InSight lander detects the tremors of meteoroids hitting Mars

NASA’s InSight lander has ‘heard’ and detected the vibrations of four space rocks as they slammed into Mars over the past two years.

Not only are these the first impacts detected by the spacecraft’s seismometer since InSight touched down on the Red Planet in 2018, it also marks the first time seismic and acoustic waves from an impact have been detected on Mars.

The US space agency has released a recording of one of the Martian meteoroid impacts, with a distinctive ‘bloop’ sound ringing out three times as the space rock enters the atmosphere, explodes into pieces and hits the surface.

The impacts ranged from 53 to 180 miles (85 to 290 kilometres) away from the stationary lander’s position in a region of Mars called Elysium Planitia, a smooth plain that is just north of the planet’s equator.

The first of the four meteoroids – the term used for space rocks before they hit the ground – made the most dramatic entrance.

It entered the Red Planet’s atmosphere on September 5, 2021 and exploded into at least three shards that each left a crater behind.

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter then flew over the estimated impact site to confirm the location.

It used its black-and-white Context Camera to reveal three darkened spots on the surface.

After locating these spots, the orbiter’s team used the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera, or HiRISE, to get a colour close-up of the craters.

‘After three years of InSight waiting to detect an impact, those craters looked beautiful,’ said Ingrid Daubar of Brown University, a co-author of a new research paper about the discovery and a specialist in Mars impacts.

After combing through earlier data, scientists confirmed three other impacts had occurred on May 27, 2020, February 18, 2021, and August 31, 2021.

Researchers have puzzled over why they haven’t detected more meteoroid impacts on Mars.

The Red Planet is next to the solar system’s main asteroid belt, which provides an ample supply of space rocks to scar the planet’s surface.

As Mars’ atmosphere is just 1 per cent as thick as Earth’s, more meteoroids pass through it without disintegrating.

InSight’s seismometer has already detected over 1,300 marsquakes.

Provided by France’s space agency, the Centre National d’Études Spatiales, the instrument is so sensitive that it can detect seismic waves from thousands of miles away.

But the September 5, 2021, event marks the first time an impact was confirmed as the cause of such waves.

InSight’s team suspects that other impacts may have been obscured by noise from wind or by seasonal changes in the atmosphere.

But now that the distinctive seismic signature of an impact on Mars has been discovered, scientists expect to find more hiding within InSight’s nearly four years of data.

Seismic data offers various clues that will help researchers better understand the Red Planet.

Most marsquakes are caused by subsurface rocks cracking from heat and pressure. Studying how the resulting seismic waves change as they move through different material provides scientists a way to study Mars’ crust, mantle, and core.

The four meteoroid impacts confirmed so far produced small quakes with a magnitude of no more than 2.0.

Those smaller quakes provide scientists with only a glimpse into the Martian crust, while seismic signals from larger quakes, like the magnitude 5 event that occurred in May 2022, can also reveal details about the planet’s mantle and core.

But the impacts will be critical to refining Mars’ timeline.

‘Impacts are the clocks of the solar system,’ said the paper’s lead author, Raphael Garcia of Institut Supérieur de l’Aéronautique et de l’Espace in Toulouse, France.

‘We need to know the impact rate today to estimate the age of different surfaces.’

Scientists can approximate the age of a planet’s surface by counting its impact craters — the more they see, the older the surface.

InSight’s data, in combination with orbital images, can be used to rebuild a meteoroid’s trajectory and the size of its shock wave.

Every meteoroid creates a shock wave as it hits the atmosphere and an explosion as it hits the ground. These events send sound waves through the atmosphere.

The bigger the explosion, the more this sound wave tilts the ground when it reaches InSight.

The lander’s seismometer is sensitive enough to measure how much the ground tilts from such an event and in what direction.

‘We’re learning more about the impact process itself,’ Garcia said. ‘We can match different sizes of craters to specific seismic and acoustic waves now.’

The new paper has been published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

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  • 53 минуты назад 30.09.2022Science
    Britain exported record £1.5bn energy supplies to Europe as bills to rise tomorrow

    A new report found that this year, the UK has exported record energy supplies to Europe, as the continent is gripped by a major gas supply crisis. Over the past year, the European Union’s supply of gas has been at risk, as Russia began squeezing gas flows in retaliation to Western sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine. The bloc was heavily dependent on Russian gas exports, and since then has been scrambling to find other energy suppliers, particularly as Vladimir Putin has threatened to completely cut off gas flows this winter. A new study found that Britain has been stepping in to help the bloc, as nearly a tenth of the electricity generated in the UK this spring was sent abroad.

    The report found between April and June this year, eight percent of the electricity generated in the UK, accounting for over five terawatt-hours, was sent to European countries through undersea power cables.

    According to estimates from Imperial College London in a report commissioned by power generator Drax, these exports were worth about £1.5billion and helped reduce the blow faced by the EU as a result of lower Russian gas supplies.

    However, this growth in exports also reveals an increased competition for power supplies, which could affect the UK this winter, particularly as the National Grid said that it was looking to benefit from energy imports from Europe this winter.

    A July forecast revealed the National Grid would need plenty of imported power supplies this winter, and assumed that Britain can rely on power from Europe – just like in previous years.

    Iain Staffell, of Imperial College London, said: “Britain has played an important role in helping to keep the lights on across Europe amid the deepening energy crisis which is being weaponized by Russia against our nearest neighbours.

    “With Europe now facing long-term security of supply problems, there could be an economic argument for Britain to step up investment in power production in the years ahead to build an even bigger trade surplus, and protect our nation from damaging energy shortages.”

    Aside from Putin’s manipulation of Russian gas flows, Europe has also been reeling from reduced outputs from France’s nuclear reactors, have of which have been forced offline due to maintenance work and corrosion problems.

    As a result, EDF revealed that nuclear power generation, which usually produces around 70 percent of France’s electricity, plummeted in August by nearly 40 percent year-on-year.

    This has seen France become a net importer of electricity in the first half of 2022, despite usually exporting cheap nuclear power to the UK via the three cables which trade electricity across the English Channel.

    As a result, the UK has ended up becoming an “energy bridge” to Europe, by importing gas in LNG form from around the world using its three terminals, and exporting both gas and electricity to Europe.

    The UK is connected to the European continent through eight undersea cables, that link the UK’s power grid to France, Ireland, Norway and Belgium. These cables help balance of intermittent energy supplies from wind and solar power, by importing when winds are not blowing, and exporting during times of high wind speeds.

    While the National Grid has said that it will rely on Europe during “tight” times in the winter, experts have warned that Vladimir Putin completely cuts off gas supplies, the UK would not be able to rely on that happening.

    Britain’s record energy exports to Europe come as household gas and electricity bills have reached unprecedented levels, with Ofgem set to raise the price cap on household energy bills from £1,971 to an unprecedented £2,500 tomorrow (October 1st.)

    Before Prime Minister Liz Truss announced a freeze on energy bills at £2,500, Ofgem had raise the price cap to £3,549 a year, with many experts warning that bills could soar up £5,000 by next summer.

    While Ms Truss’ intervention lowers energy bills by about £1,000, these bills increase will still bite families hard, particularly as the new tariffs are nearly double the £1,271 average bill a year ago.

    This increase is equivalent to nearly a third of how much a household of two adults and children, living on a very low income, spends on food over the course of a year, according to the National Energy Action.

  • 1 час, 4 минуты назад 30.09.2022Science
    Work for a horrible boss? You could end up being just as bad – as bad behaviour trickles down

    If you work for a horrible boss, you may spend your days telling yourself how much better you world be at their job.

    But a new study finds you could end up being just as bad, as hostile behaviour from ‘abusive’ bosses has a trickle-down effect, leading to co-workers adopting similar behaviour.

    Inappropriate language, sexual harassment, outbursts, humiliation and misuse of power are all examples of hostile behaviour, according to the researchers.

    They found that more than two-thirds of employees who had experienced this kind of hostile behaviour from a leader then witnessed interpersonal aggression within the general workforce.

    This can lead to a toxic atmosphere of insecurity and exhaustion in the workplace, according to the study by Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in the UK, as well as researchers in Pakistan, China and the United States.

    ‘It’s clear from our study that hostile behaviour at the top of a workplace is not only likely to be damaging to individuals in terms of their emotional exhaustion and job security,’ said co-author Dr Nadeem Khalid, Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Strategy at ARU.

    ‘It is also likely to encourage other employees to act in unethical ways, creating a toxic environment across the entire organisation.’

    For the study, the researchers surveyed 323 employees about their experiences of abusive behaviour from superiors and peers, and also their job security and level of emotional exhaustion.

    Examples of hostile behaviour in the workplace included use of inappropriate language, sexual harassment, outbursts, humiliation and misuse of power.

    They identified a ‘significant’ link between abusive leaders and abusive behaviour from co-workers.

    They noted the ‘reciprocal relationship’ between bosses and junior staff, where bullied employees feel the only way to get ahead is to abuse others.

    Of the 323 people involved in the study, 68 per cent who had experienced hostile behaviour from a leader had also witnessed interpersonal aggression from the general workforce, and 35 per cent had faced abusive peer behaviour themselves.

    A toxic atmosphere of heightened competition is created as a result.

    The study found an link between experiencing hostile behaviour from leaders and emotional exhaustion and job insecurity.

    This suggests that mistreatment from peers can damage employees’ confidence in their job and their role within an organisation.

    Of those who had experienced hostile behaviour from a leader, 52 per cent had suffered emotional exhaustion and 77 per cent had concerns about job security.

    ‘This mirroring of negative behaviour may have its roots in the reciprocal relationship between leaders and employees,’ said Dr Khalid

    ‘An employee who is mistreated may feel the only way to get ahead in their job is to treat others as they have been treated themselves.

    ‘This may not always be intentional but it results in a race to the bottom among employees and damages job security and leads to stress and exhaustion.’

    He also noted that previous studies have shown that abusive behaviour from leaders is associated with a lack of commitment from employees, and has a negative effect on emotional wellbeing.

    ‘Our study suggests that the situation could be exacerbated by the negative behaviour of general workers as well as the leader,’ he said.

    The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

  • 2 часа, 53 минуты назад 30.09.2022Science
    Energy crisis: Thousands of parents forced to ‘eat cold meals’ as bills to spike tomorrow

    A new poll has found that about 1 in 10 parents in the UK, could be forced to eat cold meals this winter, to avoid spending money on heating as energy bills soar. A YouGov poll commissioned by the National Energy Action and Food Foundation charities found that about a quarter of adults with at least one child under 18 have had to cut back on food shopping. This crisis, which is already making life difficult for millions of the most vulnerable families, is about to force a larger share of households into fuel poverty, as, from tomorrow (October 1st), Ofgem will raise the price cap on household energy bills from £1,971 to an unprecedented £2,500.

    The study found that the crippling energy bills have forced parents to cut back on how much food they buy, as they struggle to afford other life necessities like gas and electricity.

    The survey, which looked at 4,280 UK adults, found that 28 percent of parents have had to reduce the quality of food they were buying, and over one in 10 had eaten meals that do not require cooking, in an effort to save money on energy.

    Household energy bills have grown to such unaffordable levels over the past year due to the rise in wholesale gas prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

    Before Prime Minister Liz Truss announced a freeze on energy bills at £2,500, Ofgem had raise the price cap to £3,549 a year, with many experts warning that bills could soar up £5,000 by next summer.

    While Ms Truss’ intervention lowers energy bills by about £1,000, these bills increase will still bite families hard, particularly as the new tariffs are nearly double the £1,271 average bill a year ago.

    This increase is equivalent to nearly a third of how much a household of two adults and children, living on a very low income, spends on food over the course of a year, according to the Guardian.

    National Energy Action warned that the soaring energy bills have resulted in the number of UK households living on fuel growing from 4.5 million last October to 6.7 million right now.

    One parent who is worried is Dominic Watters, a single dad who is in food and fuel poverty, even before the price increases. He said: “When the electric is on emergency I live in a state of emergency, not knowing if I’ll be able to cook the food, boil the kettle, wash my daughter’s uniform or even have a shower.”

    Adam Scorer, chief executive at National Energy Action, said: “People have had to choose between heating and eating. This winter millions will not have even that choice.

    “The most vulnerable, including children, will be cold and hungry as energy prices spiral, despite Government support. Energy bills almost doubling in a year is unaffordable for millions and our survey shows people are already cutting back on the quality of what they eat as well as the quantity.

    “The impacts on health and wellbeing are devastating and will only get worse after Saturday’s price rises. It’s a public health emergency.

    “More targeted and enduring support, like an energy social tariff, is crucial if the most vulnerable are to get through winter warm and fed.”

    The study found that two thirds of parents were worried that as the energy bills rise, they would have less money buy food, with over half expressing concern about how this winter would impact their family’s health.

    Laura Sandys, chair and founder of The Food Foundation said: “For this winter, it may no longer be a question of heating or eating for many households; the cost-of-living crisis and energy bill increases will see children living in homes where there is no longer that choice – they will both go hungry and be cold.

    “Government must support low-income families to ensure that children can be warm and well-fed. The implications of not addressing this double whammy will last longer than the winter, with children’s physical, mental and academic growth stunted, impacting those with the least most.”

    Professor Michael Marmot, Professor of Epidemiology at University College London, Director of the UCL Institute of Health Equity, and Past President of the World Medical Association said: “Hungry and cold is not just a miserable way for a child to spend the winter, it is bad for mental and physical health.

    “It is a soluble problem but will take vigorous Government action. What could be more important for a rich country than this.”

  • 12 часов, 53 минуты назад 30.09.2022Science
    Elon Musk teases unveiling of spectacular humanoid robot that could replace human workers

    The world’s richest man is poised to unveil a new humanoid robot which could one day replace human workers globally. Elon Musk, Tesla CEO whose net worth surpasses anyone else’s on the planet, shared an image of robotic hands in the shape of a heart. The futuristic piece of technology is expected to be powered by artificial technology (AI) and has previously been dubbed the Tesla Optimus bot by Mr Musk. The entrepreneur has said he one-day hopes the humanoid bots will replace actual people as workers in factories on Tesla’s production line.

    Mr Musk’s hopes for his robot helpers do not end there.

    The tech boss envisions a world in which AI-powered humans help from caring for the elderly to posing as domestic assistants.

    Optimus robots, named after the famous Transformers series, will perform mundane or dangerous jobs, including moving parts around at Tesla factories.

    Mr Musk said during the Tesla AI Day last August: “In the future, physical work will essentially be a choice. If you want to do it you can, but you won’t need to do it.

    “It has profound implications for the economy, given that the economy at its foundational level is labour.”

    Mr Musk unveiled plans when he was joined on stage by an astonishingly real-looking robot able to dance alongside the Tesla boss last year.

    Nancy Cooke, professor in human systems engineering at Arizona State University, told Reuters: “If he just gets the robot to walk around, or he gets the robots to dance, that’s already been done. That’s not that impressive.”

    Mr Musk claimed humanoid robot production could start as early as next year, kickstarting a business the billionaire believes may one day surpass his electric car businesses.

    However, experts are sceptical, and suggested Mr Musk may have set his hopes too high.

    Will Jackson, CEO of robotics company Engineered Arts, told The Verge: We still have fundamental robotics technology gaps that need to be solved before we will see ‘human level’ anything.

    “Maybe Tesla [has] solved it — if they have, it will be an absolute game changer — however, it feels unlikely as it would be a great leap forward out of nowhere.”

    The robot is expected to be around 5’8’’ and weigh up to 125lbs, and could potentially carry up to 45lbs of equipment and may have a walking speed of around 5mph.

    Mr Musk is now poised to unveil the latest prototype on Friday at Tesla’s AI day. Jonathan Aitken, a roboticist from the University of Sheffield told the Verge: “I would expect to see a robot that is capable of moving some loads from point to point.

    “I think if the robots display any degree of dexterity in assembling components live on a manufacturing line — especially inside a vehicle being assembled — that would pique my attention.

    “What to look for at the demo: does the hand interact with anything? A simple grasp is a plus, [but] holding with two hands is way more difficult. An action like putting a screw-top lid back on a bottle would be impressive. The absolute easiest thing is to shake hands with a person — not impressive at all; the person compensates for all the robot’s failings. Similarly, anything where the hand just moves without contacting anything else is trivially simple and not impressive, no matter how ‘human-like’ it looks. If it simply waves hello, that’s a groan fail.”

  • 14 часов, 53 минуты назад 30.09.2022Science
    Energy crisis lifeline as new UK nuclear reactors to slash bills for 40,000 Britons

    Britain is set to build new and advanced nuclear technology which could slash bills and decarbonise the economy at the same time, while also ramping up the country’s energy security and scuppering the need for expensive foreign imports. Warrington-based firm MoltexFLEX has a team of highly skilled scientists creating new reactors which could revolutionize nuclear power as we know it. The Governmnet pinpointed nuclear power as a crucial part of its April energy strategy, which it drew up to boost independence and scupper Brtiain’s remaining dependence on Russian gas.

    Westminster has an ambitious target to hit by kickstarting “a nuclear reaction”, with the aim of deploying three times more civil nuclear power than the country currently has. It is hoped that nuclear energy will account for 25 percent of the projected electricity demand by 2030.

    In a major step towards reaching that goal, the new FLEX advanced reactors can reportedly be quickly deployed, and it could take just 24 months to build a 500 megawatt plant. This could be hugely significant, given that traditional nuclear power stations are notoriously slow to construct, while Britain has had an arduous task of having them online swiftly.

    For instance, while Suffolk-based Sizewell could power six million homes once it comes online, the plant is expected to take nine and 12 years to construct and commission.

    Meanwhile, FLEX reactors are said to be simple in both design and operation and have no moving parts. They also appear to be highly adaptable, reportedly able to respond to changes in energy demand by automatically entering an idle state or returning rapidly to full power when required.

    This means the reactors could make for the perfect addition to the energy grid alongside other clean technologies like wind and solar power, which are more reliant on weather conditions.

    Instead of the UK being forced to burn more gas to account for lost power generation when the wind does not blow, FLEX claims its nuclear reactors can step in to provide power whenever it is needed.

    David Landon, chief executive officer of MoltexFLEX, said: “We recognised the need for an energy supply that can support renewables when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow. In the FLEX reactor, we have a solution for consumers and countries alike.”

    Given that wind and other renewables tend to be cheaper than the wholesale cost of gas, these power sources, coupled with the reliable nuclear reactors, are likely to provide a huge lifeline for billpayers who may less vulnerable to volatile gas markets in the future.

    This issue has come into the spotlight in recent months after Russia’s war in Ukraine sent gas prices soaring, as did Vladimir Putin’s gas cuts to Europe, laying bare the need to replace gas with alternative sources amid the green transition.

    FLEX’s reactors look as though could play a crucial role in that green transition, with each one capable of powering 40,000 homes, despite being the size of only a two-storey house. The reactors are also a cheap source of energy, with the cost of the electricity they can generate expected to be comparable to that of wind, at just £40 per MWh.

    This is achieved through a special patented system. In a highly unique process, the FLEX reactors use two molten salts: one that acts as the nuclear fuel, while the other circulates as a coolant, letting heat from the reactor be extracted through natural convection, without the need for pumps.

    The reactors also don’t require expensive steel and concrete structures, which slashes the operational and maintenance costs often associated with nulcear energy.

    Once the systems come online, the reactors can be operated with the same skills and equipment used in regular fossil fuel plants. They also have a long lifespan lasting 60 years with only two scheduled breaks to refuel.

    Mr Landon added: “The FLEX reactor provides the safety net of affordable domestic energy, but is versatile enough for applications ranging from decarbonising heavy industry to powering cargo ships.”

    But FLEX’s reactors are not the only revolutionary nuclear systems that the UK has been working on. Rolls-Royce’s small modular reactors, similar to FLEX’s, are cheap and quick to build. They are also much smaller than traditional power stations, around the size of two football pitches. However, they pack a lot of punch, and can reportedly power around half a million homes.

    Speaking to Express.co.uk back in May, Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng (who was Business Secretary at the time) said:”SMRs could be a huge opportunity for the UK as we work to ensure greater energy independence.

    “These cheap and quick-to-build mini reactors could bring clean, homegrown electricity to people’s homes whilst reducing our exposure to expensive gas prices and cutting foreign imports.”

    Landon added: “The FLEX reactor provides the safety net of affordable domestic energy, but is versatile enough for applications ranging from decarbonising heavy industry to powering cargo ships.”

  • 14 часов, 53 минуты назад 30.09.2022Science
    Energy firms scramble to protect crucial UK assets after ‘terror attack’ on gas pipelines

    The energy industry is reportedly working with UK authorities to ensure crucial infrastructure is not vulnerable to interference. It comes after Baltic Sea blasts forced the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines to start leaking out gas on Monday in what was a suspected act of sabotage. MI5, Royal Navy and RAF may now be called upon to provide extra support as Government agencies check to see how well-equipped the industry is to deal with any potential interference. The agencies are coordinating with industry to decide if new security arrangements at offshore and onshore sites are needd.

    While the explosions at Russia’s Baltic Sea pipelines, in waters covering both Swedish and Danish territory, was far from British shores, the incident has raised questions as to whether another act of sabotage could take place closer to home.

    The pipelines, designed to send Russian gas to Germany, may not be connected to the UK, but this has not stopped the authorities from thinking about crucial UK assets, which are always needed but could be particularly important amid an energy crisis.

    Now, trade body Offshore Energy (OEUK) said it has been in touch with the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to discuss how infrastructure can be kept safe, the Guardian reports.

    The CPNI is a government agency that sets out to limit the vulnerability of key UK assets, such as nuclear power stations and datacentres, to a number of different kind of threats including terrorism and sabotage.

    However, the OEUK stressed it isn’t concerned over sabotage reports, and is taking a “precautionary” and “proportionate, pragmatic response”.

    Mark Wilson, safety director at OEUK, told the Guardian: “We are not concerned but we are making sure, should anything come up. There is no evidence of any drones or unusual activities around the areas of concern.”

    It comes after a British defence source revealed that underwater drones may have been used in the suspected attack on the Nord Stream pipelines this week. The source told Sky News that the alleged attack was likely “premeditated” and may have involved mines being dropped and later detonated, triggering a blast the caused the systems to leak out gas.

    This has prompted Norway’s oil safety regulator to warn oil companies to keep an eye out for unidentified drones near Norwegian offshore oil and gas platforms as they could threaten accidents or attacks.

    The West has pointed to Russian President Vladimir Putin for the incident, despite the fact the pipelines belong to Russia.

    Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak tweeted: “Gas leak from NS-1 [Nord Stream 1] is nothing more than a terrorist attack planned by Russia and an act of aggression towards the EU. Russia wants to destabilise the economic situation in Europe and cause pre-winter panic.”

    Russian warships, submarines and naval vessels were spotted in the waters near the leaks. CNN reports Russian submarines were seen in a separate sighting last week near the site.

    In a separate incident, satellite images from June revealed two Russian warships were sailing nearby.

    One expert warned a critical pipeline linking Norway (which supplies 60 percent of the UK’s gas) to Britain, could be targeted by Russia in a similar fashion.

    Speaking to Express.co.uk, John Baldwin, Managing Director of CNG Services said: “It’s obvious that Putin was getting ready to invade Ukraine from the middle part of 2021, so it’s possible then he could have put some mines down there around the pipe, which sort of detonated.

    “The worry is obviously that he could have put similar mines around the Norwegian gas pipelines that come to the UK and the UK pipelines and cables.

    “That’s almost like the message isn’t it, ‘I’ve mined my own pipes in international waters, but I might as well have mined your pipes and you’ll never find those mines. If you keep helping Ukraine one day they might go and you won’t have any gas at all.’”

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