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The exoplanet closest to us could be crawling with life—except it gets blasted with lethal X-rays – SYFY WIRE

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While we’re pretty sure the moon is dead and Mars doesn’t look too promising for any life-forms (except that human colony Elon Musk is planning), we may have to look beyond our solar system.

Proxima b is the closest exoplanet to Earth and a contradiction in itself. Some astronomers have found it potentially habitable while others have blasted it for the intense X-rays it constantly gets pelted with by the star it orbits, Proxima Centauri. The planet was first detected 4 light years away by the HARPS spectrograph, but has finally been confirmed to be a real celestial body by an international team of scientists using the more advanced ESPRESSO spectrograph. Their research was recently published in Astronomy and Astrophysics. Now that we’re positive Proxima b exists, let the habitability arguments begin.

It sounds like Proxima b likes to live dangerously, since it orbits 20 times closer to its star than the distance at which Earth journeys around the Sun, but the unexpected thing about this is that the energy levels it receives from Proxima Centuari are close to what our planet gets. This has the scientists convinced that liquid oceans could exist at its surface temperature, possibly as vast as those on Earth, and the presence of water could possibly mean life—at least life as we recognize it. You never know what could be out there after methane-eating bacteria were found right here on Earth. Saturn’s moon Titan is covered in lakes of methane and ethane, so you can see where this is going.

Whether or not Proxima b could be a hotbed of life most likely depends on whether an atmosphere exists. It would need an atmosphere that could hold its own against 400 times the X-rays that reach Earth. Our atmosphere absorbs X-rays, which makes the planet safer for life, though it can be a pain for X-ray observatories trying to detect signals from deep space. X-ray photons, or high-powered molecules of energy, can go no further after they smash into individual atoms in our atmosphere that absorb them. Any that do make it to Earth have to dodge as many atoms as they would if they were trying to pass through a 16-foot-thick wall of concrete. Some insist that even an atmosphere like Earth’s would not be a strong enough X-ray shield. Without a protective enough atmosphere, life would be extinguished. Just look at what happened to Mars.

“Is there an atmosphere that protects the planet from these deadly rays?” researcher Christophe Lovis who is responsible for ESPRESSO’s scientific performance and data processing, asked in a press release. “And if this atmosphere exists, does it contain the chemical elements that promote the development of life (oxygen, for example)? How long have these favorable conditions existed?”

Not that there’s any guarantee that creatures which didn’t originate on Earth breathe oxygen and absolutely need water, but the conditions on our planet are what we have to go off of. Lovis and the other scientists who collaborated to make ESPRESSO’s Proxima b observations happen believe that those answers will emerge in the future as instruments continue to level up. The upcoming RISTRETTO spectrometer is being designed specifically to zero in on Proxima b and detect the light it gives off. HIRES (High Resolution Spectrograph) is another super-hi-res instrument that will be able to study faint objects in space and find out what their atmospheres are made of—if they have atmospheres at all.

Either of these instruments could tell us whether Proxima b is actually habitable. HIRES is currently being developed for use with ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope, which, when completed, will be the largest optical/near-infrared telescope ever.

For now, scientists will just have to keep debating whether or not anything could live on Proxima b until there is proof for or against an atmosphere.

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Canadarm3 will help pave way for Canadian boots on moon, and maybe Mars, Space Agency says – National Post

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When humankind makes its long-awaited return to our nearest celestial neighbour, Canada will lend a hand. Literally.

The Canadian Space Agency has recently announced that our nation and the Brampton, Ontario-based company MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates, will design and build Canadarm3, a new robotic arm for use aboard the U.S.-led Lunar Gateway. In 1999 the company purchased Spar Aerospace, which developed the first two arms, also known as remote manipulator systems or RMS.

“We will be the masters of robotics on Gateway,” says Gilles Leclerc, whose enthusiasm for the project is matched only by his out-of-this-world job title of Director General, Space Exploration, Canadian Space Agency.

The Lunar Gateway, slated to begin construction in 2023, is a small space station that will remain in lunar orbit, providing a rendezvous location for ships travelling from the Earth to the moon, as well as landers on their way to the lunar surface. It could also be used as a staging area for future crewed flights to Mars.

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‘Pink ice’ in Alps sparks global warming fears – Yahoo Canada Sports

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An aerial picture taken on July 3, 2020 above the Presena glacier near Pellizzano , shows pink colored snow, supposedly due to the presence of colonies of algae of the species Ancylonela nordenskioeldii from Greenland. (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP) (Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP via Getty Images)

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An aerial picture taken on July 3, 2020, above the Presena glacier near Pellizzano. (Miguel Medina/AFP via Getty Images)
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Mysterious pink ice in the Alps has sparked fears that it could worsen the effects of climate change, experts have warned.&nbsp;” data-reactid=”32″>Mysterious pink ice in the Alps has sparked fears that it could worsen the effects of climate change, experts have warned. 

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The ice is thought to be caused by the algae, which is similar to plants found in Greenland and at Earth’s poles.” data-reactid=”33″>The ice is thought to be caused by the algae, which is similar to plants found in Greenland and at Earth’s poles.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="But experts fear the plant could actually accelerate the effects of climate change, Biagio Di Mauro of Italy’s National Research Council told The Guardian.&nbsp;” data-reactid=”34″>But experts fear the plant could actually accelerate the effects of climate change, Biagio Di Mauro of Italy’s National Research Council told The Guardian. 

Di Mauro said, “The alga is not dangerous, it is a natural phenomenon that occurs during the spring and summer periods in the middle latitudes but also at the Poles.”

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Read more: Melting snow in Himalayas drives growth of green sea slime visible from space” data-reactid=”36″>Read more: Melting snow in Himalayas drives growth of green sea slime visible from space

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The plant, Ancylonema nordenskioeldii, has been sighted on the Presena glacier.&nbsp;” data-reactid=”37″>The plant, Ancylonema nordenskioeldii, has been sighted on the Presena glacier. 

White ice reflects up to 80% of the sun’s radiation back into the atmosphere, but algae darken the ice, making it absorb more heat and melt faster. 

An aerial picture taken on July 3, 2020 above the Presena glacier near Pellizzano, shows pink colored snow, supposedly due to the presence of colonies of algae of the species Ancylonela nordenskioeldii from Greenland. (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP) (Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP via Getty Images)An aerial picture taken on July 3, 2020 above the Presena glacier near Pellizzano, shows pink colored snow, supposedly due to the presence of colonies of algae of the species Ancylonela nordenskioeldii from Greenland. (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP) (Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP via Getty Images)

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<figcaption class="C($c-fuji-grey-h) Fz(13px) Py(5px) Lh(1.5)" title="The pink snow is due to the presence of colonies of algae of the species Ancylonela nordenskioeldii from Greenland. (Miguel Medina/AFP via Getty Images)” data-reactid=”55″>

The pink snow is due to the presence of colonies of algae of the species Ancylonela nordenskioeldii from Greenland. (Miguel Medina/AFP via Getty Images)

Di Mauro said: “Everything that darkens the snow causes it to melt because it accelerates the absorption of radiation.

“We are trying to quantify the effect of other phenomena besides the human one on the overheating of the Earth.”

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Read more: A 1988 warning about climate change was mostly right” data-reactid=”61″>Read more: A 1988 warning about climate change was mostly right

Many of the glaciers in the Alps are already under threat due to climate change, with experts predicting glaciers will vanish from half of UN-designated World Heritage sites this century unless greenhouse gas emissions are curbed.

Sites in the Swiss Alps such as the Grosser Aletschgletscher will see ice vanish, the researchers warned. 

Biagio di Maio, researcher at CNR (National Research Council) shows pink colored snow on July 4, 2020 on the top of the Presena glacier near Pellizzano, . - The pink color of the snow is supposedly due to the presence of colonies of algae of the species Ancylonela nordenskioeldii from Greenland. (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP) (Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP via Getty Images)Biagio di Maio, researcher at CNR (National Research Council) shows pink colored snow on July 4, 2020 on the top of the Presena glacier near Pellizzano, . - The pink color of the snow is supposedly due to the presence of colonies of algae of the species Ancylonela nordenskioeldii from Greenland. (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP) (Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP via Getty Images)

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Biagio di Maio points to pink-coloured snow. (Miguel Medina/AFP via Getty Images)

Researchers plotted glaciers at World Heritage locations – identifying a total of some 19,000 over 46 sites – and used data modelling to predict ice loss based on how much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases the world emits between now and 2100.

Nearly half the World Heritage sites – 21 out of a total of 46 that have glaciers – will lose all their ice by 2100 under a high-emissions scenario, they found.

Even under a low-emissions model, eight of the sites will be ice-free by the start of the next century, the report said.

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Elon Musk's Starlink gives Parry Sound – Almaguin hope for reliable internet – NorthBayNipissing.com

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Lack of reliable internet is a deterrent for those who wish to move from the city to a rural setting, according to John Dunn, a 49-year-old Ottawa resident.

“I would love to buy a small chunk of land in an unorganized area like Port Loring, but I will be waiting until Starlink is working reliably,” said Dunn. “Being an Elon Musk company, I’m sure it will get there.”

Musk confirmed Starlink’s commitment to Canada in response to Toronto Star reporter Peter Nowak’s article about rural Canadians’ excitement for “super-fast” rural internet. 


Andrew Ryeland, 68, is a part of the Smart Community Network which works to find a solution to the lack of adequate internet bandwidth for the West Parry Sound region.

When it comes to the lack of choice in of internet service providers for northern communities, Ryeland said it handicaps the area.

“All I could get was Xplornet,” he said. “And Xplornet is not good at all in terms of data caps and in terms of latency.”

Latency is the amount of time it takes from your computer to talk to the internet service provider and for them to send back a ping that they got it, said Ryeland.

Currently using Bell Wireless Internet Five, he said he pays $69.45 a month for a data cap of up to 50 gigabytes per month and his latency is about 50 to 60 milliseconds but, he added, it should be much less.

“When I go over that, it’s five dollars per gigabyte,” said Ryeland. “Which is very expensive because one movie is a gigabyte and in these times we’re doing a lot of Zoom calls — which people in the city don’t think twice about but, up here, we’re like, ‘there’s another $5 out the window.’ ”

On June 3, the Ontario government issued a press release stating that it was investing another $150 million in reliable broadband and cellular service to “help create even more economic and education opportunities in rural, remote and underserved areas of the province.”

“It’s way too little and it’s way too late. It needs to be in the neighbourhood of about $50 billion,” said Ryeland. “The real problem putting in fibre optic, which is the only solution here — unless Starlink works — is that Bell and Hydro have the monopoly on the poles. They won’t let anyone put anything on those poles unless they pay huge amounts of money. That’s how they keep out competition.”

“Hopefully, it will get better with things like Starlink, and with some more investment,” he said. “They keep rehashing their announcements of rural internet investment and $150 million is nothing.”

The next SpaceX/Starlink satellite launch is scheduled for July 8 but Canadians can sign up for beta access to Starlink via its website

“Private beta testing is expected to begin later this summer,” according to an email those interested receive upon signing up. “You will be notified via email if beta testing becomes available in your area.” 

Sarah Cooke reports for the Parry Sound North Star and the Almaguin News through the Local Journalism Initiative, a program funded by the Canadian government.

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