Hyderabad: In an important “Make in India” moment, scientists at a Hyderabad lab say they have developed the world’s first vaccine against the Zika Virus. They say, in fact, that they have two. The World Health Organisation has declared Zika and its suspected link to birth defects a global health emergency. More than 20 countries in Latin America have reported an outbreak and a rare case of the Zika virus being transmitted through sex has been reported in Texas, USA. As the world searches for a vaccine and other global companies take first steps on research, the Bharat Biotech International Limited in Hyderabad says it has patented the Zika vaccine. “On Zika, we are probably the first vaccine company in the world to file a vaccine candidate patent about nine months ago,” said Dr Krishna Ella, Chairman and Managing Director, Bharat Biotech Ltd. Using a live Zika virus imported officially, the Hyderabad company has now developed two candidate vaccines, but taking them through animal and human trials could be a long haul. Dr Ella said he had sought the government’s support on this and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has stepped forward to help. “We have just been informed about the Zika vaccine candidate that Bharat Biotech has. We will examine it from the scientific point of view and see the feasibility of taking it forward. It is a good example of a Make in India product,” said Dr Soumya Swaminathan, pediatrician and Director General, ICMR. Dr Ella said in a best case scenario his company can make one million doses of the vaccine in four months. He has sought the direct intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ensure that the vaccine’s development and delivery is fast-tracked, cutting through the red tape of regulatory clearances, pointing out that the vaccine can help countries such as Brazil, a fellow member of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) group, and pave way for what he called “vaccine diplomacy.” “The Prime Minister should take up this project as it helps communities like Brazil and Colombia where we can do vaccine diplomacy. We are a part of the BRICS group and we have to help them. We would love to help. We want global public health to benefit,” he said. Experts have lauded Bharat Biotech’s foresight in working on a vaccine so far ahead on a neglected disease that has now taken global epidemic proportions.
Sydney: If the search for an alien life has not yielded any conclusive results in the last 50 years, it is probably because life on other planets was brief and has gone extinct soon after its origin owing to runaway heating or cooling on their planets, say astrobiologists led by an Indian-origin scientist. “The universe is probably filled with habitable planets, so many scientists think it should be teeming with aliens,” said Aditya Chopra from Australian National University (ANU). “Early life is fragile so we believe it rarely evolves quickly enough to survive,” he added in a paper published in the journal Astrobiology. “Most early planetary environments are unstable. To produce a habitable planet, life forms need to regulate greenhouse gases such as water and carbon dioxide to keep surface temperatures stable,” Dr Chopra continued. About four billion years ago the Earth, Venus and Mars may have all been habitable. However, a billion years or so after formation, Venus turned into a hothouse and Mars froze into an icebox. “Early microbial life on Venus and Mars, if there was any, failed to stabilise the rapidly changing environment,” said co-author associate professor Charley Lineweaver. “Life on Earth probably played a leading role in stabilizing the planet's climate," he noted. According to Dr Chopra, their theory has solved a puzzle. “The mystery of why we haven't yet found signs of aliens may have less to do with the likelihood of the origin of life or intelligence and have more to do with the rarity of the rapid emergence of biological regulation of feedback cycles on planetary surfaces,” he explained. Wet and rocky planets, with the ingredients and energy sources required for life seem to be ubiquitous. However, as physicist Enrico Fermi pointed out in 1950, no signs of surviving extra-terrestrial life have been found. A solution to Fermi's paradox, say the researchers, is near universal early extinction which they have named the “Gaian Bottleneck”. "One intriguing prediction of the 'Gaian Bottleneck' model is that the vast majority of fossils in the universe will be from extinct microbial life, not from multicellular species such as dinosaurs or humanoids that take billions of years to evolve," Lineweaver pointed out.
Melbourne: Earlier, a spate of strange things like statue of Budha, a woman and floating spoon have been spotted on Mars. Recently, a shape similar to spiders has been spotted on the surface of the Red Planet when NASA spacecraft captured an incredibly close-up image. The image was taken by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and shows deep troughs that have formed a starburst-like pattern on the red planet, according to the reports. The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on the Orbiter captured area of about one kilometer in total. According to NASA, in the region where the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took this image, troughs were seen that form a starburst pattern. In other areas these radial troughs have been referred to as spiders, simply because of their shape. The image was taken at 4.56pm (local Mars time) and the surface is lit up from the west with a solar angle of 78 degrees, meaning the sun was about 12 degrees above the horizon.
Washington: Indian-origin researchers in US have discovered a new phase of solid carbon, which is harder than diamond and can be used to make diamond-related structures at room temperature. Graphite is one of the solid phases of carbon; diamond is another. “We’ve now created a third solid phase of carbon,” said lead author Jagdish Narayan, from North Carolina State University in US. “The only place it may be found in the natural world would be possibly in the core of some planets,” Narayan said. The new phase of solid carbon, called Q-carbon, is harder than diamond, and glows when exposed to even low levels of energy. “Q-carbon’s strength and low work function its willingness to release electrons make it very promising for developing new electronic display technologies,” Narayan said. Q-carbon can also be used to create a variety of single-crystal diamond objects. Researchers started with a substrate, such as sapphire, glass or a plastic polymer. The substrate is then coated with amorphous carbon elemental carbon that does not have a regular, well-defined crystalline structure. The carbon is then hit with a single laser pulse lasting approximately 200 nanoseconds. During this pulse, the temperature of the carbon is raised to around 3,727 degrees Celsius and then rapidly cooled. This operation takes place at one atmosphere the same pressure as the surrounding air. The end result is a film of Q-carbon, and researchers can control the process to make films between 20 nanometres and 500 nanometres thick. By using different substrates and changing the duration of the laser pulse, the researchers can also control how quickly the carbon cools. By changing the rate of cooling, they are able to create diamond structures within the Q-carbon. “We can create diamond needles or micro needles, nano needles, or large-area diamond films, with applications for drug delivery, industrial processes and for creating high-temperature switches and power electronics,” Narayan said. “These diamond objects have a single-crystalline structure, making them stronger than polycrystalline materials,” he said. “And it is all done at room temperature and at ambient atmosphere – we’re basically using a laser like the ones used for laser eye surgery,” he said. NC State has filed two provisional patents on the Q-carbon and diamond creation techniques. The work is described in two papers published in the Journal of Applied Physics and the journal ALP Materials, both of which were co-authored by NC State PhD student Anagh Bhaumik.
Balasore: India On sunday test-fired it’s indigenously developed supersonic interceptor missile from the Abdul Kalam Island off the Odisha coast. The interceptor, known as Advanced Air Defence (AAD) missile, developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), is capable of destroying any incoming ballistic missile. The interceptor roared through its trajectory at around 10 this morning to destroy an electronically prepared target which was fired from the Chandipur Test Range. The kill effect of the interceptor was being ascertained by analysing data from multiple tracking sources. In April this year, the AAD missile had failed to hit the target missile during a similar test, the DRDO said.
Washington: In a bid to bolster its effort to prepare humans for deeper space missions, NASA engineers have refined the key thermal protection system of Orion – new exploration spacecraft designed to ferry astronauts to asteroid and Mars. The team has been improving the spacecraft’s heat shield design and manufacturing process since the vehicle successfully travelled to space for the first time last year. On future missions, a silver, metallic-based thermal control coating will be bonded to the Orion crew module’s back shell tiles, the space agency said in a statement. When it comes to a spacecraft enduring the extremely hot and fast journey from deep space back to Earth, NASA’s Orion can withstand the heat. The engineers are now enhancing the overall system in advance of the spacecraft’s next mission – a flight that will put Orion through the harshest set of conditions yet. During Orion’s next mission atop the agency’s mega Space Launch System (SLS) rocket called Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), the spacecraft will be in space for more than three weeks and return to Earth under even faster and hotter conditions than during its last flight. “Orion’s thermal protection system is essential to successful future missions. As we move toward building the system for EM-1, we’ve been able to take advantage of what we learned from building and flying Orion to refine our processes going forward,” explained John Kowal, NASA’s thermal protection system lead for Orion. Orion’s thermal protection system is one of the most critical parts of the spacecraft and is responsible for protecting it and the future astronauts it will carry home from deep space destinations. It consists of the spacecraft’s main heat shield that faces into the atmosphere on reentry to slow the spaceship down and also the grid of tiles known as the back shell. During EM-1, Orion will endure a more intense re-entry environment. While the spacecraft encountered speeds of 30,000 feet per second during Exploration Flight Test-1 and temperatures of approximately 2,204 degree Celsius, it will experience a faster return from lunar velocity of about 36,000 feet per second. The silver, metallic-based thermal control coating will reduce heat loss during phases when Orion is pointed to space and, therefore, experiencing cold temperatures, as well as limit the high temperatures the crew module will be subjected to when the spacecraft faces the Sun. “You’re trying to hit this sweet spot because when you’re looking at the sun, you don’t want to get too hot, and then when you’re not looking at the sun and instead in darkness, you don’t want to lose all the heat that the spacecraft generates,” Kowal noted. In addition, engineers have found ways to reduce the mass of the heat shield’s underlying structure, which is composed of a titanium skeleton and carbon fiber skin.
New Delhi: The Indian Space Research Organisation has given the nation the most appropriate Diwali gift - an indigenously made communications satellite GSAT-15. It was successfully launched at 03:04 am (IST) Wednesday, using one of the world's largest rockets - the Ariane-5. The launch took place from Kourou in French Guyana in South America. The GSAT-15 satellite weighs 3164 kilograms and has been made at a cost of Rs. 278 crores. It carries a suite of 24 transponders which will help in Direct-to-Home (DTH) broadcasting. It also carries a GPS-Aided GEO Augmented Navigation (GAGAN) payload operating in L1 and L5 bands, which will help in aircraft navigation. The GSAT-15 was launched into a Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) after its co-passenger Arabsat-6B (BADR-7) was injected into space. The Ariane-5 rocket has been hired at a cost of approximately Rs. 581 crores. An Arabsat communications satellite also accompanied the GSAT-15 on the same launch. India currently has a shortage of transponders in space, with the Indian satellite system being able to handle just a third of the required capacity; the rest being leased from foreign satellite owners.
Chile: Astronomers have created the largest astronomy photo ever created – a monstrous, eye-melting image of our own Milky Way, with 46 billion pixels. Obviously, you have to view it via a special online viewer – a Full HD monitor has a couple of million pixels, a tiny fraction of the 46 billion in the image. It took five years to photograph, using telescopes at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) laboratory in Atacama, Chile. The team took pictures of the southern sky every night, taking multiple pictures of 268 sections of the night sky. Finally, they stitched the images together into one vast, mind-boggling image at 194 gigabytes in size. You can view the image via an online tool here – and search for recognisable objects in the night sky, such as ‘Eta Carinae’ or ‘M8’.
Washington: NASA’s orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory has mapped an enormous coronal hole, a gap in the Sun’s outer layer and magnetic field – which is the size of 50 Earths and is releasing an extra-fast solar wind in Earth’s direction. The new image was taken on October 10 at an ultraviolet wavelength unseen by the human eye. The gap in the Sun’s magnetic field lets out a stream of particles travelling at up to 800 kilometres per second, kindling a days-long geomagnetic storm upon hitting Earth. Coronal holes normally form over the Sun’s poles and lower latitudes, more often when the Sun is at a less active point in its 11-year cycle. They are areas within the Sun’s outermost layer, called its corona, which are lower-density and cooler – that, plus the weakened magnetic field, lets the plasma and charged particles that make up the corona stream out more easily in a solar wind, ‘Space.com’ reported. If aimed toward Earth, it could result in a geomagnetic storm, a phenomenon that can affect power and navigation for satellites orbiting the Earth as well as radio communication. Another side effect of a geomagnetic storm is enhanced northern lights. As the coronal hole continues its slow march westward on the Sun’s surface (to the right, from Earth’s perspective), solar winds will stay strong, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) officials said.
Washington: The Researchers in NASA detected presence of hydrated minerals on slopes where mysterious streaks are seen on the Red Planet using an imaging spectrometer on MRO. They darken and appear to flow down steep slopes during warm seasons, and then fade in cooler seasons. They appear in several locations on Mars when temperatures are above minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 23 Celsius), and disappear at colder times. These puzzling features were discovered by Lujendra Ojha of the Georgia Institute of Technology, the lead author of a report on these findings. "We found the hydrated salts only when the seasonal features were widest, which suggests that either the dark streaks themselves or a process that forms them is the source of the hydration. In either case, the detection of hydrated salts on these slopes means that water plays a vital role in the formation of these streaks," he said.
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