Water on asteroid 168 million miles away may hold clues behind origins of life on Earth

Scientists may be on the verge of a stunning breakthrough after finding water from an asteroid around 186 million miles (300m kilometres) from Earth, in what could reveal major clues behind the origins of life on the Blue Planet. The Japanese Hayabusa2 space probe retrieved the Ryugu asteroid containing 5.4 grammes of stones and dust which it brought to Earth in 2020.

A breakthrough analysis of the extra-terrestrial find could reveal that the origins behind life on Earth may lie deep in outer space. First launched in 2014, the Hayabusa2 brought the capsule containing the sample to our planet two years ago.

An analysis by a team comprising around 150 international scientists, one of the largest to analyse the sample, made this major breakthrough after various different teams were split up to assess the space sample.

Tomoki Nakamura of Tohoku University, the lead scientist from the team, said: “This drop of water has great meaning. Many researchers believe that water was brought [from outer space], but we actually discovered water in Ryugu, an asteroid near Earth, for the first time.”

Previous analysis had already found that the organic material discovered in the samples contained amino acids, indicating that the building blocks of life could have formed outside our planet.

But the latest discovery adds weight to the theory that life on Earth stems from space as the asteroid or its larger planet “provided water, which contains salt and organic matter” in collisions with Earth”, according to Prof Nakamura.

He said: “We have discovered evidence that this may have been directly linked to, for example, the origin of the oceans or organic matter on Earth.”

The drop of water was reportedly carbonated water containing salt and organic matter.

Kensei Kobayashi, an astrobiology expert and professor emeritus at Yokohama National University who was not part of the study, told AFP: “The fact that water was discovered in the sample itself is surprising,” given its fragility and the chances of it being destroyed in outer space.

He added: “It does suggest that the asteroid contained water — in the form of fluid and not just ice — and organic matter may have been generated in that water.”

Asteroid 162173 Ryugu is only around 60,000 miles from Earth at its closest orbit, only a quarter of the distance to the moon. But analysis has shown that the piece of space rock started its cosmic journey over 4 billion years ago and billions of miles away from our planet.

The Japanese space agency JAXA sent the Hayabusa2 on the mission to bring the rock with a multi-billion-year history to Earth, later sending out samples to teams around the world.

Around a billion years ago, it is thought that another chunk of space rock smacked into the 162173 Ryugu asteroid, breaking it apart and sending debris flying.

Some of those fragments were combined with and moulded into the Ryugu asteroid, which continues to provide a wealth of insights from the analysis carried out by various different research teams.

The Hayabusa2 probe travelled a whopping six billion kilometres in total and was designed specifically to return asteroids.

It dispatched a series of landers and a penetrator to collect multiple samples from the 162173 Ryugu asteroid.

Back in November 2021, JAXA sent NASA 23 millimetre-sized grains and 4 containers of finer material from the asteroid, which amounted to around 10 percent of the total collected by the Japanese probe.

Lori Glaze, Planetary Science Division director at NASA Headquarters: “This is an exciting opportunity to amplify science return through international cooperation.

“The collaboration will help both countries get the most out of their returns and share the responsibility of sample curation independently cross-check results.”

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  • 1 минута назад 30.09.2022Science
    EU’s reliance on Putin deepens as China resells Russian gas to Europe: ‘New leverage’

    China has helped Russian President Vladimir Putin maintain his influence over Europe, by buying gas from Moscow and reselling it to Europe, according to reports. Since Putin ordered troops into Ukraine in February, the European Union has been scrambling to end their reliance on the Kremlin for energy exports. This dependence was exploited by Russia as began squeezing gas flows, which sent prices soaring and now threatens to plunge the continent into a cold winter where a shortage of supplies leads to energy rationing and blackouts. While the EU has been scrambling to find other suppliers, they may find it difficult to end their reliance on Russian gas, as some of China’s exports may have come from Moscow.

    Over the past year, despite facing an economic and industrial slowdown due to the country’s stringent “zero-covid policy”, Beijing has been snapping up massive supplies of Russian gas, while imports from other sources have decreased.

    Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Beijing has increased its energy imports from Moscow from $20billion (£17.9billion) a year ago, to $35billion (£31billion) now, according to figures from Bloomberg.

    Meanwhile, China has also ramped up its exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports have also reached record levels, with Chinese companies selling 4 million tons of LNG on the international market.

    This is a massive figure, worth about 7 percent of the EU gas consumption during the first six months of the year, although all of China’s exports did not go towards Europe.

    Jovo, a Chinese LNG trading company, reported that it had resold one LNG deal to a European buyer, according to the Epoch Times. Meanwhile, Nikkei quoted a futures trader in Shanghai who said the profits gained from such a trade could be worth $100million (£89.8million).

    China’s state-owned energy company Sinopec also reported that was selling “surplus” LNG supplies on the international market, reselling 45 cargoes of LNG, or about 3.15 million tonnes.

    Figures that within the first eight months of 2022, Beijing exported $164million (£147million) worth of LNG to Europe, and a further $284million (£255million) to countries like Japan and South Korea, that have joined the West in sanctioning Russia.

    Wang Yongzhong, director of international commodities Research at the Institute of World Economics and Politics of the Chinese Academy of Social Science warned that it was difficult for Europe to import large quantities of LNG from countries like the US, Australia and Qatar in the short term, owing to logistical challenges.

    Frank Tian Xie, a marketing professor at the Aiken School of Business at the University of South Carolina, said that as the EU tried to end its reliance on Russia, they could become dependent on the Chinese Communist Party for energy.

    He told The Epoch Times: “It suddenly gives the CCP new leverage. The CCP now has the ability, and the possibility, to cut off gas supplies to Europe in response to Russian demands.”

    Beijing and Moscow have been deepening their energy ties, as Russia announced the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, the £8billion project set to pump gas to Europe through the Baltic Sea, will now be replaced by a new pipeline that will export huge amounts of gas to China.

    The 750-mile-long Nord Stream 2, would have bypassed Ukraine and Poland and doubled Russia’s gas exports to Germany. However, earlier this month Moscow’s Energy Minister Alexander Novak announced the scrapped pipeline is to be replaced by the Asian Force Siberia 2.

    When asked in an interview with Russian television channel Rossiya-1 whether Russia would replace the European Nord Stream 2 with the Asian Force Siberia 2, Mr Novak said: “Yes.”

    During a visit to Uzbekistan earlier this month, the energy minister noted that Russia and China will soon sign an agreement that would deliver about 50 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas per year through the future Force 2 pipeline in Siberia.

    This new pipeline, also known as the Power of Siberia 2 pipeline, will almost completely replace the maximum capacity of gas of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, at 55 bcm.

  • 11 минут назад 30.09.2022Science
    From smelling stress to sensing when you’re lying: Here’s how much your dog knows about you

    Earlier this week, researchers in Northern Ireland revealed that dogs can smell stress from human sweat and breath.

    In experiments, pooches of different breeds were able to distinguish between bodily samples from stressed and relaxed people with an accuracy of 93.75 per cent.

    The study could have applications for the use of emotional support service dogs – and adds to an impressive collection of scientific literature on how dogs can read humans.

    Dogs were domesticated around 30,000 years ago – and they’ve since developed a range of ingenious communication skills with humans.

    Here’s a roundup of what dogs can do through their relationships with humans, from sensing when you’re lying to knowing when you want an apology.


    Scientists at Queen’s University Belfast got four dogs – Treo, Fingal, Soot and Winnie – to sniff samples of bodily fluids taken from stressed and relaxed people.

    Sweat and breath samples were then collected from 36 people before and after they did a difficult maths problem, taken four minutes apart.

    Their blood pressure and heart rate were measured both before and after the task, and participants also self-reported their stress levels.

    The dogs were then introduced to the stressed and relaxed samples of participants whose vital signs had increased and who reported stress from the calculation.

    They were asked to find the participant’s stressed sample while the same person’s relaxed sample was also in the scent line-up.

    At this stage the researchers did not know if there was an odour difference the pooches – who were all of different breeds and breed mixes – could detect.

    To their surprise, the pups were able to correctly alert the researchers to each person’s stressed sample 93.75 per cent of the time – much greater than chance.

    This is thought to be because an acute psychological stress response results in physiological processes that alter the odour profile of human breath and sweat.


    A 2021 study in Austria found dogs can sense when a person is telling porkies – and ignore their suggestions.

    Researchers at the University of Vienna performed experiments on a variety of pure breed dogs involving food obscured by buckets.

    According to the experts, the dogs could follow their own intuition when given misleading instructions by humans about where the food was.

    This contrasted with similar experiments on children and primates, suggesting dogs are more adept at ignoring liars.

    Interestingly, terriers were the only breed in the study that behaved like human infants and apes tested in previous studies.


    Any dog owner will recognise the stance their pup makes when it’s done something naughty – with its head bowed and its tail between its legs, looking up with its big eyes.

    According to Professor Nathan Lents at John Jay College in New York, this is known as an ‘apology bow’, and is done deliberately to show that they’re sorry.

    Dogs inherited this type of behaviour from wolves, who would punish an animal by shunning them if they stepped out of line.

    This form of discipline hurts dogs – and wolves – because they hate to be ignored and ‘crave harmonious integration’.

    ‘The actions associated with the apology bow mimic the action shown when a wolf indicates submission to a more dominant, higher-ranking wolf,’ Professor Lents wrote for Psychology Today.


    In a study last year, researchers in Germany showed how dogs behaved differently depending on whether the actions of a human experimenter were intentional or unintentional.

    They compared dogs’ spontaneous reactions to intentional and unintentional human behaviour with pieces of food passed through a glass barrier.

    Dogs waited significantly longer before approaching a reward that the experimenter had withheld intentionally than a reward that had not been administered due to human clumsiness or a physical obstacle.

    The results suggest canines can master a basic component of the Theory of Mind – the ability to read others’ intentions – which was previously regarded as uniquely human.


    Most domestic dogs are trained to understand commands like ‘roll over’ and ‘sit’, but according to research published last year, the list may be more extensive than we thought.

    Researchers in Canada surveyed 165 owners of a variety of dog breeds about the different words and phrases that their pets understand.

    On average, owners reported that their dog could respond to 89 terms, with one particularly clever canine reportedly able to comprehend 215 in total.

    Commands make up the majority of words to which dogs reportedly responded to, the authors found, including classics such as ‘sit’, ‘roll over’ and ‘lie down’.

    Almost all dogs were reported to react to their own name, and most responded to commands like ‘sit’, ‘come’, ‘down’, ‘stay’, ‘wait’, ‘no’, ‘OK’ and ‘leave it’.

    However, formal training will likely be required for dogs to learn to respond to as many words as the brightest dogs, the researchers admit.


    A 2021 study suggested stress and anxiety can be passed from owner to dog like a ‘contagion’.

    The Swedish authors investigated stress levels in two types of dogs – solitary hunting breeds and ancient dog breeds – and their owners.

    In both dog types, the stronger the relationship the human and dog had, the more stress was ‘synchronised’ between the two of them, they found.

    The experts assessed stress in dogs and owners by analysing hair cortisol concentrations.

    Cortisol, a key stress hormone, is released into the bloodstream and absorbed by hair follicles in response to stress.

    Another study found dogs suffer from an ‘emotional contagion’ – the transmission of stress from the owner to the dog, similar to the human version of empathy.

    This makes them inclined to save their distressed owner even if there’s nothing in it for them, it found.

    Experiments in Arizona found one third of dogs rescued their distressed owners from a metal box when they were desperately calling out for help.

    But those dogs that didn’t save their owner were hampered by a lack of knowledge of how to do so.

  • 12 минут назад 30.09.2022Science
    SpaceX offers to help raise the altitude of NASA’s Hubble space telescope

    Elon Musk could help to save Hubble, after NASA revealed it will study the possibility of running a private astronaut mission with SpaceX to extend the iconic telescope’s lifespan.

    The 32-year-old observatory is slowly losing altitude and if nothing is done to re-boost it then Hubble will eventually fall into the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up, most likely in the 2030s.

    Since it was last serviced by the space shuttle in 2009, the telescope has come down by about 15 miles (25km).

    Hubble now circles the Earth at a height of 335 miles (540km) but NASA would like to get it back up to 372 miles (600km), where it was originally positioned when it was launched in 1990.

    ‘You’d add easily 15 to perhaps 20 years of orbit life to the mission if we could achieve that altitude,’ said Hubble project manager Patrick Crouse during a press conference.

    The feasibility study won’t just be limited to this, however. It will also examine how Musk’s SpaceX might send a commercial crew in one of its Dragon capsules to service some of Hubble’s hardware.

    This could include replacing the gyroscopes used to point the telescope at stars and galaxies, which have previously shown they can fail over time.

    Last year, engineers had to fix the worst malfunction in years to hit the famous observatory, which has made more than 1.5 million observations, resulting in the publication of some 19,000 scholarly research papers.

    Experts spent more than a month investigating the cause of a problem with the payload computer, which helps to control the onboard science instruments.

    This year alone, Hubble has imaged the single most distant star in the universe and the largest comet ever identified.

    Its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, was launched on Christmas Day last year and began science operations in July. However, astronomers have always said they anticipate the two observatories working together in tandem for a number of years.

    While the prospect of extending Hubble’s life is exciting, it still may not be possible, according to NASA’s director of science Thomas Zurbuchen.

    ‘I want to be absolutely clear, we’re not making an announcement of a date, or that we’d definitely go forward with a plan like this. But we want to have a study to see really what would be feasible,’ he said.

    SpaceX’s Dragon capsules are currently used to take astronauts to and from the International Space Station, but getting to Hubble would be a different challenge.

    ‘It’s in a different orbit, different mass, they’re different vehicles. The details of proximity operations — that’s going to be a little bit different; it’ll all be unique to the telescope,’ said SpaceX’s Jessica Jensen.

    ‘We’re just looking forward to studying what’s possible and what’s needed and working all this in coordination with NASA.’

    There is hope, however, that a ‘capture ring’ attached to Hubble by the last shuttle mission may allow a Dragon capsule to lock on and push the observatory upwards.

    It had been intended to allow a future craft to pull the telescope out of the sky and be disposed of in the South Pacific Ocean, but could yet have the opposite effect to actually extend Hubble’s life.

    ‘We certainly wouldn’t anticipate (a Dragon mission) being at the level of complexity of servicing missions that were accomplished with the shuttle and NASA astronaut crews from the past, but we are excited to look at what opportunities are available with our commercial partners,’ said Crouse.

    The study itself will last about six months, after which NASA officials will determine whether it is feasible to start planning such a mission.

    ‘We won’t last forever, but we’re trying to last as long as we can,’ Crouse added.

  • 2 часа, 1 минута 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.

  • 2 часа, 12 минут 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.

  • 4 часа, 1 минута 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.”

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