Current Affairs : ScienceNTech
 

  • It carried approximately 4,100 pounds of NASA cargo, science and technology demonstration samples from the ISS. The spacecraft departed from the ISS at 4.58 a.m., after they used the robotic Canadarm2 to detach Dragon from the Harmony module of the orbiting lab.
  • After Dragon was released from ISS and its thrusters transported it a safe distance away from the station, SpaceX’s flight controllers in Hawthorne, California, executed a deorbit burn command, blasting Dragon back into Earth’s atmosphere.
  • The Dragon spacecraft will be taken by ship to Long Beach, California, where some cargo will be removed immediately for return to NASA, and then it will be prepared for a return trip to SpaceX’s test facility in McGregor, Texas, for final processing, according to NASA. NASA said a variety of technological and biological studies had returned with Dragon.
  • Hardware from the Made in Space Fiber Optics payload, which demonstrated manufacturing fiber optic filaments in a micro-gravity environment.
  • The investigation pulled fiber optic wire from a heavy metal fluoride glass commonly used to make fiber optic glass.
  • Research indicates that the fiber pulled in micro-gravity may not crystallize as much, giving it better optical qualities than the silica used in most fiber optic wire.
  • Results from this investigation could lead to the production of higher-quality fiber optic products both in space and on Earth. Some payload samples were used to study a stress reaction in plants when experiencing reduced oxygen or hypoxia, which occurs for example, during times of soil flooding.

  • Scientists have developed a tissue-based soft robot that mimics the biomechanics of a stingray, which could lead to advances in bio-inspired robotics, regenerative medicine and medical diagnostics.
  • The simple body design of stingrays, specifically, a flattened body shape and side fins that start at the head and end at the base of their tail, makes them ideal to model bio- electromechanical systems on.
  • The 10-millimetre long robot is made up of four layers: tissue composed of live heart cells, two distinct types of specialised biomaterials for structural support, and flexible electrodes.
  • Imitating nature, the robotic stingray is even able to "flap" its fins when the electrodes contract the heart cells on the biomaterial scaffold, according to the study published in the journal Advanced Materials.
  • "The development of such bioinspired systems could enable future robotics that contain both biological tissues and electronic systems," said Ali Khademhosseini, from University of California, Los Angeles in the US.
  • "This advancement could be used for medical therapies such as personalised tissue patches to strengthen cardiac muscle tissue for heart attack patients," Khademhosseini said.

  • Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched 31 satellites in a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) from its spaceport of Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh on 12 Jan.
  • "The 28-hour countdown began at 5.29 a.m. in the mission control for the rocket launch at 9.28 a.m. on 12 jan," said ISRO) on its website.
  • The spaceport Sriharikota High Altitude Range (SHAR) is located about 80 km northeast of Chennai off the Bay of Bengal coast.
  • "The propellant filling operation of fourth stage of PSLV-C40 is under progress," said an update on ISRO's website on 11 Jan morning.
  • The 31 satellites with a combined weight of 1,323 kg have been integrated with the PSLV-C40 for deploying them in the earth's lower orbit after lift off.Of the 31 satellites, three are Indian and 28 are from six countries: Canada, Finland, France, South Korea, UK and the US.
  • The Indian satellites are 710 kg Cartosat-2 series for Earth observation, a 100 kg micro satellite and a five kg nano satellite.
  • The first space mission in 2018 onboard the PSLV-C40 comes four months after a similar rocket failed to deliver the country's eighth navigation satellite in the earth's lower orbit on August 31, 2017.

  • The hole in the ozone layer may be on the mend, a NASA study released on 4 jan. states.
  • Using measurements from their Aura satellite, NASA scientists have been studying chlorine levels within the Antarctic ozone hole over the last several years, and those levels have been decreasing.
  • According to NASA, this is "the first definitive evidence of the success of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer" - the 1987 Montreal Protocol bans chemicals that destroy the Earth's protective ozone layer, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) formerly used as refrigerants and propellants in aerosol sprays.
  • Dr. Susan Strahan, Atmospheric scientist said, "The Montreal Protocol has been a great success at banning the production of ozone-depleting substances. And we know this because we've been measuring those substances at the Earth's surface since the 1980s or even before, in some cases.
  • So before the Montreal Protocol, ozone-depleting substances at the surface were going up rapidly. Once the Protocol was signed and the regulations went into effect, we saw at the surface, levels of ozone-depleting substances going down."

  • This will be the first eclipse of 2018. For some parts of Asia, including India, the eclipse will already be under way as the moon rises.
  • Central and eastern Asia, Indonesia, New Zealand and most of Australia will get a fine view of the Blue Moon.
  • Alaska, Hawaii and northwestern Canada will see the eclipse from start to finish. Moonset will intervene for the rest of North and Central America.
  • The duration of the total phase is 77 minutes, with the moon tracking through the southern part of the Earth’s shadow.
  • After this year, the next time that a Blue Moon passes through Earth’s umbra will be on December 31, 2028, and, after that, on January 31, 2037. Both of these eclipses will be total.
  • There was a partial eclipse of a Blue Moon on December 31, 2009, but the last total eclipse of a Blue Moon is dated March 31, 1866.

  • This will be the fourth year of full operations for Sofia, with observations planned between February 2018 and January 2019, the US space agency said.
  • Sofia is a Boeing 747SP jetliner modified to carry a 100 -inch diameter telescope. It is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center, DLR. The observatory's newest instrument, the High-resolution Airborne Wideband Camera-Plus, called HAWC, will continue research with its polarimeter, a device that measures the alignment of incoming light waves.
  • According to scientists, these investigations will help them understand how magnetic fields affect the rate at which interstellar clouds condense to form new stars.
  • One such programme will use the instrument to understand the impact magnetic fields have on stars forming inside a dark cloud, a stellar nursery filled with dust and molecules, called L1448. Another program using the HAWC+ instrument will help astronomers better understand how energetic, active black holes contribute to the most luminous, distant galaxies.
  • These observations will help them learn whether the luminosity of these active black holes is driven by star formation or accretion of material onto the central black hole, NASA said.
  • The researchers will continue to search for methane on Mars. Sofia will conduct observations to better understand how methane levels change with the Red Planet's seasons.
  • Another team of researchers is planning to study comet 46P/Writanen as it passes close to the Earth, to search for clues in the comet's dust that may help better understand the evolution of the early solar system, the US space agency said.

  • The ability to identify microbes in space could aid in the ability to diagnose and treat astronaut ailments in real time, as well as assisting in the identification of DNA-based life on other planets.
  • It could also benefit other experiments aboard the orbiting laboratory. Identifying microbes involves isolating the DNA of samples, and then amplifying - or making many copies of that DNA that can then be sequenced, or identified.
  • The investigation was broken into two parts: the collection of the microbial samples and amplification by Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), then sequencing and identification of the microbes.
  • NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson conducted the experiment aboard the orbiting laboratory, with NASA microbiologist and the project's Principal Investigator Sarah Wallace and her team watching and guiding her from the US.
  • As part of regular microbial monitoring, petri plates were touched to various surfaces of the space station. Working within the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG) about a week later, Whitson transferred cells from growing bacterial colonies on those plates into miniature test tubes,something that had never been done before in space.
  • Once the cells were successfully collected, it was time to isolate the DNA and prepare it for sequencing, enabling the identification of the unknown organisms - another first for space microbiology.
  • The MinION device was used to sequence the amplified DNA.The data were downlinked to the team in Houston for analysis and identification.
  • "Once we actually got the data on the ground we were able to turn it around and start analysing it," said Aaron Burton,NASA biochemist.

  • In what could help India leapfrog others in the field of 'materials characterisation', six Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and the International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials (ARCI), Hyderabad, have come together to put in place a state-of-the-art 'atomic probe' research in collaboration with department of science and technology's (DST) 'Nano' mission.
  • These seven institutions, under the leadership of IITMadras, brought to India its first Local Electrode Atom Probe (LEAP) equipment at a cost of Rs 32 crore, making it one of the major hubs of research in designing materials with tailored properties.
  • This is expected to have a major impact across industries from steel to automobiles and energy to transport. Globally, there are 90 LEAP platforms.
  • The one installed at IIT-Madras in July 2017 is the first of its kind as it can be operated from anywhere in the world.
  • This is a high-performance microscope that provides a precise atom-by-atom view of a material, enabling a true three-dimensional (3D) atomic scale reconstruction and is expected to impart a thrust to research in nanotechnology, among other fields.

  • The research, published in Brain Research, could bring substantial improvements in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease through the use of a drug originally created to treat type 2 diabetes.
  • Lead researcher Professor Christian Holscher of Lancaster University in the UK said the novel treatment "holds clear promise of being developed into a new treatment for chronic neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease."
  • Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia and the numbers are expected to rise to two million people in the UK by 2051 according to Alzheimer's Society, who part- funded the research.
  • Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer's Society, said: ""With no new treatments in nearly 15 years, we need to find new ways of tackling Alzheimer's.
  • It's imperative that we explore whether drugs developed to treat other conditions can benefit people with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. This approach to research could make it much quicker to get promising new drugs to the people who need them."
  • Although the benefits of these 'triple agonist' drugs have so far only been found in mice, other studies with existing diabetes drugs such as liraglutide have shown real promise for people with Alzheimer's, so further development of this work is crucial."
  • This is the first time that a triple receptor drug has been used which acts in multiple ways to protect the brain from degeneration. It combines GLP-1, GIP and Glucagon which are all growth factors. Problems with growth factor signalling have been shown to be impaired in the brains of Alzheimer's patients.

  • NASA is turning 60 in 2018 and the agency is looking forward to launching a slew of important missions in the coming year, including one to "touch" the Sun.
  • NASA's Parker Solar Probe is scheduled for launch in 2018 to explore the Sun's outer atmosphere. The probe will use Venus' gravity during seven flybys over nearly seven years to gradually bring its orbit closer to the Sun, according to a NASA statement
  • The spacecraft will fly through the Sun's atmosphere as close as 6.2 million kilometres to our star's surface, well within the orbit of Mercury and closer than any spacecraft has gone before
  • The Parker Solar Probe will perform its scientific investigations in a hazardous region of intense heat and solar radiation.
  • The primary science goals for the mission are to trace how energy and heat move through the solar corona and to explore what accelerates the solar wind as well as solar energetic particles.

  • A neurosurgical team has successfully performed what is believed to be a first-of-its- kind brain surgery on a Northern fur seal named Ziggy Star in an attempt to treat her worsening neurological condition.
  • Ziggy was first seen at Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University in the US in September for a condition that had progressed over several years and was causing severe neurological episodes, difficulty moving, reduced training response, and cluster seizures.
  • An MRI revealed an accumulation of cerebral spinal fluid in the brain, a condition known as hydrocephalus.
  • Mystic Aquarium took in Ziggy approximately four years ago after she was found stranded on the California coast and deemed non-releasable by the US government.
  • At the time, she had an MRI that showed some neurologic abnormalities. She received treatment, but her symptoms continued to progress at a concerning rate, with the seizures emerging more recently.
  • "The MRI taken recently by our team showed that the brain was disappearing due to the excess fluid, and it was significantly worse than the last study four years ago," said Ane Uriarte, lead neurosurgeon at Cummings Veterinary Medical Center.
  • "We determined the best option to prevent further deterioration of the brain and to improve Ziggy's symptoms was to surgically place a shunt to drain the excess fluid, relieving some of the pressure on the brain," she said.

  • ISRO on 29 Dec announced that it would launch 31 satellites, including India's Cartosat-2 series earth observation space craft, in a single mission onboard its Polar rocket on January 10
  • The mission will be the first Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) mission after the unsuccessful launch of navigation satellite IRNSS-1H in August.
  • "The launch is tentatively scheduled for January 10," a senior Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) official told PTI.
  • The mission's main payload would be India's Cartosat-2 series earth observation satellite.The Mission Readiness Review committee and Launch Authorisation Board is scheduled to meet in the coming days would take the final call, he said.
  • PSLV-C40 will be used for the launch from the spaceport in Andhra Pradesh's Sriharikota, about 100 kilometres from Chennai.
  • The mission would be a combination of 28 nano satellites from foreign countries, including Finland and the US, one micro and nano satellite from India along with one Cartosat satellite, the official said.
  • On August 31, India's mission to launch its backup navigation satellite IRNSS-1H on board PSLV-C39 ended in a failure after a technical fault on the final leg following a perfect launch.
  • ISRO then said the heat shield did not separate on the final leg of the launch sequence and, as a result, IRNSS-1H got stuck in the fourth stage of the rocket.According to ISRO, Cartosat-2 series satellite launch is a follow-on mission with the primary objective of providing high resolution scene specific spot imageries.

  • India successfully test-fires its indigenously developed Advanced Air Defence supersonic interceptor missile, capable of destroying any incoming ballistic missile in low altitude.
  • This was the third supersonic interceptor test carried out this year in which an incoming ballistic missile target was successfully intercepted, within 30 km altitude of the earth's atmosphere by an interceptor.
  • The earlier two tests were conducted on March 1 and February 11, 2017, as part of efforts to have a full-fledged multi-layer Ballistic Missile Defence system.
  • After getting signals by tracking radars, the interceptor AAD missile roared through its trajectory to destroy the hostile target missile in mid-air in an endo-atmospheric altitude.
  • The interceptor is a 7.5-meter long single stage solid rocket propelled guided missile equipped with a navigation system, a hi-tech computer and an electro-mechanical activator.

  • Have a question for Sophia, the world's first humanoid robot who has been granted citizenship by a country? You can tweet it to Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay's TechFest team.
  • Sophia will be visiting India, her maiden trip to the country, on December 30 to attend the TechFest—the institute's annual science and technology meet. Select questions asked by Twitterati will be put in front of Sophia by a moderator when she will be on the institute's campus.
  • "We are starting a Twitter campaign wherein users can send questions to Sophia using the hashtag #AskSophia," said Anirudh Poddar, manager, media and marketing, Techfest.
  • In 2014, the Techfest had hosted BINA 48, the most advanced social robot to talk to in the world at that time. Sophia, known for her jibe at Elon Musk, CEO of electric car maker Tesla and a staunch opponent of artificial intelligence, will also interact with a select audience of engineers on the campus.
  • The robot, who was granted citizenship by Saudi Arabia in October, will spend the entire day on the campus and will also be part of an hour-long interaction in the institute's convocation hall.

  • China on 26 Dec successfully launched remote sensing satellites to conduct electromagnetic environmental probes.
  • It was the 260th mission of the Long March rocket family, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
  • The satellites were launched on a Long March-2C carrier rocket from Xichang Satellite launch center in the southwest Sichuan province, it said.
  • They have entered its preset orbit and the launch was proclaimed a success, the report said, without disclosing the number of satellites launched.
  • As the third batch of the Yaogan-30 project, the satellites will conduct electromagnetic environmental probes and other experiments, it added.
  • Remote sensing generally refers to the use of sensor technologies to detect objects. The remote sensing satellites collect data by detecting the energy reflected from the Earth.

  • The Martian surface may have reacted with and absorbed the water that once flowed on the red planet, making it uninhabitable, scientists suggest.
  • Although 24 dec Martian surface is barren, frozen and uninhabitable, a trail of evidence points to a once warmer, wetter planet, where water flowed freely.
  • The conundrum of what happened to this water is long standing and unsolved.
  • Previous research has suggested that the majority of the water was lost to space as a result of the collapse of the planet's magnetic field, when it was either swept away by high intensity solar winds or locked up as sub-surface ice.
  • However, these theories do not explain where all of the water has gone.Convinced that the planet's minerology held the answer to this puzzling question, scientists from the Oxford University in the UK applied modelling methods used to understand the composition of Earth rocks to calculate how much water could be removed from the Martian surface through reactions with rock.
  • The team assessed the role that rock temperature, sub- surface pressure and general Martian make-up, have on the planetary surfaces.
  • The results revealed that the basalt rocks on Mars can hold approximately 25 per cent more water than those on Earth, and as a result drew the water from the Martian surface into its interior.

  • NASA has developed a new tool, designed to detect compounds and minerals associated with biological activity, to help the search for alien life.
  • Although no evidence of life outside of Earth has yet been found, looking for evidence of present or past life on other planets continues to be an important part of the NASA Planetary Exploration Programme.
  • Researchers at NASA Langley Research Center and the University of Hawaii in the US developed the new instrument, which improves on an analytical technique known as micro Raman spectroscopy.
  • This technique uses the interaction between laser light and a sample to provide chemical composition information on a microscopic scale.
  • It can detect organic compounds such as the amino acids found in living things and identify minerals formed by biochemical processes on Earth that might indicate life on other planets.
  • "Our instrument is one of the most advanced Raman spectrometers ever developed," said M Nurul Abedin of NASA Langley Research Center, who led the research team. "It overcomes some of the key limitations of traditional micro Raman instruments and is designed to serve as an ideal instrument for future missions that use rovers or landers to explore the surface of Mars or Jupiter's icy Europa Moon," said Abedin.

  • Scientists have discovered a new frog species in the fast flowing streams of Arunachal Pradesh’s Lower Subansiri district.
  • The new species found in Talle Valley Wildlife Sanctuary has been named Odorrana arunachalensis . They are expected to be found in similar habitats in other parts of the State.
  • According to a paper in the Journal of Biosciences , a publication of Arunachal Pradesh-based Rajiv Gandhi University, the species is sighted during the wet season from April to September
  • Odorrana (commonly known as the odorous frog) is a genus of true frogs (family Ranidae) from East Asia and surrounding regions.
  • The medium-sized green frog adapted for a life in torrential waters was discovered by a team of scientists from the Zoological Survey of India led by Bhaskar Saikia, Bikramjit Sinha and Ilona Jacinta Kharkongor.
  • The frog inhabits fern-covered rocky areas along hill streams in mixed wet tropical forests.
  • There are over 50 species of frogs belonging to the genus Odorrana with many species exhibiting overlapping morphological characters, making their identification in the field difficult.But in the case of Odorrana arunachalensis , the presence of a black band-like mark between the eyes is a distinguishing character that separates it from all the other frog species of this genus, scientists said.

  • The region explored by the Franco-Syrian mission "Marges arides de Syrie du Nord" is located to the east of Hama and extends across approximately 7,000 km2. Positioned at the threshold of the densely populated sedentary regions of the Fertile Crescent to the west, and the arid, nomad-inhabited steppes to the east, it has not been continuously exploited by the region's inhabitants.
  • Here, the multidisciplinary team from the geo-archaeological mission has discovered particularly well-preserved sites, including a fortified surveillance network over the territory dating from the second millennium (-2,000 to -1,550). It is the first time that such an extensive fortified system has been discovered in the territory.
  • This structure, exceptional in its extent and designed to protect urban areas and their hinterlands, is composed of a series of fortresses, small forts, towers, and enclosures that run along the mountainous ridge which dominates the steppes of central Syria.
  • The researchers' work suggests that the fortresses were made from large blocks on unsculpted basalt and formed walls several meters wide and high. In addition, each fortified site was positioned in such a way to ensure that it could see and be seen by others.
  • The spatial organization of this network thus depended on the ability to communicate through light (or smoke) signals in order to rapidly convey information to the major centers of power. The purpose of this regional network would have been to defend the territory, to surveil and protect transport corridors and, above all, to protect the most attractive lands.

  • The former head of the Pentagon's secret UFO-hunting bureau has said he believes "we may not be alone".
  • Luis Elizondo's admission came after declassified footage showed US fighter pilots reacting with astonishment as they observed an unknown aerial object off California in 2014.
  • The Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Programme ended five years ago, when US defence officials shifted attention and funding to other priorities. Democratic senator Harry Reid led the initial push for funding. After the Department of Defence admitted the programme's existence, Mr Elizondo said the objects it had observed provided "compelling evidence"to support to the idea that humans are not alone.
  • He told CNN his team's role was "from a national security standpoint, [to] identify those things that we see, whether we see them electro-optically, we see them with radar, we see them as eyewitness reports and try to ascertain and determine if that information is a potential threat".
  • He added: "We found a lot. I think it's probably been a little bit mischaracterised in some of the social media you see and what people put out. A lot of times, when we don't have a lot of information, we tend to fills in those gaps with what we think is logical. And there's still, by the way, a lot we really don't know. I think what's important is that we have identified some very interesting, anomalous type of aircraft.

  • The team was made up of researchers from elsewhere in the UK, the US, Canada, Taiwan and Chile and in total seven researchers from Queen's were involved.
  • Professor Alan Fitzsimmons headed up a team which measured the way that `Oumuamua, reflects sunlight, and found it similar to icy objects covered with a dry crust. This is because `Oumuamua has been exposed to cosmic rays for millions, or even billions, of years, creating an insulating organic-rich layer on its surface.
  • The research, which has been published this week in Nature Astronomy, suggests that `Oumuamua's dry crust could have protected its icy interior from being vaporised even though the object was just 23 million miles from our sun in September when it zipped past.
  • Professor Alan Fitzsimmons commented: "We have discovered that the surface of `Oumuamua is similar to small solar system bodies that are covered in carbon-rich ices, whose structure is modified by exposure to cosmic rays.
  • "We have also found that a half-metre thick coating of organic-rich material could have protected a water-ice-rich comet-like interior from vaporizing when the object was heated by the sun, even though it was heated to over 300 degrees centigrade.
  • "Dr Michele Bannister and her team observed `Oumuamua while it was still within reach of the largest telescopes in the world and their findings are being published in Astrophysical Journal Letters later this month.
  • They found the object was the same colour as some of the icy minor planets they had been studying in the outskirts of our solar system. This implies that different planetary systems in our galaxy contain minor planets like our own.

    Advanced technologies have made the newly-constructed subway Yanfang (YF) line smart, which had a trial run without passengers in the Fangshan District of Beijing on 15 Dec.The YF line is China's first completely-automatic subway with the Chinese-owned proprietary intellectual property rights.
  • On this automatic subway line, "drivers" on the trains do not need to operate the devices; they just monitor the devices and the routes where th trains run.
  • In fact, the real drivers are the operators at the control center of the subway."The unmanned driving technology will largely cut the time used for operation, shortening it by 15 seconds for each station covered," said Lyu Aiguo, program manager of the signaling system of the YF subway line.
  • Inside the trains, all the systems, including signaling, telecommunication, monitoring, air-conditioning and lighting were produced in China.
  • The lighting system can adjust the luminance in the trains according to the outside conditions, while the air-conditioning system is remotely-controlled.
  • "Different from other subways, there are three-on-one backups to guarantee the proper operation of the YF line's central control system, and the other devices inside the trains also have one-on-one backup.
  • That is to say, if one device breaks down, the train can still move safely," said Lyu.When the subway line stops operation at night, the automatic cleaning and charging systems will start working.
  • The trains then leave the parking lot and run automatically the next day.The YF subway line will officially start its operation by the end of December.The YF line, totaling 14.4 kilometers in length, has nine stations. It will improve the traffic condition in the capital city's Fangshan District after it starts serving the public.

  • Scientists say they've figured out why an Austrian who became the first skydiver to break the speed of sound fell faster than the drag of his body should have allowed.
  • Felix Baumgartner jumped from the stratosphere 39 kilometers (24 miles) above Earth on Oct. 14, 2012, and landed safely on the ground near Roswell, New Mexico, nine minutes later.
  • Baumgartner, whose protective suit and backpack gave him a very irregular shape, reached speeds of up to 1,357.6 kph (843.6 mph) higher than scientists had expected even for smooth objects in freefall.
  • In a paper published Dec 14 by the journal PLOS One, researchers from Munich's Technical University said irregular shapes appear to reduce the aerodynamic drag that increases as objects near the sound barrier.

  • MIT scientists have found a way to induce plants to give off dim light by embedding specialised nanoparticles into their leaves, a major step towards using plants to illuminate the workspace
  • This technology could also be used to provide low- intensity indoor lighting, or to transform trees into self- powered streetlights, the researchers said.
  • “The vision is to make a plant that will function as a desk lamp - a lamp that you don’t have to plug in. The light is ultimately powered by the energy metabolism of the plant itself,” said Michael Strano, Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US.
  • To create the glowing plants, the team turned to luciferase, the enzyme that gives fireflies their glow.Luciferase acts on a molecule called luciferin, causing it to emit light.
  • Another molecule called co-enzyme A helps the process along by removing a reaction byproduct that can inhibit luciferase activity.
  • The team packaged each of these three components into a different type of nanoparticle carrier.
  • The nanoparticles, which are all made of materials that the US Food and Drug Administration classifies as “generally regarded as safe,” help each component get to the right part of the plant.

  • The newly-discovered Kepler-90i a sizzling hot, rocky planet that orbits its star once every 14.4 days was found using machine learning from Google.
  • Machine learning is an approach to artificial intelligence in which computers "learn." In this case, computers learned to identify planets by finding in Kepler data instances where the telescope recorded changes in starlight caused by planets beyond our solar system, known as exoplanets.
  • "Just as we expected, there are exciting discoveries lurking in our archived Kepler data, waiting for the right tool or technology to unearth them," said Paul Hertz, director of NASA's Astrophysics Division in Washington. "This finding shows that our data will be a treasure trove available to innovative researchers for years to come."
  • The discovery came about after researchers Christopher Shallue and Andrew Vanderburg trained a computer to learn how to identify exoplanets in the light readings recorded by Kepler the miniscule change in brightness captured when a planet passed in front of, or transited, a star.
  • Inspired by the way neurons connect in the human brain, this artificial "neural network" sifted through Kepler data and found weak transit signals from a previously-missed eighth planet orbiting Kepler-90, in the constellation Draco.
  • "The Kepler-90 star system is like a mini version of our solar system. You have small planets inside and big planets outside, but everything is scrunched in much closer," said Vanderburg, a NASA Sagan Postdoctoral Fellow and astronomer at the University of Texas at Austin.

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