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Earth’s Moon Is Shrinking. Here’s What Scientists Say That Could Mean

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According to a new study, a moon region at the centre of a new worldwide space race due to the possibility of water ice may be less habitable than previously thought.

Interest in the lunar south pole peaked last year when India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission performed the first successful soft landing in the region, just days after Russia’s Luna-25 spacecraft crashed while attempting the same feat. NASA has chosen the region as the landing location for its Artemis III mission, which could send men to the Moon as early as 2026, and China has ambitions to build future habitats there.

However, a NASA-funded study is now raising the alarm: As the Moon’s core gradually cools and shrinks, its surface develops creases, similar to a grape shrivelling into a raisin, resulting in “moonquakes” that can continue for hours and landslides. Much like the rest of the natural satellite’s surface, the area near the south pole that has sparked so much curiosity is prone to seismic disturbances, which could endanger future human residents and equipment.

moon

Earth’s Moon Is Shrinking. Here’s What Scientists Say That Could Mean

“This is not to alarm anyone and certainly not to discourage exploration of that part of the south pole of the moon,” said the study’s lead author, Thomas R. Watters, a senior scientist emeritus in the National Air and Space Museum’s Centre for Earth and Planetary Studies, “but to raise the caution that the moon is not this benign place where nothing is happening.”

Identifying the source of moonquakes
According to researchers, the Moon’s circumference has shrunk by about 150 feet over the previous few million years, a significant amount in geological terms but insufficient to affect Earth or tidal cycles.

However, on the lunar surface, the situation is much different. Despite its appearance, the Moon contains a hot interior that causes seismic activity.

“There is an outer core that’s molten and is cooling off,” Watters told reporters. “As it cools, the moon shrinks, the interior volume changes and the crust has to adjust to that change — it’s a global contraction, to which tidal forces on the Earth also contribute.”

Because the Moon’s surface is brittle, this pushing causes cracks, which geologists call faults. “The moon is thought of as being this geologically dead object where nothing has happened for billions of years, but that couldn’t be more far from the truth,” he said. “These faults are extremely young, and things are happening. We’ve spotted landslides that occurred while the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter was in orbit around the Moon.”

moon

Earth’s Moon Is Shrinking. Here’s What Scientists Say That Could Mean

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, was launched in 2009 and is surveying the Moon’s surface using a variety of instruments. Watters and his colleagues utilised data obtained by LRO to relate a powerful moonquake observed with instruments left by Apollo astronauts more than 50 years ago to a sequence of faults in the lunar south pole.

“We knew from the Apollo seismic experiment, which were four seismometers that operated for a period of about seven years, that there were these shallow moonquakes, but we didn’t really know what the source was,” he said. “We also knew that the greatest of the shallow moonquakes identified by the Apollo seismometers occurred around the south pole. It kind of turned into a detective story to figure out what the cause was, and it turns out that these young flaws are the best suspects.”

The strongest recorded earthquake had a magnitude of 5.0. That would be considered mild on Earth, but Watters believes the Moon’s reduced gravity would make it feel worse.

“Gravity is significantly stronger on Earth, keeping you stuck to the surface. “On the moon, it’s much smaller, so even a small amount of ground acceleration could knock you off your feet if you’re walking,” he explained. “That shaking can start throwing things around in a low G environment.”

Moonquakes: Short-term and long-term implications
According to research coauthor and NASA planetary scientist Renee Weber, the study’s conclusions will not impact the Artemis III landing area selection process because of the mission’s scale and duration.

Earth’s Moon Is Shrinking. Here’s What Scientists Say That Could Mean

“This is because estimating how often a specific region experiences a moonquake is difficult to do accurately, and like earthquakes, we can’t predict moonquakes,” he said. “Strong shallow moonquakes are infrequent and pose a low risk to short-term missions on the lunar surface.”

She said that NASA has identified 13 Artemis III candidate landing areas near the lunar south pole based on characteristics such as the region’s capacity to land safely, the potential to accomplish science objectives, launch window availability, and terrain, communications, and illumination conditions. Two astronauts will live and work on the lunar surface for approximately one week as part of the mission.

However, Weber stated that for long-term human settlement on the Moon, geographic qualities such as proximity to tectonic features and topography could be considered during the site selection.

Like flashlights on the Moon.
Moonquakes could pose a concern for future manned landing missions, according to Yoshio Nakamura, a professor emeritus of geophysics at the University of Texas at Austin and one of the experts who first examined the data acquired by the Apollo seismic stations.

However, Nakamura, who was not part of the study, argues regarding the cause of the quakes, claiming that Apollo data suggests the phenomenon originates tens of kilometres below the surface.

“We still don’t know what causes shallow moonquakes, but it is not the sliding fault near the surface,” he told reporters. “Regardless of what causes those quakes, it is true that they pose a potential threat to future landing missions, and we need more data about them.”

Regardless of the underlying cause, the potential danger moonquakes pose to astronauts will be limited because, at least shortly, humans will only be on the Moon for short periods, a few days at most, according to Allen Husker, a research professor of geophysics at the California Institute of Technology who was not involved in the study.

“It is highly improbable that a major moonquake will occur while they are present. However, it is useful to know that these seismic sources (which cause the quakes) exist. “They can provide an opportunity to better study the moon, just as earthquakes do on Earth,” Husker added. “By the time there is an actual moon base, we should have a much better idea of the actual seismic hazard with upcoming missions.”

Jeffrey Andrews-Hanna, an associate professor of planetary science at the University of Arizona who wasn’t involved in the study, shares that viewpoint. “Moonquakes are an incredible tool for doing science,” he explained in an email. “They’re like headlights in the lunar interior, illuminating the structure for us to see. Studying moonquakes at the South Pole will reveal more about the moon’s internal structure and current activity.

SOURCE – CNN

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2024: Bridgit Mendler, A Former Disney Actor Turned Space Startup CEO, Is Reaching For The Stars

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Bridgit Mendler, known for appearing on Good Luck Charlie and other Disney productions, is venturing into new territory: space.

Disney has effectively launched the careers of major stars such as Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez. However, one former child actor who starred on the network is pursuing a different venture: a space corporation.

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Bridgit Mendler, A Former Disney Actor Turned Space Startup CEO, Is Reaching For The Stars

Bridgit, a 31-year-old singer and actor best known for her role as Teddy Duncan on the Disney Channel original series Good Luck Charlie, announced this week on X (formerly Twitter) that she is venturing into uncharted territory by launching Northwood Space, a California-based satellite data startup.

Bridgit will lead the company as CEO, while her husband, Gryphon Cleverly, whom she married in 2019, will serve as chief technical officer. “Expect the unexpected!” she posted on X, reacting to a CNBC reporter who broke the story.

According to Ari Eisenstat, the space programme director for the upcoming Texas Eclipse Festival, Bridgit’s venture into science “is a great example of space moving from the domain of governments to becoming accessible to everyone”. Eisenstadt adds that we should all look to “younger generations to see diverse entrepreneurs create social, economic, and environmental impact in the space community”.

According to Bridgit’s post on X, investors have already provided $6.3 million (£4.9 million) in preliminary funding for the startup to create “a data highway between Earth and space.” Mendler said, “We have a lot of work ahead of us, but that’s the fun part.”

While it may come as a surprise to her followers, Mendler has always had interests beyond performing. She graduated from the University of Southern California in 2016 and began working at the MIT Media Lab in 2017. She enrolled in the graduate programme in 2018 and will begin her doctorate in philosophy at MIT in 2020. The next year, Mendler enrolled at Harvard Law School.

mendler

Bridgit Mendler, A Former Disney Actor Turned Space Startup CEO, Is Reaching For The Stars

Then, Mendler told CNBC that the seed of the Northwood idea was planted while she was in New Hampshire during the COVID-19 lockdown. “While everyone else was preparing their sourdough starts, we created antennae from whatever we could find at Home Depot. For me, the ground side is important because it brings the effects of space closer to people. However, it wasn’t until she started working at the Federal Communications Commission in 2022 that she understood her new path: she told CNBC it was when she “completely fell in love with space law”.

Mendler’s big news has her admirers excited to follow up, and her X announcement currently has over 23,000 likes. Northwood Space, which plans to mass-produce massive terrestrial antennas that connect to satellites in space, says: “The one-lane rickety road for space data needs to adapt to a ten-lane highway routing continuous traffic across the globe.”And, as a woman in science who changed careers to pursue her ambition, Mendler is likely to inspire other women to make timely career changes.

mendler

Bridgit Mendler, A Former Disney Actor Turned Space Startup CEO, Is Reaching For The Stars

Laurie Bardon Syphard, an environmental science educator, says she’s impressed by Mendler’s credentials and is already excited about her new business. “My gut is telling me that she is going to go really far with this career in science and technology,” she adds, adding that the young scientist’s Disney admirers would most certainly keep an eye on her, especially given space is “one of the areas that just is exciting and inspires people”.

Mendler’s followers appear to agree and have taken to X to celebrate her continuous success. One fan wrote, “She’s Barbie. Like 12 different careers. Singer/songwriter, actor, Harvard PhD in law, MIT PHD student, startup CEO.”

SOURCE – (BBC)

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China Plans To Send San Diego Zoo More Pandas This Year, Reintroducing Panda Diplomacy

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SAN DIEGO — China is to send a new pair of giant pandas to the San Diego Zoo, renewing its traditional gesture of friendship with the United States after nearly all of the famed bears on loan to U.U.S.oos were returned as relations between the two countries worsened.

San Diego Zoo officials told The Associated Press that if all licences and other criteria are fulfilled, two male and female bears should arrive by the end of the summer, about five years after the zoo’s last pandas were transferred back to China.

“We’re very excited and hopeful,” said Megan Owen, VP of Wildlife Conservation Science at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. “They’ve expressed a tremendous amount of enthusiasm to re-initiate panda cooperation starting with the San Diego Zoo.”

pandas

China Plans To Send San Diego Zoo More Pandas This Year, Reintroducing Panda Diplomacy

The China Wildlife Conservation Association announced Thursday that it has signed cooperation agreements with zoos in Madrid, Washington, D.D.C., and Vienna.

According to the organisation, the relationship will encompass illness prevention and habitat protection research, as well as contributions to the creation of China’s national panda park.

“We look forward to further expanding the research outcomes on the conservation of endangered species such as giant pandas, as well as promoting mutual understanding and friendship among peoples through the new round of international cooperation,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning stated in Beijing.

Fears over the future of so-called panda diplomacy grew last year when the zoos in Washington, D.C., and Memphis, Tennessee, sent their pandas to China, leaving only four pandas in the United States, all at the Atlanta Zoo. That financing agreement will expire later this year.

However, in November, Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed hope that his country will resume sending pandas to the United States after he and President Joe Biden met in Northern California for their first face-to-face encounter in a year and agreed to work to ease tensions.

According to Owen, a panda behaviour expert who has worked in San Diego and China, China is considering a pair that includes a female descendant of Bai Yun and Gao Gao, two of the zoo’s past residents.

Bai Yun was born in captivity in China and spent more than 20 years at the zoo, where she gave birth to six cubs. She and her son were the last pandas at the zoo, and they returned to China in 2019.

Gao Gao was born in the wild in China and resided at the San Diego Zoo from 2003 to 2018 before being returned.

Decades of wild conservation efforts and captive research spared the giant panda species from extinction, boosting its number from less than 1,000 to more than 1,800 in the wild and captivity.

pandas

China Plans To Send San Diego Zoo More Pandas This Year, Reintroducing Panda Diplomacy

The black-and-white bears have long been associated with the relationship between the United States and China, dating back to 1972, when Beijing donated a pair of pandas to the National Zoo in Washington, D.D.C., ahead of normalising diplomatic relations. China later lent pandas to zoos to assist in breeding cubs and increasing the population.

According to 2022 research by America’s Congressional Research Service, zoos normally pay a $1 million fee yearly for two pandas, with the money going towards China’s conservation efforts.

According to China’s official Xinhua News Agency, the United States, Spain, and Austria were among the first countries to collaborate with China on panda conservation, with 28 pandas born in those countries.

Demands for the return of giant pandas, dubbed China’s “national treasure,” surged among the Chinese public as unverified reports of mistreatment by USU.S.oos inundated Chinese social media.

Many loan agreements were for ten years and were frequently extended much longer. However, last year’s attempts to prolong the agreements or send more pandas failed. China observers claimed that Beijing was progressively withdrawing its pandas from Western countries due to poor diplomatic relations with the United States and other nations.

Then, on November 15, 2023, a week after the National Zoo’s pandas left for China, Xi spoke at a dinner with American business executives in downtown San Francisco, hinting that more pandas would be sent. He stated that the San Diego Zoo and the people of California are “very much looking forward to welcoming pandas back.”

“I was told that many American people, especially children, were really reluctant to say goodbye to the pandas and went to the zoo to see them off,” he said.

Even after it no longer housed pandas, the San Diego Zoo continued collaborating with Chinese colleagues.

pandas

China Plans To Send San Diego Zoo More Pandas This Year, Reintroducing Panda Diplomacy

According to Owen, China is particularly interested in exchanging information about the zoo’s successful captive panda breeding programme. Giant pandas are difficult to reproduce, partly because the female’s reproductive window is extremely limited, lasting only 48 to 72 hours per year.

Bai Yun’s first child, Hua Mei, was also the first panda born through artificial insemination to live to adulthood outside of China, and she went on to have 12 cubs on her own after being sent to China.

Meanwhile, Bai Yun stayed at the zoo and gave birth to two more girls and three males. Researchers followed her in her den using webcams, providing a better understanding of maternal care behaviour, according to Owen.

“We have a lot of institutional knowledge and capacity from our last cooperative agreement, which we will be able to parlay into this next chapter, as well as training the next generation of panda conservationists,” she said.

Owen said Chinese experts would accompany the bears to San Diego for several months.

She stated that the bears’ return benefits San Diego and the giant panda’s recovery as a species.

“We do talk about panda diplomacy all the time,” Owen said. “Diplomacy is an essential component of conservation in a variety of circumstances…. If we can’t learn to collaborate in often tough conditions or situations beyond the control of conservationists, we won’t succeed.”

SOURCE – (AP)

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‘Zombie Fires’ Burning At An Alarming Rate In Canada

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Even in the depths of Canada’s winter, the embers of last year’s record-breaking wildfire season persist. So-called zombie fires are burning at an unprecedented rate beneath thick layers of snow, increasing concerns about what the upcoming summer will bring.

In winter, people driving on the highway through Fort Nelson, British Columbia (BC), can see and smell the clouds of white smoke rising from the land around them.

Sonja Leverkus, a firefighter and scientist from the small north-eastern British Columbia hamlet, remembers travelling during a snowstorm in November, but the snow didn’t seem white.

fires

‘Zombie Fires’ Burning At An Alarming Rate In Canada

Instead, she described it as blueish-grey due to the smoke in the air.

“I’ve never experienced a snowstorm that smelled like smoke,” said Ms. Leverkus, who has lived in northern British Columbia for over 15 years.

She said these plumes remained visible into February, even on extremely cold days when temperatures dropped to -40C (-40F).

‘Zombie Fires’ sparks record. Arctic carbon emissions

Zombie fires cause the Fort Nelson smoke, sometimes known as overwintering fires.

They are flameless smoulders that burn slowly beneath the surface and are kept alive by an organic soil known as peat moss found in North America’s boreal forests and heavy layers of snow that protect them from the cold.

These flames are not uncommon. Experts estimate that during the last ten years, British Columbia has witnessed an average of five or six that continue to burn over the cold months.

However, in January, the province experienced a historic peak of 106 active zombie fires, raising concerns among fire experts about the implications for the following wildfire season.

Most go out on their own before spring, but 91 are still burning in British Columbia, according to government data, and those that have not been extinguished by March may re-ignite as the snow melts and they are exposed to air.

As a result, scientists have linked them to the early onset of wildfire seasons.

The nearby province of Alberta is also experiencing an increase in these winter fires, with 57 burning as of early February, roughly ten times the five-year normal.

Jennifer Baltzer, a biology professor at Wilfrid Laurier University and the Canada Research Chair in Forests and Global Change, said, “This continued smouldering through the winter, I think, is very alarming to see,” especially after last year’s record-breaking wildfire season.

Wildfires in Canada burned about 18 million hectares (44 million acres) of land in 2023, an area roughly the size of Cambodia, greatly exceeding the country’s 10-year average.

The season was one of the worst in recent history, with several firemen killed in the line of duty.
Thousands of people were displaced from their homes, and the impact extended far beyond Canada’s borders when smoke blanketed most of the United States in June.

According to Mike Flannigan, a professor and fire control expert at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC, the devastating wildfire season is one of the reasons for the current high number of zombie fires.

The majority of them are fires that could not be completely extinguished by last autumn due to a shortage of resources, he explained.

fires

‘Zombie Fires’ Burning At An Alarming Rate In Canada

By the end of the year, officials had recorded more than 2,200 wildfires in British Columbia.
Prof Flannigan also cited the province’s catastrophic drought over the last two years.

According to the province’s drought map, the majority of British Columbia was experiencing moderate to severe drought as of February.

According to Ms Leverkus, the dryness has been as noticeable as the zombie fires.
She noted in the forest last summer that a brook that used to run freely had become “just puddles”.

These drought conditions persisted throughout the winter. The province has received so little snow that one ski resort in BC’s South Cariboo region was forced to close for the rest of the season in early January.

Zombie fires were historically rare, but scientists claim they have become increasingly common in recent years due to a fast-warming environment.

According to Forrest Tower, a fire information officer with BC Fire, officials are now watching them.

fires

‘Zombie Fires’ Burning At An Alarming Rate In Canada

He stated that many cannot be extinguished manually because most of the province’s firefighting force is on leave for the off-season. They do not constitute a threat currently, he stated.

However, the primary concern is that the flames may re-ignite if British Columbia receives little snow or rain this spring.

If this occurs, he stated that the province’s seasonal firefighting force might be activated as soon as March or April.

Prof Flannigan stated that it is too early to forecast exactly what the forthcoming fire season will look like in British Columbia, but what the province has witnessed thus far “is quite unusual”.
P

rof Flannigan stated that “the stage is set for a very active spring” because this is an El Nino year, which means hot and dry weather in western Canada.

SOURCE – (BBC)

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