Subsurface ocean on Jupiter’s moon Europa deemed potentially ‘habitable’

FILE PHOTO: Handout photo of a view of Jupiter's moon Europa, created from images taken by NASA's Galileo spacecraft in the late 1990's
FILE PHOTO: Handout photo of a view of Jupiter’s moon Europa, created from images taken by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft in the late 1990’s

By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Scientists have figured out how the subsurface ocean on Jupiter’s moon Europa may have formed and determined that this vast expanse of water may have been able to support microbial life in the past.

Europa, with an ocean hidden beneath a thick shell of ice, long has been viewed as a potential habitat for extraterrestrial life in our solar system, alongside other candidates such as Mars and Saturn’s moon Enceladus. A new study presented on Wednesday at a geoscience conference underscores its potential.

Europa’s ocean may have formed after water-rich minerals ejected their water thanks to heating caused by the decay of radioactive elements in its interior early in its history, the researchers found.

The effect of tides caused by Europa’s gravitational interactions with Jupiter – the solar system’s largest planet – and two other large Jovian moons, Io and Ganymede, also may have played a role.

“We think Europa’s ocean may have been habitable early when it formed because our models show that the ocean’s composition may have been only mildly acidic, containing carbon dioxide and some sulfate salts,” said planetary scientist Mohit Melwani Daswani of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the study’s leader.

“The availability of liquid water is the first step to habitability. In addition, chemical exchange between the ocean and the rocky interior may have been significant in the past so potential life may have been able to use chemical energy to survive.”

Daswani said microbes akin to certain Earth bacteria that use carbon dioxide for energy could have survived using ingredients available in Europa’s early ocean.

Europa is slightly smaller than Earth’s moon. Europa’s ocean, perhaps 40 to 100 miles (65 to 160 km) deep, may contain double the water of Earth’s oceans.

The study evaluated whether Europa was previously habitable and did not examine its present habitability, a question the researchers are now exploring.

“A word of caution,” Melwani Daswani said. “If a place is habitable, it does not mean that it is actually inhabited, just that the conditions could allow for the survival of some extremely hardy forms of life that we know of on Earth.”

(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Sandra Maler)

 
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5 Coronavirus Myths You Should Stop Believing Immediately

Edward Cooper

Let’s get one thing straight: you have every right to be concerned about the issue of the coronavirus, or Covid-19. At the time of writing, there are currently 139,000 cases and 5,000 reported deaths from the disease.

Similarly, as borders close and celebrities — including Tom Hanks — go into isolation or quarantine, concern about the spreading disease has hit fever pitch, with many people being forced to work from home or practice self-isolation, for fear of catching the disease. Let’s not even talk about the toilet roll hoarding or the myths about cocaine curing the disease.

All of this, however, doesn’t mean that your health, wellbeing and mental fortitude is out of your control. Far from it, in fact — as hundreds of news and media outlets churn out headlines designed to get clicks, drive engagement and boost traffic at the cost of social anxiety, there’s never been a more pertinent time to re-calibrate yourself with cold, hard facts.

Which, hopefully, is how you’ve found yourself on this page. We’ll help you separate the scientific fact from social media fiction on all things coronavirus to help you stay sane and stay healthy.

Now synonymous with the outbreak of Covid-19, the white face mask has become a symbol for a disease which has spread over several continents and can be seen being worn almost anywhere, from quiet residential streets to (unsurprisingly) crowded commuter transport. Face masks, however, aren’t a bonafide way of keeping yourself virus-free. It can infect you through your eyes and is transported through tiny particles, called aerosols, that can penetrate masks. However, for health workers and social carers dealing with the sick, face masks are an essential part of keeping both parties safe. If you bulk buy them on Amazon, you won’t be keeping yourself safe, but you might be preventing the people who actually need them from getting them.

Coronavirus Myth #2: Getting Covid-19 Means Certain Death
It certainly doesn’t. While media headlines focus on the rising death toll (let’s not forget it’s actually decreasing at its place of origin in Wuhan), there are approximately 70,000 cases of people recovering from the strain. In fact, according to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 81 per cent of those infected have mild cases of the coronavirus and 2.3 per cent of those infected have died so far. Be aware also that that number refers to the number of people diagnosed, in other words the ones who presented to medical staff because they had the most serious complications. Many more people self-isolated and were infected but never diagnosed, so the true mortality rate is likely much lower.

Crucially, this means there’s no need to panic (or to stock up on tins and dried food), but instead to use this as an opportunity to encourage healthier habits, such as washing your hands more regularly.

Coronavirus Myth #3: You Need to Be Near Someone for 10 Minutes to Contract Covid-19
This is one of the most common concerns. Generally, hospital guidelines consider ‘exposure’ distance as being up to six feet from someone coughing or sneezing for up to 10 minutes. However, shorter interactions can also lead to infection. As can contaminated surfaces, although this is a less common cause of virus transmission.

Coronavirus Myth #4: Pets Can Transmit The Disease
Keeping an eye on your four-legged friend? There’s no need. While social media erupted over the ‘WHO let the dogs out’ joke, good news came in the form of findings being published confirming that, generally, dogs and cats can’t transmit the coronavirus to humans. That’s straight from the World Health Organization (WHO), who confirmed that companion animals show no risk of disease transmission.

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@Dadsaysjokes
The World Health Organization has declared that dogs cannot transmit Coronavirus, and there is no reason to quarantine dogs anymore.

W.H.O. let the dogs out!

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Coronavirus Myth #5: Covid-19 Is Nothing Compared to the Flu
At a surface level, symptoms of the coronavirus and the seasonal flu share a few similarities — high temperatures, sore throat and a continuous cough — but that, of course, doesn’t mean that they should be treated the same. That’s because the ‘profile’ of the coronavirus, when compared to that of the flu, has a much graver mortality rate. Currently, this is much greater than the seasonal flu.

So, What Can I Do To Stay Healthy and Potentially Avoid Coronavirus?
We’re glad you asked. Thankfully, it won’t involve stockpiling toilet paper or tearing the last remaining packets of pasta off the supermarket shelves, but instead being a little smarter about your hygiene standards and how you approach your self care — both mentally and physically.

Reconsider Your Exercise Habits
Gyms and public workout areas could be a hotbed for picking up germs and, potentially, the coronavirus. “As viruses can live on a surface outside the human body for several hours, gym equipment is a prime culprit for picking up an illness,” said Dr Ravi Tomar, a GP at Portland Medical.

“The most effective way of preventing the spread of Covid-19 in the gym, or any other virus for that matter, is for people who aren’t feeling well to simply skip their gym session and stay at home until they’re sure it’s not coronavirus.

“If you’re feeling a bit sniffly and can’t work out whether it’s spring allergies or something more sinister, use a symptom assessment app such as Doctorlink to check before you head to the gym.”

Wash Your Hands (Properly)
This is a real no-brainer. You (and your smartphone) are almost certainly harbouring a lot of nasties. Thankfully, your body will be astute at repelling them, but as cases of the coronavirus rise both in the United Kingdom and abroad, it’s the perfect time to mop up your habits. Here’s how to nail it every time:

Wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.

Always wash your hands when you get home or into work, after touching rubbish, before bandaging wounds, before a meal and after using the toilet.

Use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available.

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze.

Put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands afterwards.

Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell.

Use Hand Sanitiser
Soap and water is always preferable, but if it’s not available, sanitiser will do. Ideally, you should use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that has at least 60 per cent alcohol.

Don’t Touch Your Face with Dirty Hands
Viruses can enter your body through your eyes, nose, mouth and other orifices. Placing contaminated hands on your face can lead to infection, so wash your hands before you touch your eyes, nose and mouth. And after using the bathroom, obviously.

Get Enough Sleep
An essential survival mechanism, sleep helps your body to recover and lowers stress. If you’re feeling ill, you should allow yourself as much sleep as your body needs.

Don’t Panic
Unless you have been in contact with someone infected with the coronavirus, then treat any cough or cold symptoms as normal. Currently, the NHS advises that people should call 111 instead of visiting the GP’s surgery to prevent the risk of infecting others.

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How deadly is new coronavirus? It’s still too early to tell

LAURAN NEERGAARD

WASHINGTON (AP) — Scientists can’t tell yet how deadly the new virus that’s spreading around the globe really is — and deepening the mystery, the fatality rate differs even within China.

As infections of the virus that causes COVID-19 surge in other countries, even a low fatality rate can add up to lots of victims, and understanding why one place fares better than another becomes critical to unravel.

“You could have bad outcomes with this initially until you really get the hang of how to manage” it, Dr. Bruce Aylward, the World Health Organization envoy who led a team of scientists just back from China, warned Tuesday.

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE DEATH RATE?

In the central China city of Wuhan, where the new coronavirus first exploded, 2% to 4% of patients have died, according to WHO. But in the rest of hard-hit China, the death rate was strikingly lower, 0.7%.

There’s nothing different about the virus from one place to another. Instead, the never-before-seen strain of coronavirus struck Wuhan fast — before anyone knew what the illness was — and overwhelmed health facilities. As is usual at the beginning of an outbreak, the first patients were severely ill before they sought care, Aylward said.

By the time people were getting sick in other parts of China, authorities were better able to spot milder cases — meaning there were more known infections for each death counted.

And while there are no specific treatments for COVID-19, earlier supportive care may help, too. China went from about 15 days between onset of symptoms and hospitalization early in the outbreak, to about three days more recently.

Still, Aylward expressed frustration at people saying: “’Oh, the mortality rate’s not so bad because there’s way more mild cases.’ Sorry, the same number of people that were dying, still die.”

WHAT ABOUT DEATHS OUTSIDE OF CHINA?

Until the past week, most people diagnosed outside of China had become infected while traveling there.

People who travel generally are healthier and thus may be better able to recover, noted Johns Hopkins University outbreak specialist Lauren Sauer. And countries began screening returning travelers, spotting infections far earlier in places where the medical system wasn’t already strained.

That’s now changing, with clusters of cases in Japan, Italy and Iran, and the death toll outside of China growing.

Aylward cautioned that authorities should be careful of “artificially high” death rates early on: Some of those countries likely are seeing the sickest patients at first and missing milder cases, just like Wuhan did.

HOW DOES COVID-19 COMPARE TO OTHER DISEASES?

A cousin of this new virus caused the far deadlier severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak in 2003, and about 10% of SARS patients died.

Flu is a different virus family, and some strains are deadlier than others. On average, the death rate from seasonal flu is about 0.1%, said Dr. Anthony Fauci of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

That’s far lower than what has been calculated so far for COVID-19. But millions of people get the flu every year around the world, leading to an annual death toll in the hundreds of thousands.

WHO’S MOST AT RISK FROM COVID-19?

Older people, especially those with chronic illnesses such as heart or lung diseases, are more at risk.

Among younger people, deaths are rarer, Aylward said. But some young deaths have made headlines, such as the 34-year-old doctor in China who was reprimanded by communist authorities for sounding an early alarm about the virus only to later succumb to it.

In China, 80% of patients are mildly ill when the virus is detected, compared with 13% who already are severely ill. While the sickest to start with are at highest risk of death, Aylward said, a fraction of the mildly ill do go on to die — for unknown reasons.

On average, however, WHO says people with mild cases recover in about two weeks, while those who are sicker can take anywhere from three to six weeks.

There’s been a huge spike in the number of seniors smoking pot and taking cannabis edibles By Nicole Lyn Pesce

Cannabis use among older Americans jumped 75% in just three years, new research finds, especially among women, minorities and diabetics

manonallard/iStock
More adults over 65 are getting high, a new study finds.

These seniors don’t fear the reefer.

In fact, the number of Americans ages 65 and up who smoke marijuana or take edibles spiked 75% in just three years, according to a new study published in JAMA this week.

Researchers analyzed the data from just under 15,000 adults in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, and found that the number of those 65-plus who had smoked or ingested “marijuana, hashish, pot, grass and hash oil” jumped from 2.4% in 2015 to 4.2% in 2018. A decade earlier, just 0.4% of people in this age group copped to using cannabis in any form.

Related: Seniors at this upscale retirement community are really into cannabis-infused products

The new analysis found that the rise in marijuana use was highest among women (up 93%) and racial and ethnic minorities (up 336%) in particular. There was also a significant increase among Americans over 65 who were married (up 100%), college educated (up almost 114%), those who had been treated for mental health issues in the past year (up 157%), as well as those who reported incomes of $20,000 to $49,000 (up almost 139%) and $75,000 or higher (up 129%).

What’s more, a surprising number of diabetics are going to pot, with a 180% relative increase in marijuana use among those with diabetes between 2015 and 2018.

The survey didn’t ask subjects why they used cannabis products, however, so lead author Dr. Benjamin Han, assistant professor of geriatric medicine and palliative care at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, couldn’t definitely explain why these specific groups of people reported higher rates of marijuana use. In fact, the report notes that these numbers could be even higher, as there is still some stigma around cannabis use despite the fact that 11 states and the District of Columbia have already passed laws legalizing recreational cannabis use, so many subjects could have been hesitant to report their weed habit.

Related: Cannabis experts are hoping 2020 will be the year that New York finally legalizes weed

“Certainly the passing of medical marijuana laws in many states for a variety of qualifying conditions and diseases has played a role, and gotten the attention of older adults who are living with chronic diseases or symptoms that are difficult to treat,” Han told MarketWatch. “Also we have a large baby boomer cohort who has more experience with cannabis compared to generations before them now entering their 60s and 70s.”

Indeed, marijuana delivery platform Eaze has reported that boomers are its “biggest spenders by a fairly wide margin,” dropping more than $95 a month on weed, which is 53% more than Gen Zers ages 21 to 24 years old.

Related: They’re over 60, selling marijuana — and say it’s ‘pretty damn cool’

The new analysis also didn’t ask seniors whether they had conditions like arthritis, Parkinson’s disease or chronic pain. And using cannabis products for pain management is one reason why many seniors might consider trying weed, especially since a 2019 Health Affairs report found that 65% of people who use medical marijuana in the U.S. use it to treat chronic pain. The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine also reported evidence that cannabis and/or cannabinoids could help with conditions like pain, chemotherapy-related nausea and multiple sclerosis-related muscle spasms.

Related: More baby boomers use medical marijuana, but they want their doctors to get wise to the risks and benefits

But Han also cautioned that there is still a lot that we don’t know about the risks of cannabis, especially for older adults with more chronic medical diseases who take more prescribed medications. The report warned that there is an urgent need to better understand the benefits and risks of those 65-plus using marijuana products, especially since there was also an increase in cannabis use among older adults who use alcohol — and binge drinking among Americans over 50 has also been on the rise.

“As a clinician, I worry about how cannabis (depending on the dose of certain cannabinoids, route of administration) may interact with existing chronic disease or medications. I also worry about the psychoactive properties of THC that could predispose older adults to dizziness or falls,” he said. “While cannabis may be beneficial for certain medical conditions, we need well-done clinical trials to better understand the benefits and the risks for older adults.”

Nicole Lyn Pesce

 

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Aliens: could light and noise from Earth attract attention from outer space?

Jacco van Loon, Astrophysicist and Director of Keele Obse


Science Fisherman Catches Terrifying ‘Dinosaur’ Fish And Then Eats It

A man fishing in Norway pulled a fish out of the water that looks like something from another planet.

Oscar Lundahl, a fishing guide for Nordic Sea Angling, was fishing for blue halibut off Norway’s coast when he hooked something he’d never seen before.

Lundahl explained what happened to The Sun:

“We were looking for blue halibut which is a rare species about 5 miles offshore. I had four hooks on one line and felt something quite big on the end of it. It took me about 30 minutes to reel it in because it was over 2,600 feet deep.”

On two of those hooks were the blue halibut he was fishing for. But on a third hook was this monster.

One of Lundahl’s colleagues knew what this alien-looking fish is. It’s called a ratfish and is a distant relative of sharks. They’re believed to be about 300 million years old and only reside in very deep, dark water, which is why its eyes are so big.

The ratfish died while being reeled in due to the change in pressure. Lundahl didn’t want to be wasteful, so he took the fish home and cooked it. “It was really tasty,” he said. “It is a bit like cod but tastier.”

by Clark Sparky The Blast

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NASA’s Orion crew capsule is officially complete and ready to prep for its first Moon mission

orion done 1

NASA’s  50th anniversary celebrations weren’t limited to just remembrances of past achievements – the space agency also marked the day by confirming that the Orion crew capsule that will bring astronauts back to the Moon for the first time since the end of the Apollo program is ready for its first trip to lunar orbit, currently set for sometime after June 2020.

Orion won’t be carrying anyone for its first Moon mission – instead, as part of Artemis 1, it’ll fly uncrewed propelled by the new Space Launch System, spend a total of three weeks in space including six days orbiting the Moon, and then return back to Earth. Once back, it’ll perform a crucial test of high speed re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, to demonstrate the efficacy of the Orion capsule’s thermal shielding prior to carrying actual crew for Artemis 2 in 2022, and ultimately delivering astronauts back to the lunar surface with Artemis 3 in 2024.

This isn’t Orion’s first trip to space, however – that happened back in 2014 with Exploration Flight Test 1, another uncrewed mission in which Orion spent just four-hours in space, orbiting the Earth twice and then returning to ground. This mission used a Delta IV rocket instead of the new SLS, and was meant to test key systems prior to Artemis.

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NASA contractor Lockheed Martin,  which is responsible for the Orion spacecraft’s construction, also noting that the combined crew module and service module are currently being properly integrated, and then will undergo a series of tests before returning to Kennedy Space Center in Florida by the end of the year to begin the final preparations before launch.

Spacesuits have been bulky since before Apollo 11. A skintight design may change that .

Spacesuits have been bulky since before Apollo 11. A skintight design may change that

NASA is putting the finishing touches on its Mars helicopter

mars helicopterThe Mars 2020 mission will truly be one for the record books when it begins in July of next year. Not only is the Mars 2020 rover one of the most advanced piece of equipment that will ever be sent to the Red Planet, it’s also equipped with its very own helicopter.

The vehicle, named simply the Mars Helicopter, is the first of its kind, and a great deal of work as been put into perfecting its simple design and ensuring that it can withstand the conditions of Mars. Now, in a new blog post, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory says that the helicopter has entered its final testing phase and it’s already passed many of its trials with flying colors.

“Nobody’s built a Mars Helicopter before, so we are continuously entering new territory,” MiMi Aung, manager of the Mars Helicopter project at JPL, said in a statement. “Our flight model – the actual vehicle that will travel to Mars – has recently passed several important tests.”

The tiny copter will be affixed to the belly of the Mars 2020 rover during the flight to Mars and throughout the landing phase. Once the rover is on the surface, it will deploy the helicopter.

The helicopter doesn’t have any scientific objectives this time around, and it’s being sent to Mars simply as a testing and demonstration vehicle to provide scientists with information on flight within the thin atmosphere of Mars. The helicopter’s sole instrument is a high-resolution camera that, NASA hopes, will capture some lovely shots of the Red Planet and relay them back to Earth.

In the future, helicopter-like vehicles may be a regular addition to Mars missions since they afford greater flexibility to relocate to new areas in short periods of time. Rovers are, generally speaking, pretty slow, but if NASA can perfect the art of flight on Mars it will have the power to explore new areas rapidly.

The Moon’s largest crater is hiding something, and astronomers don’t know what

Compared to other bodies in our Solar System, Earth’s moon isn’t particularly huge. However, its relatively small size belies one of its most interesting features, which is a colossal crater measuring over 1,500 miles across. Now, researchers believe the crater, which forms a huge basin on the far side of the Moon near its south pole, is hiding something.

In a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters, researchers reveal the discovery of a huge mass hiding beneath the crater. An incredibly dense area under the lunar surface was detected with gravitational sensors, pointing to the presence of something massive lurking below.

Before you go imagining a mysterious subterranean civilization of Moon Men hiding out below the lunar surface, that’s not exactly what scientists have in mind. Instead, the researchers believe the dense mass is actually leftover material from the object that struck the Moon and created the colossal crater.

“One of the explanations of this extra mass is that the metal from the asteroid that formed this crater is still embedded in the Moon’s mantle,” lead author of the paper, Peter B. James, Ph.D., said in a statement. “Imagine taking a pile of metal five times larger than the Big Island of Hawaii and burying it underground. That’s roughly how much unexpected mass we detected.”

It’s an incredibly large mass of something, but the asteroid metal theory isn’t the only idea being floated. Another possibility is that the dense mass is a buildup of material still left over from when the Moon’s hot liquid rock cooled after formation.

With humans headed back to the Moon sooner rather than later, the crater could be an interesting location for further study, though NASA and other space-faring organizations already have plenty of scientific objectives on their plates. Still, it sure would be neat to see what’s down there.

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