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‘Fireball’ meteorite that smashed into a frozen US lake in 2018 contains raw materials for life

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fireball meteorite that smashed into a frozen us lake in 2018 contains raw materials for life

A meteorite that stunned the world when it blazed through the sky and plummeted into a frozen Lake Michigan on January 16, 2018 has been analysed by scientists.

The six-foot wide rock fragmented and illuminated the sky while travelling at 30,00mph with the footage of the event going viral around the world.  

Fragments were rapidly tracked down and handed over to scientists who now know it contains some of the key ingredients for  the creation of life. 

So-called ‘organic compounds’ were found and these carbon-containing molecules are the backbone of amino acids, fats, DNA and other biological materials.

The discovery of these raw materials on a space rock means it is possible that billions of years ago a larger, but similar, meteorite landed on Earth and brought these organic compounds with it, which would eventually allow life to flourish.

Security camera footage of the fireball in the sky over Toledo, Ohio. The six-foot wide rock fragmented and illuminated the sky while travelling at 30,00mph

Security camera footage of the fireball in the sky over Toledo, Ohio. The six-foot wide rock fragmented and illuminated the sky while travelling at 30,00mph

Security camera footage of the fireball in the sky over Toledo, Ohio. The six-foot wide rock fragmented and illuminated the sky while travelling at 30,00mph

The meteorite fragment that fell on Strawberry Lake which contains pristine extraterrestrial organic compounds

The meteorite fragment that fell on Strawberry Lake which contains pristine extraterrestrial organic compounds

The meteorite fragment that fell on Strawberry Lake which contains pristine extraterrestrial organic compounds

Philipp Heck, a curator at the Field Museum in Chicago which led analysis on the rock says: ‘These kinds of organic compounds were likely delivered to the early Earth by meteorites and might have contributed to the ingredients of life.’

While scientists do know that carbon-based compounds were instrumental in the development of life on Earth, knowing where they came from remains a mystery. 

Some theories say they were belched out from deep inside the Earth while others contest they likely landed on our planet from another world via meteorites. 

Life itself was not found on the rock, but materials which, given the right conditions, could create life. 

Scientists benefitted from the public furore following the event as it meant the rock fragments were rapidly tracked down and retrieved. 

This ensured they remained relatively clean and unsullied by Earth’s microbe-rich dirt, allowing for a truer picture of the meteoritie’s contents. 

‘This meteorite is special because it fell onto a frozen lake and was recovered quickly. It was very pristine,’ says Dr Heck.

‘We could see the minerals weren’t much altered and later found that it contained a rich inventory of extraterrestrial organic compounds.’

Meteorite hunter Robert Ward with the meteorite on Strawberry Lake near Hamburg, Michigan

Meteorite hunter Robert Ward with the meteorite on Strawberry Lake near Hamburg, Michigan

Meteorite hunter Robert Ward with the meteorite on Strawberry Lake near Hamburg, Michigan

A piece of the meteorite sits on a display during a press conference, Friday, Jan. 19, 2018, at the Longway Planetarium in Flint, Michigan. Scientists now know it contains organic compounds

A piece of the meteorite sits on a display during a press conference, Friday, Jan. 19, 2018, at the Longway Planetarium in Flint, Michigan. Scientists now know it contains organic compounds

A piece of the meteorite sits on a display during a press conference, Friday, Jan. 19, 2018, at the Longway Planetarium in Flint, Michigan. Scientists now know it contains organic compounds 

Astronomer Todd Slisher unfolds tin-foil to reveal a piece of the meteorite during the 2018 press conference

Astronomer Todd Slisher unfolds tin-foil to reveal a piece of the meteorite during the 2018 press conference

Astronomer Todd Slisher unfolds tin-foil to reveal a piece of the meteorite during the 2018 press conference

WHAT WAS THE MASSIVE FIREBALL THAT SOARED OVER MICHIGAN?

The American Meteor Society says it received hundreds of reports of a fireball on the night of Tuesday January 16 over Michigan, including many in the Detroit area.

Footage of a meteorite falling from the sky was captured by a number of residents throughout Michigan and further afield that evening.

A bright light, understood to be the soaring fireball exploding above Michigan, was seen as far away as Chicago and even across the border in Canada.

The United States Geological Survey said the equivalent of a 2.0-magnitude earthquake struck the area at the same time..

This would suggest it came crashing down to earth, but there has been no official confirmation of this yet.

By the end of the week, meteorite hunters who flocked to Detroit from across the U.S. after a meteor exploded had begun to find the fragments.

The 6-foot-wide meteor broke apart Tuesday about 20 miles over Earth, NASA scientists said. Most of the fragments landed in Hamburg Township.

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The rock blazed bright as it burned up in Earth’s atmosphere and broke up, but it was large enough that many of its pieces remained in tact when they landed. 

Smaller meteors disintegrate completely until nothing is left by the time it approaches Earth’s surface. 

But the pieces of the 2018 rock were so large they could be tracked by weather systems normally used to predict and follow rain and hail.  

‘Weather radar helped show the position and velocity of the meteorite. That meant that we were able to find it very quickly,’ Dr Heck says. 

Within two days an eager meteorite hunter, Robert Ward, had tracked down the first piece on the frozen surface of Strawberry Lake, near Hamburg, Michigan and entrusted it to the Chicago Field Museum.   

The short period of time it took for the rock to be found provides an invaluable research opportunity. 

‘Because there was so much excitement surrounding it, everybody wanted to apply their own technique to it, so we have an unusually comprehensive set of data for a single meteorite,’ says Ms Jennika Greer, co-author of the research and a scientist at the University of Chicago.

The research found that, apart from the cacophony of organic compounds, the rock is a rare form of meteorite, called a H4 chondrite.  

The findings are published in the journal Meteoritics & Planetary Science.

Explained: The difference between an asteroid, meteorite and other space rocks

An asteroid is a large chunk of rock left over from collisions or the early solar system. Most are located between Mars and Jupiter in the Main Belt.

A comet is a rock covered in ice, methane and other compounds. Their orbits take them much further out of the solar system.

A meteor is what astronomers call a flash of light in the atmosphere when debris burns up.

This debris itself is known as a meteoroid. Most are so small they are vapourised in the atmosphere.

If any of this meteoroid makes it to Earth, it is called a meteorite.

Meteors, meteoroids and meteorites normally originate from asteroids and comets.

For example, if Earth passes through the tail of a comet, much of the debris burns up in the atmosphere, forming a meteor shower.

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Climate change could bring the start of Autumn forward by almost a week

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climate change could bring the start of autumn forward by almost a week

The start of autumn could begin a week sooner in the future due to climate change causing trees to capture more carbon and drop their leaves earlier in the year. 

For decades scientists expected temperate trees would shed their leaves gradually later in the year – making autumn later as average temperatures rise worldwide.

Early observations seem to show this was happening over the past few decades – driving a longer growing season that could held slow the rate of climate change. 

However, a new, large-scale study of European trees by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology has found this trend has started to reverse and leaves are falling earlier.  

The new discovery means instead of autumn starting up to three weeks later, it will start between three and six days earlier over the course of the century.

Early observations seem to show this was happening over the past few decades - driving a longer growing season that could held slow the rate of climate change.

Early observations seem to show this was happening over the past few decades - driving a longer growing season that could held slow the rate of climate change.

Early observations seem to show this was happening over the past few decades – driving a longer growing season that could held slow the rate of climate change.

The presence of leaves on deciduous trees marks the changing of the seasons – and the period of time in which trees store carbon from the air.

Warning winters cause spring leaves to emerge earlier and it a widespread example of a climate-change impact, according to the team behind the study. 

The timing of when the leaves fall is harder to spot. There might be limits to how much greenhouse gas a tree can use or store in a single year, explained Dr Zani.

If all carbon needs are met, leaves might fall earlier rather than later in the autumn. 

Changes in the growing-season of trees greatly affect global carbon balance, Zani explained, but it is difficult to predict future patterns.

This is due to the fact that the environmental drivers of leaf ageing aren’t well understood by scientists. 

Autumn shedding in temperate regions like the UK is an adaptation to stressors – such as cold weather and a common assumption is that if you warm the air up this would allow leaves to persist for longer and fix more atmospheric carbon. 

Dr Zani and colleagues used long-term observations from dominant Central European tree species from 1948 to 2015 and experiments designed to modify carbon uptake to evaluate the related impacts. 

The study showed an increased growing-season in spring and summer due to more CO2, light and higher temperatures will lead to earlier leaf shedding – not later.

This is likely because roots and wood cease to use or store leaf-captured carbon at a point – making leaves costly to keep.

The researchers used the data to build a model to improve autumn prediction under a business-as-usual climate scenario – that is one where no efforts are made to slow the rate of climate change by keeping global average temperature from rising.

The model forecasts the possibility of autumn leaf-dropping dates becoming earlier over the rest of the century rather than later – as previously assumed.

However, a new, large-scale study of European trees by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology has found this trend has started to reverse and leaves are falling earlier

However, a new, large-scale study of European trees by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology has found this trend has started to reverse and leaves are falling earlier

However, a new, large-scale study of European trees by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology has found this trend has started to reverse and leaves are falling earlier

Dr Zani said: ‘Changes in the growing-season lengths of temperate trees greatly affect biotic interactions and global carbon balance.

‘Yet future growing-season trajectories remain highly uncertain because the environmental drivers of autumn leaf deterioration are poorly understood.’

Accounting for increases in spring and summer productivity due to rising carbon uptake improved the accuracy of predictions by up to 42 per cent.

‘These findings demonstrate the critical role of sink limitation in governing the end of seasonal activity and reveal important constraints on future growing-season lengths and carbon uptake of trees,’ said Zani.

The results ‘substantially lower our expectations of the extent to which longer growing seasons will increase seasonal carbon uptake in forests,’ she added.

 

The presence of leaves on deciduous trees marks the changing of the seasons - and the period of time in which trees store carbon from the air.

The presence of leaves on deciduous trees marks the changing of the seasons - and the period of time in which trees store carbon from the air.

The presence of leaves on deciduous trees marks the changing of the seasons – and the period of time in which trees store carbon from the air.

The researchers pointed out the universality of this pattern in other forest types remains unknown – they can only say for certain it applies to temperate regions.

They note an important next avenue of research is implementing such growing-season length constraints across a wider range of systems. 

Dr Christine Rollinson, a tree scientist at The Morton Arboretum in Illinois, who was not involved in the study, said it shows the forest is not a bottomless carbon sink.

‘Thus, whereas trees and forests remain one solution for mitigating the impacts of climate change, they cannot be the sole means of response.

‘A diverse portfolio of actions that include emissions reductions and tree conservation and planting is essential to mitigate anthropogenic carbon emissions and climate change.’

The findings have been published in the journal Science

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Climate change could bring the start of Autumn forward by almost a week

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on

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climate change could bring the start of autumn forward by almost a week

The start of autumn could begin a week sooner in the future due to climate change causing trees to capture more carbon and drop their leaves earlier in the year. 

For decades scientists expected temperate trees would shed their leaves gradually later in the year – making autumn later as average temperatures rise worldwide.

Early observations seem to show this was happening over the past few decades – driving a longer growing season that could held slow the rate of climate change. 

However, a new, large-scale study of European trees by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology has found this trend has started to reverse and leaves are falling earlier.  

The new discovery means instead of autumn starting up to three weeks later, it will start between three and six days earlier over the course of the century.

Early observations seem to show this was happening over the past few decades - driving a longer growing season that could held slow the rate of climate change.

Early observations seem to show this was happening over the past few decades - driving a longer growing season that could held slow the rate of climate change.

Early observations seem to show this was happening over the past few decades – driving a longer growing season that could held slow the rate of climate change.

The presence of leaves on deciduous trees marks the changing of the seasons – and the period of time in which trees store carbon from the air.

Warning winters cause spring leaves to emerge earlier and it a widespread example of a climate-change impact, according to the team behind the study. 

The timing of when the leaves fall is harder to spot. There might be limits to how much greenhouse gas a tree can use or store in a single year, explained Dr Zani.

If all carbon needs are met, leaves might fall earlier rather than later in the autumn. 

Changes in the growing-season of trees greatly affect global carbon balance, Zani explained, but it is difficult to predict future patterns.

This is due to the fact that the environmental drivers of leaf ageing aren’t well understood by scientists. 

Autumn shedding in temperate regions like the UK is an adaptation to stressors – such as cold weather and a common assumption is that if you warm the air up this would allow leaves to persist for longer and fix more atmospheric carbon. 

Dr Zani and colleagues used long-term observations from dominant Central European tree species from 1948 to 2015 and experiments designed to modify carbon uptake to evaluate the related impacts. 

The study showed an increased growing-season in spring and summer due to more CO2, light and higher temperatures will lead to earlier leaf shedding – not later.

This is likely because roots and wood cease to use or store leaf-captured carbon at a point – making leaves costly to keep.

The researchers used the data to build a model to improve autumn prediction under a business-as-usual climate scenario – that is one where no efforts are made to slow the rate of climate change by keeping global average temperature from rising.

The model forecasts the possibility of autumn leaf-dropping dates becoming earlier over the rest of the century rather than later – as previously assumed.

However, a new, large-scale study of European trees by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology has found this trend has started to reverse and leaves are falling earlier

However, a new, large-scale study of European trees by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology has found this trend has started to reverse and leaves are falling earlier

However, a new, large-scale study of European trees by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology has found this trend has started to reverse and leaves are falling earlier

Dr Zani said: ‘Changes in the growing-season lengths of temperate trees greatly affect biotic interactions and global carbon balance.

‘Yet future growing-season trajectories remain highly uncertain because the environmental drivers of autumn leaf deterioration are poorly understood.’

Accounting for increases in spring and summer productivity due to rising carbon uptake improved the accuracy of predictions by up to 42 per cent.

‘These findings demonstrate the critical role of sink limitation in governing the end of seasonal activity and reveal important constraints on future growing-season lengths and carbon uptake of trees,’ said Zani.

The results ‘substantially lower our expectations of the extent to which longer growing seasons will increase seasonal carbon uptake in forests,’ she added.

 

The presence of leaves on deciduous trees marks the changing of the seasons - and the period of time in which trees store carbon from the air.

The presence of leaves on deciduous trees marks the changing of the seasons - and the period of time in which trees store carbon from the air.

The presence of leaves on deciduous trees marks the changing of the seasons – and the period of time in which trees store carbon from the air.

The researchers pointed out the universality of this pattern in other forest types remains unknown – they can only say for certain it applies to temperate regions.

They note an important next avenue of research is implementing such growing-season length constraints across a wider range of systems. 

Dr Christine Rollinson, a tree scientist at The Morton Arboretum in Illinois, who was not involved in the study, said it shows the forest is not a bottomless carbon sink.

‘Thus, whereas trees and forests remain one solution for mitigating the impacts of climate change, they cannot be the sole means of response.

‘A diverse portfolio of actions that include emissions reductions and tree conservation and planting is essential to mitigate anthropogenic carbon emissions and climate change.’

The findings have been published in the journal Science

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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SpaceX launches reusable Falcon 9 rocket booster for SEVENTH time

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spacex launches reusable falcon 9 rocket booster for seventh time

SpaceX has reused a Falcon 9 rocket for a record breaking seventh time during its most recent mission to put another 60 Starlink satellites into orbit.

It comes as the Elon Musk-owned space launch firm is preparing for the first high altitude test flight of its mammoth Starship prototype spaceship – dubbed SN8. 

Launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 02:13 GMT this morning, the Falcon 9 flight was the seventh time that particular first stage booster had been used.

This beat the previous record for a booster of six trips and helps Musk in his mission to bring down the cost of launching payloads from the Earth by reusing equipment.

The Falcon 9 launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in the early hours of this morning carrying the 16th batch of Starlink satellites

The Falcon 9 launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in the early hours of this morning carrying the 16th batch of Starlink satellites

The Falcon 9 launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in the early hours of this morning carrying the 16th batch of Starlink satellites

SpaceX was able to recover the booster from the Atlantic Ocean using a drone flight – which means it may be able to fly for an eighth time in the future.

The booster wasn’t the only part of the Falcon 9 to be reused during this flight – that brings the total of small Starlink internet satellites up to nearly 1,000.

The fairing cover used to protect the payload had also been used before – half on one other trip and another on two different trips before this one, SpaceX confirmed.

Every time SpaceX is able to reuse a component it reduces the cost of getting material into low Earth orbit compared to using parts for the first time.

Research by the Center for Strategic and International Studies found that the average cost of putting 1kg of material in orbit on a SpaceX launch is $2,600.

In comparison, the average cost to put a 1kg object in orbit from a Russian Soyuz was $17,900 and the United Launch Alliance Delta E came in at $177,900 per kg. 

Musk is working to bring that cost down even further with each element of the Falcon 9 they are able to reuse.

Part of that drive to reuse is pushing development of the massive Starship two-stage-to-orbit fully-reusable heavy lift vehicle.

It has been under development since 2012 and is designed to bring the cost of each launch downs significantly by being fully reusable.

A single Falcon 9 launch costs about $51 million if it is reusing components that have flown before – Musk hopes to get the Spaceship launch in at $2 million per trip.

That reality could soon be a step closer as the firm is preparing to send up the latest prototype Starship SN8 on a high altitude test flight.

Musk tweeted that it has already undergone a successful static fire test and that in the next week or so it would fly up to about nine miles into the sky.

This beat the previous record for a booster of six trips and helps Musk in his mission to bring down the cost of launching payloads from the Earth by reusing equipment

This beat the previous record for a booster of six trips and helps Musk in his mission to bring down the cost of launching payloads from the Earth by reusing equipment

 This beat the previous record for a booster of six trips and helps Musk in his mission to bring down the cost of launching payloads from the Earth by reusing equipment

Space X performed the third over all static fire on Starship SN8 Thursday November 12 at its Boca Chica facility in Texas. The next stage is a high altitude test

Space X performed the third over all static fire on Starship SN8 Thursday November 12 at its Boca Chica facility in Texas. The next stage is a high altitude test

Space X performed the third over all static fire on Starship SN8 Thursday November 12 at its Boca Chica facility in Texas. The next stage is a high altitude test

The edge of space is agreed by NASA and others to be 50 miles above sea level but to go into orbit you need to get to at least 100 miles above sea level.

If this latest flight test – that will see the triple Raptor engine fire and lift the 400ft spaceship into the air – is successful, then further, higher tests will likely follow.

November 30 has been provisionally set aside as the date of the high altitude test that will see the spaceship reach the highest it has ever flown.

Musk tweeted: ‘Good Starship SN8 static fire! Aiming for first 15km / ~50k ft altitude flight next week. Goals are to test 3 engine ascent, body flaps, transition from main to header tanks & landing flip.’

The landing is one of the most important aspects – as it needs to be fully reusable to achieve the goals and price per flight set out by the SpaceX team. 

WHAT IS ELON MUSK’S ‘BFR’?

The BFR (Big F***ing Rocket), now known as Starship, will complete all missions and is smaller than the ones Musk announced in 2016.

The SpaceX CEO said the rocket would take its first trip to the red planet in 2022, carrying only cargo, followed by a manned mission in 2024 and claimed other SpaceX’s products would be ‘cannibalised’ to pay for it.

The rocket would be partially reusable and capable of flight directly from Earth to Mars.

Once built, Musk believes the rocket could be used for travel on Earth – saying that passengers would be able to get anywhere in under an hour.

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44DFD4DC00000578 4933944 image a 77 1506734013996

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