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NASA adds years to Mars InSight and Jupiter Juno missions – CNET

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NASA’s Juno spacecraft snapped this view of Jupiter’s southern equatorial region in 2017.


NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill

Good news, space fans, we can look forward to many more jaw-dropping views of Jupiter. NASA said Friday that it has officially extended two trailblazing planetary science missions: those involving the Juno spacecraft and the Mars InSight lander.

The extensions came after a review process. “The Senior Review has validated that these two planetary science missions are likely to continue to bring new discoveries, and produce new questions about our solar system,” NASA’s planetary science division director, Lori Glaze, said in a statement.

Juno, which launched in 2011, was scheduled to end its mission by deorbiting into Jupiter in July 2021. It’ll now continue its work studying the gas giant until September 2025 or the end of its life, whichever comes first. The extension also comes with a mission expansion to investigate Jupiter’s rings and some of its biggest moons.

We can look forward to not only more views and science from Jupiter itself, but also close flybys of the moons Ganymede, Europa and Io. They’re all fascinating, but icy Europa, which may have an ocean under its crust, is of particular interest. NASA is deep into development on its Europa Clipper spacecraft to find out more, but Juno will help tide us over until that mission launches.

InSight’s primary mission was set to last for two Earth years, which works out to a little more than one Mars year. It landed in late 2018 and has since delivered data on marsquakes and the inner workings of the red planet. The lander has been trying to burrow a heat probe into the ground but has hit setbacks with that goal.

NASA extended InSight’s mission through December 2022. The lander team will focus on gathering seismic and weather data, and may continue to work on the heat probe issue as a lower priority.

Mission extensions are cause for celebration. It means proven hardware will get a chance to continue to contribute to our understanding of the solar system. And the gorgeous Jupiter views to come won’t hurt, either.

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The only preserved dinosaur butthole fossil is ‘one-of-a-kind’ – ZME Science

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Psittacosaurus may have used its ‘unique’ butthole for signaling during courtship, besides its primary obvious purpose. Credit: Bob Nicholls/Paleocreations.com 2020.

It’s amazing how much scientists have been able to learn about the secret lives of dinosaurs, creatures that went extinct more than 65 million years ago, just by studying their fossilized remains. Obviously, there are still a lot of loose ends owed to incomplete fossil records and due to the fact that many anatomical features rarely, if not never, fossilize. This is why scientists are excited about the first truly preserved dinosaur cloacal vent, the scientific name for the terminal end of the gastrointestinal tract in birds and amphibians, aka the butthole.

But this isn’t a butthole like any other. Speaking to Live Science, Jakob Vinther, a paleontologist at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, said that the dinosaur cloaca he studied isn’t like that of birds. It more closely resembles that of crocodiles, with two small bulges in proximity to the cloaca which might have had musky scent glands with a possible role in courtship. However, in many respects, the dinosaur cloaca was quite unique.

The oldest cloaca in the world was found sitting in a fossil display case in the Senckenberg Natural History Museum in Frankfurt, Germany, and belonged to a beaked, dog-sized dinosaur called Psittacosaurus.

A cloaca isn’t your typical butthole. It serves as an anus, in that it is the orifice through which waste ultimately exits the body after its journey through the intestinal tract. But the orifice, whose name comes from the Latin word for ‘sewer’, also plays a role in copulation and the extrusion of offspring or eggs.

The fossilized orifice was flattened over millions of years until it was unearthed from a basin in China decades ago. While working on a different study, Vinther was shocked to find that Psittacosaurus‘ posterior was intact after all these years and immediately enlisted colleagues to reconstruct it in 3-D. His team includes Robert Nicholls, a paleoartist, and Diane Kelly, a biologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who specializes in the evolution of genitalia.

The fossilized vent, top, and the authors’ reconstruction of it. Credit…J. Vinther, R. Nicholls and D. Kelly, Current Biology 2021

To reconstruct the dinosaur cloaca, the team had to study hundreds of preserved rear ends, from amphibians to chickens. Judging from these references and the fossils at their disposal, the researchers believe that Psittacosaurus‘ cloaca was flanked by a pair of dark-colored flaps of skin, which seems to be different from any living group known to science.

It’s exceedingly rare to find dinosaur soft tissue, so it’s no surprise that the cloaca’s interior couldn’t be analyzed. But if the dinosaur’s posterior was anything like that of crocodiles, its cloaca likely housed a penis or clitoris.

And fitting enough, the cloaca fossil was found next to a fossilized lump of feces, suggesting that the dinosaur was defecating when it suddenly succumbed and its fossils became locked in time. “It’s quite nice to find it, right near where it’s supposed to come out,” Vinther told The New York Times.

The findings were described in the journal Current Biology.

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St. Mary's General Hospital announces investigation of possible COVID-19 outbreak – CTV Toronto

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KITCHENER —
St. Mary’s General Hospital is investigating what may be a COVID-19 outbreak on the hospital’s seventh floor.

The investigation began after officials confirmed a case in an inpatient who may have contracted the virus at the hospital. A press release was issued on Tuesday announcing the news.

The seventh floor was closed to new admissions while investigated. All inpatients were scheduled to be swabbed on Tuesday and droplet contact precautions were put in effect.

Contact tracing was also underway on Tuesday. Hospital officials said they would contact anyone needing testing as a result.

The hospital temporarily suspended care partner visits due to the possible outbreak, with two exceptions for end-of-life patients and in situations where there “could be a marked improvement in a patient’s condition with a visit.”

Care partner visits are already limited to one hour every seven days at the hospital, a policy that changed because of Ontario’s provincial lockdown.

If the hospital declares an official outbreak, it will be the second active one at St. Mary’s and the fourth active hospital outbreak in region.

There are currently two active outbreaks at Grand River Hospital and one at St. Mary’s, in the 3 East Unit. As of Tuesday afternoon there were 48 active outbreaks in the region.

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St. Mary's investigating potential COVID-19 outbreak – KitchenerToday.com

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St. Mary’s General Hospital is investigating a potential COVID-19 outbreak.

It pertains to the seventh floor after a current inpatient tested positive for the virus.

St. Mary’s has taken several precautions including closing the floor to new admissions, and conducting contact tracing as well as thorough testing.

Care Partner visits are temporarily suspended, with exceptions for when a patient is at end of life, or if the care team “finds there could be a marked improvement in a patient’s condition with a visit.”

The hospital says efforts will be made to enhance virtual and phone visits as well.

There is currently a confirmed COVID-19 outbreak in St. Mary’s 3 East Unit.

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