China on Monday sent a new ocean-monitoring satellite into orbit from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China.
A Long March-4B rocket carrying the Haiyang-2C (HY-2C) satellite took off at 1:40 p.m. (Beijing Time), according to the launch center, reports Xinhua.
The country's third ocean dynamic environment satellite, the HY-2C, will form a network with the previous HY-2B and subsequent HY-2D to carry out high-precision maritime environment monitoring.
Monday's launch was the 347th by the Long March rocket series.
China's Mars probe Tianwen-1 has traveled 155 million km, according to Zhang Rongqiao, chief designer of China's first Mars exploration mission.
As of 8:30 a.m. on Friday, the probe was in stable condition at a distance of more than 18 million km away from Earth, Zhang said at the ongoing 2020 China Space Conference held in Fuzhou, capital of east China's Fujian Province.
The probe has successfully captured a photo of Earth and the moon, and completed its first mid-course orbital correction and self-check on multiple payloads, Zhang added.
China launched the Mars probe on July 23, kicking off the country's independent planetary exploration mission. The spacecraft, consisting of an orbiter, a lander, and a rover, is expected to reach the red planet around February 2021.
The expected touchdown date is May 2021, about three months after Tianwen-1 arrives in the Mars orbit.
"Reaching Mars' gravitational field and landing on the planet remain the major difficulties, with all kinds of potential risks," Zhang said, adding that the engineering team is still fine-tuning the probe's flight control and preliminary restoration schemes.
The oldest known animal sperm in the world has been discovered by a team of Chinese paleontologists along with their counterparts from Germany and Britain, reports Xinhua.
The sperm came from a species of crustacean named ostracod, sometimes known as “seed shrimp”- widely distributed in oceans, lakes, swamps, rivers and ponds.
The researchers discovered the ostracod sperm in a piece of amber dating 100 million years ago in Myanmar, according to the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology affiliated to the Chinese Academy of Sciences. It weighs 0.676 gram and contains 39 ostracod specimens.
In a published paper on the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, the researchers stated that the ancient ostracod could produce giant sperms and engaged in sexual reproduction just like its present-day offspring. In spite of being more than one-third of the animal's body length, the ancient ostracod sperm bears a close resemblance to its modern forms.
"Huge sperm can effectively improve the success rate of mating, which may be an important reason for the large ostracod populations," said Wang He, a member of the research team and a researcher with the institute in Nanjing. Before this latest discovery, the oldest confirmed animal sperm dated to about 50 million years ago.
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A medium-sized bus equipped with autonomous driving technologies made its debut on Thursday in Chongqing Municipality, a vehicle-manufacturing powerhouse in southwest China.
The L4 autonomous bus was a joint effort of Baidu Apollo and domestic bus manufacturer King Long, reports Xinhua.
After one-year construction, a test base for autonomous driving was put into use on Thursday in Chongqing.
Several carmakers have carried out L4 self-driving tests and demonstrations in five application scenarios.
Baidu Apollo will work together with Chongqing to set a benchmark for the self-driving industry in west China, and provide R&D test services and rich application scenarios for carmakers and auto parts manufacturers in the autonomous vehicle field, said Li Zhenyu, vice president of Baidu.
Astronomers have found a potential sign of life high in the atmosphere of Venus.
They hints there may be bizarre microbes living in the sulfuric acid-laden clouds of the hothouse planet, reports AP.
Two telescopes in Hawaii and Chile spotted the chemical signature of phosphine, a noxious gas that on Earth is only associated with life, in the thick Venusian clouds according to a study in Monday’s journal Nature Astronomy.
Several outside experts — and the study authors themselves — agreed this is tantalising but said it is far from the first proof of life on another planet.
They said it doesn't satisfy the “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" standard established by the late Carl Sagan, who speculated about the possibility of life in the clouds of Venus in 1967.
“There is a distinct whiff of cordite in the air which may be suggesting something,” said study co-author David Clements, an Imperial College of London astrophysicist.
As astronomers plan for searches for life on planets outside our solar system, a major method is to look for chemical signatures that can only be made by biological processes, called biosignatures.
After three astronomers met in a bar in Hawaii, they decided to look at the closest planet to Earth: Venus. They searched for phosphine, which is three hydrogen atoms and a phosphorous atom.
On Earth, there are only two ways phosphine can be formed, study authors said. One is in an industrial process. The other way is as part of some kind of poorly understood function in animals and microbes. Some scientists consider it a waste product, others don't.
Phosphine is found in “ooze at the bottom of ponds, the guts of some creatures like badgers and perhaps most unpleasantly associated with piles of penguin guano,” Clements said.
Study co-author Sara Seager, an MIT planetary scientist, said researchers “exhaustively went through every possibility and ruled all of them out: volcanoes, lightning strikes, small meteorites falling into the atmosphere. ... Not a single process we looked at could produce phosphine in high enough quantities to explain our team’s findings.”
That leaves life.
The astronomers hypothesize a scenario for how life could exist on the inhospitable planet where temperatures on the surface are around 800 degrees (425 degrees Celsius) with no water.
“Venus is hell. Venus is kind of Earth’s evil twin,” Clements said. “Clearly something has gone wrong, very wrong, with Venus. It’s the victim of a runaway greenhouse effect.”
But that’s on the surface.
Seager said all the action may be 30 miles (50 kilometers) above ground in the thick carbon-dioxide layer cloud deck, where it's about room temperature or slightly warmer. It contains droplets with tiny amounts of water but mostly sulfuric acid that is a billion times more acidic than what’s found on Earth.
The phosphine could be coming from some kind of microbes, probably single-cell ones, inside those sulfuric acid droplets, living their entire lives in the 10-mile-deep (16-kilometer-deep) clouds, Seager and Clements said. When the droplets fall, the potential life probably dries out and could then get picked up in another drop and reanimate, they said.
Life is definitely a possibility, but more proof is needed, several outside scientists said.
Cornell University astronomer Lisa Kaltenegger said the idea of this being the signature of biology at work is exciting, but she said we don’t know enough about Venus to say life is the only explanation for the phosphine.
“I’m not skeptical, I’m hesitant,” said Justin Filiberto, a planetary geochemist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston who specializes in Venus and Mars and isn’t part of the study team.
Filiberto said the levels of phosphine found might be explained away by volcanoes. He said recent studies that were not taken into account in this latest research suggest that Venus may have far more active volcanoes than originally thought. But Clements said that explanation would make sense only if Venus were at least 200 times as volcanically active as Earth.
David Grinspoon, a Washington-based astrobiologist at the Planetary Science Institute who wrote a 1997 book suggesting Venus could harbor life, said the finding “almost seems too good to be true.”
“I’m excited, but I’m also cautious,” Grinspoon said. “We found an encouraging sign that demands we follow up.”
NASA hasn’t sent anything to Venus since 1989, though Russia, Europe and Japan have dispatched probes. The US space agency is considering two possible Venus missions.
One of them, called DAVINCI+, would go into the Venusian atmosphere as early as 2026.
Clements said his head tells him “it’s probably a 10 percent chance that it’s life,” but his heart "obviously wants it to be much bigger because it would be so exciting.”