You can expect a pleasant year-end treat to take over the skies on Monday, as the ‘Great Conjunction’ of Jupiter and Saturn is expected to reach its peak on the evening of the winter solstice. While the phenomenon of planetary conjunction itself isn’t incredibly rare, occurring every few years, this conjunction will appear to be the closest seen between Jupiter and Saturn in over 400 years.
Brian McNamara is the Chair of the Physics and Astronomy Department and Research Chair in Astrophysics at the University of Waterloo studying black holes and other astrophysical phenomenon. Speaking to the phenomenon of Greater Conjunction, McNamara said the last time the two planets could be seen in the same telescopic view would have been in the Middle Ages.
“To look up in the sky and see what appears to be a double planet is pretty unusual – it’s a really beautiful phenomenon…” said McNamara. “I think what it does is it just reminds us of the geometry of the solar system, how orbits work and so on … it’s a nice way to get people looking up and looking out into the sky and pondering the universe…”
The phenomenon has been referred to by some as the ‘Christmas Star’, a biblical reference to the Star of Bethlehem. McNamara said that people have wondered what authors of the time could have been referring to, as some have speculated the phenomenon could be explained by a supernova or the alignment of certain planets.
“It’s near Christmas… it’s on the solstice… I think naturally people try to connect that (…) but whether there’s any significance to that, I don’t know.”
While tonight’s forecast may be looking cloudy, McNamara said the two planets have been converging for some time – tonight is only their point of closest approach. While they will travel away from each other “fairly quickly,” McNamara says Jupiter and Saturn will still be visible in close proximity for the next several weeks.
“The exciting part is, over the next couple of nights (…) depending on your telescope, you can see both planets in the same field of view – that’s just a beautiful thing to see… that’s pretty rare in anyone’s lifetime…”
Speaking to his own personal experience, McNamara said an astronomical event like this is a fond reminder as to how he got started in his field in the first place – as he says beautiful astronomical events like this stoke the imagination and remind us of our place in the cosmos. For those that miss the chance to see the event, McNamara said that amateur astronomers from around the world will likely be sharing their own fantastic photographs of the view over the next few weeks.
“Every few months, there’s always some event that’s happening in the sky that tugs on the heart and tugs on the imagination…” said McNamara. “It’s a nice way to get out of the mire that we’re in right now with COVID-19… all the anxiety and so on. You look out and realize – we’re going to get through it.”
“It’s just a beautiful thing to think about – our place in the cosmos.”
McNamara said he hopes the Great Conjunction will bring people a little extra bit of joy to make it through what’s been a “tough year”, ushering in a New Year that’s “looking up and looking positive”.
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.
- Adam Powell et al. When spirits speak: absorption, attribution, and identity among spiritualists who report “clairaudient” voice experiences. DOI: 10.1080/13674676.2020.1793310
Three more COVID-19 cases at GRT – KitchenerToday.com
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.
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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