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Science Saturday: Space telescope, NISAR radar mission, cancer research and endangered cheetahs

By Tech It Out

 , Updated 19:21, 11-Nov-2023

3D map of universe

The European Space Agency has released the first pictures taken by the Euclid space telescope in a groundbreaking mission. Euclid aims to provide valuable insights into the dark components that make up 95 percent of the universe, namely dark matter and dark energy. The telescope's initial image of the Perseus Cluster showcases 1,000 galaxies located 240 million light-years from Earth, along with 100,000 more distant galaxies, some as far as 10 billion light-years away. Over its six-year mission, Euclid is expected to capture 30,000 images and catalogue 1 billion galaxies, creating the largest 3D map of the universe, spanning three-quarters of its history. By analyzing the locations, clustering and shapes of these galaxies, scientists hope to gain a better understanding of dark matter and dark energy, two of the most puzzling phenomena in astrophysics.

NISAR radar mission

The NISAR satellite mission, a joint project between NASA and the Indian Space Research Organization, will be launched in early 2024. The joint project will use radar technology to study changes in Earth's forest and wetland ecosystems. These ecosystems play a crucial role in regulating greenhouse gases and influencing climate change. The satellite's sophisticated radar systems will scan the planet's land and ice surfaces every 12 days, providing detailed insights into carbon capture and release processes. The data collected by NISAR will not only enhance our understanding of climate change, but also contribute to better accounting of deforestation, forest degradation and forest growth. This information can be helpful for promoting more sustainable practices and reducing global carbon emissions.

Cancer research

Scientists have advanced cancer research by uncovering the structural secrets of a key cancer protein. Ohio State University conducted a groundbreaking study on the K-Ras protein, associated with 75 percent of Ras-related cancers. By utilizing advanced research techniques, the scientists were able to identify hidden regions of the protein's structure that were previously unobservable. This provides crucial insights into the protein's mutations, which contribute to perpetual cell division and the development of cancer. The newfound knowledge opens up possibilities for the development of targeted therapies that could neutralize the mutated form of the protein. The researchers have emphasized the importance of structural biology in understanding cancer mechanisms and searching for potential cures.

Climate change impact

A new study says endangered cheetahs have been found to shift their hunting activity towards dawn and dusk on hot days. This change in behavior increases the chances of conflicts with other nocturnal predators such as lions and leopards. Changing temperatures can impact the behavior patterns and dynamics among large carnivore species. While cheetahs only eat fresh meat, lions and leopards may scavenge from smaller predators like cheetahs. The study found that on the hottest days, cheetahs became more nocturnal, resulting in a 16 percent increase in overlapping hunting hours with rival big cats. This change in behavior increases the risk of unfriendly encounters and reduces food availability for cheetahs.

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