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This ruby is 2.5 billion years old and contains evidence of ancient life – CBC.ca

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A University of Waterloo researcher was part of a team that discovered residue that was once ancient life encased in a 2.5 billion-year-old ruby — the first time evidence of life has been found in a gemstone.

Chris Yakymchuk was the main Canadian researcher on a team of international collaborators in the U.K., Australia, and Denmark who were tasked with helping the government of Greenland locate ruby deposits to mine.

While they were successful at locating the gemstones, the team also made a much bigger discovery — a sign of ancient life, in a place no one had ever seen before. 

“We’re doing all kinds of different analytical techniques looking at these rubies under the microscope,” said Yakymchuk, a professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Waterloo. “And we found something a little bit cooler — these little fragments of mineral graphite inside these rubies [made over] 2.5 billion years ago.”

Graphite is found in rocks made during a time on the planet when oxygen was not abundant in the atmosphere, and life existed only in microorganisms and algae films, according to the university.

In southern west Greenland, researchers from the University of Waterloo located some rubies that contain ancient signs of life. (Submitted by Chris Yakymchuk)

Yakymchuk says that over time, ancient critters and organisms buried into the earth have turned into today’s gas and oil, and those buried deeper in the earth and closer to its core have turned into graphite, which is what the team is now investigating.

Ruby and sapphire fall within the mineral corundum family of gems. Corundum gems have colours ranging from brown, to deep red (ruby), deep blue (sapphire) and purple-pink. Although the purple-pink ones found are not the deep red colour typically associated with ruby, Yakymchuk said some scientists still call them ruby because they are part of the same mineral family.

The ruby has to be pulled out of the rock, polished and faceted before it starts to look like gemstones found in jewelry stores.

Future work into early life forms in gemstones

Their research shows the graphite changed the chemistry of the surrounding rock to create favourable conditions for ruby growth, meaning rubies could not form in this location without the graphite present. 

“They’ve been around for billions of years — the rise and fall of the dinosaurs, massive meteorite impacts, the coming and going of massive glaciation events on earth, massive volcanoes,” said Yakymchuk on the The Morning Edition.

“For me personally, it’s quite humbling to think about all the things that are encapsulated in this ruby as a reminder of our small part in the long history of planet Earth.”

The Morning Edition – K-W5:40Researchers from UW have discovered signs of ancient life inside a 2.5 billion-year-old ruby

Evidence of ancient life has been found inside a 2.5 billion-year-old ruby by a team led by a University of Waterloo researcher Chris Yakymchuk. He shares what this discovery means and what it tells us about our history. 5:40

Yakymchuk said the discovery marks the first time signs of life were found in a coloured gemstone. He believes the discovery will garner more interest in furthering research into signs of life in gemstones.

The mineral found here, corundum, has colours ranging from brown, to deep red (ruby), deep blue (sapphire) and purple–pink. Although the purple–pink ones found are not the deep red colour, some scientists still call them ruby because they are part of the same mineral family. (Submitted by Chris Yakymchuk)

“It’s only in the last few years, the last 10 to 20 years [that] we’ve had the actual analytical tools, all the detailed instrumentation where we can actually look at these microscopic pieces inside of gemstones and kind of figure out what they’re telling us about life on Earth.

“The next step is to look in more places at more gemstones and see what else we can find, because I think these are little time capsules and we have no idea what we’re going to find next and that’s the most exciting part.”

A microscope photograph in ‘cross-polarized’ light. The top-left grey coloured material under the microscope is the ruby. The rainbow-coloured material are the other minerals in the rock. This is a picture through a paper-thin slice of a rock and the light interacts with the various minerals in the rock to cause interesting colours. (Submitted by Chris Yakymchuk)

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BEYOND LOCAL: NASA launches spacecraft to test asteroid defense concept – BayToday

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — NASA launched a spacecraft Tuesday night on a mission to smash into an asteroid and test whether it would be possible to knock a speeding space rock off course if one were to threaten Earth.

The DART spacecraft, short for Double Asteroid Redirection Test, lifted off from Vandenberg Space Force Base atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in a $330 million project with echoes of the Bruce Willis movie “Armageddon.”

If all goes well, the boxy, 1,200-pound (540-kilogram) craft will slam head-on into Dimorphos, an asteroid 525 feet (160 meters) across, at 15,000 mph (24,139 kph) next September.

“This isn’t going to destroy the asteroid. It’s just going to give it a small nudge,” said mission official Nancy Chabot of Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, which is managing the project.

Dimorphos orbits a much larger asteroid called Didymos. The pair are no danger to Earth but offer scientists a better way to measure the effectiveness of a collision than a single asteroid flying through space.

Dimorphos completes one orbit of Didymos every 11 hours, 55 minutes. DART’s goal is a crash that will slow Dimorphos down and cause it to fall closer toward the bigger asteroid, shaving 10 minutes off its orbit.

The change in the orbital period will be measured by telescopes on Earth. The minimum change for the mission to be considered a success is 73 seconds.

The DART technique could prove useful for altering the course of an asteroid years or decades before it bears down on Earth with the potential for catastrophe.

A small nudge “would add up to a big change in its future position, and then the asteroid and the Earth wouldn’t be on a collision course,” Chabot said.

Scientists constantly search for asteroids and plot their courses to determine whether they could hit the planet.

“Although there isn’t a currently known asteroid that’s on an impact course with the Earth, we do know that there is a large population of near-Earth asteroids out there,” said Lindley Johnson, planetary defense officer at NASA. “The key to planetary defense is finding them well before they are an impact threat.”

DART will take 10 months to reach the asteroid pair. The collision will occur about 6.8 million miles (11 million kilometers) from Earth.

Ten days beforehand, DART will release a tiny observation spacecraft supplied by the Italian space agency that will follow it.

DART will stream video until it is destroyed on impact. Three minutes later, the trailing craft will make images of the impact site and material that is ejected.

John Antczak, The Associated Press

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Doing Photon Upconversion A Solid: Crystals That Convert Light To More Useful Wavelengths – Eurasia Review

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Solid-solution organic crystals have been brought into the quest for superior photon upconversion materials, which transform presently wasted long-wavelength light into more useful shorter wavelength light. Scientists from Tokyo Institute of Technology revisited a materials approach previously deemed lackluster—using a molecule originally developed for organic LEDs—achieving outstanding performance and efficiency. Their findings pave the way for many novel photonic technologies, such as better solar cells and photocatalysts for hydrogen and hydrocarbon productions.

Light is a powerful source of energy that can, if leveraged correctly, be used to drive stubborn chemical reactions, generate electricity, and run optoelectronic devices. However, in most applications, not all the wavelengths of light can be used. This is because the energy that each photon carries is inversely proportional to its wavelength, and chemical and physical processes are triggered by light only when the energy provided by individual photons exceeds a certain threshold.

This means that devices like solar cells cannot benefit from all the color contained in sunlight, as it comprises a mixture of photons with both high and low energies. Scientists worldwide are actively exploring materials to realize photon upconversion (PUC), by which photons with lower energies (longer wavelengths) are captured and re-emitted as photons with higher energies (shorter wavelengths). One promising way to realize this is through triplet-triplet annihilation (TTA). This process requires the combination of a sensitizer material and an annihilator material. The sensitizer absorbs low energy photons (long-wavelength light) and transfers its excited energy to the annihilator, which emits higher energy photons (light of shorter wavelength) as a result of TTA (Figure 1).

Finding good solid materials for PUC has proven challenging for a long time. Although liquid samples can achieve relatively high PUC efficiency, working with liquids, especially those comprising organic solvents, is inherently risky and cumbersome in many applications. However, previous trials to create PUC solids generally suffered from poor crystal quality and small crystal domains, which lead to short travelling distances of triplet excited states and thus, low PUC efficiency. Additionally, in most previous solid PUC samples, stability under continuous photoirradiation was not tested and experimental data were often acquired in inert gas atmospheres. Hence, the low efficiency and insufficient materials stability had been of concern for a long time.

Now, in a recent study led by Associate Professor Yoichi Murakami from Tokyo Tech, Japan, a team of researchers found the answer to this challenge. Published in Materials Horizon, their paper (open access) describes how they focused on van der Waals crystals, a classical materials class that has not been considered for the quest of high-efficiency PUC solids. After discovering that 9-(2-naphthyl)-10-[4-(1-naphthyl)phenyl]anthracene (ANNP), a hydrocarbon molecule originally developed for blue organic LEDs, was an excellent annihilator for embodying their concept, they tried mixing it with platinum octaethylporphyrin (PtOEP), a staple sensitizer that absorbs green light.

The team found that aggregation of the sensitizer molecules could be completely avoided by utilizing the crystalline phase of a van der Waals solid solution with a sufficiently low proportion of PtOEP to ANNP (around 1:50000). They proceeded to thoroughly characterize the obtained crystals and found some insight into why using the ANNP annihilator prevented the aggregation of the sensitizer when other existing annihilators had failed to do so in previous studies. Moreover, the solid crystals the team produced were highly stable and exhibited outstanding performance, as Dr. Murakami remarks: “The results of our experiments using simulated sunlight indicate that solar concentration optics such as lenses are no longer needed to efficiently upconvert terrestrial sunlight.”

Overall, this study brings van der Waals crystals back into the game of PUC as an effective way of creating outstanding solid materials using versatile hydrocarbon annihilators. “The proof-of-concept we presented in our paper is a major technical leap forward in the quest for high-performance PUC solids, which will open up diverse photonics technologies in the future,” concludes Dr. Murakami. Let us hope further research in this topic allows us to efficiently transform light into its most useful forms.

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New Russian module docks with International Space Station – CGTN

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A Soyuz rocket carrying the Progress cargo spacecraft and the Prichal node module lifts off from a launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, November 24, 2021. /CFP

A Soyuz rocket carrying the Progress cargo spacecraft and the Prichal node module lifts off from a launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, November 24, 2021. /CFP

A Russian cargo craft carrying a new docking module successfully hooked up with the International Space Station Friday after a two-day space journey.

The new spherical module, named Prichal (Pier), docked with the orbiting outpost at 6:19 p.m. Moscow time (1519 GMT). It has six docking ports and will allow potential future expansion of the Russian segment of the station.

The module has moored to the docking port of the new Russian Nauka (Science) laboratory module.

On Wednesday, a Soyuz rocket took off from the Russian launch facility in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, carrying the Progress cargo ship with Prichal attached to it. After entering space, the cargo ship with the module went into orbit.

Progress is also delivering 700 kilograms of various cargoes to the space station and is expected to undock from the station on December 22.

The first Soyuz spacecraft is expected to dock at the new module on March 18, 2022, with a crew of three cosmonauts: Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev and Sergei Korsakov.

Earlier this week, the Russian crew on the station started training for the module’s arrival, simulating the use of manual controls in case the automatic docking system failed.

The space outpost is currently operated by NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn, Kayla Barron, and Mark Vande Hei; Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov; and Matthias Maurer of the European Space Agency.

Source(s): AP

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