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Ultra-black nightmare fish reveal secrets of deep ocean camouflage – CNET

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A deep-sea dragonfish has ultra-black skin capable of absorbing bioluminescent light. It also has great teeth.


Karen Osborn, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Goths know black is cool. Some scary-looking fish swimming the ocean depths know this, too.

A team of researchers is unlocking the deep, dark secrets of blacker-than-black fish that have developed special skin characteristics to help them hide from predators that use bioluminescence to hunt.

The researchers, including lead author Alexander Davis, a doctoral student in biology at Duke University, published a study on the ultra-black fish in the journal Current Biology (PDF) on Thursday. They identified at least 16 species of deep-sea-dwelling fish with skin that absorbs over 99.5% percent of light. It’s the ultimate camouflage for the inky depths of the ocean.  

As the names suggest, dragonfish and common fangtooth fish aren’t the cuddliest looking critters in the sea. They might appear nightmarish to squeamish humans, but they’re of great interest to scientists who are looking at ways to develop new ultra-black materials. 

Vantablack is the most famous of the ultra-black coatings. It was designed for defense and space sector applications, but has also appeared in architecture and art. It’s not the only one of its kind. MIT announced a new “blackest black” material in 2019.

The ocean research team used a spectrometer to measure light reflecting off the skin of fish pulled up from Monterey Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. These denizens of the deep live up to a mile below the ocean surface. 

“The darkest species they found, a tiny anglerfish not much longer than a golf tee, soaks up so much light that almost none — 0.04% — bounces back to the eye,” Duke University said in a release on Thursday.

The scientists discovered differences between black fish and ultra-black fish by focusing on melanosomes, structures within cells that contain the pigment melanin. 

“Other cold-blooded animals with normal black skin have tiny pearl-shaped melanosomes, while ultra-black ones are larger, more tic-tac-shaped,” Duke noted. The ultra-black structures are also more tightly packed. Computer modeling revealed these melanosomes “have the optimal geometry for swallowing light.”

This ultra-black fish is an Anoplogaster cornuta. It was released back into the ocean after being studied.


Karen Osborn, Smithsonian

According to study co-author Karen Osborn, “Mimicking this strategy could help engineers develop less expensive, flexible and more durable ultra-black materials for use in optical technology, such as telescopes and cameras, and for camouflage.” Osborn is a research zoologist with the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

The fish skin study adds to our understanding of how these unusual animals function in their dark home worlds. A 2019 study discovered that some deep-sea fish see in color

The ultra-black fish presented some challenges for the scientists when it came to photos. “It didn’t matter how you set up the camera or lighting — they just sucked up all the light,” said Osborn.

Fortunately for your nightmares, Osborn captured startlingly toothy views of an ultra-black deep-sea dragonfish and an Anoplogaster cornuta. Be sure to cue up some Bauhaus music and stare deeply into their milky eyes. 

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Many Canadians gaining weight during COVID-19: poll – Toronto Star

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OTTAWA – A new poll suggests many Canadians are gaining weight because they’re eating more and exercising less during COVID-19 pandemic.

Nearly one-third of respondents in the survey conducted by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies said they have put on weight since March, compared to 15 per cent who said they lost weight over that time.

As well, about one-third of respondents said they’re exercising less, while 16 per cent said they’re working out more since the first wave of the pandemic landed in Canada in the spring.

Jack Jedwab, president of the Association for Canadian Studies, suggested that one reason may be a rush for comfort food to deal with pandemic-related anxieties.

Respondents in the survey who said they were “very afraid” of COVID-19 were more likely to report gaining weight, eating more and exercising less.

“The more anxiety you have, the more likely it is that you know you’re eating more,” Jedwab said.

“People who are least anxious about COVID (are) the ones that are not eating more than usual and are not gaining weight.”

The online survey of 1,516 Canadians was conducted Oct. 29-31 and cannot be assigned a margin of error because internet-based polls are not considered random samples.

Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, an associate professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa, said there are plausible reasons to connect weight gain or loss with the pandemic, but he hadn’t seen any studies to convince him that’s the case.

Some people are “not reliant on restaurants constantly” and “cooking more frequently in their homes,” which Freedhoff said may be leading to weight loss or better dietary choices. Others are eating more, he said, relying on comfort food “because they’re anxious as a consequence of the pandemic, or the tragedies that have gone on in their lives.”

Jedwab said the country needs to also be mindful of mental health issues that can affect the physical health of Canadians.

“With the winter coming, it’ll be even more challenging, in some parts of the country, to maintain a healthy lifestyle in terms of walking, in terms of doing basic things that will help us address our anxieties,” he said, pointing to lack of access for some to gyms subject to local lockdowns.

Some of those exercise classes have gone online. Gabriel Shaw, a kinesiologist from Victoria, B.C. said he has offered virtual classes to give his clients an chance to be physically active.

Shaw said the classes don’t provide people with a sense of community like in-person classes, which he said is important for some people to exercise consistently.

“The best bet for people is to find a way they can enjoy it. That might be going out for a social distance walk or hike or run or bike with a friend,” Shaw said. “That might be finding a Zoom thing that you can get on like dancing or even other activities where you have friends.”

Shaw said people should also try learn a new skill like dancing, yoga, rock climbing, or take up running to keep things fresh and enjoyable, which is key to exercising long and well.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2020

—— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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PH to witness penumbral lunar eclipse Nov. 30 – Manila Bulletin

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PH to witness penumbral lunar eclipse Nov. 30

Get ready to witness the last eclipse that will be visible in the Philippines in 2020.

(FLICKR / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

A penumbral eclipse of the moon will occur on Nov. 30 and will be observed in northwestern Europe, the Americas, Oceania, and most of Asia, including the Philippines, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).

It said the eclipse begins when the moon enters penumbra at 3:32 p.m. and ends at 7:53 p.m. (Philippine Standard Time). The full Moon will enter its maximum penumbral eclipse around 5:30 p.m.

A penumbra refers to a partially shaded outer region of a shadow that an object casts, PAGASA explained. 

A penumbral eclipse occurs when the Moon passes through the faint penumbral portion of the Earth’s shadow, which causes the moon to appear slightly darker than usual.

“The lunar surface is not completely shadowed by the Earth’s umbra (darkest part of a shadow). Instead, observers can see only the slightest dimming near the lunar limb closest to the umbra,” PAGASA said.

“The eclipse may be undetectable unless at least half of the Moon enters the penumbra,” it added.

International astronomers said that about 82 percent of the Moon’s face will turn a shade darker during the maximum phase of this eclipse.

The lunar eclipse is safe to watch and observers need not use any kind of protective filters for the eyes. 

Earlier this year, the Philippines witnessed a penumbral lunar eclipse on June 6 and an annular solar eclipse on June 21. 

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Watch the largest Earth-observing satellite ever launch into space – Inverse

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On Saturday, the journey of the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite began.

The largest Earth-observing satellite took off aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 12:17 p.m. Eastern from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

In just a few months, the satellite will begin collecting data on rising sea levels here on Earth, offering scientists a bird’s eye view of one of the hardest to measure affects of climate change.

After it launched into orbit, the satellite separated from the rocket and spread its solar arrays in a truly stunning display.

See the video of the launch here:

Once in the air, Sentinel-6 sent a signal to ground control confirming the spacecraft is in good health and ready to start a series of check-ups and last-minute calibrations. After these are completed, the spacecraft will begin its true mission.

Sentinel-6 is a joint venture by NASA and the European Space Agency, European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

A disturbing trend — The mission’s main objective is to collect data on global sea levels and chart climate change’s effects on the Earth’s oceans. The mission will run for a period of five and a half years.

As global temperatures rise, melting glaciers and ice sheets have combined with the thermal expansion of seawater to increase sea levels at an alarming rate. Since 1880, global mean sea level has risen about 8–9 inches, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“The Earth is changing, and this satellite will help deepen our understanding of how,” Karen St. Germain, director of NASA’s Earth Science Division, said in a statement.

“The changing Earth processes are affecting sea level globally, but the impact on local communities varies widely. International collaboration is critical to both understanding these changes and informing coastal communities around the world.”

Sentinel-6 builds on the legacy of ESA’s Copernicus Sentinel-3 mission. First launched in 2014, it remains the most ambitious Earth observation program to date.

Space agencies have played a crucial role in documenting the effects of changing global temperatures on our planet for years. Sentinel-6 brings an unprecedented level of precision to this effort.

Sentinel-6 will transform our understanding of Earth’s oceans.NASA/JPL-CalTech

A new era — The Copernicus Sentinel-6 mission includes two identical satellites, Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich and Sentinel-6B, which will launch five years apart and supply scientists with data until at least the year 2030.

Unlike previous Earth-observation missions, the Sentinel-6 observatory will collect measurements at a much higher resolution and be able to trace smaller sea-level variations near coastlines.

The way it does this is through a radar altimeter instrument, which calculates the distance between the satellite and Earth by measuring the time it takes for a transmitted radar pulse to reflect Earth’s surface. The returned echo pulse from the sea surface generates a waveform that reveals the height of the sea’s surface and the waves, as well as the surface wind speed from the roughness of the ocean, in real time.

All of these measures support ocean forecasting — crucial to sustainable ocean-resource management, coastal management, and environmental protection, as well as the fishing industry.

“The data from this satellite, which is so critical for climate monitoring and weather forecasting, will be of unprecedented accuracy,” Alain Ratier, director-general for the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites, said in a statement.

“These data, which can only be obtained by measurements from space, will bring a wide range of benefits to people around the globe, from safer ocean travel to more precise prediction of hurricane paths, from greater understanding of sea level rise to more accurate seasonal weather forecasts, and so much more.”

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