Top 3 new stories this Monday:
Scientists in Zaragoza, Spain have received funding to test whether an extinct mountain goat is able to be cloned from preserved cells. The Pyrenean ibex, or bucardo, became extinct in 2000, however scientists collected cells from the animal before it died, which were frozen in liquid nitrogen.
This is not the first study to bring back the bucardo from extinction. In 2003,a bucardo calf was born, but died shortly after birth.
However, Alberto Fernandez-Arias of the Center of Research and Food Technology of Aragon in Zaragoza, told BBC News that they have begun to work on the cells from the last animal, named Celia, although “At this moment, we are not initiating a ‘burcardo recovery plan’, we only want to know if Celia’s cells are still alive after having been maintained frozen during 14 years in liquid nitrogen.”
If the cells prove to be healthy, they’ll attempt to clone embryos and implant them in female goats, or another possible approach could be to cross a healthy female bucardo clone with a closely related sub-species such as the Spanish ibex, and then selectively breed the offspring to enhance the traits of the classic bucardo.
However, the likelihood of this method proving to be effective and its controversial ethical position in the science society remains a question on every reproductive scientist’s lips…
2. Indonesia raises Sumatra volcano alert to the highest status!
Mount Sinabung is a stratovolcano in North Sumatra, Indonesia, has been erupting since the 15th September, evacuating 3,700 people from a 3km radius of the volcano.
The eruption then quietened down, however it erupted again on the 5th November, spewing a 7km column of ash into the air, followed by a strong pyroclastic flow (fast moving avalanche of ash, lava fragments and air), which raced down the peaks of the volcano, blasting out ash explosions atleast twice daily since, ejecting hot-ash and red hot rocks 5 miles up into the air.
Thick, grey ash covers villages, farms and trees as far as 70 km north of Mount Sinabung.
Today, it erupted 8 times, causing thousands of terrified residents to flee their homes. A local government official said “”People panicked as the eruption was accompanied by a loud thunderous sound and vibrations. Then it started raining down rocks. They ran helter-skelter out of their homes and cried for help.”[i]
Now the volcano has been issued with the highest alert possible, which is an alarming scenario even for a volcano situated on the Pacific ring of fire.[ii]
A dangerous eruption could happen at any moment.
3. Brightest ever Gamma-ray burst witnessed by Scientists!
Scientists have analysed a cosmic explosion caused by the death of a massive star. The flare of radiation, called a ‘gamma-ray burst’, was spotted earlier this year by telescopes positioned in space and has been confirmed as the brightest ever seen.
Known by astronomers as ‘The Monster’, it was the biggest and brightest cosmic explosion ever witnessed. Any closer, Earth would have been toast.
Thankfully, however, the star was situated a mere 3.7 billion light years away, but it was spotted by orbiting telescopes in April.
The blast was a gamma-ray burst, caused when a star dies, collapsing, creating a brand-new black hole, generating a supernova and ejecting energetic radiation that is so bright it can be seen to travel across the universe at the speed of light.
The star is thought to be 20-30 times the mass of the Sun, but only a couple of times bigger in width- making it incredibly dense, and so when it exploded, it took the light approximately four billion years to reach us.
The gamma-ray burst had the “largest fluence, highest-energy photon,longest gamma-ray duration (20 hours) and one for the largest isotropic energy releases ever observed from a gamma-ray burst.[iii]”
BBC News reported that the Astronomer Prof Paul O’Brien, from the University of Leicester, said that “These events can happen in any galaxy at any time. We have no way to predict them”.[iv]
NASA telescopes readily observe a gamma ray burst every few days for the past 20 years. But this one was slightly different, flooding NASA with five times the energy of the largest gamma-ray burst to date, a blast which occurred in 1999.
We don’t see any gamma-ray bursts on the Earth because the atmosphere obscures them and their light is not detectable with our eyes, but luckily, NASA has satellites that look for them.[v]
It’s unknown when the next supernova will be formed, but hopefully it’ll occur a good few light years from us!