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Could There Be Life on Enceladus? Hydrothermal Activity Detected on Saturn’s Moon

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The idea that the Earth is not the only world that hosts life and that other living beings may exist somewhere else in the universe has been captivating human minds for centuries.

After finding water on Mars, this idea has become more real than ever. Numerous hypotheses and theories provide various arguments in favor of the existence of extraterrestrial life, yet, no conclusive proof has been found. Now, a new scientific discovery gives us new hopes that alien life may exist right next door.

An international team of astronomers have detected hydrothermal activity on Enceladus, the icy moon of Saturn. This means that Enceladus has the conditions suitable for the formation of life.

In fact, scientists consider the ice-covered moons of our giant neighbors from the outer solar system to be some of the most favorable places to host life. Thus, a 2011 study found that Jupiter’s moon Europa contains a huge ocean under its surface, which makes it a world that could potentially harbor life.

Enceladus exploration

Enceladus is the sixth largest moon of the gas giant Saturn and has the diameter of approximately 310 miles. It is located about 887 million miles away from the Sun and 790 million miles from Earth.

Back in 2014, NASA’s Cassini probe found evidence that the Saturn’s moon had a huge subsurface ocean of liquid water in the region of its southern pole. There are plumes of gas in that area, and in October 2015, the Cassini probe took a deep dive into these plumes in order to examine the composition of the gas cloud.

The results were exciting: the chemical reactions under the Enceladus’ surface involved hydrogen and carbon dioxide, which basically means that the conditions on Saturn’s moon are suitable for the existence of microbes! In fact, the presence of both hydrogen and carbon dioxide allows for the process called methanogenesis, or the formation of methane, which is consumed by anaerobic microorganisms that survive without oxygen and sunlight deep down in the oceans on our planet.

In the paper published in the journal Science, the researchers write that hydrogen could possibly be a product of chemical reactions between warm water and rocks of the Enceladus’ core.

While this discovery is breathtaking, it doesn’t confirm that there is life on Enceladus but only indicates that the conditions on Saturn’s moon are suitable for hosting life.

Prof David Rothery, Professor of Planetary Geosciences at the Open University, told the Telegraph:

“We do now have the last piece of evidence needed to demonstrate that life is possible there. This is life that needs neither oxygen nor sunlight, and may be the form in which life on Earth began, before some of it adapted to other conditions.”

Now, we are curious to see the further studies of the data collected by the Cassini probe. Who knows, maybe the next mission will send to the Earth the evidence of the actual existence of microorganisms on Enceladus.

To learn more details about the exciting discovery, watch the video below:

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News

Chinese Military Satellite Smashed by Russian Rocket in “Major Confirmed Orbital Collision”

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In an incident that is likely illustrative of things to come, Chinese military satellite 1-02 was smashed after it appears to have collided into the debris from a disintegrating Russian rocket.

The collision, which occurred earlier this year, shows the increasing danger of space junk such as satellite parts and other miscellaneous jetsam littering the Earth’s orbit. An estimated 8,000 metric tons of space debris pose the risk of destroying functional equipment such as weather forecasting systems, telecoms and GPS systems – and even manned space travel missions – if the problem isn’t reined in.

The fate of the Chinese satellite was uncovered by Harvard astrophysicist and satellite tracker Jonathan McDowell.

The breakup of Yunhai 1-02 was initially reported by the U.S. Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron (18SPCS). However, it wasn’t until recently that McDowell found out what caused the breakup.

The astrophysicist soon found that it was destroyed by space junk that originated from a Russian Zenit-2 rocket that had launched a spy satellite in 1996. On Aug. 14, McDowell found a strange entry in a database on Space-Track.org: “Collided with satellite.”

 “This is a new kind of comment entry — haven’t seen such a comment for any other satellites before,” McDowell tweeted.

“A quick analysis of the TLEs show that Yunhai 1-02 (44547) and [the debris object] passed within 1 km of each other (so within the uncertainty of the TLEs) at 0741 UTC Mar 18, exactly when 18SPCS reports Yunhai broke up,” he added, noting that this “looks to be the first major confirmed orbital collision in a decade.”

However, the Yunhai satellite still remains functional and is transmitting radio signals, notes Space.com.

The incident shows the growing likelihood of such collisions in the high-traffic, littered near-Earth orbital zone.

“Collisions are proportional to the square of the number of things in orbit,” McDowell explained. “That is to say, if you have 10 times as many satellites, you’re going to get 100 times as many collisions.”

He added: “So, as the traffic density goes up, collisions are going to go from being a minor constituent of the space junk problem to being the major constituent. That’s just math.”

A worst-case scenario of such collisions is known as the “Kessler Syndrome,” and describes the possibility of one collision setting in motion a chain of collisions. Such a disaster was the premise of the 2013 film “Gravity.”

One hopes that things don’t reach that point.

In the meantime, however, there have been a number of initiatives meant to tackle the growing problem of space debris, such as the ELSA-d spacecraft launched in a demonstration mission earlier this year.

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Boston Dynamics Drops New Video Of 5-Foot Atlas Humanoid Robot Effortlessly Doing Parkour

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Robot maker Boston Dynamics has released new video of its two-legged Atlas robot effortlessly completing a parkour obstacle course, offering a new display of its humanoid machines’ unsettling repertoire.

In the video, a pair of Atlas robots can be seen leaping over large gaps, vaulting beams, and even performing backflips. The robot can even be seen jumping over a board while using its arm to remain steady.

While the display seems like anything but “free” running – as the original developers of parkour had envisioned – the routine does seem like an impressive, if terrifying, display of effective coding that took months to perfect, according to the Hyundai-owned robotics firm.

“It’s not the robot just magically deciding to do parkour, it’s kind of a choreographed routine, much like a skateboard video or a parkour video,” said Atlas control lead Benjamin Stephens.

See for yourself:

Unlike its robotic dog Spot, which controversially hit New York City streets last year before being pulled, Atlas isn’t a production robot. Instead, it’s a research model meant to see how far the limits of robotics can be pushed.

In the past, Boston Dynamics has displayed the robot’s feats with videos of Atlas jogging and even busting out some cool dance moves.

Team lead Scott Kuindersma said in a statement that in about two decades, we can expect to coexist with robots that move “with grace, reliability, and work alongside humans to enrich our lives.”

Until then, some of us will continue to reserve our right to feel a bit queasy about the prospect of people being chased down by these skilled free-running (and dancing) machines.

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Environment

South Korean Toilet Turns Poo Into Green Energy and Pays Its Users Digital Cash

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What if your morning #2 not only powered your stove to cook your eggs, but also allowed you to pay for your coffee and pastry on the way to class?

It seems like an absurd question, but one university in South Korea has invented a toilet that allows human excrement to not only be used for clean power, but also dumps a bit of digital currency into your wallet that can be exchanged for some fruit or cup noodles at the campus canteen, reports Reuters.

The BeeVi toilet – short for Bee-Vision – was designed by urban and environmental engineering professor Cho Jae-weon of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and is meant to not only save resources but also reward students for their feces.

The toilet is designed to first deliver your excrement into a special underground tank, reducing water use, before microorganisms break the waste down into methane, a clean source of energy that can power the numerous appliances that dorm life requires.

“If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure,” Cho explained. “I have put this value into ecological circulation.”

The toilet can transform approximately a pound of solid human waste – roughly the average amount people poop per day – into some 50 liters of methane gas, said Cho. That’s about enough to generate half a kilowatt hour of electricity, enough to transport a student throughout campus for some of their school day.

Cho has even devised a special virtual currency for the BeeVi toilet called Ggool, or honey in Korean. Users of the toilet can expect to earn 10 Ggool per day, covering some of the many expenses students rack up on campus every day.

Students have given the new system glowing reviews, and don’t even mind discussing their bodily functions at lunchtime – even expressing their hopes to use their fecal credits to purchase books.

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