purple and brown colored planet

DAILY DOSE: China turns its gaze toward the Sun; Russian and American space travelers hitch a ride on SpaceX.

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SUN-GAZERS.

China’s Space Agency continues its steady progression into a major space exploration power. They’ve aimed their lenses at Mars and now they’re turning the focus on the Sun. Per Nature,

China is set to launch its first dedicated solar observatory. Astronomers say its trio of instruments will provide insights into how the Sun’s magnetic field creates coronal mass ejections and other eruptions.

The Advanced Space-based Solar Observatory (ASO-S) is scheduled to lift off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northern China at 7.43 a.m. local time on 9 October. China has sent satellites with individual sun-gazing instruments into space before, but the 900 million yuan (US$126 million) ASO-S is its first observatory with a suite of tools.

Scientists in China have been waiting a long time for the observatory. They first pitched such a mission in the 1970s, says Weiqun Gan, an astrophysicist at the Purple Mountain Observatory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Nanjing, and the mission’s chief scientist. “We always wanted to do something like this,” he says.

The scientific and technological momentum China possesses is real. https://go.nature.com/3ynLCZg


ACADEMICS TARGETED IN IRAN.

Science and politics always seem to get tangled together like unwanted hair knots. Not only that, governments seem to love beating up on their scientists when the opportunity presents itself. Just look at Iran. Per Science,

Sunday’s brutal crackdown against students protesting at one of Iran’s most prestigious universities has shocked Iranian academics and students around the world. The attack, at the Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, also drove home the important role students and universities are playing in the popular uprising against the Iranian government. Protests at many other universities in Iran have continued.

“I feel extremely disturbed by the brutality and violence. I do not know any of these students in person, but I hugely care about them,” says Farid Farrokhi, an economist at Purdue University who obtained his master’s degree at Sharif. “They are the future of Iran.”

Sahar Zarmehri, a Sharif alum who’s now a quantitative analyst at Citigroup, says she “cried several times” as she watched the news this week. She urges the international academic community to support Iran’s students. “We want the scientific community to stand next to our innocent people and students and be their voice,” Zarmehri says.

The protests were triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini, who was arrested in Tehran by the Guidance Patrol, also known as the Morality Police, for not wearing her hijab properly. Fellow detainees have said she was beaten during her arrest. https://bit.ly/3McSO0a


PREPARING FOR THE NEXT WAVE.

The next significant wave of Covid-19 appears to be gathering steam in Europe. Per Ars Technica,

As people head indoors amid cooling weather, several European countries are seeing upticks in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. Though the situation in the US remains quiet for now, trends in the US tend to echo those in Europe.

So far, the rise in cases is driven by a familiar foe: the omicron subvariant BA.5, which has maintained a relatively long reign as the globally dominant variant. But a thick soup of omicron subvariants is simmering on the back burner, loaded with sublineages—notably from BA.2. and BA.5—converging on alarming sets of mutations. Some sublineages—such as BQ.1.1, an offshoot from BA.5, and XBB, derived from BA.2 strains—are the most immune evasive subvariants seen to date.

For now, the sublineages only account for a sliver of total cases we know about, with BA.5 still taking the lion's share. But our ability to detect and surveil new subvariants is only a fraction of what it once was.

The way this wave turns out will probably have significant bearing on how seriously the public takes Covid-19 moving forward. If the wave comes and goes with a whimper, expect virtually nobody to get more boosters down the line. https://bit.ly/3SG1Ghg


CLIMATE CHANGE FORCES MANY TO ABANDON HOMES.

Climate change may not be immediately real to many people living in the developed countries but, in the Global South, its effects are clear as day. Take for example small seaside villages in Southeast Asia. Per the Associated Press,

Some 300 miles (500 kilometers) from Jakarta, entire villages along the Java Sea are submerged in murky brown water. Experts say rising seas and stronger tides as a result of climate change are some of the causes. Gradual sinking of the land and development are also to blame.

Mondoliko, where Asiyah is from, is one of those villages.

Asiyah smiles as she describes what Mondoliko was like when she was young: Lush green rice paddies, tall coconuts trees and red chili bushes grew around the some 200 homes people lived in. She and other children would play in the local soccer field, watching snakes glide through the grass while butterflies flew through the air.

“Everyone had land,” she says. “We were all able to grow and have what we needed.”

But around 10 years ago, the water came — sporadically and a few inches high at first. Within a few years it became a constant presence. Unable to grow in salt water, the crops and plants all died. With no land left as the water got higher, the insects and animals disappeared.

It’s really hard not to grow impatient with people still in denial of climate change. https://bit.ly/3SMmDai


FRENEMIES IN SPACE.

It may not be detente, but it’s still good to see that Russia and America continue to share common interests when it comes to shuttling back and forth to the Earth’s lower orbit. The AP reports,

A Russian cosmonaut who caught a U.S. lift to the International Space Station arrived at her new home Thursday for a five-month stay, accompanied by a Japanese astronaut and two from NASA, including the first Native American woman in space.

The SpaceX capsule pulled up to the station a day after launching into orbit. The linkup occurred 260 miles (420 kilometers) above the Atlantic, just off the west coast of Africa.

It was the first time in 20 years that a Russian hitched a ride from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, the result of a new agreement reached despite friction over the war in Ukraine.

Sorta gives you hope… Sorta. https://bit.ly/3SMHavm

Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend. Let’s be careful out there.


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