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Vancouver Island University welcomes award-winning foot and ankle researcher

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Dr. Michael Asmussen received a Michael Smith Health Research BC Scholar award to bring his research to VIU.

“You need to improve your stability” is one of the most common pieces of advice offered by clinicians to people recovering from an injury resulting from a fall.

Despite this, researchers are still trying to determine the best way to help people maintain their stability as they age. This is the focus of an award-winning researcher joining Vancouver Island University (VIU). Dr. Michael Asmussen is investigating the structure, function and neural control of the foot and ankle during movement in healthy, injured and diseased states and translating this into innovative health-care solutions.

Asmussen is the recipient of a Michael Smith Health Research BC Scholar award. The award supports early-career health researchers who are building leading-edge research programs and is highly competitive.

It’s the latest career achievement for Asmussen, who has held a Canada Research Chair position in Neuromechanics and Human Physiology at Mount Royal University since 2020. In 2021, he was awarded the International Society of Biomechanics World Athletics Award for his research related to locomotion biomechanics.

Asmussen’s research program focuses on how the foot and ankle are essential for the human ability to walk and run. He aims to provide a mechanistic understanding of how the foot-ankle complex contributes to stability during common mobility tasks such as walking or balancing. He will then translate this research into innovative health-care and technology solutions. He uses a combination of biomechanical tools, physiological measures, computer modelling and simulation techniques to answer pressing research questions.

At VIU, Asmussen will work mostly with human participants. He will work with clinics in the mid-Island region to develop tools that are better able to assess and improve a person’s mobility using low-cost, easy-to-use technologies.

“VIU is thrilled to have such an exceptional scholar join our institution,” said Dr. Nicole Vaugeois, Associate Vice-President of Scholarship, Research and Creative Activity. “Dr. Asmussen’s highly innovative research program will help inform important health-care solutions in our region and beyond.”

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MEDIA CONTACT:

Eric Zimmer, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

P: 250.618.7296 | E: Eric.Zimmer@viu.ca | T: @VIUNews

 

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Days are getting longer because of climate change, according to NASA

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Rising sea levels are making each day slightly longer, and there’s no sign it’s going to stop, a new study funded in part by NASA and the Canadian government has found.

Published Monday, the paper from researchers in Canada, the United States and Switzerland studied the downstream effects of climate change on the very physics of the planet itself.

“Every single day has [a] slightly different length, because of so many factors, including … climate change,” said study co-author Surendra Adhikari in an interview with CTVNews.ca.

“This is … a testament of the gravity of ongoing climate change.”

The pale blue dot(-oid)

The relationship between carbon emissions and our choreography in the cosmic ballet comes down to something most Earthlings take for granted: The planet’s shape.

Contrary to popular belief, Planet Earth isn’t actually a perfect sphere. While the surface of land around the world is remarkably smooth on the planetary scale, what most forget to consider is water; in particular, how that water moves.

As the planet spins on its axis, the distribution of Earth’s oceans is impacted by that force, and like in a centrifuge, the liquid is pushed out from the centre, especially near the equator.

As a result, Earth, its oceans and all, bulges out at the middle, creating not a sphere, but a shape scientists refer to an oblate spheroid. That oblateness, or the size of the bulge at the equator, is central to Adhikari and co.’s findings.

In short, as rising global temperatures melt the polar ice caps, more of the Earth’s water supply is converted to liquid, allowing it to swell the oblate bulge along the equator, when it might previously have stayed locked away in the ice.

The swelling, in turn, changes the dynamics of how Earth spins in the first place, and invariably, the rotation decelerates.

“If you see how a figure skater controls their motion … if they have to slow down, they just extend their arms or legs, which is basically the same concept,” Adhikari explained. “It has everything to do with the conservation of angular momentum.”

A matter of milliseconds

Though days are measured at a standardized length of 86,400 seconds each, the actual time it takes for a point on the Earth’s surface to make a full rotation is getting ever-so-slightly longer, at a rate scientists say could get more severe as the perils of climate change deepen.

Relative to the age of the Earth, the 24-hour day is fairly new, a height reached after billions of years of growth. Five-hundred million years ago, a day-night cycle might have clocked just 22 hours in total; another billion years back, and scientists estimate something closer to 19 hours.

Historically, the rate of increase attributable to climate change has been slow, hovering between 0.3 and one added daily millisecond each 100 years between 1900 and 2000. But as the industrial revolution’s aftereffects have intensified, the rate has grown, clocking in at roughly 1.33 milliseconds per day, per century, since the turn of the millenium.

Adhikari and his colleagues’ research found that in a high-emissions scenario, by 2100, it could surpass 2.5 milliseconds, marking the first time that humanity’s influence on the Earth’s spin would be greater than that of the Moon and the tides.

“Over the course of Earth’s geological evolution, tidal friction by the moon has been the dominant cause of the … increase in [length of day],” the study concludes.

“If, however, greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, the increase in atmospheric and oceanic warming and associated ice melting will lead to a much higher rate … becoming the most important contribution to the long-term [length-of-day] variations.”

Time to get a new watch?

In practical terms, a few extra milliseconds per day over the course of a human lifetime isn’t the most pressing impact of climate change, though Adhikari notes that computer systems, which rely on the 86,400-second day, may require an adjustment as the intricacies of time start to pass out of sync.

It’s a problem that physicists and computer scientists alike have monitored since the 1970s, long understood to require occasionally shoehorning an extra “leap second” into counts by atomic clocks to avoid widespread logistical headaches.

According to a recent study from the University of California San Diego, the impacts of climate change on the Earth’s rotation might further complicate when and how those leap seconds need to be inserted; an additional piece of a vexing international puzzle.

“This will pose an unprecedented problem for computer network timing,” the study reads. “Global warming is already affecting global timekeeping.”

Whether the Earth’s spin brings on its own mini-Y2K any time soon, Adhikari says the NASA study’s findings stand as a symbol for humanity’s influence on our planet, that in just a few hundred years of industrialization, the side effects may some day surpass those of the massive celestial body hanging in our night sky.

“It’s really profound,” he said. “In a way, we have messed up our climate system so much so that we are witnessing its impact on the very way our Earth spins … a tiny human being, who is doing some stupid things, and making this happen.”

 

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Interacting galaxies are more than they seem, JWST shows

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It was only two years ago that JWST’s first science images were released.

This view showcases the difference between the JWST’s NIRCam and MIRI views, with NIRCam’s being far sharper and revealing more objects. The MIRI view reveals dusty details that no other wavelength can, however, including the abundance and composition of dust inside, which relates to a galaxy’s star-forming and life-forming potentials. In the MIRI view, red = gas-rich; blue = gas-poor (but still present); green = organic molecules, especially polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

They combined high resolution with unprecedented sensitivity in infrared light.

Overlaid with (older) Hubble data, the JWST NIRCam image of the Southern Ring Nebula is clearly superior in a variety of ways: resolution, the details revealed, the extent of the outer gas, etc. It truly is a spectacular reveal of how stars like the Sun end their lives, as well as how, very slightly, the nebula has expanded in between the acquisition of the Hubble and JWST images.

Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

Many surprises abounded early on.

stephan's quintet miri JWST

This image is the first mid-infrared image of Stephan’s Quintet ever taken by the James Webb Space Telescope. The galaxy at the topmost-right of the image displays a brilliant spiky pattern: evidence of a supermassive black hole that had never been revealed prior.

Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

New features within planetary systems were discovered.

Fomalhaut system JWST

This image of the dusty debris disk surrounding the young star Fomalhaut is from Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI). It reveals three nested belts extending out to 14 billion miles (23 billion kilometers) from the star. The inner belts – which had never been seen before – were revealed by Webb for the first time. Labels at left indicate the individual features. At right, a great dust cloud is highlighted and pullouts show it in two infrared wavelengths: 23 and 25.5 microns.

Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA; Processing: A. Gáspár (University of Arizona) &Alyssa Pagan (STScI)

Distance records were shattered, both for individual galaxies,

JADES-GS-z14-0, in the top inset box, is found behind (and just to the right of) a closer, brighter, bluer galaxy. It was only through the power of spectroscopy with incredible resolution, capable of separating the two sources, that the nature of this record-breakingly distant object could be determined. Its light comes to us from when the Universe was only 290 million years old: just 2.1% of its current age.

Credit: S. Carniani et al. (JADES collaboration), arXiv:2405.18485, 2024

as well as the earliest galaxy clusters.

JWST most distant galaxy cluster

The galaxies that are members of the identified proto-cluster A2744z7p9OD are shown here, outlined atop their positions in the JWST view of galaxy cluster Abell 2744. At just 650 million years after the Big Bang, it’s the oldest proto-cluster of galaxies ever identified. This is early, but is consistent with simulations of when the earliest proto-clusters should emerge from the most initially overdense regions.

Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, Takahiro Morishita (IPAC); Processing: Alyssa Pagan (STScI)

But spectacular features also emerged within interacting galaxies.

JWST background galaxies Stephan's Quintet

The stellar streams being ripped from one of the interacting member galaxies of Stephan’s Quintet glitters in this image, while background galaxies shine from much farther away. The new stars that form may not remain gravitationally bound and undisturbed for long, but for as long as they persist, will form collections of stars (or galaxies) that have no dark matter within them at all.

Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

With near-infrared NIRCam and mid-infrared MIRI views, optically invisible features shone brilliantly.

The pair of interacting galaxies in the process of a merger, known as IC 1623, is imaged here by JWST. Data from a trio of JWST’s instruments, MIRI, NIRSpec, and NIRCam, were used in the construction of this image. The ongoing starburst at the center produces intense infrared emissions.

Credit: ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, L. Armus & A. Evans; Acknowledgement: R. Colombari

Previously, the galactic pair Arp 142 — the Penguin and the Egg — was viewed by Hubble.

This interacting pair of galaxies, cataloged as Arp 142, was dubbed “the Penguin and the Egg” after the Hubble Space Telescope revealed this view of the two member galaxies: the extended NGC 2936 and the compact NGC 2937.

Credit: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

To celebrate its second anniversary, JWST released a NIRCam image,

This NIRCam view of the Penguin and the Egg displays a smoke-like appearance, while the “eye” of the Penguin shines brilliantly: corresponding to the center of what was, up until perhaps 75 million years ago, just a normal-appearing spiral galaxy. The gravitational encounter with the “Egg” galaxy has distorted and distended the less massive spiral galaxy into the shape now seen here.

Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

a MIRI image,

In mid-infrared light, the Penguin looks more like a seahorse, with cool dust dominating the galaxy’s appearance, while the Egg appears smaller and more compact: illuminated largely by the cooler, older stars present within it. At much longer wavelengths than the NIRCam image, MIRI’s resolution is much lower, but still reveals spectacularly sharp features.

Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

and also a composite image of this galactic encounter, occurring 326 million light-years away.

In this composite image, NIRCam and MIRI data are combined together to produce this image, which is more detail-rich than either the NIRCam or MIRI images on their own. While both MIRI and NIRCam features are clearly present throughout the Penguin, only the central core of the Egg has a MIRI contribution.

Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

The larger galaxy, the Penguin, exhibits severely extended features: knotted gas, which triggers new star-forming episodes.

This three-panel animation shows Hubble (visible light), NIRCam (near-infrared light), and NIRCam+MIRI composite (all JWST light) images superimposed atop one another, highlighting the various features present within the Penguin component of Arp 142.

Credits: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA); NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI; Processing: E. Siegel

The Egg, meanwhile, is relatively undisturbed: a more massive, compact elliptical galaxy, with very little gas remaining.

This three-panel animation shows Hubble (visible light), NIRCam (near-infrared light), and NIRCam+MIRI composite (all JWST light) images superimposed atop one another, highlighting the various features present within the Egg component of Arp 142. Note how only background galaxies and the absolute center of the Egg are impacted by MIRI’s imagery.

Credits: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA); NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI; Processing: E. Siegel

Nearby, the edge-on galaxy PGC 1237172 lies 100 million light-years closer: dust-poor and nearly invisible to MIRI.

This three-panel animation shows Hubble (visible light), NIRCam (near-infrared light), and NIRCam+MIRI composite (all JWST light) images superimposed atop one another, highlighting the various features present within the edge-on galaxy PGC 1237172. The galaxy itself is nearly invisible to MIRI’s eyes.

Credits: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA); NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI; Processing: E. Siegel

The Penguin, once a spiral, stretches out into a seahorse-like appearance in infrared light.

These three views show the visible light (left), near-infrared (middle), and mid-infrared (right) views of the Penguin galaxy that’s part of Arp 142. The galaxy takes on a seahorse-like appearance in mid-infrared light, as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, old, cool stars, and cold dust are highlighted.

Credits: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA); NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI; Composition: E. Siegel

The smoke-like appearance reveals polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons: complex organic molecules that may be life’s precursors.

This annotated composite view from JWST shows both NIRCam and MIRI data together, highlighting the longer-wavelength features in redder colors and the shorter-wavelength ones in bluer colors. The Penguin, in particular, exhibits a great diversity of gaseous and stellar features, showcasing just how severely it is being disrupted by this gravitational encounter.

Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

Eventually, and ironically, the Egg will subsume the Penguin.

[embedded content]

Mostly Mute Monday tells an astronomical story in images, visuals, and no more than 200 words.

 

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20 Satellites To Crash On Earth As SpaceX Rocket Leaves Them In Wrong Orbit

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20 Satellites To Crash On Earth As SpaceX Rocket Leaves Them In Wrong Orbit

SpaceX has confirmed that 20 satellites – blasted off the Flacon 9 rocket from California, US on Thursday — will crash back to Earth. The company said that there had been a liquid oxygen leak developed in the second stage.

In a statement released on its official website, the company said, “Falcon 9’s second stage performed its first burn nominally, however a liquid oxygen leak developed on the second stage. After a planned relight of the upper stage engine to raise perigee – or the lowest point of orbit – the Merlin Vacuum engine experienced an anomaly and was unable to complete its second burn.”

SpaceX, in a series of posts on X (formerly Twitter), shared details about its team’s effort to contact the satellites. It said, “SpaceX has made contact with 5 of the satellites so far and is attempting to have them raise orbit using their ion thrusters.”

In a follow-up post, SpaceX said that the team was able to get in touch with 10 of the satellites. “The team made contact with 10 of the satellites and attempted to have them raise orbit using their ion thrusters, but they are in an enormously high-drag environment with their perigee, or lowest point of their elliptical orbit, only 135 km above the Earth.”

Explaining the possible reasons behind the satellite failure, the company said, “Each pass through perigee removes 5+ km of altitude from the highest point in the satellite orbit. At this level of drag, our maximum available thrust is unlikely to be enough to successfully raise the satellites.”

SpaceX has also assured that the re-entering of satellites into Earth’s atmosphere “does not pose a threat to other satellites in orbit or to public safety.”

SpaceX boss Elon Musk too have reacted to the series of posts shared by his company on X.

The tech billionaire said, “We’re updating satellite software to run the ion thrusters at their equivalent of warp 9. Unlike a Star Trek episode, this will probably not work, but it’s worth a shot. The satellite thrusters need to raise orbit faster than atmospheric drag pulls them down or they burn up.”

 

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