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Recipe is different – but Saturn's moon Titan has ingredients for life – Western News

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Steve Gribben/Johns Hopkins APL

An artist’s rendering shows a Dragonfly quadcopter landing on the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan, unfolding its rotors and lifting off again to survey the landscape and atmosphere.

Catherine Neish is counting the days until her space launch. While the Western planetary geologist isn’t space-suiting up for her own interstellar voyage, she is playing a key role in an international mission – dispatching a robotic drone to Saturn’s moon Titan – set to blast-off in 2027.

For nearly two decades, the global space sector has focused a majority of its funds and research on Mars, in search of the building blocks of life. And yet, there are dynamic worlds like Saturn’s moon Titan, which may actually have more going on biologically than the Red Planet.

In a recent study published by Astronomy and Astrophysics, Neish – a member of Western’s Institute for Earth and Space Exploration (Western Space) – and her collaborators at the European Space Agency (ESA) used advanced imaging technology to investigate Titan. They found when impact craters are formed on Saturn’s largest moon, it exposes relatively fresh ‘water ice’ from Titan’s icy crust.

On Titan, atmospheric processes bury the ice under a layer of sand-like organic material. In Titan’s dry equatorial regions, the sand piles up; but at higher, wetter latitudes, surface streams erode the sand away.

It is difficult to assess what lies beneath Titan’s hazy atmosphere – unless of course, you have a multi-million dollar Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer like ESA’s, which collected both light visible to humans and infrared light of slightly longer wavelengths during NASA’s Cassini mission.

“It’s wild. There’s no other place like Titan in the solar system. There’s more sand on Titan per area than anywhere else.” said Neish.

Titan has weather. It’s not unlike the Earth in that way. It’s just that the ingredients are all wrong. It has methane rain and streams cutting through the surface and organic sand getting blown around. It’s still very active, just like it is here on Earth.” ~ Catherine Neish, Western Space

These findings could prove beneficial in discovering ancient ecosystems frozen in the bottoms of impact craters and will also prove invaluable when preparing data analysis and monitoring techniques for the forthcoming Dragonfly drone mission to Titan.

As interest in Titan and other planetary bodies grow, Neish feels the global space sector is ready to start looking beyond Mars for the existence of life – even if the Red Planet remains the prime destination for NASA, the Canadian Space Agency and blockbuster movie producers in Hollywood.

“I think more and more, we’re seeing a false equivalency between life and Mars. The recent findings about Venus and all the new things we’re learning about it once being an ocean world is another game-changer,” said Neish. “Finally, people are saying, ‘In our search for life in the universe, we really need to focus on a lot more places, and not just Mars.’ And that includes NASA sending the Dragonfly mission to Titan.”

***

Related:

Dragonfly project will soar across Saturn moon, July 2019

Western research sets eyes on Saturn’s larges moon, February 2018

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'Massive' coral reef taller than the Empire State Building discovered in Australia – CTV News

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A “massive” new reef measuring 500 metres has been discovered in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, making it taller than some of the world’s highest skyscrapers.

Scientists found the detached reef, which is the first to be discovered in more than 120 years, in waters off North Queensland while on an expedition aboard research vessel Falkor, ocean research organization Schmidt Ocean Institute announced Monday.

The reef was first discovered on October 20, as scientists completed an underwater mapping of the seafloor of the northern Great Barrier Reef.

At 500 metres high, it is taller than the Empire State Building (381 metres to the top floor), the Sydney Tower (305 metres) and the Petronas Twin Towers (451.9 metres.)

Using an underwater robot named SuBastian, the team explored the reef on Sunday, and live streamed footage of the exploration.

Experts say that the base of the “blade-like” reef measures 1.5 kilometres wide, rising 500 metres to its shallowest depth of 40 metres below the ocean surface.

There are seven other tall detached reefs in the area, including the reef at Raine Island — a significant green turtle nesting site.

Robin Beaman, who led the expedition, said he was “surprised” by the discovery.

“To not only 3D map the reef in detail, but also visually see this discovery with SuBastian is incredible,” he said in a statement.

“This unexpected discovery affirms that we continue to find unknown structures and new species in our ocean,” Wendy Schmidt, co-founder of Schmidt Ocean Institute, said in a statement.

“The state of our knowledge about what’s in the ocean has long been so limited. Thanks to new technologies that work as our eyes, ears and hands in the deep ocean, we have the capacity to explore like never before. New oceanscapes are opening to us, revealing the ecosystems and diverse life forms that share the planet with us.”

The Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef, covers more than 214,000 square kilometres and is home to more than 1,500 species of fish, 411 species of hard corals and dozens of other species.

But the reef is facing a crisis — recent studies have shown that it has lost 50% of its coral populations in the last three decades, with climate change a key driver of reef disturbance.

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Surrey vet offers tips as Canada reports first COVID-19 case in dog in Ontario – News 1130

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SURREY (NEWS 1130) – As Canada’s first case of COVID-19 among dogs is reported in Ontario, a Surrey-based vet is providing some advice to pet owners who may have concerns.

Dr. Sajjid Ijaz with Lifetime Veterinary Clinic says research on COVID-19 in pets is still evolving, but at this point, there’s little evidence to suggest dogs can transmit the virus to humans.

He notes many owners have flagged their COVID-19 concerns with him and his staff over the past few months.

“Obviously, at this point because we do not have any data to give any concrete answers to them, so, we have just been telling them to be careful about going out of their own bubble, as far as their own personal self, as well as the pets themselves. So what we’ve been telling them is to try and limit the pet access to dog parks and all that stuff, and be careful about it,” he explains.

Ontario dog tests positive for COVID-19

A dog in Ontario’s Niagara area has been identified as the first canine to test positive for COVID-19 in Canada. Experts have said this isn’t cause for panic.

The dog apparently belongs to a household where four people tested positive for COVID-19.

Experts told the Toronto Star the dog “had no symptoms and a low viral load, suggesting that dogs remain at relatively low risk of becoming gravely ill or passing on COVID to others.”

Ijaz says while they’re not pushing that message too hard, he and his staff want pet owners to continue to be smart.

Pets and your social bubble

Because of the uncertainty around how the coronavirus is transmitted among pets, Ijaz says it’s wise to apply the same advice to pets when it comes to humans and their social bubbles.

“So, yes, I’ve been telling my clients to limit access, not just totally isolate them, but just to be smart about it,” he explains.

Ijaz understands that pets are often a big part of any family, which is why he believes it’s best to be safe rather than sorry.

“As much as we can limit the bubble, that will help,” he says, adding your social bubble shouldn’t exclude these animals.

According to the World Organisation for Animal Health, there’s been no report of pets spreading COVID-19 to people. There have been reports of possible transmission from mink at a farm in the Netherlands to humans, however, the federal government says this is still being studied.

-With files from 680 NEWS

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Hockey Twitter demands a Lunar Classic after NASA reveals moon has a lot more ice than previously believed – Russian Machine Never Breaks

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NASA made a special announcement on Monday that had the hockey world buzzing.

“Several studies have showed that water on the moon surface is in its permanently shadowed craters,” Paul Hertz, director of astrophysics at NASA Headquarters, said according to CBS News. “Today, we are announcing that for the first time, water has been confirmed to be present on a sunlit surface of the moon.

It is believed that there are at least 15,000 square miles of the moon’s surface that have deposits of water ice, meaning future astronauts could live off the land.

And Hockey Twitter is hoping those future astronauts are NHL players.

The ridiculousness began early in the day when the NHL on NBC Twitter photoshopped the Blackhawks and Bruins facing off on the moon. “MOON. HOCKEY. 🌕,” they wrote. “We’re ready, @NASA!”

“Call it the Lunar Classic,” the Ducks demanded.

“The Lunar Classic is going to be out of this world!” the Blackhawks added with an excellent pun.

The Hurricanes were excited about some “space hockey.”

So were the Devils.

Later, on their Instagram page, NHL on NBC photoshopped Alex Ovechkin, Roman Josi, and David Pastrnak as astronauts.

Hockey Twitter imagined hockey scenarios on the moon, while another fan, Matthew Henderson, created an elaborate media kit promoting a fake moon hockey event.

I want this to happen so badly now.

Headline photo: Pixabay images

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