Hexbyte Glen Cove Going off the rails: Research reveals ecological impact of rail transport on UK bat species

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Credit: University of Sussex

New research from the University of Sussex has revealed the ecological impact of rail transport on bats in the UK, throwing light on a previously unstudied area.

Globally, rail traffic is predicted to increase by a third by 2050. In the UK, new railways such as HS2 and Cross-Rail are being constructed, and there is increasing use of the existing network for both passenger and . Whilst rail offers significant environmental benefits compared with other transport, there has been little research into its impact on wildlife. Existing studies have tended to focus on fatalities caused by train collisions rather than non-lethal effects caused by sound and light pollution.

But in a new paper published in Scientific Reports, Professor Fiona Mathews and Dr. Paul Jerem from the University of Sussex show that the activity of two UK bat species is significantly disrupted by passing trains.

Fiona Mathews, Professor of Environmental Biology at the University of Sussex, said that “railway verges can be attractive environments for bats. The lines often provide ‘green corridors’ through otherwise inhospitable environments, such as urban centers or intensively managed agricultural land, and activity of bats is generally high along them. However, railway lines are becoming increasingly busy at night.”

“Our study reveals that this rail traffic is likely to make these areas unsuitable for up to two thirds of the night.”

Using ultrasonic detectors at 12 wooded rail-side sites in southern England, the researchers monitored the common and soprano pipistrelle bats, which are abundant in Europe and both frequently use habitats associated with transport infrastructure.

They found that the activity of these two species fell by more than 30-50% each time a train passed, and it took at least two minutes for activity to recover. The more frequently the trains passed, the greater the total amount of disturbance caused.

Prof Mathews and Dr. Jerem suspect the bats are showing avoidance of the sound created by the trains—as well as the physical object of the train itself.

Dr. Jerem, now at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, said that “taking evasive action every time a train passes may be energetically expensive, and reduce feeding opportunities, potentially disadvantaging bats using rail-side habitats”.

The occasional passing train is unlikely to present a problem for bat conservation. However, on many railway lines, the disturbance now occurs every three or four minutes. Every time a train passes, the bats have to take aversive action for two minutes, at huge energetic cost.

Globally, bats play an essential role in pest control, pollinating plants and dispersing seeds. In the UK, they frequently interact with transport networks due their broad distribution.

The researchers are now calling for greater consideration of wildlife when it comes to public transport.

Prof Mathews added that “railways are one of the most efficient ways of transporting people and freight, and with the climate crisis, people, as well as companies who need to transport goods overnight, will be turning to with one eye on the planet.”

“But at the moment, no consideration is given to the ecological impacts of increased railway traffic. We’d like to see this change and appropriate mitigation could be as simple as setting aside larger buffer areas adjacent to railways, reducing the impact on —and possibly many other species.”

More information:
Paul Jerem et al, Passing rail traffic reduces bat activity, Scientific Reports (2021). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-00101-3

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Zapping untreated water gets rid of more waterborne viruses

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Transmission electron micrographs of a nonenveloped virus, MS2 bacteriophage, before electrocoagulation (left) and after (right). Credit: Texas A&M Engineering/Shankar Chellam and Anindito Sen

Using sophisticated microscopy and computational analysis, Texas A&M University researchers have now validated the merit of a water purification technology that uses electricity to remove and inactivate an assortment of waterborne viruses. They said the yet-to-be-implemented water purification strategy could add another level of safety against pathogens that cause gastrointestinal ailments and other infections in humans.

“There is always a need for new techniques that are better, cheaper and more effective at safeguarding the public against disease-causing microorganisms,” said Shankar Chellam, professor in the Zachry Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “The technique investigated in this study is a promising strategy to kill even more viruses at the earliest stages of water purification.”

The researchers have detailed their findings in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Before water reaches homes, it undergoes multiple purification steps, namely , sedimentation, filtration and disinfection. Conventional coagulation methods use chemicals to trigger the clumping of particles and microbes within untreated water. These aggregates can then be removed when they settle as sediments. While effective, Chellam noted that the chemicals used for coagulation could be very acidic, making their transport to treatment plants and storage a challenge.

Instead of chemicals-based coagulation, the researchers investigated if an up-and-coming coagulation method that uses electricity was as effective at removing microbes from water. In particular, they used a surrogate of a nonenveloped virus, called MS2 bacteriophage, for their study. Their choice of microbes was motivated by the fact that MS2 bacteriophage shares structural similarities with many nonenveloped viruses that can persist in the water after treatment and cause disease in humans.

For their experiments, the researchers inserted iron electrodes in a sample of untreated water laden with viruses. When they passed electrical currents, the anode oxidized, releasing into the solution. These ions combine with to produce hydroxyl radicals and also iron-rich precipitates. In the process, they found that as the iron precipitated, the virus attached to these clumps to form bigger aggregates, which could be easily removed from the water.

Next, they investigated if this process also inactivated the virus. But while the iron aggregates helped in capturing the virus, they presented a problem to picture inactivation using electron microscopy.

“Clumping causes a tremendous challenge because there is no easy way to isolate the virus from the iron-rich aggregates, making it difficult to visualize viral damage and analyze if electrocoagulation was the cause of the viral damage or the virus extraction from the iron-rich clumps,” said Anindito Sen, a research scientist at the Texas A&M Microscopy and Imaging Center.

To address this problem, Chellam’s graduate student Kyungho Kim with Sen’s guidance developed a novel computational technique to directly image the viruses aggregated alongside iron. Put briefly, they digitally inflicted damages on 3D images of an intact MS2 bacteriophage. Then they generated 2D versions of the damaged 3D model. Last, they compared these images with 2D microscopic images of the obtained after electrocoagulation.

The researchers found that the damage in electrocoagulated viruses ranged from 10% to greater than 60%. Further, by following the same analysis with bacteriophages isolated from conventional coagulation, they observed that the viruses were not inactivated.

“The traditional multistep process of water purification has been there to ensure that even if one step fails, the subsequent ones can bail you out—a multiple barrier approach, so to speak,” Chellam said. “What we are proposing with electrocoagulation is process intensification, where coagulation and disinfection are combined within a single step before subsequent purification stages, to ensure better protection against waterborne pathogens.”

More information:
Kyungho Kim et al, Virus Removal and Inactivation Mechanisms during Iron Electrocoagulation: Capsid and Genome Damages and Electro-Fenton Reactions, Environmental Science & Technology (2021). DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.0c04438

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Hexbyte Glen Cove ‘Like a magic trick,’ certain proteins pass through cell walls

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The researchers noticed that some peptides cross membranes by pushing against them. The peptides deformed the membrane into small circular buds. The buds then detach as small bubbles, which eventually “pop,” allowing the peptides to be released inside the cell. Credit: Ashweta Sahni

For decades, scientists have wondered how large molecules such as proteins pass through cell walls, also known as plasma membranes, without leaving a trace. That ability is part of what makes certain drugs—including some cancer treatments and the COVID-19 vaccine—work. And it is also how bacterial toxins enter human cells and wreak havoc.

One such example is , which is produced by Corynebacterium diphtheriae and causes diphtheria, a serious and potentially fatal bacterial infection of the nose and throat. But the mechanics of how these proteins enter were a scientific mystery.

A recent study, published in the journal ACS Chemical Biology, answers that mystery. The study identified the ways in which proteins cross a , a finding that could create a scientific foundation for better ways of delivering drugs into cells in the future, or for treating illnesses caused by .

“It is almost like a magic trick, the way the membrane encapsulates these toxins,” said Dehua Pei, senior author of the study and a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at The Ohio State University.

Pei’s research team at Ohio State has spent years trying to understand how biomolecules such as bacterial toxins get inside a human cell, with the goal of finding ways to get medications into those cells. It was through that work that the researchers discovered how some toxins were getting across the cell membranes, said Ashweta Sahni, lead author of the study and a graduate student in Pei’s lab at Ohio State.

Researchers have known how small molecules penetrate cell membranes, typically by binding to the membrane and then diffusing through it. But they knew that proteins do not have that ability because they are too big. Until now, the most popular hypothesis was that proteins pass through small holes, known as pores, in the membrane, akin to the Parisian statue, Le Passe-Muraille, of a man passing through a wall. But Pei’s previous work did not support that hypothesis.

While working on the team’s other projects, Sahni noticed that some fragments of proteins, known as peptides, cross membranes by pushing against them. The peptides deformed the membrane into small circular buds. The buds then detach as small bubbles, known as vesicles, which eventually “pop,” allowing the peptides to be released inside the cell. The team subsequently observed that two structurally different bacterial toxins also employed this same mechanism. This discovery led them to conclude that this budding-and-collapse mechanism is a common mechanism employed by many large biomolecules.

“This budding-and-collapse phenomenon was previously unknown, but we were able to witness it because we had the equipment, training and experience to know what we were looking at,” Sahni said.

The team witnessed the budding-and-collapse in live cells through confocal microscopy, an imaging technique that allowed them to focus in on what was happening inside the cells, and on the cell membranes, with these specific proteins.

Pei said the discovery could potentially open the door for new drug therapies that use this finding to manipulate the ways drugs enter a cell.

More information:
Ashweta Sahni et al, Bacterial Toxins Escape the Endosome by Inducing Vesicle Budding and Collapse, ACS Chemical Biology (2021). DOI: 10.1021/acschembio.1c00540

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Sim City for food science takes on Listeria outbreaks

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A spinach weigher in a fresh-cut produce facility that has a ‘digital twin.’ Credit: Genevieve Sullivan, Cornell University

Researchers from Cornell University are blending food science expertise and computer programming savvy to help the food industry stop Listeria outbreaks.

Listeriosis, an infection caused by eating food contaminated by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, causes approximately 260 deaths and 1,600 infections each year. If certain foods aren’t pasteurized, cooked thoroughly enough or washed properly, the bacteria can take hold and cause severe illness, including brain infections.

In a new study, the researchers developed a “” of two fresh-cut produce facilities, using these to identify the optimal times and locations to look for the bacteria’s presence and therefore prevent .

“Our findings are another step forward in equipping food producers with science-based tools to manage food safety risks,” said Renata Ivanek, associate professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine and senior author on the paper that published in the journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

The researchers’ provides a novel way for food safety managers to first visualize microbial contamination risks and patterns in their operations, and then to experiment with different environmental sampling practices, such as collecting sponge samples from different pieces of equipment.

Because of the complexity of these facilities, experimenting in the actual environment is not always practical, and by using a digital twin, each facility can personalize its unique features. “For example, in the two facilities we modeled in this study, we wanted to find when sampling certain types of locations would be more beneficial than sampling random locations, and vice versa,” Ivanek said.

The next step in this research will develop similar models for produce packing houses as well as grocery stores. Ultimately, the authors hope to provide the with digital twins that can be updated with real-time data, and can use simulation, modeling and machine learning to help workers make decisions about food safety hazards.

“For this vision to become reality, there is also a great need to ensure secure and confidential data sharing among food production businesses, and also to regulate liabilities from using such tools,” Ivanek said.

This study is part of a larger, multi-institutional effort to develop digital decision support tools for various parts of the food system, from farm to retail, with the ultimate goal of developing systems models and digital twins that will improve food safety decision-making system-wide.

“The learning curve needed to develop such models is steep, requiring understanding of food systems and food safety on the one hand and computer programing on the other,” Ivanek said. “There is a great need for cross-training between and computer science disciplines and we hope our scholarship encourages that.”

More information:
Articles of Significant Interest in This Issue, Applied and Environmental Microbiology (2021). DOI: 10.1128/AEM.01747-21

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Powerful new technique allows scientists to study how proteins change shape inside cells

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Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Understanding how proteins bend, twist, and shape-shift as they go about their work in cells is enormously important for understanding normal biology and diseases. But a deep understanding of protein dynamics has generally been elusive due to the lack of good imaging methods of proteins at work. Now, for the first time, scientists at the UNC School of Medicine have invented a method that could enable this field to take a great leap forward.

The scientists’ new “binder-tag” technique, described in a paper in Cell, allows researchers to pinpoint and track proteins that are in a desired shape or “conformation,” and to do so in real time inside living . The scientists demonstrated the technique in—essentially—movies that track the active version of an important signaling —a molecule, in this case, important for .

“No one has been able to develop a method that can do, in such a generalizable way, what this method does. So I think it could have a very big impact,” said study co-senior author Klaus Hahn, Ph.D., the Ronald G. Thurman Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology, and director of the UNC-Olympus Imaging Center, at UNC School of Medicine.

The work was a collaboration between Hahn’s laboratory and the laboratory of imaging analysis expert Timothy Elston, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology and co-director of the Computational Medicine Program at the UNC School of Medicine.

Filming the very small

The new method, like all biological imaging techniques, addresses the that many of the molecules at work in living cells cannot be visualized directly and precisely with an ordinary light microscope. Down at the scales where proteins operate, light flows in enormous waves that bend around things and cannot render objects sharply.

One approach to this problem, especially when proteins need to be imaged in their normal live-cell habitats, has been to tag the targeted proteins with fluorescent beacons, so that at least the beacons’ light emissions can be seen and captured directly with microscopy—for example, to map the places where a particular protein works in a cell. A technique called FRET (Förster resonant energy transfer), which relies upon exotic quantum effects, embeds pairs of such beacons in target proteins in such a way that their light changes as the protein’s conformation changes. This allows some study of protein dynamics as they shape-shift inside cells. But FRET and other existing methods have limitations, such as weak fluorescent signals, that greatly limit their utility.

The new binder-tag method starts with the insertion of a tiny molecular “tag” within a protein being studied, and the use of a separate molecule that binds to the tag only when the tag-containing protein takes a certain shape or conformation, such as when the protein is active to help a cell perform a particular function. Placing appropriate fluorescent beacons within the binder and/or the tag molecule effectively allows a researcher to image, over time, the precise locations of tagged proteins that are in a particular conformation of interest.

Individual molecules followed within live cells. When they change color, they have adopted a new conformation, something Scientists could not previously see or study. Credit: Hahn/Elston, UNC School of Medicine

The method is compatible with a wide range of beacons, including much more efficient ones than the interacting beacon pairs required for ordinary FRET. Binder-tag can even be used to build FRET sensors more easily, Hahn said. Moreover, the binder-tag molecules were chosen so that nothing in cells can react with them and interfere with their imaging role.

The net result, according to Hahn, is a robust technique that in principle can handle a broad variety of protein-dynamics studies previously out of reach, including studies of proteins only sparsely present in cells.

In the Cell paper, Hahn and colleagues discuss several proof-of-principle demonstrations. They used the new method to image an important growth-signaling protein called Src to reveal, in unprecedented detail, how it forms tiny islands of activity. This, in turn, enabled the researchers to analyze factors affecting the protein’s biological roles.

“With this method we can see, for example, how microenvironmental differences across a cell affect, often profoundly, what a protein is doing,” Hahn said.

Now the researchers are using the technique to map the dynamics of other important proteins. They are also doing further demonstrations to show how binder-tag can be tailored to capture the dynamics of very diverse protein structures and functions, not just proteins that work like Src.

The scientists envision that binder-tag ultimately will become a basic enabling technique for studying normal proteins, larger multi-molecular structures in cells, and even the dysfunctional proteins associated with diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

“For a lot of protein-related diseases, scientists haven’t been able to understand why proteins start to do the wrong thing,” Hahn said. “The tools for obtaining that understanding just haven’t been available.”

More information:
Bei Liu et al, Biosensors based on peptide exposure show single molecule conformations in live cells, Cell (2021). DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2021.09.026

Journal information:

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Researchers develop self-healing polymers for cracked cellphone screens

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Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

If you’re like most cellphone users, at one point you have experienced a cracked screen.

This pesky problem can be frustrating to live with, and it’s pricey to fix.

Two Concordia researchers from the Oh Research Group in the Faculty of Arts and Science are looking at ways to “self-heal” your cellphone, and their research could have broader implications as well.

Turning down the heat

“One of the major difficulties in these types of projects is to maintain a balance between the mechanical and self-healing properties,” explains Ph.D. candidate Twinkal Patel (BSc 17), first author on the paper “Self-Healable Reprocessable Triboelectric Nanogenerators Fabricated with Vitrimeric Poly(hindered Urea) Networks,” published in ACS Nano.

Patel says this research stands out from similar work on the topic because of its focus on temperature.

“Our goal is to not compromise the toughness of the network while adding dynamic ability to self-heal damage and scratches. We focus on achieving complete healing of scratches at just room temperature. This feature sets our research apart from others.”

Saving time and money

The team created self-healing polymer networks through very simple synthetic routes. The developed materials demonstrated excellent results at room temperature.

“These materials can quickly repair damages and cracks due to the self-healing mechanism,” says Pothana Gandhi Nellepalli, Horizon postdoctoral fellow and co-author on the paper.

“As a result, these materials save consumers time and money while also extending the lifespan of the material used and reducing environmental burden.”

Life in the Oh lab

Patel is quick to credit the project’s success to the Oh Research Group, led by John Oh, professor and Canada Research Chair (Tier II) in Nanobioscience in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

“Working here has been a great experience. During my time here I have met amazing and supportive members who have made this lab feel like a second family,” she says.

“I am very thankful for the mentorship I received from my supervisor to publish my first paper. I feel accomplished to see the hard work I’ve done be published.”

What else can this technology do?

“In the future, I would like to use self-healing polymer networks for improving the battery life of triboelectric nanogenerators,” Patel adds.

This technology allows a device to store energy and convert it into electricity when repeated movement is applied—think of LED lights that are activated when you pass by.

“This same technology could definitely be used to extend the lifespan of batteries. In the future, we would be able to charge them just by walking.”

More information:
Twinkal Patel et al, Self-Healable Reprocessable Triboelectric Nanogenerators Fabricated with Vitrimeric Poly(hindered Urea) Networks, ACS Nano (2020). DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.0c03819

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Climate change a double blow for oil-rich Mideast: experts

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Sun-baked farmland in eastern Iraq’s Saadiya area, north of Diyala, pictured on June 24, 2021 amid a blistering summer heat wave and water shortages that killed fields and livestock.

The climate crisis threatens a double blow for the Middle East, experts say, by destroying its oil income as the world shifts to renewables and by raising temperatures to unliveable extremes.

Little has been done to address the challenge in a region long plagued by civil strife, war and refugee flows, even as looks likely to accelerate these trends, a conference heard last week.

“Our region is classified as a global climate change hotspot,” Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades told the International Conference on Climate Change in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East.

Home to half a billion people, the already sun-baked region has been designated as especially vulnerable by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the UN’s World Meteorological Organization.

Yet it is also home to several of the last countries that have not ratified the 2015 Paris Agreement—Iran, Iraq, Libya and Yemen—weeks before the UN’s COP26 climate conference starts in Glasgow.

When it comes to climate change and the Middle East, “there are terrible problems,” said Jeffrey Sachs, who heads the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

“First, this is the centre of world hydrocarbons, so a lot of the economies of this region depend on a fuel that is basically anachronistic, that we have to stop,” said Sachs of New York’s Columbia University.

A Lebanese army helicopter drops water on a forest fire in the Qubayyat area of northern Lebanon’s remote Akkar region during a heat wave on July 29, 2021.

“Second, obviously, this is a dry region getting drier, so everywhere one looks, there is water insecurity, water stress, dislocation of populations,” he told AFP.

Sachs argued that “there needs to be a massive transformation in the region. Yet this is a politically fraught region, a divided region, a region that has been beset by a lot of war and conflict, often related to oil.”

The good news, he said, is that there is “so much sunshine that the solution is staring the region in the face. They must just look up to the sky. The provides the basis for the new clean, green economy.”

Like ‘disaster movie’

Laurent Fabius, the former French foreign minister who oversaw the Paris Agreement, pointed out that in this year’s blistering summer, “we had catastrophic wildfires in Cyprus, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Lebanon”.

In this file photo taken on October 3, 2021 a man wades through a flooded street amid cyclone Shaheen in Oman’s capital Muscat.

“There were temperatures over 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) in Kuwait, Oman, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran. We have drought in Turkey, water stress in different countries, particularly Jordan.

“These tragic events are not from a disaster movie, they are real and present.”

Cyprus, the EU member closest to the Middle East, is leading an international push involving 240 scientists to develop a 10-year regional action plan, to be presented at a summit a year from now.

The two-day conference last week heard some of the initial findings—including that the from the region have overtaken those of the European Union.

Already extremely water-scarce, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has been warming at twice the global average rate, at about 0.45 degrees Celsius per decade, since the 1980s, scientists say.

Graphic explaining the greenhouse effect, which contributes to a warming Earth.

Deserts are expanding and dust storms intensifying as the region’s rare mountain snow caps slowly diminish, impacting river systems that supply water to millions.

By the end of the century, on a business-as-usual emissions trajectory, temperatures could rise by six degrees Celsius—and by more during summertime in “super- or ultra-extreme heatwaves”—said Dutch atmospheric chemist Jos Lelieveld.

‘Future conflicts’

“It’s not just about averages, but about the extremes. It will be quite devastating,” Lelieveld of Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Chemistry told AFP.

Peak temperatures in cities, so-called ‘heat islands’ that are darker than surrounding deserts, could exceed 60 degrees Celsius, he said.

“In heat waves, people die, of heat strokes and heart attacks. It’s like with corona, the will be suffering—the elderly, younger people, pregnant women.”

Fabius, like other speakers, warned that as farmlands turn to dust and tensions rise over shrinking resources, climate change can be “the root of future conflicts and violence”.

The region is already often torn over freshwater from the Nile, Jordan, Euphrates and Tigris river systems that all sustained ancient civilisations but have faced pressure as human populations have massively expanded.

Sachs pointed to the much-debated theory that was one of the drivers behind Syria’s civil war, because a 2006-2009 record drought sent more than a million farmers into cities, heightening social stress before the uprising of 2011.

“We saw in Syria a decade ago how those dislocations of the massive drought spilt over, partially triggered and certainly exacerbated massive violence,” he said.

Some of the MENA region’s highest use of solar power is now seen in Syria’s last rebel-held area, the Idlib , which has long been cut off from the state power grid and where photovoltaic panels have become ubiquitous.

© 2021 AFP

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Volcanic ash halts flights on Spanish island

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Clouds of ash from the volcano that began erupting a month ago forced airlines to scrap all flights on La Palma.

Planes were grounded on La Palma, one of Spain’s Canary Islands, for the second straight day Sunday because of ash from a volcano that began erupting a month ago.

Airlines scrapped all 38 flights scheduled for Sunday, most of them to and from other in the Atlantic archipelago off Morocco, an airport spokesman said.

Only four of the 34 flights scheduled for Saturday went ahead as planned.

Local airline Binter said in a statement it would “restart activity as soon as possible and as long as conditions allow flights to resume safely”.

La Cumbre Vieja , which lies 15 kilometres (nine miles) west of the airport, erupted on September 19, spewing out rivers of lava that have slowly crept towards the sea.

So far no-one has been killed by the continuous lava flows, but the molten rock has covered 750 hectares (1,850 acres) and destroyed 1,800 buildings, including hundreds of homes, according to the European Union’s Copernicus disaster monitoring programme.

About 7,000 people have been evacuated from their homes on the island, which has a population of around 85,000 people.

The eruption has covered a large area with and been accompanied by dozens of minor earthquakes most days.

The eruption has buried a large area of La Palma island under volcanic ash.

La Palma airport has had to close twice since the eruption began and airlines have sporadically had to cancel flights.

The head of the regional government of the archipelago, Angel Victor Torres, said Sunday that scientists monitoring the eruption have seen no indications that it is abating.

“We are at the mercy of the volcano, it’s the only one who can decide when this ends,” he told reporters.

Spain’s central government and the regional government of the Canary Islands have so far earmarked 300 million euros ($348 million) for reconstruction on the island, which lives mainly from tourism and .

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has vowed to “spend whatever money is needed to reconstruct this marvellous island”.

“We will be there until we have rebuilt 100 percent of everything which this volcano has destroyed,” he added during an interview with private television La Sexta on Thursday.

It is the island’s third volcanic eruption in a century, the last one taking place in 1971.

© 2021 AFP

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Russians return to Earth after filming first movie in space

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Yulia Peresild spent 12 days on the International Space Station (ISS) to shoot scenes for the first movie in orbit.

A Russian actress and a film director returned to Earth Sunday after spending 12 days on the International Space Station (ISS) shooting scenes for the first movie in orbit.

Yulia Peresild, 37, and Klim Shipenko, 38, landed as scheduled on Kazakhstan’s steppe at 0436 GMT, according to footage broadcast live by Russia’s Roscosmos space agency.

Shipenko appeared distressed but smiling as he exited the capsule, waving his hand to cameras before being carried off by medical workers for an examination.

Peresild, who plays the film’s starring role and was selected from some 3,000 applicants, was extracted from the capsule to applause and a bouquet of flowers.

The actress said she is “sad” to have left the ISS.

“It seemed that 12 days was a lot, but when it was all over, I didn’t want to leave,” she told Russian television.

“This is a one-time experience.”

The team was ferried back to terra firma by cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky, who had been on the space station for the past six months.

21st century space race

The filmmakers had blasted off from the Russia-leased Baikonur Cosmodrome in ex-Soviet Kazakhstan earlier this month, travelling to the ISS with veteran cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov to film scenes for “The Challenge”.

The project is set to beat a Hollywood project announced last year by Tom Cruise and Elon Musk.

If the project stays on track, the Russian crew will beat a Hollywood project announced last year by “Mission Impossible” star Tom Cruise together with NASA and Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

The Russian movie’s plot, which has been mostly kept under wraps along with its budget, centres around a surgeon who is dispatched to the ISS to save a cosmonaut.

Shkaplerov, 49, along with the two Russian cosmonauts who were already aboard the ISS are said to have cameo roles in the film.

The mission was not without small hitches.

As the film crew docked at the ISS earlier this month, Shkaplerov had to switch to manual control.

And when Russian flight controllers on Friday conducted a test on the Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft the ship’s thruster fired unexpectedly and destabilised the ISS for 30 minutes, a NASA spokesman told the Russian news agency TASS.

The team’s landing, which was documented by a film crew, will also feature in the movie, Konstantin Ernst, the head of the Kremlin-friendly Channel One TV network and a co-producer of “The Challenge”, told AFP.

Russian firsts

The mission will add to a long list of firsts for Russia’s space industry.

After a decade-long pause, Russia will send two Japanese tourists, including billionaire Yusaku Maezawa (C),to the ISS in December, capping a year that has been a milestone for amateur space travel.

The Soviets launched the first satellite Sputnik, and sent into orbit the first animal, a dog named Laika, the first man, Yuri Gagarin and the first woman, Valentina Tereshkova.

But compared with the Soviet era, modern Russia has struggled to innovate, and its space industry is fighting to secure state funding with the Kremlin prioritising military spending.

Its space agency is still reliant on Soviet-designed technology and has faced a number of setbacks, including corruption scandals and botched launches.

Russia is also falling behind in the global space race, facing tough competition from the United States and China, with Beijing showing growing ambitions in the industry.

Russia’s Roscosmos was also dealt a blow after SpaceX last year successfully delivered astronauts to the ISS, ending Moscow’s monopoly for journeys to the orbital station.

In a bid to spruce up its image and diversify its revenue, Russia’s space programme revealed this year that it will be reviving its tourism plan to ferry fee-paying adventurers to the ISS.

After a decade-long pause, Russia will send two Japanese tourists—including billionaire Yusaku Maezawa—to the ISS in December, capping a year that has been a milestone for amateur space travel.

© 2021 AFP

Russians return to Earth after filming first movie in space (2021, October 17)
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Hexbyte Glen Cove Martian Image: the ridges of ‘South Séítah’

Hexbyte Glen Cove

This annotated image indicates the location of several prominent geologic features visible in a mosaic composed of 84 pictures taken by the Mastcam-Z imager aboard Perseverance. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS

NASA’s Perseverance rover captures a geologic feature with details that offer clues to the area’s mysterious past.

Ask any space explorer, and they’ll have a favorite photograph or two from their mission. For Jorge Núñez, an astrobiologist and planetary scientist working on the science team of NASA’s Perseverance rover, one of his current favorites is a rover’s-eye panorama of the “South Séítah” region of Mars’ Jezero Crater. Exploring the geologic unit was among the major objectives of the team’s first science campaign because it may contain some of the deepest, and potentially oldest, rocks in the giant crater.

“Just like any excited tourist approaching the end of a major road trip, we stopped at a lookout to get a first view of our destination,” said Núñez, who is based at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. “This panorama is spectacular because you feel like you are there. It shows not only the incredible scale of the area, but also all the exploration possibilities South Séítah has to offer. With multiple intriguing rocky outcrops and ridgelines, each one is seemingly better than the last. If it’s not a field geologist’s dream, it’s pretty close.”

This image indicates the location of several prominent geologic features visible in a mosaic composed of 84 pictures taken by the Mastcam-Z imager aboard NASA’s Perseverance rover. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS

Composed of 84 individual enhanced-color images that were later stitched together, the mosaic was taken on Sept. 12 (the 201st Martian day, or sol, of the mission) by the Mastcam-Z camera system as the rover was parked on an elevated overlook just outside its entry point into South Séítah. Perseverance had just completed a record 190-yard (175-meter) drive the previous sol.

The mosaic was taken at the highest magnification and stretched to allow subtle color differences in the rocks and soil to be visible to the naked eye. Left of center and halfway up the image are the gray, darker gray, and Swiss-coffee-colored rocky outcrops of the ridge nicknamed “Faillefeu” (after a medieval abbey in the French Alps). The distinctly thin, at times tilted layering evident in several of Faillefeu’s rocks would have been high on the science team’s list of things to explore, because tilted layering suggests the possibility of tectonic activity. But similar features—along with other compelling geology—were visible on another ridgeline that the mission’s science team opted to explore instead.

The “Martre Ridge” (named after a commune in southeastern France) is like Faillefeu except three times as big. It contains not only low-lying flat rocks near the base of the ridge, but also rocky outcrops with thin layering at the base and massive caprocks near and at the ridge’s peak. The caprocks are usually made of harder, more resistant material than those stacked below them, suggesting potential differences in how the material was deposited.

“Another cool thing about this image is that one can also see in the background, on the right, the path Perseverance took as it made its way to South Séítah,” said Núñez. “And finally, there is the peak of ‘Santa Cruz’ far in the distance. We’re currently not planning on going there; it’s too far out of our way. But it is geologically interesting, reinforcing just how much great stuff the team gets to pick and choose from here at Jezero. It also looks cool.”

Martian Image: the ridges of ‘South Séítah’ (2021, October 16)
retrieved 17 October 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-10-martian-image-ridges-south-stah.html

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