In 2083, a star will become the brightest star in the sky, almost like a supernova

According to a forecast made by a team of astronomers announced at the meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Honolulu, the star V Sagittae (V Sge) located in the constellation of the Arrow (Sagitta) should “explode” around the year 2083, during which time it will become brighter than Sirius, currently the brightest star in our skies, and one of the brightest stars in the entire Milky Way.

V Sge is actually a binary system consisting of an ordinary star that orbits around a white dwarf and gives its material to the latter. Astronomers predict that during the next decades the system will start to light up more and more and more quickly until, just around the year 2083, the rate of growth of the white dwarf will reach a limit point. The ordinary star will pour more and more material on the white dwarf until all its mass will fall on it creating a sort of huge wind that will spread outwards and that will increase the brightness of the system by a lot.

The system will become brighter than Sirius and perhaps even more than Venus, as Bradley E. Schaefer, professor of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Louisiana State University and one of the authors of the study, explains. V Sge is part of a class of binary stars called “variable cataclysmic stars” or “cataclysmic variables.” These binary systems consist of an ordinary star orbiting a white dwarf. Usually, the white dwarf is more massive than the ordinary star but in the case of V Sge we are faced with a system where the orbiting star is at least 3.9 times more massive than the white dwarf.

The system is getting brighter and brighter: since 1907 the brightness has multiplied by a factor of 10x. The brightness rate is parallel to the amount of material that the star is giving to the white dwarf but of course all this will come to an end, in 2083 according to astronomers’ calculations, the point of final fusion during which the mass of the star will release a huge amount of gravitational energy emitting a stellar wind like never seen before and raising the brightness of the system to a level slightly smaller than that of a supernova.

This very bright star can be seen in the sky for about a month, an event that will be historic at an astronomical level since something so bright in the sky was last seen only in 1604 with Kepler’s supernova (SN 1604), the explosion of a star located in the constellation Ophiuchus and 20,000 light years away from us that was visible to the naked eye for 18 months.

Hydrogen bubbles from the primordial universe confirm the era of reionization

Using the infrared device called NEWFIRM on the four-meter Mayall telescope located in the Kitt Peak National Observatory of Infrared Astronomy Research (OIR Lab), a team of researchers discovered a group of galaxies, called EGS77, which contains what can be considered the first generation of stars that formed in the universe.

The researchers identified some overlapping bubbles of hydrogen gas ionized in primordial galaxies formed only 680 million years after the big bang. The light from the galaxies can in fact ionize the surrounding hydrogen gas and this causes the formation of bubbles which in turn allow the light from the galaxies to travel towards us without the attenuation that the hydrogen gas alone, without bubbles, would have caused.

This discovery represents the first direct evidence of a period, called the “reionization era”, during which the first generation of stars began to reionize the hydrogen gas that permeated the universe allowing the same light to begin to be visible through the “fog” of gas. The reionization put an end to the so-called “dark age” of the primordial universe.

This period, which began more or less half a million years after the big bang, ended with the formation of the first stars. The same period was deduced only through computer simulations and there was no direct evidence, at least until this study.

The group of primordial galaxies identified by the researchers corresponds to a thin strip of sky about one finger wide held at arm’s length. Within this strip would be at least 50,000 galaxies.
“The young universe was full of hydrogen atoms, which attenuated the ultraviolet light so much that it blocked our view of the first galaxies,” James Rhoads reported at a press conference representing research findings. “EGS77 is the first group of galaxies captured in the act of eliminating this cosmic fog.”

The study would confirm, therefore, the existence of a sort of “conical dawn,” which marks the boundary between a neutral and an ionized universe, something that had been predicted by the computer. The study is currently under review and should be close to publication.

Shell fossils show that acidification of the seas already existed before the impact of the asteroid 66 million years ago

According to new studies based on the analysis of shell fossils off the island of Seymour in Antarctica, the Earth was already unstable in terms of environment and climate even before the impact of the asteroid that led to mass extinctions, including that of dinosaurs occurred about 66 million years ago.

Researchers at Northwestern University, funded by the National Science Foundation, have in fact measured the isotopic composition of calcium inside the shells of various fossilized molluscs and snails dating back to the period of mass extinction of the Cretaceous-Paleocene. The chemistry of these shells seems to have changed in response to an increased presence of carbon in the oceans, even before the impact of the asteroid off the coast of Mexico.

Most likely, as researchers report, this increased influx of carbon into the oceans was caused by the eruptions of a long-term phenomenon such as the Deccan traps, a very large volcanic province covering more than 200,000 square miles, located in areas of modern India. These repeated eruptions released enormous quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which led to the acidification of the oceans, an acidification that researchers then “measured” through chemical analysis of these fossils.

According to Andrew Jacobson, senior author of the study, these results show that the Earth was already clearly under stress before the great mass extinction event and that the impact of the asteroid does not coincide with the instability of the carbon cycle that already existed. This raises further doubts that only the impact of the asteroid could have caused the extinction.

The study was published in Geology.

New test detects Escherichia coli infection in urine with a smartphone

A new test for urinary tract infections that is much more practical and faster, so much so that results could be obtained in as little as 25 minutes, was developed by a group of biological engineers at the University of Bath. According to the researchers, the new test can analyze urine and identify the presence of pathogenic bacteria, such as Escherichia coli, in just 25 minutes, a time that is faster than any other test, of the same level of accuracy, ever created.

Such a test could be very useful especially in developing countries and in remote regions where other types of tests are not possible and where the only method is to send the urine sample to distant structures, with a lengthening of time. The test was created mainly to verify the presence of Escherichia coli in urine, a bacterium that can lead to urinary tract infections and is usually treated with antibiotics.

The study, published in Biosensors and Bioelectronics, describes how the test uses antibodies to identify bacterial cells. The test involves placing a small urine sample on a plastic strip that contains an immobilizing antibody to recognize the cells of Escherichia coli bacteria. Thanks to a special enzyme added to the strip, a colour change takes place which can be detected by a smartphone camera.

This is a faster method than the microbiological ones that are currently used. The device that allows you to perform the test is also very small, and therefore almost portable, something that could allow rapid diagnosis of urinary tract infections, in turn something that would be very important and that would allow prescriptions much more proven than antibiotics.

Irrigating agricultural land with saltwater is possible thanks to mushrooms

The ability to irrigate your fields with saltwater would mean a major revolution for all those arid areas of the world that are unable to grow real crops because of the climate. It never happened because salt causes irreparable damage to plants.

But new research at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) shows that there is hope. According to the researchers who worked with Egyptian scientists, it is possible to water tomato fields with saltwater thanks to the desert mushroom.

Mohamed Abd al-Aziz also participated in the study, working on the project with Heribert Hirt. The same researcher acknowledges that increasing the salt tolerance of plants can be a very important discovery, but we must also achieve this goal in a sustainable and economical way.

The researchers used Piriformospora, a species that establishes a symbiotic relationship with plants, contributing to their growth under salt stress conditions. Studies conducted by researchers show that this fungus can improve the growth of tomato plants treated with long-lasting salt irrigation.

The researchers conducted experiments in tomato greenhouses for four months, studying the genetic and enzymatic features of two groups of plants, one of which was colonized by Piriformospora and the other not. The researchers found that the fungus enhances the expression of a certain gene in the leaves called LeNHX1.

This gene, along with other members of the same family, is responsible for the removal of sodium from the cells. Sodium accumulation can have a negative effect on plant metabolism when they deal with salt water. In addition, the researchers also found that plants treated with fungus showed higher levels of potassium in leaves, shoots and roots, indicating a higher level of activity of antioxidant enzymes.

Finally, fungus treatment increased yields by 22% under normal conditions and by 65% under salt watering.

According to the same researchers, this is a relatively simple and economical method, which can also be used for large-scale agriculture.

According to a new study, even fathers must give up alcohol at least six months before conception

According to a new study by the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, men who want to have a child should avoid drinking alcohol at least six months before conception.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy is highly undesirable for women, and numerous studies have been conducted to this end. However, the same has never been analyzed in detail for men because any consequences for the child are objectively less obvious and clear.

However, as Jiabi Qin, a researcher at Changsha Central South University in China, points out, drinking alcohol before conception, even a few months earlier, represents a “high risk and dangerous behavior.” In the researcher’s view, alcohol can actually increase the risk of heart defects in an unborn child, apart from the harm that the same alcohol can cause to the health of the father.

In the researcher’s opinion, men should not drink alcohol at least six months before conception, and women should refrain from drinking it for a year before conception and during pregnancy.
Alcohol is considered teratogenic; it may cause abnormalities or deformations in the human embryo. For example, it is associated with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), which can lead to congenital heart disease.

This study used data from 55 other studies concerning 41,747 children with congenital heart disease and 297,587 children without it. The researchers noted a gradual increase in the risk of congenital heart disease in children associated with increased alcohol consumption by parents.

Qin himself acknowledges that further research is needed to better understand the relationship between parental alcohol and heart disease in children, but in any case, the advice to stop drinking alcohol before conception remains valid.

A new drug to prevent heart damage after a stroke has been developed by researchers

In a press release from the University of Guelph, a drug developed by a team of researchers led by Professor Tami Martino and student Christine Reitz was defined as a “potential drug for the treatment of heart attacks” and as a weapon to combat heart failure.

The researchers have actually discovered a possible new pharmacological target, which underlies the recovery processes carried out by the body after a heart attack. Heart attacks can, in fact, cause an inflammatory reaction that can lead to heart damage. This damage can lead to the development of heart failure, for which there is currently no cure.

The drug, called SR9009, targets a key component of the circadian cellular mechanism, interrupting the expression of those genes that trigger an immune response after a heart attack that may be negative in the long term.

The potential drug already tested on mice should be taken a few hours after the attack. Once this is done, patients can avoid taking heart medication for the rest of their lives, which can be exhausting in many cases.

Martino speaks for herself about “exciting” research and a drug that does not seem to be able to harm the heart as a result of a heart attack: “People can survive a heart attack because the heart won’t even be damaged,” says Martino in a press release.

Links:

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-10-potential-drug-heart.html

https://www.nature.com/articles/s42003-019-0595-z

Does the 3D printer damage the indoor air quality?

According to a new study, consumer-quality 3D printers emit particles into the atmosphere that can adversely affect air quality. This is mainly due to indoor pollution, such as in offices.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, was based on the results of several tests conducted using 3D printers to measure the effects on the respiratory system of humans. As one of the authors of the study, Professor Rodney Weber of Earth School of Technology, Georgia State Institute of Technology, notes, the tests “have shown that there is a toxic reaction to particles of different types of fibers used by these 3D printers.”

The researchers analyzed the chemical composition of these particles, as well as their toxic potential. These emissions are due to the peculiarities of 3D-printers. These devices apply and melt layers on layers to create an object, and it is the heating of plastic that causes the emission of ultrafine particles into the air around the printer.

The warmer the temperature used by the printer to melt the fibers, the higher the emission level. The largest source of radiation is acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), which requires a higher melting point to be reached. Polymalic lactic acid (PLA), which requires a lower temperature, produces the least emissions.

Tests for toxicity have shown that PLA particles are more toxic than ABS particles. However, more ABS particles were emitted by printers during the tests, so Weber himself explains that these emissions are ultimately of greater concern.

There are also concerns about the “additives” added to fibers by manufacturers to achieve certain characteristics that are largely hidden. According to Weber, these additives can affect the amount of emissions for ABS. This means that ABS yarns purchased from one manufacturer can produce more harmful emissions than one from another.

Links:

https://www.news.gatech.edu/2019/10/07/particles-emitted-consumer-3d-printers-could-hurt-indoor-air-quality

https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.9b04168

The Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to William Kaelin, Gregg Semenza and Peter Ratcliffe.

This morning the names of the Nobel Prize winners in medicine were revealed. This was the first announcements of the new season of 2019 and one of the most interesting, as many people believe that Greta Tunberg could become one of the most serious candidates for the prestigious world prize, which will be awarded on Friday.

The Medicine Prize will be awarded to two American researchers, William Cailin and Gregg Semyonza, and one British researcher, Peter Ratcliffe.

The reasons for this lie in the research that the three researchers conducted on how oxygen levels can affect cellular metabolism and physiological functions, and which “paved the way for new promising strategies to combat anemia, cancer and many other diseases,” as noted by the same jury.

This discovery may indeed make it possible to create new drugs that, for example, regulate our body’s cells in such a way that they adapt to changes in oxygen levels, such as excessive oxygen depletion.

William Cailin, 61, is currently a research fellow at Howard Hughes Medical School in the states, and Gregg L. Semenza works at the Johns Hopkins University Institute of Cellular Engineering.

Peter Ratcliffe, 65, works at the Francis Crick Institute in London and heads the Target Discovery Institute in Oxford.

Links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Kaelin

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregg_Semenza

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Ratcliffe