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NASA pushes back Artemis I Moon mission launch to November

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Washington: The US space agency has pushed back the Artemis I Moon mission launch to November in the wake of Hurricane Ian.

As teams complete post-storm recovery operations, NASA has determined it will focus Artemis I launch planning efforts on the launch period that opens on November 12 and closes on November 27.

“Teams at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida conducted initial inspections Friday to assess potential impacts from Hurricane Ian. There was no damage to Artemis flight hardware, and facilities are in good shape with only minor water intrusion identified in a few locations,” the space agency said in a statement.

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Next, engineers will extend access platforms around the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to prepare for additional inspections and start preparation for the next launch attempt, including retesting the flight termination system.

NASA said that over the coming days, managers will assess the scope of work to perform while in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and identify a specific date for the next launch attempt.

“Focusing efforts on the November launch period allows time for employees at Kennedy to address the needs of their families and homes after the storm and for teams to identify additional checkouts needed before returning to the pad for launch,” said NASA.

Artemis I is NASA’s uncrewed flight test which will provide a foundation for human exploration in deep space and demonstrate NASA’s commitment and capability to extend human existence to the Moon and beyond.

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In Photos: A Full ‘Cold Moon’ Occults Mars On A Rare And Auspicious Night For Crewed Spaceflight – Forbes

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That a full “Cold Moon” could “occult” a planet isn’t particularly rare, but the coincidences piled-up this week to make this event rather special—and a spellbinding view for sky-watchers.

You see, Mars wasn’t just a dot in the sky that disappeared for a few minutes. Mars is this week at its biggest, brightest and best. The red planet is an “opposition,” something that happens only every 26 months and see our faster-moving planet precisely between it and the Sun.

So on the night of Wednesday, December 7, 2022 a full Moon—having recently risen in the east in a blaze of orange—blotted-out a super-bright Mars for up to an hour it was the undoubted astronomical event of the year.

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Sky-watchers saw the bright red planet disappear behind the limb of the full Moon—something that took about a minute—before reappearing on the opposite side an hour or so later. Most of North America, northern Mexico, Europe and northern Africa saw the event. A prime-time evening event on December 7 for North America, Europe and Africa saw it as a pre-dawn event on December 8.

It all happened while Mars was in the in the constellation of Taurus, “the bull” with the red planet shining at a magnitude of -1.9. Astrophotographers capturing the event included Tom Williams, John Krauss and Andrew McCarthy.

If Mars being occulted at almost the exact moment it biggest, brightest and best since 2022 and until 2025 wasn’t enough there were plenty of other coincidences that added to the event’s appeal.

It was exactly 50 years since the night-launch of the Apollo 17 mission, the final crewed mission to land humans on the Moon. On December 7, 1972 astronauts Gene Cernan, Harrison Schmitt and Ronald Evans (as well as five live mice) left Kennedy Space Center atop a Saturn V rocket, with Cernan and Schmitt spent three days on the lunar surface at Taurus–Littrow.

On December 13 Cernan stepped back inside the lunar module with the words “As we leave the Moon at Taurus–Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17.”

That notable anniversary was given an a layer of meaning because as the Moon was being observed occulting Mars—a target for a crewed mission by NASA perhaps in the 2030s or 2040s—a human-rated NASA spacecraft had just passed within just 21 miles of the lunar surface.

Designed for crewed trips to the Moon and Mars, Orion has, since later November, held the record for the farthest human-rated spacecraft to travel from Earth. Its Artemis I mission has been uncrewed, but its next mission—Artemis II —will take astronauts beyond the Moon, probably in 2025.

Orion will splashdown in the Pacific Ocean on December 11, but before that happens, it’s worth taking some time to look at Mars as the Moon drifts away.

With Mars at opposition it’s at its biggest, brightest and best as it rises in the east after dark, so it’s the perfect time to put a small telescope on the red planet to glimpse its redness and, if you’re lucky, its polar ice caps.

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.

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One Great Shot: Bucktoothed Bumpheads on the Great Barrier Reef – Hakai Magazine

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When I set out to photograph bumphead parrotfish on a three-week dive trip to the northern reaches of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef in the winter of 2021, I had a specific goal in mind: I wanted to see a school of these strange animals swimming together.

There are so many weird and wonderful ocean-dwelling creatures, but this particular parrotfish species stands alone with its bizarre overbite, formidable size, prominent forehead, and tendency to travel in large groups. Bumpheads can grow to more than a meter long and about 46 kilograms—about the same weight as the average adult chimpanzee—making them the largest parrotfish and one of the world’s biggest reef fish. They also play an important role in the ecosystem: with their beaklike teeth, they munch algae off corals. In the process, they swallow other reef material and excrete it as sand.

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One morning, on a pre-sunrise dive, I descended toward a reef where other divers had spotted bumpheads, hoping for my chance. Luck was on my side—it wasn’t long before I found a cluster of about 40 individuals huddled near the coral. The fish appeared to be completely still above a small bommie (reef) and were packed so tightly that their bodies were touching one another. When I edged closer, the parrotfish squeezed together even more, monitoring my every move. Reef fish are notoriously skittish, but this school stayed put while I took a picture.

The underwater world is full of fascinating species. Photographing them in their habitat is both challenging and rewarding, and I love sharing these moments with others.

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Josh Blank is an underwater photographer based on the east coast of Australia. With a strong focus on larger marine species, Blank aims to use his imagery to inspire others to learn more about our blue planet and to seek out similar wildlife experiences themselves. He believes impactful ocean imagery is a valuable tool that can invoke change and ultimately achieve a better, more sustainable future.



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Cite this Article:
Josh Blank “One Great Shot: Bucktoothed Bumpheads on the Great Barrier Reef,” Hakai Magazine, Dec 9, 2022, accessed December 9th, 2022, https://hakaimagazine.com/videos-visuals/one-great-shot-bucktoothed-bumpheads-on-the-great-barrier-reef/.

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New branch on tree of life includes ‘lions of the microbial world’

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There’s a new branch on the tree of life and it’s made up of predators that nibble their prey to death.

These microbial predators fall into two groups, one of which researchers have dubbed “nibblerids” because they, well, nibble chunks off their prey using tooth-like structures. The other group, nebulids, eat their prey whole. And both comprise a new ancient branch on the tree of life called “Provora,” according to a paper published today in Nature.

Microbial lions

Like lions, cheetahs, and more familiar predators, these microbes are numerically rare but important to the ecosystem, says senior author Dr. Patrick Keeling, professor in the UBC department of botany. “Imagine if you were an alien and sampled the Serengeti: you would get a lot of plants and maybe a gazelle, but no lions. But lions do matter, even if they are rare. These are lions of the microbial world.”

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Using water samples from marine habitats around the world, including the coral reefs of Curaçao, sediment from the Black and Red seas, and water from the northeast Pacific and Arctic oceans, the researchers discovered new microbes. “I noticed that in some water samples there were tiny organisms with two flagella, or tails, that convulsively spun in place or swam very quickly. Thus began my hunt for these microbes,” said first author Dr. Denis Tikhonenkov, senior researcher at the Institute for Biology of Inland Waters of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Tikhonenkov, a long-time collaborator of the UBC co-authors, noticed that in samples where these microbes were present, almost all others disappeared after one to two days. They were being eaten. Dr. Tikhonenkov fed the voracious predators with pre-grown peaceful protozoa, cultivating the organisms in order to study their DNA.

“In the taxonomy of living organisms, we often use the gene ’18S rRNA’ to describe genetic difference. For example, humans differ from guinea pigs in this gene by only six nucleotides. We were surprised to find that these predatory microbes differ by 170 to 180 nucleotides in the 18S rRNA gene from every other living thing on Earth. It became clear that we had discovered something completely new and amazing,” Dr. Tikhonenkov said.

New branch of life

On the tree of life, the animal kingdom would be a twig growing from one of the boughs called “domains,” the highest category of life. But sitting under domains, and above kingdoms, are branches of creatures that biologists have taken to calling “supergroups.” About five to seven have been found, with the most recent in 2018 — until now.

Understanding more about these potentially undiscovered branches of life helps us understand the foundations of the living world and just how evolution works.

“Ignoring microbial ecosystems, like we often do, is like having a house that needs repair and just redecorating the kitchen, but ignoring the roof or the foundations,” said Dr. Keeling. “This is an ancient branch of the tree of life that is roughly as diverse as the animal and fungi kingdoms combined, and no one knew it was there.”

The researchers plan to sequence whole genomes of the organisms, as well as build 3D reconstructions of the cells, in order to learn about their molecular organization, structure and eating habits.

International culture

Culturing the microbial predators was no mean feat, since they require a mini-ecosystem with their food and their food’s food just to survive in the lab. A difficult process in itself, the cultures were initially grown in Canada and Russia, and both COVID and Russia’s war with Ukraine prevented Russian scientists from visiting the lab in Canada in recent years, slowing down the collaboration.

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