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In a First, Astronomers Capture Birth of Black Hole or Neutron Star

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A look at The Cow (approximately 80 days after explosion) from the W.M. Keck Observatory in Maunakea, Hawaii. The Cow is nestled in the CGCG 137-068 galaxy, 200 million light years from Earth. (Credit: Raffaella Margutti/Northwestern University)

A look at The Cow (approximately 80 days after explosion) from the W.M. Keck Observatory in Maunakea, Hawaii. The Cow is nestled in the CGCG 137-068 galaxy, some 200 million light-years from Earth. (Credit: Raffaella Margutti/Northwestern University)

Some 200 million years ago, not long after dinosaurs first appeared on Earth, a star collapsed in a nearby galaxy. The star’s collapse triggered an ultra-bright explosion that sent radiation racing across the cosmos. The light finally reached earthly skies this past summer, forming a strange, new beacon in the constellation Hercules.

The ATLAS survey’s twin telescopes in Hawaii, were the first to spot the exploding star on June 17, 2018. And astronomers from around the world – including an international team of 45 co-authors from 33 different institutions – soon turned their telescopes and attention to studying the mysterious compact object created in the aftermath. By combining radio waves, gamma-rays, and X-rays, the team suspects the object, officially named AT2018cow and informally called “The Cow,” is likely a black hole or neutron star surrounded by swirling stellar debris.

But the team still isn’t sure exactly what The Cow is. However, seeing as massive stars are known to form either neutron stars or black holes when collapse, the team thinks that the object could be one or the other.

Either way, this is the first time that the birth of such an object has been captured. “We’ve never been able to see them right away at the time of formation,” according to Northwestern’s Raffaella Margutti, who led the research.

Bright and Fast

The event initially caught researchers’ attention because it was so bright. The stellar collapse was about 10 to 100 times brighter than a typical supernova, and it reached that peak quite quickly. “The reason why everybody got excited by The Cow is because, in the optical, it went up to peak in a few days and it reached a very high luminosity,” Margutti said.

After the bright burst appeared, it quickly used up most of its power within just 16 days, though astronomers were able to monitor the object for 27 days after its discovery. As cosmic events can take millions of years to unfold, this luminous event went by remarkably quick.

According to Margutti, the team was able to capture the moment of formation because the explosion produced about 10 times less stellar debris ejected than is ejected in a typical massive stellar collapse. Typically, a large amount of stellar debris blocks astronomers’ view of the object. But, because there was so much less debris than usual around the event, it gave the team a unique opportunity to see The Cow’s radiation immediately. Located in the dwarf galaxy CGCG 137-068t at only 200 million light-years away, the burst was also relatively close to Earth, which aided in the team’s ability to spot and study it. “This is very close by for this type of event,” Margutti said. “It’s the closest ever found,”

While the team first identified the compact object by observing its X-ray emissions, Margutti and her team took an up-close look at The Cow’s chemical makeup using the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, the MMT Observatory in Arizona, and the SoAR telescope in Chile. With these observations, the researchers found evidence of hydrogen and helium.

Until now, researchers studying compact objects created by exploding stars have only been able to study them hundreds of years after formation. With these new observations, scientists are able to look at a compact object at a time in its life that has never been captured before. This opens the door to research that has never before been possible.

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Ecology

Globe Climate: Canada’s resource reckoning is coming

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Good afternoon, and welcome to Globe Climate, a newsletter about climate change, environment and resources in Canada.

This afternoon, the Alberta government announced that it is restoring a coal mining policy it revoked last spring. At the time, the move provoked a widespread public backlash detailed by The Globe. The original decision, which opened up more than 1.4 million hectares to exploration, was made without public consultation. Premier Jason Kenney previously defended the changes.

Lots more on coal and Canada’s resources industry in this week’s newsletter edition.

Now, let’s catch you up on other news.

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Ecology

‘Incredibly destructive’: Canada’s Prairies to see devastating impact of climate change

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As the climate continues to warm at an alarming rate, experts warn if dramatic steps to mitigate global warming are not taken, the effects in Canada’s Prairie region will be devastating to the country’s agriculture sector.

According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, the country is warming, on average, about double the global rate.

Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the U.S. recently found 2020 was earth’s second-hottest year on record, with the average land and ocean surface temperature across the globe at 0.98 of a degree C above the 20th-century average.

However, the agency found the northern hemisphere saw its hottest year on record, at 1.28 degrees C above the average.

“(In Canada) we are looking at about 6.4C degrees of warming this century, which isn’t much less than one degree per decade, which is just a terrifying rate of warming,” Darrin Qualman, the director of climate crisis policy and action at the National Farmer’s Union said.

Qualman said there is “massive change coming” to Canada’s Prairies, which will be “incredibly destructive.”

“It’s not going too far to say that if we made that happen, parts of the Prairies wouldn’t be farmable anymore,” he said.

According to the federal government, in 2018 Canada’s agriculture and agri-food system generated $143 billion, accounting for 7.4 per cent of the country’s GDP.

The sector employed 2.3 million people in 2018. The majority of the 64.2 million hectares of farmland in Canada is concentrated in the Prairies and in southern Ontario.

The effects of climate change are already being felt on the ground in the Prairies, Qualman said, adding that the NFU has already heard from farmers complaining of “challenging weather.”

“People are sharing pictures of flattened crops and buildings, et cetera, that have been damaged,” he said. “And we’re still at the beginning of this.”

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Ecology

Insect-based dog food aims to cut your pet’s carbon pawprint

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Meat has an enormous carbon footprint, with livestock liable for about 15 per cent of worldwide emissions, as we have beforehand mentioned on this e-newsletter. That is prompted specialists to suggest consuming much less meat for sustainability (and well being) causes.

However what about your pet? One research discovered that the methane and nitrous oxide emissions generated by canine and cat meals within the U.S. alone had been equal to about 64 million tonnes of CO2, or roughly the quantity produced by 13.6 million automobiles. And it might be getting worse, with a development towards feeding pets “human-grade” meat.

That is prompted some pet meals makers to look to lower-carbon protein sources — together with bugs.

Research present that producing insect-based meals requires far much less feed, land and water and generates far fewer greenhouse fuel emissions per kilogram than meats comparable to beef, pork or rooster.

That is one of many causes increasingly more pet meals containing insect protein are hitting the market. Purina, a model owned by multinational Nestlé, launched a line of canine and cat meals containing black soldier fly larvae in Switzerland in November.

In Canada, Montreal-based Wilder Harrier began promoting canine treats made with cricket protein in 2015 and pet food made with black soldier fly larvae in 2019. It plans to broaden to launch a line of insect-based cat treats later this yr and cat meals in 2022 due to “a ton of demand,” mentioned firm co-founder Philippe Poirier.

Wilder Harrier initially labored with animal nutritionists on insect-based merchandise to unravel a unique downside — specifically, the founders’ canines had allergy symptoms to frequent meats utilized in canine meals. Poirier mentioned now about half its prospects hunt down the product due to their pets’ allergy symptoms and about half for environmental causes.

Dr. Cailin Heinze, a U.S.-based veterinary nutritionist licensed by the American School of Veterinary Vitamin, has written concerning the environmental influence of pet meals. She mentioned we’re typically “not as involved as we probably ought to [be]” concerning the environmental footprint of pets.

Alternatively, she famous that the longer-term influence of newer diets, comparable to vegan meals and people containing bugs, hasn’t been nicely examined in comparison with conventional pet meals.

Maria Cattai de Godoy, an assistant professor of animal sciences on the College of Illinois who research novel proteins for pet meals (together with bugs, yeast and plant-based substances), mentioned such substances are rigorously examined to find out their security and diet earlier than being added to pet meals. 

“This can be a very extremely regulated trade,” she mentioned, however admitted it is also evolving.

Relating to bugs, she mentioned constructive information “reveals promise in direction of utilizing them increasingly more in pet meals.” Insect-based proteins have additionally earned the endorsement of the British Veterinary Affiliation, which says some insect-based meals could also be higher for pets than prime steak.

However Godoy famous that there isn’t any one-size-fits-all resolution, and pet homeowners ought to take into consideration the wants of their very own particular person pet and analysis whether or not a specific weight loss plan can be appropriate.

She mentioned that other than the kind of protein, issues like packaging and manufacturing strategies may also make a distinction. For instance, utilizing meat byproducts that may in any other case turn into waste would not drive elevated meat manufacturing the identical approach as utilizing human-grade meat.

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