DAILY DOSE: Major NSF center hacked; India and Russia make moves around the moon.


A “cyber incident” at a National Science Foundation (NSF) center, coordinating global astronomy initiatives, has impaired major telescopes in Hawaii and Chile since early August. Ten telescopes have ceased operations entirely, while a few allow only in-person observations. The crisis has united researchers in seeking alternatives as they lose critical observation periods. NOIRLab, responsible for ground-based astronomy coordination, identified a probable cyberattack on its Hawaii-based Gemini North telescope on August 1st. In response, NOIRLab shut down all operations at the International Gemini Observatory, including its twin in Chile. On August 9th, NOIRLab further disconnected its computer network from the Mid-Scale Observatories in Chile, disabling remote observations for several telescopes. The exact nature of the incident remains undisclosed, raising concerns for numerous global projects relying on telescope data. This cybersecurity threat highlights the need for increased vigilance and best practices, especially in the collaborative world of astronomy. Researchers emphasize the importance of improving cybersecurity measures to safeguard their scientific endeavors. (Science)


Paris will prohibit pony rides in its public parks starting from 2025, a decision influenced by animal rights activists who claim the ponies are mistreated. For many years, pony rides have been a weekend and school holiday attraction in various Parisian parks, including Champ de Mars, Parc Monceau, and Parc du Luxembourg. Activists from Paris Animaux Zoopolis (PAZ) have argued that these ponies work extended hours, lack consistent access to fresh water and hay, and endure long transport hours. They believe such rides do not foster any emotional connection between children and ponies and merely objectify the animals for entertainment. Over 8,400 people supported PAZ’s petition against the rides. After establishing a pony welfare charter in 2021, the city opted to gradually terminate the ride operators’ licenses. However, some Parisians, including pony ride operators and parents, have expressed concerns and reservations about the decision. (Reuters)

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Lolita, an orca held captive at the Miami Seaquarium for over 50 years, died as plans were being made to relocate her. Two days before her death, Lolita, also called Tokitae or Toki, showed distressing symptoms. Despite prompt medical care from Seaquarium and Friends of Toki personnel, she passed away due to an apparent renal condition. Toki’s story inspired many, especially the Lummi nation, who viewed her as kin. For years, animal rights activists sought to free Lolita from her confinement at the Miami Seaquarium. The park’s recent owner, The Dolphin Company, in collaboration with Friends of Toki and with financial support from Jim Irsay, the Indianapolis Colts owner, had revealed plans to relocate her to a sea pen in the Pacific Northwest. Irsay expressed his grief, noting the efforts to enhance Lolita’s living conditions. The Lummi Nation, which regards orcas as relatives, mourned her loss. Lolita, who retired from shows last spring, hadn’t been on public display recently, and her tank had seen improvements. Moving Lolita would have required regulatory approval, a process potentially taking years. (Associated Press)


In Colombia, scientists successfully rallied against a legislative proposal, leveraging a robust social media campaign. The bill, introduced in late July by lawmakers including Juan Carlos Lozada Vargas of the Liberal Party and supported by animal rights groups, aimed to bolster animal welfare regulations. However, its broad and ambiguous provisions alarmed the scientific community. For instance, it prohibited the use of wildlife for education or biological studies, unless it pertained to a species nearing extinction or addressed public health emergencies. Advocates for the bill referenced a U.S.-funded primate center in Colombia, accused of monkey maltreatment, and were influenced by American legislative initiatives restricting animal testing. Critics, like conservation biologist Nataly Castelblanco MartĂ­nez, found the bill’s definitions too unclear, potentially affecting various forms of research. Entomologist Dimitri Forero believed it could hinder biodiversity research. Despite initial resistance, Lozada Vargas announced the bill’s withdrawal, but scientists remain vigilant, opposing another similar bill in Congress. (Science)


India’s space agency, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), shared images from its Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft as it nears the moon’s south pole, an area believed to have water ice and a target both India and Russia are eyeing for landing. Captured post the separation of the lander from its propulsion module, the footage displayed the moon’s craters. Launched on July 14 from Andhra Pradesh, the Chandrayaan-3 lander aims to touch down on Aug 23. Meanwhile, Russia, after a 47-year hiatus in moon missions, launched Luna-25 on Aug 11, with plans to land on Aug 21. The lunar south pole’s challenging terrain is evident from ISRO’s previous attempt, Chandrayaan-2, which crashed in 2019. India’s successful landing would accentuate its stature in space exploration, aligning with its burgeoning private space industry. While both nations have considerable stakes, Indian officials deny any competitive race with Russia. (Reuters)

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

WORDS: The Biology Guy.

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