Sydney, Jan 22 (Xinhua/UNB) -- An extensive study into the health of Australia's Great Barrier Reef is underway this month, with a 25-day data collecting journey canvassing bleach affected parts of the reef not observed since 2016.
The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) revealed details of the mission on Monday, with the organization's largest research vessel carrying a team of 18 specialists to survey the damage done by recent coral bleaching events, as well as collecting general data about marine life.
AIMS senior research scientist Dr Line Bay, who was on board for the first half of the trip, told Xinhua that coral reefs are particularly sensitive to the effects of global warming, making it vitally important to monitor them.
"We hadn't been to that part of the reef since before the bleaching so we went back to resurvey these reefs to look at the health and condition of both the coral communities, but also fish populations and sharks," Bay said.
Coral bleaching occurs when coral reefs are exposed to higher than usual water temperatures and prolonged periods of direct sunlight.
The Great Barrier Reef experienced two significant bleaching events in 2016 and 2017, the consequences of which were only just starting to be understood.
Bay's team made the most of the 34.9-meter modern research vessel, Solanda, using the boat's onboard wet lab to conduct heat stress tests on corals which had survived bleaching events.
While the study is still underway, Bay is tentatively optimistic about her findings so far, saying that not only did she see low numbers of a notorious species of starfish which damages the reef, but also seeing some resilience in the reef itself.
"What we could see is that there was variation among species, so not all coral species responded in the same way. We expected to find that," Bay said.
"However, we could also see that we're getting variation among individuals. And we take that as being a positive sign because if there's some individuals that do better than others then there's the potential for adaptation."
Coral reefs are widely recognized as being highly sensitive to anthropogenic warming, which considering the vital part they play in supporting life both above and below the water, Bay said is concerning for all.
"I think that there's no doubt that we need action on climate change, it's a problem we have to tackle on a global level," she said.
The voyage departed Cooktown, a town in northeastern Australia, on Jan. 4 and will conclude its journey on Jan. 29.
Cape Canaveral, Jan 21(AP/UNB) — The only total lunar eclipse this year and next came with a supermoon bonus.
On Sunday night, the moon, Earth and sun lined up to create the eclipse, which was visible throughout North and South America, where skies were clear. There won't be another until the year 2021.
It was also the year's first supermoon, when a full moon appears a little bigger and brighter thanks to its slightly closer position.
The entire eclipse took more than three hours. Totality — when the moon's completely bathed in Earth's shadow — lasted an hour. During a total lunar eclipse, the eclipsed, or blood, moon turns red from sunlight scattering off Earth's atmosphere.
In addition to the Americas, the entire lunar extravaganza could be observed, weather permitting, all the way across the Atlantic to parts of Europe.
Hawthorne, Jan 17 (AP/UNB) — SpaceX said Wednesday that it will build test versions of its Mars spaceship in south Texas instead of the Port of Los Angeles in another blow to the local economy that comes days after the company announced massive layoffs.
The decision was made to streamline operations, the Hawthorne, California-based company said in a statement.
SpaceX won approval last year to lease 19 acres at the port's Terminal Island. It planned to erect a new facility to do work on the interplanetary spacecraft, now called Starship, and its launch vehicle, the Super Heavy, which would be the largest rocket ever built.
The port facility would have allowed the giant craft to be barged or shipped to launch sites. It could have added about 700 jobs to the area.
SpaceX now won't proceed with that option.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted that development of Starship will continue in Hawthorne but prototypes will be built in south Texas. The company has a launch facility in Boca Chica near Brownsville, where one prototype of the spacecraft already has been assembled.
"We are building the Starship prototypes locally at our launch site in Texas, as their size makes them very difficult to transport," Musk said.
SpaceX will continue using its existing port facilities to recover its reusable Falcon rockets and Dragon spacecraft, which arrive by water.
Southern California officials have talked about luring high-tech operations to boost the waterfront and create a "Silicon Harbor."
"While we are disappointed that SpaceX will not be expanding their operations at the Port of Los Angeles, we are pleased that they will continue their recovery operations here," port spokesman Phillip Sanfield said. "Our ongoing work with SpaceX and other advanced technology companies is important to our efforts to advance the port through innovation and new technologies."
Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino said he felt crushed by the decision, but "I feel confident that other innovators will see the huge value they get in San Pedro."
Last Friday, SpaceX announced it would lay off 10 percent of its roughly 6,000 workers, most of them at its Hawthorne headquarters. The company said it needs to become leaner to accomplish ambitious and costly projects such as the Starship and Starlink, which would create a constellation of satellites to provide space-based broadband internet service.
Development costs for those two projects have been estimated at up to $10 billion each.
Tehran, Jan 16 (AP/UNB) — An Iranian satellite-carrying rocket blasted off into space Tuesday, but scientists failed to put the device into orbit in a launch criticized by the United States as helping the Islamic Republic further develop its ballistic missile program.
After the launch, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo repeated his allegation that Iran's space program could help it develop a missile capable of carrying a nuclear weapon to the mainland U.S., criticism that comes amid the Trump administration's maximalist approach against Tehran after withdrawing from the nuclear deal.
Iran, which long has said it does not seek nuclear weapons, maintains its satellite launches and rocket tests do not have a military component. Tehran also says they don't violate a United Nations resolution that only "called upon" it not to conduct such tests.
The rocket carrying the Payam satellite failed to reach the "necessary speed" in the third stage of its launch, Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi said.
Jahromi said the rocket had successfully passed its first and second stages before developing problems in the third. That suggests something went wrong after the rocket pushed the satellite out of the Earth's atmosphere. He did not elaborate on what caused the failure, but promised that Iranian scientists would continue their work.
Iran had said that it plans to send two nonmilitary satellites, Payam and Doosti, into orbit. The Payam, which means "message" in Farsi, was an imagery satellite that Iranian officials said would help with farming and other activities.
It's unclear how the failure of the Payam will affect the launch timing for the Doosti, which means "friendship." Jahromi wrote on Twitter that "Doosti is waiting for orbit," without elaborating.
Tuesday's launch took place at Imam Khomeini Space Center in Iran's Semnan province, a facility under the control of the country's Defense Ministry, Jahromi said. Satellite images published last week and first reported by CNN showed activity at the launch site. Given the facility's launching corridor, the satellite likely fell in the Indian Ocean.
Iranian state television aired footage of its reporter narrating the launch of the Simorgh rocket, shouting over its roar that it sent "a message of the pride, self-confidence and willpower of Iranian youth to the world!"
The TV footage shows the rocket becoming just a pinpoint of light in the darkened sky and not the moment of its failure.
The Simorgh, meaning "phoenix" in Farsi, has been used in previous satellite launches. It is larger than an earlier model known as the Safir, or "ambassador," that Iran previously used to launch satellites.
Ahmad Motamedi, the chancellor of Tehran Amirkabir University of Technology, which designed the satellite, told the semi-official Mehr news agency that Jahromi already has ordered them to design another satellite.
"Now, we have earned plenty of experience and we will be able to make a new satellite quicker," he said.
Over the past decade, Iran has sent several short-lived satellites into orbit and in 2013 launched a monkey into space.
Iran usually displays space achievements in February during the anniversary of its 1979 Islamic Revolution. This year will mark the 40th anniversary of the revolution amid Iran facing increasing pressure from the U.S. under the administration of President Donald Trump.
Pompeo has said that Iran's plans for sending satellites into orbit demonstrate the country's defiance of a U.N. Security Council resolution that calls on Iran to undertake no activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
Pompeo alleged in a statement Tuesday that the vehicle that Iran tried to put into orbit uses technology that is "virtually identical and interchangeable with those used in ballistic missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles." He said the U.S. is working with its partners "to counter the entire range of the Islamic Republic's threats, including its missile program, which threatens Europe and the Middle East."
In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promptly slammed Iran over the launch, accusing Tehran of lying and alleging that the "innocent satellite" was actually "the first stage of an intercontinental missile" Iran is developing in violation of international agreements.
Iran denies wanting nuclear weapons. A 2015 nuclear deal it struck with world powers limited its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
However, Trump pulled America out of the deal in May. While United Nations inspectors say Iran has honored the deal up to this point, the country has threatened to resume higher enrichment.
On Tuesday, Iranian state television aired footage of nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi apparently from a previous interview warning Tehran could raise the its enrichment of uranium "instantly."
"In a matter of four days we (are able) to start," he said.
Chongqing, Jan 15 (Xinhua/UNB) - One of the cotton seeds carried to the moon by China's Chang'e-4 probe is the first ever to sprout on the moon, according to scientists of a mini biosphere experiment on Tuesday.
After making the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon, China's Chang'e-4 mission pioneered the first mini biosphere experiment on the moon.
Professor Xie Gengxin, of Chongqing University and chief designer of the experiment, said a canister installed on the lander of the Chang'e-4 probe contained the seeds of cotton, rapeseed, potato, and arabidopsis, as well as eggs of the fruit fly and some yeast, to form a simple mini biosphere.
Images sent by the probe showed that a cotton sprout had started to grow, though no other plants were found growing.
The cylinder canister, made from special aluminum alloy materials, is 198 mm tall, with a diameter of 173 mm and a weight of 2.6 kg. It also holds water, soil, air, two small cameras, and a heat control system, said Xie.
More than 170 pictures have been taken by the cameras and sent back to Earth, according to the team.
Why were these species chosen?
Xie said potatoes could be a major source of food for future space travelers. The growth period of Arabidopsis, a small flowering plant related to cabbage and mustard, is short and easy to observe. Yeast could play a role in regulating carbon dioxide and oxygen in the mini biosphere, and the fruit fly would be the consumer of the photosynthesis process.
Researchers used biological technology to render the seeds and eggs dormant during the two months when the probe went through the final checks in the launch center and journey of more than 20 days through space.
After Chang'e-4 landed on the far side of the moon on Jan. 3, the ground control center instructed the probe to water the plants to start the growing process. A tube directs natural light on the surface of the moon into the canister to allow the plants to grow.