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Faint Starlight in New Hubble Images Lets Astronomers ‘See’ Dark Matter

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Intracluster light (blue) in the galaxy cluster Abell S1063. One new technique uses intralight, imaged by Hubble, to map and study dark matter. (Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Montes (University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia)

Intracluster light (blue) in the galaxy cluster Abell S1063. One new technique uses intracluster light, imaged by Hubble, to map and study dark matter. (Credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Montes (University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia)

Two astronomers have devised a method that lets them “see” dark matter with the light from rogue stars. The pair has shown how images of faint starlight taken with the Hubble Space Telescope can be used to map dark matter’s distribution in galaxy clusters. The novel technique could ultimately help explore the nature of dark matter.

Dark matter remains one of the great mysteries of modern science. A theoretical form of matter, dark matter is thought to make up about 85 percent of all matter in the universe. Because dark matter doesn’t absorb, reflect or emit light, it is very hard to spot. In fact, it has never been directly observed and some even question whether or not it actually exists.

This new method, however, lets astronomers detect dark matter in galaxy clusters using what’s called intracluster light. Intracluster light is faint starlight that’s created by interactions between galaxies. When galaxies interact, their respective stars can be ripped apart from them, left to float freely throughout the galaxy cluster.

“These stars have an identical distribution to the dark matter, as far as our current technology allows us to study,” lead study author Mireia Montes of the University of New South Wales, said in a statement.

Because the intracluster light aligns with the dark matter in these clusters, it allows astronomers to see how the dark matter is distributed. In this study, the pair of astronomers used data from the Frontier Fields Hubble Space Telescope program. The research is published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

“Seeing” Dark Matter

“We have found a way to ‘see’ dark matter. We have found that very faint light in galaxy clusters, the intracluster light, maps how dark matter is distributed,” Montes said about this new method.

Other efforts to map the distribution of dark matter use gravitational lensing — a technique that uses the light bent by matter in between a light source and the observer. But, while gravitational lensing requires accurate lensing and time-intensive spectroscopy, this new technique only requires deep-space imaging. Because of this, the astronomers who devised the new technique say it will be a more effective tool for mapping and studying galaxy clusters.

Aside from providing an effective method with which astronomers can map dark matter, this new research also offers opportunities to better explore the nature of dark matter itself. For example, dark matter appears to interact with regular matter only gravitationally. But, if researchers using this method find that dark matter actually distributes differently than the floating starlight, it could mean that dark matter is self-interacting. This would significantly change our current understanding of dark matter, what it might be, and how it behaves.

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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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