star. “If the signal was planetary in origin, this potential other planet accompanying Proxima b would have a mass less than one third of the mass of the Earth. It would then be the smallest planet ever measured using the radial velocity method,” says Pepe. Proxima b could have a moon-sized neighbour.

Despite the relative nearness of Proxima Centauri as the sun’s closest stellar neighbour, we will have to rely on spectrographic data for the foreseeable future. Our fastest interplanetary probes, the Voyagers and New Horizons, would take tens of thousands of years to reach Proxima Centauri, even if they were headed in that direction. A plan called Breakthrough Starshot imagines a tiny probe travelling at 20 per cent of light speed, and making the journey in 20 years, but it’s still very much on the drawing board.

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