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When Black Hole Jets Create Natural Particle Accelerators

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a natural particle accelerator

Spinning supermassive black holes often shoot out jets of plasma from their poles. When the magnetic fields in these jets get twisted and tangled, they generate an electric field capable of accelerating particles and creating cosmic rays. (Credit:
Greg Stewart/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

Cosmic rays are energetic particles moving at high speeds. Because it takes significant energy to create them, they often serve as cosmic messengers, revealing clues about the extreme environments that produce them — such as supermassive black holes. On Earth, scientists use accelerators to generate and study particles moving at high speeds, but nature needs no such apparatus. Now, researchers at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have found a possible mechanism behind nature’s own particle accelerators: When the magnetic fields in the material around a supermassive black hole get tangled, they can generate conditions that send cosmic rays skipping off through the universe.

Supermassive black holes often spew jets of hot plasma from just outside their event horizon. (Plasma is a state of matter in which both ionized atoms that have lost their electrons and those lost electrons coexist.) In their work, published December 14 in Physical Review Letters, the research team created a miniature jet using the Mira supercomputer at the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility at Argonne National Laboratory. Their mini-jet contained only 550 billion particles, but based on its behavior, the team then scaled it up to real-world proportions and compare their simulation with astronomical observations.

Natural Particle Accelerator

Those simulations showed that as jets are launched from around the black hole, the magnetic fields — generated by the spinning black hole at the heart of it all — inside the jet become twisted and tangled. “We knew that these fields can become unstable,” said Paulo Alves, the paper’s lead author, in a press release. “But what exactly happens when the magnetic fields become distorted, and could this process explain how particles gain tremendous energy in these jets? That’s what we wanted to find out in our study.”

The team found that, indeed, the distorted magnetic fields could impart high energy to particles in the jet. The tangled magnetic field lines generate large electric fields inside the jet as they twist ever tighter. Particles inside the jet are then accelerated by the combination of the magnetic and electric fields, giving them enough energy, based on the team’s calculations, to allow protons to flee the jet as cosmic rays.

“Based on our simulations, we’re able to propose a new mechanism that can potentially explain how these cosmic particle accelerators work,” said SLAC staff scientist Frederico Fiúza, principal investigator of the study.

“This careful analysis identifies many surprising details of what happens under conditions thought to be present in distant jets, and may help explain some remarkable astrophysical observations,” added Roger Blandford, former director of the SLAC/Stanford University Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology, though he was not part of this study.

Based on these results, the team now plans to delve deeper into the workings of cosmic jets, looking even more closely at their behavior to see if their proposed mechanism holds up. The team also plans to conduct laboratory experiments to determine how the mechanism acts — at least in a lab on Earth

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Ecology

Yukon and Northern BC First Nations tackle climate change using Indigenous knowledge and science

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YUKON, June 18, 2021 /CNW/ – The Government of Canada is working together in partnership with Indigenous and Northern communities in finding solutions to adapt to the impacts of climate change in the North.

Today, Minister of Northern Affairs, Daniel Vandal, along with Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages (Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency), Larry Bagnell, highlighted progress on three unique, Indigenous-led projects that are helping communities in Yukon and Northern British Columbia adapt to the challenges posed by climate change.

The Minister and Parliamentary Secretary met virtually with Carcross/Tagish First Nation (C/TFN) to learn about their community-led climate change monitoring program. C/TFN has partnered with Tsay Keh Dene Nation (TKDN) and Chu Cho Environmental of Prince George, British Columbia, to build a community-led monitoring project that examines environmental data and Indigenous knowledge to create a holistic picture of how the climate is changing across C/TFN and TKDN traditional territories. The project combines tracking of current and historical climate trends with knowledge shared by Elders while also providing opportunities for youth mentorship and climate change awareness.

The Taku River Tlingit First Nation (TRTFN) is also leading a unique project to assess the impacts of climate change within their traditional territory. Climate change is causing many of the culturally significant ice patches to melt, exposing organic artifacts to oxygen and leading to rapid deterioration. The TRTFN ice patch mapping project will involve performing archaeological assessments to prevent the degradation of artifacts. Research will be guided by traditional knowledge, Elders and oral histories, when available, and heavily involve community, Elders, youth and Knowledge Keepers.

The Pelly Crossing Selkirk Development Corporation is leading the Selkirk Wind Resource Assessment project through the installation of a Sonic Detection and Ranging (SODAR) system. The initiative includes a feasibility study leading up to the construction of a renewable energy facility, including wind, solar and battery energy storage. Expanding clean energy within the region will have direct benefits for communities, including reduced reliance on diesel, job creation and revenue generation for Selkirk First Nation. 

These projects are delivering important environmental, social and economic benefits that lead to healthier, more sustainable and resilient communities across Yukon and Northern British Columbia. They also build community clean energy capacity and help to avoid the impacts of climate change.

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Ecology

Atlantic Provinces Ready For Aquaculture Growth

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Aquaculture is an important economic driver for rural, coastal and Indigenous communities, and Atlantic Canada is well positioned to increase aquaculture production as global demand for sustainably sourced seafood grows.

That is why the ministers responsible for aquaculture in the Atlantic provinces have agreed to the ongoing development and management of their industries based on common principles. A new memorandum of understanding has been signed by the four ministers, which extends the previous agreement signed in 2008.

“In a time when food security is especially important, it is good to see our aquaculture industry has grown steadily and is poised for continued growth in 2021 based on environmentally responsible, science-based policies and practices,” said Keith Colwell, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture for Nova Scotia. “Our Atlantic partnership continues to help the industry grow sustainably.”

Cooperation between the provinces and the aquaculture industry has led to improvements in pest management, environmentally sustainable aquaculture methods, aquatic animal health and policies to support the shared use of marine and freshwater resources. It also aims to align regulation and policy between the provinces to make the regulatory requirements easier to understand by industry and the public.

Each province has a comprehensive and robust legislative and regulatory framework to ensure environmental sustainability, economic prosperity and public accountability. The provinces update their legislation and regulations regularly. Nova Scotia revamped its regulatory framework in 2015; New Brunswick received Royal Assent for a new Aquaculture Act in 2019 and is working on the supporting regulations; Newfoundland and Labrador completely revised its aquaculture policy in 2019; and Prince Edward Island has recently drafted a new Aquaculture Act.

The ministers have agreed to continue to use science-based evidence for management decisions, thereby increasing public and investor confidence in the Atlantic Canadian aquaculture industry.

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Ecology

COMING SOON: A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy 2.0

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We all want the same thing: a clean and responsible energy future for our children and future generations while continuing to enjoy a high standard of living.

On December 11, 2020, the Prime Minister announced a new climate plan which he claimed will help achieve Canada’s economic and environmental goals.

The proposed plan by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) entitled “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy” will have an initial investment of $15 billion of taxpayer’s money. It is built on 5 pillars of action:

  1) Making the Places Canadians Live and Gather More Affordable by Cutting Energy Waste

2) Making Clean, Affordable Transportation and Power Available in Every Community

3) Continuing to Ensure Pollution isn’t Free and Households Get More Money Back

4) Building Canada’s Clean Industrial Advantage

5) Embracing the Power of Nature to Support Healthier Families and More Resilient Communities  

In my paper, “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy 2.0” I will objectively critique each pillar in the government’s new climate plan and provide alternative solutions to the same issues.

  This is an alternative plan that supports workers, protects lower income earners and creates economic growth while respecting the environment and focusing on the dignity of work.

  This plan abandons virtue-signaling projects and relies on Canadian ingenuity to build our economy and restore Canada’s role of responsible leadership in the world.

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